Opinions on faith and life

You Senseless Complementarians!

2010-10-29

With only a change of name, this is how the apostle Paul starts off what we call chapter three of his letter to the Galatians. I’m sure they didn’t appreciate a statement like that any more than so-called complementarians do today. I say “so-called”, because true complementation involves the cooperation of equals, such as the left and right hands. But this term of mutuality has been co-opted by male supremacists, who know that if they used a more accurate name such as patriarchalists it wouldn’t make anybody rich or influential.

As egalitarians (the real complementarians) know, Gal. 3:28 is a verse that clearly supports their view, while “comps” insist that it only speaks of the equal availability of salvation to all. Who is right? Let’s look at the context.

The whole letter is all about Paul’s exasperation with the congregation in Galatia for their quick and all-too-easy about-face from freedom back to bondage. From start to finish he builds a case against legalism and confronts the agitators that have ulterior motives for turning people away from Paul’s message of freedom and toward their control. This still happens today, with many who view Paul as a fake and a traitor to “real” Christianity-- which to them is just Judaism with Jesus on top.

Chapter three is no exception and cannot be excised from the flow of Paul’s argument. He is still talking about the Law and the Promise, two separate kinds of contracts. The Law, as Paul explains, involved two parties and angelic witnesses, while the Promise was unilateral and ratified by faith alone. The purpose and scope of the Law was to bring the Jews to “maturity”, just as a nanny, parent, or custodian would raise a child. Jesus came when the “child”, Israel, had “come of age” and was no longer in need of supervision.

Of course, Israel preferred to stay with the custodian, but the Promise was fulfilled nonetheless. Jesus not only satisfied the demands of the Law on behalf of the Jews but also activated the “will and testament” of the Promise. And as anyone familiar with estate law knows, a Will is not in effect until the testator has died (I explain more about that in my book Reconciled). People only think of Jesus dying for sin, but He also died to free Jews from the Law and enact the Promise to Abraham. This crucial point is what Paul is trying to get across to the Galatians.

So when we come to vs. 28, why would we think that Paul decided to switch topics for one sentence fragment? Has he been even touching on how people become saved now, or has he been on-topic the whole time, discussing what the Promise means to those who are already in Christ? Look at the sequence of points in verses 27 through 29:

  1. whoever is immersed in Christ is clothed with Him
  2. in Him there is no Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female
  3. for you are all one and thus heirs of the promise
The last one really seals the meaning: we are all heirs because of being in Jesus. That’s the point Paul is driving at; there is no longer any division. In fact, the Christian is “a new creation”: neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female. We are all the Body of Christ, and that Body cannot be divided but is all of one substance. Paul is clearly talking about the nature of that Body, not how various kinds of “parts” may be added to it.

To make vs. 28 about everyone having the same means of salvation is to miss the point of the whole letter, which is written to stop people from turning back to either Judaism or paganism. Instead of “if you are in Christ you are all heirs without distinction”, it becomes “how various groups of people can be saved”. This letter is all about the saved lapsing from freedom into bondage, not how to be saved in the first place.

This is why it’s so important to know whole books of the Bible instead of bits and pieces. The addition of verse numbers did a great disservice to sound hermeneutics, because it chopped up the scriptures into snippets that took on meanings of their own, much the way one might take one of Nostradamus’ quatrains and put it under a microscope to see how many ways it can be taken. Even punctuation can significantly alter the meaning of a text, and surprise surprise, it tends to happen to the “woman” passages with alarming frequency (see Eph. 5:18-22 for example).

Cut-and-paste is no match for common sense and good reading comprehension.

32 Comments

Truthseeker

Common-senseless-that’s great! Bottom line is true-they do partially disinherit women in the body of Christ. They cannot be thinking clearly to take the stance they do, pardon me. All attempts to explain and justify their stance fall woefully short. Why women support this stuff is beyond me. Yet, we know that many women who appear to support it are really dying inside or quietly questioning it. Others simply choose to go along on the surface and undermine by manipulation (or not) behind the scenes. I guess it is the only option they see. I don’t judge them for that. Sometimes we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place and don’t always know what to do in light of our circumstances.

There is a very good book out on the issue of women in Christianity, ’Beyond the Curse; Women in Ministry’, by Aida Besacon Spencer that is quite good! It contains a lengthy practical application piece by her husband at the end that is also very good. They go at the topic from a bit of a different angle though still an extremely biblical one. They also have a book out on marriage from an egalitarian perspective, which includes a soft comp opposing view. I am waiting to receive that one in the mail but from what I glimpsed online in the amazon reviews, they make some very good points there, too. They are completely egal in their views on women in ministry and women in the home. (I don’t know them personally nor do I have stock in the sale of their books. :) This is not a plug for personal gain.) They are both profs at Gordon Conwell, I believe.

Mabel

You mentioned common sense and good reading comprehension.

I recommend this title: You Common Senseless Patriarchalists!

They have hijacked the word Complementarian. They ain’t no comps. They are patriarchalists.

Paula Fether

:-D

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Lydia

This is one of the most frustrating aspects of the lie of comp doctrine. They are basically claiming that women are not FULL heirs but they refuse to admit this. And have to twist Galatians to maintain that belief.

Paula Fether

And that, in turn, comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Body is. They discard the Bible’s analogy and replace it with a business or army or chain, then fight for a pecking order. They create false dilemmas (i.e. "the only alternative to hierarchy is chaos"), set up slippery slopes (i.e. "if we allow equality then [insert bad thing here] will happen"), and appeal to majority or tradition. Anything and everything but what scripture actually says, and consistently so.

Paula Fether

Good to know that more egal authors are getting books out. Let us know when you’ve read it. :-)

Truthseeker

It is so frustrating when comps continue to use Galations 3:28 to support salvation only. Interestingly, when Jews become Christian, they don’t force them to continue in their ’Jewishness’ or when Gentiles become Christian, they don’t force them to abide by Jewish practices. So,then, why do they try to force women to remain in their ’roles’? And slaves, I imagine a white male ’slave’ (whatever would constitute that in our current culture-an employee or contractor, sports player, etc.) under contract?) would still be allowed to preach, once converted, but a woman would not (in these churches).

Truthseeker

I’ve read the first book, Beyond the Curse..., and it is extremely good. That is what made me curious about the other one.

Paula Fether

Good point. They have to go to other verses to get women’s roles, but then the same problem is there as well: why aren’t the rules for slaves applicable? Only because we did away with slavery, but not women? By what right was slavery done away with, and why can’t male supremacy be done away with on the same basis?

At which point they return to Gal. 3:28... and around and around we go.

Truthseeker

Which comes back to how does one help another to see the illogic of a given point? Sometimes the mental blocks are incredibly stubborn. Personal experience can sometimes open up the view, but how does one practically ’force’ or enable some of these patriarchialists to truly experience what women experience in this regard?

Paula Fether

I wish I knew. :(

Lydia

"Which comes back to how does one help another to see the illogic of a given point?"

I think you have to start with an overarching principle of truth. It is shocking. The one I use is that they cannot find one single prohibition in the OT on women teaching or leading men.

So, why would there be a new law AFTER the Cross. Sometimes this starts off the conversation and I can say that most passages they have heard are translated horribly such as 1 Tim 2...do they really believe they are saved by bearing children?

One Jon Zens said was that why don’t we translate the NT through the lens of Pentecost instead of 1 Tim 2? Good question!

Truthseeker

Lydia, that is a great point, and how people select their cornerstone verses would be a good question, too. Why not, indeed, use the Pentecost passages?! For some, I Tim. seems ’so obvious and clear’ that they look no further, yet, do not some of the other verses seem rather clear, too? So why does I Tim. trump? My spouse’s fundamentalist church teaches-and therefore my spouse adheres to-the notion that things that happened in the book of Acts were to establish the new church but are not necessarily meant to be carried out beyond those first few decades. Thus, sign miracles, etc. will not, in their view, be seen again. My guess is that would be how they might dismiss the use of Pentacost as a referent verse.

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[...] few weeks ago in my post You Senseless Complementarians I examined Gal. 3:28 and its meaning in context. And the three pairings– Jew/Gentile, [...]

SaberTruth

Have you read anything egals actually believe?Nobody is saying we don’t need hierarchy in society. Nobody is saying we don’t need leaders. What we are saying is that IN CHRIST there is no male/female because we ARE ALL ONE, and "not so among you". The Holy Spirit leads and teaches, and we have the scriptures to read.As for your revisionist history, patriarchy is NOT a synonym for anything but bigotry, and there are no civilizations that were destroyed by egalitarianism, esp. CHRISTIAN egalitarianism. You’re actually saying we should "bow to culture"!You’re a comedian, right? ;-)

sg

Patriarchy is a synonym for civilization. Human societies are inherently hierarchical. No civilization was ever built on egalitarianism. However, plenty are destroyed by it. Authority is part of life.

SaberTruth

Another "I wish I knew". We both know how often we’ve tried to disagree amicably and stick to arguments instead of people elsewhere (:cough:baptist blogs:cough:) but it always turned into an attack on our character. People have no clue how to argue concepts.

Lydia

The thin skin comes from wanting censorship instead of discussion and debate. If you can call people names and question their heart, it is easier than dealing with the topic.

But on another note: Perhaps sad would give us an example how how we are allowed to post and comment on comp doctrine. Or perhaps sad does not see how s/he sounds eerily how s/he accuses us of sounding. Funny how that works!

Why can’t people stick to the topic?

SaberTruth

There is a need for basic common sense in comp circles! Which is exactly what I tried to explain to Sad, who was also offended by the post title though I explained why I chose it and where I got it. There are too many thin-skinned believers.

Lydia

Truthseeker,

I have heard that before, too, about Acts. But the problem with that view and the Joel prophecy is that Paul did not tell each church that it was not for the church age but only for Pentecost. And since the early church only had the OT and letters, how would they know and perhaps be in sin? For example in 1 Corin 11, Paul is ASSUMING the women there are praying and prophesying in the Body.

I am always amazed at the leaps comps make to ignore what Paul is really saying in 1 Corin 11. Instead they turn it around in proof texting and make it a foundational verse not only for comp but for ESS! And it is about head coverings. Amazing! There is a need for basic common sense in comp circles!

Lydia

SAd, that is the whole point. We have studied the Greek and found the comp position lacking in common sense. Jesus Christ did not appoint earthly mediators for women. They have the same Holy Spirit as men do to guide them. We believe the Joel Prophecy is for the church age. And we cannot find any prohibition on women teaching or leading men in the Old Covenenat. That is just for starters.

And comps judge egal’s hearts all the time. Even making it a primary salvic issue as you tried to do in your first comment by linking this issue to the Gospel.

Lydia

What does this conversation have to do with salvation? And why would believing in mutuality and non legalism mean our hearts are "questionable". That is a grand leap.

SaberTruth

Sad, you are arrogant and self-righteous. Clean up your act or be banned.

SaberTruth

What?? Is Paul calling them stupid or not? This is not beside the point at all. My post was on how comps ignore grammar and context, and since the chapter starts out with "you senseless Galatians" it was a good segue into the post. You’re blowing this all out of proportion. IMHO, it’s "low and unfair" for you to march into a blog you’ve never been in before and start lecturing me due to misunderstanding why I introduced the post as I did. And my reference to common sense was simply an appeal for comps to stop proof-texting.

Sad

That was low and unfair. And we’re getting sidetracked from my original concern ... Whatever your desire, challenging people’s ’common sense’ - and implying that they have none - when it comes to ’rightly dividing the word of truth’ is not the way to go for most comps.

Sad

The words senseless and stupid are not that far apart .... or far apart at all. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/senseless

SaberTruth

So Paul called the Galatians stupid then. o.O

Sad

You and your ongoing, low view of scripture ; ) Study the Greek and call me back ...

Sad

Paula and others: Even if your points have merit, it is difficult to receive because your hearts are so questionable. You’re not going to win anyone over by essentially calling them stupid and other names or by appealing to ’common-sense.’ It’s not in the minds that people first receive the gospel anyway, it’s in the heart.

SaberTruth

Who is calling anyone stupid? The post title is taken from Paul’s own words to the Galatians. If I’m calling comps stupid, then Paul called the Galatians stupid. But I find your judgmentalism ironic.

SaberTruth

Just an FYI... I just enabled DISQUS to handle comments. It makes it possible to track someone’s comments over many blogs instead of just one, or having to keep separate logins for each one. Let me know if you encounter any problems. Not sure I’ll know how to fix them, but I’ll try!