Monday, February 9, 2009

Why I'm a Default Complementarian

I want to be a complementarian, because I don't like the idea of having to do a lot of explaining about why the words of Scripture don't really mean what they seem to mean at first glance. I don't want to tell people that what was believed in the New Testament church and has been held to throughout centuries of church history is not actually right because we are so much better at reading Scripture now, and so much smarter than those who came before us in the realm of anthropology. This seems quite arrogant.

I want to be an egalitarian, because my culture has taught me that every person has the right to be whatever they want to be, and I don't want to have to tell a woman that she can't have a certain job, or have to explain to a progressive-minded non-believer why I still hold to ideas from the Dark Ages.

Bringing up the idea that Scritural commands are "culture-bound" raises so many questions in my mind when related to these gender-issues texts. When I look at the instructions regarding marriage relationships in Ephesians, I do not see a lot of language referring to specific, situational problems, but to the Christian walk in general, as part of God's chosen people, the church, believers who have been saved by God’s grace. He compares both the love of a husband for his wife and the submission of a wife to her husband with the relationship between Christ and the church. Is this culture-bound instruction? What about children obeying their parents (the next verse)? Is that still relevant for our culture? When culture changes so that it is no longer common practice for the church to submit to Christ, should we stop doing that as well?

In 1 Timothy 2, when he speaks about church authority, Paul says that a woman should not have authority over a man because of two things: man was created first, and woman sinned first. This also seems to me like a principle he is drawing from Scripture, not merely an expression of culture.

If these are only situational, then Paul sure plays fast and loose with theological reasoning, throwing it around heavy-handedly to support these situational practices. If we have to move this far away from what seems to be the straightforward meaning of the text, where does our exegetical foundation go?

Some speak of our present, "enlightened" views as being part of the trajectory of the incipient principles of the New Testament. But just how good are we at perceiving and charting this trajectory without having Western/North American culture's concept of progress in society color our thinking? Equality in value does not logically imply uniformity in roles - unless you live in the affirmative-action climate we live in today.

However, I don't know what to do with "women must be silent in the church" if I hold to "I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man." I'm more comfortable with the one than the other. It also bothers me that Paul calls for head-coverings in Corinthians "because of the angels," since I don't really think that the angels have changed much in the past 2000 years. With all due respect to the Mennonites back in the state of my origin (Ohio), I'm not keen on the idea of telling a sister in my assembly she needs to put a hat on.

Despite these doubts, I'll tag myself a "default complementarian." I think I'd rather fall in line with the consensus of church history and the force of the imperatives supported by theological reasoning in the texts. I'll affirm that men and women are created with equal value and status - in God's image - but that we have different roles.

In response to Austin's posts:
In Genesis, you have a right to understand the text this way, but you better have more support coming than just a narrative passage which can be used pretty effectively on the egalitarian side as well.
As I read the second post, I allude to Dr. Vreeland and say that you are making an inference as big as the Grand Canyon, but if you want to build a theology on it, knock yourself out. The Law, large parts of the narrative, and many of Jesus' teachings assume an agricultural economy. Should we all be farmers because this is a more Biblical way to live?

In response to Richey:
I agree with your objections to the Galatians text, the descriptive and ambiguous references to women's ministry roles, and subordination within the Trinity as bases for egalitarianism. Thank you for saving me from having to explain them in my post.


faithbornfromdoubt said...

Okay Nate Duriga... my only beef is this... I have no beef and I want one. Start finding things to say that I don't agree with. Jerk

theone withabeard said...

Okay, I've got a few:
Keeping your apartment clean makes life more enjoyable.
The time between 1:00 am and 6:00 am is meant for sleeping.
Coffee is not a necessity of life.

How's that?

faithbornfromdoubt said...

We are eternal enemies Nate. I will hate you forever!

VentiAmericano said...

Hey Matt, you keep my coffee ship in business! You are saving the economy!

Nate, good post- I think I'll allude to it in my post!


LisaM at ThoseHeadcoverings said...

good points - came across you from stumbling across your friend VentiAmericano's post on this. I like your honesty - we're not raised up to be complimentary of any sort in the self centered Western world, I'd guess, so it's hard to stand up for what the Bible and centuries of experience and say when the here and now are so close and loud. Best of all to you two (and others) who are relooking into these things and striving to follow the plan.