Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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


Friday, June 27, 2008

Complementarian Bruce Ware: Women Recieve Salvation By Faith Through Works, and More

Does Dr. Bruce Ware Accurately Represent
the Way that Jesus Thinks of Women?
Dr. Ware, member of the complementarian group CBMW's council and professor of theology at SBTS, has made waves with a recent sermon he gave. While some complementarians are outraged, Ware's sermon is being hailed by others, like Denny Burk, associate professor at Criswell, as,

"...one of the finest, most succinct presentations of the Complementarian point of
view that I have ever heard.

[Read the full post here, comments section is long, but certainly interesting, including many female complementarians voicing disagreement with Burk and Ware].

To this amateur theologian, I wonder why Ware's sermon doesn't trouble Christ-followers on many fronts. This post deals with what I see to be two of the most disturbing, two points that I imagine those from both complementarian and egalitarian camps may be able to agree are of concern:

Ware: Male Abuse Is Often a Response to Female Disobedience

Ware said that one reason men abuse their wives is because wives do not respect male authority. To quote from Ware's sermon,

"And husbands on their parts, because they're sinners, now respond to that threat
to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways
men can respond when their authority is challenged--or, more commonly, to become
passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as
men in their homes and in churches..."

Ware believes that sin, for a woman, is not obeying her husband. According to Ware, a husband's abusive behaviour often stems from a natural outrage at the woman's insubordination. Though Ware says he does not agree with abuse as a proper way to handle conflict, he is authoritatively teaching that male abuse often arises as a response to the female's "sin" of not being submissive to the male. His teaching seems to imply that the worse sin is female insubordination.

Commenting on selected passages from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ware said Eve's curse in the Garden of Eden meant "her desire will be to have her way" instead of her obeying her husband, "because she's a sinner." [quoted from the Ethics Daily
article, here

Considering we claim to follow a God who talks about the righteous being those who help the weak (from being abused by the strong), this teaching of Ware's seems to be more in line with the reason many Muslim women are covered from head to toe. In the Taliban's estimation, the women incite the men to sin---the man's sin is a lesser offense, and if we can get the women in line, the men will sin less---therefore women are required to wear burqas. Though it is certainly different in some ways from Taliban-esque thinking, Ware's logical construct for explaining the rational behind much of male abuse is sorrowfully not.
A blog post by a former Complegalitarian writer, further discussing concerns with Ware's comments about abused women, is here.

Ware: A Woman's Salvation Comes By Faith Through Her Obedient Womb

At this point many readers familiar with abused/abuser dynamics might be wondering what could possibly be more disturbing than Ware's comments about why many men abuse. Well, this. In his sermon, Ware essentially preaches a doctrine of salvation by faith through works for women. If Ware is correct, it appears that a woman's salvation hinges upon her active acceptance of complementarian gender roles. Quoting again from the Ethics Daily article,
Ware also touched on a verse from First Timothy saying that women "shall be saved in childbearing," by noting that the word translated as "saved" always refers to eternal salvation.

"It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God's ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as--for the most part, generally this is true--as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man's position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men," Ware said. "Rather than wanting that, she accepts and embraces who she is as woman, because she knows God and she knows his ways are right and good, so she is marked as a Christian by her submission to God and in that her acceptance of God's design for her as a woman."

Cindy Kinsman, who has spoken in the past her concerns with the rise of "hard" complementarian thought in the Southern Baptist church (and who was soundly criticised for it), voices concern about Ware's recent sermon, saying,

For women, interpreting I Timothy 2:15 in the manner Ware describes (apart from
the full context of the verse, even withstanding previous complemenarian
teachings) argues that God mediates salvation to women differently, through
certain works in combination with faith.

In Closing

That Ware spoke at a large much-lauded conservative church is troubling. That he is praised for "rightly and clearly representing complementarian doctrine" is more troubling. I will admit, after wading through all of these posts, to sitting here with a heavy heart. If this is not an adequate representation of complementarian doctrine for you, and if you live in circles where Ware is considered an authoritative leader, please make your voice heard.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Complementarians: Answers to These Concerns?

Sam at Unrelated Ramblings recently posed some critisicm to complementarian thought (please read the full post here).

To sum them up in my own words, his two main thoughts are:

1. What purpose does it serve to have women as inferiors in a spiritual/church/home hierarchy when they appear to be quite capable of leadership in every other area?

2. Upon deciding on hierarchal gender roles, doesn't the then required "practical details" list (regarding the specifics of what women can and can't do in the church and home) seem a little more like the old covenant and less like the new?

When I was a complementarian, my answer to the first question would have been that it doesn't matter if women are or are not capable---that's not the point. The point is that Christ and His Church must be exemplified in our lives. That we may have to sublimate parts of ourselves in order to do that is a small sacrifice compared to what He did for us. God's word is to be obeyed, when we feel like it and when we don't, and the Bible clearly says that women are not to be leaders in the home or the church. Whether or not it "makes sense" from our vantage point is beside the point.

My former answer to the second comment would have been that it only feels like "law" if you don't grasp the liberating spirit of it.

My answer now to Sam's post is something along the lines of, "Good post, brother." I think the criticisms are valid points worth talking about, primarily because I think that the complementarian interpretation of Scripture is one optional interpretation, not the only one, therefore questions like Sam's have a lot to do with how a person like myself gauges which interpretations are more likely to be accurate. It's an interesting thing---looking at optional interpretations and judging them. Worth discussing.

Also, especially in the interest of fairness, it would be nice to hear other complementarian responses to Sam's questions besides the ones I imagined myself giving. Thoughts?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

1 Peter 3: 1-8 (Complementarian and Egalitarian Interpretation)

1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives,

2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

3Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;

4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;

6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

7You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

8To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;

9not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

How does this passage inform or effect your faith-and-gender framework?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Are Women Allowed To Teach Men?

Today's post at the christian feminism blog is titled Are Women Allowed To Teach Men? The post raises a number of questions:
Does this verse [1 Tim. 2:12] bar women from not only teaching the scripture to men, but from holding ANY teaching position in which they would instruct men? Should christian women be forbidden from becoming college professors at co-ed universities? Or public speakers? Should they be judges, senators, governors, or hold other political offices? Should christian women hire male employees if they run their own businesses? Extreme complementarians would assert that christian men should NEVER put themselves under a woman’s authority in any setting: church, home, business, school, and so forth and that christian women should never aspire to obtain any position in the church, home, and business, political, and educational realms that would make them the “boss,” “expert,” “teacher,” “instructor,” or “leader” over men.
On the other hand, more moderate-complementarians claim this verse only applies to church and home. So, a woman may teach a man math or history in a college class, but cannot teach on scripture in a co-ed adult bible class. She may “share” a testimony or encouraging word, but cannot teach, pontificate, or expound upon the Bible. A woman may have authority over her male students or employees, but never in the church. In the church, she may never hold any position other than backup singer, nursery worker, or jobs ministries made up solely of women and children.
If you are interested in this topic, read other posts in the series on that blog. And feel free to comment here or on at blog.

HT: JK Gayle