How are men and women to relate to one another, in the church and in the family?
When we read the Bible, we find various statements about men and women that seem to be at odds with one another. Galatians 3:28 sees no distinction between male and female, whereas 1 Timothy 2:12 seems to place a restriction on women that men do not have, when serving in the church. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 has Paul saying that husbands and wife share mutual rights with one another, whereas Ephesians 5:22-33 suggests some type of priority husbands have in relation to their wives, in terms of who submits to whom.
What is a biblically faithful Christian to do with this? Select a certain group of texts has having priority over others, thus having a “canon within the canon” approach to Scripture, …. or find a way of integrating the whole of the Scriptural material?
A debate rages among evangelical Christians as to how to resolve the tensions that various Scriptural passages like these present to us. On the one side are the egalitarians, who sense a profound embarrassment over anything in the Bible that appears to be misogynistic, and thus emphasize the equality between men and women. For egalitarians, the liberating message of Jesus for women takes center stage. On the other side are the complementarians, who recognize gender equality, but who refuse to shy away from those passages that might suggest otherwise. Complementarians instead see such difficult passages as offering clues into the complementary relationship between male and female. Instead of embarrassment, complementarians see a beauty being expressed in the gender complementarity of the Bible.
It is important to say at the outset that Christians of good faith, can and indeed do disagree on these matters. Nevertheless, the positions we do take on how male and female relate to one another do have an impact on both marriages and the structure of a local church, and in how we think about gender more generally.
Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family (FOTF) is promoting a special one-night viewing of a new film, Irreplaceable, at select movie theaters on Tuesday, May 6th. The film follows Tim Sisarich, FOTF’s New Zealand director, on a documentary quest to explore the nature of the traditional family and its current status in postmodern society. Even if you have missed the effective barrage of Christian-themed movies in the Spring of 2014, you might be surprised that this one-night showing has provoked some controversy.
Some in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community have been working hard to effectively ban Irreplaceable from being shown in mainstream movie theaters. Why all of the fuss? Well, Focus on the Family has historically been outspokenly supportive of what some call “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which represents types of psychological treatments intended to alter someone’s sexual orientation. In recent years, various groups have become vocally opposed to the use of such treatments describing them as abusive and causing more harm than good. Even some evangelical Christian ministries, notably the former Exodus International in 2013, have now distanced themselves from the use of such therapies.
My understanding is that very little if anything in the film will address reparative therapy, as my guess is that the main focus is on issues like fatherlessness, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce. If the film is successful, it will help people realize that while the “crisis of the family” does have an impact on society at large, the real challenges are complex and very personal and they begin within our own families. Focus on the Family is following up the release of this film with a DVD-based study curriculum developed for churches and small groups, The Family Project, to be released in the U.S. later in the year, modeled after their popular “The Truth Project” from several years ago. The Truth Project itself became controversial within the evangelical church for taking on a whole set of complex worldview issues and oversimplifying them, as suggested by this friendly critic linked here.
In the Williamsburg, Virginia area, the film Irreplaceable will be showing at the Movie Tavern at High Street, at 7:30pm on Tuesday, May 6. If you are planning on seeing the film, we would love to know of your thoughts on it.