Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Upside Down God (An Egalitarian Muses)

The complementarian John Piper says (in his book, What's the Difference) that the essence of femininity is to affirm, respect and follow the leadership of a man. This means that as a female, Piper believes I find my femininity only in so far as I affirm that godly men, as opposed to godly women, are my leaders---and that I encourage and support them as such.

Another way to think about it might be to say that because I do not affirm Piper's model, Piper does not believe I am feminine. If Piper's opinion mattered to me, I might find that a bit offensive. Ha.

The egalitarian model rightly affirms that men and women are complementary, yet also, and rightly (in my opinion), does not spend a lot of time laying out how and when and where those complementary features lie. This is because men and women are firstly humans, a name for creatures infinitely diverse and unique in and of themselves, gender notwithstanding.

But women are certainly different from men, even if only in terms of body parts. Women have sexual organs that men don't have, and vice versa. Most of us believe there are more differences between the sexes than merely uterus and testes, but this student would like to know how to tell which differences are culturally derived definitions of "true" manhood and womanhood and which differences are actually hard-wired traits?

Many historically American held "gender differences," for example, have proven to have more basis in popular stereotype than fact. The idea that women talk more than men do, for example, has been proven inaccurate. The Victorians accepted the "fact" that women were easily frightened creatures and wont to fainting spells, but that had everything to do with tight corsets restricting airways than it did women actually fainting due to legitimate female gender differences. (This article from the BBC news scientifically explains the 78 genetic differences---funny).

Perhaps another top reason that egalitarians tend to shy away from forming a checklist of gender differences is because we've seen differences between the sexes used to bolster the idea that men should be in charge of women. One recent blog post seemed to suggest that because a husband was more likely than a wife to fend off a burglar, the husband is obviously designed to be in charge of the wife. Yet these reasons often fall flat, because the same sort of reasoning can be used to shoot male leadership in the foot.

My husband, who has plenty of hair on his chest, fights residence and forest fires with the Emergency Services team, and who's known for his throaty male cries at sporting events, shrieked like a baby last week when a bat flew overhead in our living room. While he cowered in a doorway, I jumped up with glee (having always wanted to see a live bat up close) trapped the bat in a glass dish and expressed true sorrow that the children were asleep and therefore missing such a rich opportunity to observe a wild Alaskan bat.

Does this prove that I was designed by God to lead our home? Or does it just prove that Jeff and I are human beings, having both innate and environmentally derived differences, unique yet also complementary to each other, as all humans are? Does being different prove authority? Or does being different just prove that...well, we're different.

Consider the fact that women tend to be more global thinkers, generally able to consider multiple sources of information at once and to think and reason from a broader interconnected place than most men. This fact clearly proves that women should lead men. Or perhaps the fact that girls tend to speak earlier than little boys do. Aha. Another proof that women were designed to rule. No? Seems silly, doesn't it---almost embarrassing for me to type. Stating one way that men and women often differ is simply stating a generality---in no way does it "prove" that anyone should rule over anyone else.

For those scratching their heads, let me try and explain. This egalitarian tends to think that in the community of God, everything gets turned on it's head. For many who view the Scriptures like me, it's those who walk in the fruit of the Spirit who are spiritual "leaders," for in God's economy, rank, social status, appearance, education and other worldly avenues of authority aren't acceptable tokens for true spiritual leadership.

Some egalitarians, myself included, feel that the males in New Testament times, having much more power than the females, were being instructed by Paul to love their wives as their own selves: ie, even though your social structure gives you the power to command obedience, consider whether or not you would want to be in her shoes and how you would want to be treated, and then love her accordingly. This is the way of Christ. The world's strong stood on the backs of the weak and still do to this day. Christ, the strongest of all, went straight for the weak and lifted them up, despite the horrified gasps of those in power around Him.

Just as Paul didn't command Philemon to release Onesimus, but hinted rather strongly that Onesimus was now Philemon's brother and a co-equal heir in God's sight (See Philemon), so Paul did not command husbands to release wives from their legal position of submission. But he did command husbands to think of their wives in the same way that they think of themselves, "as your own body." Paul commanded Christian husbands to love their wives in the way that the Jesus he describes (in that same letter to the Ephesians) loves His bride: giving all for her, giving her His identity, raising her up to His level to rule with Him.

Who is this Jesus who turns everything upside down?

In the worldly system, leaders lead in order to lead. Those in power like to stay in power, because that means they get what they want, they get to do things their way, get to be on top. But in God's economy, those in power use their power to come under. The biggest leader is the biggest server, and vice versa. Leaders lead that they might help others become leaders.

The complementarian Piper appears to define the feminine women as those happily under the authority, in one way or another, of masculine men. In other words, from birth all the way to death. She will never mature out of that place, by virtue of her gender. But for most egalitarians, spiritual authority exists that those being led might be brought into maturity (Eph. 4:11-13). Those who have power are to use their power to bring others up to where they are. Yes, this is upside-down thinking, compared to what goes on in the world. But that is what the One we follow has done.

"But God, rich in mercy, for the great love He bore us, brought us to life with
Christ even when we were dead in our sins; it is by His grace you are
saved. And in union with Christ Jesus He raised us up and enthroned us
with Him in the heavenly realms
, so that He might display in the ages to come
how immense are the resources of His grace..." ---Ephesians 2:4-7a TNEB