Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Egalitarian/Complementarian Divide (Part IV)

With a Different Overall Approach Comes a Difference
In the Way “Guiding” Passages Function

Egalitarian and Complementarian Evangelicals accept that the Bible is thoroughly consistent. Scripture interprets Scripture and one passage does not contradict another. There is unity throughout. However, how does this play out when, on the surface, isolated passages appear to be teaching something different? Even after looking at genre, context, lexical and data, Evangelicals are still coming out with different interpretations—especially in regards to women in ministry.

At their best, individuals within both theological systems simply try to take into account the whole counsel of God and make the best sense of what is available to them. They utilize constructively God’s gift of cognitive dissonance, which drives people to make sense of, and find consistency in, their world. “…Since consistency is itself a virtue reflecting the rational character of God, then God has created this drive as an essential part of our noetic structure.”[1] However, we live in a fallen world where cognitive dissonance can turn to the subtlest rationalization—even if only for the sake of maintaining what appears to be a consistent worldview. Susan Foh captures this tendency when Evangelicals are at their worst: “Human nature tends to make things uniform, to smooth out the wrinkles in the biblical material to make it fit neatly in the boxes of the human mind. To create a logical, uniform system, both sides—the subordinationist and the egalitarian—must ignore or explain away the other.”[2] This is often how those on opposite ends of a heated debate see each other. Both Complementarians and Egalitarians frequently accuse the other of dismissing or ignoring passages that challenge or are unfavorable to the accepted theology, and often do not believe the passages offered adequately address what is most important in the debate. They often believe their counterpart is rationalizing away important Biblical data, either to protect an unbiblical view that is widely thought to be traditional, or as a novel attempt to square modern American ideals of equality with the Bible. However, this negative application of the need for consistency does not have to account for why either side emphasizes some passages over others, even if this is sometimes the case.

If there is a difference in the shaping principles of equality, with the Complementarian taking on an added premise, and this difference accounts for patterns of different approaches (broad principled vs specific), then it is not a leap to consider that the differences in approach will not only encourage which passages are emphasized, but how they are often used. Douglas Walker provides just such an insight.

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