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Posts Tagged ‘complementarian’

Note: file this in the “thinking out loud” category.

I’m not sure when this question, the title of this post, popped into my head, but I’ve been mulling it over a bit.  Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of complementarianism is rooting this view in the creation accounts.  Complementarians argue that Paul’s injunction against women teaching in church (1 Timothy 2:11-12) are binding today because they are rooted in creation (vv13-15) rather than cultural mores.   It can’t be seen as temporary because it’s very foundation is the God’s created order.

Let me state right now: the purpose of this post is not to evaluate the merits of this argument.  I am well aware that posts like this can be hijacked and turned into an argument between the “oppressive complementarians” and the “culture-capitulating egalitarians.” 

My purpose in writing this is because I wonder how consistently this argument is applied to other areas, such as the Sabbath.  The observance of the Sabbath is rooted in the creation accounts.  God rested on the seventh day and set it apart as a special day (Genesis 2:1-3, the word normally translated “rest” or “cease [from working]” shares the same Hebrew root with “Sabbath”).  In the 10 Commandments, God instructs Israel to keep the Sabbath day holy (set it apart), “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

So if the Sabbath day is rooted in the created order, should we still observe it today?  Or, more specifically, if complementarians are standing on the creation accounts to support their position, should they also be sabbatarians? 

Perhaps the answer is as simple as arguing that the New Testament doesn’t repeat the Sabbath command, therefore it’s no longer binding to new covenant believers.  I still have questions regarding that approach, but I imagine it’s probably where most people in this camp land.  I welcome any insights our reader(s) might have.

Are non-sabbatarian complementarians inconsistently applying their hermeneutical principles?

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A quick note before I begin.  We here at BBG by and large opt to avoid prominently controversial topics in our posts.  There are a number of reasons for this: they rarely accomplish anything other than getting people riled up, once someone disagrees with your position on one topic they may ignore anything you say on any topic, we don’t want anyone thinking our opinions reflect those of our churches, and so on.  So, I write this post with a little apprehension.

Few topics are as controversial in our day as the one of women’s roles in ministry and the home.  There are long and detailed arguments on both sides of the issue that delve deep into biblical exegesis, hermeneutics, cultural analysis, and plenty of other areas.  I want to ask a question dealing with only one specific argument that I frequently hear from complementarian circles.  So, please, for the sake of my sanity, don’t take this as a chance to spout off on anything related to this topic.  Keep it to this specific argument.  Okay, thanks for sticking with me thus far.

One of the common complementarian arguments is that the authority of man over woman is rooted in the created order.  This is potentially significant, because if it can be determined that man’s authority is a result of the fall, one could argue that Christ’s work has undone the punishments of the fall (death, for example), including the authority of a man over a woman (though this argument is in desperate need of nuance).  There are various arguments that go into this, but there’s one that I’ve been thinking about lately.

It has been claimed that “naming” someone or something is the right of authority.  That is, Adam is given the right to name the animals of the Garden because he is in authority.  Parents are given the right to name their children, God gives new names to Abram and Jacob, and so on.  You can read this sort of argument in Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Genesis.  Adam names the woman in Genesis 2:23, which “entails his authority in the home” (p95).

I’ll point out quickly that some would argue that he does not really name the woman in Genesis 2:23.  Instead, he names her in Genesis 3:20- after the fall.  The footnote (number 18, Genesis 2:23) in the NET Bible gives a linguistic argument against the idea that Adam is naming the woman in case you care to read it (sorry, I don’t know how to link to a footnote in the NET Bible, but the sidebar is easy to navigate).  But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Adam is naming the woman in Genesis 2:23.

Does that necessarily mean, however, that Adam is in authority over her?  I realize that is the assumption of many complementarians, but I have my doubts.  I’ll give one example of someone giving a name who is obviously not in authority over the recipient.

The she (Hagar) called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees’… (Genesis 16:13).

This text indicates to me that is would be hard to argue that naming someone else necessarily implies authority.  Here we have a person giving a name to God.  A lesser being naming a greater one.  Again, this wouldn’t be a “take down” of complementarian arguments of hierarchy in the created order, it would simply counter one specific argument.

Now, here’s why I’m writing this post.  I’m wondering if anyone has encountered (or has one of their own) a complementarian argument that can answer this.  Bruce Waltke, to pick one example, is a brilliant OT scholar and theologian.  I have my doubts he’s so dense that he’s missed something like this.  He even notes the unique nature of this event.  Yet, I haven’t come across a counter-argument (admittedly, have not read much of the literature out there on this) to what I’m presenting here.  Is Hagar simply an exception?  Or is there really no rule to begin with?

I’ve been around long enough to know that few people actually spend the necessary time to investigate arguments for various positions.  We often assume that the scholars we respect have done the requisite homework and weeded their way through the positions.  That simply isn’t true all the time.  The “naming” argument sounds plausible on the front end.  In the words of Proverbs 18:17, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”  But I’ve also been around long enough to know that counter-arguments seem right, too, but are in need of refining.  So I’m throwing it out to my reader(s)- what do you think?

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