“A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic: The Slavery Analogy” (Ch 22) and “Gender Equality and Homosexuality” (Ch 23) by William J. Webb -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: “A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic: The Slavery Analogy” (Ch 22) and “Gender Equality and Homosexuality” (Ch 23) by William J. Webb
Author: Wayne Grudem


“A Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic:
The Slavery Analogy” (Ch 22) and
“Gender Equality and Homosexuality” (Ch 23)
by William J. Webb

Wayne Grudem

Research Professor of Theology and Bible
Phoenix Seminary
Scottsdale, Arizona

Introduction

How can Christians today know which parts of the Bible are “culturally relative” and which parts apply to all believers in all cultures throughout history?

William Webb argues for a new approach to that question, an approach he calls a “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” (RMH). He summarizes this approach in his two chapters in Discovering Biblical Equality, but a longer, fuller statement of his position is found in his 2001 book, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals.1 In both contributions he focused specifically on slavery, men’s and women’s roles, and homosexuality as examples that illustrate his general approach toward discovering the ethical standards that Christians should follow today.

Since Webb’s two chapters in Discovering Biblical Equality depend on and summarize his work in Slaves, Women and Homosexuals, I will focus most of my analysis on his longer book, while adding additional interaction with his 2004 chapters at points where they supplement his earlier argument.

I published an extensive analysis and critique of Slaves, Women and Homosexuals in June of 2004.2 Therefore, just as Webb’s more recent chapters are a summary of his longer book, so this article will be a shorter summary of my earlier critique. But I have also added more interaction with Webb’s primary claim in his 2004 chapter, the claim that the Bible’s commands about slavery prove that we need to adopt his redemptive-movement hermeneutic. And I have also added some interaction with Webb’s fuller explanation of how he understands the New Testament to be “our final and definitive revelation” from God (395).3

First, it is appropriate to summarize Webb’s system, his “redemptive-movement hermeneutic.” Webb claims that the ancient world in which the Bible was written had gravely defficient moral standards. God in his wisdom knew that it would be best to work gradually to lead his people from the moral

practices of the surrounding cultures to much higher standards of moral conduct. Therefore in the Old Testament God gave moral commands that were a great improvement over the standards of the surrounding culture, but were not yet his high...

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