I keep encountering articles from various perspectives on the role of women in the church. What is sad is that the perspective for one of the adherents is not, "we agree to disagree," but, "you're wrong and therefore you are (at least) a heretic. So sad.
My personal perspective is that the complementarian view does a great disservice to a large part of the body of Christ –Women in Christ. I believe that complementarians often represent a misunderstanding of what a text says.
So many of their articles are a Procrustean bed of interpretation, allowing a theological premise to pre-interpret a text without really struggling with the context and to see what it actually says. But I’m not going to go into the morass of interpretation to try to refute and correct this thinking. But let me share a few thoughts:
1. Both perspectives argue that they know exactly what God is trying to tell us through the various scriptures. But it still comes down to human understanding. When you take your stand on a position, are you certain that you are not guilty of two things?
- Am I quenching the Spirit? If the Spirit is bringing this topic to the surface, and we shout it down with our interpretation, what are the implications for this? I, for one, would not want to be guilty of quenching the work of the Spirit.
- Am I in danger of Blaspheming the Spirit? If I accuse my opponents of disobeying God (and what that implies), and it IS the work of the Spirit to show God’s will, am I saying that the work of the Spirit is not the work of the Spirit? Jesus was pretty specific on what that all means.
2. Do we really understand the historical context of a passage? To say that “it is in the bible, and therefore it true for all for all times” can raise havoc with our understanding of what a text says. Paul’s letters are that, letters written to a specific audience for a specific purpose. There are plenty of passages in the Pentateuch that give lie to the point of view that its true for all for all of time. If it is true for all time, why don’t we kill the ox that gores a neighbor after the owner was warned that it was dangerous? Or, why don’t women go outside of town for seven days when they experience their menstrual cycle? But you say, “well, that was the law, we are under grace.” Then what do we do with the Ten commandments? That was Law as well. We can’t pick and choose what we want to obey. I would never think of jumping into a discussion with someone without trying to understand the context and background of the conversation –and believe me, I’ve done it and made a fool of myself.
3. What is the REAL principle being taught in a passage? I once took a class on building codes when I was a property manager in the US. I remember that the instructor said that building codes, whether electrical, plumbing, etc., are the MINIMUM standard for safety, not a standard for excellence. I see much of what is said by Jesus and the NT authors falling into this category. If Paul is laying out a principle for a specific situation in a specific time and place, why should we think that this is the standard for all people in all places and all times? Why do we think that this is the highest standard of faith and expression of God’s will? We have no trouble saying that women wearing head coverings in church was for the church in Corinth at the time, but to spiritualize this concept and make it a standard for all to follow and for women to be properly submitted to their husbands/men/et. al. does violence to the text.
4. Remember, Just because Scripture is inspired and inerrant does not mean that your interpretation is as well. Look at the battles over justification and interpretation of Scripture during the reformation. Not only was there a divide between the Reformers and the Roman Catholics, there were also divisions between the Reformers themselves. At one time Calvin and Luther both called for the suppression of the Anabaptists, imprisoning and executing many of its adherents. Have we convicted and passed judgment on any Anabaptists lately?
5. God is not using sinners (women who desire a greater role in the Body of Christ) to shame the men because they have abdicated their roles somehow. Remember, the Sadducees, the priests and the scribes? They believed that the Temple in Jerusalem was God’s ultimate expression of his will. When he chose to have his temple on earth through Jesus Christ and then in the body of Christ, they missed the point and the boat, so to speak. Their theology was severely trumped by God’s action in Christ and as a result they were by-passed and suffered the destruction of the Temple complex in Jerusalem.
And if you are going to “cherry pick” subjects to defend and interpret, why pick just this one? The scriptures have a lot to say about gossip and slander, but if we see someone doing it, we don’t condemn them as a heretic and outside the will of God. Be careful what you wish for.
A final thought. Since so many of the passages lend themselves to different interpretations, perhaps we should take that as an admonition to go slowly and grant a lot of grace?
And if someone is seeking to find the will of God and serve him, should we stand in their way and condemn them for it? (see #1 above)