Hierarchist And Egalitarian Inculturations -- By: Gilbert Bilezikian

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 30:4 (Dec 1987)
Article: Hierarchist And Egalitarian Inculturations
Author: Gilbert Bilezikian

Hierarchist And Egalitarian Inculturations

Gilbert Bilezikian*

No evangelical would deny the Biblical legitimacy of civil rights as those rights guaranteed and upheld by governmental agencies for the protection of all people. And yet the civil-rights movement was not initiated by the evangelical segment of the Church, nor was it aided to any great extent by evangelical churches. The civil-rights battle was fought in the streets and the courts. Evangelicals became sensitized to civil-rights issues ex post facto, as the realization of the Biblical grounding for equal treatment under the law was forced upon them by historical developments.

The analogy may justifiably be transposed to the debate that is currently taking place among evangelicals over the issue of female roles in church and family within Biblical definition. It is a documented fact that some evangelicals were already advocating an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture prior to the emergence of the feminist movement. However, other egalitarians may well acknowledge their indebtedness to secular feminism for their new awareness of Scripture. This indebtedness does not make them ipso facto secular, feminist or heretical. Nor does adherence to civil rights make others secular, radical or heretical. Throughout history, God has demonstrated that he may use a wide variety of resources to shock his people out of their complacencies. The attacks that were made on the Reformation because of its grounding in the Renaissance did not invalidate its necessity. Nor should accusations of feminist incultura-tion impugn the legitimacy of evangelical egalitarian concerns.

Of course, for this issue as any other the ultimate court of appeal for evangelical Christians is to be found in the Scriptures. The quick survey that follows presents a summary of egalitarian understandings of Scripture as they appear in an increasing number of books and periodicals. It is provided in the hope that claims of equality between men and women without role designations in church and family will receive wider acceptance as a hermeneutical option.

I. The Creation Order

The notion that an authority structure existed between Adam and Eve prior to the fall has been called into question in recent Biblical research. It is now a generally accepted dictum that both Adam and Eve were made in the image of God. As a result they were both entrusted with dominion over the earth without any intimation of a disparity in rank between them. The Genesis account of creation is permeated with concern for hierarchical organization. Rulership had been conferred by God on both sexes over the earth and all life within it. And yet in this carefully organized hierarchy there is not the slightest indi-

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