Assessing Hierarchist Logic: Is Egalitarianism Really On A Slippery Slope? -- By: David C. Cramer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 27:2 (Spring 2013)
Article: Assessing Hierarchist Logic: Is Egalitarianism Really On A Slippery Slope?
Author: David C. Cramer

Assessing Hierarchist Logic: Is Egalitarianism Really On A Slippery Slope?

David C. Cramer

David C. Cramer is a doctoral student in religion at Baylor University. He has published numerous essays on theology and ethics and recently co-edited The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism (Pickwick, 2012). David lives with his wife, Andrea, and their children, Wesley and Liza, in Waco, Texas, where they are active members of the Mennonite church, Hope Fellowship.


Most evangelicals, regardless of our views on gender issues, recognize that within evangelicalism there will always be a diversity of views on any number of issues regarding faith and practice. Since for evangelicals there is no higher authority than Scripture, the inevitable result is that—for better or worse—there will always exist within evangelicalism competing interpretations of Scripture. Under the evangelical umbrella are Arminians and Calvinists, paedobaptists and Anabaptists, premillennialists and postmillennialists, egalitarians and male hierarchists. While most evangelicals realize that many of these positions may be irreconcilable, we also recognize that those who come to a different view than ours may be just as honest, well-intentioned, and well-informed interpreters of Scripture as we try to be.1 And while we do our best to share our views with others—even pointing out the weaknesses of competing views—we attempt to do so in an irenic fashion, knowing that one’s evangelical witness is not ultimately determined by the position one comes to on any one of these complex issues.2

However, within the hierarchical camp, there exists a vocal and influential minority of strongly hierarchist scholars who argue that a commitment to egalitarianism does indeed undermine one’s evangelical commitment. But, since many of us either are or at least know strongly committed egalitarian evangelicals, this argument seems strange. It would be easy for evangelical egalitarians simply to dismiss these hierarchists’ arguments as disingenuous or to respond in kind by excluding hierarchists from their vision of evangelicalism. However, I would caution against such a reaction for a number of reasons. First, Jesus explicitly commands us to refuse recourse to such lex talionis or “eye for eye” reasoning in a command that is just as relevant in scholarship as it is in other social contexts. Second, such a response would probably generate more heat than light and make the divide over gender issues even greater. Third, as Christians, we should always respond to dissent with charity rather than skepticism. That means that, rather than questi...

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