Yesterday I posted the final chapter summary from Discovering Biblical Equality: Complimentarity without Hierarchy. This was my second time working through the book from beginning to end, although some of the chapters have become dog-eared from my frequent reference to them. It truly is a remarkable volume.
I have found over the past several months that the book makes a wonderful topical reference for many of the hotly contested issues within the debate about gender roles and service in the church. Each article is written well and extensively footnoted. That has been invaluable for pursing other tangents. The reality is that many of the articles could easily be expanded into full length books. The book was written in response to the CBMW’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood volume and it works well as such a response.
As is the case with any book, its greatest strength for one purpose means its weakness for another. This volume does not explicitly lay out a theology of complementarirty without hierarchy. That can be gleaned in the process of reading the book but it doesn’t actually start with a thesis and build toward it. Personally, I have found other books like Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry by Stanely Grenz and Denise Muir Kjesbo to be more helpful in that regard.
There were topics that I found myself wanting to know more about. Historical context was one of them. More specifically, the nonhierarcial complimentarian position has only been around as a significant force for the past couple of centuries. The “equal in being, unequal in function” formula has not yet been around for thirty years. What were the positions and theological justifications of the church fathers for women being subordinate through the ages? Without this, there is no “baseline,” if you will, from which to see how things have morphed to where we are today. Maybe it is just the sociologist in me, but I found myself craving more historical context.
Second, what was the status and participation of women in the life and ministry of the New Testament Church? Nowhere in more than 500 pages is there one mention of Mary! Other women are mentioned in essays but it seems to me that greater emphasis could have been made of Jesus interaction with women and with the women of the New Testament. Craig Hill, in his book In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future, writes about the “but in Christ” factor. You have statements throughout the Bible that read along the formula of “You have heard it said…but in Christ…” There are many less explicit statements of this thinking made by actions taken rather than words spoken. When the context is understood and then Jesus’ actions are viewed, many act as dramatic “but in Christ” statements. Paul has a number of these implied “but in Christ” statements as well. I think the “but in Christ” evidence in scripture is largely missing from the book and it is some of the most persuasive for me.
All that said, I again emphasize that no book can address every angle of an enormously complex issue like this. It does very well for its intended purpose. I highly recommend it and I have found it an invaluable reference tool. Don’t trust my summaries for its merits. Read it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.