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The Power of Words

In the last issue of Mutuality we asked a critical question—why does it take so long for certain truths to become part of everyday life? For example, the Royal Navy knew for decades that drinking citrus juice would eliminate scurvy, saving the lives of thousands—yet no one adopted the behavior. Even after watching sailors recover within hours of consuming citrus products, few changed their behavior. Why is this?

In 1997 CBE celebrated its tenth anniversary. Many within the CBE community wondered—if the Bible teaches the truth of biblical equality, if world-renowned Bible scholars like F.F. Bruce endorsed CBE’s Statement on Men, Women, and Biblical Equality, why, after ten years hasn’t the broadest spectrum within the church adopted the truths of biblical equality? Moreover, CBE has produced more scholarly materials on gender than any other group! We’ve established chapters around the world, held over seven International conferences, our website boasts hundreds of hits each week, and we’ve translated our Statement on Men, Women, and Biblical Equality into Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Norwegian, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish.

After much prayer and seeking, several gently suggested we consider communicating the truth of biblical equality in a way all people can understand. For you see, we’ve committed the same error as the Royal Navy. We’ve done our research, CBE materials represent the truth of the Bible, and we’re skilled at communicating these truths—but not to everyone.

So, thanks to our sisters and brothers at Willow Creek, we’re learning how to communicate biblical equality in plain English. In the next several issues of Mutuality we’ll take a look at the different methods of “diffusing” the truths of biblical equality to the broadest possible audience.

Step One...Eliminate Complexity!

“Complexity is the degree to which an innovation is perceived as relatively difficult to understand and use.”1 The higher the complexity, the lower the rate of adoption.

Perhaps you remember attending your first professional meeting, purchasing your first computer, or even going to church or Bible study for the first time. Highly technical language or jargon estranged many of us. Often, CBE meetings are perceived in this way—highly complex with respect to language, theology, grammar, Greek and Hebrew, and the like. And, too often we leave the discussion at this level.

Many view biblical equality as a very complex subject. Dialogue surrounding the “problem passages” often leads to technical and complicated theology, and complex principles related to linguistics. Many people are unable to go there with us. They lack the time or resources to study, and must rely on what their pastor tells them. How should we help? How can we make complex truths of the Bible understandable? How do we bring the discussion to a lay level, where everyone can access the truths of Galatians 3:28? Experts suggest...

❖ Eliminate jargon and technical language.

❖ Find ways of communicating the message at a lay level by using metaphors, multiple examples, modeling the message at every turn, and most importantly, by using personal stories. Use personal biography, such as “Here’s what becoming an egalitarian did for me, my marriage, my life.” Personal testimonies are perhaps the best way to overcome complexity.

❖ Some have already started. For example, Debbie Menken Gill has produced a fine series of tapes on this very topic—The Biblical, Liberated Women, The Biblical Basis for Women in Ministry, and Making Biblical Equality Accessible to the Person in the Pew. These fine tapes are available through CBE’s Book Service.

Communicate biblical equality by making it personal. Consider something like this: “There are many Bible passages that support egalitarian relationships, and Christians have and will probably argue this issue for years. BUT the Bible tells me to love my neighbor as myself, and to love my wife as Christ loved the Church. And I need to ask am I doing this? Is it loving for husbands to demand that their wives submit to them? In the face of love, as Christ loved, such behavior seems absurd!

Notes

  1. Everett Rogers, Diffusion of Innovation, Fourth Edition (New York: The Free Press 1995), p. 242.

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Barring women from using their God-given talents is an injustice that diminishes the gospel and its impact in the world. CBE International works to inspire and mobilize Christians with the Bible’s call for women and men to co-lead and co-serve as equals.

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