Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dialogue, Baby, Dialogue (and a short statement of application)

Part 5: Dialoguing with others on the whole Gender debate

As you know, we are all about dialogue around here and I have three people to whom I owe some feedback on the gender issue. I also owe a brief statement on how I apply my understanding in a church context. So without further ado, let's figh... err... dialogue.

Interacting with "Not-nervous-egalitarian" Jim Robinson, part 2

(if you want to read Jim's comments they are found here and here)

Greetings once again Jim,

I appreciate your interaction. I like interacting with people I disagree with. Hopefully this can be helpful for both of us. I am going to disagree with a good deal of what you said. Some of it will be because I think your facts are wrong, some of it will be because I have a different opinion, some of it will be because I don't think you really understand the other side of the issue. It seems to me (correct me if I'm wrong) that you've read Grudem and Piper and assumed that anyone who calls himself a complementarian is a piperite and/or a grudemite. That is simply just not the case. I wouldn't assume you agree with Paul Jewett's take on this issue just because you are both egalitarians (he argues that Paul is wrong and mistaken). On all of these issues there is a wide spectrum.

I think we agree in principle on something but you need to rephrase it. You keep saying that the complementarian position is based in post WWII legalism. Don't say that. The complementarian position has been the default position of the church for two thousand years. People who are complementarians today are complementarians because that is the most straightforward interpretation of the words of Scripture. That doesn't mean its right, but don't you have to at least acknowledge that this is a hermeneutics issue? You keep saying that this is a legalism issue. It's not a legalism issue. It's a hermeneutics issue. Saying that we can't listen to rock music, drink wine, go to movie theaters, or grow facial hair are legalism issues. "Christian" rules that have no biblical basis can rightly be called legalism. A position that has a clear biblical foundation is not being held because of legalistic extra biblical rules. It may be a misunderstanding of the "spirit of the text" but its not legalism. There are complementarians who say that this is an authority of the Bible issue. They would accuse you of not accepting the Bible's authority. Clearly, this is not fair. Its an interpretive issue. To label it as either an authority or legalistic issue is not fair. Let's properly define the debate. Although some legalists may be complementarians, just like there are some egalitarians who believe that the Bible is riddled with errors, does not make it a legalistic position or a legalism issue.

You are absolutely right when you say that the Bible was written in a patriarchal culture. Until recently, we've always had a patriarchal culture. But because the culture is no longer patriarchal does not mean that we should abandon complementarianism. And likewise, as you would fairly argue, just because the culture in Biblical times was patriarchal does not mean it was ideal or God's design. The question at hand is not what the culture is or was but what the Scripture teaches or doesn't teach.

Let me also say that in some aspects of the word I am a feminist (can a man be a feminist?). I am against the abuse and devaluing of women. Although I think that the Bible teaches differing roles for men and women, I am strongly opposed to the abuse of women. If a woman had a husband who was abusing her I wouldn't just tell her to submit (would anyone????) I would have the bum thrown in jail! Neither I nor anyone I know would tell a woman whose husband had an affair and divorced her that she was going to hell. What does that have to do with the issue though? I 100% agree with you about the pay issue (see my last post). As a friend of mine (Nate Duriga) said, "the abuse of the position does not mean that the position is wrong." It seems that you're arguing against the abuse of the issue but have not addressed the issue itself.

Correct me if I'm misunderstanding you or being unfair. I am trying to be as fair as possible. I know that there are people on both sides of the issue who aren't. Let's not imitate them.

Disagreeing with my own side of the debate: Dialogue with Surls

Because I've already posted several comments on your blog, some of this may be a bit repetitive but I'll try and keep it brief.

For part 1 (Robust Complementarianism from Genesis):

I don't think Genesis offers much in the way of supporting complementarianism, Robust or otherwise. It can be read in light of complementarianism, and then applied assuming the complementarian position, but I don't think it can be used to prove it. I don't think any of your points (man being mentioned first, woman called "helper, etc..) can be used to prove the complementarian position. I think that they are all CONSISTENT with complementarianism, but I don't think Genesis teaches it.

Let me say in support of your point that if God had intended egalitarianism, I would think you would see it taught or implied in Genesis but you don't. The culture assumed a patriarchal society and there is nothing to counteract it. one of the reasons complementarianism is not taught in the Old Testament is that I don't think it needed to be. The instructions in the NT are clearly corrective in light of some issue that needed to be addressed, apparently more than once in more than one context.

Part 2: The Rest of the OT

Yeah I had a lot of beefs with this post and you kind of retreated a bit (at least you said you shouldn't have posted it) so I won't reattack it. I don't think there's really a case there.

Part 3: The New Testament

I was surprised at what passages you didn't deal with but it seems that you are focusing more upon the issue as it relates to the marriage relationship and not in the church, so that's probably why you dealt with the material you did. Regardless, I only have good things to say here.
Very good points about the "traditions which I handed to you." There seems to be a universal formula here that Paul and Peter both use. Certainly this is something universal, not merely situational because some wives were subverting things. Right?

And Duriga, with whom I just can't seem to disagree

As I've told you in person Nate, it rather disturbs me that our takes on these issues are so similar, especially considering how similar our backgrounds are (homeschooled, Liberty, NBS). But I really have nothing to disagree with in your post. Even worse, you stole a lot of things I wanted to say. All I can do is highly recommend that everyone who reads my blog and doesn't read his should read his second-to-last post. It is well stated and points out many issues that need to be addressed from our side of the theological fence.

So to finish... here's me doing what I don't want to do....

All right, I admit it. I don't know how to apply my nervous complementarianism yet. That's part of the reason for the 'nervous'. But my uncertainty cannot be an excuse for not applying something. So here is how I would apply my position, but keep in mind, my position is still developing.

-I would not have a woman as a head pastor of a church.
-I would not have a woman preach to the whole church.
-I would have women on staff of a large church. I don't care what their position title is- pastor directer whatever- because pastor isn't really a biblical position (elder is, and though I am in theory a multiple elder guy, but I don't think there's practically a big difference. I don't have a problem biblically with the way it developed). Regardless, a woman on staff should be paid the same as a man would for the same position/work.
-I would allow women to teach at a seminary
-I would allow women to teach certain classes at a church
-I would believe it is my responsibility as the husband to lovingly lead my household. I would discuss and makes decisions jointly with my wife. The only time I would ever "use the submit card" is in an area where I felt strongly convinced biblically about something. Even then I would always try to reach a consensus. There would, I'm sure, be many many times when I would submit to my wishes to my wife's wishes (like what we're doing friday night, what I'm wearing to the Joneses, what house or neighborhood we move into etc...).

Is there something I'm leaving out that I need to address?

This completes the primacy of this issue on my blog. I will continue to interact with Nate and Austin as they deal with the issue. For now, I'm going to continue my work on my "Apology of Hell" and I think I may do some stuff on a theology of animals. Nate and I have discussed some ideas for what we are doing next. More on that later.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So I'm a "Nervous Complementarian"... and that means what... practically? (yikes!)

I should have posted this earlier. Nate Duriga, in his last blog post, just stole a good deal of my thunder. Oh well, I'll have to continue without it. Because of some complaints concerning the overwhelming length of my blog posts of late, this will be more or less in "list format" and will hopefully be less wordy. This is more of a guide to applying these issues than an exploration into how these things should be applied. I'll be more specific about how I think it should be applied later.

Applying Nervous Complementarianism
(these are all applications from a Complementarian perspective. If you are not a Complementarian they may not apply)

For women in the church:

1) If you are uncomfortable using the title "pastor" for a woman on staff, do not use this as an excuse to pay her less than you would for a man with the same job but different title)! This is grossly unfair and unjust and is a horrible testimony to the rest of the world.

2) Define clearly what a woman can and cannot do within your church and stick by it. If you do not clearly define her role, you either create the impression that she can't really do anything or that you are not a complementarian at all- then what's the point?

3) Women Deacons: Define, decide, and apply. I believe women can be deacons (I Timothy 3:11) and many complementarians agree with me. But there are not women as deacons in our churches. Let's fix that. But, if your church is "not there yet" don't force it (Romans 14?), but with patient teaching bring them there.

4) Women Teachers:

a) If you are going to go with I Timothy 2, Clearly define what "teaching" is and what "authority" is. Although this may seem odd, you must also clearly define what "a man" is. Age? Can she teach and have authority over 6 year old boys? We would probably all agree she could. 15 year olds? 19 year olds? etc....
b) Keep in mind that women are commanded to teach women. Does your church practice this in an "official capacity"? Or is it just something you assume will happen on its own?

5) Women in other capacities: Just because you are a complementarian does not mean that women are not important or that their insights are not needed! Intentionally seek their input on everything. Be balanced here though. A lot of churches, though officially run by men, are completely run by women and are thus uncomfortable for most men. Our "church decisions" must be made thoughtfully, the ramifications upon all members of the congregation should be considered, both genders, all "marriage statuses", all races, all ages, etc, etc, etc.

6) Here's a good question that I used to think was a stupid question (I guess I grew up): What are mature Christian women to do when no men take spiritual leadership? Should they find a "puppet man" to "lead" while they pull a Priscilla and coach him from the sideline? Should they just pray and hope that some good men come and save the situation?

7) Is there any distinction for the average "pewsitter"? How (if you do) do you apply "women must be silent and learn at home" and the headcoverings issue? I'm not saying you have to apply these strictly literally but you still have to deal with it and apply it. If you say that headcoverings are cultural then is there a cultural equivalent that does apply?

For Women in the Home:

1) Like Nate said in his blog, what about the nontraditionals? In affirming, teaching, making applications for, and praising women who stay home and raise their children, let's not exclude and isolate women who cant because they have no children, are widowed, are divorced, are unmarried with or without children (remember, God uses and loves people who make mistakes too!), have grown children, whose husbands can't work, or who just have to work to support their family. If you only teach gender roles for 20, 30, 50, or 70% of the congregation, what about the rest?

2) What does submit mean practically, day to day? Does this mean that the man unilaterally makes all of the decisions? That's stupid! Does it mean he has the last say? Does it just apply to "spiritual leadership"?

3) Weird question but I think its a good one (though it might REALLY get me into trouble): What role should psychology, sociology, and biology play in defining gender roles? If sociological/psychological studies show (for instance) that women do a far better job at caring for young children or that children need their mothers more, should these help inform our gender roles? I think we can use these sources with care and discernment to help us better understand gender and how God designed us. We are different because God made us different. Studying human psychology and biology to understand ourselves better seems to be a legitimate way to better understand our God given gifts and roles.


I said I'd be short. I'm long again. Forgive me please. I only have one more on this topic. The last entry will include my own application of the issue and some interaction with Austin, Nate, and Jim.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Reflecting on David's Failure

My introductions are always too long so here's a short one. Here's a poem I wrote a year or so ago as a reflection upon David's fall. As one trained by Dr. Vreeland, I feel compelled to point out that David's departure from godliness began much earlier than his sin with Bathsheba, but it was something of a culmination. I also want to make it clear that I do not mean to imply that David was one to be emulated prior to his sin with Bathsheba. This is more of a reflection of sin and its destructive nature, looking at David as an example of that.

Feedback welcomed as always. I'll get back to gender issues later.

Reflecting on Failure

My delight is in the presence of my God.
His faithfulness is abundant; His goodness is without end.
My soul rejoices in my God my Savior.
His friendship is precious to me; all else is vain, for He satisfies me completely
I will continue to find joy in my God and seek His face.
I find my purpose in serving Him; pleasing Him.
His approval will mark my life as worth living;
Stay true my soul; do not stray; stay true.

Who is that woman bathing yonder?
Her beauty has captured my heart; my lust is insatiable
I must know her, have her, kiss her lips; I must satisfy my longings
Ah, but she has a husband; but praise the gods, he is not here
Bring her here, I must have her. Bring her here, I am the king after all.
She should have been mine; she is too beautiful for a Hittite
Oh, but she is with child, my child. Her husband is still away.
Bring him here. He will not comply? Let him die! I am the king after all

She is all mine now. Her child will be my child and none will know.
How sweet it is to obtain the object of one’s desire!
A man sees what he wants and he acquires it- let no one hinder him.
Her beauty will satisfy me, our son will be a joy to me in my old age.
How good it is to take pleasure in the fruit of one’s labor!
I see what I want and I take hold of it. I am the king after all.
What can compare to the beauty of a woman? To the softness of her touch?
Her kisses will satisfy my longings all the days of my life.

The consequences of my sin overwhelm me. God have mercy on me!
Spare my son, do not let him die! My sin was great, but you are great in mercy!
I am overwhelmed. Is all lost? Has God turned His back on His servant?
What have I done? I have lost all I once held dear! All that mattered has left me.
My sons, my sons. Must they all die? Will you spare even one?
O God my God! I have cried out to you all the day long and you will not answer me!
My God My God! Why have you forsaken me? My enemies have surrounded me.
I cry to you, you still will not hear me? Against you alone oh God have I sinned.

Spare your servant. Do not take away your Spirit from me. Do not let me be as a Gentile.
Despite my failings, I am still your servant. Do not send me to Sheol as one rejected.
Your mercy and your lovingkindness never cease. They are new every morning.
I will trust in you alone for you alone are able to save one so wretched.
Deliver me O God. Do not let my house go to ruin.
My sin was great, but your punishment is unbearable.
In wrath remember mercy. In justice remember grace.
I have failed God, I have failed. Remember your people, remember your throne
For Your name’s sake if not mine…

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why I'm a Nervous Complementarian (part 2)

(If you have not yet read part one, please do so before reading further)

This issue is not a favorite topic of mine, as you may have already guessed if you've been reading, but it is important and so we all should work and think through it. At the end of this post I will not have thoroughly worked through the issues, I will merely have expressed where I am in the conversation. To work through it, I need yalls help. Conversation and dialogue help us to see and understand these issues from a wider and more complete perspective. Dialogue won't settle the issue, most likely, but it will help all of us make better and more informed theological decisions.

My last post was an explanation of why I am a Nervous Complementarian, with the emphasis obviously on the nervous. This post is why I am a Nervous Complementarian, and the latter aspect of the title will be the focus. I'm going to approach this topic three ways. First, I will explain the reasons that my 'nervousness' is unconvincing, in other words I'm going to try and answer my own objections. Second, I'm going to answer Jim Robinson's (a 'not-nervous egalitarian') comment that he left on an earlier blog post. Thirdly, I'm going to explain the reasons I have for remaining in the (most likely) losing camp.

Nervous but not THAT nervous....

In my previous post, I gave four reasons for being 'nervous' about my complementarianism. The first was my natural preference for complementarianism. Unfortunately for my natural preference, this is no way to choose theological positions. If I had my way, there would be no hell, there would be no sanctification (just instant glorification), there would be no Satan, no curse, and no meticulous predestination issues. Everything would be bright and sunny with singing butterflies, dancing trees, and talking animals. But I do not base my theology on my preference. It is important that we recognize God as God and that we make no attempt to hyper-arrogate ourselves to the point where we are pronouncing right and wrong. Before we talk about "wives submit to your husbands," we have to firmly establish "theologians submit to your God." Submission is first and foremost a requirement of us humans before God. I have to accept things I don't like and/or understand.

My second reason for being nervous is that I am unsure of the validity of many (or most) of the complementarian 'proof texts'. This uncertainty remains. But there is not a single egalitarian proof text that makes me doubt my complementarianism. The Galatians 3:28 might be a legit proof text for the essential equality of all humans (although that is even suspect), but it says nothing about roles. Surely there are still apostles and teachers? Surely there are still those who teach and those who do not? Those with spiritual authority and those without? Honestly, I don't think this passage has anything to say to the primary question at hand about the roles of men and women in the church and the home. The other primary proof texts are references to women in perceived places of authority. But not only are these passages descriptive not prescriptive, they are all ambiguous. Junias (Romans 16) is listed as an apostle but with her husband (presumably). Apostle has a semantic range that includes those with apostolic authority and those without. There's too much ambiguity and too little hard data to base doctrine or praxis here. Phoebe was a deacon but I believe in female deacons so I feel no need to address her. Priscilla's taking of Apollos aside does not conflict with what I believe is permissible and, again, is done in conjunction with her husband. There just isn't enough Scriptural basis here to say that Scripture teaches or prescribes egalitarianism.

The third reason (the role of culture in making these decisions) is probably the most difficult for me. As I study church history, it is striking how much the culture of the times influences the theology of the period. This isn't always bad, but it should cause us to be cautious and be sure we do not make theological decisions because our culture "tells us to." Some argue that the Gender Roles issue is basically the same as the slavery or race issue. I disagree. There are several passages in Scripture that seem to appeal to "transcultural principles." I Timothy appeals to Creation. I Corinthians 11:10 appeals to "the angels" (whatever that means). These passages do not appeal to reasons that are culturally based. It remains true that God created man first, this hasn't changed over time. While I do not pretend that this short argument has settled the issue, there are difficult hurdles for egalitarians to jump.

The final reason I gave is my embarrassment brought on by the arguments of some of the louder voices in the complementarian camp. But to be honest, the other side is just as bad, possibly worse. They are just as shrill and unreasonable. They appeal stubbornly to some very poor argumentation. I can't escape association with bad arguments and bad arguers. They are everywhere and on every side.

I don't mean for these answers to be final or conclusive. My point is only that these objections themselves are not final or conclusive. This is a complicated and difficult issue. Those who pretend the issue is simple or are over confident in their position are often not dialoguing, just arguing. Arguing is a waste of time. It entrenches both sides deeper and deeper into their positions as we become more and more invested. Let's stop arguing and start dialoguing!

Dialoguing with Jim

To begin with, I want to thank you Jim for your comment. We seem to agree that this issue is not an essential and that good brothers and sisters can disagree. That's a start anyway.

But I must protest, Jim, that I do not think your analysis of complementarians as a whole is at all fair or accurate. The complementarians I know are complementarians because they really and honestly believe that the Scripture teaches it. And even if we are wrong, it is quite an understandable misunderstanding. There is a passage that says "I do not allow women to teach", there are several that tell wives to submit to their husbands, and there are no passages that clearly institute women as authoritative leaders in the church. I think it is very unfair to attribute the position to legalism instead of "struggling with what the Bible has to say." I'm sure there are some complementarians that are legalistic, but stereotyping and judging everyone to be of the same stripe is radically unfair.

Secondly, I feel compelled to point out that the position has nothing to do with "post WWII culture and legalism." This has almost universally been the practice and teaching of all Christians for the last two thousand years. It has only been recently that it has been challenged. The position may be wrong, but those who hold it are holding the traditional position of the church. You almost seem to imply that it is the other way around.

Thirdly, as relates the relationship between the trinity and egalitarianism/complementarianism, I did not mean to say that these two issues have NO correlation whatsoever, but that such a correlation is not NECESSARY thus it is not legitimate to argue from it. One could reasonably hold to subordination in the Trinity but be an egalitarian. Another could reject subordination within the trinity and be a complementarian. There might be a correlation, there might not be. All I was trying to say is that you can't resolve the gender debate with the trinity debate. Both sides have tried to do this and I do not think it is a fair argument.

Finally, I just want to point out that the fact that people in your church have a problem with the issue does not mean that it shouldn't be an issue. Many people have a problem with hell. There have been times in my life where it really tried and even tortured my faith to accept the doctrine of hell. Today, most people have a real problem with the exclusive nature of Christianity. Even if this issue is on a different level that these issues, we have to teach the "whole counsel of God", whether we like it or not. We can't just tickle ears and tell people what they want to hear. If the complementarian position is correct, we ought to teach it.

Your objection to the designations given to the opposing camps is not completely unjustified. But keep in mind that there are varying degrees of complementarians. Piper and Grudem are further down that line than I am. We should be careful when we give these designations to remember that "one size does not fit all." To assume I agree with everything that Piper and Grudem say is not fair and not true.

I enjoy my friendship with you and your wife and am glad that we all agree that this is not a core belief. I am willing to change my position, as I hope you are, if convinced (thanks Luther) by sound reasoning or the Holy Scriptures. I would enjoy discussing this further with you. I promise not to burn you at the stake if you promise not to burn me!

Why I, in the end, come down as a complementarian.

This post is already long and I really don't want to be on this topic forever but let me just give the core reason I am in the complementarian camp. And for that I appeal to Blaise Pascal.

Many of you are probably familiar with Pacal's wager. If you don't remember let me refresh your memory with a couple sentences. Blaise Pascal struggled with the existence of God. Did he exist or did he not? In the end he decided that believing in God is better than not believing in God because if you believe in God and are wrong, no big deal. If you reject God and are wrong about his existence, BIG DEAL!!! So he concluded that believing in God is the "safer bet."

What does this have to do with complementarianism? There is no instruction in Scripture to necessitate egalitarianism. The instructions that seem to teach complementarian may be culturally based and may no longer apply. Then again, they may, perhaps, be trans-cultural and are still valid applications today. I'd rather be wrong because I took the Bible too seriously, than to be wrong because I didn't take cultural implications seriously enough. This may seem weak. It is. But because I think that there is more Scriptural warrant for complementarianism and almost no scriptural warrant for egalitarianism, and remain unconvinced that these instructions are only given because of the culture of the day, I will remain a soft complementarian until soundly convinced otherwise. I could go further into proofs and Scriptural interpretation, but most of you have probably heard it all a million times before and I feel no reason to be redundant and irrelevant.

Where to go from here...

I do not consider this issue as firmly settled in my mind. I want to remain in the conversation. I honestly think that this is where we should all be. This conversation is still going on and it is too early to pull out and entrench ourselves confidently on our 'sides'. Let's keep talking, continue learning from each other, and continue to seek to arrive at a better understanding of what Scripture teaches before we "forever make up our minds."

I have probably two posts left on this issue. Next time, I'm going to move towards applying my version of complementarianism in the church and home. My fifth and hopefully final post will be interaction with whatever Nate and Austin end up saying about the topic. I look forward to dialoguing with all of your responses.

About Me

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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