I have (and always have had) egalitarian views of gender. I had very little exposure to Church as a child, and when I came into the Church, it was in the context of an egalitarian congregation. The pastor was even doing a doctorate on the subject of husband-wife pastoral teams. So the notion of complementarianism and “biblical manhood and womanhood” was something not even on my radar until much later. When I came across it, I wasn’t convinced. But more and more, it keeps coming up in conversations I have with colleagues and friends, and more and more, I have a very deep and real concern for the way the discussion is going regarding what the Bible says about men and women.
Recently I started reading through Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem). I knew going in I’d have much to object to. At the time of this post, I am roughly half way through, and I my hunch going in is already confirmed, and then some. It’s been a frustrating journey already. But it’s one I decided to do for very specific reasons: 1. I want to actually understand the arguments of those whose views differ from mine. 2. I would echo John Stott in affirming: “”The hallmark of authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh scrutiny, and if necessary reform.” I am willing to subject my own beliefs to the scrutiny of others. If I could be convinced from Scripture that a complementarian view of gender for marriage and the Church was in fact in line with the Biblical evidence, I would have to affirm that. I may have only read half the book, but the odds of that happening as a result of this collection are not too good. If anything, I have been encouraged and reaffirmed in my egalitarian views. 3. This book is held in high regard by many notable evangelical leaders, and many of my pastoral colleagues, so I want to see what the fuss is all about.
So, over the next few weeks/months, I’m going to put in writing my responses to this collection of essays (and I may even pull in some guest writers where appropriate). Yes, you read that right, I am going to blog through Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Since there’s a lot going on in each, I’ll stick to doing it essay by essay beginning with the first post coming soon on John Piper’s preface and introduction. But, since this is a sensitive issue for many, and there are some very, very strong opinion out there, I need to say some things before I ever get into the book itself. So, for the sake of full disclosure, some important ground rules, confessions, and setting the stage:
- I am using the original 1991 edition, mainly because it is provided free from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website. The book has been revised recently, and I’m not sure how much got changed. The page numbers and quotes will reflect the 1991 version in its pdf form, so if you’re fact checking on me, and using the more recent edition page numbers and wording may not line up.
- I am not shy about the fact that I am egalitarian. I am reading this book as an egalitarian. I will not (because I can’t) pretend to be an objective critic (if there is such a thing). Yes, I have a bias against this book from the get-go. That will be painfully obvious. Please don’t respond to me with the “oh, that’s just your bias speaking”. Everything in this series will be my bias speaking. I make no apologies for that.
- I will not attempt to review all of the book (it’s 26 chapters and 2 appendices coming in at a tad shy of 500 pages). I will mainly focus on the introductory sections and the exegetical sections (and I likely won’t do them in order either). The application stuff becomes a moot point if the exegesis draws faulty conclusions.
- I am under no illusion that I have the intellectual credibility to challenge biblical scholars (most, but not all, of the contributors I’ll be engaging with are professors with doctorates and long track records, and are highly esteemed academic theologians). Instead I am coming at these contributions from a specific angle. I am a pastor. My job is to preach the Gospel, teach the Scriptures, comfort the grieving, and equip the Saints for the ministry of reconciliation. I have graduate level theological training. I can (and do) do the hard work of exegeting and working to the greatest extent I can with the biblical texts in their original languages. I am no expert, but I can weigh multiple arguments from differing perspectives and decide for myself which is more credible. So I will rely heavily on scholars from the other side, whose arguments I find to have handled the evidence in a way which I find more satisfactory.
- I will make every attempt to as gracious as possible to the authors. They are fellow Christians, seeking to interpret and apply the Scriptures. I love my complementarian brothers and sisters. Some comments I make however will come out strongly. Some of the arguments I’ve already encountered are not only weak arguments, they are actually offensive. I will use caution and care, but will also speak honestly when I see an abuse of Scripture happening.
- I recognize that complementarians come in various shapes and sizes. I am not targeting complementarian views as a whole, but the specific arguments of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood expressed in this book. I am not painting all with the same brush, simply critique one set of arguments used by these authors.
That said, stay tuned. I look forward to hopefully generating some helpful conversation.