Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Who's the Boss?

I have recently "met" Paul Burleson and am really enjoying perusing through his blog, VTMBottomLine, as lately it's touching on many egalitarian/complementarian issues. His most recent post, Who's the Boss, hits on one my earlier (badly) attempted questions. I thought I would repost it here, with the particular re-asking-of-the-question in bold:

Who's The Boss?

As I tried to show in my last post, this whole thing of who's the boss?
became an issue between male and female only after the fall and the entrance of
sin. It was never a problem originally because there was only one boss. God
Himself. Then that fiasco that culminated in Genesis 3:16 which is the
description of what resulted between human and divine relationships. Down deep
every fallen individual wants to be in charge of their own life. So the process
of redemption began in time and on earth. [It had already had it's beginnings in
eternity. Redemption is no after-thought with God.]

But, interestingly, God is now working with fallen humanity which
eventually sets up a culture or society that is also fallen. It is within that
context that God works to bring about His plan to restore relationships to their
original plan and purpose.

God accommodates Himself to the culture produced and, in many ways, even
inspires His word [through men and centuries of time] using the words and the
meaning of words that are within that fallen culture. His revelation progresses
to the final word He gives in Christ Himself of course. [Hebrews 1:1] He defines
the full picture of redemption and gives conclusive meaning to all the Father's
plan and purposes that are to be re-established through Grace. ["This is my
beloved Son..hear ye Him."]

This is illustrated well in the account of Israel's desire for a King. They
wanted one. They got one. Saul. You remember that, I'm sure. Later God gave a
better one..David..and the beat went on. Now remember, God's plan and purpose
was always for Him to be their only Sovereign. But fallen culture/society [a
collection of the life strategies of fallen people] produced something other.
Even in a chosen nation like Israel. God worked within a Covenant relationship
with her, for sure, but He had to shape, protect, and even condemn some 'bent
out of shape' relationships with her along the way . But that's where God
worked. Within that structure.

Priests? The same situation. A High Priest was needed to bring about
redemption because of having to work with fallen humanity. Originally, God was
Sovereign, Lord, King, High Priest, Ruler, you name it..He was it to His human
creation. And, ultimately, Jesus would/will be seen as Lord, King, Master, High
Priest. You name it, He is it. The human king is not. The husband is not. The
pastor is not. [The father is NOT the Prophet, Priest or King of the New
Covenant home Jesus is].

In the New Covenant, Grace restores those relationships to their original
intention and, eternity, at His return, will only bring it all home. This must
not be missed if we are to understand the New Testament.

That brings me to the illustration of all I've said that will help us the
most, I think. It is the understanding of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 against
the backdrop I've just given. It is there [because we unfortunately try to make
a hierarchical interpretation of those passages fit with God's purpose in
creation when it doesn't at all] that major confusion is set up in New Covenant
relationships if we're not extremely careful.

We must remember that in scripture no one is commanded to "subject" anyone
under them. Originally that was not intended and would violate God's plan. [This
is why slavery is so abhorrent. It violates God's original plan and purpose for
humanity although He worked within a fallen culture where it, unfortunately, was
the norm often times. The same can be said of gender slavery.] It is certainly
true that in the New Covenant kind of relationship we have in Christ, [a new
culture/society] because of Grace, that forced subjection certainly isn't
allowed. That would obviously violate the forbidding of such as commanded in
Mark 10:42-44 and other places.

Well then what is it the passages in question [Ephesians 5 and Colossians
3] are saying? That is what we turn to now.In Ephesians 5 and similar places
where there is to a "subjecting" [serving--hupotasso] it is in the middle voice
[Greek] which means to choose to serve. [In English we have the active and
passive but the Greek is more intricate than that.]

For the Church or Body of Christ, it is never by fiat or because of a
demand by someone who is the ruler of someone else. There is but one Lord for
all believers.In fact, this whole section of Eph. 5 is not speaking about
authority or rule at all or even "who's the boss." It is addressing a serving
[subjecting] that is chosen from within the person doing the serving. In
Ephesians 5:21 it is everyone choosing to serve each other. This refers to male
and female, pastor and people, parents and children, anyone who is in Grace.
Remember this is the New Covenant. [The new culture in Christ.]

In verse 22 the word "submit" isn't even there. Verse 22 is connected to
verse 21 [there were no verse/chapter divisions originally, as you know I'm
sure] where it is used for all Christians toward each other as we've said.It is
only then that verse 22 describes the wife's serving of her husband, with verses
25-31 describing the husband's serving of his wife as Christ does the Church,
and all this is an outgrowth of all being filled with the Spirit. [verse 18] It
is this change of heart that comes because of Grace [remember that horrible
thing of Genesis 3:16 where everyone wanted to be the 'boss'] that is being
described and it continues to be described in chapter 6 of children to parents
[a different word is used here] and slaves to their masters.

They were to choose to serve in a different way. From the heart as to the
Lord. The masters were to do likewise to the slaves.Of course there were those
in charge as the parents were of the children [that's why the different word]
and masters were of their slaves.

But, notice, there is a lesser inherent condition where one is in charge of
another because of some unique lacking such as the maturity of children or the
non-freedom of the slaves. If men are to be in charge of women in the
family, what is it that is lacking in the female that makes male authority inherently needed?

There is none.

And in Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3 [or Genesis 1 and 2 for that matter]
there is none indicated. It took the fall for the problem of lording it over to
arise as reflected in fallen cultures. No ruling or authority meant here at all.
It is serving that is at issue here. Not "authority."

The problem seems to stem from the meaning of the word "head" in this
passage. It isn't speaking of "rule" or "authority." It is speaking of
origination or source. If ruling or authority had been intended, the word
[remember His revelation was given in that Greco/Roman culture not ours] "arche"
[archon-Rom 13:3] meaning leader or ruler would have been used. Or even the word
"exousea." [Rom 13:1-2] meaning "authority" would have said it. But the word is,
indeed, "kephale." It meant to them the origination or source. [As God is to
Christ and Christ is to the Church and the man is to the woman.]

In fact, it's interesting to me the scriptures never declare the man to be
the "head" of the family but the wife only. Both husband and wife are the source
[head in the Greek way of thinking] of that family of the New Covenant. But had
the "authority" or "rule" of Christ of the Church or the husband of the wife
been intended other language would have been used. As, for example, in
scripture, [because of their culture understanding it this way] to "rule," the
feet are used metaphorically. "To be put under [some one's] feet." What did
"head" mean to them? As I said...origination or source.

A side note of interest. In Colossians 2:10 we are told [told to all
christians] "In Him you have been made complete and He is the head over all rule
and authority." In verse 15 it is pointed out He, by His Cross work, has
"disarmed all rulers and authorities." So...we are to not allow ourselves to be
judged [a standard set and deemed violated by another] concerning food, drink,
new moons sabbaths or such because, as verse 19 says, all of us are connected to
the Head. [Christ] It is not saying He's the authority over all authorities or
rulers. [Though He certainly is.] It's saying He is the source of all
Authorities that exist. Now He has disarmed all and is the only source [head] of
life, nourishment, [rule and authority too for that matter reversing that
Genesis 3:16 mess] for all His people in the New Covenant established on Grace
in Christ.

It is true that redeemed Christians are living in a fallen culture with
established "rulers" authorities" and will until He returns and are to obey
[serve] them. But it is inside out. It is a heart issue for us. Were we to
operate the Church or family that way, [with rulers or authorities by virtue of
position] we would be bringing our fallen culture into the meaning of scripture
and not be letting scripture alone be our guide. You can see, I'm sure, that I
do not believe the scriptures support a patriarchial approach to the family at
all. You have to bring fallen culture in as a foundation for that kind of view.
The sufficiency of the scripture is where I believe we ought to stand. Where
Christ is our Head [source] AND Lord. [BossThat brings me to say this in
conclusion. The cultural context in which the scriptures were inspired used
language with their meaning not ours.

I've said this ad-nauseam. To us, "head" means "boss" or "leader" or "one
in charge." Not to them. It meant origination or source. It is trying to
interpret the text with our cultural connotations rather than the original
connotation of their language that gets us into hot water with the intended
meaning of scripture, it seems to me.

[A final aside. I've read where someone said, though I can't remember who
or where at the moment, that Aristotle believed the head was the source of male
sperm and it traveled down the spine to the genitals. Plato believed the head
was the seat of the soul which was, in his mind, a seed itself. He often used
'Kephale' to refer to the beginning of a story. Athena is said to have come from
her father's [Zeus] head. No wonder Paul would use 'head' the way he did. It had
the meaning of "source" to them and that WAS the truth God was speaking. Culture
does impact scripture but let's be sure we know how, why, and which one is doing
the impacting.]

This post comes from The VTMbottomline Blog, and is reposted with permission from the author, Paul Burleson. I'm looking forward to the discussion in the comments box.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Musings After an (unwanted) C/E Debate: The Art of Un-Warfare

I am a part of an email group made up of mothers of many young children and have been for many years. It's a Christian group and, for the most part, fairly conservative--at least, the vocal ones are. Since I have five young children, a resource like this group can be nice, even though five kids is a fairly small family there. Usually, life with my "small" family keeps me too busy to even bother to read through the email digest, but every so often I will, and, once in a while, I will write a post to send in.

Recently, this group was talking about how adult children, especially daughters, are Biblically commanded to stay home until and/or if they become married. Mothers were being encouraged to train their daughters that way, etc, and to beware the dangerous world of feminism. So I wrote a post of polite dissent, using many passages of Scripture to explain my position and mentioning some of the many women in Scripture who did not "home-keep," such as the women who travelled with Jesus, or Phoebe, who Paul had deliver the letter to the Romans.

Many women emailed me to tell me thank you, to let me know that the group has many who are not ultra-conservative and that it's nice to hear dissenting voices. But one woman emailed me more than a few times, letting me know, in that lovely "righteous anger" that we Christians can use so well, that because I disagreed with her position, I was obviously not a student of God's Word, was relativistic, my words were poisonous and she wouldn't read them (though she must have read enough to let me know how horrifically wrong I was), and that I obviously didn't believe Scripture at all.

She closed her final letters, of course, by letting me know she'd be praying for me (you know, that warm "Christian" way of sticking a knife in your rib) and, well, that was that.

What bothered me was the complete lack of logic employed in her responses. She couldn't hear anything I said---and, for that matter, didn't appear to be trying to. She'd formed her interpretational grid and it was water-tight. Not only was it infallible, but it had to be protected: it was dangerous to even listen to any other arguments. She wrote claiming she wanted conversation and asking me to answer a few questions, but it turned out conversation was the last thing we had. People can't have a conversation when one side has their fingers in their ears and then, despite the fact that they openly tell you they will not listen to the answers you gave to their questions, proceed to tell you exactly what you think and why, resorting to personal jabs while doing so.

Urgh. It got me thinking about how dumb we all can be. I was on the receiving end of a wildly whacking combatant (though I didn't even want a fight!), and yet I can think of many times when I did the exact same thing. Did it for God, no less! That was back when my theology was something I had to protect against any dissenting opinions, back when my beliefs about gender were part and parcel with the Gospel, back when I thought our normal/resting position was to be ready to fight instead of ready to embrace.

Good grief. I hope I have matured and I hope I will continue to do so (by the sheer grace of our holy God). I admit, I had the urge to take a stick and whop this particular writer a few times. She said some vicious things about my heart, making huge assumptions about what I must be like all because I did not agree with her. She employed no reasoning skills whatsoever. When it came to listening skills, it was like talking to a stump. And she was so mean! I at least wanted her to know how wrong she was for doing that.

But why? Because I care about what she thinks about me? I'd love to pretend like I was hurt and wounded but, uh, no. I don't even know this woman. What do I care what she thinks? Do you want to know why I wanted her to know she was wrong in her approach? Mainly because I want to have the last word. I want to end the little flurry with the feeling of having thrown the last knife. Which means I'm no different from the attacker. Whether she was right or wrong, she violated what it means to walk in the Spirit by the way she treated me. And I did the exact same back to her.

So what is more important---to be "right" in intellectual belief, or to live rightly? When Jesus was dividing the sheep and the goats, He seemed to think that those who "got" the Gospel---those who showed it by serving the underdog's of the world---were the ones who knew Him, not the ones who knew about Him. Ouch. Knowing about Him (and ramming that down dissenters throats) is a heck of a lot easier.

Sometimes things that the complementarian/patriarchy camp says make my stomach lurch. This isn't their fault: it's just where I'm at. I've had a really bad experience living in the C world. I came out with something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder, if that makes any sense. My health is just now pulling itself back together, slowly, in pieces. Sometimes I read a C statement and I want to fire out comments or posts---and do---from that place of adrenalin-fueled reactionary instinct, like a missile gun seeing an enemy and shooting accordingly.

But I am a Christian. Far higher than gender roles (or lack thereof) is the "role" given to all followers of Christ: we are called to walk by the Spirit, to live by the Spirit, to be taught by the Spirit. Like the womb of a fertile woman, I am designed to bear the Spirit's fruit. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Self-control. There is no law against such as these, because the world cannot ever have enough of such things.

But those things go against most of my natural inclinations. They must be born in me through Him, because this branch will naturally wither up on it's own. Far higher than the law of my warring members, which want to stab and thrust and parry (or run and hide, or scoff and criticize, etc), is the Law of God, the Law that says Love sums up the law.

I must give the benefit of the doubt to those I am speaking with: that they love God as much as I do, that they have the right to interpret Scripture differently than I do, and that calling them names or assuming evil motives on their interpretational choices is sheer folly on my part. And sometimes, in order to help me do that, I must remember what it feels like to not be heard, to have assumptions made about my heart all because I disagree, to be put into a box and sealed up. It doesn't feel good. It's not what we were born to be. It's not what I was born to do. Though I do it far too often. Conversation is only conversation in so far as two people are actually taking the time to listen to eachother. I know that I could stand to do a much better job of that.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Structure of Authority: Heirarchal vs Networked and It's Influence on Our Intrepretation of Gender Roles

Resonate writer, Len Hjalmarson, recently mused on the Evolution of Heirarchy, discussing how factors like access to technology and information are forcing us to change the way we think of authority structures. No longer do we live in a world where only one person knows what to do----now many people have access to facts that help one decide what decisions should be made and how.

The human world was once a fairly unconnected place and the way "things were run" reflected that. For example, the Old Testament nation of Israel longed for a king, as opposed to the more recent instance in the United States, where "getting a king" was purposely and passionately avoided. The more fluid our communities become, the more we find heirarchal authority structures struggling to fit. Hjalmarson writes

There is paradigmatic shift occurring. Hierarchy limits options because it
limits connectivity, and we live in an connected world. Information that has to
flow from the top down through rigidly defined chains has limited effect.
Information that is randomly distributed and readily available creates
collaboration. These more open structures are by nature empowering and generate
change that works from the bottom up as well as from the top down. And change
and transformation and inclusion are implicit in body life.

Boundaries in traditional settings are used to determine who is in and who
is out. In new communities boundaries are not protective walls but are porous
and become meeting places. In living systems boundaries are where information is
exchanged and new relationships take form. Boundaries .. edges.. are the places
of emergence and the frontier for engagement.

The article compares the New Testament picture of Body life, as expressed in passages like Ephesians 4, with the way the world is transitioning away from heirarchal structures and into more fluid networked bodies.

The networked church has more in common with the life we see in the book of
Acts than does the hierarchical church.

William Bridges writes,“Networked technology takes power from the head of
an organization and distributes it to the hands.”This practice can be tainted
with paternalism. Empowering does not mean giving power to people who had none,
but rather recognizing and freeing the power that is there. When we are “in
Christ” we are already empowered, but frequently our structures have impeded
rather than invited the participation of the gifted community and have thus
constrained the Holy Spirit and limited growth.

How does the above fit within the distinctly different egalitarian and complementarian frameworks, if at all? Is the movement away from heirarchy the result of human rebellion or is it a move into a more sane and beneficial way of organizing social groups? Is a complementarian able to agree with the above perspectives and still be a staunch complementarian, and/or is an egalitarian unable to approve of heirarchal organizational structures at all? And how much of our underlying assumption of what "good authority" looks like (be it heirarchal, fluid, or otherwise) color our interpretation of what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 5 and other similar passages?