I never thought I would write this blog post. There are some internet controversies that I know immediately that I will jump feet first into. There are others that I really don’t feel like getting myself involved with. This one is definitely firmly in that latter group. My head tells me that there is more to lose than gain by getting involved. Today there are few issues more likely to raise emotions among professing Christians than discussions about gender. It’s not actually an issue that I feel that strongly about, usually. But here I am adding my thoughts after all.
Anyone who reads Christian blogs widely is likely to have come across a debate that has been raging that was prompted by a post quoting Doug Wilson on Jared Wilson’s blog. This post was critiqued strongly by Rachel Held Evans and many others, before being eventually taken down. When Rachel graciously accepted Jared’s apology it seemed as if the controversy was over.
Doug Wilson, however, jumped in and wrote possibly the most sarcastic post I have ever read on a Christian blog. Meanwhile, Rachel has been having people tell her “the men in my life need to do a better job of exercising their God-ordained authority to ‘silence’ me.”
In my sidebar is a link to the Gospel Coalition, and it doesn’t take much detective work to realize that most of the people I regularly quote here are complementarian. I have therefore been asked what I think about the whole thing. Some people might have assumed I would disagree with Rachel Held Evans on all of this, and perhaps even add my voice to those who are trying to silence hers. Let me say quite clearly that is not my position.
While no doubt there are many issues that I and Rachel would disagree on, I believe she has handled herself well throughout this debate. I believe that with all the understandable emotion that is around this issue, we often simply speak past each other and do not understand where other people are coming from. I see in Rachel someone who genuinely tries to put herself in others shoes and understand their perspectives. As I have read around this controversy, I have been offended by Doug Wilson’s original quote, and subsequent response, and appalled by those telling the critics to “shut up!”
To me one of the whole points about the Internet and Christian blogs in particular is that we get to engage with people who hold perspectives very different from our own. When we do, it can sometimes get pretty painful. I remember many times, especially in my early days of blogging, when I found myself near the eye of a particular Internet storm. It is not always an easy place to be. Things that you said with good intentions can be seized upon by the other side as evidence that clearly you have lost your mind or are evil incarnate. Such negative engagements can lead us to withdraw from interacting with anyone outside our own circles. We can end up discussing things only with people who agree with us. We are then weakened as a result. I am very grateful for some of my harshest critics. Over the years, they have helped me to understand, and yes at times modify, my own position perhaps more than my online friends.
Today I perhaps risk offending some of my friends. But that is a risk we sometimes have to take. Here are 10 statements of what I believe about all of this-
- Women are to be valued, respected, and listened to. Nobody should ever tell them to “shut up” nor should they be made to feel oppressed, trampled on, disrespected, or abused.
- In the context of online chatter it is clear that nobody is in authority here. Whatever your view of 1 Tim 2:12 it is in my view clear that this verse is referring to a church context, and is not relevant to people’s blog efforts.
- Christians genuinely and with conviction hold a range of opinions about the role of women in church and family life. It is really not fair of either side to characterize opponents as either, “liberals who don’t believe the Bible” on the one hand, or “sexists who probably abuse their wives” on the other.
- The complementation / egalitarian debate is not one that affects our salvation. Why shouldn’t we have friendships that cross this divide?
- Biblical authority is never meant to “clamp down” on anyone. Being under authority in the Bible is something that releases us, and frees us to be what God intended us to be.
- I remain convinced that a major scourge of today is that we live in an age where it is now considered by many to be a virtue to “indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority” (2 Peter 2:10). This has no place in the Church of Jesus Christ.
- I believe that it is wholly inappropriate to use words connected with authority, mastery, submission and control in connection with sex. Such words can inadvertently promote rape, and promote an unbiblical concept of sex.
- I believe that it is always wrong to force or coerce a woman to have sex against her will. I also believe that none of the main protagonists in this debate would disagree with that statement. It is wrong to accuse people of promoting rape when that is clearly not their intention. I also do not believe that any of the main protagonists in this debate intended to make such accusations.
- I believe that whatever your view of the relationship between a husband and wife outside of the bedroom, inside the bedroom sex is precisely intended to be an “egalitarian pleasure party.” 1 Corinthians 7 declares clearly that in the bedroom mutuality reigns. Each person gives up their authority at the bedroom door. Each is to willingly, freely, submit themselves to the other. Initiative is not meant to belong to only one party. Pleasure is meant to belong to both. The relationship should be a joyous meeting of people of equal value and worth, not some kind of “surrender” by the woman who is often physically weaker than her husband. Men must do everything to ensure that they are not forceful in this area, respecting the vulnerability many women feel in the bedroom.
- Lastly, I believe that even outside the bedroom a good complementation marriage should to the outsider look very much like a good egalitarian one. Husbands are meant to love their wives as Christ loved the church, not beat them into submission.