Saturday, October 02, 2010

"Biblical Gynaecology": Dan Wallace Responds

I am grateful to Dan Wallace for his thoughtful response to my post earlier this week questioning the use of the term "Biblical Gynaecology". It is in comments to that post, but I promote it here so that I can respond later:
Mark, thank you for your comments on my use of ‘gynecology’ as a description of a biblical view of women. In response, I would like to note four things.

First, I think it’s awfully restrictive and unnecessarily biased to speak of gynecology as only dealing with ‘functions and diseases of women.’ A good friend of mine, a female theologian, said, “I would prefer *he* chose one of the many more positively nuanced definitions that emphasized a woman’s reproductive *health* (not disease).” I agree.

Second, although you quoted most of the relevant section on my rationale for using this term, you didn’t quote all of it. The term was coined on the basis of Greek usage of the word γυνη in combination with λογος/λογια, as are many other terms that are used technically as a theological terminus technicus. And, as I mentioned in the article, I did this because it would avoid cumbersome circumlocutions.

Third, you are critical of not only the terminology but even the idea of discussing the role of women in the church as a discrete subject. You say, “The very problematizing of the female figure of authority as if it is in some way abnormal or surprising already casts the debate in terms that prejudice the outcome.” I simply can’t agree. The reality is that the role of men in church leadership has not been debated, but the role of women in leadership has been. Is it really prejudicial simply to address the issue of the role of women in the church, regardless of what one’s view is? Countless journal articles, books, Festschriften and other multi-author works, and the like discuss the role of women in scripture as a discrete topic. And these are written on both sides of the debate. Bruce Barron’s provocatively titled, “Putting Women in their Place,” published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, was written by an egalitarian!

In your own academic career, you have written much about Q. Some might say that to speak of Q is to prejudice the discussion at the outset. Yet your publications on Q leave little doubt as to where you are going. One might even say, “The very dismissal of Q as if it is in some way non-existent already casts the debate in terms that prejudice the outcome.” Yet, in my “Biblical Gynecology, Part 1,” where am I framing the debate in terms that prejudice the outcome?

Fourth, nevertheless, I want to build bridges rather than walls. And for this reason, I have asked the keepers of to change both the title of “Biblical Gynecology” (both parts) to “Women in Leadership.” If some of your readers can attack me personally without knowing anything about me, my guess is that they almost certainly did not read these two essays before they wrote their remarks. I don’t want to close doors, but open dialogue about this and other important issues facing the church in the twenty-first century.
Call me shallow, but the pleasant surprise to me about Dan Wallace's response was that he had heard of my work on Q! But back to business, I will comment later this weekend, as time permits.

1 comment:

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Dr. Wallace,

I note that the word gynecology relates to the biological and reproductive nature of women. In the NET Bible, 1 Tim. 2:15, this nature of women is what subordinates them to men. I don't think that a woman is being obtuse in interpreting this word as relating to the biological and sexual subordination of women, as well as to the physical position assumed by a woman during a gynecological examination. Calling such a position to mind, when dialoguing with a theologian is particularly distasteful.

And yet, I studied Greek from when I was quite young, and could be expected, if any woman could be expected, to get the etymological sense of the word.

However, the present title, women in leadership, is more of a misnomer, since women do not have any leadership assigned to them in the moderate complementarian framework. Women are only responders, and men have all the initiative. I find this quite disturbing and do not know how to rid myself of the unpleasantness I feel in having lived with these views all my life.

I would be able to leave it more easily if I did not have members of my family affected adversely by this repugnant view of women on a daily basis.

Regardless of your personal view of women - however elevated that may be - the article in question states that wives are "responders" and in this sense dependent on men for their condition in life. This is extremely disturbing. Women need to be released from this burden.