Friday, September 2, 2011

Grudem, my inadequacy, and some thoughts

from here

I recently started reading Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (which should really be called Evangelical Feminism Versus Biblical Truth, since that's what he spends 14 long chapters arguing), and was pleased to find that he’s not quite as scary as I’d expected! I was a little nervous before delving in, feeling kind of like I was meeting a grumpy old man for the first time after having heard numerous stories about how awful he can be. Turns out he’s a little un-PC (some may say ‘sexist’), but quite passionate and thorough. I appreciate that, though I disagree with almost all of his conclusions.

It occurred to me as I read/refuted that I was/am in no way qualified to respond to Grudem’s arguments. So far I’ve completed just 3 subjects at Bible college, only one of which touched on the gender issue (for one lecture). Wayne Grudem, au contraire, holds a BA, an MDiv, and a PhD. I’m not saying that he’s right because he's studied a lot, I’m just saying that I’m not the best person to convince you that he’s wrong. Especially when there are women out there who are not only more theologically informed but also much better at writing than I am; women such as Marg Mowczko and Rachel Held Evans, whose blogs I highly recommend to you (Marg’s particularly for more on these gender questions. She’s also Australian – woot!).

I’m not giving up reading and writing about this topic, although I’m feeling more and more comfortable in my position on it as the days go by. I still intend to review the books I mentioned in a much earlier post. I still plan to find out who’s talking about this issue and think out loud through what they’re saying. I just have to let go of my grand dreams of word searches and thorough studies of particular difficult passages and accept that with no Greek whatsoever and very little theological training, my place in this debate is as spectator rather than star; my job is to cheer my team loudly from the sidelines rather than trying to join them on the field.

Having said all of that, below are some of my thoughts on the whole gender topic that have given me pause or started me ranting at some point recently (in no particular order, I’m simply avoiding bullet points for Blogger’s sake):

Firstly, while reading the New Bible Dictionary article on women the other day I was struck by the point that baptism, unlike circumcision, was (and is!) for women as well as men. Isn’t that cool?! I’d never stopped to consider that truth before, but it overwhelmed me momentarily (and has a few times since) with a feeling of excitement and encouragement and acceptance, all rolled up in a giant fuzzy God-loves-me ball. If you know what I mean. (I’m not completely sure that even I do here, but I’m aiming for a vibe rather than a mental image, if that helps...)

Secondly, this seems like an appropriate spot to slip in the following quote from Stanley Gundry’s chapter in How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership (edited by Alan Johnson), in which he explains his use of the terms ‘hierarchy’ or ‘patriarchal hierarchy’ to describe those on the opposite side of the gender debate to egalitarians (page 100, emphasis his):
[The term ‘complementarian’] was invented in the mid-1980s allegedly to portray the position as holding that men and women are complementary to one another. The problem is, though, that egalitarians also believe that in the body of Christ all believers, including men and women, are complementary to one another. So the term does not apply uniquely to those who would now claim exclusive ownership of it. It is difficult not to think that the term was invented as a euphemism to avoid calling attention to the real essence of the position – that men are in hierarchical order over women who are to submit to men.
I plan to continue to use the term ‘complementarian’ to save confusion as I keep thinking through this debate, but I think what Gundry says is a valuable clarification.

Thirdly, I think it’s unhelpful to use the word ‘biblical’ to describe a position (‘biblical manhood and womanhood’, for example), because it implies that anyone who disagrees with you is unbibilical, and it seems incredibly arrogant to claim to understand the Bible so well that yours is the only right interpretation, especially when dealing with passages that are obviously difficult to make sense of or else fewer people would be arguing about them. I respect the way John Stackhouse approaches this issue in Finally Feminist (pages 37-38):
I would like to suggest a way to understand gender...that avoids simply ruling out the contentions of either side, since I find valid points in each, and, perhaps more significantly, since exemplary Christians advocate both positions. (Again, the only alternative is to conclude that all those holy and intelligent people who disagree with me are just plain wrong – and that seems unlikely in the extreme.)
Stackhouse's humility is refreshing, particularly so after reading Grudem, and, as I mentioned in my review of Stackhouse's book, it’s something I need to keep working towards.

Lastly, (and this is bordering on me trying to join in the game rather than sticking to the stands, to return to my earlier metaphor), I find it rather frustrating to keep reading terms in the complementarian argument that never appear in the Bible, such as “male leadership” or “equal in value but different in roles”. I think these terms push some to ask questions that the Bible doesn’t seem too concerned with, such as, “What should I do if my husband doesn’t lead me?” or “In what ways could we say that Jesus is equal but different?“ These are unhelpful distractions from questions that actually do matter, and we really don’t need more distractions. The TV’s enough.

I’ll stop here, partly because I want you to have time to click on the links to the blogs I mentioned above (I've chosen some good posts for you, trust me!), but mostly because that’s all I have to say right now (it's bedtime, I'm tired)


Post a Comment