I did a series of posts on Calvinism – Arminianism last week. I thought I’d proceed to the topic of my more recent (and final) TBI paper: the complementarian – egalitarian debate. This time, Wayne Grudem gave the five-hour seminar (as he was in town visiting, normally John Piper teaches it following these notes). Grudem unpacked the main points in his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions. As usual, we were asked to read a book representing “the other side” and then respond. I choose to read Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. The book, a fair and articulate expression of egalitarianism, is a collection of essays on various issues pertaining to the debate.
For my paper I decided to interact with the views of William Webb, who wrote a very interesting book entitled Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Webb contributed twop essays to Discovering Biblical Equality. Here is the executive summary of my paper responding to Webb:
William Webb argues that the Bible prescribes the continuance of slavery and the subjugation of women to male leadership in marriage and the church. On both issues, the Bible, while more progressive than the culture of its day, only points to God’s “ultimate ethic” on these matters. Consequently, modern-day Christians have recognized the “redemptive spirit” in the biblical texts and (appropriately) emancipated slaves. By the same logic, Webb argues, women should be viewed as functional equals in marriage and the church, such that gender-based leadership restrictions are completely lifted.
Webb’s hermeneutic is severely flawed by a failure to apply biblical theology. The New Testament is the final revelation of God (Heb. 1:1-2) and, as such, possesses final moral authority for Christians today. Though it regulates slavery, the New Testament never commands Christians to own slaves and actually implies that freedom is preferable (I Cor. 7:21; Philemon). Marriage (unlike slavery) is a creation ordinance, and the apostles root their instruction on gender-based roles in marriage and the church on the order of creation and the Christ-church dynamic, both of which are transcultural.
In subsequent posts I will (as last time) provide a (hopefully) fair and succinct representation of Webb’s view, and then my response. The page limit on this paper was twice as long as for my Calvinism – Arminianism paper.