This is the deal…

I suppose my mini-tirade from yesterday seemed to come out of nowhere. What can I say? I’m one that bottles it up, shakes the bottle, and then lets it all explode out of me all at once. I’ve tried to change my ways, to no avail. My thoughts have to simmer for a while before I can share them.

This is the deal: I don’t know where I land on this whole Complementarian (CM) vs. Egalitarian (EG) issue. Both sides have viable arguments; both are seeking to honor the witness of Scripture and follow hard after God. But holy moly, have we made a mess of things.

In recent weeks I have been reading about a drama unfolding within the ranks of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Certain theologians within the CM camp are tying Trinitarian theology to CM in a way that is dangerously close to overstepping orthodoxy as set forth in the Nicene Creed and its final iteration that was ratified in Constantinople.

I do not wish to get into that on this blog; I will leave that to more qualified theologians. But I just can’t stop myself from expressing that I have grown tired of this debate. Flat-out tired.

Here is a an example: a few months back, John Piper answered a question about what kinds of jobs a woman could perform outside of the home. Specifically, someone posed the question if women should be police officers. His answer was – um, well – confusing. Here is a summary here:

Here is the actual answer:

Legitimate questions abound here, and I have yet to find the answers, despite nearly a year of searching. But this was my reaction at the time:

“I am a single 40-something woman. As an adult woman, I, of course have adult responsibilities that I must take care of. I desire to glorify the Lord in all that I do, and how I conduct myself in this world. I frankly do not wish to carry the torch for Complementarianism or Egalitarianism because my questions for both of them are so long and complicated I have yet to be able to land on either side.

This is my frustration with so much of what is taught in complementarianism, and with the John Piper podcast in question here: the submission issue, and how it should translate to me as I navigate in my real, walking-around life in this world. As a single woman I puzzle over how the vision of “biblical womanhood” fits the reality of my life. What I find concerning about Piper’s response to this question is that it basically cancels out any instance in which I in my work context would be in a position to provide direction to men I happen to work with.

In my current role in my department, I advise students, male and female, in relation to their progress in their academic program. If there is a problem, I am the one who provides feedback. Is this wrong for me to do? Am I exercising too much authority over the men that happen to be in this program? Or, what if I was offered the job of director of my department: would I have to say no because there are men that work in this department and my giving them direction for their job would offend their manhood? But if I have the qualifications for the job, am I sinning if I were to accept it? Am I not fulfilling my biblical womanly role?

Is this really what Paul is talking about when he discusses submission in the Bible? I mean, most (if not all) of the references about female submission in the NT have to do with the relationship between a man and his wife. If we carry this to its logical conclusion and apply it to all male/female relationships, I would not be able to be anything past a secretary, or waitress, or some other service worker in order to avoid any instance where I might have to give direction to my male co-workers. Which, in turn could potentially consign me to a state of economic hardship since these positions do not generally provide high salaries. Not to mention severely stunting skills and gifts that were given to me by God (who, incidentally also knew He was giving these gifts to a woman because He created me as a woman…). I have to work; I have no choice in the matter. Is this really what biblical teaching on gender says? How did Lydia (Acts 16) conduct her business? Did she stop dealing in purple cloth after her conversion? Did she only work with women?

If biblical womanhood is primarily expressed in the context of a woman’s submission to her husband, and her role as homemaker and child-bearer, then how do I as a single woman who cannot have children show forth my womanhood in a biblical way? Or maybe I’m missing something; if so, I am sincerely asking for direction. The answers I find in the Comp camp are thin at best, and sometimes feel downright dehumanizing and insulting. And Egal is just not a viable alternative for me. When I hear something like Piper’s discussion, I am even more dismayed and discouraged. Perhaps I’m not being submissive enough…”

I find myself at the same place today. The struggles I have are manifold: The theological camp in which I would feel most comfortable promotes CM as if it is a Gospel-issue that must be defended in the same way substitutionary atonement is defended. I beg to differ. But it so deeply entrenched in this movement that it is hard to separate them out. As a single woman, I struggle to find my place anywhere. I am a woman who loves theological debate and is not really into those things that have traditionally been pushed as “women’s ministry”. This is not a slight for women who are; it is simply a statement of fact that I have interests that don’t always align with what church tells me my gender should be interested in. Does that make me less of a woman?

I’ll stop there for now. This may not sound very encouraging, but hey, what can I say – I have baggage. It’s time I start accepting it. The good news is that God helps me carry my baggage. If I put myself forward as the good news, we’re all in trouble. But, in spite of my baggage, and the crazy train we are on in American Evangelicalism these days, God is still on His throne.

More later…

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