I’m a rational, hard facts kind of person, but I didn’t question complementarianism because it seemed like poor Biblical exegesis or because I heard a great argument for egalitarianism. In fact, I was convinced there was no other interpretation of those hot button verses but the complementarian one. “I do not permit a woman to teach.” Bam. An obvious sentence, if I ever saw one. To be honest, I thought egalitarians were a bunch of angry liberals who ripped the Bible out of context to satisfy their feminist agenda (not that I knew any egalitarians, but strawmen sufficed).
For the first time in my life, I questioned a seemingly-obvious theological teaching on the grounds of morality. God gave women the same gifts as men and forbade them from using them for no other reason than they’re women? That’s the definition of sexism. Sexism is discriminatory. Discrimination is unjust. If that’s how God operated the universe, fine — but I refused to honor a sexist, discriminatory, unjust God.
Did I mention I have a strong sense of justice?
Since I wasn’t a fan of cosmic rebellion, I worked up enough courage to Google egalitarian interpretations of Scripture, hoping there was some sort of explanation for these sexist passages that weren’t kooky or liberal. I, the nitpicky theological geek who had long ago made feminism my personal enemy, was blown away by the egalitarian exegesis. It honored Scripture; it made sense of the historical context of each passage; and it assured me that God was just as grieved at sexism as I, his image-bearer. I was expecting a struggle. Instead I found healing. Egalitarianism salvaged my belief in God’s goodness, and that ended my cosmic rebellion…for that issue.
I’ve struggled with many questions about God before and even more questions after that experience, but I noticed a difference in my questioning. Before, I questioned mainly the logic of Christianity. Does it hold together? Does this make sense of the world? Does this seem plausible? After, I questioned the goodness of God. How can a good God allow such disturbing, disgusting, and totally unnecessary suffering? How can a good God send people to hell when he makes truth so dang difficult to know? How can a good God order not one but multiple genocides? Why did he zap Uzzah for steadying the Ark of the Covenant when it fell? Doesn’t God’s behavior go against Christian morality itself?
After my encounter with egalitarianism, I allowed my sense of justice to pursue these questions and to reject pat answers that excuse monstrosity on the grounds of God’s divinity. My experience with the gender issue taught me that logic and reason weren’t the only factors in discovering truth: goodness was an indicator too.
I think many Christians rely solely on “rightness” when searching for the truth. Arguments about morality, love, justice, and equality can ring hollow with Christians because using anything but literalism and logic sounds like a slippery-slope to being wrong. Christians are willing to say, “The Bible says it; I believe it” or “That’s the truth; tough luck for you” whenever anyone asks a question on the grounds of goodness. They’re so caught up with figuring out what’s right that they forget to ask, “Is this good?”
I used to think this way too — figuring out if something “made sense” or “fit with the Bible,” and never asking any questions beyond that. It’s a normal way of pursuing the truth, and pursuing the truth is an admirable thing. But I don’t think truth and goodness are separable. It’s not possible to have an unjust truth (speaking of truth as a transcendental, not as a fact). And it’s not possible to have an untrue good. If a “Biblical truth” is grating against my soul, I start looking for a new answer.
Now, whenever I’m evaluating a new issue, “Is this good?” is my go-to question. I’ve found more peace, challenge, and mystery by asking this question — because goodness, like truth, is the nature of God.