According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Friday, March 13, 2015

Confessions of an Egalitarian Complementarian


Confessions of an Egalitarian Complementarian

by Roger Olson
March 4, 2015

The topic is gender. It’s a minefield. Anyone who dares to step into it must be prepared to be injured. Especially in American academic institutions it’s a minefield. And it is a major point of division among evangelical Christians. I speak from within both contexts.

In academia we are in a time of recovery from rampant patriarchalism and that has led to some over reactions. Two trends are noticeable. First, any acknowledgement of real difference between the sexes—beyond biology and patriarchal oppression—is discouraged. One academic professional society requires facilities where it meets to make all restrooms unisex. Second, insofar as differences between males and females are acknowledged—beyond biology and patriarchal oppression—typically female modes of behavior are to be prioritized. No positive acknowledgment of typically male modes of behavior is permitted. These two trends are in some tension with each other, but both are easily observable in American academia and they filter out into the media, government and business.

Among evangelicals one is pressured to choose between being either “complementarian” or “egalitarian.” There is little room for middle ground or hybrids. Somewhat mimicking secular academic trends, many evangelical egalitarians shy away from any talk of interdependence between the sexes or of differences between them beyond biology and social conditioning. “Masculine” and “feminine” are only social constructions and nothing more. Any mention of innate differences between boys and girls beyond physiology is discouraged. The assumption is that “difference” inevitably leads to hierarchy (read “patriarchy”).

On the other hand, many evangelical complementarians insist that power differentials between males and females are rooted in revelation and the Trinity itself. “Male headship,” it is argued, does not mean male superiority but only divinely ordained male leadership. In reality, however, among evangelical complementarians, male headship always tends to flesh out as male domination and female submission.

I stand (sometimes alone) in a middle space, a liminal space (to use academic jargon), between egalitarianism and complementarianism. It’s often an uncomfortable space to inhabit. What this means is that:

  • Among academics I reject the radical minimizing of sex differences. I believe male-female difference is more than biology/physiology and social conditioning. I admit that identifying that difference is never easy, but I believe it is observable in tendencies of behavior well before hormonal influences can account for it. We are one humanity; our humanity is one. But difference does not mean inequality in any other area of human life; we celebrate difference and “otherness” (in academia). We can be and are one humanity in variety. And maleness and femaleness is one of the irreducible manifestation of that variety. It cannot and should not be obliterated by social engineering.
  • At the same time I stand together with feminists in opposing oppression based on sex or gender. Females should have every opportunity to fulfill their human giftedness including entrance to every level of leadership in every profession. (On the other hand I think professions commonly considered reserved for females ought to be opened without hindrances to males. If the profession of engineering would be improved by having more women engineers, then the profession of nursing would be improved by having more men nurses.)
  • Among evangelicals I stand with the egalitarians in affirming that women called by God to lead should be ordained and recognized as leaders at every level of religious organizations. I stand with egalitarians in affirming that husbands and wives should submit to each other in marriage and that both, together, should lead families. I have been a member of two churches pastored by women (and am now attending a third) and have many women students who will be pastors of churches. I work within a denomination whose executive leader is a woman. My wife is a deacon in our church. My wife and I have for forty plus years made all decisions in our marriage and family together. When we do not agree we do not act in any way that affects both. I do not claim “leadership” and neither does she—except together, as one.
  • On the other hand, I agree with complementarians that “manhood” and “womanhood” are rooted in creation and are not reducible to biology/physiology or social construction-conditioning. Although they overlap much (and there’s nothing wrong with that), manhood and womanhood, maleness and femaleness, masculinity and femininity, complement each other. Typically men need other men and they need women; typically women need other women and they need men. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” is not true. Woman is made for man as man is made for woman. The two need each other and complement each other. We should celebrate the difference and interdependence without creating or supporting hierarchy.
  • For example: A church for women only would be a travesty as would a church for men only (both exist). Children are best raised, when possible, by both a male and a female. If either a father or mother is not available the single parent should seek out a person of the other sex to co-parent with them (within appropriate boundaries, of course). Boys need both male and female teachers in schools, as do girls.

We need to overcome our polar oppositions and recognize both man and woman as uniquely gifted by God, equal in every way, interdependent, and yet really different ways of being human.