Review of “Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate” By Michelle Lee-Barnewall (Baker Academic, 2016) -- By: Aída Besançon Spencer
Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 30:3 (Summer 2016)
Article: Review of “Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate” By Michelle Lee-Barnewall (Baker Academic, 2016)
Author: Aída Besançon Spencer
PP 30:3 (Summer 2016) p. 28
Review of “Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate”
By Michelle Lee-Barnewall (Baker Academic, 2016)
Increasingly, one of the latest reactions to the evangelical gender debate among some younger Christian women is “I am neither complementarian nor egalitarian,” inviting the reply: So, then, what are you? And, why do you respond in this way?
Michelle Lee-Barnewall, associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, gives voice to this relatively recent group. She presents herself as neutral and objective. She thinks neither view is the “biblical view” (1). In this book, she does not clearly answer, “So, what can women do?” (167), although she herself teaches Bible to adult men and women. She is repelled by egalitarians yet not attracted to rigid hierarchists, so she settles for a moderate complementarian position. The following quotations summarize her critique: “Promoting personal rights is intrinsically about what benefits or is fair to the individual rather than building relationships between individuals. Authority may provide order and efficiency but not intimacy” (175). “Does a focus on male authority lead to improper attention on and status for those in leadership instead of God, whose servants they are, or the members of the body of Christ, whom leaders are called to equip? Does an emphasis on rights feed an unhealthy desire to satisfy our own needs rather than seeking God first in humble dependence and obedience?” (177).
The book has two parts with eight chapters. Part 1 deals with “Gender in Evangelical History.” Chapter 1 overviews the first wave of feminism, post-Civil War America through the early 1900s, where women’s domestic sphere was enlarged to the public world as a moral duty since women were regarded as the moral guardians of society (31, 33). She contrasts Victorian women with the egalitarian movement in the 1970s, which promoted equal rights. Victorian women defended women’s interests “only within the framework of an acceptance of male dominance” (33, 35).
Chapter 2 overviews the end of World War II and the 1950s. While during World War II an estimated thirty-six percent of adult women worked outside the home, after the war women either left work voluntarily or were forced to give priority to returning servicemen (37). The ideal was that a mother would be the homemaker and the father the breadwinner (39). Women’s sphere was restricted to the home (47). Chapter 3 overviews the “second wave feminism” of the 1960s and 1970s, where concerns about individual rights, personal fulfillment, and equality predominated, while abolishing roles based on gender (49-50, 6...
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