REVIEW: Slaves, Women, and the Gender Debate, by Benjamin Reaoch

Cultures vary in times and places.  Certain practices that are culturally acceptable in one part of the world may not be in another.  Practices/behaviors that were, at one time, culturally acceptable in a particular culture may no longer be acceptable in that same culture as the years have passed or vice versa.  In light of a world comprised of ever-changing cultures, the question arises as to how we are to apply the pan-culturally authoritative and unchanging truth of God’s Word to the oft-changing cultural practices and expectations of our day.

In terms of biblical interpretation, one hermeneutical approach that has developed over that last 50 years which attempts to deal with reading and applying the Scriptures in a world of changing cultures, has come to be known as the “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” or the “trajectory hermeneutic”.  Those who advocate the use of this interpretative method believe that “there are indications in the Bible that move us beyond the specific instructions of the Bible and toward an ultimate ethic” (emphasis original).[1]  For example, such an approach seeks to answer the question of why slavery, while mentioned in the Scriptures, is never expressly condemned.  Taking the approach a step further, proponents seek to utilize a redemptive-movement hermeneutic to “go beyond” what the Bible proposes in terms of the role distinctions between men and women, thus abolishing any Scripturally prescribed distinctions (i.e., Egalitarianism).  Though many scholars/authors advocating such an approach do not arrive at the following conclusion, some are using a trajectory hermeneutic to go even further, thereby condoning the practice of homosexuality.

Does the Bible indicate the validity of the redemptive-movement/trajectory hermeneutic (RMH, moving forward)?  Should we move beyond the prescriptions of the Holy Scriptures toward an “ultimate ethic”?  The ultimate resulting question is, as with slavery, how do we reconcile certain prescriptive and/or restrictive areas of Scripture when it appears there are also elements present that would appear to point toward a fully liberating ethic?

In his new book, Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic (P & R, 2012), Benjamin Reaoch (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) engages the arguments of RMH proponents (most thoroughly, Kevin Giles and William Webb), and provides a soundly exegetical and hermeneutical complementarian engagement and response.  Reaoch states his thesis as follows:

The significant differences between the New Testament instructions to slaves and to women seriously undermine the conclusions made by the redemptive-movement hermeneutic.  The fact that the New Testament “points beyond” the institution of slavery does not indicate that it likewise points beyond God’s design for gender roles.[2]

After a helpful introduction, which serves as a very accessible primer to the issues at large, Reaoch handles his engagement in 6 chapters, along with helpful concluding chapter and a chapter which examines the continuing discussions within the RMH debate.  Beginning with a chapter entitled, “The Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic”, Reaoch surveys the surfacing and development of RMH through the writings of Stendahl, France, Longenecker, Thompson,  Webb, Giles, and Marshall.  Through brief profiles, he notes each author/scholars contributions to the RMH in terms of books, articles, and significant conclusions.  Reaoch then summarizes the complementarian responses offered by Grudem, Schreiner, and Yarbrough.  Utilizing these responses, he moves into what serves as an introduction to his study of slavery and women’s roles in particular.

Chapters 2 and 3, respectively, address slavery and women’s roles according to the Scriptures.  Reaoch includes a helpful section addressing the manner and place of slavery in the ancient world.  He then moves forward to engage the aforementioned scholars’ arguments and conclusions which he intersperses throughout his analysis, in which he structures by addressing the passages concerning each issue, the grounds for obedience in terms of slaves and women, and then the purposes for obedience.  Reaoch’s organization provides for a very accessible survey and understanding of the issues at hand in light of the biblical data.

Chapter 4, entitled “Comparing the Data” assessed the Scriptural data that was presented in chs. 2 & 3, but focuses mainly on the differences between the passages concerning slavery and women’s roles.  Ultimately, Reaoch draws the similarities from common purposes of obedience while the grounds for obedience show marked differences.

Chapter 5, “Heremenutical Considerations: Part 1”, critically engages William Webb’s work Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis.  Reaoch examines Webb’s idea of “theological analogy” and several aspects of Webb’s guiding criteria.  Chapter 6, “Hermeneutical Considerations: Part 2” continues to critique Webb’s work with particular attention given to the arguments that Webb gives to bind the slavery and women’s roles arguments together.

As Reaoch concludes, he summarizes the issues and avoids mere academia by demonstrating what is at stake in the debate as it relates to his role as a pastor, husband and father.  Reaoch notes, “This study has not been an abstract, academic endeavor for me.  As a pastor, I am zealous to teach and preach and lead in such a way that individuals are inspired and instructed to glorify God in every aspect of their lives, not least of which is the area of manhood and womanhood.

In sum, Reaoch provides a thorough and largely accessible summary, critique, interaction and response to the issues of trajectory hermeneutics from a complimentarian perspective.  His writing is fluid, and his organization is clear.  For those who have interacted with proponents of the redemptive-movement hermeneutic in general, or specifically, William Webb’s work in particular, this is a first-rate response that is both scholarly and pastoral.  I recommend it!

*A secure, digital copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review.  I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

BOOK DETAILS

Publisher: P and R Publishing Company
Author: Reaoch, Benjamin
ISBN-10: 1596384018 | ISBN-13: 9781596384019
Cover Type: Paperback
List Price: $25.00
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore$16.25 – 35% Off

[1] Benjamin Reaoch, Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate: A Complementarian Response to the Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2012), xvii.

[2] Ibid., xix.

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Beale on Typology

One of the most controversial and potentially difficult issues within the realm of biblical interpretation is that of typology.  How are the people, places, events, and circumstances of the Old Testament text to be interpreted and understood insofar as their connection to subsequent people, places, events, and circumstances is concerned; especially as they relate to Christ and the church?

Greg Beale, in his forthcoming book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2012), provides a helpful definition for considering that which may be properly understood as having typological significance.  He defines biblical typology as:

The study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in meaning. (p. 14)

After defining biblical typology, he offers two helpful points of clarification regarding “escalation” and “retrospection”.

Beale notes, “By “escalation” is meant that the antitype (the NT correspondence) is heightened in some way in relation to the OT type.  For example, John 19:36 views the requirement of not breaking the bones of the Passover lamb in the OT epoch to point to a greater reality of the bones of Jesus not being broken at the crucifixion…”  Additionally, “…escalation would be the correspondence of God providing literal manna from heaven for physical sustenance and providing the manna of Christ from heaven for spiritual sustenance.”  Clarifying “retrospection”, Beale says, “By “retrospection” is meant the idea that it was after Christ’s resurrection and under the direction of the Spirit that the apostolic writers understood certain OT historical narratives about persons, events, or institutions to be indirect prophecies of Christ or the church.” [Please read the qualification Beale cites regarding the “retrospective” characteristic of biblical typology, noted in the “Comments” section.]

While some interpreters are extremely leery of deeming anything in Scripture a “type” that isn’t expressly stated as such, Beale’s definition and subsequent study promises to be handled with scholarly precision and care, and, undoubtedly, a reverence for both God and his Word.

  • WTSbooks.com has a sample chapter and audio lecture available, as well as some overall info on Beale’s forthcoming work.
  • Amazon.com has the book for a deeply discounted pre-order price of $9.67 (Reg. $17.99)
  • Baker Book House is offering the opportunity to win a copy of the book this week at their blog (Giveaway ends, Friday, August 17, 2012, at 6AM EST).  I’m hoping to win a copy myself, so I can continue the study above! 🙂

Baker Book Giveaway

Baker Academic is giving away a copy of G.K. Beale’s latest book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation, at their blog. The giveaway runs until Friday, August 17, at 6AM EST.  CLICK HERE to be redirected to the giveaway.

Here’s a little info about the book:

Read inside (PDFs): Sample Pages

Publisher’s Description: This concise guide by a leading New Testament scholar helps readers understand how to better study the multitude of Old Testament references in the New Testament. G. K. Beale, coeditor of the bestselling Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, focuses on the “how to” of interpreting the New Testament use of the Old Testament, providing students and pastors with many of the insights and categories necessary for them to do their own exegesis. Brief enough to be accessible yet thorough enough to be useful, this handbook will be a trusted guide for all students of the Bible.

Contents:
Introduction
1. Challenges to Interpreting the Use of the Old Testament in the New
2. Seeing the Old Testament in the New: Definitions of Quotations and Allusions and Criteria for Discerning Them
3. An Approach to Interpreting the Old Testament in the New
4. Primary Ways the New Testament Uses the Old Testament
5. Hermeneutical and Theological Presuppositions of the New Testament Writers
6. The Relevance of Jewish Backgrounds for the Study of the Old Testament in the New: A Survey of the Sources
7. A Case Study Illustrating the Methodology of This Book

208 Pages
Published September 2012

Chick-fil-a, Keller, and the Charge of Inconsistency

My wife recently brought the above graphic to my attention, which seems to have begun surfacing on Facebook in reaction to the statements made by Chick-fil-a president, Dan Cathy, regarding his views on marriage. It’s no understatement to say that Cathy’s remarks have generated nationwide controversy and backlash from those in favor of redefining marriage to accommodate for those in homosexual relationships. The graphic above cites Cathy’s father, and founder of the restaurant chain, S. Truett Cathy, on the company’s desire to employ biblical principles in their business operations.   The glaring question is, “Does the above graphic put forward a valid argument?”  Is the charge of inconsistency, as stated above, leveled accurately?  The brief answer is, “no”.  How, then, are Christians to respond to this question of biblical interpretation?

In June, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, posted the article below.  It provides a wonderfully effective and accessible answer to the aforementioned criticism of inconsistency among Christian biblical interpreters.

Keller writes:

First of all, let’s be clear that it’s not only the Old Testament that has proscriptions about homosexuality. The New Testament has plenty to say about it, as well. Even Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12 that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that, (v. 12) persons should abstain from marriage and from sex.

However, let’s get back to considering the larger issue of inconsistency regarding things mentioned in the OT that are no longer practiced by the New Testament people of God. Most Christians don’t know what to say when confronted about this. Here’s a short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament:

The Old Testament devotes a good amount of space to describing the various sacrifices that were to be offered in the tabernacle (and later temple) to atone for sin so that worshippers could approach a holy God. As part of that sacrificial system there was also a complex set of rules for ceremonial purity and cleanness. You could only approach God in worship if you ate certain foods and not others, wore certain forms of dress, refrained from touching a variety of objects, and so on. This vividly conveyed, over and over, that human beings are spiritually unclean and can’t go into God’s presence without purification.

But even in the Old Testament, many writers hinted that the sacrifices and the temple worship regulations pointed forward to something beyond them. (cf. 1 Samuel 15:21-22; Psalm 50:12-15; 51:17; Hosea 6:6). When Christ appeared he declared all foods ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19) and he ignored the Old Testament clean laws in other ways, touching lepers and dead bodies.

But the reason is made clear. When he died on the cross the veil in the temple was ripped through, showing that the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its clean laws had been done away with. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice for sin, and now Jesus makes us “clean.”

The entire book of Hebrews explains that the Old Testament ceremonial laws were not so much abolished as fulfilled by Christ. Whenever we pray ‘in Jesus name’, we ‘have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus’ (Hebrews 10:19). It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we were to continue to follow the ceremonial laws.

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament. Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us. In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live. The moral law is an outline of God’s own character—his integrity, love, and faithfulness. And so all the Old Testament says about loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, generosity with our possessions, social relationships, and commitment to our family is still in force. The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Corinthians 6:9-20; 1 Timothy 1:8-11.) If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.

Further, the New Testament explains another change between the Testaments. Sins continue to be sins—but the penalties change. In the Old Testament things like adultery or incest were punishable with civil sanctions like execution. This is because at that time God’s people existed in the form of a nation-state and so all sins had civil penalties.

But in the New Testament the people of God are an assembly of churches all over the world, living under many different governments. The church is not a civil government, and so sins are dealt with by exhortation and, at worst, exclusion from membership. This is how a case of incest in the Corinthian church is dealt with by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:1ff. and 2 Corinthians 2:7-11.) Why this change? Under Christ, the gospel is not confined to a single nation—it has been released to go into all cultures and peoples.

Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. However, if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mish-mash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.

So where does this leave us? There are only two possibilities. If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense and is perfectly consistent with its premise. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus was the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything. But the one thing you can’t really say in fairness is that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to accept the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing other ones.

One way to respond to the charge of inconsistency may be to ask a counter-question—“Are you asking me to deny the very heart of my Christian beliefs?” If you are asked, “Why do you say that?” you could respond, “If I believe Jesus is the the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”

LOOKING THRU “THE JESUS LENS” w/ MICHAEL WILLIAMS.

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Tonight (March 6, 2012), Zondervan is hosting a special LIVE discussion with author and professor, Dr. Michael Williams.  Dr. Williams is the author of the newly released, How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture.  The livestream begins at 8:00 PM (EST), and it’s FREE!  Check out the video preview below to see what “The Jesus Lens” is all about, and follow the links below to join the feed!

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vw-4B3WgvUE]

[LIVESTREAM DETAILS]

(HT)