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June 15, 2006


Thanks for your post. It seemed humble and generous. I'm in full support of your questions about how an egalitarian stance undermines the authority of scripture. I just don't get their position. Now you got me all worked up and I'll have to read their posts over and over again.

Forgive my ignorance here, but could you point out specifically which "orthodox Bible scholars" you are referring to and perhaps which bodies of work they revealed these positions?

"This slippery slope argument again dismisses out of hand the interpretations of orthodox Bible scholars..."

As a complementarian I struggle to understand the scriptural basis for the egalitarian position and would appreciate any illumination these "orthodox Bible scholars" could provide. An interesting topic indeed!

No worries on your ignorance, and I hope you will forgive mine too. I am certainly not an expert on the underlying dispute (and do not want to hold myself out to be). As I said, I am in flux on the underlying issue and I think there are compelling arguments on both sides. Widely respected orthodox Biblical scholars who have publicly differed from the complementarian reading of 1 Timothy include John Stott (commentary on 1 Timothy (IVP)), Roger Nicole (RTS-Orlando), F.F. Bruce, Cornelius Plantiga, Gordon Fee (First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT), 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (New International Biblical Commentary)), Catherine Clark Kroeger (Gordon-Conwell), John Stackhouse, Timothy George, John Armstrong, as well as N.T. Wright. Others may have recommended reading (on both sides of the underlying issue). On the complementarian side, I know D.A. Carson, John Piper and Wayne Grudem have written persuasively. On the egalitarian side, a few books I have had recommended to me as scholarly and orthodox are: Linda Belleville, "Women Leaders and the Church: 3 Crucial Questions", Craig S. Keener "Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women's Ministry in the Letters of Paul" and Pierce et al., eds. "Discoverying Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy". I hope this is helpful. It is definitely an interesting topic, one I think that can be handled in a way that makes us all proud.

I recognize this is a late post to an older column, but having just recently read it; I still wanted to comment.

"My hunch is that Duncan would say that here – in the very next verse -- we must let Scripture interpret Scripture (the same “gymnastics” he has just condemned in others for evading the clear meaning)."

How is it the same "gymnastics" when the next verse (I Tim. 2:13) only strengthens the previous verse? Complentarianism seems not to be culturally conditioned if it was a pre-fall design.

Scripture does interpret scripture. It seems that Paul is speaking much more specifically and definitively in Timothy (and in reference to the rest of Scripture mentioning Adam and Eve) instead of a casual reference to Phoebe as a deaconess in a narrative.

Just a few questions and thoughts...

I can't speak for Paul and I hope he will reply as well.

I did see an earlier draft of Paul's article, and I dimly recall that there was a mention of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as passage. I suspect when that reference, along with many other phrases and sentences, received the delete key, it escaped notice to change the phrase, "the very next verse."

Does that make sense? I think it was probably an editing mistake.

His point, I believe, is that Duncan probably does not take 1 Tim 2:15 at face value. He and Dever remark that "I do not permit a woman to teach" has no analogue in the debate over baptism. Paul Yanosy is saying, I think, "Here is another stark statement, right after the verses about women not teaching, but you don't take THIS one literally. Why one and not the other?"

Perhaps you'll agree that we have to be careful about freighting too much upon prima facie readings. Personally, I give prima facie readings great due in interpreting Scripture, but the prima facie reading itself is not Scripture. Giving it great due is not the same as accepting it as the final word in each instance of reading Scripture.

Davy, may I ask you two direct questions?
1. How do you interpret "she will be saved by childbearing..."?

2. How do you interpet James 2:24, "A person is justified by works and not by faith alone"?

I will pay close attention to your method of handling these texts, looking to see if the method you employ can be used in making sense of the 1 Tim 2:11-14 passage.

Those are good questions. Glenn is right -- the "very next verse" reference was a loose end from a previous edit that should have been caught. My mistake. It is in 1 Timothy 2:15 that Paul writes "But women will be saved through childbearing -- if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." (NIV) The point I was trying to make was that Duncan also interprets Scripture in view of Scripture, using as an example a verse that follows closely on those that are the crux of the discussion. If the clear meaning is his touchstone, then he must apply this consistently to the following verses as well -- where the clear meaning appears that women must have children to be saved. The moment he says "that cannot be what Paul means here because we know from Paul and the broader witness of Scripture that salvation is by grace through faith, thus Paul must be saying something else here" he is engaging in the same "gymnastics" he condemns in others. Those who hold a more egalitarian interpretation (Stott, Fee, et al.) are Biblical scholars of the first rate as well, and they look at 1 Timothy 2:11-14 in view of Paul (e.g., Galatians 3:28) and the practice of the early church (e.g., Acts 18:26 shows Priscilla (listed before her husband Aquilla) teaching Apollos -- and they were close associates of Paul), and ask the question of whether we are really understanding what Paul is getting at here in 1 Timothy -- because our "clear meaning" interpretation seems to run against the current of Scripture. They might even point to the casualness with which Paul references Phoebe as evidence that we might not be understanding what Paul was really getting at in 1 Timothy -- it would seem if here was an exception to his general rule, he might explain why... unless there was no such general rule, and he is getting at something else in 1 Timothy. It is always fair to ask the question of what Paul meant and what his audience would have heard. I am not saying Duncan needs to agree with the egalitarian interpetation - but to say they interpret in bad faith and thereby undermine the authority of Scripture -- that the question itself is impermissible--is just not credible.

As to your other point -- that complementarianism is not culturally conditioned if it is pre-fall design -- this also turns on interpretation. First, was it pre-fall design? Does Genesis pre-fall teach complementarianism, or have we just read it through that lense (through the lense of our arguably erroneous understanding of 1 Timothy) for so long that we do not even notice it is a lense (think the view of grace before Luther, or the push of the anabaptist movement for "believer baptism", or whether Genesis 1 teaches literal six day creation)? (e.g., the same word for "helper" in the creation passage is used of God as our "helper" throughout the OT -- implying it is not an inferior position.) It's a fair question. The answer may be "no lense, this is what it says" -- but the question is not out of bounds, and to answer the question takes work. Second, even if it was pre-fall design (which is an open question between the camps) does the Gospel (e.g., Galatians 3:28 neither "male nor female" in Christ) trump this? Third, what do we even mean by "complementarian" and "egalitarian"? If one holds the day over the other with respect to 1 Timothy, what follows?

I know I am raising more questions than giving answers -- in short, I don't know which is a more correct interpretation of the underlying texts (this is certainly not so for all texts, but I think it is here). I would point you to some of the books and authors mentioned earlier in this chain who are more engaged on this if you want to dig deeper. But I believe Duncan et al.'s position -- that any variance from a complementarian position breaches the authority of Scripture -- is untenable. This strikes me as an issue much closer to disagreements over baptism than the authors care to allow.

Is that helpful?

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