I listen to the chapel podcast from Dallas Theological Seminary from time to time, and I was very interested to hear a recent sermon delivered by Carolyn Custis James. Her message was titled “The Role of Women in Both Ministry and Life,” and she preached about the role of women in ministry (and in theological education) in light of Genesis 1 and 2 and the book of Ruth.
She argued that Genesis 2 must be read in light of the grand vision of humanity depicted in Genesis 1. Whereas Genesis 2 depicts the woman’s role as a “helper” to the man, Genesis 1 emphasizes that both sexes were created in the image of God and given the responsibility to rule over God’s good creation. No one on either side of the gender debate would disagree with the latter point. But is she suggesting that the equality of Genesis 1 somehow eliminates any notion of the role distinctions that might be depicted in Genesis 2?
She also argued that, in the book of Ruth, Ruth has deep theological conversations with Boaz and that Ruth instructs Boaz based on her insightful reflections on the Jewish law. I think that Custis James’ reading of the Ruth narrative is not very convincing and that she is making more of the dialogue between Ruth and Boaz than the biblical author intends. But my real question is this. Is Custis James saying that the book of Ruth commends an egalitarian view of gender roles?
Even though Custis James never really declared herself an egalitarian, her interpretation of the biblical text appears to imply egalitarian conclusions. Was this an egalitarian sermon?
You can watch a video of the sermon for yourself above or you can listen to the sermon below.[audio:http://www.dts.edu/download/media/20080325.mp3]
If you have no idea what egalitarianism and complementarianism are, then read this article by Bruce Ware.