Over the past several months, I've become an enthusiastic fan of never-boring author/blogger Rachel Held Evans. Although I don't agree with every stance Rachel takes, her courage, wisdom and well-reasoned and researched arguments consistently challenge me. I dig.
This week has been "A Week of Mutuality" at her blog. Her idea has been to explore egalitarianism/mutuality (the belief that men and women are mutually free to lead in church, home and society, based on giftedness rather than gender) as a biblically tennable option, and to encourage others in the blogophere to do likewise.
Her June 8 post responds to Denny Burk's claim that, quoting his fellow complementarian Russell Moore, "Christianity is undergirded by a vision of patriarchy." In response, Rachel asks "Is patriarchy really God's dream for the world?" I couldn't help but jump in (like hundreds of others) on the comments section, exposing myself as a completely inexperienced commentor-on-other-peopel's-blogs by going on and on and getting the formatting on my comment all wrong. So I thought I'd redeem my comment's life by posting it here (where I know how to format and can go on as long as I like.) This is what I said:
The title of Rachel's blogpost poses THE question, I think: What IS God's dream for his creation? Theologian Kyle Roberts asks something similar in his "Open Letter to Women in Seminary." Describing his own journey to egalitarianism, Roberts asks, “Why should we structure our churches, families and relationships on the basis of past and present sins and failures rather than on the basis of God’s planned future for shalom?”
I have found texts like 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14 troubling and confusing my entire life, but I’m pretty clear on shalom. Isaiah’s vision of shalom includes the turning of weapons into farming tools (Is 2:4), and wolves living peacefully with lambs (Is 11:6). Jesus promises it includes freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and release for the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). Paul envisions a new reality that obliterates racial, socio-economic or gender hierarchy (Gal 3:28). Each of these pictures of God’s shalom – God’s dream for his world – seem to intentionally dissolve any notion of power into a very different vision; all of creation is mutually, joyfully submitted to the beautiful rule of its Creator. Yep, kinda like Eden.
So, in my own quest for fidelity to Scripture, I have been experimenting with a “shalom hermeneutic.” I apply it in cases where a “plain reading” of one set of texts (ie 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14) seems to conflict with a “plain reading” of another set of texts (in this case, Jesus’ treatment of women and Paul’s inclusion and commendation of women leaders in his churches). When all the exegetical work I know to do is done, if there’s still a stalemate, I ask: Which of the reasonable interpretations most moves God’s people towards his shalom? Such a practice has tugged me from dutiful complementarian to increasingly daring egalitarian, and has convinced me that the quest to understand God’s dream for his world—to “discern the mind of Christ” (Phil 2)—requires the gifts and efforts of the entire body of Christ…man and woman alike.
What do you think? Could a carefully and consistently applied "Shalom Hermeneutic" move us toward more faithful biblical interpretation?