Thursday, June 28, 2012

Evangelicalism and Complementarianism.

I have been meaning to write a blog post about the recent debates concerning complementarianism that have been surfacing in evangelicalism lately for the last six months or so. Truth be told, I've been at such a loss as to what I really wanted to say. There is so much to say that it seems it is one of those topics where one doesn't quite know where to even begin. This post is a modest and short attempt to voice some of my main concerns and grievances that surround the entire debate.

Over the past however many months (perhaps even years now), Rachel Evans has been attempting to respond to the complementarianism popular within certain conservative groups among evangelicals most notably found in the Gospel Coalition. Evans has written far too many posts to discuss. But she has consistently shown that complementarianism, based upon certain supposed biblical notions of authority and submission, is a direct result of patriarchy. While I deeply appreciate Evans continual and unwavering courage to shed light upon the misguided assumptions of complementarianism and want nothing more than to support her efforts and goals, I remain dissatisfied with the entire ethos of the debate. Here are just two of my concerns:

It needs to be said from the beginning that it is fundamentally wrong that the burden of proof, at least implicitly, is laid upon Evans by these complementarians to show how women are given the freedom in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be equal ministers to men in every way. The fact that Evans and women everywhere must continually defend and justify themselves as equal in Christ to serve in all roles inside of the Church and the home is simply demoralizing and humiliating. The reality that women must prove to these men that they should have the opportunity to preach the Gospel, administer the sacraments, and have a true partnership in marriage where submission is a mutual reality communicates to women that we are still not considered equal to men in Jesus Christ. Even after the repeated prophetic witness of Evans and countless other women, complementarians say that these women should realize their beliefs, concerns, and convictions about their full equality to men in the Gospel are utterly misguided. Why aren't more individuals speaking out about the utter scandal that this debate is even occurring in the first place?

Second, I grieve that egalitarians continue to play the same methodological game as complementarians. I fully support the understanding that the biblical witness serves as a methodological authority in the theological task. But is the best that we can do for women is to mine the Scriptures for all the instances where women are discussed in order to show that these examples are proof that women are fully equal to men in Jesus Christ? Is the best that can be done is that there was this female leader here once and then this female apostle here? Is that what our arguments about half of humanity are reduced to? Is the best that the Church can offer to women the reality that the Holy Spirit in Hebrew is a feminine word? Are these arguments really where we really want to invest our support for the full inclusion of women in the ministry of the Gospel? To me, it seems that evangelicalism has failed to take this opportunity to think anew about what it means that in Jesus Christ, there is no male and female. All humanity is one in Jesus Christ. What would it mean to begin thinking christologically about these issues? What would it mean to ponder the radical message of the Gospel that in Jesus Christ, there is now no distinction between any persons? What would it mean to understand these distinctions as belonging to the old cosmos that has been crucified in Jesus Christ? It seems that only when evangelical women begin to think only in terms of Jesus Christ when discussing these issues can we even begin to have the chance to receive the radical freedom that the Gospel brings by the grace of God to all persons regardless of gender.