John Hammett on not allowing women to be pastors and the organizing principle of traditional v. technological society

In arguing for complentarianism (only men qualify as pastors/elders/bishops) versus egalitarianism (women can qualify as pastors/elders/bishops), Hammett notes the following reason as to why the two sides of the debate differ:

Another factor, helpfully noted by Stephen Clark in his book, Man and Woman in Christ, is the changing idea of equality and identity involved in the transition from a traditional to a technological society. Clark argues that the organizing principle of traditional society was relational. What determined one’s identity were one’s relationships; that is, whose daughter am I, from what clan or tribe do I come, who are my ancestors? People were valued for things intrinsic to them, for being something as opposed to doing  something. In technological society, the organizing principle is functional. What determines identity is what one does; that is, I am teacher, I am a doctor, I am a mechanic. Identity is achieved rather than ascribed. Value depends on what one can do.

This distinction casts a helpful light on the egalitarian-complementarian debate. I have noticed in reading both sides that they seem to be talking past each other and rarely connecting. The egalitarian side does not believe that complementarians can really believe in genuine equality if there is a distinction in the roles open to men and women. This is rooted in the functional idea of identity. If a woman is denied the chance to achieve something simply because she is a woman, equality is undermined because it is seen in a functional framework. Equality means equal opportunity to achieve. Those in the complementary camp seem to be operating with a relational understanding of equality. Men and women can be equal and yet have different roles, because value and equality is a matter of being, not doing.

…[There] are reasons why Scripture prohibits women from serving as pastors, but they are not functional reasons. God may gift a woman in teaching and leadership, and yet ask her to serve in a context other than that of an elder/pastor, not because of any functional inability, but for relational reasons. God may have a purpose for asking males and females to relate in a certain way. Perhaps those relationships reflect something of the relationship of the Father and the Son (1 Cor. 11:3). Perhaps they reflect something of God’s original intention in creating men and women (Gen. 2:18; 1 Tim. 2:13). But these reasons don’t make much sense to us, because they are not functional reasons. Similarly, we all know many women who seem far more capable of leading their families than their husbands. Yet one of the purposes why God assigns husbands to be the head of the family is to illustrate something of the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:23-24).

If all this is true, that is, that the egalitarian view is undergirded by a technological, functional view of life, and the complementarian view is based on a relational view of life, how do we decide which view to adopt for male-female relationships in the church today? We live in a world that is clearly dominated by a functional understanding of life, and while a functional view is perfectly acceptable in some arenas of life, faithfulness to Scripture requires adopting a relational view in the church and within the Christian family. God desires his people in these two areas to show relationships that reflect something of his nature and his relationship  with us.

John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, p. 172, 173

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About cteldridge

A beggar trying to tell other beggars were the Bread is.
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