Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Egalitarian/Complementarian Divide (Part III)


Part III:

Differences within the Foundation Contribute to Differences in Approach

As a result of the differences within the foundation of the Complementarian and Egalitarian views, the approaches used to argue their cases often differ. One can quickly notice a general pattern of approach that appears to follow the very shape of how their views were constructed in the first place. The pattern hinges on the acceptance or rejection of the additional Complementarian premise.
From early on, it has been acknowledged that Egalitarians “have tended to emphasize the broader affirmations of the gospel which stress oneness in Christ. Traditionalists have usually centered on specific passages of advice in Scripture” (emphasis mine).[1] The Egalitarian tendency to take a more broad principled approach is highly evident. In the organization Christians for Biblical Equality, the following statement can be found for their rational for Biblical equality:
The Bible teaches that, in the New Testament economy, women as well as men exercise the prophetic, priestly and royal functions (Acts 2:17-18, 21:9; 1 Cor 11:5; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Rev 1:6, 5:10). Therefore, the few isolated texts that appear to restrict the full redemptive freedom of women must not be interpreted simplistically and in contradiction to the rest of Scripture, but their interpretation must take into account their relation to the broader teaching of Scripture and their total context (1 Cor 11:2-16, 14:33-36; 1 Tim 2:9-15).[2]
There are many other examples of a general principled approach being utilized by Egalitarians. A “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” is advocated by authors such as William J. Webb in Slaves, Women and Homosexuals and I. Howard Marshall in Beyond the Bible. This approach puts great attention on the broad sweep and direction Scripture is moving in and even allows for a more full application of a Scriptural principle than the text presents. While the many authors of Discovering Biblical Equality do pay attention to passages with a more specific focus, much of their case in support of Egalitarianism depends on the overall pattern of how women have been used by God in leadership roles, the movement throughout Scripture towards more inclusion of women in a patriarchal society, and passages that exemplify the principle of equality—sometimes to the exclusion of the Complementarians’ added premise (e.g. Galatians 3 in context). Egalitarians could build a positive case from these alone, especially Genesis 1 and 2 “because [these passages] do not speak about subordination or prescribe difference in roles; whatever is said of the male is said equally of the female.”[3] However, the Egalitarian must also counter the Complementarian’s premise and this they also attempt with limited degrees of success at persuasion when using the broader, more principled approach.

Of course, there are not a few Egalitarians who prefer to focus on texts that are more specifically and directly geared towards the Complementarian premise, this focus may be an adaptation for their opponents rather than a denial of the broader approach. Craig Keener, who does not base his case on principles, explains his own sentiments:

The broader theological method has its place; for example, the abolitionists typically argued their case more by identifying principles, and the slaveholders more by pointing to concrete texts…Broad models like Creation (Gen 1-2) and Christ’s redemptive work (for example, Gal. 3:28) are excellent places for biblical theology to start…I do not mean my own approach to be a condemnation of a different approach.[4]
For the rest, click HERE.

--Nick

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