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.