Friday, November 24, 2006

Change is Possible

A few days ago, Scot McKnight posted about an article written by respected theological Stan Gundry about Gundry's move from traditional (often called "complementarian") beliefs regarding gender roles (including, but not limited to, not allowing women to serve in ordained roles in the church) toward a more egalitarian theology (allowing women to hold any church position allowed to men). The article makes clear that this process did not occur in a vacuum, but as the result of years of questioning and prodding by Gundry's wife, herself a Christian to whom Biblical authority was of utmost importance.

The article is quite long, and worth checking out on its own, but one thing I found particularly interesting was the list of questions Gundry's wife had accumulated on this issue. Here's an edited sample:
• If women are not to be the leaders and teachers of men, how does one account for Deborah, Huldah, Phillip’s daughters, and Priscilla’s role in the instruction of Apollos?
• Why is it that Paul instructs women to be silent in one place and acknowledges with apparent approval that women publicly pray and prophesy in another?
• Doesn’t the prominence of women among the followers of Jesus and in the Pauline Epistles suggest something significantly more than women leading and teaching children and other women?
• How is it that in the church the benefits of Galatians 3:26-28 apply equally and in very tangible ways to men, Jews, Gentiles, slaves, and those who are free, but not to women?
• If a woman is to obey her husband, is she not responsible directly to God for her actions? Is he in effect a priest, an intermediary between her and God? Is she to submit and obey even when his instructions are morally wrong or contrary to her understanding of God’s desire for her?
• Aren’t husbands and wives to mutually submit to one another as all believers are to submit to one another, and how does this qualify the presumptive one-sided submission and obedience of wives to husbands?
• Are all women to submit to all men?
• Is the husband to be the leader of the home even if the wife has better leadership skills, or the husband is disabled, or the wife has greater spiritual insight and sensitivity?
• Just when does a boy become too old for a woman to legitimately continue to teach him, and if women really are not to teach men, isn’t it odd that women are allowed to teach them in their most formative years?
I'm not ignorant enough to assume that complementarians have no answers for these questions. In many cases, in fact, I've seen them. But I do think that this kind of questioning reveals the desire of a person who isn't just trying to "rebel" against traditional teaching. These questions come from someone honestly seeking to understand the whole of the Bible as it stands.

There was a recent debate hosted by Newsweek, featuring many Christian leaders on the topic of whether discussions between people who hold radically differing views (such as on the nature of truth, in the Newsweek thread) do any good. While some argue that discussion is indeed worthwhile, I have to admit that a lot of people seem so entrenched in their positions that dialogue often seems useless. I find it encouraging to see this kind of article posted once in a while. Perhaps Gundry's story is the exception, rather than the rule. Still, even these isolated stories have repurcussions, and I'm encouraged to see that change is possible.

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