Albert gets up on a soapbox and says, “A woman can’t be the head pastor of a church because Paul says she can’t. If she says she’s called to be a pastor, then she must be confused about her call!”
Albert steps down. Beth steps onto the soapbox and says, “A woman can be the head pastor of a church! If Scripture said otherwise, then of course I would change my thinking. But what Paul says in those passages isn’t entirely clear, and I don’t really understand it. But he is quite clear about loving one another. And loving one another means welcoming all women who are called to be pastors.”
Beth steps down. Now Chris gets up on the soapbox. He says, “A woman can be the head pastor of a church! Paul says they can’t, but he was wrong.”
The Obvious Agreement
These are generic figures. They stand for countless individuals and churches and a number of denominations.
These days Beth and Chris typically get along, sometimes forming their own churches or denominational affiliations. It’s easy for them to work together because they share an obvious agreement: They both agree that a woman can be the head pastor of a church.
The Obvious Disagreement
Beth and Albert often don’t get along. Sometimes they just split and go their separate ways. A degree of separation between them is understandable, and may be necessary; if they worship together week by week, eventually Beth is probably going to want to preach, and Albert will have a crisis of conscience when she does.
But sometimes they go further than just not worshiping together. Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they call each other names; Beth might call Albert a narrow-minded fundamentalist; Albert might call Beth a liberal heretic.
It is easy for them to disagree because they have an obvious disagreement: They disagree on the rightness of a woman as the head pastor of a church.
The Underrated Disagreement
Beth and Chris disagree on the authority of Scripture. Beth submits to the authority of Scripture, and Chris does not. This disagreement concerns the importance of the very book on which their religion is based, the Bible. This disagreement is about what a Christian takes to be authoritative. Beth believes Scripture is a sovereign authority. Chris does not.
The Underrated Agreements
Albert and Chris actually agree on what Paul says. If they were all performing a disinterested analysis of the biblical text, Albert and Chris might well get together to convince Beth that her exegesis of Paul is poor!
But here is the really important point: Albert and Beth agree on the fundamental issue, the authority of Scripture, and they should treat each other accordingly: with love and respect.
Albert should try to explain to Beth what he thinks he (and Chris) can see in Scripture that she can’t. And Beth should try to explain to Albert why she thinks he’s not seeing so clearly, or what she thinks she can see in Scripture that he can’t.
In a word, Beth’s agreement with Chris runs shallow, but her agreement with Albert runs deep.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)
Dr. Mark J. Boone is a teacher and researcher in philosophy, especially the history of philosophy, primarily the ancient and medieval eras, writing his dissertation on Saint Augustine. Dr. Boone is the Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Forman Christian College. Mark is an occasional book reviewer for the journal Augustinian Studies and has written articles dealing with Plato, William James, theology and the arts, and religious epistemology. In some of his precious little spare time Mark makes animated cartoons based on famous speeches and dialogues in the history of philosophy, available on YouTube and Vimeo under the username TeacherofPhilosophy.