Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/01/2009 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. Fifty truly crucial answers on this topic.
It may seem hackneyed to state that on a given matter we find more questions than answers, but in the case of Complementarianism v. Egalitarianism, the proliferation of questions over answers is truly the case. Even those of us who identify ourselves as comps (being one of them myself) have proportionally fewer answers than questions.
But here we may have hope, for Dr. John Piper, co-editor of the mammoth Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, claims to refer back to the contents of chapter 2 of Recovering, etc. constantly: “This is the [chapter] I return to most often in dealing with the knotty issues of manhood and womanhood in ministry.” If the learned and renowned co-author of the book admits to using it regularly as a refresher, then I am in good company. In case you haven't already figured it out, the contents of chapter 2 overlap with that of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood booklet 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood. A protracted title for a 67-page booklet, I know.
The booklet/chapter is characterized by solid, if brief, biblical exegesis. Piper and Grudem – and if you have read enough of both authors you will recognize each one’s voice – graciously but persuasively go for the jugular in each one of their answers to this chapter’s 51 questions.
51 questions, and not 50? Yes; this booklet is copyright 1992 and is based on the contents of the original edition of Recovering, etc. As such, it contains 50 questions, whereas chapter 2 of the 2006 edition of Recovering, etc. contains 51. Apparently the editors felt it necessary to separate the two prongs of the fiftieth question – a decision I support because the first prong deals with the personal application of biblical manhood and womanhood, while the second prong addresses its application to “denominational, institutional, and congregational standards of belief and practice.” Two very different instances, as you can see.
Even the list of 51 questions is not exhaustive, as the authors admit, because “every effort to answer one question...begets new questions.” The ten questions reproduced below are the ones I hear most frequently asked:
• Don’t you think that stressing headship and submission gives impetus to the epidemic of wife abuse?
• Don’t you think that these texts are examples of temporary compromise with the patriarchal status quo, while the main thrust of Scripture is toward the leveling of gender-based role differences?
• But what about the liberating way Jesus treated women? Doesn’t He explode our hierarchical traditions and open the way for women to be given access to all ministry roles?
• Are you saying that it is all right for women to teach men under some circumstances? Since it says in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that “women should remain silent in the churches,” it doesn’t seem like your position is really Biblical because of how much speaking you really do allow to women. How do you account for this straightforward prohibition of women speaking?
• Doesn’t Paul’s statement that “There is . . . neither male nor female . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) take away gender as a basis for distinction of roles in the church?
• How do you explain God’s apparent endorsement of women in the Old Testament who had prophetic or leadership roles?
• Aren’t you guilty of a selective literalism when you say some commands in a text are permanently valid and others, like, “Don’t wear braided hair” or “Do wear a head covering,” are culturally conditioned and not absolute?
• If a church embraces a congregational form of governance in which the congregation, and not the elders, is the highest authority under Christ and Scripture, should the women be allowed to vote?
• Isn’t giving women access to all offices and roles a simple matter of justice that even our society recognizes?
• Since there is significant disagreement in the church over the issues of men’s and women’s roles, should we not view this issue as having a very low level of importance in defining denominational, institutional and congregational standards of belief and practice?
It goes without saying that the controversy over gender roles in Christendom will not be resolved by 50 brief answers to 50 common questions, but rarely do we find this type of solid biblical scholarship in such streamlined form. This booklet is a taste of the rich treasury that is Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and comes highly recommended for both men and women.
Desiring God offers the booklet at reasonable cost.