Egalitarians vs. Complementarians

I like reading Scot McKnight’s Weakly Meanderings (see HERE the latest one). I always find a few very interesting links.

This week’s most interesting ones for me have to do with the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate.

Rachel Stone, who writes for Her.meneutics, the Christianity Today blof on women issues, shared with us recently two interviews she took on this issue.

The first to be interviewed was egalitarian theologian William Webb, now an adjunct professor at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada’s largest evangelical seminary, after he was forced to resign from a tenure position at another evangelical school, because of his egalitarian views. Here is the first part of this interview:

Many evangelicals would be uncomfortable attending a church pastored by a woman, even though they would vote for Bachmann or Sarah Palin as U.S. Commander in Chief. Is there a contradiction here?

Absolutely. I see a glaring inconsistency in the way that hierarchalists (I consider “complementarian” a misleading name) understand and apply Scripture. If one sees the Bible teaching restricted leadership — it speaks to issues of leadership in all three domains — home, church, and society. Not just home and church.

Many evangelicals think that you can’t take the Bible seriously and be comfortable with women in the pulpit. But you do, and you are! How do you read 1 Timothy 2:12?

The prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 has both cultural and transcultural components embedded within it. The rationale that women are “more easily deceived” (2:13) was true of women in the ancient world. But today, this isn’t so: women share equal knowledge in university, college, trade school and seminary education. And primogeniture — the idea that Adam has authority by virtue of being created first (2:14) — dominated the ancient world. But this isn’t as prominent or persuasive a rationale in our times. We don’t leave a “double inheritance” for the first born (as Scripture instructs) within an egalitarian society. We should apply the transcultural teaching within 1 Tim 2:12-14 — the ultimate ethical application implied within the culturally bound concrete text — by doing the following: put into leadership/teaching positions only those, either men or women, who are not easily deceived and who are respected within the Christian community.

Many complementarians believe that an egalitarian reading of the Bible owes more to our own cultural prejudices than to a faithful reading of Scripture. What’s your answer to them?

Read HERE the rest of this interview.

* * *

The second interview is with complementarian theologian Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the board chairman of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Here is the first part of this interview:

Many evangelicals who would elect Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann for President wouldn’t attend a church with a female pastor. Is there a contradiction here?

On the face of it, there is no contradiction since Scripture teaches that the church, not the world, is presently the outpost of the new creation. The state in this age doesn’t — and can’t — reflect God’s kingdom purposes in the way that the church or a family can.

I would gladly vote for someone to be my president who disagrees with me on whether or not infants can be baptized. I wouldn’t want that same person to be my pastor, because we will have to decide together who and how to baptize. The Kuyperian principle of “sphere sovereignty” is helpful here.

On the other hand, that’s the ideal and, very often, not the reality. Unfortunately, American evangelicals have too often longed for a secular authority to serve as a spiritual leader, and political professionals have been all too willing to exploit this by teaching candidates to parrot evangelical-sounding phrases and “testimonies.” In such cases, political leaders become totem-like for evangelicals. An attack on a candidate who identifies with “us” is an attack on “us” or, worse, on Jesus. That’s unhealthy, regardless of whether the politician is male or female.

In the case of evangelical over-identification with political partisanship, though, there can be a subtle shifting in what it means to define a woman’s life, or a man’s, as a “success.” There is quite a bit of inconsistency in evangelical complementarians talking about a “gentle and quiet spirit” while cheering Ann Coulter’s latest sarcastic barbs.

Lots of evangelicals, such as William Webb, take the Bible seriously and are still comfortable seeing a woman in the pulpit. What about you?

I don’t think the issue is one of comfort — there are many women I would love to hear preach, and who are much better Bible scholars and communicators than any man I know. But the issue is whether the Scripture’s qualifications for this office (1 Tim. 2 and others) are normative.

There are some so-called “complementarian” Christians, I’m sure, who hold the position simply because they have never seen anyone but a man in the pulpit, and just find anything else odd and disquieting.

I have never met a convictional complementarian, though, who holds that position out of reflexive comfort. For most of us, the Scripture is pulling us in the other direction from our comfort. It would be much easier, especially for those us under 40, to embrace a more feminist stance here and elsewhere.

Complementarians sometimes say that a feminist or egalitarian reading of the Bible owes more to our own cultural prejudices than to a faithful reading of Scripture. Is this true?

Read HERE the rest of this interview.

I hope that considering more seriously face to face these approaches will help eliminate at least some of the prejudices we hold in this matter.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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