Most of the egalitarians I know were formerly complementarian, and their switch was not abrupt or flippant – but a slow and careful process – as they began to search the Scripture, study, and pray about it. Some of us are surprised at where we have ended up, never dreaming that egalitarian would be the outcome. I did an informal survey of egalitarians on twitter, and 73% were formerly comp, and 27% were always egal. It was a small sample (11, haha) but it matched my personal experience. I’d like to get a broader sampling! But… what is my point?
I frequently encounter complementarians who assume that an egalitarian must have no or little familiarity with complementarian arguments and concerns – or else how could they possibly be egalitarian? Uh, many of us used to be complementarian! We know the arguments. We lived complementarianism. In addition, anyone who goes through a paradigm change, knows it involves a great deal of personal wrestling with the issue.
The opposite scenario is much less common, that is, a lifelong egalitarian becoming complementarian. My point is that the typical complementarian does not have this personal background in the other perspective.
I also encounter too many complementarians who have not read egalitarian books and sources…first-hand at least. They may be well read, but their exposure is second-hand. Their familiarity with egalitarian arguments is only through reading complementarian books that critique egalitarian interpretation. How about reading original egalitarian sources? Instead of reading through the lens of someone who holds your own view, read through the lens of someone who actually holds the other view.
- To assume that an egalitarian has not read original complementarian sources is not a fair or typically accurate assumption.
- To assume that a complementarian has not read original egalitarian sources is a fair or typically accurate assumption.
(Note my use of typical. There are exceptions, I realize.)
I think some complementarians would be surprised by both the thoughtful concern and careful exegetical work of evangelicals, with a high view of Scripture, who arrive at egalitarian conclusions.
Note: evangelical with a high view of Scripture. Once in a certain setting, we had to read an excerpt from what was clearly a liberal feminist view, with a low view of Scripture, and that was used as the basis to shoot down any egalitarian interpretations. Grrrr. As an egalitarian, I disagreed with the excerpt too!
Are you familiar with the many solid Bible scholars who are egalitarian and endorse women in ministry? See a lengthy list here.
The point is NOT to throw around heavy-weight names to strengthen our viewpoint.
“See who is egalitarian! So there!”
That is not it!
You can find an expert to endorse just about anything anyways.
But as one person worded it, the point is this:
“Egalitarianism is NOT some strange, fringe theology for liberals who don’t take the Bible seriously. It is for people who take the Bible very seriously, indeed–too seriously to pay lip service to a theology that is widely accepted, but that they don’t believe lines up with the good news of Jesus Christ.”
I’m not sure my target audience will read this post, and if you are complementarian you could be an exception to some or all of the above. I don’t want to stereotype and make false assumptions about you, as I accuse you of making false assumptions about me.
But I’ve encountered these things enough to observe a pattern. And as the above quote indicates, we are accustomed to either outright accusation or subtle insinuation that we do not take the Bible seriously.
I can’t tell you how frustrating and actually…insulting…that is. For example, I have a MA in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a personal biblical and theological library that overwhelms most people who see my books. Yep, I definitely don’t take the Bible seriously. (Excuse my snark. I’ll move on…)
For anyone out there, I wanted to recommend a book that I am about 75% through. I read a lot, and you can think that there is no new light to be shed on an issue – it has all been said already, right? Wrong. I am pleasantly surprised by a recently released book, and the fresh insight it offers:
Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ by Cynthia Long Westfall, Baker Academic, 2016. Available on amazon.
Thanks to Marg at New Life who made me aware of this book. While Marg is not the author of a book, she has written many thoughtful articles on women in the church and home. She may be the most prolific informal writer out there on this issue! She is academic but writes in a way that is accessible to interested lay people. Thanks Marg for your ministry.