Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Men and women's roles: A mono-dialogue


BK: Welcome to the lair that is BK’s mind! Ignore the cobwebs and creaking sounds. They’re for uh, aesthetic purposes.

I went back and forth as to whether to start with 1 Tim 2:8-15 and go from there, but in the end I figured a top-down approach was better suited, not least because 1 Tim refers to Genesis, a key passage in the entire discussion.

I should say beforehand that if you’ve arrived at this post via google, please don’t take this to be exhaustive or definitive, as I am very much still pitching my tent on the slope known as the learning curve myself. At the same time, I obviously hope that I am mostly on the mark with my take on the two camps Christians generally find themselves in, and that everyone listening in around the campfire with little knowledge beforehand would have a better grasp of the issues involved by the end. This is so important as I think one of the reasons the two sides often talk past each other boils down to a failure to understand what the other actually believes.

Say hello to two fictional constructs of my mind, Alex and Casey. (Haha, maybe this way I can declare no liability). Alex and Casey?They tell me that the picture to your right is a good portrait of them, but I'm not so sure. What do you think? I shall declare beforehand that tentatively, my position is similar to the one held by Alex, and that I hope I don’t misrepresent Casey! Evangelical Christians have generally held one of these two positions regarding the role of women in ministry and family. So could you describe your respective stands?

Casey: Well, Alex is the hierarchicalist...

Alex: Hey, that makes me sound like some evil dictator with a harem of Carrie Fisher look-alikes! It’s complementarian, c-o-m-p-l-e-m-e-n-t-a-r-i-a-n. I’ll appreciate that, you evangelical feminist! And spell it right too!

Casey: Oh, and evangelical feminist isn’t any less pejorative? Do you think I burn bras and effigies of Tyson or something, except that I just call it spiritual warfare? I’m an egalitarian, which captures what I stand for much better, and doesn’t send out all the wrong signals like you just did, Jabba!

BK: *Ahem* do realise the vibes you both are sending is messing with my mind, don’t you?

Alex and Casey: Sorry.

Alex: I appreciate that you take the Bible just as seriously as I do, even if I don’t always think how you argue your case does it justice.

Casey: And I appreciate that you believe than men and women are equally made in the image of God, even if I think that you don’t always see the contradiction in the logic of your argument.

Alex: Fwiends?
Casey: Fwiends.

BK: Awww, Christian charity in action...but I’m afraid I have to interrupt the lovefest, folks. I hope that continues in this conversation though, so no cheap shots at each other! So now we know what you are. Apart from a shared love for Star Wars, how about you tell me what exactly a complementarian and an egalitarian believe?

Alex: I guess basically speaking, complementarians believe that God created men and women as equals in value and dignity as human persons, but with different gender-defined roles. Our different roles as head and helper complement each other, hence, complementarianism. These distinct roles do not indicate superiority for the man, but rather reflect the design of an infinitely wise Creator.

Casey: Egalitarians believe that men and women are equal not just in personhood, but in roles. Men and women are full equal partners in life, with similar opportunities in ministry and responsibilities in the family. We recognise men and women are different, but our gender shouldn’t really affect the role we play.

Alex: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). As Casey already mentioned above, we agree on this. Men and women both deserve to be treated as human beings fully. We shouldn’t treat each other as less than this.

BK: I see. And yet you differ. It seems to me that how you understand creation plays a big part in the divergence of paths. Is that fair?

Casey: Yep, so how I’ll read Genesis 1-3 would diverge from Alex. I think Alex takes a wrong turn. Turn on the headlights; it’d help you see through the fog!

Alex: Definitely. The creation account gives us a norm. When the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus with a question about divorce, he goes back to Genesis (Matthew 19:35-38). Btw, Casey, you’re the one driving the wrong way, methinks.

BK: So give us more on Genesis 1-3 then!

Alex: So, we’re equal in value and dignity, and I so want to stress this because of we so often get accused of seeing woman as somehow lesser…

Casey: …which I think is sometimes justified…

Alex: That’s fair enough. We complementarians need to speak out against injustice perpetuated against women all over the world. Back to the main point. So Genesis 1 shows us made in the image of God, but Genesis 2 shows us that men and women are created equal but different! Firstly, notice the order of creation. Man was created first, then woman...

Casey: This is why sometimes complementarians just make me want to tear out my (and their) hair! No offence Alex. How can you use such an argument? I think you’re reading that in!

Alex: Hold your horses, er, hair, Casey! That does seem a bit arbitrary, but let me finish. I think that would be true normally, but the order of creation is important precisely because that’s what Paul appeals to in his argument. See 1 Corinthians 11:8, and of course, 1 Tim 2:11-15, which I believe BK here would talk more about. I take Paul’s words here to be inspired Scripture. This appears to be the norm.

Casey: I just don’t agree.

Alex: Don’t worry, that’s not the only argument...

[Keep tuning in for the next installment of Looney Tunes, er, I mean, Tom and Jerry, nonono, I mean, Alex and Casey!]

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