The following continues a series of posts reading through Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?. If you’re curious why I’m blogging on this, you can start at the first post in the series. Or backtrack your way through the series by jumping to the previous post.
Ch. 8- Is It Just a Matter of Choosing Our Favorite Verses?: Some evangelical feminists claim our position on gender roles just depends on which Bible passages we choose to prioritize
I felt this chapter was largely based on a misconstrual of what egalitarians are actually saying. Grudem complains that R. T. France, Sarah Sumner, and Stanley Grenz all claim that each side is just picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to apply and that they think that’s ok. As Grudem further elucidates their points, it becomes clear that they’re saying something more along the lines of “Taken at face value—like if we just interpret these passages literally—we have to start somewhere. Of course, we can start with the verses that seem obviously egalitarian or start with those that seem obviously complementarian, and often where we start determines where we finish.”
Because these people believe in a more complex hermeneutical process (which we already know Grudem doesn’t like), I don’t think they’re actually saying we just need to pick our favorite verse. Instead, it is obvious that at face value certain verses in the Bible—even certain verses written by Paul in the same book—are contradictory. We have to determine what’s really going on in this situation, because we simply can’t take both literally. In many cases one may be a more straightforward passage, while the other needs to be rethought in light of what we already know Paul is saying. These scholars are simply stating that many times people prioritize one passage or another as their starting point in this process—but I’m sure they would argue that it’s not just “whatever we want” but rather good hermeneutics which will lead us to the correct answer.
Ch. 9- Can We Just Ignore the “Disputed” Passages?: Some evangelical feminists silence the most relevant Bible passages on men and women by saying they are “disputed”
I must admit I did not fully understand this chapter. A few authors (two ministry leaders and Azusa Pacific professor Sarah Sumner) are cited as having said something along the lines of “These are complicated passages and people have many different interpretations—we need to be able to still be friends with those who think differently than us.” At least that’s how I read the quotes Grudem chose. However, Grudem thinks they were all saying, “We can’t figure out these passages, so we just get to pick the side we want to be on,” which of course he sees as “another dangerous step on the path to liberalism” (101). I feel he’s taking some of these statements in a way the authors themselves might not intend. He’s also picking at some stuff written by ministry leaders for lay audiences, where it seems quite natural to admit that these passages are hard to understand. I’m guessing that most people who have written commentaries on these passages make a case that we can know what these passages say—if they didn’t have that much confidence in their interpretative abilities, they probably wouldn’t be writing a commentary on Eph. or 2 Tim. or whatever to begin with. It was frustrating that both this chapter and the one before it seem based on misunderstanding and/or twisting what egalitarians are actually saying.
The upside of this chapter was that I did see one area that Grudem and I can agree on: he doesn’t like it when people say, “We just can’t know. So it doesn’t matter.” I don’t think that’s what the writers he mentions were actually trying to communicate, but I have heard other people talk this way. I understand the need to be undecided for a period of exploration and that this moratorium may last a while for some people. However, I don’t think it makes the issue “whatever” or ultimately something we shouldn’t be trying to have an opinion about. After all, as Grudem says, this really does affect our real-life marriages and churches. We may be pushing for different outcomes, but we both think this issue is important.
Continue with this series–read about ch. 10-11!