Many contemporary evangelical Bible scholars and theologians, not to mention ordinary lay men and women, are convinced that attempts to use the Bible so as to exclude women from positions of leadership for which their Creator has made them and to which their Lord as called them – whether in society, home or church – is flawed.
It is interesting to see how many times the word “all” occurs in the opening verses of the book of Acts. After identifying those who were included in the early followers of Jesus in the first chapter of Acts, we read in verse 14, “They all joined together constantly in prayer.”
We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God's revealed truth in the authoritative Scripture. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences, first as a teenager, then as a student in Germany. More recently, I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been disempowered and marginalized in the church and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord's will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary, although I do not like using the broad term feminist. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority).
Inerrancy is a doctrinal position, a conviction regarding the nature of the Bible. A belief in the equality of male and female, on the other hand, is a matter of the interpretation of the Bible, hermeneutics: “The place of women in the Bible is an interpretive, hermeneutical question. It is not an inerrancy question.”
Part 1 of a 3-part series, presented here, focuses on the radical redefinition of authority Jesus taught and set in motion for his church; it considers the complementarians’ circuitous idea of gender authority.
In recent decades, traditionalists have dug for deeper roots in search of a viable biblical theology on which to support their superstructure of hierarchy. What has emerged instead in contemporary complementarianism is a sociocultural and extrabiblical “theology of roles.” It is this to which we will direct our critique.
There are six evident restrictions on authority that Christ the Head authorized and that apostolic missionaries set in motion in the New Testament house churches. These biblical boundaries of authority (exousia) unveil the extent to which complementarians practice masculine domination among God’s people.
For many of us, our unease with the traditional position has nothing to do with being swayed by modern liberation movements; rather, our unease is a response to the weaknesses within the traditional position itself. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:15, I hope the critical comments I offer can become part of a conversation to examine whether, on this topic, our church has correctly handled the Word of Truth.
The introduction of the word “submission” into a Christian conversation about adult human relations immediately strikes different responses. For some Christians, submission is a happy word describing the proper biblical relation of a wife to her husband or of a woman, whether married or single, to the males in the church congregation.
No longer is it thought that the Trinity is an obtuse, secondary, and impractical dogma. Today theologians are generally agreed that this doctrine is foundational to the Christian faith because it articulates what is most distinctive in the biblical revelation of God—he is triune.