Thursday, May 9, 2013

More about Women

In my post the other day (here), I just kind of snickered at the position John Piper takes on the role of women.  The position is obviously deserving of more careful engagement.  I don't have the inclination to do that myself, but I'll tell a story and then point to two others who have written more seriously about the topic.

The story has played itself out more than once and so I'll speak in generalities to protect the guilty.  I used to be involved in interviewing lots of people for jobs.  And given that hiring at a place like my institution has a faith/doctrinal component, questions would come up about topics that not all Christians agree on.  Sometimes that was the role of women.  Whenever that came up and the interviewee espoused the hierarchical/complementarian position advocated by Piper and his ilk, I'd ask why he or she held to that position.  Invariably the answer was "1 Timothy 3 clearly says that the overseers (or bishops or elders or senior pastors?) must be men."  Leaving aside the numerous counterexamples to the implied premise that "If the Bible clearly says something, we must do it or believe it" (e.g., Deut. 21:18-21, Mathew 5:29, 1 Peter 5:14), it is easy enough to expose the faulty thinking with their selective interpretation of that passage itself.  I ask, "So, can single men be elders?"  Because the passage clearly says that these overseers must be married.  "Can they be married without children?"  Because the passage clearly says that they have children.  "What if they only have one child?"  Because the passage clearly refers to children in the plural.  The most recent time this story played itself out, the interviewee (who was quite theologically sophisticated) responded with a somewhat nonplussed, "I've never thought of that."

Now just like other passages of scripture we ignore in their literal sense, there are reasons that can be given for why we should only take the maleness of 1 Tim. 3 as important.  The question is whether those are good reasons or not.  Here are couple of Baylor graduate students who have recently engaged the issue.

Rachel Pietka is a grad student in English and responds directly to Piper's podcast from a few weeks ago.  She wrote a blog post on the Christianity Today "Her-Meneutics" portal about why Piper's position reduces to his problems with the female body.  You can find it (the blog, not the female body) here.

And a doctoral student in theology at Baylor, and a figure known to many of the readers of this blog, David C. Cramer has just recently had a paper published called "Assessing Hierarchist Logic: Is Egalitarianism Really on a Slippery Slope."  You can find a copy of it here.  It has received significant attention in the blogosphere because of an entry yesterday on Scot McKnight's very popular blog (here), which McKnight concludes with these words: "For those with a mind to listen, this will be a landmark article demolishing the logic of one man’s attempt to right the ship."  I'm particularly proud of this landmark article and its use of careful logical thinking, because I taught the author logic in his undergraduate education!  (though if truth be told, I suspect that logical insight is more a function of nature than the nurture that comes from a couple of undergraduate courses).

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