A post about gender differences in the church doesn’t really have a place in a series on baptism. Just as a talk about gender and the church doesn’t really fit a Bible lectureship about baptism and the Lord’s Supper. That’s how I see it. But not everyone shares my opinion.
The recent Pepperdine lectures were built around themes from John Mark Hick’s new book on baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I’ve read previous works by John Mark on these subjects, so I imagine this one should be excellent. Jarrod Robinson was invited to speak on Galatians 3:26-28 and titled his talk “Our Baptismal Vows.” He gave a talk that has garnered much attention, emphasizing his beliefs that there are no differences between what men and women can do in the church.
Personally I feel that Jarrod was set up to fail. Not that he didn’t give a very good talk. But his verse assignment pushed verse 28 to the forefront of the discussion. You either focus on the verse that discusses baptism or you expand your focus to include the whole paragraph. It’s either 3:26-27 or it’s 3:26-29. Otherwise, you’re turning what should be an exposition of Scripture into an agenda-driven talk. Which was what we got from Jarrod.
Not to say he didn’t do a good job. It was an effective talk. But it wasn’t Galatians 3.
(I should note that I raised these concerns in a group that John Mark Hicks is a part of. In response, he wrote a blog post on the subject. I think he’s reaching a bit to find a parallel between Joel and Galatians 3. It’s also hard to connect this reasoning with the topic under discussion in Galatians. But you can read his article and decide for yourself.)
The original hearers of the book of Galatians wouldn’t have heard the letter read and come away talking about 3:28. It’s a minor point in the letter. If anything, they would have discussed it in relation to their situation and the topic Paul was discussing… which was not about gender roles in the church (and was about whether or not believers had to be circumcised to be a part of the community of faith. Merely reading the verse with that in mind steers you in the proper direction)
Toward the end of his talk, Jarrod kept repeating the phrase: “We’re baptized believers. We’re better than this,” while discussing the limiting of the role of women in the church. An effective rhetorical device, but not one that leads to good examination of a text. I could say, “Let’s not just follow the whims of culture. We’re baptized believers. We’re better than this.” Good rhetorical device; less than helpful for improving understanding.
If you’d like to listen to Jarrod’s talk, you can see it on YouTube. Or search for it on iTunes.
I want to spend some time discussing this passage further before moving on to other passages on baptism (which is what we’ve been studying the last few weeks). I look forward to your comments, as always.