Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Reflections on the Equal and Complementary Conference

On Saturday I attended the Equal and Complementary Conference held at Holy Trinity Doncaster in Melbourne.  Neil Chambers spoke on hermeneutical issues, Martin Paluka gave a lively but close and considered exegesis of 1 Tim 2:11-14 and Fiona McClean reflected wisely on the cultural context and application of Complementarianism.  (Twitter: #equalandcomp)

Neil Chambers

Neil Chamber is a Presbyterian minster at Bundoora Presbyterian Church.  Stylistically Neil's talk was the hardest to follow, with a delivery that wasn't very engaging. However it was great to hear many of my own comments about hermeneutics confirmed independently.

Neil, who was filling in for Peter Adam at short notice, spoke about what should form the hermeneutical base of interpretation of Scripture. My Twitter feed gives a rough idea of the general flow and content of his talk so in this post I only want draw out a couple of key threads.  Neil importantly highlighted the sufficiency of Scripture and the danger of over-exaggerating the importance of extra-biblical reconstructions.  In some of his other remarks Neil explained the description of women exercising leadership in the church needs to be tempered by the Apostle's prescription that women should not have church leadership roles.  This made me realize that extracting the principle from a prescription is a lot more straightforward then from description. Neil also mentioned that our reading of the whole which informs our reading of the parts should not marginalize some parts in the process. He noted that quite often Egalitarian interpretation seeks to downplay (one way or another) certain problematic passages on their way to a larger reading of this issue.

Martin Pakula

Martin is an Old Testament professor at BCV and his talk was my favorite.  He worked through the exegesis of 1 Tim 2:11-14 very carefully and then gave a fiery application at the end. I liked Martin's talk because (apart from verse 15) he put to rest this idea that the Complementarian reading is just as ambiguous and complex.
11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
Martin showed that "quietly" is contextualized by 1 Tim 2:2 "living quiet and peaceful lives" and is repeated in the following verse linking the two verses in parallel. Martin noted equality doesn't mean sameness and that sometimes women are permitted to teach in non-congregational settings (Titus 2:3-5 & Acts 18:26) and sometimes to congregations (Col 3:16).  Martin demonstrated that 'authentein' did not mean domineer but meant in a neutral sense simply authority.  Verses 13-14 are the Apostle's reasons for this command.  Eve usurps Adam's authority in Genesis 3 which is the danger of not obeying this command.  He then showed that Eve's failing was moral not educational, a common Egalitarian argument.    After that he made the point that 1 Tim 2 was not occasional but universally applicable and quoted John Stott about the dangers of making it occasional: "opens the door to a wholesale rejection of apostolic teaching, since virtually the whole of the New Testament was addressed to specific situations."  Finally he closed with a fiery quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones who seemed to foresee this modern debate.

Fiona McClean

I was wondering at the beginning of Fiona McClean's talk if she'd answer the obvious question, is it hypocritical for a woman to give a talk at a Complementarian Conference?  However she did and she explained that there was important difference between the gathering at a conference and the gathering of a congregation.   She also added that her primary purpose was not to preach authoritatively on Scripture, but offer remarks about the cultural context of Complementarianism.  An excellent summary of her talk is available over at Arthur and Tamie's blog.  Fiona's talk was especially good for those interested in the practical implications of being a Complementarian and her manner was direct but inoffensive.