Monday Randomness…

I now have a group of friends that are holding me accountable to publish a blog post at least once a week. So you’ll be hearing more from me. Yay! I’m grateful for good sister/friends that are seeking to lift each other up. That is so very important.

After a long, arduous journey, I am slowly rediscovering my love of writing. Really my need for it. I process my thoughts through the words I write, and I am doing A LOT of processing right now. Processing and changing.

So let me just be real with you. I am in the midst of a major thought shift. I can’t quite put my finger on the source, and I have no idea the outcome, but I do know my heart and mind are changing about a few things. Where I will land is anyone’s guess, but I thought I’d share with you where I am in the process.

A few weeks ago, I spent some time walking through my foundational beliefs. The question I posed to myself was this: What are those things that are absolutely non-negotiables for you and what are “peripheral” issues that you have beliefs about, but that you hold more loosely. Peripherals can be things where I don’t feel I have enough information, or where I have information and think I know what I believe about the topic, but still feel like there are grey areas that are open for debate.

The litmus test for a non-negotiable is it has to be a belief or doctrine that makes us “wise unto salvation”. This list is surprisingly and delightfully small. Things like the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, Resurrection. While each of these items can branch off onto all sorts of rabbit trails, my goal was not to adjudicate every possible split of every theological hair related to each item. The point is that I believe in the Trinity, in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Inspiration of Scripture and so forth. If I desire to be consistent, I can’t not believe these things and still consider myself “Christian”. These are the biblical and theological hills upon which I will die.

But those peripheral issues…whoa boy. That is where it all got complicated. After three pages worth of discussion about race, and a page and a half about so-called “biblical manhood and womanhood”, I had to take a break. These are easily the biggest topics, at least for me, and it seems for the American church today.

I am not going to get into the discussion about race for the purposes of this post. I’m not even close to a place where I can discuss that. And my mind and attention have been moved to another hot-button issue – womanhood.

What is meant by “biblical womanhood”? How do I know if I am a “biblical woman”? Much of this debate centers around two camps: Complementarians and Egalitarians. Complementarians say that men and women are both created in the image of God, and therefore are equal in worth and dignity. However, there are distinctive roles and functions that are specific to each gender; primarily, the focus is on the headship of the man and the submission of the woman in the church and home. In contrast, Egalitarians focus on the mutual submission of believers to one another and consider gifting to be the determining factor for leadership in the church and home, regardless of gender. These are generalizations and are not intended to bring out the nuances of each position. But these are the nutshell definitions as far as I understand them.

This is a hotly contested subject that shows no signs of abating. And as a woman who is passionate about ministry, theology and the Bible, I have a stake in this conversation. I long to be faithful to the testimony of Scripture, and truthful about the reality of life on the ground. My reality right now: I can’t say that I’m “Complementarian”, but I don’t know if I’m “Egalitarian” either. Are these the only two options? Is there a third way? And how do I find the answer?

This is the crazy thing about it…both sides appeal to Scripture to argue their point and make their stand. Both groups are passionate about their position, and fully convinced they are correct. Some go so far as to question someone’s salvation or commitment to the gospel if they do not fall in line with the “correct” position. These extreme reactions are what I wish to avoid like the plague.

But what is the “correct” position? That is what I seek to explore. And perhaps it will take me my entire life to figure it out, but I want to be free and open about where I am on the journey.

The Pandora’s box has been opened. Let the fun begin…

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…