One of the unspoken responsibilities of a pastor is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. This has been in my heart and head as I consider what has been taking place in my soul lately. True learning and growth takes place if we evaluate critically and carefully what we believe. As I approach my 31st year, my 4th year of marriage, and the birth of my second child, I’ve been spending many nights pondering what I truly believe. Part of my job title as a parent is to facilitate the learning of my child since in the family is the primary learning community. My deep thinking caused a quarterlife crisis that caused me to pause my pastoral studies. I started to disagree with what I was being taught at school and caused my mind to feel unsettled. This unsettling led to an ongoing reconstruction time of my beliefs. Fast forward to now, I’ve felt the need to speak up about what I now believe. I want to be known for what I stand for, instead of who or what I hate.
One of my main mentors and good friends, Brent has begun a series on his blog regarding issues some view as orthodoxy, or views that some would argue are essential beliefs for all Christians to believe. I agree with his criticism when he says:
Over the past couple of years, I have seen the idea of “orthodoxy” applied to issues I’m not sure it should have been. I have seen well-intentioned Christians say that other well-intentioned Christians are not in fact Christians because of their views on things like hell, gender roles and the like.
He is one of the few pastors and people I know who engage controversy with gracious articulation and willingness to listen and learn from those who he would disagree with. This was more true during the election cycle as my newsfeed was filled with articles and discussions Brent posted. I am grateful for his insights and humility to listen and love others, even those he doesn’t agree with.
His first topic that he is tackling is gender roles within ministry and marriage. Here’s a brief description of the terms and questions by Brent and my answers to his questions.
Let’s start with “complimentarianism” and “egalitarianism”. For those not familiar with these terms, they have to do with the idea of gender roles, particularly in ministry (at least that’s what we’ll focus on for the sake of this conversation though the issue certainly applies to marriage and gender-relations as a whole so feel free to take the conversation there if you’d like). Most Christians would argue that men and women are created equal, that’s not the issue here. Instead, the question becomes gender role, particularly within a ministry context.
Complementarians argue that, because of unique gender roles found in Scripture, women are prohibited from leadership roles within the local church such as “elder” or “pastor” while Egalitarians argue that not only do no such Scriptural barriers exist, women are just as called and qualified to serve in such roles.
So, some questions to get us started (feel free to add others):
Do you view this as an issue of “orthodoxy”? In other words, if someone holds a different position than you on gender-roles, do you believe them to still be a Christian?
If you do not view this as an issue of orthodoxy, how important is this issue to you? Where would you rank it on a scale of theological/cultural importance (top, bottom, middle, etc.)?
Do you hold to either position? Why? What Scriptures or outside books/authors helped you arrive at your position? How do you succinctly explain your position to others, especially those who might disagree? What pushed you in one direction or the other?
Why do you believe that this issue seems to cause such division? Why has it been so controversial to so many?
How can people on all sides of this issue come together without sacrificing their own convictions? Or can they?
A brief caveat before I list my responses. This debate has been on my radar for a number of years, as I spent most of my single years, reading whatever I could get my hands on. This was very important to me because I wanted to make sure I was doing “the right thing.” However, as the years went on, this became more of a gray issue and less black and white. I hadn’t given too much thought until this article addressing the recent heretical view of The Eternal Subordination Of The Son brought the issue back up. In summary, the ESOTS view believes that Jesus is eternally in submission to God the Father, which is dangerous because it messes with the Trinity. Jesus was able to submit to the father’s will (as he said repeatedly), because both are God. They are equal in nature, essence, ability, and saying one is in submission than the other elevates one over the other.
Okay, “brief” caveat over and here’s my responses to Brent’s excellent questions:
* Do you view this as an issue of “orthodoxy”? In other words, if someone holds a different position than you on gender-roles, do you believe them to still be a Christian?
No, it isn’t an issue of orthodoxy. I affirm that in scripture, the collection of redeemed men and women is called a “family.” And within a family, there is specific roles for both men and women, but our salvation is not hinged upon these roles. I don’t think when Paul is envisioning roles when he says in Galatians “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) When you are one in Christ, it doesn’t mean you are egalitarian or complementarian. Labels are not part of or needed in the kingdom of God.
* If you do not view this as an issue of orthodoxy, how important is this issue to you?
Gender roles are important but not something I’m actively contemplating or concerned with.
* Where would you rank it on a scale of theological/cultural importance (top, bottom, middle, etc.)?
At this point in my thinking, I’d say it is in the middle but towards the bottom.
* Do you hold to either position? Why?
Over the past couple of years, I’ve become more egalitarian in my thinking. In my marriage and parenting, I recognize being a husband and father mean different things than wife and mother. However, just because I’m a male doesn’t mean I can’t be nuturing towards my family, and just because my wife is a female doesn’t mean she cannot be analytical in her thought process. The problem with C. theology is that it forces a one size fits all model for all relationships or churches and this is not an accurate way to view the world. Deborah and minor characters in the NT do reflect women in leadership. And we see in the gospels Jesus not pushing women aside, he even revealed himself first to women before the rest of his disciples. I think what allows me to be more at ease with E. theology is knowing that the burden of responsibility is shared, instead of on the shoulders of men. I’m not stepping away from it, but I think when responsibility is shared, it helps everyone take more of an active role which causes more buy in.
*What Scriptures or outside books/authors helped you arrive at your position?
Rachel Held Evans, N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight have been helpful to me as I’ve discovered what E theology truly means.
* How do you succinctly explain your position to others, especially those who might disagree? Jesus did not die for white, middle class, Republican men, alone. Our lives are brand new and that pushes out boundaries or divisions we create with our labels.
* Why do you believe that this issue seems to cause such division? Why has it been so controversial to so many?
Men are jerks. 🙂
Joking aside, I think power or the need for power has corrupted the purity in many things. We are all broken creatures who want to make sense of things that are mysterious. We want a tangible god who we can see and bow to our wishes. A golden calf as it were. That being said, it has become divisive because of these reasons.
* How can people on all sides of this issue come together without sacrificing their own convictions? Or can they? I think if both sides can put away their preconceived notions about the other, they can learn from each other. I visited a church while attending seminary that had a female senior pastor. It was a different experience than what I thought it would be like. Having dinner with her and her church helped answer questions I had about E theology and it was refreshing hearing it from a woman and not some book. Will I attend a church with a female pastor? No, mainly because my wife and I have differing views on this. She has asked we do not go a church with one, so it’s one freedom I’m willing to sacrifice.