Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, has a lengthy blog post expressing her disagreement with Candace Cameron Bure. Last week, Bure was in the news for defending a complementarian view of gender roles. Bessey argues that Bure’s decision to submit to her husband is both unbiblical and harmful to women. Bessey’s remarks are pretty standard egalitarian fare. There’s nothing really new at all in her critique of complementarianism.
Nevertheless, there was one line in her post that jumped off of the page at me. It stood out not because it is new, but because it is “Exhibit A” of what is wrong with egalitarian exegesis. Here’s the sentence:
The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.
The unblushing error of this statement is breathtaking. It is a stark denial of the straightforward teaching of scripture. That is why Bessey spends the better part of her post trying to prove that Bible verses contradicting this statement don’t really mean what they appear to mean. Here are just a couple of texts that she brushes aside with a waving of the hermeneutical wand:
1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9 “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ… For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”
Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”
Bessey denies that headship is a concept rooted in scripture, yet here are verses from scripture that teach about headship. She further denies that headship is rooted in the order of creation. Yet here are verses that appeal specifically to the original creation of man and woman in Genesis 1-2.
How does she set aside these texts? She doesn’t even cite the text from 1 Corinthians. She claims that the text from Ephesians is merely Pauline cooperation with first century error about gender roles and patriarchy (the so-called Haustafeln), and we now know better than Paul did. She also argues for a “redemptive movement” hermeneutic that treats the Bible’s ethic as inferior to a modern egalitarian point of view. In short, it’s the same old egalitarian arguments that have been roundly refuted for decades now. But you wouldn’t know that from her post because she writes as if egalitarian exegesis is the only exegesis that there is. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I’m not going to rehearse all the old arguments against her reading of the relevant texts. The literature is voluminous and abundantly available for anyone willing to read. I simply want to point out that egalitarian hermeneutics are not benign. They cater to the egalitarian spirit of the age by suppressing what the Bible actually teaches. I am reminded of Ligon Duncan’s remarks in this regard:
The gymnastics required to get from “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” in the Bible, to “I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” in the actual practice of the local church, are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God.
By the way, this is one reason why I think we just don’t see many strongly inerrantist-egalitarians… in the younger generation of evangelicalism. Many if not most evangelical egalitarians today have significant qualms about inerrancy, and are embracing things like trajectory hermeneutics, etc., to justify their positions. Inerrancy or egalitarianism, one or the other, eventually wins out.
We are not playing games here. The hermeneutics of egalitarianism are serious error and are harmful. That much is on full display in Bessey’s article.