Saturday, January 31, 2009

"NERVOUS Complementarianism"


I am glad that Austin is so happy about our new topic of conversation. If someone knocks me off, I expect that he'll pay for the funeral, because I am going into this kicking and screaming. I can't possibly win with this debate. If I go one way I am a compromiser, a Judas in the eyes of fundamentalist conservative Christians. If the other, however, I have committed the worst possible crime in 21st century American culture: discrimination (buh buh bummmm...). Even in my initial post, in which I tried to be as noncontroversial as possible, I probably offended somebody. Contrary to common (?- I hope not) belief, I am not looking for controversy, only dialogue. Unfortunately, both sides tend to be polemic and antagonistic to any view contrary to their own. Also unfortunate is the fact that I think my side is losing, and is losing for the wrong reasons. But more on that later.

I don't want this blog to be old hat. Many of my readers are NBS students and this conversation is getting rather tiresome, and one-sided. The classes which address the issue seem to only attack one side of the debate. The students from only one side of the issue actually speak up, the rest of us are afraid to. Austin says he feels like a repressed minority. There are good reasons to feel that way, I certainly do at times. But even if repressed, we are still alive, though some of us may be a little nervous. So let me tell you why I am nervous, why I am a complementarian, and then proceed to address this topic from some rather neglected angles. I don't want to just repeat what everyone else says, many of them say it better than I would. Today the first: why I am a nervous comeplementarian.


Why I am a Nervous Complementarian


To begin, let me say that, without any hesitation, I strongly prefer egalitarianism. I really really want to be one. First, it would be so much easier apologetically. I dread the prospect of girls in my youth group asking me about the subject. If confronted by it when sharing my faith, I would likely hem and haw and try and change the subject. It is counter to the way our culture thinks and believes and offensive to the vast majority of the populace. Secondly, egalitarianism is winning. It's time to wake up and smell the Zeitgeist! The numbers of women pastors, elders, and deacons are on the rise and the male population in churches are dropping. This trend is in no way about to reverse itself. It will likely continue to gain momentum. In liberal seminaries, women strongly outnumber men. I would not be surprised at all if this is true of conservative seminaries in my lifetime. As men are becoming less and less important in society, so they are in churches as well. There is a strong temptation to jump into the bandwagon lest I be hewn down later for my opposition. Lastly, and most significantly, I don't think of women as inferior to men at all. In looking for a wife, I am NOT looking for a pretty wallflower to keep house, have babies, and sit before me wide eyed for instructions and instruction. I want someone who will challenge me, make me think, force me to be better, someone who I can help grow, but who will also help me. I want an equal, not a servant-housewife. But unfortunately, what I prefer to be, has no relevance with what is. But again, more on that later.

The second reason I am nervous (the first being my preference for egalitarianism), is the uncertainty I feel towards the interpretation of many of the 'complementarian proof texts'. Austin's first post argued for complementarianism from Genesis. I'm uncomfortable doing so. If I read it as the original audience would have, I'm not sure I would get complementarianism from it. Maybe I would, I've never been a Jew and I've never lived in ancient Israel or wandered in the wilderness with Moses, but I'm not very optimistic that I would see "male leadership" leap up at me from the scroll and slap me in the face. The most famous proof text (I Timothy 2), is a very difficult and complex passage and does not warrant hasty or overconfident interpretation. The "wives submit to your husbands" passages are accompanied by "slaves obey your masters" passages. Most of us would quickly and without hesitation condemn slavery. But what about... hmmm.... well....

The third reason I am nervous is the ambiguity surrounding my own understanding of what role culture had in the original composition of Scripture and has today in the application of Scripture. The absence of any real condemnation upon Slavery? The role of Women in society? Head coverings? The role of fornication in idolatry? What about Homosexuality? How do we apply teachings to issues that are radically changed since the composition of the Old and New Testament autographs? It's not very easy.

The final reason I am nervous is that I am often embarrassed at the arguments of other complementarians. Many use bad argumentation, especially ad hominem and slippery slope arguments. Some refuse to dialogue. Some refuse to acknowledge the validity of others' arguments and the insufficiency of their own. Some refuse to acknowledge the complexities of the issues. Some are pugnacious and rude. I don't want to be associated with many of my position.

It would be very easy for me to switch over. I would like that very much. Unfortunately for what I would like to do, there are other issues to deal with. Next time, Why I am a Nervous Complementarian.

As something of a postscript...

Jim, thanks for your comment. If you're still reading, I plan on responding to you in my next blog post. Long time no see by the way.

nervous man image

8 comments:

Sabrina said...

i wish i could add something constructive, but you pretty much hit it on the nail for me. ;)

theone withabeard said...

Who would have imagined that at an independent Baptist seminary with a fundamentalist heritage complementarians would be an oppressed minority? Welcome to the Twilight Zone...

faithbornfromdoubt said...

you know what is really frustrating about this issue? As a male complementarian I am completely devoid of admiration, virtue, or sympathy ploys. If I were a female complementarian, I could stake a claim to a virtuous devotion to the Bible despite the natural bias I would have because of my gender. If I were a male egalitarian, I could be admired for my devotion to the rights of others- helping the cause of the powerless regardless of personal self-interest. If I were a female egalitarian I could play the sympathy card as someone discriminated against and oppressed my the "white male" (bu, bu buummmmmm)! But as a male complementarian I have no virtue, I am regarded with contempt and I, by default, oppress poor powerless women. I don't have a chance!

faithbornfromdoubt said...

help! I'm being repressed!

Sabrina said...

this is why i sometimes hate discussing this. if i side with complementarians, then i am super godly. if i side with the egalitarians, i'm a super feminist and super cool. what gives?

Sabrina said...

and one cannot be super cool and super godly at the same time :P

Bren said...

you're so sexist matt! how's that for stirring up the pot a little? i'm so kidding. i hesitated responding to this because i'm not sure you wanted another nbs student contributing to more tiresome arguments. i really appreciate the way you are presenting your views. it really is encouraging dialogue rather than arguments. but i can see this is going to be a long response so i'm just going to email you the rest...

Kevin said...

It's all about picking and choosing. And that is where Christians/Theologians differ. What is cultural and what is the same through time. It is a constant battle that will happen throughout the ages. And of course Christians will fight each other on it and waste time focusing on the wrong things.

I have battled this throughout my who Christian life. My wife has always been on the Complementarianism side (even though she doesn't know the term) than I have.

As I get older and study scripture more and more I begin to swing more to thinking that culture had a big role in the woman's role as described in the Bible.

And yes I may get black listed from the Seminary for saying this....but since I only take one class every two years they will forget what I said by the time I have to re-apply again :) .

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul

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