Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Egalitarian/Complementarian Divide (Part II)

Allison Quient's second post. It gets better and better. ;)

Differences within a Common Foundation
The “Shaping Principles”
How do Egalitarians and Complementarians understand the other’s view of equality? It often seems the two speak past each other as they assume their own paradigm. For Complementarians, the fundamental difference between men and women is a gender hierarchy that is compatible with, and clarifies, equality of personhood. If one rejects this, it is thought that they must be, at least in principle, rejecting gender distinction or believe it is the idea of hierarchy itself the Egalitarian has a problem with. This very often gets read into the egalitarian critique of their position. For example, Grudem goes after Belleville and other authors by framing the key issue as the Egalitarian arguing equality implies “sameness in authority or roles.” Grudem writes,
But equal value and equal honor and equal personhood and equal importance do not require that people have the same roles or the same authority. A fundamental egalitarian error is constantly to blur the distinctions and to assume that being equal in the image of God means that people have to be equal (or the same) in authority…it is merely an unproven assumption, and it simply is not true.…The fundamental egalitarian claim [is] that if there is equality there cannot be difference in role, and if there is difference in role there cannot be equality.[1]
Millard Erickson notes this basic misunderstanding of Egalitarianism when he comments,
 …I do not know of any egalitarians who would make this claim or who assume it in their discussions. Of the egalitarian couples I know, most do not insist on each performing exactly half of all roles, so that their functions are identical. Where they disagree with “complementarians” is whether one member of the pair always has the final word, or the ultimate authority. Thus, it appears that the fundamental claim that Grudem finds actually has been read into or projected from the perspective that he himself takes.[2]
Unfortunately, thinking Egalitarian opponents are only, or mostly concerned with “sameness” or lack of diversity leads to providing examples that do not address what the Evangelical Egalitarian is actually concerned with.[3] Grudem lists several examples of hierarchical relationships acknowledged by most to involve people of equal value, but different roles and levels of authority such as, the difference between the manager of the Diamondbacks and the pitchers, or the president of a university and the faculty.[4]

Does this accurately capture where Egalitarians diverge in their rejection of the additional premise? Is this usually the fundamental Egalitarian error? Grudem entirely misses the problem Egalitarians have with the additional premise. It is not hierarchy among persons that is the problem, but rather a hierarchy based in ontology. Is the president who he is by right of caste or something inherent in his nature? The examples that would be more readily identified by Egalitarians as antithetical to an equality in personhood would not be the difference between a President and a citizen, but the difference between a king by right of birth and a peasant born and kept necessarily in subservience, or the Pharaohs who were thought to be divine and therefore inherently superior to their subjects.[5] The examples Grudem offers capture differences of role, but not the “role” tied to ontology, or as some would put it, a role tied to a function that cannot be otherwise and is universally based on gender to which Complementarianism is uniquely subscribing.[6]

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