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Andrew C

Nice post, John. When you have the chance, could you describe how a more egalitarian perspective reads the language in 1 Tim 2.12-14 where Paul seems (to me) to articulate a complimentarian position based on the creation order? I'm sure that others have written on this, but It's one of my biggest hang-ups with the egalitarian position and you write about these matters so well. I'd be interested in your take. Thanks!

JohnFH

Hi Andrew,

I haven't read up on this passage very much, mind you. Presumably someone like Ben Witherington is worth reading on it. But here is how I contextualize it.

First of all, you need to include 1 Tim 2:15, everyone's favorite verse!

Taking the passage as a whole, I read the unit as grounding the prohibition of women from leading and teaching men in three ways: (1) the creation order; (2) the first sin of Eve being that of having been deceived; (3) the woman's assigned creation purpose being that of childbearing; as a practical matter, that would have been understood to be (and was, and to a certain extent still is) incompatible with the kind of commitment office-based (i.e., continuous) leadership involves.

Note that similar lines of reasoning in the service of another cause are found in 1 Cor 11:3, 8-9, counterbalanced to some extent by 11:11-12; after which Paul invites us to "judge for yourselves" (11:13); then, he makes an argument from nature (11:14) which the Jesus we know and love from Pietist representations would feel especially comfortable with; finally, he appeals, like the Fiddler on the Roof, to tradition (11:16).

Did I mention Paul also throws in the reason, "because of the angels" (11:10)? Don't know quite what to make of that.

In 1 Cor 11, however, all of these arguments serve to sanction (i.e. legitimate) a custom Paul did not want abandoned: women wearing head coverings in church.

In some ways, 1 Cor 11 is my favorite passage in Paul because if God found this way of offering argument upon argument to justify the practice of head covering for women in worship acceptable, then he is indeed a gracious and compassionate God.

Note however that many Christians have not felt bound by 1 Cor 11 in terms of its explicit practical consequences. The judgment has been that those consequences were appropriate for Paul's time and place, but not necessarily for ours.

Analogically, one can say the same thing about the practical consequences Paul derives from his arguments in 1 Tim 2.

The risk in so saying is that all of Paul's arguments will be round-filed in the bargain. I find that unacceptable.

If it is unacceptable, we must seek to understand ways in which "natural law" and "form follows function" need to qualify the practice of egalitarianism (and I think they do, big time). We must seek not to be knee-jerk anti-traditionalists. And so on.

In short, I am arguing for recognizing the fact that as Christians we are not bound to consider all of the practical consequences Paul or another apostle or Jesus knew to be appropriate in their respective contexts to be equally appropriate in ours.

Yet we must nonetheless hold their arguments in the highest respect and seek to bring them to their full potential in changed circumstances.

Andrew C

Thanks, John. That's incredibly thorough and helpful - as I knew it would be!

Gary Simmons

Yes, that is thorough.

Back to the original post: what bothered me about Michael Patton's post was that he used his own wife as a negative example. That loses points with me.

JohnFH

I'm convinced Michael didn't mean the example negatively, but you're right, it's natural to take it that way.

Paula

It's always better to ask an egalitarian what egalitarians think. ;-) It's also better to study both sides before deciding how any controversial passage should be interpreted.

Worthington is an excellent resource, and here are a few of my own feeble contributions:

one on 1 Tim. 2

another on 1 Tim. 2

on hierarchy of all kinds

JohnFH

Paula,

Thanks for dropping by. It's Witherington, of course.

It is my contention that hierarchical structures and the proper exercise of authority are essential and indispensable aspects of human life. Perhaps we differ on that point. Passages in Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter in the NT assume the same and understand hierarchies and authority structures in the domestic, church, and civil life to be purposed and also repurposed in Christ.

Paula

"Thanks for dropping by. It's Witherington, of course. "

Oops! Multitasking has its drawbacks. :-D

Re. hierarchy, my view is that civil authority is necessary to keep sin in check (1 Tim. 1:9), and military authority is necessary for a whole host of reasons. Yet never is any kind of authority based upon a genetic factor, but on temporary arrangements; that is, the citizen can become a leader, and the foot soldier can rise in rank.

In the home, the only authority cited is that of parents over children, yet even then, the children eventually grow up and are no longer under the authority of their parents. Likewise, as women are grown adults and co-heirs, they are not under the authority of a husband or father in Christ (Gal. 3:28). And in any passage about church leaders, whether by explicit teaching or example, the model is of the lowest slave lifting up others, not bossing them. They are to lead by example, not fiat.

JohnFH

Paula,

I understand where you are coming from, I think, and I'm not responding to convince you to be less committed to egalitarianism. But I don't think it does any good to rewrite the Bible so that it turns out to be a proto-feminist or an egalitarian manifesto. It is neither.

It is true that authority and hierarchy in the good sense, and not just in the Bible, is authority and hierarchy *on behalf of.* For that to have any credibility at all, it must involve leading by example, and large (but not indefinite) scope given to the principle of mutual consent. I am just expanding on a point you make well.

However, in the economy of salvation of God's covenant with the Jewish people (which has not been abrogated), there is a role for DNA-based authority and hierarchy structures. The priesthood is associated with one bloodline and one gender; kingship with another (gender-specific as well), election with a more inclusive bloodline. It is not an inflexible system, but it is not exactly flexible either.

In the pastoral epistles, some roles in the church are gender-based: overseers over an assembly, ecclesia of men and women are men (1 Tim 3, etc.); the head of the domestic household is a woman (1 Tim 5:14). In Ephesians 5, Colossians 3:18, and 1 Peter 3, gender-differentiated advice is given to the married - in both neo-traditional and a modern egalitarian frameworks, the differentiated advice, I would argue, still has a point.

Authority which is self-interested or bossy is without excuse in the Bible. But lines of authority are thought to be indispensable. What I notice is that soft complementarianism is popular among young people who grew up in egalitarian households in which equality ended up meaning lack of structure and low expectations.

George

It is alway amazing to see how excellent exegetes (and I mean that) are butchering texts that don't fit their theology.

I am always very skeptical to accept an interpretation that goes against ALL the church fathers and really the interpretation of the church for more than 1900 years.

Those interpretations immediately make me think that it is the culture that dictates the interpretation and not the text...

Going back to 1 Corinthians 11, the fact is that the veil was worn in most (if not all) the churches of Christendom (it is still being worn in the Eastern Orthodox churches etc) until early 20th century (at least).

I would argue that the change did not take place because we found some more plausible interpretation of this text; it has to do with cultural changes and pressures.

R.C. Sproul has an excellent interpretation of this passage (and I agree with him) - though I suppose some may consider him (without warrant) a 'fundamentalist.'?

The 'silencing' of 1 Corinthians 11 was just a first step, and now more texts are being exegeted in innovative ways to really 'silence' what Paul said.

These days - 'we have come a long way' - now the texts (and there is a fair amount of them) that explicitly state that a woman should be subjected to her husband are being reinterpreted (by those who care enough what the text says)...Others- of course- make fun of these texts etc.

May I suggest that in all of these instances it is not some exegetical insight(s) that help us now interpret these passages better - it is rather the culture that we live in that dictates/directs the interpretation??

On women's role in ministry - when a text is not very clear (and that can certainly be argued from the NT in these cases) - we should look first to our church history. Looking there - unless you conjure some kind of conspiracy theory to keep the women down - there is no evidence whatsoever for women being pastors.

This is from a man who is totally for equality (just like the Bible is) between men and women - but not for identity.

Blessings!

JohnFH

George,

I like your distinction between equality and identity, but that still leaves room for differences of opinion I imagine about whether, for example, long hair is demeaning to men and short hair demeaning to women; whether head-coverings are necessary for women in worship and not for men (the custom Paul knew and supported), or for men and not for women (the custom today in many Jewish contexts).

For the rest, the question is whether it is within the freedom of the church to "silence" particular directives found in the NT, and if so, which ones.

I would say first of all that de facto such has always occurred. An interesting example is John 13:1-15, foot-washing. I'm not sure a response to the effect that yes, the average believer is not expected to put the directive into practice, but the directive is followed in a limited number of circumstances, is persuasive. Surely those early Christians and the SDAs today who foot-wash(ed) regularly and universally are more faithful to John 13 than are other Christians.

On the other hand, does the practice / non-practice make or break the Christian witness? I don't think so.

There are many other interesting examples: anointing the sick (not the dying) with oil, the holy kiss, fasting, etc.

Compared to all of these things, nonetheless, whether or not women can be pastors is a much more significant question. For the the forseeable future, there are going to be churches that allow it, and those that don't. I'm not sure that is necessarily a bad thing.

Paula

@ John:

"But I don't think it does any good to rewrite the Bible so that it turns out to be a proto-feminist or an egalitarian manifesto. It is neither."

I too think it is wrong to rewrite the Bible, for the opposite reason as well. It is no improvement to make it more masculine than it should be, no matter how long such rewriting has gone on, or by how many people. Yet I disagree that the Bible, esp. the NT, is not an egalitarian manifesto; if Gal. 3:28, "not so among you", all the "one-anothers" isn't an egalitarian manifesto, I don't know what would be.

The desire for control over others is exactly what Jesus rebuked His disciples for. He led by example and said that even He did not come to be served, as Paul also explained in Phil. 2:5-11. Equality is what Paul was talking about with the illustration of the parts of one Body; one part cannot boss another. True complementarianism is like the left and right hands or feet or eyes, instead of one always dominating the other and acting like a sub-head.

"However, in the economy of salvation of God's covenant with the Jewish people (which has not been abrogated), there is a role for DNA-based authority and hierarchy structures. The priesthood is associated with one bloodline and one gender; kingship with another (gender-specific as well), election with a more inclusive bloodline. It is not an inflexible system, but it is not exactly flexible either."

I strongly disagree with this point. As the writer of Hebrews explained so thoroughly, with a change of priesthood comes a change of law. And the promised inheritance could not be enacted until the death of the testator was established; we have died to the old law. Plus, as Gentiles, we were never under the Mosaic law at all. In Christ we are all one Body, not many, and no part can play the "head" to another part. As one substance, there is no difference in genetics, so no "DNA-based" criteria are even possible. Salvation is strictly by faith, not flesh, and gifting is strictly at the discretion of the Spirit, not human beings. God is still not a "respecter of persons", nor had He changed His mind about "looking on the appearance but on the heart".

"Authority which is self-interested or bossy is without excuse in the Bible. But lines of authority are thought to be indispensable. What I notice is that soft complementarianism is popular among young people who grew up in egalitarian households in which equality ended up meaning lack of structure and low expectations."

I don't see the NT condoning any sort of hierarchy among Body parts, and so the nature or attitude of such hierarchy is irrelevant. To have authority over another is to elevate onesself, which no servant does. And I strongly object to the idea that "soft comp" is likely caused by "lack of structure and low expectations". This paints egalitarianism as having a low view of God, of scripture, and it is simply not true. Egalitarianism isn't about bowing to culture either; if any view can be described that way, it is patriarchy, which has been the cultural norm throughout history. Yet, ironically, they take that very cultural norm as somehow proof of God's sanction. Just an observation in general.


@ George:

"It is alway amazing to see how excellent exegetes (and I mean that) are butchering texts that don't fit their theology."

I agree. When I see the contortions some male supremacists go to in order to vie for "who is the greatest in the kingdom", I stand amazed. To quote Hentry Ward Beecher in 1861, "‘I came to open the prison-doors,’ said Christ; and that is the text on which men justify shutting them and locking them. ‘I came to loose those that are bound’; and that is the text out of which men spin cords to bind men, women, and children. ‘I came to carry light to them that are in darkness and deliverance to the oppressed’; and that is the Book from out of which they argue, with amazing ingenuity, all the infernal meshes and snares by which to keep men in bondage. It is pitiful."

BTW, that was about slavery. Sound Familiar?

And as for "nless you conjure some kind of conspiracy theory to keep the women down", look no farther than "he shall rule over you". ;-)

JohnFH

Paula,

Thanks for the conversation. I hope it will be instructive to others.

Where do we differ? We are both egalitarians, I take it, in the home, in society, and in church.
Whereas I see the egalitarian stance as (1) compatible with Scripture and (2) in need of Scripture, so as to remove its tendency to trust in itself and to avoid excesses (of which our culture is full), you seem to think that Scripture mandates egalitarianism and is anti-hierarchical in spirit.

I think you misread Galatians 3:28. The fact that there is no longer male and female and slave and free and all are one in Christ had almost the opposite implications for Paul as it does for you.

For Paul that meant that if we are married we should live as if we are not married; that if we are not married, it is better to stay that way; if we are a slave, we should use that condition all the more to bear witness to Christ; that if we are a master/mistress with domestic servants, the fundamental things still apply, with the master/mistress to have authority over the slave (you can sugercoat the words if you wish; it hardly changed the reality for Christian slaves and masters/mistresses), nonetheless, with Christ as witness of one's behavior; as for the servant, he/she is to obey his/her master as one obeys Christ.

It is the same in marriage. The fundamental structures of the day still applied. On the one hand, Paul uses the head/body metaphor in Ephesians 5 in such a way to undermine any possibility whatsoever for abuse on the part of the husband. On the other hand, he uses the metaphor in such a way that the traditional complementation of the sexes in marriage was upheld, such that the wives (not the husbands) are told to be subject to their husbands in all things, "as to the Lord."

So far as I can see Paul did not have an anti-hierarchical bone in his body. Biblical scholars since Troeltsch have termed it "love patriarchy."

It is true that the *only* exercise of authority Paul thought appropriate was that *on behalf of* others, the very ones on behalf of whom authority figures make decisions. He also, implicitly and explicitly, gave ample scope to the principle of mutual consent.

But let's be clear. Paul was not a caped crusader for women's rights or slave's rights or children's rights. He was a social conservative. If Paul had been a rights advocate in the sense that you and I are, by the mere fact that we are reasonably well-adjusted 21st century North Americans, he would have been a revolutionary in his day. And he was a revolutionary, in many ways. But not in those ways.

Paula

"Thanks for the conversation. I hope it will be instructive to others."

You're very welcome; I hope so too.

"I think you misread Galatians 3:28. The fact that there is no longer male and female and slave and free and all are one in Christ had almost the opposite implications for Paul as it does for you…"

The context there is about freedom from the law, as the theme for the whole letter is a warning against falling back into legalism. Paul's thesis is that going back under law would be an insult to the shed blood of Christ, who alone fulfilled the law, and it is only when we are in Him that we fulfill it too. He contrasts law and promise, showing the temporary and custodial purpose of the law, and the superiority of the promise. He speaks of our having been held in custody until the right time, when Christ came and freed us from the law's supervision. At that point we see the "you are all one" statement, and it is followed with a repeat of our being hiers of the promise.

This is all about doing away with legalism in favor of freedom and equality. So rather than me being the one to misread the passage, I believe it is you. Paul's meaning is quite clear, while you brought in a completely different context about living in perilous times.

"with the master/mistress to have authority over the slave (you can sugercoat the words if you wish; it hardly changed the reality for Christian slaves and masters/mistresses), nonetheless, with Christ as witness of one's behavior; as for the servant, he/she is to obey his/her master as one obeys Christ."

Two points: that this tact is what was used in the American south to justify slavery, and that accusing me of "sugarcoating" is an ad hominem attack.

My point about slavery and patriarchy is that both use identical arguments, yet they have conceded that slavery is not being sanctioned at all, while clinging to the social construct of male supremacism. It is a double standard, the fallacy of "special pleading", which is hardly good exegesis. I'll never sugarcoat my objection to such tactics.

"On the other hand, he uses the metaphor in such a way that the traditional complementation of the sexes in marriage was upheld, such that the wives (not the husbands) are told to be subject to their husbands in all things, "as to the Lord."

I've dealt with every conceivable passage on Paul's total teaching on hierarchy in my Nicolaitan book, so I won't try and paste it all here. But briefly, Paul never upheld traditional hierarchy as what Jesus intends for His Body; rather, the overwhelming message is unity and humility to all. For a woman to turn from God to a man is idolatry, and for a man to accept this is blasphemy, for we have only one Head, and each part reports directly to Him alone. No one gets between me and my Savior. EVERY believer is to submit themselves to the others; EVERY believer is to follow Jesus example; EVERY believer is to treat others as better than themselves, "not lording over".

"But let's be clear. Paul was not a caped crusader for women's rights or slave's rights or children's rights. He was a social conservative. If Paul had been a rights advocate in the sense that you and I are, by the mere fact that we are reasonably well-adjusted 21st century North Americans, he would have been a revolutionary in his day. And he was a revolutionary, in many ways. But not in those ways."

Yes, Paul was a revolutionary, in more ways than society will ever concede. And so was Jesus. While neither overthrew society's ills at once, neither did they condone them, arguments from silence notwithstanding. If, as I've said, we are to reject slavery though Paul gives instructions to slaves, then if we are consistent we will also reject patriarchy and every other product of sin. Yes, it is sin; God showed His preference for the weak, the young, the unimportant in the eyes of society at every turn. Though He has made concessions, He has also made it clear that the bar is set very high. But our pride will not let us see it.

Jesus, my Example, laid aside His privileges as God to become one like us, even to the point of the lowest of society, a servant. Any believer who claims to follow Him must go at least as low, and stop pining for first place in line. Jesus had every right to boss His Bride but He has never done so, preferring instead to lead by example and love. If we truly follow Him, we will do the same, and we will do well to remember that "the first will be last".

JohnFH

Paula,

No offense, but I think you are trying to read Galatians as if the person who wrote it is not the same person who wrote 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastorals. There are students of the NT who suggests distinct authors for subsets of the letters attributed to Paul, and who drive wedges, theologically and ideologically, between them. Without wanting to belittle these hypotheses, I have avoided arguing as if they were true (I'm not all sure they are true in any case).

Paul's argument in Galatians in favor of freedom from the law involved things like circumcision and the Jewish calendar. It's a big stretch from there to suggest that he was also an egalitarian. I can't think of any strong evidence for that point of view. It's no wonder that so many feminist NT scholars are the last to suggest that Paul was in favor of equality in the sense you are suggesting. They too view him as a love-patriarchalist.

I agree with you that some of Paul's statements were misused in the antebellum South. They were also misread by my Yankee ancestors (abolitionists one and all). Everyone was looking for proof texts for their own point of view.

Honest exegesis suggests a third way. Paul was not a proto-feminist nor a proto-abolitionist. Nonetheless, slavery as practiced in the South, and the slave trade which kept it going, were deeply questionable from the ethical point of view. On the basis of the golden rule, a strong case can be made, not against slavery as often practiced in Roman antiquity, but against slavery as often practiced in the antebellum South.

Furthermore, less than universal suffrage is in flagrant contradiction with the underlying principles of democracy. Democracy and universal suffrage are two peas in a pod; the latter reinforces and strengthens the former. Once this is seen - some of the Founding Fathers saw this already in the 1700s - it becomes clear that slavery and democracy are ultimately incompatible.

I'm not sure it dawned on any of the same Fathers that the same point applies with respect to equal rights for women. The whole idea that much of anyone conceived of equal rights in the way that we do before the Renaissance and the Reformation and feminism of the last two centuries is not well-founded and involves a great deal of historical anachronism.

Put another way, whereas in Paul and Peter's context egalitarianism and the abolition of slavery were not on the table, with the introduction of democracy (perhaps also with the rise of capitalism), both are co-implicates of a larger historical process.

A short summary of my thoughts on your project. I think (1) you remake Paul and Jesus into your own image; (2) have difficulty in articulating a positive place for hierarchy in interpersonal relationships, even though domain-based hierarchy is absolutely central to the smooth working of the workplace as well as to a marriage or a church.

That said, I can see that your intentions are excellent, that you understand the importance of Jesus as our example, and your emphasis on the principle of "the first will be last" is well-taken.

It would seem however that you find other very central aspects of the gospel as articulated in the New Testament of less interest, such as Paul's teaching of justification by faith through grace, or his doctrine of election as expressed in Romans 9-11 and, in a different way, in Ephesians. It also seems to me that in effect you remove from the canon an entire set of texts, Ephesians 5-6; Colossians 3, 1 Peter 2-3; the Pastoral Epistles, all of which suggest that Paul and Peter were traditionalists and social conservatives even as they were revolutionary in other ways. If you know church history, you will recognize the type. In many ways, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley are examples of the same "contradiction" if that's how you want to see it. I'm not sure it is a contradiction at all.

I point this out also because for some reason a strong emphasis on egalitarianism as if it were a component of the gospel often goes hand in hand with a hollowing out of the content of that same gospel in terms of classical emphases such as sola gratia and sola fide.

Paula

John,

"…I think you are trying to read Galatians as if the person who wrote it is not the same person who wrote..."

Not at all. I see my position as consistent and faithful, and I back up my claim by linking to articles I wrote that are more thorough than can be fairly represented in a blog thread.

You say Paul's argument in Gal. is limited to a few parts of the law, as if he knew nothing of the principle in Hebrews about law and priesthood. But it is Paul who said "you are all one", and who lauded many women as his co-workers and even prostatis, and who entrusted the delivery of his letter to the Romans to Phoebe. Paul said "one another" many times and never split lists of spiritual gifts into "pink" and "blue". He earned his own keep and spent much more time pleading than ordering. This is the example of a servant, of one who knew humility, and one who glorified not himself, his "office", or his flesh, but his Savior. this former Pharisee fully renounced his old ways, his old honor, and his old position, and took his place at the foot of the cross.

You misunderstand my point about slavery. It was not, as I already explained, to say Paul was trying to abolish it, but that his instructions on how believers must behave under unjust systems are not tacit approval of them. And whatever arguments are made to suggest otherwise cannot be sustained against women without also endorsing slavery. This is a matter of consistency in interpretation, which I believe to be much better and more faithful exegesis than simply bowing to culture's long suppression of women. And remember that I raised the issue of slavery because of how people used scripture to support it in America; the point is that these identical arguments are STILL being used to keep women from their full inheritance, their full freedom in Christ. Do try and find a moment to look at the Sound Familiar link for more detail.

Lastly, your personal insults do not help your cause at all. It is male supremacy which makes God in its own image; it is male supremacy which loves preeminence and hierarchy based on the flesh. And I already addressed the huge gap between TEMPORARY hierarchies and those based upon genetics. To insinuate that I find central issues such as salvation by grace through faith secondary, or to suggest that "election" is somehow to be equated with the gospel right after you make this charge, is at best an attempt to divert attention away from the actual arguments I make and question my motives instead, as well as being quite self-contradictory. You raised the topic, and that's what I have been focusing on.

Please do try and read some of my linked articles, as they will fill in any details that are not practical to develop here.

JohnFH

Paula,

Thank you for the conversation. I trust that readers of this thread will be able to figure out for themselves whether I have insulted you or attacked you, a claim you have now made repeatedly. I trust they will also determine for themselves if your other claims are cogent.

I remain convinced that you are unsatisfied with the Paul and Peter we have, and replace them with a Paul and Peter after your own heart.

I am also convinced that I have not misunderstood your points. But I do disagree with a number of them.

It is not necessarily wrong to have a set of emphases and priorities somewhat at odds with Paul or Peter. So did James. So did John.

The problem for those of us who were trained in the historical method is that we feel obliged to defend Paul and Peter and all the rest from their erstwhile friends as well as their erstwhile enemies. We mean no harm by it. On the contrary, we dare believe that in such earthen vessels, priceless treasure is found.

Paula

John,

When you say something like "I remain convinced that you are unsatisfied with the Paul and Peter we have, and replace them with a Paul and Peter after your own heart", that is insulting because it judges my character and motives. That is the place of God alone. If you could stick to arguments it would be a great improvement. And for the record, I could easily have accused you of the same, but I did not.

Contrary to your assumption, I too use the historical/grammatical method, yet I remain convinced that you do not use it consistently. My goal is always accuracy and faithfulness to the text and context, without letting tradition or modern culture interfere. This is what patriarchal interpretations claim, but IMHO do not practice.

Again, I ask the reader to consider which side has focused on scripture and logic, and which has instead focused on shooting the messenger. I do pray that any undecided on this topic have learned something valuable from this conversation.

JohnFH

Once again, Paula, thanks for the conversation.

Paula

You're very welcome.

George

John,

I am in general agreement with what you are saying, and I would not make any of these issues a test for Christian witness.

"Compared to all of these things, nonetheless, whether or not women can be pastors is a much more significant question. For the the forseeable future, there are going to be churches that allow it, and those that don't. I'm not sure that is necessarily a bad thing."

I also agree with the previous statement.
However - I just do not see how you could make the Scripture and Church history support women as pastors - without twisting both history and the text.

Having said that - I work with and I have as friends women pastors. I usually do not discuss these issues with them (I assume some may get infuriated by my stand) - I figure that if they feel secure in their interpretation and application of the relevant passages - who am I to contradict them (especially if I am not asked)?
[Should they ask my opinion - I would state it as clearly and nicely as possible, and I have done it in the past].

@Paula
Galatians 3:38 is basically about salvation. Sure - salvation is for everybody. I doubt that text says anything about roles in the church.

I totally agree with you that texts from the Bible were butchered to justify slavery. That does not justify now butchering texts to justify women as pastors etc.

To quote the text from Genesis to support some conspiracy against women from the very beginning of the Church is interesting - I could quote then a neighboring passage that shows that women want to overthrow this rule and take over :)

Again - I am for equality = complementarity, and I believe there is a hierarchy in the church, just as there should be that in the home. It has nothing to do with male supremacy etc!

Just because in any company there is are supervisors and workers - that does not mean that they are not equal before God as persons...to give a very simple, but relevant example. Obviously - Christian hierarchy and the situation in church/family is to be much different (sacrificial love, humility, service etc), but that does not have to erase the hierarchical structure, does it?

As far as your quote from

Paula

George,

Gal. 3:28 is about unity, because Paul is talking about how things are among those who are already in Christ. He is combating legalism among believers, not unbelievers, and has not been discussing how people are saved. I don't see any justification for changing the topic only for that verse. ;-)

Re. butchering scripture, it has been done to support male supremacy. Again, look at the arguments made for slavery and compare them to those made for male supremacy; they are identical. It is only the freeing and equality of women that matches the freeing and equality of races. But of course, any threat to the male supremacist interpretation must seem frighteningly like butchering to them.

Re. woman allegedly wanting to overthrow an alleged rule mandated by God, I have yet to see such a teaching in Genesis or interpreted as such by any NT writer. That's one of the items I covered in-depth in my Nicolaitan book, first chapter, so please see that (free to read or download) for more detail. Please also understand that these arguments seen in this post and comments are nothing new to me.

But to say that male supremacy is unrelated to hierarchy is surely special pleading at best. There can be no hierarchy without supremacy when the hierarchy is based upon genetics. More than once I've tried to emphasize this point: being a woman is not a role to play but an aspect of being, and thus any restrictions based upon one's flesh is a statement of essence. Again, God "looks on the heart", and the Spirit gives gifts as He chooses, not as man chooses.

Really, this has all been addressed, so I'll refrain from responding further unless a new point is raised.

terri

George

Equality in which one gender is forbidden from participating in hierarchy, or having any authority on the basis of the type of reproductive organs they possess, is not equality.

JohnFH

George and Paula,

With respect to Galatians 3:28, I get all fired up when I remember this 1859 quote by early feminist and Salvation Army co-founder, Catherine Booth:

"If this passage does not teach that in the privileges, duties, and responsibilities of Christ’s Kingdom, all differences of nation, caste, and sex are abolished, we should like to know what it does teach, and wherefore it was written." [Catherine Booth, Female Ministry, or, Woman's Right to Preach the Gospel (New York: Salvation Army Supplies Print. and Pub. Dept., 1975), 17]

As Lionel Windsor notes, with this quote "Booth both captures and pre-empts much of the modern debate on this passage." Go here:

http://www.lionelwindsor.net/bibleresources/bible/new/Philp_Gal3'28_History_of_Interpretation.pdf.

I get all fired up because if I failed to consider Catherine Booth one of God's most faithful servants, if I failed to credit her with being a powerful witness to the work of the Holy Spirit, I would, according to a plain-sense understanding of Jesus' teaching, be guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Yet, yet, I don't think Booth understood Gal 3:28 according to Paul's intentions. George and I are on the same page here, whereas Paula and Catherine are on the same page.

Let's face it: in a sense, George and I have already lost, since, when it comes to Catherine, it would be foolish not to want to be one of her number.

After all, I have a baptism that I will do in a few months for a gorgeous couple, hard working, with a hard-scrabble faith, poor as church mice; the mother is the daughter of Salvation Army officers, and I cannot look into her dark brown eyes (she is Hispanic) without seeing a reflection of the glory of the witness of Catherine Booth, as I imagine the Israelites saw the glory of God reflected in the face of Moses upon returning from Sinai.

For convenience, I will reproduce Windsor's summary of Luther's exegesis of Gal 3:28 in his 1519 commentary:

"In his 1519 commentary, Luther quotes and expands upon Augustine’s view that distinctions remain in our mortal interactions that are removed in the spirit through the unity of faith. He adds

... the apostles command slaves to obey their masters,wives to be subject to their husbands, but all to obey the magistrates. [Luther's works, Vol. 27 (ed. Jaroslav Pelikan; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955, 281]

Prior to this, however, [Luther] says that a person is made righteous because of Christ and not because ofany status. All forms of earthly status, for example Minorite or Augustinian, "are of such a nature that they do not make a Christian if they are present or an unbeliever if they are lacking [Luther's works, Vol. 27 (ed. Jaroslav Pelikan; St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1955, 281].

Therefore, Wilder continues, Luther held that this verse is about salvation and not social order.

Wilder goes on to note that in his commentary on Galatians written after the Peasants' Revolt, Luther "clearly interprets ‘one in Christ’ as referring to equality in relationship before God, and so how Christians ought to treat one another, without removing social distinctions."

To which one might add, Clement interpreted the language of mutuality in Paul in the same way - "submit yourselves to one another" in Ephesians 5.

From an exegetical and historical point of view, I have every reason to believe that Clement, Augustine, and Luther get Paul right, whereas Catherine Booth does not.

Nonetheless, I am not a "Bible deist," or even a "Church history" deist - where is Peter Kirk when I need him: he would know best how to explain these terms. That is, much as did the apostles at the birth of the Church when they witnessed the way in which God gave the Spirit to Gentiles without bothering first to have them circumcised or even baptized in water, I am constrained to believe my own eyes and trust, however carefully and circumspectly, that God in our day has begun to do a new thing in accordance with the ancient prophecy of Joel taken up by Peter in the first sermon preached in the dispensation of the Spirit (Acts 2:17-18).

As I understand it, Acts 2:17-18 has received a fulfillment in our days which the angels longed to peep at beforehand, without success (cf. 1 Peter 1:10-11; 2 Peter 1:19-21), but we have seen it.

The operative words here: "As I understand it." It stands to reason that others will understand things differently.

My point, George, is that, making allowances for changed circumstances, there is no passage in the NT that forces the church to prohibit women from being presbyters. If the church or a church chooses to prohibit/ not prohibit, it may or may not have the better part of wisdom. I grant that without question.

In that sense, Paula, I differ from your point of view, and from that of Catherine Booth, who nevertheless will, I am confident, precede me in the kingdom of heaven, assuming I even get there, a thousand times over.

Terri,

The biblical complementarian point of view is that a wife and mother is vested with tremendous authority of various kinds and degrees, but not, at least not de jure, with tie-breaking authority in a situation of impasse between husband and wife. To see that, one has to understand the principle of domain-based hierarchy, clearly reflected in Scripture (not all complementarians see that).

I point this out because as a self-identifying (soft) egalitarian, I can't for the life of me see any difference between how a decision is made in case of impasse in a traditional love-obey framework, a neo-traditional complementarian framework, and an egalitarian framework, so long as 1 Cor 13 is the touchstone, which of course it will be if the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church and laid his life down for her.

I have great fun as a pastor when talking to older couples in my church, most of whom were married in the "love-obey" framework. These older couples, now celebrating 50+ years of marriage, tell amazing stories of faith and love that occurred when they reached an apparent decision-making impasse. Surely you will not be surprised if I tell you how often I hear great examples of authority *on behalf of* being exercised by the husband that involved fundamental self-denial. But also: examples in which the husband fell on his sword in the sense of making a hard decision which met initial resistance from his wife.

The framework in which one lives the gospel is almost irrelevant. What matters is whether one is a Spirit-filled Christian, or, to use traditional Catholic terminology, whether "Mary and Joseph" alike have obedient hearts before God, before each other, and before their fellow man.

terri

John,

I fully understand the complementarian position and had been steeped in it for many years.

There is no escaping the fact that, when it all is boiled down, it intrinsically affirms that a man is always the best person for the "job" whether that might be in a leadership position in the church or holding executive veto power over his wife.

Separate but equal is not "equal".

As far as whether women should pastor....I think that it entirely depends on the congregation. If forcing a congregation to accept a woman as their leader will cause the congregation to implode...then it makes sense not to have a female pastor. On the other hand.....such congregations should not be allowed to wallow in chauvinism forever without having their assumptions challenged and hopefully some progress made towards taking less dogmatic stances.

Change comes slowly...in every area of life.

I would caution men to be sparing in their easily tossed out opinions about "conspiracy theories of female oppression" and affirming a "separate but equal" version of gender.

If a man has never attended churches year after year in which their particular gender gets to be repeatedly told what it means to a "godly" person of that gender....what the God-ordained limits of their gender are....and how questioning those themes undermines the other gender and has led to the ruin of society....then he really has no idea what it is like to be a woman in a strongly complementarian environment and how soul-crushing it can be after a while.

No matter how gently a person puts someone in their place, there can be no doubt about who is holding the power, and who is determining where the proper "place" is.

JohnFH

Terri,

I happen to disagree. Within my own extended family, I have cuzzes and in-laws who are traditional or neo-traditional in their understanding of marriage, even if, in some cases, they were raised in full-throttle egal settings. These same young men and women model mutual respect in wondrous ways.

For both genders, their choice to become complementarian or to remain relatively traditional (in the case of a Filipino-American) has in effect given their marriages and families a sturdier foundation. To suggest otherwise would be to miss the obvious.

That said, I pastor couples all the time, mostly egal because that is my context, who are very good at abusing their framework to lord it over their spouse. Sin is the issue; the framework, not so much (though there are obviously dysfunctional versions of both).

Paula

John,

It is of course commendable to allow that your opponent in debate may actually be right. :-) But appeals to other interpreters, illustrious though they may be, is no guarantee of the correctness or accuracy of their equally fallible opinions. Paul had his detractors while he lived, and he predicted the scattering of the flock by ravenous wolves after his departure, both of which should tell us that not even close proximity to Paul's time would be an authoritative "tie-breaker" on this debate.

This tactic always reminds me of the true story about the lowly intern who dared to defy the conventional wisdom of all the world's greatest medical minds. He had the gall to claim that stomach ulcers were in fact caused by bacteria, specifically heliobacter pylori. They mocked him and his defiance of their superiority and noted how hopelessly outnumbered he was.

But he was right, and all the rest of the medical world was wrong.

As for tie-breakers in marriage, to make the male the tie-breaker simply because he is male, is not only completely without scriptural backing but essentially treats the female like a child. Yet you would, I'm sure, concede that she is fully grown, fully human, and fully equal with men in Christ. "Resistance from his wife" is the epitome of condescension and negates all anyone might say about equality of being or essence.

And if you believe that the most important thing is how one lives (I would combine it with faithfulness to the teachings of the apostles), then treating the wife like a child is hardly compatible with that belief, no matter how nicely or benevolently it may be done.

I take great solace in the fact that no matter what anyone wishes to extract from the scriptures on this topic, I answer to no one but God; I do not need or request any man's permission to use my spiritual gifts to their fullest potential, wherever the Spirit leads. My husband and I have had a great 20+ year marriage because we work as a team, with each one leading in their areas of strength. We've never even needed to pick a designated tie-breaker. Just sayin'.

JohnFH

Paula,

My marriage is like yours. We don't have a designated tie-breaker either. However, I marriage prep couples on a regular basis, and I have noted that delegation of tie-breaking to the husband by the wife, freely given and not coerced, is making a comeback. The grooms in this situation often look like deer in headlights, which is not a bad thing.

Just sayin'.

Back to Galatians 3:28. I've already contextualized my understanding of this passage within the entire Pauline corpus, and explained why I think that such is in accord with the immediate context as well.

You might address the question as to why so many feminist and other exegetes, though they are egal, understand Paul to have been a love-patriarchalist.

Paula

"delegation of tie-breaking to the husband by the wife, freely given and not coerced, is making a comeback."

I find this incredibly sad, because Jesus came to set the prisoners free, not make their cells more comfortable. And you did not mention my point about treating wives as children, but I see no way to say this is not the implication of your view anyway.

"You might address the question as to why so many feminist and other exegetes, though they are egal, understand Paul to have been a love-patriarchalist."

And you might address why "comps" cannot agree on exactly where the wavy line is drawn between "pink" and "blue" roles. When is a boy a man? What is the difference between "sharing" and teaching with authority? Can a single woman talk in church, while a married woman must only ask questions of her husband at home? How can women pray and prophesy "silently"? Etc. etc. etc. If this is all so clear, then why are there so many and conflicting rules?

But no need to answer, as I'm sure you'll agree we're not going to solve this, and as I said I'd prefer to wait for new points which haven't been covered in any of my comments or links.

terri

John

I'm not really in strong disagreement with you. George's comments, and those like it which I have heard voiced many times and over many years, are the kind that make me bristle inside.

When it comes to real life I care very little if women or men choose to take traditional roles or conform to gender norms such as letting men be the "tie-breakers" in a marriage. As long as both parties are operating in ways in which they choose and feel as if they are heard, respected and part of a partnership working together....how they individually break down their roles is entirely up to them.

What I protest is the constantly reinforced idea from people in authority insisting that God himself has declared one gender more capable, more trustworthy, more intrinsically equipped than the other.

It leaves women who are gifted feeling rejected on the sole basis of their biology.

I'm not exactly directing these comments at you. Just thinking out loud.

JohnFH

Paula and Terri,

I see nothing wrong with "wavy" lines. There are lots of them in life. It is the default situation, regardless of the "isms" to which people hold.

That said, there are abusive husbands (and wives) just as there are abusive clergy and abusive schoolteachers. There is no strong evidence that this correlate with traditional versus non-traditional frameworks. It is rather the case that *some* traditional communities are characterized by high rates of abuse, whereas others are decidedly not. Some non-traditional demographics such as (some? all?) subsets of the GLBT community, are characterized by relatively high rates of abuse.

The pathetic justifications that people give for abusing others are one thing. The root causes of abuse are another. Since I minister in a predominantly egal context, and come alongside people in situations of abuse often enough, I don't think I'm pointing out anything but the obvious when I say that a shared commitment to egalitarianism provides not the slightest defense from a committed and self-righteous abuser of others, especially if, as often, substance abuse and/or mental illness are also in the mix.

It is a gross mischaracterization of traditional and neo-traditional women to think of them as children who have not grown up. Is it really possible to say that to an actual person's face?

Surely it is obvious that many traditional and neo-traditional women have been and are strong mature individuals, and that many traditional and neo-traditional men are model husbands. The women I know who sealed their marriage in the love-obey framework and are now celebrating 50 and 60+ years of marriage are some of the strongest and most well-rounded women I know.

At the same time, surely it is obvious that some self-identifying egal women are mousy or whatever you want to call it, who under the cloak of democracy hide their own immaturity and poor interpersonal skills. Some self-identifying egal men, furthermore, are predators at heart.

Notice that we agree on the importance of mutual consent. Regardless of framework, this is the key. I can't think of any marriage I am currently witnessing that is happy and healthy that is not also characterized by mutual consent on basic principles.

Where agreement on basic principles is absent, it is a train wreck just waiting to happen, or already in process.

Paula

"It is a gross mischaracterization of traditional and neo-traditional women to think of them as children who have not grown up. Is it really possible to say that to an actual person's face? "

Ask the people who declare women unfit to lead, unfit to be trusted with certain spiritual gifts, unfit to rightly divide the Word, and for heaven's sake, unfit to break a tie. This is no mischaracterization but the ugly fact that making one person permanently subservient to another based upon nothing but reproductive organs is making her a child. I detest such teachings and will continue to expose them.

You keep trying to make this a matter of quality, but I keep responding that it is the hierarchy based on the flesh which is in error. I don't care how it's done, but whether. People can live however they want, but to teach this as God's idea is so counter to all that Jesus came to do, that I cannot be silent as such teachings are promoted.

Yes, women are often parties to such teachings, and I suspect many are happy to hide behind "roles" as an excuse to escape personal responsibility in spiritual matters. But this doesn't make it Biblical or anything close to mutual.

But I've come to expect all such discussions to digress as this one has into mere anecdotes and attempts to sugar-coat a "men are better" mentality. Yet God is still no respecter of persons, and He has not changed. He still uses the weak to shame the strong, and the lowly to shame the important. I will never accept the doubletalk that tries to make rule a different flavor of service or make "not so among you" only apply among males.

The "basic principles" of our salvation are these: that humanity is alienated from God, but Jesus, laying down privilege and position, became one of us. He sealed the New Covenant in His blood, rose from the dead, and promised to return for us. In gratitude, those of us who have accepted this by faith live by treating others as better than ourselves; we spread the gospel to all without distinction; we interact as one Body of one substance with only one Head.

Anything that violates the unity and mutual submission of that gospel is something I'll never support or be silent about. There is simply no way to reconcile flesh-based, permanent, and one-way submission in the face of the many "one-anothers" we have in Christ.

I'm sorry if such opposition to hierarchy ruffles the feathers of those who have claimed first place in the Kingdom, but I won't shrink back from my duty and commission to guard against anything that might harm the Body. You undoubtedly see me as the real threat, and I expect that. But in the end God will judge us all.

Mike Aubrey

The biblical complementarian point of view is that a wife and mother is vested with tremendous authority of various kinds and degrees, but not, at least not de jure, with tie-breaking authority in a situation of impasse between husband and wife. To see that, one has to understand the principle of domain-based hierarchy, clearly reflected in Scripture (not all complementarians see that).

Fundamentally speaking, is a couple comes to such an impasse that an appeal must be made by a complementarian tie-breaker, then that marriage has serious problems already. That kind of tie-breaker mind set has absolutely no basis in scripture for the Christian marriage and going completely again both the words and the spirit of Philippians 2.

The marriage that needs a tie-breaker has deeper issues to work out. Period.

Mike Aubrey

The "tie-breaker" is the polite way of saying, "Woman! Submit!"

Paula

And I'd like to know how something touted as God's divine order can be held in place by "wavy lines". "God is not a God of disorder", so wavy lines indicate something disputable, not something divinely decreed.

I see the whole male supremacist argument as boiling down to something like this:

-- Men got here first, therefore they are better
-- Might makes right (men are physically stronger)
-- Human traditions like patriarchy must be God's ideal, in spite of the fact that whenever God directly intervenes, He picks the younger, the weaker, the last
-- God rewarded open rebellion and punished the victim of deception by making Adam in charge of Eve
-- What God said to Adam and Eve, He said to all people for all time
-- All women are victims of the sins of both Adam and Eve, but men are only victims of the sin of Adam
-- Etc. etc. etc.

I've heard nothing new here, no improvements of the standard selective (inconsistent) interpretations, and no ceasing of the usual doubletalk.

JohnFH

Paula,

There are problems with what strikes me as overheated rhetoric on your part.

In particular, your characterization of traditional and neo-traditional women dehumanizes and demeans them. Via email I interact with non-egalitarians in response to threads like these. They are not going to jump into the discussion online, nor do I recommend it. You have already eaten them up and spit them out as if their own self-understanding meant nothing to you.

These are real people you are talking about. Perhaps you have no personal friends or relations who are non-egals.

Secondly, while you draw attention to a number of red threads in the biblical narrative that deserve serious consideration, you gloss over or leave out of consideration others. You can accuse others - and me as well - of attacking you and engaging in double talk, but as far as I can see, this is a typical case of one finger pointing outward and three pointing back.

I am an egalitarian like you, and I doubt my marriage looks much different than yours, but I disassociate myself in the strongest terms from your characterization of those who are positioned somewhere else on the egalitarian - complementarian continuum.

Mike,

You are surely right that if one member of a couple is constantly overruling the other, it is not a healthy relationship. I see this happening in dysfunctional marriages all the time. In my context, the marriages in trouble are almost always among self-identifying egals. But they still fall into this trap. That's because there are always extenuating circumstances which, in the eyes of the over-ruler, justify the act which becomes a habit which becomes a way of life.

BTW, egal women just as much as egal men seem predisposed in this sense. Jews and Christians have a word for it: it's called sin.

On the other hand, even in very healthy marriages, there can be cases in which it is not possible to move forward by mutual consent. Perhaps more precisely, consent can be given at the highest level even if it cannot be authentically given at a lower level.

Typical examples include: changing residence; giving up a family business; handling very serious disciplinary problems with children; health power of attorney situations; and so on.

It is in the nature of things that two strong-willed thoughtful people will not necessarily agree on a way forward in such instances. Somehow the tie has to be broken. What makes the difference in these cases? When is the tie-breaking process a healthy one? When is it not healthy?

I am confident, based on what I've seen with my own eyes and the examples couples have shared with me, that it does not depend on framework. It depends on the overall quality of the marriage bond, whether it is truly based on 1 Corinthians 13 style love or not. When it is not, the framework no matter what it is just becomes an excuse to get one's way.

As happens all the time in custody dispute cases. The law is egalitarian; those involved in such dispute have long forgotten that they are egals if they are. They are often out for blood and revenge, settling old scores all over again, and the children pay the consequences.

As my wife Paola says to couples in marriage prep: marriage is meant to be forever, but divorce - that's forever and forever.

Paula

"There are problems with what strikes me as overheated rhetoric on your part."
I freely admit to strongly objecting to any teaching which devalues half the human race.
"In particular, your characterization of traditional and neo-traditional women dehumanizes and demeans them. "
No, it is the teaching of male privilege which dehumanizes and demans them. I am not the one saying women are to play roles that keep them behind men, I am only exposing such things. This is a clear parallel to the criminal hating the whistleblower; you keep blaming me for what patriarchial teachings do.
"Via email I interact with non-egalitarians in response to threads like these. They are not going to jump into the discussion online, nor do I recommend it. You have already eaten them up and spit them out as if their own self-understanding meant nothing to you."
If my arguments are strong, it's nothing to be ashamed of. And it is not the people holding these ideas that I have attacked, but the teachings, as I've stated repeatedly. Having one's preferred theories debunked is never pleasant, but silencing the debunker is not the answer. You would prefer I let the anon-egals go unchallenged. Can I not state my opinions like anyone else? And for the record, I find the "God prefers males" teaching to be EXTREMELY offensive. Egals who stand by their views are not welcome in any strongly patriarchal venues. It's been the experience of most of us egals to be hated, vilified, mocked, and silenced; that is the norm. So you'll understand why I am unable to manufacture sympathy when the side doing the majority of the flaming doesn't like to be questioned or refuted.
"These are real people you are talking about. Perhaps you have no personal friends or relations who are non-egals."
Women are real people, John. Not property, not children, not slaves, not little helpers. They are full-grown human beings in the image of God-- the full, direct image, as opposed to the partial and indirect image taught by many male supremacists. When anyone treats women like something less that what they are, I will oppose such teachers openly. And I have come to expect the sort of ad hominem you display here, once again attacking my character and motives. I guess it's okay for you to attack real people.
"Secondly, while you draw attention to a number of red threads in the biblical narrative that deserve serious consideration, you gloss over or leave out of consideration others. You can accuse others - and me as well - of attacking you and engaging in double talk, but as far as I can see, this is a typical case of one finger pointing outward and three pointing back."
Back atcha, John.
"I am an egalitarian like you, and I doubt my marriage looks much different than yours, but I disassociate myself in the strongest terms from your characterization of those who are positioned somewhere else on the egalitarian - complementarian continuum.
Again, it is male supremacist teachings that mischaracterize those who disagree with them. I have a right to my personal convictions just as anyone else, male or female, and the right to express them. If you wish to silence me, it's your blog. But remember that such debates are never for the benefit of the participants, but for the readers. They are fully capable of making up their own minds.

JohnFH

I am not going to silence you, Paula. From my point of view, you help me make the case for a gentler, kinder approach to the subject matter.

I don't think many people are going to feel uplifted or helped by your red-hot polemics. It's even possible that your rhetorical style will have the opposite effect from the one you intend: it comes across as so one-sided that even those who come from generations of egalitarianism - my own case - will be stimulated to explore what truths more traditional frameworks may embody well.

I have complementarian friends who politely but firmly indicate their disagreements with, say, complementarianism as understood by some who speak for CBMW.

Similarly, I'm trying to politely but firmly indicate my disagreements with egalitarianism as promoted by you and some who identify with the CBE.

There is a middle ground on which traditionalists, complementarians, non-egalitarians, and egalitarians can all stand. That middle ground appears and is in fact solid rock as soon as one stops identifying a particular framework as a means of salvation or an indispensable component of working out salvation with fear and trembling.

It turns out that what is important is not whether one is a Christian who lives and moves and has his or her being in a traditional patriarchal culture, a neo-traditional counter-culture, or a fully assimilated Western egalitarian culture, but whether, in such very different givens, one makes 1 Corinthians 13 the touchstone of interpersonal life.

Paula

Ah, the "middle ground": I wrote about that here a year and a half ago. What many call politeness is what Hegel called synthesis (see this article), wherein two opposing ideas are so watered-down that a new "third way" is achieved. This is the opposite of dialog. Consider this:

A good argument diluted to avoid criticism is not nearly as good as the undiluted argument, because we best arrive at truth through a process of honest and vigorous debate. Arguments should not sneak around in disguise, as if dissent were somehow sinister. One should not be cowed by criticism.

In my humble opinion, those who come to engage in debates of consequence, and who challenge accepted wisdom, should expect to be treated badly. Nonetheless, they must stand undaunted. That is required. And that should be expected. For it is bravery that is required to secure freedom.

— Justice Clarence Thomas Speech at the American Enterprise Institute, May 2001

You can label my arguments "red-hot polemic" if you wish. But I consider your numerous personal insults, sugar-coated though they may be, to be much worse. And male supremacism, especially in the Christian marriage, is the worst of all.

Re. 1 Cor. 13, remember that love does not demand it's own way. This is one of the many points at which "final say" fails. But you keep mistaking style for substance; love does NOT mean abandoning your personal convictions or diluting them to the point of a mere vapor, or forbidding people to be passionate about their convictions.

And it is not loving to throw rocks at the guards on the city walls. Warning is our job, a job created by God and gifted by the Spirit. If you don't want guards here, just ban me. But if you do, then don't expect me to be gentle to harmful teachings. Would you be gentle with the legalists of Paul's day, whom Paul insulted and reviled and called names? A good shepherd is not gentle to wolves; there is no middle ground with them.

Love compels me to warn; if I didn't care I wouldn't be here. I care about the many women I've seen who became atheists due to the teachings of patriarchy; I care about the many pastors' wives who have to run to secular shelters; I care about the victims of demeaning, insulting teachings that divide the Body in two and make one half report to the other. When anyone uses the Bible as an excuse to abuse, the teachers that enable them must share the blame; no amount of excuses can absolve them of responsibility.

To love harmful teachings is to be disloyal to God; to dialog with wolves is to scatter the flock; to remain silent as an enemy approaches is high treason. That's why I don't promote some "middle ground".

George

Again - I mostly agree with you John (except that I am a 'complementarian'.)

I believe you are certainly right on these points (and many others, but I want to emphasize these):

1) From an exegetical and historical point of view, I have every reason to believe that Clement, Augustine, and Luther get Paul right, whereas Catherine Booth does not.

I would add almost every Christian interpreter until the beginning of 20th century (or even later)!

2) "It is a gross mischaracterization of traditional and neo-traditional women to think of them as children who have not grown up. Is it really possible to say that to an actual person's face? "

You are very correct again. It is condescending to treat the more traditional women that way - but it looks like Paula and others do not see it that way!?

@Paula etc
Ask the people who declare women unfit to lead, unfit to be trusted with certain spiritual gifts, unfit to rightly divide the Word, and for heaven's sake, unfit to break a tie.

This is a non-sequitur (in my opinion) as many others in the conversations above.

There is a hierarchy in the TRINITY. Is that demeaning to one of the persons? Is that because the Son cannot be trusted with certain issues? Certainly NOT! I do not see why hierarchy in other areas of life would demean someone else (especially in a Christian framework where the leader is called to love sacrificially and serve etc).

The fact is that there are many women out there in 'traditional marriages' who do not perceive themselves as being demeaned or unfit for certain things. In other words - their acceptance of the Scripture (at least of their interpretation of Scripture) has not stopped them from being great (and I would argue strong and outstanding) women for the Kingdom of God.

I would argue that the greatest women in Christian history (including Mother Theresa etc) are women who operated freely and lovingly in the hierarchical framework that has existed in the Church.

It is of course possible that the great women pastors of Church history are still to be seen - given the short time that we have had women pastors.

Personally - I come from a traditional Southern Baptist background. I do take the more traditional view (as it is obvious).

However - I realize that I could be wrong, and I am certainly NOT a convinced opponent of women teaching etc (I am certainly for women deacons etc), though I do not see the warrant for them being pastors. I could be wrong here too - but I seriously doubt it!

I am not convinced that women should not teach men for various reasons, especially for the fact that the Southern Baptist churches celebrate the life of Lottie Moon - who was an excellent teacher and evangelist to China (and there were of course many others)!

Of course - this case (and other similar ones), could be understood as an exception to the rule. God used whoever was available - and if a man would not go, He sent a woman.

I am certainly happy to read about all the women leaders in the underground churches in China. Are these exceptions to the rule? I think so. Meanwhile - I am glad they are working for the Gospel - bless their heart!:)

Sorry if I offended anyone. I certainly did not intend to do that. My intention is to humbly take the Scriptures seriously (the Designer knows better how the Church and family should operate), and not to throw away so lightly 1900 of Christian interpretation.

One important question when approaching a text is the following: is the text saying what I think it is saying, or is the culture around me leading me toward that interpretation???

How can someone interpret 'Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord...', except as 'Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord' escapes me.

[And when Sylvia Keesmat (and Brian Walsh was there) - in a class I was auditing in Toronto tried to exegete this passage as to mean something else - I politely and amazed nodded in agreement. I was amazed at the exegetical juggling :)]

George

@Paula
Love compels me to warn; if I didn't care I wouldn't be here. I care about the many women I've seen who became atheists due to the teachings of patriarchy; I care about the many pastors' wives who have to run to secular shelters; I care about the victims of demeaning, insulting teachings that divide the Body in two and make one half report to the other. When anyone uses the Bible as an excuse to abuse, the teachers that enable them must share the blame; no amount of excuses can absolve them of responsibility.

That was a very powerful and passionate argument (especially the point about some women becoming atheists).

However - I am sure that you would admit that their turn to atheism has a lot to do with the feminist culture that they were brought up into.

For (as I am sure you are aware)- a somewhat opposite problem is found in other countries. Women and people do not come to Christ when they see women pastors etc. I worked in countries where it would be unthinkable to have women pastors and the issue is not even an issue (it is not discussed because most women there do not care to be pastors etc)!

Thus - while in the West a non-egalitarian interpretation of the Bible is a stumbling block for women brought up in a relatively feminist culture, the same is not the case in most of the rest of the world...

When in Rome do as Romans do? Perhaps...

P.S.
Are you suggesting that pastor's wives run to shelters because a complementarian (or even traditional) theological position? I hope not!
In any case - let me assure you that we all care about those women too!

JohnFH

Thanks, Paula, for clarifying your point of view. You can keep at it if you wish. As I've already noted, it suits me just fine.

George,

The best comeback I've heard to Paul's advice to wives to submit to their husbands, the best comeback which sticks to the passage, one Mary Stewart van Leeuwen tells, is of one of her students who said she would happily submit in all things to a man who loved her as Christ loved the church and laid his life down for her - if only she could find such a man.

Put another way, I think Paul's advice in Eph 5 if taken seriously crucifies the will to power in both husband and wife.

Whether you make very traditional assumptions (as the men Paul wrote to most certainly did; Paul does not challenge those assumptions any more than he challenges the assumptions that made slavery possible), neo-traditional or "complementarian" assumptions, or egalitarian assumptions about roles in marriage, you are not going to covertly manipulate your husband if you are a wife and you are not going to mistreat your wife if you are a husband if you take Ephesians 5 seriously.

It really is that simple.

Paula

George:

1) Fallacies: appeal to popularity, appeal to authority

2) Patriarchy is condescending and I'm calling it out for this; you and John keep confusing my OBJECTION to this with promoting it! How else can I make it clearer? How many times must I repeat this?

Per the charge of non-sequitur, you misunderstand. See 2 above.

There cannot be hierarchy in UNITY. The Trinity is Three in One, with one will and purpose and substance. To say otherwise is to promote tritheism; there is no delicate way to put it. I have an article showing how each Person has overlapping activities and spheres here, but who even will bother to read it? At least read Phil. 2:5-11 please.

And I must repeat once more that this isn't about how anyone feels or perceives their "role", but the logical conclusion of male supremacy. To teach that a person is in a one-way subservient relationship to another based upon genetics is demeaning, humiliating, and dehumanizing. Some people don't mind such implications and they're free to live that way. But this teaching is a blight upon half the Body of Christ.

As for exceptions to rules, please see this article. Briefly, an exception is what TESTS (the old meaning of "prove') a rule; if one is found, the rule is false.

Per your question about Eph. 5, I can point you to tons of material if you really want to study the egal view. You might start by asking why there is no verb in vs. 22. But as a matter of perspective, it escapes me as well how anyone can read "not so among you" and interpret it as "not so among MALES". Exegetical juggling indeed!

terri

George

The ease with which you dismiss points as non-sequiturs is simply a symptom of your complimentarianism. After all, what difference does it make how a theological stance impacts women and demeans them.

They deserve it for being descendants of Eve....right?

It sucks to be cursed.

I agree with Paula that your appeal to authority is a fallacy and full of holes. It wasn't until about 500 years after Christianity's beginning that priests were encouraged to be celibate for the rest of their lives.....a rule still in place in the Catholic church. So, does that mean that married Protestant ministers should admit that they are outside of the bounds of what "the church" has taught for 1500 years.....because obviously if church history is a reflection of what should be, of what is God-ordained, then Protestant preachers have willingly erred by marrying.

Church history is not so neat and unified as you might like to portray it.

As far as great women in Christian history.....how exactly could women serve in ways not approved by the hierarchy in the past? Mother Teresa's life and service in the Catholic Church is a reflection of what that Church teaches about women and how they are permitted to serve. How could she have served in any other way within the bounds of the Catholic Church?

You have erected a catch-22: obviously women can't be great pastors and leaders because we have never seen any great women pastors and leaders which is why we shouldn't let them be pastors and leaders.


George

I agree with this John:

"Whether you make very traditional assumptions (as the men Paul wrote to most certainly did; Paul does not challenge those assumptions any more than he challenges the assumptions that made slavery possible), neo-traditional or "complementarian" assumptions, or egalitarian assumptions about roles in marriage, you are not going to covertly manipulate your husband if you are a wife and you are not going to mistreat your wife if you are a husband if you take Ephesians 5 seriously."

Very well said.

I will try to read your sources Paula, but I do not see why you can't have both unity (as there is in the Trinity) and hierarchy!

My appeal was not to popularity - it was to authority. Even though I am a protestant, I am not a typical one - I give a lot of weight to the interpretations of the Church fathers. And many of these read the NT in Greek very well (it was their own language), and none of them (as far as I am aware) would support the 20th century interpretations of these disputed passages.

Again - I will try to take a look at your articles, but in my thinking exceptions do not falsify the rules. An exception proves the rule!

Marilyn

I couldn’t resist jumping in.

Some of the arguments here confuse marriage and church governance. The two are separate issues. Marriage is between one man and one woman. Within marriage, I relate as wife/female to husband/male. Other factors such as personality and gifting matter, but gender is primary. In contrast, the reverse is true in the secular workplace. Personality and gifting are the primary determinants of how I relate. Gender colors my relationships, but is secondary.

There are one-point and two-point complementarians. Whether men and women are to mirror the Christ/Church relation or whether the secular workplace analogy holds is (in my opinion) a debatable question. Undebatable (in my opinion) is the existence of gender differences in how husband and wife relate. Debatable (in my opinion) is how to apply gender-differentiated commands in passages such as Ephesians 5:33 to contemporary marriages. Undebatable (in my opinion) is the relevance of those commands to the contemporary marriages.

Where I see my soft complementarian beliefs differing from those of a Sarah and Jim Sumner or John and Paola isn’t so much in how we see gender (which isn't to imply that if we sat down to talk, we would agree on everything), but in where we have positioned ourselves in the Christ & Culture continuum.

On to the Trinity. Set aside the issue of hierarchy in the Trinity for a moment. You’re still left with a concept that violates the axioms of traditional Greek logic. So, arguing that hierarchy within the Trinity is or is not logical doesn’t (in my opinion) give anyone much traction.

Marilyn

P.S. I posted without proofing. To clarify, I intended the opening sentences in my second paragraph to be about church governance.

JohnFH

Thanks, Marilyn, for your comments. Insightful as always.

It's interesting that Michael Patton over at Pen & Parchment is defining complementarianism as a position which seeks to protect and enhance gender-based differences rather than minimize or deny them. On his definition, a consistent egalitarian denies all gender differences except the obvious anatomical ones. My first thought: along with John Gotmann, that makes me a very inconsistent egalitarian.

Nonetheless, since Michael doesn't seem to have a legalist bone in his body, I find his arguments, though not always convincing, pretty disarming. He seems to want to say that gender is more important in being a pastor than an egal would be willing to admit. Now that would be an interesting topic: since so much "transfer" occurs in pastoral counseling and even in preaching and teaching, gender plays a huge, usually unacknowledged role in the interaction. I just don't know of anyone who has explored these things in a constructive way.

JohnFH

All,

I'm not allowing pseudonymous posting on this thread. That is a very hard kind of posting to moderate, and I'm not in the mood.

Paula

George:

"However - I am sure that you would admit that their turn to atheism has a lot to do with the feminist culture that they were brought up into."

No, I've asked them, and "feminist culture" (whatever that is) had absolutely nothing to do with it. They were dedicated, faithful, eager to please God no matter what. But after being essentially hollowed out and told God viewed them as only incubators and pleasers of men's desires, they snapped. They now hate God, not because He wouldn't let them sin, but because He wouldn't let them be human.

"For (as I am sure you are aware)- a somewhat opposite problem is found in other countries. Women and people do not come to Christ when they see women pastors etc. I worked in countries where it would be unthinkable to have women pastors and the issue is not even an issue (it is not discussed because most women there do not care to be pastors etc)!"

Other cultures also are accustomed to polygamy, but I have yet to hear of a missionary condoning it. How about slavery? It's practiced too in many places. I'm sorry, but this is just an appeal to culture. Is "masculine culture" godly, while "feminist culture" is not? On what basis?

"Are you suggesting that pastor's wives run to shelters because a complementarian (or even traditional) theological position? I hope not!
In any case - let me assure you that we all care about those women too!"

They run because their pastor husbands beat them, and justify it because the Bible says "woman, submit! And if you don't, you dishonor me." While few teaching patriarchy would excuse violence in theory, there are many scandals coming to the surface about a LOT of "looking the other way" in the churches. This is the direct result of teaching that women must submit to men; without it, the men that get violent would not be able to appeal to the Bible as sanctioning their mastery over women. Teachings have consequences, and when you enable men to take authority over women, the physically weaker get the short end of the stick. It caters to sinful pride. But my point is that even without violence, the woman who is held to a secondary position is being treated with contempt.

"My appeal was not to popularity - it was to authority. Even though I am a protestant, I am not a typical one - I give a lot of weight to the interpretations of the Church fathers. And many of these read the NT in Greek very well (it was their own language), and none of them (as far as I am aware) would support the 20th century interpretations of these disputed passages."

Chrysostome held that Junia was an apostle. And there are many Greek experts today who don't like most English translations. You might want to visit the Better Bibles Blog sometime.

Anyway, appeal to authority is a logical fallacy when not all authorities agree, or when your opponent is supposed to defer only on account of authority and not the strength of the authority's argument on the topic at hand.

And as I said, I give little weight to "church fathers", since even in Paul's day there were wolves trying to scatter the flock. What matters, what has authority, is the Bible and the Spirit. The opinions of scholars past and present can be valuable, but they are not authoritative.

Also, you might want to read up on "exception proves rule" sometime. ;-)

George

@Terri and Paula

"I agree with Paula that your appeal to authority is a fallacy and full of holes. It wasn't until about 500 years after Christianity's beginning that priests were encouraged to be celibate for the rest of their lives.....a rule still in place in the Catholic church. So, does that mean that married Protestant ministers should admit that they are outside of the bounds of what "the church" has taught for 1500 years.....because obviously if church history is a reflection of what should be, of what is God-ordained, then Protestant preachers have willingly erred by marrying.

Church history is not so neat and unified as you might like to portray it."

My appeal to authority is not as full of holes as you would like it to be. Terri's example is totally besides the point. She is bringing an example of a custom that comes 500 years after Christ.

My argument is (and has been) that:
1) The Scriptures support the complementarian and male only pastor model.
2) However - some texts are hard to understand and disputable. In those cases - the best is to look at church history.
3) Church history is certainly not very unified on certain issues. BUT - it is very unified (and not 500 years after Christ) on the points that we have been discussing.
If you can find 2 church fathers that support the idea that women should be pastors and that the woman should not submit to her husband - I would be very surprised. And this is not true only for the church fathers - it is pretty consistent until up to 20th century (including the veiling of women etc).
If you do not care about church interpretation for this (or other issues), and you consider this a fallacy - I have no problem returning to the texts of the Scripture. But again - I seriously doubt that there is an 'aha' moment that helps us interpret these things better (more correctly) today.
My impression is that it is the culture that dictates the more 'feminist' interpretations and not the texts themselves.

It is worth pursuing your point on Junia and Chrysostome (thanks)!

"Per your question about Eph. 5, I can point you to tons of material if you really want to study the egal view. You might start by asking why there is no verb in vs. 22. But as a matter of perspective, it escapes me as well how anyone can read "not so among you" and interpret it as "not so among MALES". Exegetical juggling indeed!"

It so happens that I am teaching Greek this semester (I usually teach other languages) - and you are right - there is no verb in 22, most likely because the idea from 21 is continued in 22.
In any case - there is a clear imperative in Col 3:18. How can we explain this verse except as stating what is states???

About the men who beat/abuse their wives and justify it with the submit verses - the abuse clearly goes against other numerous verses in the Scripture. Just because some (or even many) use certain verses/interpretations to justify other sins (which are clearly prohibited elsewhere) - that does not mean that those verses/interpretations are wrong.

Are women better treated by egalitarians (and are they happier)? [This would probably be difficult to measure/analyze].
I am sure that (unfortunately) there are egalitarians who abuse their wives. A sinner will always find a way to justify his/her sins, whether that is from the Bible or elsewhere!

@terri
"You have erected a catch-22: obviously women can't be great pastors and leaders because we have never seen any great women pastors and leaders which is why we shouldn't let them be pastors and leaders."

I never said that. I just said that remains to be seen if the women pastors (who have fairly recently come on the scene) will accomplish as much as those women who served God in their traditional/accepted roles throughout church history.

As far as a woman 'apostol' goes - this is a bit different than pastor. Honestly - I am much more open to a woman being an apostol...because these seem to have existed throughout history and they seem to have a call directly from God (they are not necessarily sent and accepted by their churches)...and they do accomplish a lot for God. I would put Lottie Moon, perhaps even Catherine Booth, and a few other women in this category...

When a woman like that comes along - I think any Christian with an open heart/mind senses that she is sent by God to do what she does...May we see more of these!

Perhaps Junia (and Priscilla?) was one of these!?


Gary Simmons

@John: In response to the last thing we were talking about, which was Michael benignly using his wife as an example of weakness or inadequacy: I believe that women, as the weaker vessel, are fine china. We're clay pots. Ergo, always value them as your "better half."

"As happens all the time in custody dispute cases. The law is egalitarian; those involved in such dispute have long forgotten that they are egals if they are. They are often out for blood and revenge, settling old scores all over again, and the children pay the consequences."

Too many seem to forget this. My parents had to move around frequently because of my dad's job. My mother decided she was tired of it, and quit. Oh, and the divorce was messy! It was petty, hurtful, and selfish. I don't need a lexicon to understand what authentein means, let me tell you that. So, in short, I wanted to affirm that statement from personal experience.

"since so much "transfer" occurs in pastoral counseling and even in preaching and teaching, gender plays a huge, usually unacknowledged role in the interaction. I just don't know of anyone who has explored these things in a constructive way."

Yes. I actually tried to open the topic but the other commentators were too embroiled in the presence/absence of a hendiadys to notice anything that practical.

Gary Simmons

...has anyone considered that this madness is the divinely-placed enmity? Sin, which was introduced into the world, is what causes thorns and thistles.

Paula, I am deeply troubled by some of the caricatures you express. While I am sure there are some who do relegate women to "incubators," that is not part of any mainstream flavor of complementarianism that I would hold as even remotely biblical. I may be young, but I have spent some time at a church pastored by a member of CBMW.

I know the pastor and his wife. Both are wonderfully amazing and active. Let me reiterate, his wife is active in prayer and ministry. Let me also say that he is willing to use self-deprecating anecdotes in his sermons, but never about his wife. In one such instance, he thought he'd preached the best sermon ever and he asked his wife afterward, and she said she couldn't remember what he said; she was distracted by the fact that he picked his nose during the sermon. Now, I ask you, what sort of person would willingly use that as an anecdote about (his own) pride in another sermon? Not a "male supremacist," though I could imagine either an egal or comp using such an illustration.

I wrote a letter to someone special for Valentine's Day that reminisced from his sermon on 1 Peter 3:7 last year, about honoring wives and seeking to be lifelong students of who your wife is, treating her with affection and a genuine, Edenic delight.

His teachings on complementarianism inspire me to seek to defend the humanity of everyone, women included. In fact, I just did a very lengthy review of Dehumanizing the Vulnerable.

In short, I am hurt by the broad brush with which you paint. It is unfair, as is your loaded language. Man's labor in Genesis 2 is to produce... a tomato.

Women's laber is to produce... something infinitely more valuable. Women have a unique role in the ongoing relationships betwen God, humanity, and the rest of creation. Woman, quite simply, is irreplaceable.

However, Genesis 1-2 gives us a picture of harmony. Egalitarianism was not required for this. Innocence from sin is the core reason there was harmony.

I'm sorry if you've been hurt and that you've heard horror stories, but you are inappropriately transferring your gestalts where they don't belong.

Gary Simmons

Clarification: the love letter was for a girl, and I brought up the pastor's sermon from last year which we both had heard. And I'm refusing to name this pastor on purpose simply out of respect.

Paula

@ George:

My argument is (and has been) that:
1) The Scriptures support the complementarian and male only pastor model.
2) However - some texts are hard to understand and disputable. In those cases - the best is to look at church history.
3) Church history is certainly not very unified on certain issues. BUT - it is very unified (and not 500 years after Christ) on the points that we have been discussing.

1) No, they don't, and there is always more than one elder. Pastor is only mentioned once in the entire NT, and it is not God who turned it from a spiritual gift into an imaginary office.

2) No, the best is to look at scriptures related to the one in question. Always interpret the disputable by the indisputable, which is what I've been doing when I compare hierarchy to "not so among you" for example.

3) Church history is replete with corruption, murder, falsehood, scandals, and a host of other faults. I've stated several times about the wolves in Paul's day, is that irrelevant to you? I hope not!

If you can find 2 church fathers…

I can find a LOT of them that absolutely drip with hatred for women, for Jews, for even the "laity".

If you do not care about church interpretation for this (or other issues), and you consider this a fallacy…

Fallacies are defined by set rules, not whims. Read up on them.

My impression is that it is the culture that dictates the more 'feminist' interpretations and not the texts themselves.

Society, culture, and religion have been hugely male supremacist, pro-polygamy, and pro-slavery in many cases as well. Those are the views that bow to culture! And history also shows that the more patriarchal societies have also been steeped in homosexuality.

It so happens that I am teaching Greek this semester (I usually teach other languages) - and you are right - there is no verb in 22, most likely because the idea from 21 is continued in 22.
In any case - there is a clear imperative in Col 3:18. How can we explain this verse except as stating what is states???

Absolutely right that 22 goes with 21, NOT with 23! The mutuality of submission is stated first, and this same submission is linked to wives and husbands. But why quickly jump out of that context to Col. 3:18, George? Can't Eph. stand on its own? As for Col, do you actually believe that a woman must treat a man as GOD??? Think about what your interpretation leads to: blasphemy and idolatry, as I already pointed out. And this conflicts hopelessly with the mutual submission of Eph.! Trying to equate mutuality with non-mutuality just isn't going to work. But again, unless you'd like to claim all those huge tomes on systematic theology are unnecessary, remember that these DISPUTABLE passages need more time than a blog comment stream.


About the men who beat/abuse their wives and justify it with the submit verses - the abuse clearly goes against other numerous verses in the Scripture.

As does hierarchy ("not so among you").

Just because some (or even many) use certain verses/interpretations to justify other sins (which are clearly prohibited elsewhere) - that does not mean that those verses/interpretations are wrong.

"not lording over"; "love does not demand its own way"; "think of others as better than yourself"; "the greatest must be the least"; "the first shall be last". Hierarchy violates them all. And when you teach that men do in fact rule over women, you ENABLE abusive men to play this divine trump card whenever their sinful flesh desires. It is an inescapable conclusion, and patriarchy must step up and take responsibility. Note also that it is taking the patriarchy world a veritable Talmud-full of rules to dry and explain how "wives, treat your husbands as you do the Lord" does NOT make them little gods over them. You can't have "lordship" and "not lording" without contradicting yourself.

I am sure that (unfortunately) there are egalitarians who abuse their wives. A sinner will always find a way to justify his/her sins, whether that is from the Bible or elsewhere!

This is a great parallel to the argument that both Christians and Muslims kill and conquer. My rebuttal, for both cases, is that only one set of teachings SANCTIONS the sin, while the other sins IN SPITE OF the teachings.

I never said that. I just said that remains to be seen if the women pastors (who have fairly recently come on the scene) will accomplish as much as those women who served God in their traditional/accepted roles throughout church history.

So what? Is this about accomplishments or gifting of the Spirit? Your attitude illustrates my view that tradition has turned a gift of lowly service into a CEO whose job performance is measured in "nickels and noses". Women have always been the silent, invisible army that serves without recognition, without salary, without prestige, and in many cases, only earning the epithet "Jezebel" for their work.

As far as a woman 'apostol' goes - this is a bit different than pastor…

How is it different? Has an apostle no authority, or only a female apostle? The issue with patriarchy is authority, and because they all believe apostles had it, they have even gone so far as to turn Junia into a man to make sure not even God could let a woman be so called! Yes, the UBS violated their own rules and masculinized Junia in the Greek text for over 50 years without the required attestation, then quietly changed her back into the woman she was after more and more people demanded to see even a shred of evidence for the masculine form before the Middle Ages. And even you have to admit that if Paul's lists of spiritual gifts are in order by importance, apostle (and prophet!) is above pastor or elder.

When a woman like that comes along - I think any Christian with an open heart/mind senses that she is sent by God to do what she does...May we see more of these!

Perhaps Junia (and Priscilla?) was one of these!?

Good for you! We have already seen many, though as I explained they are not given any praise from most of society or church or tradition or culture. The OT tells us of several, and never describes them as God's last resort or punishment. Female prophets and leaders of house churches are listed in the NT as well. As it says in Psalm 68:11 "The Lord gave the command; a great company of women brought the good news".

@John:

You still try to make me the author of put-downs of women, when it is patriarchy teachings that do this. The atheist women are the ones who described their treatment as being mere incubators, NOT ME! You need to ASK THEM where they got that impression.

And for every pro-male anecdote you can muster, there are a hundred examples of how this mindset has caused suffering and great injustice.

However, Genesis 1-2 gives us a picture of harmony. Egalitarianism was not required for this. Innocence from sin is the core reason there was harmony.

Genesis 1-2 shows that both of them were given dominion over the earth, while it NEVER shows one person given dominion over the other. There was harmony before sin led to hierarchy.

I'm sorry if you've been hurt and that you've heard horror stories, but you are inappropriately transferring your gestalts where they don't belong.

This is a very common charge, as if the only way to explain someone challenging a bad exegesis/eisegesis must have some mental or emotional flaw. Highly insulting! And for those who have been hurt (I have not; I am egal by scripture alone), is their pain-- which patriarchy must take responsibility for enabling-- a reason to dismiss their arguments? Deal with logic and scripture, not these relentless ad hominem and other fallacies, if you want to be taken seriously. You should know by now that I will not be intimidated by such diversions and attacks on me personally. As I said, I'm not looking for approval or permission to be what God wants me to be. But in your efforts to stop me, you only reinforce your own "broad brush" against egals. Keep it up (to borrow a phrase)!

JohnFH

Paula,

It appears that you are responding to Gary, not to "John." You quote Gary, not me.

terri

George

I am aware that my example began 500 years after the time of Christ. In fact, I purposely chose that example to show that "church history" can provide us with all sorts of institutions and forms of governance/worship which are consistently upheld over long periods of time which are not really a true reflection of God's attitude. Just because the Catholic church thinks that priests and nuns should be unmarried in order to more purely serve God with their undivided attention....it doesn't follow that that is what God decrees.

The point...."church history" doesn't solve the problem. Which history will be authoritative? Which parts of it are the "good" parts and which parts are the "bad" parts?

This issue is not going to disappear. Like civil rights in the 20th century, slavery in the 19th century, and Indulgences in the 16th century...the church is confronted with a choice that must be made. Burying one's head in the sand and assuming that because "that's the way it's always been" that it is a sign that God wants it that way is simply avoiding the hard work of trying to solve the problem in a Christ-like way.'

I have, personally, not been directly hurt by complementarianism...other than the sheer exhaustion of keeping my spirit uplifted in a sea of constant reminders of how a large portion of Christianity sees women as some sort of indelibly stained, weak, slightly addled shadow of men.

Fine china is kept locked up behind glass doors, set on display for all to see, but seldom making its way out into everyday life and use....a pretty observer to real life. It's weak and shatters into a million pieces at the slightest bump or fall.

No thank you to the condescending comparison.

I'd much rather be a nice stoneware plate or bowl! ;-)

Paula

Sorry for the mixup.

Anyway, let me emphasize that to report something is not to endorse it. I am on record as being completely against treating or teaching the treatment of women as anything less than fully human adults who are as spiritually gifted and empowered as men.

Either we are all one in Christ, or we are not. And if one part suffers, all the parts suffer. I do not condone the oppression of anyone, and the scriptures do not condone it either. Oppression is not limited to physical mistreatment, but what is sometimes called "the mental burqa" which marks women as having a restricted subset of spiritual gifting and practice.

If people can reconcile "no so among you" with "wives, treat husbands as the Lord", they are free to believe that and say so. Likewise, if I see those two ideas as hopelessly conflicting, then I too am free to believe that and say so. When the indisputable says one thing very clearly, and the disputable appears by some to say the opposite, I'll go with the clear and indisputable every time, and study the disputable to find out what I must be missing.

Jesus did come to free women as well as men, to lift up the oppressed, to shame the strong by the weak; this is indisputable. In contrast, "final say" by virtue of the flesh denies that Jesus fully freed women.

Marilyn

Terri,

Examine your heart. Reflect on your story, which you've share in the past on other blogs. Can you really say that women aren't emotionally vulnerable to their husbands? Can you really say that women aren't physically vulnerable to their husbands?

That passage is not meant to be an absolute statement. It's not meant to imply that a woman can't be strong . . . that she can't take the world by storm and make significant contributions.

It's simply a relative statement about who she is - as compared to her husband - within the context of her marriage.

terri

"Examine your heart. Reflect on your story, which you've share in the past on other blogs. Can you really say that women aren't emotionally vulnerable to their husbands? Can you really say that women aren't physically vulnerable to their husbands?"

um...I'm not sure what you are really referring to here.

My story? You'll have to be more specific because I don't understand where you're going with that. Are you confusing me with someone else?.. because I don't typically blog about my husband and our relationship.

I think people are vulnerable to each other...regardless of gender. There is no special class of "vulnerability". The power to hurt and wound is held equally and inflicted equally.

I have no problem accepting the fact that some men and women will choose to live in strict complementarian ways. People have the right to choose to live in any way they want, within whatever power structures they are comfortable with.

I would say that complementarian women in the West have something that women in less-developed, more patriarchal countries don't...and that is the ability to choose...and to escape their circumstances if things go horribly wrong in their complementarian environment.

Those options have been won by all those rascally "feminists" who are so frequently disparaged. Women can vote, own property, work outside of the home, attend school and escape abusive households with the help of society instead of being trapped as they would have been 150 years ago by their economic and societal status.

In some ways, modern complementarianism is luxury afforded to the West through the prominence of egalitarianism influence.

This is really about a paradigm of how we look at people. I think of myself as a person first and a woman second. I do not deny that there are some gender differences, but I don't think that those differences are as large as people want to make them out to be. I also think that it is very hard to ferret out how many of those differences are culturally instilled and how many are biologically driven.

Paula

In some ways, modern complementarianism is luxury afforded to the West through the prominence of egalitarianism influence.

Excellent point.

By claiming the Bible mandates these alleged roles, comp exerts pressure to take away that choice. What believer would choose to disobey God? That's why I focus on showing that God never invented these roles; it trumps the guilt card.

George

I just want to say that I agree with Garry that there is a lot of painting with a very large brush - the other side (and the other women) is so caricatured as beyond recognition.

Meanwhile - as a pastor, should I have to preach from any of these passages, I would like to believe that I will give a fair share to both of these sides...and I would simply advise (as an application) the egalitarians to make sure they marry an egalitarian and the complementarians to make sure the marry a complementarian.

Ultimately - if we agree on the Gospel and the need for missions etc., it should be ok if we disagree on some other issues (though I realize that this is not a minor issue for some, in my neck of the woods this is not a big issue right now).

Let it be known that even though I do take a more traditional approach - I am very open to the possibility that I am wrong should the texts lead in that direction.

Meanwhile I will try to live the Christian life with humility and sacrificial love (by the grace of God). For this is to me the essence of Christianity: humility and sacrificial love!

I give up in this debate - hoping that none of you are so offended as to sit down one day(should opportunity arise)and talk about some of these issues in a calm and loving manner [for again I find the internet rather frustrating to carry any consistent and fruitful debates :(].

Meanwhile - there are much more important issues to take care of, like the reformation of the Church, evangelism etc.

Paula

George: the broad brush is being painted by the patriarchal teachings. I continue to support, affirm, and lift up the oppressed, which on this topic is Christian women. I have reported how damaging this teaching has been, so that people can face the problem and work to solve it. I don't know how else to get this point across.

Male supremacism paints all men as this and all women as that; there's no broader brush than that. But what I'm trying to say is that women, like men, are of all different personalities, abilities, and gifting. This is the opposite of a broad brush. But I have run out of ways to help you (pl.) see this.

JohnFH

Terri,

It's possible that Marilyn had another Terri in mind, a Terri that used to comment on these threads and elsewhere.

Paula,

I feel it is worth repeating: a highly ideological approach to this debate is almost bound to traffic in caricature and dehumanization. If I took the approach you do from the pulpit or in interpersonal relationships, I would know myself to be completely unfaithful to the message of 1 Corinthians 13.

I will give one example. I'm the oldest sib in a blended family of 6 brothers and 2 sisters. One of my brothers was completely fouled up, as he would be the first to admit. He had severed all relations with family. But God wasn't through with him. He met and married a diminutive (only in weight and height!) Filipino-American who treated him as a piece of crooked timber to straighten out, which she did. Yet she did this, not from within a set of egalitarian or soft complementarian assumptions, neither of which are connatural to her, but from within a set of traditional assumptions. From within a set of hierarchical assumptions, she turned him around, reconnected him with his own family, taught him love, the whole nine yards. She is a joyous, self-confident person, who puts her husband and children first, who works but only as much as she wants to, compatible with her primary commitment to her family. She works at least half time however, though she has two young very vivacious children, because of another fact of traditional patriarchy she is able to leverage: a younger sister of hers lives in with the family and is a second "Mom" and will not marry herself until her role as second "Mom" is no longer needed.

I am fine with someone calling this traditional Filipino understanding of family and gender complementation a non-egalitarian setup. Indeed it is. But I would note that this matters little in comparison to other things. What matters is that my sis-in-law knows how to lead as well as follow precisely from the down side of a hierarchical relationship.

I am happy to be a happy-go-lucky egal, but I note that my sis-in-law is just as content to be a happy-go-lucky traditional. The idea that she is oppressed as a traditional whereas I am free as an egal is perfectly ludicrous. We are both free and we are both bound in service, just in different ways.

Paula

The idea that she is oppressed as a traditional whereas I am free as an egal is perfectly ludicrous

John, you still haven't seen my point though I've repeated it several ways. It is the TEACHINGS and their logical conclusions and implications that oppress and demean women. Whether some are content and happy in permanent one-way submission to another adult is beside the point.

And you continue to ignore the MANY women who are told by their pastors to "submit better" when they come for help against men who do take the teachings of male supremacy to their logical conclusions-- men who say "the Bible says you have to submit to me as the church submits to Christ". It is patriarchy which must tell them why they can't punish a disobedient wife just as Christ may punish the church.

Repeating again: this is about TEACHINGS.

Did I mention it's about teachings?

Yet you keep on with the anecdotes. And you keep making me out to be some hateful person while ignoring your own sugar-coated insults. If the scriptural definition of love is to be altered to mean "never confront, never defend, never be negative", then I wonder what you would have said when Jesus drove the merchants from the temple, or when He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers, or when Paul wished the legalists would castrate themselves, or when he called his enemies dogs and wished God would curse them.

What you seem to be after here is the Hegelian Dialectic I mentioned a while back. I'm not interested in that, but in heeding Titus 3:10--
Warn divisive people once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. Patriarchy divides the Body of Christ. Those who teach it here have been warned, and now I must reluctantly "have nothing to do with them". Call me names, accuse me of bad motives, question my emotions if you wish. And have a nice party in which to roast me, it'll help you forget. :-D

JohnFH

Paula,

My sis-in-law was *taught* in a certain way to be a traditional. The context that tradition provides for her is a positive anchor for her and her family. How do those *teachings* oppress and demean her? I don't see it.

More accurately, of course, her self-understanding is a combination of nature and nurture. So is yours and so is mine. It is self-defeating of egals if they are so afraid of nature that they minimize its role. It is self-defeating of comps to pretend that nurture is not a very important factor, one that can be a corrective to original sin.

I realize that you probably don't think there is such a thing as original sin. That's a whole 'nother can of worms that many egals seem to be in denial about.

#John1453

???"I realize that you probably don't think there is such a thing as original sin."???

An unwarranted assumption that is a bit of a flame. In my reading of egal literature I don't see wholesale denial of original sin.

It it clear from his writings that Paul found the primacy of the gospel so important and central that he would not have anything stand in its way, even if it was not part of God's intended order. Though slavery is now finally acknowledged by Christians to be contrary to the gospel, even Paul did not call for emancipation. Rather, he said that one could remain as a slave if it would advance the gospel. Similarly, Peter writes about slaves being in submission to authority in the context of suffering for the sake of godly conduct.

Nevertheless, his writings and his recognition our our (male and female) equality before Christ and in his kingdom (wherein we are all priests) is a liberty that Paul says should flower where possible. In Corinthians he writes that Christian slaves are encouraged to obtain their freedom, if possible (1 Corinthians 7:17-24).

The same applies to the power structures between men and women. Women are to seek to exercise their freedom in Christ, but if it is not possible or would get in the way of the gospel then they are to suffer for Christ. Nevertheless, such suffering though it glorifies and is pleasing to God when endured with patience and humility is not the ideal nor what God desires for his children.

Men should seek to free women from subordination.

Consequently, I do not think that a patriarchal structure is morally neutral; it is not. It is sinful and not God's intent and we should neither seek to live under or with such a structure, nor allow it to endure.

regards,
#John1453

JohnFH

#John1453,

I was responding to Paula. After taking a look at her website, some of her polemical lines of argument led me to wonder whether "original sin," like a number of other classical Christian doctrines formulated, it would seem, by ravenous wolves, is for her a teachable doctrine.

With respect to 1 Corinthians 7, you might be right, but I don't think so. Perhaps you are familiar with the exegesis of Scott Bartchy. Note NRSV on the relevant verse.

I do not agree with you that "men should seek to free women from subordination." For a variety of reasons. It is condescending first of all.

I wouldn't recommend you try it on a happy-go-lucky traditional woman, of which the world is full. As a general rule (there are exceptions), they should be allowed to decide for themselves.

I wouldn't recommend you try it with a happy, self-confident complementarian women, of which the world is also full, who subordinates herself to a husband in a Gospel-centered, goal-based fashion.

In marriage prep, I help couples establish domain-based hierarchies within the context of their relationship. Typically, in a healthy marriage, a husband learns to follow the lead of his wife in some domains; the wife, the lead of her husband, in other domains. Every healthy marriage gives large scope to mutual submission/ subordination in this sense.

Tie-breaking authority can be established by mutual consent vested in one, the other, or (paradoxically) both. How that works out in practice will depend on the couple's faithfulness to 1 Corinthians 13.

I know of complementarian couples in which overall authority is vested in the husband by mutual consent. In practice, since the husband is the opposite of a jerk, that means he invariably chooses to defer to his wife in situations of disagreement. It doesn't have to work this way. Nor is there a moral obligation that it should. But it does more often than one might imagine.

I know of egalitarian couples who fight like cats and dogs, very equally of course. Their egalitarianism does them no good because they have never understood 1 Corinthians 13 to apply to them, only to their partner whom they seek to manipulate.

Just sayin'.

Marilyn

Terri, I owe you an apology. I did, in fact, think you were a different Terri who has frequently shared the opinions you expressed (as well as her story.)

Terri and Paula, I want to address the points you raise about complementarianism diminishing women but don't have time to do justice to the topic until tomorrow morning.

Marilyn

Terri and Paula,

This post is about marriage, not church governance.

I want to start with what I think Western egals and comps will agree about.

I believe that we’re most alive and most truly ourselves when we love. In that sense, love liberates us, but it is also the ultimate loss of freedom. You can’t achieve an intimate marriage, for example, without some loss of independence. Intimacy is lost when decisions are unilateral or one spouse has no say in how the other spouse lives his or her life. In Biblical terms, my love for my husband flows out of my love for Christ. As II Corinthians 5:14 tells us, the love of Christ constrains us.

For a marriage to be healthy, both spouses must lose independence. If one party does all the giving or makes all of the sacrifices, the relationship will be exploitive. As Terri said, we’re all persons first. We all need limitations and constraints.

The key is to find the limitations and constraints that uniquely suit us. In one sense, all sin struggles are common to all of us. For example, we all struggle with money and power and sex/romance to some degree. But certain sins are a greater temptation for some than for others.

I hope we’re on the same page so far.

Here’s where I think I now part ways with you, but where I think I’m still on the same page as a Mary SvL, a Jim and Sarah Sumner, or John and Paola.

Within marriage, I relate as wife to husband. The biblical account of the Fall tells me that there is a gender component to my struggle with sin. I’ve found no better discussion of this than egal Mary SvL’s Gender and Grace. To summarize: for him, dominion degenerates to domination. For her, sociability degenerates to social enmeshment.

I believe that most soft complementarians and soft egalitarians would agree with Mary SvL. As a result, both groups acknowledge the usefulness of differential counsel to husbands and wives. Where the two groups differ is in the nature of the counsel they give.

I believe that I can learn a lot from reading the counsel given by soft egals. We’re all blind to our habitual sin patterns. That’s as true of groups as it is of individuals. So, I value Jim and Sarah Sumner’s recent book, for example, as well as the gender posts on Ancient Hebrew Poetry.

Where I don't learn much is reading egals who argue that the world would be a better place if my kind didn't exist. I've spent enough time in the egal world to know it's not utopia.

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    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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    Copyright © 2005 by John F Hobbins.