In a post from last December (CLICK HERE), I apologized to the women in my world. It was more a philosophical apology, because even before my shift in positions (complementarianism v. egalitarianism) I worked hard to insure respect for everyone I have been privileged to journey with, difference in gender included. I may have failed at some points, but my intention was to honor all. If there is a continuum where a complementarian view was on one side and an egalitarian view were on the other, internally, I attempted to live as close to the center-line as possible.
As a result of the previous post, I was asked by an atheist friend this question: “Not trying to be a douche, I honestly want to know what you and other more "progressive" pastors do with all the verses talking about a woman’s role in the church.” The following is, at least for me, a short summary of how I approach said passages.
While I could work directly with the key texts, the guiding issue for me is more hermeneutical. As stated in the prior post, “A position of non-equality simply did not make continuing sense for me as I attempted to flesh out a full-orbed theology of the Kingdom of God and it’s hopeful consummation…”
There is a thing I will call Kingdom imagination. Most can imagine what things would look like if all were “righted,” even if there is some difference in what “righted” might look like.
Additionally, almost everyone can admit that things are not right now – poverty, injustice, crime, massive physical disasters, abuse, illness (both mental and physical), etc.
If all of that were “righted” then you begin to land on what the Bible calls the “new creation.” Scripture history is a story or narrative going somewhere, sometimes inching along, sometime forcefully, but if you buy the Bible at all you must admit that it is going somewhere (read Rev 20-21) (BTW – do you think I used enough commas in that sentence? Sheesh!).
A robust theology of the Kingdom must hold in tension both a present reality (God’s reign erupting into our life in the here and now) and future consummation or hope (a full “righting” of all that is bent and broken from the once perfect creation).
For me at this time, it all comes down to which direction should a person view Scripture. Are we to view it from the present back or from the past forward? If backward, one is caught on the horns of a more or less literal interpretation of key texts. In this particular case, texts in which it appears the Bible is desiring women to be subjugated to men. If one is looking forward, as I believe the whole arch of Scripture does (eschatologically), then one must read the texts regarding women through the lens of Christ and what he has and will accomplish in the future. I call this “the directional life.” The question that really must be grappled with is are we to view this issue primarily through the lens of the historical context of the day or through the lens of Christ and his astounding work from then into the future.
In writing this, I am not judging others who have not arrived where I have. I believe in the idea of giving space to grow and learn. Honest people are not static, but learning. We are not to stop learning until we stop breathing. The people that are most frustrating to me are those who are unwilling to allow for that grace…grace that I have received from many who have disagreed with me. Many come off arrogantly enlightened and unwilling to have respectful dialogue around key issues, thus creating an antagonistic environment that makes everyone go defensive instead of open. I am grateful for the space I have received from people who have disagreed with me and it is my intention to extend that same hope and space to others.