The Cross and the Mission of God

The Cross and the Mission of God

he_qi_crucifixionFor the next four Wednesday evenings I’ll be teaching a class at Faith Covenant Church in Winnipeg entitled The Cross and the Mission of God.

Why did Jesus die, what did his death achieve, and how is this good news for all people?

In this 4-evening teaching series we will explore these questions by looking at various dimensions of the atonement (Christ’s dying for us) in Scripture. The Bible does not give us a single view of the significance of Christ’s death, but unveils a rich mosaic of images and metaphors that powerfully depict the relevance of the cross for us.

Through this study, we will seek to grow in our understanding of the cross so that we can love and worship God more deeply and share the wonder, beauty, and relevance of the cross with our friends and neighbours in a variety of practical ways.


  1. Introduction: The Atonement as Good News for Us and for the World
    Christ’s atonement cleanses and heals us
  2. Christ’s atonement restores our relationships with God and each other
  3. Christ’s atonement saves us from slavery to sin and evil forces
  4. Christ’s atonement removes our guilt and sets us free to love and serve God

* Painting: Crucifixion by He Qi

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Integrating Faith and Science: Some Reflections on Psalm 19

Prov Series 2015Last night I gave a public lecture in Steinbach entitled “Is Christian Faith Obsolete in a Scientific Age?” I will be giving the lecture again this Saturday evening in Winnipeg at McNally Robinson Bookstore and the following Saturday evening in Winkler.

As part of that lecture I offered some reflections, based on Psalm 19, on how Christians might begin to approach the integration of faith and science in a way that honours the integrity and respect the limits of both.

Below is a link to a sermon I preached recently entitled “God’s Two Books,” in which I provide a more detailed exposition of Psalm 19 with the faith and science dialogue in mind.

Click here to listen to my sermon, God’s Two Books.

(I first preached this sermon at the Steinbach EMC Church on Main St.).

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Virtue and biblical interpretation

“But for searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their lives.”

– Athanasius

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8 Principles of Biblical Interpretation from Irenaeus

irenaeusThe following are 8 principles of biblical interpretation from St. Irenaeus of Lyons (second century AD). Which do you find most intriguing and/or helpful?

  1. The rule of truth (the conviction that God speaks through Scripture and the Spirit).
  2. Logical coherence and aesthetic fitness (requiring both analysis and imagination).
  3. Fulfillment of prophecy in Christ and recapitulation in and through Christ, who gathers and sums up all things under one head.
  4. Eschatology (a teleological awareness oriented toward the consummation of all things).
  5. Moving from what is certain to what is obscure (not the other way around).
  6. The moral integrity of the interpreter (which especially includes epistemic humility).
  7. An awareness of historical context (to the best of one’s ability).
  8. Grammar matters for interpretation.

Irenaeus faults his Gnostic interlocutors for breaking every one of these principles.

Source: Eric Osborn, Irenaeus of Lyons (Cambridge University Press, 2001).

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‘Egalitarian’ and ‘Complementarian': Clarifying Terms

Before continuing with my series on why I am an egalitarian, let me pause briefly to clarify terms. Terminology is tricky. Terms are useful, in fact necessary; but they can also be misleading.

The terms ‘egalitarian’ and ‘complementarian’ are no exception. Potentially useful, but also potentially misleading. For example, most evangelical egalitarians affirm the notion of gender complementarity and most evangelical complementarians affirm the equality of all human beings in terms of their basic dignity as creatures made in God’s image. Egalitarians do not seek to erase all gender differences. And the complementarians I know do not wish to endorse gender discrimination, authoritarianism, or abusive forms of patriarchy.

Having said that, there are important differences of opinion between egalitarians and complementarians concerning the meaning and practical outworking of gender equality in the home and in the church.

So what do I mean when I compare these positions?

When I speak of the complementarian position I am talking primarily about the view that certain ministry positions and activities in the church are inappropriate for women and should be restricted to men. In particular, I am referring to the belief that women should not hold positions of authority over men or lead activities that imply such authority (e.g., many would include preaching in this category). Complementarians differ over what roles and activities should properly be deemed authoritative in this sense, but what they hold in common is a basic conviction that the male-female relationship is hierarchical in nature by God’s design. Thus, husbands have authority over their wives and men should occupy key positions of leadership in the church (note: most complementarians do not believe that men in general have authority over women in general in a collective sense). John Piper is a good representative of the typical complementarian position. He asserts that male authority and female submission are of the essence of “what true manhood and womanhood are” (John Piper, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood [Wheaton: Crossway, 1991], p. 34). Complementarians are quick to assert that they do not regard women to be of lesser value or dignity than men; rather, they believe that God designed women to be subordinate to men with respect to certain roles and functions. (I am not convinced this distinction holds up philosophically, but that’s another conversation).

In contrast to this view, I believe that women should be welcomed and encouraged to serve in positions of church leadership and authority, and that giftedness and not gender should determine any person’s qualification to serve. That is what I mean by ‘egalitarian’.

This does not imply that I believe in abolishing all gender differences. It simply means that I do not regard gender, or gender differences, to be a relevant factor when assessing a person’s qualifications for and calling to ministry and leadership in the church (unless, of course, gender is intrinsically related to a particular kind of ministry, for example one might require a women to lead a women’s ministry or a man to lead a men’s group).

To further clarify my meaning: I like the subtitle of the book Discovering Biblical Equality, which is Complementarity Without Hierarchy. Actually, I would qualify that subtitle even more and say that I affirm complementarity without arbitrary hierarchy. Hierarchy itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when it is imposed arbitrarily and uni-directionally (i.e., always in one direction, male over female). Authority itself, it seems to me, makes sense when it is based on things like competency, expertise, maturity, wisdom, experience, character, spiritual giftedness, and so on. It doesn’t make sense to me as an arbitrary characteristic attributed to one gender alone.

A couple of personal examples. In the context of my own marriage, my wife and I share authority. Each of us takes primary responsibility over things that fit our relative strengths and weaknesses, interests and non-interests (and even this is not absolute; sometimes we swap responsibilities just to give each other a break). We don’t assign responsibility based on arbitrary, abstract gender roles regardless of personal fit or ability. As another example, one of my good female friends is a chartered accountant who also holds a PhD in tax policy. Would it make sense to assign financial authority to her husband simply because he is male? That strikes me as arbitrary and irrational.

The examples I just cited are in the context of the marriage relationship between husbands and wives. What about the church? What do I mean by arbitrary gender hierarchy in that context?

To illustrate, consider these words written by “RJS”, a scientist and contributor to Scot McKnight’s blog (Jesus Creed):

“My general experience … I can speak to large audiences, organize seminar courses, design  curricula, chair committees including search committees, hire, fire, write scholarly articles, conduct research, write proposals, supervise and mentor graduate students, be responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds, serve on major University-wide committees, hold leadership positions in professional organizations, be one of the 2-5% of Christian faculty, Monday-Saturday … but none of this matters at church.” (RJS wrote this as a comment to this post)

Indeed. When considering the giftedness of women like RJS, it just seems so arbitrary and unjust to prevent them from serving in significant roles of leadership within the church.

As another example, one of my friends is a gifted musician. She has a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and a master’s degree in choral direction from McGill University. She’s also passionate about her faith in Jesus, a good critical thinker, a very capable planner, and an articulate speaker. For a long time, she was involved in a church that allowed her to plan and arrange all of the music, select Scripture readings, guide the worship team in preparation and practice, and prepare the ‘liturgy’ of the church’s worship service. But she was not allowed to lead the worship service. Her husband was required to step into the leadership role in her place to be the mouthpiece while she served in the background. Again, arbitrary!

Sometimes the New Testament, particularly Paul in some of his letters, places restrictions upon women—or at least upon certain women at certain churches. But I don’t think that these are arbitrary restrictions based on an abstract gender hierarchy. His reasons are contextual and have to do with particular problems he was observing in the churches. His instructions are pragmatic, practical solutions to concrete and specific problems that were threatening the unity of the church and the integrity of the gospel message. His concern is not gender differences or hierarchy as such. But we’ll get to that in future posts!

To sum up what I mean by complementarity without arbitrary hierarchy: the criteria we employ to assess a person’s qualifications for ministry and leadership within the church should be intrinsically related to the requirements of the position or task. Wisdom, character, maturity, experience, skill, giftedness, Christ-likeness, relational and leadership ability . . . these are the kinds of things that matter. And, if you read beneath the surface, these are exactly the kinds of things the NT requires of leaders in its lists of qualifications for elders and deacons. In contrast, a person’s gender is not intrinsically related to leadership and ministry positions and tasks (generally speaking). As a measure of fittedness for leadership and ministry it is an arbitrary and thus inappropriate criterion.

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Women in the Church: Why I am an Egalitarian (part 7)

Women in the Church: Why I am an Egalitarian

Part 7: Reading Scripture as an Egalitarian

Small-GroupIn future posts, I would like to start addressing how egalitarians read difficult passages of Scripture, including the parts of Scripture that seemingly place limitations on the full equality of women in the church and in the home (and, in particular, certain sections in Paul’s letters).

That’s where we’re headed in future weeks. But before that, I thought it would be helpful to include a summary statement of how I, as an egalitarian, understand the big-picture message of the Bible with respect to the equality of men and women. What follows are 10 points that offer a snapshot of this. These are not comprehensive arguments; that is not my intention here. Arguments for each of these points can be found in the books that I recommended in a previous post (click here for the link). This is just meant to be a quick summary of what I, as an egalitarian, understand to be the teaching of Scripture, interpreted in the light of tradition, reason, and experience of God.

  1. Genesis 1–2 teaches that men and women were created to be equal. Both were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–28) and were included in the vocational mandate given to all human beings to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over all that God has made. Genesis 2 teaches that the man is incomplete without the woman and cannot fulfill the divine command without an appropriate or ‘suitable’ counterpart. The word ‘suitable’ (Hebrew kenegdo) denotes equality and adequacy. Thus, God created women as man’s ‘helper’ in the sense of being his counterpart and partner, not in the sense of being a subordinate (the term ‘helper’ used in Gen. 2:18 – Hebrew ezer – is not a term of subordination or inferiority; most of the time in the OT it refers to God who is Israel’s helper). The forming of the woman from the man’s side indicates the unity and equality God intended for all human beings, male and female.
  2. Genesis 3 teaches that men and women are co-participants in the Fall and that gender inequality is a result of sin, not part of God’s creative intent for men and women. The curse in Genesis 3 is descriptive (describing the result of sin) not prescriptive (prescribing God’s plan for men and women).
  3. Christian life is properly oriented to and directed by the new creation (inaugurated “in Christ” by the Spirit), not the fallen creation (“in Adam”). In the new creation, people are not subject to present confines. In Matt. 22:30, Jesus says that “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Though somewhat cryptic, this passage seems to indicate that present gender roles are, at least to some extent, temporary. We are on a trajectory moving toward gender equality, a full reversal of the Fall in this regard. Therefore, there is an eschatological qualification on present gender roles (many of the gender roles we presently embrace are provisional).
  4. Spirit gifting is the primary criterion for ministry and leadership in the NT church (see post 2). The Spirit is poured out on both men and women (Joel 2; Acts 2) and sovereignly gifts and calls both to serve in ministry and leadership capacities. All minister on the basis of their spiritual union with Christ, who alone is the High Priest and true minister. By the Spirit, both men and women participate in Christ’s ministry in ways that they have been individually gifted and called.
  5. We observe “redemptive movement” within Scripture concerning its treatment of women (see post 6). This redemptive movement accommodates an egalitarian perspective. It helps to create a convincing framework that integrates Scripture’s teaching on women in ministry and leadership and explains counter texts or anomalies sufficiently. Scripture has both egalitarian and patriarchal impulses; the egalitarian position integrates these more effectively into a coherent whole (see post 5).
  6. There are many examples of women serving in ministry and leadership in the Bible (see post 3 and post 4). Women were even instrumental in writing the Bible. Think about that for a second: yhey were not just preaching it, but were instrumental in its production! (E.g., Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55 was the first Christian exposition of Scripture; God also revealed other parts of Scripture through inspired women, such as Exod. 15:21; Judges 5:2-31; 1 Sam. 2:1-10; 25:24-31; Luke 1:25).* The egalitarian position sits well with these examples, whereas strong forms of complementarianism fail to take their full significance into account.
  7. Jesus’s treatment of women was radically subversive of his culture’s patriarchy. Good examples include his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well, his treatment of Mary (who sits at his feet as a disciple sits before a rabbi), and the prominence given to women in the gospel accounts (e.g., women are positively portrayed as accepting Jesus’ message and supporting him, rather than doubting him or expecting him to serve an alternate agenda as the disciples and Pharisees often do; women were the first witnesses of the resurrection; etc.).
  8. Paul’s treatment of women was radically subversive of his culture’s patriarchy. This is not obvious to the casual reader, but to one who reads his letters in context and knows about the ancient world it is quick shocking! More on this to come in future posts.
  9. With respect to husbands and wives, the NT teaches mutual submission out of reverence for and in common service to Christ (1 Cor. 7:3–5; Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:1-7; Gen. 21:12). Concerning the husband’s function as ‘head’, the husband is to offer himself to his wife in self-giving love and service within this relationship of mutual submission (Eph. 5:21–33; Coo. 3:19; 1 Pet. 3:7).
  10. The New Testament envisions and sets in motion radical social transformation with respect to gender roles (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 5; Acts 2). This is not just about equality in the gospel or in salvation, but in how that gospel and salvation are lived out.

Note: Points 1, 2, and 9 draw on the CBE’s document “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality,” which is posted at:

* See Philip B. Payne, “Examining Twelve Biblical Pillars of Male Hierarchy,” p. 5, published online by the CBE here.

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Stephen Meyer Answers his Biologos Critics

dd pictureStephen Meyer, Intelligent Design proponent and author of Darwin’s Doubt and Signature in the Cell, just posted a response to a Biologos series that critically reviewed his work. I think that the exchange represents a great example of constructive and respectful debate and I’m very interested to see how the conversation develops. Meyer puts his finger on what he believes to be the central issue: “In particular, . . . the central issue dividing the BioLogos writers from intelligent design (ID) theorists concerns a principle known as methodological naturalism (MN). MN asserts that scientists must explain all events and phenomena by reference to strictly naturalistic or materialistic causes. The principle forbids postulating the actions of personal agency, mind, or intelligent causation in scientific explanations and thus limits the explanatory toolkit of science to strictly material processes or physical causes.” My response:

  1. I agree with Meyer that current evolutionary theories seem inadequate to address the explosion of diverse new life (and the huge increase in information) associated with the Cambrian event. No current scientific theory sufficiently explains this (i.e., tells us precisely how this happened, or could even have been possible, in terms of clear causal mechanisms and links that account for the diversity and rapidity of the event). However, that’s not to say that no such explanation is possible or forthcoming. Also, contemporary scientists believe that multiple evolutionary mechanisms are at work (e.g., symbiogenesis, developmental constraints, and epigenetics; see Deb Haarsma’s response to Meyer here), not just one.
    On the issue of ID as a “scientific” explanation: -
  2. So much depends, it seems to me, on how we are defining terms. Is “science” a body of knowledge or is “a science” a particular discipline related to a particular domain of knowledge, carrying along with it specific methods intrinsically related to its object of study? Or, is it in some sense both? If the first, then it seems to me that notions such as intelligent agency should be included in our discussion about what we might, with good warrant, infer from the “big picture” produced by scientific observations. But I think it should be noted that this is a kind of “meta-science”: It seems to me to be more like a scientifically grounded philosophy, which ties together various lines of observation and argumentation into a unifying philosophical framework. If we think of “science” in the second sense, we have to ask: what do appeals to non-physical explanations look like in particular scientific disciplines, such as physics or chemistry or biology? Does the rejection of methodological naturalism endorsed by ID only work with the broader “big picture” meta-questions related to origins and evolution, or does it also promise to provide useful knowledge within the particular disciplines and how they operate on a day-to-day basis, as they contribute incrementally to their respective domains of inquiry?
  3. Moreover, a potential problem for ID here is: what do we mean by intelligent agency? Meyer argues (in the words he quotes from Nelson) that “intelligence or mental activity is the only known cause of the origin of large amounts of functional or specified information.” O.K. (whether or not that’s true, I’ll leave to the scientists and information theorists), but granting that’s true, we know about agency of this kind always and only in relation to the physical beings that we observe carrying it out. It seems to me that Meyer is here conflating agency as we experience it (connecting intentions and purpose with the actual physical beings that perform actions) with an abstract notion of agency as a something attributed to a non-identified and non-physical Being. Philosophically, I’m quite comfortable with this, as an inference from what we observe to a (limited) metaphysical and theological explanation. But I wonder, once we move from agency associated with knowable, nameable, physical beings to an abstract notion of agency associated with an unnamed, invisible, and (probably) spiritual being, are we still within the domain of the sciences? And “sciences” in what sense? - So, the move is not just from “agency as the only observed cause generating functional or specified information” + “functional or specified information actually in the world” to the inference of intelligent design, but “agency as the only observed cause generating functional or specified information” + “functional or specified information actually in the world” + the positing of an abstract notion of disembodied, unidentified, unnamed agency (which is fine theologically and philosophically, but perhaps not scientifically), leading to the meta-scientific inference of an intelligent designer.

An intriguing discussion for sure – I look forward to the responses and ongoing discussion. You can read Meyer’s post on the Biologos website here. For the Biologos series criticizing Meyer’s work, see here.

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Being Human, Being Church

I submitted the revised draft of my book to the publisher yesterday! It’s an academic monograph entitled Being Human, Being Church: The Significance of Theological Anthropology for Ecclesiology. Excited in anticipation of seeing it in print!

I’ll keep you posted!

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Egalitarianism – suggested resources

Some Resources to Explore Egalitarianism

I’m taking a brief hiatus from my series on egalitarianism (I’m in the midst of teaching an intensive modular course on theological anthropology).

But I thought I’d take the opportunity to post some recommended resources for those wishing to explore the egalitarian position for themselves.

Here’s a list to get you started. It’s not exhaustive, but these resources have been helpful for me and provide a good introductory overview:

  1. Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, edited by Pierce and Groothius (Intervarsity Press, 2004).
  2. Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender by John Stackhouse (Baker, 2005).
  3. As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission by Alan Padgett (Baker, 2011).
  4. Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis by William J. Webb (IVP Academic, 2001).
  5. Beyond the Curse by Aida B. Spencer (Thomas Nelson, 1985).
  6. Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to the Present by Ruth A. Tucker and Walter Liefeld (Zondervan, 1987).
  7. Christians for Biblical Equality website. Includes a number of free articles, a bookstore, and other resources.
  8. Priscilla Papers: the academic journal published by Christians for Biblical Equality.

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Women in the Church: Why I am an Egalitarian (part 6)

Women in the Church: Why I am an Egalitarian

Part 6: Redemptive Movement

In my last post, I argued that both the complementarian and egalitarian positions employ interpretive strategies when they appeal to the Bible to support and defend their views. It is important to grasp this, because anyone can easily amount a list of ‘proof texts’ in support of a given position.

The more difficult questions are: Does one’s interpretive strategy (or set of strategies) sufficiently integrate all of the relevant biblical texts? What about those that don’t easily lend support to one’s view or perhaps even seemingly contradict it? On what basis has one chosen and ranked controlling or central texts in relation to perceived peripheral texts or anomalies? We inevitably read certain texts in light of other texts that we regard as more central, but how is one even to distinguish what is central from what is peripheral? For example, should we read 1 Timothy 2:12 in light of Galatians 3:28 or vice-versa? More broadly, should we read the egalitarian proof texts as central and the complementarian proof texts as peripheral, or the other way around?

The point I am making is that one must make an interpretive choice. This is unavoidable. And, perhaps frustratingly for some, the Bible does not tell us in a straight forward manner how to make that choice. Simply citing more texts than the other position does not make one’s own view more persuasive. One must also offer a more convincing framework or paradigm within which all of the relevant texts fit coherently. Not that one can (or even should) eliminate all ambiguity, but a good interpretive strategy does aim to minimize perceived difficulties, contradictions, and incoherencies.

One paradigm that I have found helpful is the ‘redemptive-movement hermeneutic’ developed by William Webb (a ‘hermeneutic’ is a lens through which one reads Scripture). Webb argues that one cannot simply proceed directly from biblical texts to theological, ethical, political, or practical positions. Before we can do this, we need to know something about the ancient historical contexts in which the biblical were written and addressed. We also need to be aware of movement within the Bible on an issue in question, both within each testament and movement from the OT to the NT. Finally, we need to recognize that the Bible does not always give us the last word on a particular issue. Rather, what it often does is initiate a trajectory, a ‘redemptive movement,’ that must be developed theologically in order to posit an ultimate ethic. Here is a visual depiction of Webb’s approach, which I’ve reproduced from his website linked here.

XYZ-Principle-JPEGWebb has applied his redemptive-movement hermeneutic to several examples. One is slavery. Strictly speaking, the Bible does not advocate a fully developed abolitionist position, such as that advocated by William Wilberforce and the abolitionist movement. It also lacks a modern understanding of human rights, as set out for example in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. Paul assumes the givenness of slavery as a cultural institution and tells slaves to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22). He does say that if slaves can gain their freedom they should do so, and he does suggest to Philemon that he receive Onesimus back as a brother and not a slave, but nowhere does Paul declare outright that slavery is intrinsically evil, an affront to human dignity and a violation of basic human rights. Contemporary readers often assume that the Bible is simply against slavery, but that is because we read it in light of modern developments. We fail to appreciate that earlier interpreters did not find the Bible’s teaching on this matter to be so clear (during the time of the American civil war, for example, abolitionists had a very difficult time convincing their opponents that the Bible was against slavery).

What the Bible does do is set in motion a redemptive trajectory of liberation, which begins to subvert and openly question the institution of slavery. This movement begins in the Old Testament. Compared with other nations in the Ancient Near East, Israel’s treatment of slaves was more humane. The OT assumed slavery, but advocated for better treatment of slaves and sought to mitigate the abuse of slaves. The NT continues the movement began in the OT. Its primary focus is on spiritual freedom in Christ, but it applies this new spiritual freedom in Christ in ways that begin to undermine the very idea of slavery. To construct a fully abolitionist perspective, we need to recognize the redemptive movement found within Scripture and develop it theologically. Finally, we might even posit an ultimate ethic to move toward, which envisions the elimination of slavery across the globe, as well as improved working conditions, maximization of wages, and harmony, mutual respect, and unified purpose within organizations and economic structures.1 So, we begin with the seeds planted within Scripture and develop them theologically, ethically, politically, and socially.

We can observe the same kind of redemptive movement at work in the Bible’s stance toward women. Ancient cultures surrounding the people of God often advocated a strong patriarchy that included many abuses of women. In the OT, we find a moderate patriarchy with fewer abuses. In the NT we find a stronger endorsement of women’s equality (both in Jesus and in Paul). In our present culture, we find a significantly improved status for women and an emphasis on individual rights, autonomy, and self-fulfilment. Finally, on the basis of this received trajectory, we might posit an ultimate ethic, which envisions interdependence, mutuality, and a servant-like attitude in all relationships.2

Webb also applies his redemptive movement hermeneutic to other topics, including the Bible’s treatment of corporal punishment (spanking) and, most recently, the Bible’s perspective on violence, war, and peace (forthcoming book). His basic insights apply to many other issues as well, where the Bible gives us some initial cues and establishes a redemptive trajectory but does not yet establish a fully satisfying ethic. For example, the Bible does not assume a democratic form of government, or a free market system of economics, or universal health care provided by the state, or modern ethical concepts such as inalienable human rights in political ethics, informed consent in medical ethics, or the kinds of ethical checks and balances required by modern business and accounting practices. All of these modern ideas are developments of seeds, principles, and trajectories found within Scripture. Moreover, for each of them, an ultimate ethic still lies ahead and requires further theoretical development and practical realization.

To sum up, how does all of this help the egalitarian position? Well, Webb’s redemptive movement approach assumes that Scripture’s teaching about women in ministry and leadership will be mixed. How could it not be? Its authors were writing within the context of an ancient society that was thoroughly patriarchal. BUT, there is much evidence within Scripture to support the view that the biblical authors planted redemptive egalitarian seeds and initiated a subversive, redemptive movement toward the full equality of women and men in the church. We need to recognize this movement, cultivate those seeds, and develop them theologically in order to draw out their full implications for equality.

Was Paul an egalitarian in the modern sense? No, not quite. But given his patriarchal historical context, he did teach and model a way of life that was deeply subversive of his culture’s gender inequality. And he is part of a broader biblical movement (including the OT, Jesus, and other NT writers) that set in motion a trajectory that leads to an ultimate ethic of full equality for women in church and society. The egalitarian position fits within this paradigm very well.


1 William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 37.
2 Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals, 38.

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