As the years have passed and I have gained experience I have come to realize I don’t know as much as I once thought I did. And it isn’t that my faith has eroded or I am any less committed as a Christian; it’s just that in some areas I am more flexible than I was in the past. It’s now easier for me to say “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know”.
What brought this to mind was an article I recently read about the Bible’s teaching on the relationship and role of women and men in marriage and the church. Within the greater Bible believing community, there are two basic understandings: complementarianism and egalitarianism.
For readers to whom these terms are new, they represent a more “traditional” view and less “traditional” view. As the terms suggest, complementarianism stresses the complementary nature of men and women while the egalitarianism stresses the equality of both genders. The two basic understandings inform both the role of women in church leadership and a wife’s submission to her husband.
In my teaching from the creation account, I always stress that men and women are equal, but they are not the same. That doesn’t address the issues of submission in marriage and the role of women in church leadership, but I don’t see how anyone could disagree with my statement. The basic meaning of both complementarianism and egalitarianism are true.
In June I read an interesting book, the title of which got my attention. PARTNERS IN CHRIST: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism says a lot about the author, John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Those who hold that all egalitarians are liberal and don’t believe the Bible may be interested in reading Stackhouse’s book. I also like the primary title because I too see the creation account of male and female in marriage as a partnership.
Paul’s instruction to wives and husbands in Ephesians 5 is challenging. Wives are instructed to submit to their husbands and husbands are instructed to love their wives. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that since Paul does not tell the wives to love their husbands, they don’t need to love them. Of course wives are to love their husbands. It seems to me that in the same way there is to be mutual love in marriage, there also will be mutual submission. Love is not limited to husbands, nor is submission limited to wives.
I am familiar with a variety of Bible passages that speak to the role of women in ministry and leadership in the church, but none similar to Ephesians on marriage. I continue to read those passages, as well as what other informed and committed believers say about them. When it comes to the issue of women and men in church leadership and the role of men and women in marriage, there is a lot I don’t know. I am, however, more flexible than I was in the past.
It is something to keep on thinking and talking about, isn’t it?
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