Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: Evangelical Feminism: A New Path To Liberalism?

The topic of the ordination of women is a controversial one for many in the church today. I'm much too young to remember the debates in General Synod, or to have witnessed the first female deacons and presbyters in the Church of Ireland. Nevertheless, within evangelical circles, there is much difference of opinion on how women should be exercising ministry within the church.

Wayne Grudem has previously written extensively on the issue (including a hefty volume of 856 pages); but this present volume is shorter in extent, but no less powerful in his argument. Grudem's simple thesis, repeated throughout as he presents his evidence, is that he is concerned 'about a widespread undermining of the authority of Scripture... to support evangelical feminism.' (p.11) Surveying various authors, theologians, and organisations' publications, Grudem discusses the approaches and arguments made for the full equality of women to hold every role that men do in the church.

Time and again, he finds that arguments are not made on a scriptural basis, but rather in seeking to sideline, avoid or evade what the Bible teaches. Rather, the arguments are a new path to liberalism, as the Bible is denied or argued away. Grudem argues that there is a danger that such hermeneutical methods (using new interpretations based on changing culture or relevance or equality or whatever) remove the unique authority of the Bible and place authority instead in the minds and decisions of people.

The danger, he continues, is that if a denomination has begun down this line on one issue that other issues are also decided on the same basis of denying what the Scriptures teach. One such issue is in the realm of homosexuality, where we've already seen problems in the Anglican Communion (amongst others).

Grudem's position is of complementarianism, whereby men and women are created equal but different, with different roles in church and home.

The book was an interesting discussion of a subject that is almost taboo in current church circles. The breadth of arguments which are discussed and rejected are hard to ignore, and Grudem is gracious and faithful in his responses. It's certainly a book I'll return to at some stage in the future.

1 comment :

  1. Yeah, Grudem's is the ultimate slippery slope argument; deny his view on women and then you must be prey to all the other shibboleths he kicks up. You have to wonder about a view, though, which places evangelical scholars as conservative as Craig Keener, Tom Wright, Gordon Fee, and Ben Witherington on the wrong end of the proffered slope. Anyway, just thinking out loud ;)

    BTW, I've been meaning to say hello properly for some time and I very much enjoy reading your blog :)