Following on from my previous article, defining egalitarianism as apart from all other forms of gender roles within the church, I have more thoughts against all forms of gender caste system but specifically in regards to soft complementarianism.
I do not hold the bible to be self-contradictory.
When I find what appears to be a contradiction, I step back, determine that my own interpretation is at fault, and re-examine. If I were not to do so, but were to accept the bible as self-contradictory, I would have to dismiss the bible as fallible, untrustworthy, and not worth being hinged to any consistent understanding of the one true God, his nature, or his purposes for me.
Examine the word ezer, for example. We translate it, helper. We find ezer the first time in Genesis, describing woman created as helper for man. But consider where else we find this word thereafter: all through the old testament! Exodus, Deuteronomy, littered throughout the Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and almost all of them used to describe God himself being ezer to us. Not God diminished. Not God as subject to mankind’s authority. God being our helper, our suitable and appropriate helper in time of trouble.
Perhaps, then, rather than the bible being inconsistent in the use of the word ezer, we the readers have misinterpreted the first instance of ezer as applied to woman in Genesis.
Jesus’ death tore the veil.
This is both literal and figurative. Literally, the veil in the temple — the layers and layers of heavy fabric many inches thick that divided the holiest of holies where God resided from the rest of the temple, and through which only a high priest could pass — was torn in two when Jesus died. Figuratively, that torn veil represented the dividing point between God and humanity. Jesus’ death tore through the separation of God and mankind, allowing men and women to come to himself without fear of instant death and without requiring a human high priest to make the steps on our behalf. Jesus’ resurrection restores us to God in that Jesus is now our high priest, presenting us to Himself as pure and blameless because he has taken our sins.
The torn veil is important for gender equality, not just personal relationship with God. There was a history of old testament patriarchy where only men could be priests or prophets, where traditionally women weren’t allowed to study the scriptures or govern or lead. Yes, we have women in the bible. Deborah was a judge. Other women are made special mention in the old testament. But these are in spite of the patriarchal system! When Jesus came, he told us he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil and complete it. And what happened? Jesus welcomed women, taught women, forgave women, hung out with women, protected women, initiated women to be the first preachers, and that torn veil is for women, too. Jesus is for women: not to the exclusion or lessening of men, but for the inclusion of women.
Soft complementarians say that women can come to God just as men do, on a personal level with only Jesus for their advocate. They also say that women take on an extra load of sin when they do not defer to men as authority figures in the home. Why? Because the head of woman is man (1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5). Soft complementarians argue that is it not enough to say that head, kephale, is mistranslated and more accurately means source, because of the patriarchal assumptions embedded in the very nature of Paul’s writing. I say, it is because of this patriarchal tone that we need to recognise the writing as lingering in cultural patriarchal context, and not extract purpose from a passage whose particular historical and cultural pertinence were not intended for us to adhere to today, nor which are stated elsewhere in the bible without said historical and cultural pertinence. The bigger picture shows inclusion for women, not in personal salvation alone but in all areas. And it is that bigger picture that Jesus said he’s all about.
Simply, soft complementarians are not following through in their theology. If you begin on a certain logical path, follow it with consistency. It is not a logical or sound argument if you change paths, jumping back and forth between conclusions when it suits you. Soft comp says that woman can come directly to God…but then put a man in the way between woman and God. Not a Jesus man, a human sinful man. Just be honest, it’s recreating the priesthood.
What to take away? I, a woman, have been named a strong, sufficient helper after God himself, and I am a suitable helper, not a hindrance, because God himself has entered me into the priesthood by giving me full access to himself!