Modes of Communication I
In another discourse, Peter has started a series of posts on The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible, in response to a post by Al Mohler who explains his journey from egalitarianism to complementarianism. I thought that I would participate in this discussion by explaining a part of, a few steps, in my own journey from complementarianism to egalitarianism.
- there just wasn’t much written in defense of the complementarian position. Egalitarianism reigned in the literature. Thankfully, with the rise of groups like CBMW and the influence of scholarly books by Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Mary Kassian, and so many others, this is no longer the case. The complementarian position is now very well served by a body of scholarly literature, for which we should be thankful.
I cannot deal with all that Piper writes, but I would like to highlight a couple of details. Forgive me if this is not exhaustive. Piper writes specifically about men and women in the secular workplace and so this ethic must be intended to apply to me and the working relationships, teamwork and supervisory roles that I have had with male colleagues. (Fortunately those relationships were all essentially uncomplicated and smooth because biblical manhood and womanhood simply did not enter into it.) Piper writes,
- To the degree that a woman's influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man's good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God's created order.
Then further along in the chapter, Piper provides a list of biblically appropriate ministry roles. It is important to reiterate that Piper does not believe that a woman should lead or minister to an adult male.
So it was with dismay that I read the top items on Piper's list of acceptable ministries for women, "hearing impaired, blind, lame." At first, I wasn't sure of what I was reading. Yes, I have a career built on work with the learning disabled. However, I understand it as part of my role of teaching 'children'. There are 'children' who are vision and hearing impaired, or physically disabled. They are not fundamentally different from other children and do not belong in another category. But does Piper really mean that a woman may minister to even adult males, if they are any of the above. The list suggests this since it includes drug users and alcoholics. What determines a person's category in Piper's economy? I invite alternate interpretation.
I wish to share two experiences, stories of people who have touched me deeply.
The first one is Colin. He was the support worker for a severely disabled child in a class I was working in. He handled the child well and was at all times an asset to the class in general. He intended, as many support workers do, to continue his education and become a teacher. He was an artist, an athlete, and attractive man with a beautiful blond wife. Towards the end of the year in which I was his supervisor, just before he left the school, we were talking. He turned and looked at me with focused attention as he always did and said, "I particularly enjoy talking to you, Suzanne." I really had no answer, so he continued, "I am deaf and I find you easy to lipread!" (Yes, you are supposed to laugh.)
The point is that I had no idea he was hearing impaired and I cannot in any way understand what that has to do with his masculinity. How does this shift him from one of Piper's categories to the other?
The other experience is my recent work with a hearing impaired child who was thought by many to be mentally handicapped. It is only through intense advocacy that I was able to get an assessment and increased services for this student. The benefits and consequences have been immense. This child is exceptional and truly intellectually gifted in many ways.
So, yes, I would like to take a stand that I am egalitarian in ethic, that a vision or hearing impaired man or child, or physically disabled, stands in the same relation to me as any other human. It was through this piece of Piper's writing, recommended apparently by Al Mohler, (although with the opposite intent) that I gained an ability to articulate my belief in the equal giftedness and suitability, to lead and teach and minister, of those who have difficulties and disabilities to overcome.
I believe that regardless of whether a person, a man or woman, is lipreading or signing or reading braille or writing and communicating in some other way, they have the gifts that God that gave them and we should all recognise and respect this potential.
While I know where I stand on these issues, I am not sure that I have read Piper and Grudem correctly. However, in honour of Al Mohler's recommendation, I am trying to interact honestly with a text which is foundational to complementarianism and according to him, 'scholarly literature.'
I want to continue in a later post to consider whether the difference in written or spoken communcation is significant. Later, it may be possible to see if there are lessons to be learned from this about modes of communication and Bible translation.