December 1, 2020

My Latest Attempt To Become a Complementarian

If you don’t know what a complementarian is, please do that bit of research first. Thanks.

I’ve harped on this subject a bit before while wondering where is the secret book.

I’ve not been one to be convinced by a great deal of the exegetical reasoning I’ve heard from complementarians. I assumed the problem must be with my sources- internet pundits and preachers with little scholarly acumen. So I asked around for the best serious, scholarly treatment of the complementarian position on all issues related to gender, marriage and family. The recommendations were unanimous, and I dropped the cash (not Kindle format even) and acquired the recommended book.

I’ve just finished the chapter that explains the complementarian exegesis of Genesis 1-3.

I want to be impressed. I’m really open to seeing that scripture says Jared Wilson was living in sin when he was a stay-at-home dad. But I’m sorry. I’m not getting there.

I keep reading exegetical reasoning that is eaten up with the same problems:

Assuming conclusions with weak or no explicit textual support.
No text that actually says what is asserted in an important, Biblical command. (Relying instead on inferences and assumptions)
No interaction with the issue of interpreting scripture in the light of what we know about the place of women in ancient middle eastern culture.

For example, here’s a statement that the Bible commands a “division of labor” in marriage and family. I am, of course, aware that in ancient cultures it was assumed that men were the primary breadwinners, but I’m at a loss of how we get from there to a divinely endorsed “division of labor” that makes it, in fact, rebellion against God for my friend Chris to stay at home with the kids while his wife is a doctor. (In fact, one of the most prominent conservative pastors I know has a wife who is training to be a doctor. Does such a choice violate a divinely ordained “division of labor?”)

In another place, the text states that when the woman was made the man’s “helper,” she was placed “under his overall charge.” Am I the only one that wonders how far we are entitled to expound these kinds of ideas that take a Biblical statement and then build an “obvious” application that is, at best, considerably less-than-equivalent?

The idea of being “under his overall charge” is not offensive to me per se, but given the explicit language of mutual submission and mutual love given to all married Christians, there are massive areas of discussion and diverse interpretation possible. I have to admit that it’s this sort of “secret book of mandated interpretations” approach that causes me to question whether some complementarians have seriously considered the authority behind some of their pronouncements.

Another quote says that being the man’s helper “sums up her (woman’s) very reason for existence.” This seems to me to open doors that it’s simply not necessary to open. If we spend our time as evangelicals establishing the meaning and value of human life in reference to God, what happens when we tell women their “reason for existence” is to be “under the charge” of a man? A further quote says that women will only find happiness in this God-ordained role. Is this the Biblical framework for discussing personal fulfillment? Again, I’m left wondering if we can ride that horse as far as we’re trying to ride it.

Later, Eve is faulted for “failing to consult her God-given protector and provider” in Genesis 3. Is this how the Bible frames the issue of Eve’s sin at the fall? I’m quite prepared to accept the failure to act as a married couple should act as a valid application of what we read in Genesis 3, but I’m not ready to insist that the Bible is explicitly drawing those conclusions. It seems to me those are possible applications, but they can’t be cited with the same authority as scripture itself.

Finally, another section states that the Old Testament does not contain an explicit job description for husbands, but it is possible to “infer” such a job description. I agree, and would put such a set of conclusions on the level of inference, not explicit and authoritative commands. Given how far some advocates of hierarchical family life are willing to go in their “inferences,” it seems we should be cautious and not instantly enthusiastic about every sincere application of this principle.

Before leaving this subject, I want to voice one complaint that I have yet to see addressed regarding marriage and gender issues.

How do we evaluate the demeaning of women in the ancient middle east to the status of property existing for male pleasure and status? Particularly, how do we relate this to the complementarian approach to these texts?

At some point, we have to admit that between the pronouncements of God’s judgements on male and female in Genesis 3 and the status of women in the ancient middle east, there was a point crossed that Christians should not cross.

For example, here are some of the laws of Exodus 21:

Ex. 21:7   “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her* for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

Christians obviously recognize that this world of polygamy and slavery is not their world and that the interaction of the genders here is not what anyone advocates as the Kingdom of God.

But what troubles me is that the connecting line from Genesis 3 (“He shall rule over you”) to this passage and other examples of ancient middle eastern devaluing and oppression of women is often not clear. This is ancient Israel’s version of men “ruling over” and “having charge over” women. It is in the context of the law and of inspired scripture. Where does it cross the line into sin? A man’s responsibilities toward concubines and slaves provides the author of the text I’m reading with authoritative expression of a man’s duty to his wife. I can’t imagine using such a text with my students without a clear explanation as to why I could use the text authoritatively in one sense and reject it in another.

The entire direction of the treatment of women in the ancient middle east is problematic, but for some complementarian advocates and scholars there is a sense that the various gender relations assumed in ancient middle eastern cultures are “safe” to use in interpreting texts about the roles of men and women today.

So much for my attempt to gain some traction in understanding complementarianism. Maybe next time.

Comments

  1. Kirk Cowell says

    Folks who are citing Ephesians 5:21ff in favor of a complementarian position really need to explain whether they still support the Biblical institution of slavery, and, if not, why not? (Eph 6:5-9) Paul’s theological take on master-slave relationships follows closely on the heels of his husband-wife reflections.

    What I usually hear is “culture has changed, slavery doesn’t exist anymore, and Paul wasn’t necessarily endorsing slavery anyway–but he did want people in a master-slave relationship to act in a manner consistent with the calling of Christ within the framework of that institution.” And I agree. But in our part of the world, first-century-style marriage doesn’t exist either. Yeah, we have something we call marriage that includes a man and a women in covenant together, but the cultural and legal limitations that women had in the first century are gone in modern America.

    I don’t read Paul to be mandating that husbands must always be the heads of the household (that was a given in his day) any more than he was mandating that masters be the heads of their slaves. What he is doing is responding to the common societal positions of the flock, and telling those who have power (husbands, parents, masters) that they must use that power in a way congruent with the way God uses his, and telling those who are powerless (wives, children, slaves) to embrace service willingly, just as Christ did.

    If Paul were writing in am American context with egalitarian norms encoded in law, I suspect he would start just as he did then (emphasizing mutual submission) and then telling both husbands and wives that since their culture has granted them significant autonomy and self-direction, they are to use their power for the good of the other, mutually blessing one another through holy use of the inherent privilege each has in our society.

  2. iMonk My Hebrew prof told us it was “one who fits,” and was a further description of one flesh.

    IIRC, there was a brief article in the now-defunct magazine OMNI (a publication I greatly miss, by the way) that quoted a Hebrew scholar of sorts as saying the text was saying something to the effect of “corresponding to the front of him” – i.e., it had to do with genitalia compatibility.

    Which may explain why Adam was unable to find a suitable “fit” among the animals that were first brought to him to name and seek a partner from.

  3. imonk,

    MD’s opinion means nothing to me and I have ran into plenty of the “divinely ordained division of labor” BS in books I’ve read myself. I just don’t see where scripture gives any sort of prescription.

    I am not drinking from that well to reach my conclusions.

    My view of the complementarianism I see in scripture just acknowledges the “order” within the family, but has very little to say about any limits or commands of the specifics of duties other than the very broad love/submission commands.

    I believe the big issue is how couples are interacting with each other much more so than how they are making a living, ordering their family,ect.

    The big problem here is the same one that applies to a lot of things: trying to authoritatively connect the dots where scripture does not.

  4. KR Wordgazer says

    George C wrote:

    “I really don’t buy into the fact that the Apostles were just scared to break cultural taboos and that they just tolerated the alleged norms of their times when it came to this stuff. ”

    The Apostles were human, and products of their own time. It may very well have never occurred to them that slavery might come to be illegal, or that a culture might arise where women were considered equal with men. But God still spoke through the Apostles to set forth ideas about laying down power and authority, about the nobility of service, and about everyone being in the same position before God, that could result later in changes within cultures yet to come.

  5. One little comment more:

    The idea that the Apostles really would have had the nerve to come out against slavery in a different culture, requires the same hermeneutical leaps that say my wife should stay home while I bring home the bacon.

    maybe they were just afraid someone was going to get mad at them and kill them or something. 😉

  6. I think we must recognize that the Apostles were already making huge leaps and bounds, spiritually and mentally, that were enormous for them. How much change can we expect from a group of people?

    So much of their thinking processes had already been radically revolutionized by Jesus….I’m sure they seemed like liberal progressives to those around them.

  7. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Re Ex 21:7 do complentarians discuss the necessity of picking the right bride for your sons or do they just go back to the Prov 31 as the ideal to shoot for? My reservations about applied complementarianism have generally been that they cherry pick their favorite marriage or courting customs from ancient near Eastern society while otherwise keeping whatever they like about contemporary courtship and marriage. I.e. husband is head of the home but he is the head of a wife he wanted to marry because he was in love with her and she was in love with him, not a wife designated for him by his parents and agreed upon by the other family for the mutual benefit of two family legacies.

    There can be a dangerously utilitarian ethic in either society, whether that of Pual’s time or ours, which is why the example of CHrist is the corrective. In Paul’s time that love is a corrective in one way, in our time another. I’m not sure my reservations are about complementarians so much as modern American western complementarians who don’t have the nerve to admit that most husbands were following the instructions of the head of household, the oldest competent man in the house. The “head” in a young marriage might just as often go under the headship of his father-in-law. Just look at Jacob with uncle Laban.

  8. KR Wordgazer says

    Just because God spoke to one particular set of cultures at a certain point in history, does not mean God intended to mandate the perpetuation of the norms of that time and culture as the Christian way of life throughout history.

    Kirk Cowell, I think you hit the nail on the head. The important thing is the principles of Christian relationships that were being spoken. We have to understand the culture they were being spoken to, to understand what was really being said.

  9. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Understood Wordgazer, I was expanding on Kirk’s observations. Complementarians I have met tend to be selective about what they really mean by headship. They are in favor of women under the headship of husbands or fathers but not so much about those husbands and fathers being under temporal heads. It can be popular to talk about the husband being the breadwinner without looking at how often those “breadwinners” in the Bible were under another man’s authority. Most complementarians in America seem too busy back-reading the nuclear family on to the extended family culture Paul was addressing. If I had not grown up in an important stretch of my life IN an extended family with multiple generations under one roof this wouldn’t seem so obvious to me and so opaque to a few complementarians I have talked with over the years. I have pointed out that arranged marriages are why the biblical authors didn’t address an obsession in our time, HOW to get married in a Christian way. The biblical authors also did not write about something that many Reformed complementarians are freaking out about now, the “epidemic of singleness”. If more complentarian fathers just pulled rank and did arranged marriages wouldn’t that problem be solved? 😉

  10. Aliasmoi: the passage you mention about staying single (1Cor 7) is another one of those texts that show the new creation breaking into the present age. No Jewish person in his right mind would ever have suggested that a person remain single under the ethos of creation. Marriage and children meant everything, and those who did not participate were on society’s fringes. So why in the world would Paul say it is better not to marry?

    “I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

    The new creation changes our views on all relationships, even those “ordained” in creation.

  11. JoanieD – yes about the cardinals. A cardinal can be a layperson.

    No about Pope Joan. Wikipedia has a useful summation of the main facts; it originated as a tale in the 13th century and may have been a satire against an individual Pope, but like all good travellers’ tales, it grew legs.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Joan

    Let’s give it this much credence: a woman disguises herself as a man to follow her lover abroad (this is the theme of many folksongs, after all). She gains a position in the curial offices due to her learning, and rises up the ranks to be elected Pope. However, she is pregnant by her lover, and is revealed by giving birth in the street unexpectedly and consequently stoned to death.

    Let’s swallow all that and say it’s true. Was she ever really Pope? No, because the sacrament of orders cannot be conferred upon a woman. So Joan, or Agnes, or whatever her name was, was no more a real Pope than the several current sedevacantists who have proclaimed that they are the real Pope – e.g. Pope Michael I “David Allen Bawden (born September 22, 1959), self-styled as Pope Michael I, is an American citizen and papal claimant. His claim to the papacy is supported by a small group of Conclavists based in in Wichita, Kansas. He was elected by a group of six lay sedevacantists, which included himself and his parents, to fill the vacancy they consider to have been caused by the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.”

    There’s a novel from the 1970s inspired by this legend, “Black Magic” by Margery Bowen, which I’ve read and enjoyed, but as to the tale itself – I’ll stick to Jack Chick tracts for historical accuracy 😉

  12. Another point to mention when it comes to Paul’s epistles, especially Ephesians and Colossians, is that Paul’s commands to members of the household, generally speaking, were not in any way countercultural to the Roman society. They too had “house-tables” in which the various members of the household were given their responsibilities. Paul adopted this form to teach the Christians at Ephesus and Colossae. However, his house-tables had some significant variations:

    (1) Paul addressed not only those UNDER authority, but also those IN authority. In fact, those considered in authority are usually given many more instructions than those in lower positions. The Romans did not do this. Their ethic was all about subordinating the lower strata of society.

    (2) Paul gives Christ-centered motivations for the behaviors he urges, not exhortations based on the natural order like those to which the Romans appealed.

    These two facts make these instructions, in fact, SUBVERSIVE to the household order of Roman society! If those IN authority, are not in fact really in authority but under the authority of God just like those under them, this tends to level the playing field and equalize the parties being addressed. And if everyone is addressed equally as a person in Christ, there ultimately is no distinction between any of them.

    Why did Paul use this form in this way? I, in agreement with many commentators, think he did so in order to encourage believers to be GOOD EXAMPLES in the communities where they lived, to show that they too had orderly households, that they were upright citizens in their society. However, the Christian truth that informs Paul’s instructions ultimately leads to the end of institutions like slavery and patriarchy.

    If Paul instructed them like this, what might he write to a society like ours, in which women are full members of the culture at every level?

  13. KR Wordgazer says

    Jeremiah Lawson said,

    “Understood Wordgazer, I was expanding on Kirk’s observations.”

    Jeremiah, due to the timeframe in which the comments got posted, I had not read yours yet when I wrote my last. 🙂

  14. Dawn –

    I think you are mixing two passages – Rom 5:12-21 and 1 Tim 2:13-14.

    Read the Rom 5 passage carefully. Now, I’m not dogmatic on this, but I was just sharing where I lean. Paul says sin came to humanity through the one man. It seems the first Adam had a headship role since sin came to humanity through his one sin. Paul shows this headship in comparing it with the second Adam (Christ) having His headship role. Both Adam’s are heads of their houses – one brought sin and condemnation to his house, the other brought life and righteousness to his house.

    Of course we have to consider Scripture with Scripture. So we can consider 1 Tim 2 with this subject. And, the practical deception did come to Eve, as we read in 1 Tim 2:14. But you stated, ‘Eve ate deceived – Adam ate willingly and with full knowledge.’ It’s probable that this is a full conclusion of 1 Tim 2:14, but the passage only tells us that Eve was deceived. It does not conclude with the words ‘willingly’ and ‘with full knowledge’ in regards to Adam. Those might be implied, but we have to be careful not to eisegete (read those words into the text), since the words are not implicitly stated by Paul.

    Anyways, I digress…

    Just saying that Rom 5 does seem to present the headship role of two men – the first Adam and the second Adam. That is why I lean towards men having a headship role. But never, ever would I say this is some domineering role. Headship and submission are to be healthy and good words, not domineering words. Even husbands are to be in complete and faithful relationship with their partner, listening to their partner, even willing to submit to the other’s advice at times (Eph 5:22f).

  15. treebeard says

    “If Paul instructed them like this, what might he write to a society like ours, in which women are full members of the culture at every level?”

    Paul would write, “You mean gays can’t marry yet? How long does this societal transformation stuff take?”

  16. Would that be before or after he repudiated Romans 1? 🙂

  17. Just saying that Rom 5 does seem to present the headship role of two men – the first Adam and the second Adam.

    Since neither the word “headship” nor “head” occur in Romans 5, is it proper to overlay those terms on what Paul is saying there? Isn’t a better analogy that Adam collapsed the quantum wave function into a “sin” state? Or, perhaps, he poked a hole in the dike and let sin flood in and make everyone wet? And Christ went beyond simply reversing those effects, but 1) restored man’s “state” to one that could not collapse again into sin, or 2) not only dried people off, but made them waterproof and unsinkable?

  18. Parsifal says

    Fascinating thread.

    It should put to rest any notion that there is such a thing as sola scriptura.

    There is no Scripture; there is only interpreted Scripture, and the interpretations on this thread are all over the map.

    It also suggests that while the Bible is still authoritative in the sense that it’s the beginning point for attempting to understand any particular issue, extra-biblical material (e.g. Roman practices or My Experience or Word Studies) are routinely used as interpretive tools to reach a result (maybe even the “desired” result) that then becomes My Belief. It is a very protestant American approach to biblical interpretation.

    The implications for interpreting other issues are equally fascinating. My guess is that those who are rigorous biblical exegetes on issue X are less so on issue Y. I suspect that cultural factors as much as a quest for Truth determines the result. If, for example, we say The Bible and Only the Bible is our guide in all matters of faith and practice, then we’d have to admit that there is much more scriptural support for the institution of slavery than for a complementarian understanding of gender. And we’d have to admit that there is much more scriptural support for complementarianism than there is for prohibiting abortion in all cases.

    But we routinely find extra-biblical sources of authority to reach a result we intuitively believe to be true. Of course, by appealing to these sources, we impliedly concede that the plain meaning of scripture is never very plain.

  19. There is no way to look at headship, even in the kindest most generous sense, without describing a role of mediation in the spiritual life of another believer.

    This kind of mediation, whether it be papacy, clergy, or marital hierarchy, negates the new covenant reality of our direct relationship with God in Christ. He is our head, He is our source, not another. To put another in that role is damaging to both parties.

    Yes, our marriages should reflect mutual love, honor, submission, complementing one another in our gifts and roles, preferring one another – all of the qualities that should be fruit in our lives as we each submit to the headship of Christ.

  20. treebeard:
    please don’t buy into the tired “slippery slope” argument. There is all the difference in the world between arguing for equality between the sexes and arguing for giving an equal Biblical and moral status to both hetero- and homosexual orientations. Those who say that one necessarily leads to the other are either using illegitimate culture war logic to oppose it, or illegitimate progressive logic to promote it.

  21. Amen Imonk,

    But there in is the dangerous slope of saying some part of the epistles are to be interpreted in their cultural context while others are not.

    I’m not equating a woman in ministry to homosexaul marriage just pointing out that the same “context” argument is used by both.

  22. Austin, are you saying there are NO “cultural” or “situational” aspects to be considered when interpreting Scripture?

  23. Jonathan Edwards view of the ideal church: I tell you what the Bible says and turn it into big time theology. My wife and children are amazed at me. My church only expects me to emerge from my study a couple of times a week. I really enjoy debating whether the real world matters at all in how we apply scripture. Then I go back to a church totally submerged in a particular culture and denounce missional churches as apostate.

    This seems to me to be what a lot of folks are shooting for.

  24. treebeard says

    Chaplain Mike, don’t take me that seriously. I was just having fun. I wasn’t at all referring to any slippery slope argument. I just enjoyed the thought of the apostle Paul reappearing among us and wondering why leftist dogma had not yet been completely enacted.

  25. thanks, treebeard.

    i’ve had that “slippery slope” conversation so many times, i guess it’s just reflex now to come back at it. somehow, because of the political and culture war climate, folks think the conversation must necessarily move from women’s issues to the “homosexual agenda.”

  26. EricW –

    Since neither the word “headship” nor “head” occur in Romans 5, is it proper to overlay those terms on what Paul is saying there? Isn’t a better analogy that Adam collapsed the quantum wave function into a “sin” state? Or, perhaps, he poked a hole in the dike and let sin flood in and make everyone wet?

    You are correct that the words ‘head’ and ‘headship’ do not occur in Rom 5:12-21. I want to be faithful and careful to read certain things into the passage. This is why I do say that I only lean that way, but won’t be dogmatic, giving room here. [Of course, everyone thinks I am dogmatic because this is my third comment on the topic and verse. :)]

    But, even in your own wording that the better analogy is that Adam ‘collapsed the quantum wave function into a sin state’ or ‘he poked a hole in the dike’ still recognises Adam’s role (head role) in bringing in sin. Paul didn’t put that weight on Eve, though she ate first. He put that on Adam. Sin came in through the first Adam. We have to consider what that means.

    Also, knowing that Rom 5:12-21 does compare the roles of the first and second Adam, and noting that the second Adam (Christ) is the head of His people (Eph 4:15; Col 2:18-19), the church, then I think it is worth considering that Adam also had a headship role over his family/wife and over all humanity. If Adam actually did have headship over the human race as the prophet, priest and king of his day (which I believe Rom 5 speaks to) by his responsibility for sin coming to all humanity, then I would say it is probable to infer that he had headship over his wife. Adam having headship over the larger group (all humanity) would probably lead us to conclude he would have headship over the smaller group (his family/wife).

    These are things I have considered.

  27. This will be my last comment on this thread. I’ve already invested too much time on it, but thanks Michael, it’s been thoroughly enjoyable and beneficial to me.

    I am in an interesting position working in healthcare as a hospice chaplain. My interdisciplinary team of nurses, social workers, health aides, and chaplains is made up of dozens of women and 4 men. All my team leaders and supervisors are women. The CEO of the organization is a woman. Every hospital I go into is staffed mostly by women. Most caregivers that I deal with in homes or nursing homes are women. My work involves supporting and complementing the work of women. I report and answer to women. My performance evaluations are done by women.

    I might also say that my primary hero in ministry was my grandmother, who visited and cared for elderly friends and neighbors most of her life. When I was a pastor in local churches for 25+ years, the majority of the real work of the ministry was done by women. My wife has always worked as a nurse, and now runs her own business as a mental health counselor.

    I am not threatened by women.

    I have an idea that many who argue so strongly for patriarchal interpretations might be.

    Just a thought.

  28. Kenny Johnson says

    austin,

    Then aren’t we already on that slippery slope? Or does your church practice head-covering for women? What about your church’s stance on long hair for men or short hair for women?

    The fact is… Most Evangelicals ALREADY put some scripture into cultural context. Read Fee’s “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” as an guide to how we already do this — but how we should do it properly (guided).

  29. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Jonathan Edwards view of the ideal church: I tell you what the Bible says and turn it into big time theology. My wife and children are amazed at me. My church only expects me to emerge from my study a couple of times a week. I really enjoy debating whether the real world matters at all in how we apply scripture. Then I go back to a church totally submerged in a particular culture and denounce missional churches as apostate.

    This seems to me to be what a lot of folks are shooting for. — IMonk

    I call that sort of expectation “Making Your Pastor into a God”. My writing partner (a burned-out country preacher) has to deal with such Expectation of Perfection all the time. And the Righteous Wrath when the Church Ladies find out he’s only a man after they’ve made him into an absolutely-perfect god figure.

    (And I’m not sure Jonathan Edwards hasn’t gotten the same treatment — one of the most brilliant minds of his tims, and the only thing he’s known for is Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, i.e. the archetype Hellfire & Damnation sermon.)

    It’s like the Expectation of Perfection you get from the women who sign up for Christian Dating services — I’m not sure that even Christ Himself would fall short of those expectations.

    And the Expectation of Perfection I grew up with after being diagnosed as a Kid Genius in the era of Sputnik.

    P.S. 125 comments counting this one — sure this thread isn’t about a REAL hot button like Sex or Evolution?

  30. I don’t know that we can say what Paul would wonder. Jesus came from the lower levels of society the last time. If He came again as a gay, homeless, illegal alien I suspect we might crucify him again.

    Heck, if He came again looking like He did back then, He’d look like a terrorist. No papers. Won’t answer direct questions. Hangs out with the outcasts of society. Draws a crowd to hear his revolutionary teachings. Contradicts religious leaders. He can walk on water but could he breathe when waterboarded?

    What does this have to do with theology? Simple. If the Bible were written now, it would likely be TOTALLY different. It would not rubber-stamp our feeble interpretation of God’s mind, but rather blow ours.

  31. Sorry, I meant, “what does this have to with complimentarianism?” Too many blogs.

  32. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    My Hebrew prof told us it was “one who fits,” and was a further description of one flesh. — IMonk

    As well as a subtle off-color pun.

  33. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    One example of such a extreme fringe group of complimentarianism would be Vision Forum, who espouse that women are not to vote, drive a car, ever work outside of the home, and have even gone so far as to not allow females to partake of communion unless her husband or father allows her to do so. — Dawn Wilson

    Do they also slice off her clit?
    Sew her into a burqa?
    Lock her in a guarded harem?
    And keep an Honor Killing ready in case she ever gets Uppity?

  34. KR Wordgazer says

    Scott1,

    I think that by reading headship into Romans 5, you are doing the same thing you advise Dawn not to do in 1 Timothy 2. No offense, but that’s the way it’s looking to me.

    Austin– I believe all the Scriptures are to be interpreted in their cultural context. However, there are certain truths that are eternal and not culturally based, such as the Incarnation and the Atonement. Since they are eternal, not relating to temporal human matters, these are much less subject to the vagaries of human interpretation.

    Parcifal, I agree that Biblical interpretation in the way we’re discussing it here is very Protestant and probably American as well. As for the idea that we are trying to achieve a “desired” result– I may be guilty of that. However, I agree with what Internet Monk explains in his next blog: there are certain overall ideas I have about the nature of God which make it impossible for me to believe certain doctrines. Limited Atonement is one– that’s something I just can’t bring myself to consider a just, impartial, loving God would do. Another is the contradiction implied in making men and women in the image of God to be over the Creation together, and then saying that it is also God’s eternal plan that men are designed to be in “headship” over their wives and women are designed to follow their husbands; that women cannot have any authority in the church; that women are relegated only to roles that are under men. I cannot believe that the God I love would do this. I cannot bring myself to swallow the logical contradiction of “men and women are equal, but men are more equal.”

  35. ScottL:

    You are correct that the words ‘head’ and ‘headship’ do not occur in Rom 5:12-21. I want to be faithful and careful to read certain things into the passage. This is why I do say that I only lean that way, but won’t be dogmatic, giving room here. [Of course, everyone thinks I am dogmatic because this is my third comment on the topic and verse. :)]

    But, even in your own wording that the better analogy is that Adam ‘collapsed the quantum wave function into a sin state’ or ‘he poked a hole in the dike’ still recognises Adam’s role (head role) in bringing in sin. Paul didn’t put that weight on Eve, though she ate first. He put that on Adam. Sin came in through the first Adam. We have to consider what that means.

    Also, knowing that Rom 5:12-21 does compare the roles of the first and second Adam, and noting that the second Adam (Christ) is the head of His people (Eph 4:15; Col 2:18-19), the church, then I think it is worth considering that Adam also had a headship role over his family/wife and over all humanity. If Adam actually did have headship over the human race as the prophet, priest and king of his day (which I believe Rom 5 speaks to) by his responsibility for sin coming to all humanity, then I would say it is probable to infer that he had headship over his wife. Adam having headship over the larger group (all humanity) would probably lead us to conclude he would have headship over the smaller group (his family/wife).

    These are things I have considered.

    To me, Romans 5 seems to be about what Adam did and what Christ did, not what “role” they filled as, e.g., federal “head” of the human race or “head” of the male-female marriage relationship. I think reading a headship “role” into this passage is making it bear more weight or say more than was intended.

  36. Parsifal says

    Wordgazer: I don’t disagree with most of what you said. It’s just helpful to recognize how intuitive this approach is. It’s the same thing Southern Christians did during the antebellum period–using strict biblical exegesis to justify slavery (and many abolitionists agreed that they had the better of the argument from a sola scriptura point of view), but abandoning scripture altogether (or nearly so) and embracing the self-evident truth that africans, and only africans, were inferior people who needed the protection of their Christian masters. They did not attempt to justify their racism with appeals to scripture; it was intuitive, obvious, self-evident. Times change, the culture changes, and what seemed an eternal truth 150 years ago now has few defenders.

    A lot of us operate out of intuition, and that’s what this thread feels like, but it’s not a persuasive position when discussing stuff like this. “I just feel . . .” isn’t real satisfying.

    For all my own handwringing about the folks who want to dot every theological “i” and cross every theological “t” and seem to get dangerously close to loving the Theology more than the Theos, I do admire their commitment to take the Bible seriously. And so I tend not to get real excited about intuitive arguments. Pro-life arguments are good examples (often weak on exegesis and strong on intuition). Some of that intuitive argument applies to women’s issues as well. So, following WC-1, I’m trying to understand better how to interpret Scripture, but with the realization that it is an interpretation and that the reasons why I choose to interpret it in one way may have more to do with presuppositions, prejudices or cultural commmitments than with some degree of objectivity. I just don’t trust myself enough at the moment to think I can understand what truth is eternal and what truth is culturally based. But it’s good to be thinking about it without having to make any decisions!

  37. to Clark (way at the top):

    “paying for groceries, rent and utilities is hardly a spiritual endevor.”

    That seems to be a little dualistic thinking you got going on there. A good understanding of shalom might help to clear things up a bit.

  38. KR Wordgazer says

    Parsifal:

    Is it intuition? Is our current understanding of African-Americans as fully human and fully equal a result of intuition– or a healthy dose of reality?

    African-Americans had to fight and struggle and give their lives to prove that they were fully human. The world was finally convinced– and so, eventually, was the church. And women have been fighting and struggling, enduring incredible mistreatment and persecution, to prove that they are fully human too. The world is finally convinced– and maybe, 50 years from now, the church will be, too.

    The Bible has never denied these things; it has supported them. Against the backdrop of a patriarchal culture shine the stories of Ruth and Naomi, Deborah, Hannah, Mary, Elizabeth, Phoebe, Priscilla. The Bible shows Philip speaking to the Ethiopian eunuch with the same respect God was teaching the young Jewish-Christian church to have for all Gentiles. The story that man and woman were both told to “fill the earth and subdue it” and that all mankind bears the image of God, have always been there for all to see. It is simply that sometimes we need stark reality to hit us in the faces before we will see what’s been there all along.

    When it comes to following the Scriptures, when it comes to trying to figure out which of myriad interpretations to follow, I think one simple idea is best– go with what Jesus said was the most important: “Love God and love one another,” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is my strong opinion that if any interpretation of Scripture violates these very basic principles, that interpretation cannot be correct.

    So– if you would not like to be required to stay in subordinate roles, told to remain silent, relegated to a narrow set of life choices, taught that you can’t take care of yourself, and judged as rebellious for protesting any of this– then don’t do it to someone of another race, or the opposite gender.

    Seems simple enough– and Biblical enough– to me.

  39. KR Wordgazer says

    PS. I spoke strongly out of my deep passion about these matters– but my words, though directed to Parsifal, should not be construed as a belief that he is against me in what I just said, or as an attack on anyone who has posted here.

  40. JoanieD says

    Martha, thanks for your info about the alleged Pope Joan. I almost missed your comment. I use a “Feeds” thing that I click on that is supposed to show me all the comments since last time I was on the page. But it seems that it often only shows me some of them. I don’t know why.

  41. When it comes to following the Scriptures, when it comes to trying to figure out which of myriad interpretations to follow, I think one simple idea is best– go with what Jesus said was the most important: “Love God and love one another,” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is my strong opinion that if any interpretation of Scripture violates these very basic principles, that interpretation cannot be correct.

    Wow, KR, you summed it up perfectly.

    I came to a similar conclusion in 2006 or so, but truly wondered if it would mean giving up my faith altogether or become one of those “liberals” who believes in God but doesn’t believe the Bible is God-breathed in any sense of the term.

    Astonishment upon astonishment, as I combed through the Scriptures (the very Scriptures I already “knew” backwards and forwards) looking to see if complementarianism could be wrong, looking to see if there was another possible conclusion, I discovered that I didn’t have to do any twisting, any warping, any ignoring of any text at all! I just had to take off the comp-interpretation glasses (which had been doing a lot more twisting and bending of passages than I’d been aware of, as iMonk points out in this post)…

    It really surprised me (because of my 100% females-are-subordinate upbringing and young-adult training/experiences) to see that the Bible can be *legitimately* viewed in non-complementarian ways. I think Scot McNight’s “Blue Parakeet” goes into that better than I could here, so I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

  42. EricW –

    People usually do and function according to their roles. I wonder why Christ was able to DO what He did – bring life and righteousness for the redeemed? I wonder why the first Adam was able to DO what He did – bring sin and condemnation to humanity?

    Those are simply questions I ponder when reading the passage. What gave them the right to be able to bring certain consequences and benefits to the human race? I wonder if it is because they had some kind of lead role. It’s truly possible.

  43. ScottL:

    Adam was the first human of the Old Creation, and Jesus was both the last Adam/human of the Old Creation and the first human of the New Creation. Maybe that’s why they did and were able to do what they did. I don’t know that Adam’s headship over his wife was a factor in his bringing sin into the world.

  44. Curtis (if you’re still checking the thread):

    You said “In Catholicism, the question of female ordination is ontological: “Can a woman be a priest?””

    This isn’t right; in Catholicism, the question of female ordination is constitutional. In fact, when the question needed clarification, the teaching was carefully phrased as “the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women.” Ordination is denied because of how the Church is constituted, not because of what women are. Deliberate care was taken to avoid the ontological question entirely.

    There are plenty of theories as to why women aren’t to be ordained: and certainly ontology is one theory. The most popular these days is the “icon of Christ” theory (which I find unconvincing). But no Catholic is obliged to buy a particular theory, or to buy that there is some ontological distinction between men and women such that women *cannot* be ordained. The only thing a Catholic is obliged to believe is that the Church lacks divine authority to ordain women.

  45. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    A few things:

    The Adam/Christ typology has nothing to do with heads or households. Those words occur nowhere near the Adam/Christ language in Paul. That typology has everything to do with Paul’s distinction between the Old Man/New Man (which is not about individuals) and also the Kingdom, since Kingdom language shows up whenever Adam language does. (It’s hidden in Romans 5 since it the verb form of the words which we translate as ‘reign.’)

    Now, before someone says: “aha! Adam must have been the King of his wife Eve” please remember that the idea of kingship is radically subverted by the cross of Jesus. The cross of Jesus is what the Kingdom of God looks like. That’s a slightly different concept of kingship. But Paul seems to be thinking about ‘headship’ in that way in Eph 5.

    Also, I ask that anyone who wants to use 1 Tim 2:11-14 to justify their complementarianism, please first explain what 1 Tim 2:15 means, and how it fits with the rest of revealed scripture. If you don’t know what it means, and thus ignore it for your understanding of salvation, please explain why you are upset with egalitarians for doing the exact same thing with the three verses prior to 1 Tim 2:15.

    Also, the pro-slavery exegesis in the south ultimately failed because it left out the Exodus proper. The Book of Exodus was not allowed to be preached in the old south. Once I realized that the Exodus story is the beating heart of the OT, the OT made a whole lot more sense, and all that stuff about slaves in the law is diminished. If God is a God who sets slaves free, justifying slavery in his name becomes a whole lot more unbiblical.

    In other words, the pro-slavery folks weren’t right about the fullness of the Bible, and neither are the complementarians.

  46. Just another point about sin coming through the first man Adam: Genesis 5:2 says that God called the male and female humans that He had created “Adam” (“called their name Adam”). Jack Hayford described it as a sort of Mr. and Mrs. Adam. After the Fall, Adam (the male part) calls his wife “Eve,” the mother of all living.

    So, I read Romans 5 as depicting how sin came through the first human (not specifically the first male) and how salvation came through Christ.

  47. A possible objection to that, bonnie, is that Paul in Romans 5 specifically refers to the “one” man, not man in general or mankind/Adam as the couple Adam & Eve, and uses that to contrast the one sin of the one man Adam with the one act of righteousness of the one man Jesus Christ. I.e., he’s talking about a single act by a single individual that affected “all” or “the many.” He says Adam was a “type” of the one man Jesus Christ who was to come.

  48. EricW, I understand what you’re saying. I probably tried to say too much in too few words. If I am understanding Romans 5 correctly, it is an argument of how the act of one person, Christ, could atone for many. I think I probably agree with you that he uses Adam the individual to compare. I just think it’s Adam in his capacity as the first human and not in his capacity as the first male. I think some people are bound to have a narrow view of Adam if they can only see him as the first male. Realizing that God made a human in two sexes and called them Adam helps expand the thinking of those who see the first female only as Eve (the name by which she was referred to only after the Fall) and not as an integral part of God’s creation of man (Genesis 1:27).
    Anyway, where Romans 5:18 says “even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life,” I’m banking on it that “men” refers to me too even though I’m a woman.

  49. Can anyone point out what the complementarian theory is (*not what they think it would be) for Ecclesiastes 7:27 etc. (NIV here)

    “Look,” says the Teacher, “this is what I have discovered:
    “Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things-

    28 while I was still searching
    but not finding—
    I found one upright man among a thousand,
    but not one upright woman among them all.

    29 This only have I found:
    God made mankind upright,
    but men have gone in search of many schemes.”

    I am more interested in knowing because I am curious about Ecclesiastes, but perhaps it also carries some weight on the matter.

  50. KR Wordgazer says

    Ecclesiastes is a book about the observations of one man about what he has seen in life. Since the author is presumed to be Solomon, who had 1000 wives and concubines who led him to worship idols– I would conjecture that his experiences with them led to his observation.

    But an observation is not the same as a statement of truth. There are many upright women in the Bible.