Focus on differences and seek common ground

Following up on Monday’s post, I want to encourage us to sharpen our discussions by focusing on the areas of difference and seeking common ground.

Whether or not women are created in the image of God should not be an area of disagreement. Whether or not women have value for God should not be an area of disagreement. Whether or not Jesus treated women with honor and respect should not be an area of disagreement.

Those are basic things, but surprisingly, I still hear them being discussed.

In the same way, showing that Jesus empowered women to take a more active role in the faith community shouldn’t be an area of discussion. First century Judaism could be very restrictive toward women; it would have been surprising had Jesus NOT challenged some of those norms.

There may be room for another article noting that Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, that women formed part of the company of disciples, that women play a major role in the genealogy in Matthew 1, that women were tasked with sharing the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. These are important lessons. They don’t change the discussion about whether or not women can be elders. They don’t provide a basis for women to preach. Mention these facts in a discussion, but don’t pretend to play them as a trump card.

Some have claimed that Jesus was more inclusive than Paul, that it is only Paul’s writings that limit women in their participation in church leadership. I disagree. I think that both valued women, both enabled women to have active ministries, both rejected misogynistic attitudes in society. Neither drastically changed the biblical principle of male leadership.

If you want to convince me that they did, please don’t try to do so by repeating examples that emphasize things I already agree with:

  • Women preached. They did, though the examples show them preaching in the typical New Testament sense of the word, which is telling others the good news. Unless you have something that shows a woman doing what is done in our Sunday assemblies, examples of women teaching others in private settings aren’t helpful to the discussion.
  • Women prophesied. They did. Before Jesus. After Jesus. The Jews didn’t see the existence of prophetesses as changing anything regarding male leadership. If you do, you need to do more than provide the examples.
  • Women had important ministries in the church. Yes. Yes they did. Yes they do, even when they aren’t on the eldership.

I’ll add one more thing. I think there has been a lot of bad teaching that limits what women can do. There are lots of bad attitudes; for example, I reject the way John MacArthur spoke about Beth Moore. Examples of complementarians acting badly won’t change my views, any more than my providing examples of misbehaving egalitarians should change yours.

To conclude, I’ll restate my position just to help you see my biases: I believe in male leadership in the church. I believe that leadership can be expressed in different ways in different cultures. I also believe that members of the Church of Christ have often restricted women in ways that don’t line up with what I see in the Bible. (I mention some examples in this post)

I look forward to your comments.

2 thoughts on “Focus on differences and seek common ground

  1. Nick Gill

    I wish that, for sake of discussion, that you would (especially in summary-of-position posts like this) not only repeat your biases but also repeat those ways you seem to differ from mainstream complementarian thinking:

    You believe the NT authorizes both males and females to pray and read scripture for the assembly.

    You believe ‘keep silent’ in 1 Cor 14 is addressing a Corinthian issue of competition and disrespect rather than setting a universal precedent for gender relations.

    You believe the NT church establishes deaconesses as a meaningful role for the church.

    I think it helps the conversation be more balanced and less combative if you repeat more than just the positions that one group finds troubling :)

  2. Tim Archer Post author

    The link to the other post wasn’t good enough, huh?

    I’m coming to see that there are a lot of complementarians that hold views similar to mine. And lots more diversity within complementarians than many people seem to realize.

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