Gerald Hiestand recently reviewed the book How I Changed My Mind. The book is a compilation of essays written by egalitarians on how and why they switched from a complementarian view to an egalitarian view. From his review, Gerald gives a list of lessons that complementarians can learn when listening to egalitarian stories. These are good points to learn when thinking about how complementarians can be viewed and areas where we can improve.
- Most significantly, many women have genuine pain and confusion about their place within the church. Whatever we as complementarians might think about this, at the very least we need approach this topic with sensitivity and grace. The failure of complementarians in this respect—while sometimes overstated—exacerbates an already sensitive issue. Compassion, not simply confrontation, is needed at precisely this point.
- In light of the above, complementarians need to make as much room as possible for women to exercise their considerable giftedness within the church. Bill Hybels’ words are helpful here: “Many gifted women turn to the academic world, to the corporate world, to the arts world, because the church does not give them the opportunity to serve as fully as they believe God has both gifted and called them. If you ultimately land on a more limited view of the role of women in church life, are you at least giving women every possible opportunity within the bounds of your theological framework? To the extent that you can, are you cheering them on in their life and ministry?” (187) Indeed. When complementarians become more preoccupied with telling women what they can’t do, rather than resourcing them for what they can do, the church as a whole suffers for it.
- Complementarians need to do a better job of articulating a well-formed biblical theology of gender, particularly as it relates to the larger narrative of Scripture. We are often viewed as maintaining a selective literalism when it comes to exegesis. It’s not quite enough for us to properly exegete the most relevant texts. There is a need to answer the “broad sweep” argument of egalitarians. In what ways does the overarching narrative of Scripture point toward the beauty of the complementarian model? We must be able to show that the “restrictive” passages are not anomalies in an otherwise egalitarian narrative. My sense is that much helpful theological work can be done here, particularly as it relates to typology, gender and the image of God.
- In the opening page of How I Changed My Mind, Johnson notes the observation of R. T. France, who claims that he has never met an evangelical who changed their mind from an “inclusive view to a restrictive view”(13). I am reminded here of the news anchor who, upon President Nixon’s election, lamented, “I can’t understand how he won. I don’t know a single person who voted for Nixon.” Telling, indeed. But perhaps both statements say more about the one making the statement than about reality. In as much as Johnson seems to think that France’s observation serves as anecdotal evidence that conversions in this debate only run one direction, perhaps there is need for a book that takes the same approach as How I Changed My Mind, but from a complementarian perspective. No doubt many egalitarians would benefit from hearing why so many women, raised in the zenith of the feminist movement, forsook their feminist ideology and embraced a complementarian view of gender.
HT: Justin Taylor