I have been wrestling this week with the memories of an intense Twitter conversation I was part of on the train on the way to Durham University. On reflection twitter is an interesting place to try and have a theological conversation – the advantage is that its public which means we can interact with people who are not in our normal “hermeneutical circle” who will help us to think things through from another perspective. On the other hand the disadvantage is that its very public and restricted to 140 characters which means its difficult for anyone to nuance the contributions and so its easy to go for the cheap shot, the cutting response or the pithy soundbite.
So I am sorry if my tweets were unhelpful in any way.
The twitter conversation was on the gifts and role of women in the church – something I am very interested in and have been working hard to try and help people from different tribes to try and listen to eachother and engage with eachother graciously about. As you are no doubt aware the conversation is very polarised. Complementarians argue that
Some express this very forcibly and have made it central to their teaching for example Mark Driscoll, John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Some seem to argue that if you are not a complimentarian then you are basically a feminist liberal.
Egalitarians argue that:
“The Bible teaches that at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came on men and women alike. Without distinction, the Holy Spirit indwells women and men, and sovereignly distributes gifts without preference as to gender (Acts 2:1-21; 1 Cor 12:7, 11, 14:31).The Bible teaches that both women and men are called to develop their spiritual gifts and to use them as stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10-11). Both men and women are divinely gifted and empowered to minister to the whole Body of Christ, under His authority
Some egalitarians have made this central to their teaching and some seem to argue that if you are not egalitarian then you are a chauvinist who oppresses women and denies their true humanity.
Both extremes make this an issue of biblical orthodoxy – the complementarians arguing its about the authority of scripture and the authority of Christ while the egalitarians often emphasise that justice and power of the gospel are at stake.
I know there are evangelical Christians on both sides of the debate. I know there are good and bad arguments being used by both sides. I know there are actually a range of egalitarian and complimentarian positions. There are “hard” and “soft” proponents. There are those that are lead more by the scripture than by the culture and those that are lead more by the culture than the scripture – on both sides. I know there are people that have been hurt on both sides of this debate, and I recognise that women who have felt their God given calling have been dismissed have been particularly hurt.
My hope is that we can build a centre ground coalition that champions the centrality of the gospel, the authority of scripture and a gracious respect and honouring of women and the recognition of the need for a hermeneutic of humility when it comes to the scriptures and a spirit of generosity when it comes to those we disagree with. I want to start a peace process – not just that we agree to disagree but that we find a way through an issue that is splitting the church right down the middle…
I’d love to know why you think this is the issue that is dividing the church at the moment?
… More coming soon