Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Logic of Equality

Here is a very helpful and thoughtful essay by Adam Omelianchuk, which addresses the patriarchal-complementarian (PC) argument that women and men are equal in being but unequal or different in roles. It includes a discussion of subordination in the the Trinity. Below are some excerpts of this article to whet your appetite.

If you would like to comment on this essay, please put your comments below. Thank you!

“On an Internet discussion in which I participated, one complementarian stated essentially that women should not be encouraged to preach, because by doing so they would “dishonor God.”…

“Complementarians typically charge that the biblical equality position is not reasoned from Scripture, but from outside of it by the fallen culturally conditioned human intellect. A key egalitarian argument maintains that if men and women are intrinsically equal (as complementarians affirm), then this logically rules out the assignment of an intrinsically equal person to a role of permanent and comprehensive subordination based solely on an intrinsic quality (such as gender).’’...

“But if the Father and the Son are equal in being yet in everything for all eternity relate according to a hierarchal order of authority and subordination, then is not the logic of “equal in being, unequal in role” vindicated?...

“On the surface the argument seems convincing. However, on a closer look it is striking that such a list of proof texts parallels that of the Arian and semi-Arian exegesis that reduced the Word to a demigod. This requires us to examine and test the logic that lies behind this view of the Trinity with the utmost theological care. Moreover, even if it were a true picture of Trinitarian relations, it would still fail to serve as a valid analogy to that of female subordination. I have eight reasons to support this…

“Now we come to the last and perhaps the most significant objection: The doctrine of male authority and female subordination is not about gender differences; it is about obeying God’s will. Therefore, a woman is just as capable as a man in her essential human capacities, yet she resigns herself to a God-ordained “role” where these capacities are largely prohibited from use…

“This debate is about hermeneutics and the presuppositions we bring to the biblical text. I have argued for the lens that reads the Scriptures as recognizing complementarity without hierarchy. I have gone about this, not by means of exegetical argument, but by logical argument… Thus I have reasoned from the whole to the parts (deductive reasoning), rather than from the parts to the whole (inductive reasoning)...This is analogous to the reasoning that I would use in establishing biblical inerrancy….

8 comments:

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Thanks for the link!

kparis said...

Great essay. I especially champion his point regarding the Son sitting at the right hand of the Father. The subordinate role is not a permanent one, as we see God the Father, the head of Christ, raise him to shared authority. We tend to want to cling to authority as static, but it is dynamic in nature.

Hilary said...

was he serious when he wrote this part? or was this the other side? i found this disturbing:
"...Similarly, if God has banned women from preaching, teaching, leading, decision-making, and holding responsibility (all of which are derived from essential human capacities), then this teaches us something about the intrinsic quality of female human nature: that it is less than that of male human nature."

Adam Omelianchuk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Omelianchuk said...

Hilary,

Yes, I was serious when I wrote that, and yes it is my representation of the (flawed) other side. The point is that the ban God makes does not leave us in a position to assert the equality of women with men. Their lower follows from a lower status. What basis could that status be other than their nature? Any assertion PCs make about equality of the sexes is rendered incoherent in light of such a structure.

pgepps said...

I'm allergic to the term "egalitarian" for reasons that have almost nothing to do with this issue, but I think merging the notion of a "complementarian" view of gender difference with a resolutely non-hierarchical reading of personal relations in the church and home is pretty sound. There are exegetical challenges to comprehension in this matter, though, and I'm not quite sure how it's going to turn out. We will either come to an understanding we can accept, or by accepting the understanding to which we are compelled by the text, we will be led to an understanding and a practice we have not yet been able to achieve.

Being terribly sensitive to your opponents' charge that you are importing alien premises to Scripture is, IMHO, almost never wrong.

Peace,
PGE

Hilary said...

thanks, adam. i wasn't sure what was your opinion and what was your explanation of PC. i don't read this stuff often.

cokhavim said...

Hi Adam, I always love reading more arguments along the lines of the Groothuis argument against the "equal in being, unequal in role" construct. It seemed quite logically sound to me (to my untrained logical senses), except for one small detail which maybe isn't that relevant to the gender debate: "Since God is entirely truthful and has perfect knowledge, whatever he inspires (Scripture) retains his perfect knowledge and trustworthy character. Scripture is therefore inerrant." That sounds to me like a non-sequitur. God inspires me at times to do or say things, but I'm not inerrant, nor do I retain God's perfect knowledge, etc. Anyway, that's a whole other discussion and can of worms that I'd rather not open, but I just point that out because it doesn't do much for the argument of your essay, could be a point of contention for many egalitarian servants of God, and would maybe be better left out.