Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The progressive Christian dilemma

I'll comment on a post by Arminian theologian Randal Rauser:

Egalitarianism is the view that all offices of church ministry and leadership should be open to both genders. By contrast, complementarianism insists that some offices of ministry and leadership should be restricted to males. I am an egalitarian and yesterday I posted this tweet expressing my concern that complementarianism is not just wrong, but potentially sexist as well:

Tentative Apologist
 Here's one way to put my concern that Christian complementarianism is sexist:

If the pre-1978 Mormon policy of excluding black people from the priesthood was racist, then why isn't the traditional Christian policy of excluding women from church leadership sexist?

Several issues:

i) Rauser believes "all offices of church ministry and leadership should be open to both genders". Notice how egalitarianism is based on gender binaries. Suppose we respond to Rauser on his own grounds:

Here's one way to put my concern that egalitarianism is transphobic:

If the pre-1978 Mormon policy of excluding black people from the priesthood was racist, then why isn't egalitarianism transphobic by failing accommodate gender nonconformity?

ii) Another problem with his tweet is that it begs the question. He simply posits that complementarianism is comparable to racism. But that's an argument from analogy minus the argument. Where's the supporting argument to demonstrate that complementarianism is comparable to racism? 

Rauser illicitly shifts the burden of proof onto the complementarianism, as if there's a standing presumption against complementarianism which the complementarian must overcome. But the onus probandi is not on the complementarian to refute a nonexistent argument. Rather, it's incumbent on Rauser to give some reason for thinking the two cases are parallel. 

To merely observe that both positions are exclusionary is hardly sufficient. Presumably, Rauser thinks there are disqualifications for church office. For instance, Muslims, atheists, and pedophiles are excluded from church office. 

iii) Blacks shouldn't seek ordination in the Mormon priesthood. That's because no one should seek ordination in the Mormon priesthood. That's because Mormonism is a cult. 

Not surprisingly, a couple people responded by pointing out that (in their estimation), the Bible teaches complementarianism. Arguably, the most explicit passage to this point is found in the letter of 1 Timothy chapter 2.

Since I accept plenary inspiration, I am committed to the view that all Scripture is inspired and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. 

Rauser says that with fingers firmly crossed behind his back. 

But that doesn’t mean scripture is easy to interpret and apply, and this is an excellent example. 

That's a diversionary tactic: act as if the real issue is biblical interpretation rather than biblical authority. But it will become clear that Rauser is indulging in sleight-of-hand. 

Egalitarians have extensive discussions of this and other complementarian passages. And they also have a set of prima facie egalitarian texts that they would bring to bear as interpretive guides for the difficult complementarian passages like 1 Timothy 2.

Let me hasten to add that every Christian follows a similar procedure — whether they recognize it or not — of choosing one set of biblical texts as the interpretive control for another set of texts. If you’re a Calvinist, you have a set of texts that frame your interpretation of prima facie Arminian texts; if you’re pedobaptist, you have a set of texts that frame your interpretation of prima facie believer’s baptist texts; if you’re annihilationist, you have a set of texts that frame your interpretation of prima facie eternal conscious torment texts, and so on. This practice of interpretive controls involves an application of the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture.

But that needs to have a principled basis that respects the authority of Scripture, and not arbitrarily making some texts the control texts because they agree with you. 

Nor am I aiming to argue that we ought not to trust the Bible. 

That's exactly what he's aiming at. And if his aim is to undermine trust in Scripture, insincere disclaimers and denials are part of the strategy. 

The point of my tweeted response was to challenge my complementarian interlocutors’ tacit assumption that any time a biblical author makes a theological, moral, or prudential claim, that claim must be inerrant.  

After the softening up exercise, he reveals his true position. He rejects complementarianism, not because it isn't taught in Scripture, but because he rejects the authority of Scripture. 

Webb’s work on corporal punishment provides a precise analogue to the complementarian issue. And that results in what I call the complementarian dilemma.

In the book, Webb recalls that he tried for years to follow the biblical teaching on corporal punishment by physically hitting his child. But eventually, he concluded that this teaching was both morally wrong (it conflicted with his moral intuition) and ineffectual (it was not an effective means to enforce prosocial compliance). And so, Webb found that he simply disagreed with the consistent biblical teaching on child (and slave) discipline.

i) That's not a complementarian dilemma but a progressive Christian dilemma. If Biblical complementarianism is erroneous, the solution is not to admit both men and women to church office, but to disband the church as an obsolete institution founded on a false premise. 

ii) How does Rauser distinguish moral intuition from chic social conditioning? 

iii) Bundling corporal punishment of children or adult felons with slaves is a familiar wedge tactic. Like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, Rauser cites examples that he hopes will make Christians balk. Rauser's a bully who tries to put Christian laymen on the spot. 

I, for one, have discussed the slavery example:

iv) Some OT commands and prohibitions were timebound. They were designed for the nation-state of ancient Israel. That doesn't make them morally or factually wrong. Socioeconomic conditions change. The economy of salvation has stages, phasing out earlier stages and replacing them with later stages. Even in that respect, many specific OT injections that are literally inapplicable to our modern situation exemplify general principles that remain applicable. They just need to be recontextualized. You adapt the general principle to new analogous situations. Human nature hasn't changed. 

Webb is in good company. The overwhelming consensus of child developmental psychologists is that corporal punishment is wrong and harmful. And legislation in developed nations recognizes that fact. Follow the biblical directives to beat children in many jurisdictions and you’ll soon end up in jail. 

That's a good example of how progressive Christians are Quislings who collaborate with secular enemies of the faith to persecute God's people. Rauser is not on our side. He's in league with the secular progressive SJWs. 

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