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More Recent Developments

One of the most troubling developments of recent times is the fact that younger people who have grown up in a secular egalitarian culture have not, it would appear, examined the theological ramifications of the egalitarian position. This often means that when they are confronted with the passionate, persuasive and seemingly more godly arguments against egalitarianism, usually by hardline complementarians, they more readily embrace hierarchy and consequently male headship.

If the argument is emphatic that egalitarianism is purely secular, or a result of feminist influences within the church that will unhealthily 'feminise' christianity then it seems a good thing for them to oppose it. Add to this the thought that to question apparent biblically defined male/female roles within the church will lead to open acceptance of homosexuality. These are very emotive claims and it can seem that to resist such 'feminisation' and 'worldly influences' is a more godly way to be faithful to the Gospel.

Faced with such arguments modern young christians, who want to be true to the Word of God, the Bible, are more willing to show their zeal by repudiating anything that has a suggestion of worldliness. Complementarians have exploited this theological vacuum extremely well with the vigorous promotion of a plethora of books and films that popularise male leadership, both in the church and the home, as being the most desirable reflection of God's order.

While there is certainly nothing wrong with encouraging all believers to develop a strong relationship with God and a firm commitment to the testimony of Scripture it is tragic when a one-sided view is presented in such a way that an open minded examination of the texts is frowned upon. Egalitarians constantly assert that the issue is one of simply interpreting the relevant passages of Scripture with due consideration to the author's intent and the cultural setting that demanded such instructions. Also bearing in mind the author's use of key words and sometimes seemingly opposite instructions in other references. The whole testimony of Scripture is important here as is the actions of Jesus and the absence of any instruction from him on hierarchy. Jesus should be and should have the last word in these matters.

I guess that what is most likely to happen is that some of the newer breed of believers will become case hardened into hierarchy and be its staunch proponents and others will become disenchanted with it, over time, and want to explore other legitimate options. Thankfully people are coming forward and testifying that they worked hard at male leadership and headship and it just didn't work for them. The fact that egalitarianism offers such an alternative is the key here. We believe that it is both theologically sound and that it is a far more Biblical and Christ honouring way of doing church and marriage.


Emily said…
I couldn't agree more! I believe that for Evangelicals the key starting place is not theological (proper), but hermeneutical. There is such deeply ingrained sensibilities about handling the scripture that when you start with theology and/or the exegesis of a passage it is easy to get dismissed out of hand. They think, "Oh, you're one of those who twists the bible around to say whatever you want it to say." But if you start with the question of a hermeneutical framework in general, it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you are not cutting away, picking and choosing. For example, I approach slavery, gender and homosexuality differently. One may reasonably question the consistency of my hermeneutical framework in so doing. However, very few Evangelicals (at least in my experience) have ever figured out what their hermeneutical framework is. And so they are very inconsistent with how they handle respective passages. If you can demonstrate to an individual who has a high view of scripture that you are striving for consistency they begin to open up a little more. I have been encouraged to see more books being published recently that seem to be attempting to get at this, which I think is critically important. Over on Rachel Held Evans' blog she mentioned one the other day entitled "The Bible Made Impossible" by Christian Smith. I have not read it, but it looks like an attempt to get down to the actual hermeneutical framework of Evangelicals. I hope more is written along these lines. Thanks for your post!
Emily said…
Sorry, just realized my Blogger account is outdated, and it posted my wife's picture. So, for clarification you can find me here:

and my wife, Emily, here:

Thanks for that clarification Jonathan. I was impressed with the thought of having it come from Emily but I'm sure that you both feel the same about these things. BTW it was only recently that Liz and I read something on your own blog and were very impressed. Perhaps is was in connection with the recent John Piper issue.

I'm sure that you are right about the hermeneutical framework. The truth is that many Christians are not serious Bible readers and are quite Biblically illiterate let alone having a hermeneutical framework. That is why they either stick within a familiar paradigm or are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
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