Friday, July 11, 2008

Paul Burleson on Women

Thanks to Lin for mentioning an excellent post written by Paul Burleson.


Most of my ministry life has been lived in what today is called 'complementarianism' with regards to women in life and ministry. This simply means I lived, believed and taught that women were to submit to their husband's leadership in the home and were to do the same in church life. Men ruled. Women submitted. As men we had our place and women had theirs. [Complementary] But ours was at the front of the line. We were to love and provide, to be sure, but always from our place at the front of that line. For years of marriage and ministry I never questioned the biblical basis for this nor did I question the rightness of it in a practical way. How could it be otherwise? The bible said it and that settled it. I was old-school in this you see.

When I faced those situations where it was abused either by a man controlling a wife and robbing her of her person, choices and input [or a pastor robbing people of the same] or a wife refusing to obey a husband by attempting to be herself uniquely by exercising her mind or will on issues I passed it off as them being people who generally messed life up because of strong personality [his] or rebellion. [hers] If they would simply calm down and obey the bible all would be well was my mantra.

There were three basic shifts in my understanding along the way that shook my life and forged a new direction for me that resulted in my now belonging to the new school of thought on this issue. The newness is not that the scriptures or my culture or my convictions about scriptural authority have changed. But my understanding of things as they really are in the purposes of God has changed. What follows is a bit of that journey.

Shift number one was in my own life. I view my marriage as a gift from God as I'm sure most of you do. My marriage partner is a gifted and capable woman who is unique in her person. Her discovery of her giftedness and uniqueness was what caused me to look again at women NOT being able to lead or teach men [or anyone for that matter] as I saw in her one who knew more bible than most preachers [she memorized and quoted over 5oo verses at camp one year] and knew theology [still does] better than most of my bible college buddies.

Our relationship clashed with my old-school thinking as she awakened to her uniqueness and personhood in Christ and I began to see her gifts and abilities as from God for me AND the church. [This was not without it's painful times of struggle for both of us.] It also gave us pause because neither she nor I was willing to violate the scripture because of our experience. So what did this mean for us? The old-school way of thinking wouldn't do. That was a given. But something had to give.

Shift two came as a result of studying the scriptures afresh. Laying aside culture, preconceptions, teachers and theological systems I'd learned, I began searching the text anew for myself. For starters, in 1 Timothy 2:12 I began to see the text is less clear than most complementarians see it and that lack of clarity was NOT there because of our culture imposed on it but because of Paul's language used in the text to address HIS culture. It was understanding his culture that came into play for me as I began to grasp what he was saying.

Read the rest of this post here.

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