On Sunday, Dr. Bruce Ware delivered one of the finest, most succinct presentations of the Complementarian point of view that I have ever heard. His address was the second of a Complementarian series of sermons being hosted by Denton Bible Church (the first address is here). The message is deeply biblical and powerfully delivered. The audio is available from DBC’s website, or you can listen to it below.
The substance of Ware’s address consists of ten reasons “why we should affirm that God designed there to be male headship” in the original created order. In essence, Dr. Ware explains how Genesis 1-3 teaches male headship as a part of God’s pre-fall creation.
There is much that I could say in commending this sermon, but I want to focus here on one thing that I really appreciated—Dr. Ware’s method. Dr. Ware explains the meaning of the Genesis creation accounts not only by appealing to the historical sense of the text, but also by reading it in light of the apostle Paul’s comments on Genesis. Thus, Dr. Ware moves back and forth between Genesis and Paul’s writings to explain the creation accounts.
The theological and hermeneutical presupposition undergirding Dr. Ware’s approach is worthy of note. Dr. Ware assumes that the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament is normative. In other words, Dr. Ware treats Paul’s interpretation of Genesis as an authoritative and binding interpretation. This is not a presupposition that characterizes the mainstream of biblical scholarship. Most critical scholars treat the New Testament and the Old Testament (and the individual books within them) as if they represented different and sometimes contradictory theological perspectives.
Unfortunately, this critical way of reading the Bible has infected much of what passes for evangelical scholarship. Some evangelical Old Testament scholars have bought into the interpretive assumptions of their guild so much that they no longer feel any need to understand how the Old Testament’s message fits into a canonical unity with the New Testament. For them, the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament is a problem for the NT scholars, not the OT scholars.
Dr. Ware’s presentation offers a reading of the Old Testament that takes the New Testament’s use of the Old very seriously. For this reason, not only is Dr. Ware’s interpretation of Genesis countercultural, but so is his hermeneutic.
UPDATE: It has come to my attention that two liberal websites, Ethics Daily and Religion Dispatches, have published scurrilous, patently false accounts of Dr. Ware’s message. For example, the article at Religion Dispatches falsely reports:
Ware said that women victims of domestic violence were often to blame for their own abuse because they were failing to submit to their husbands’ authority. Men’s sin came in response to their wives’ lack of submission, becoming either abusive or passive: equal failures in the eyes of Ware and many complementarians, who see men who fail to “lead their families” with proper authority as morally deficient as those who rule with too heavy a hand.
This is not true. As indicated above, I listened carefully to Ware’s sermon, and this report is just not true. Dr. Ware said no such thing. In fact, he said the opposite. He said that abusive husbands are responsible for their own sin. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can listen to the message yourself at the link above.
I should also add that in a private correspondence about these false reports, Dr. Ware wrote to me the following: “These words are his/her [the reporter’s] distorted interpretation of what I said. I did not say these words and I reject altogether what this statement puts forth.”
Bottom line: These reports are an example of what the Bible calls “bearing false witness” (Exodus 20:16). Both Ethics Daily and Religion Dispatches would do well to retract and apologize for these false stories.