Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Role and Being

Role is defined by Merriam-Webster as a “function, position, job, or task.”
The word “being” is defined as “existence.” For instance, when one thinks of a “human being,” he or she thinks of the existence (being) of a human (homo sapien). Thus, “human being” is a reference to “human existence.”

I think it’s pretty obvious to the reader that “being” and “role” are not the same thing! The “being” can exist, independent of the role; but the role cannot exist without the being! Why can’t the role exist independent of the being? Because if an object does not exist, then it can’t do anything, doesn’t serve a function.
Let’s see how these terms fit in the issue of women in ministry:

“Regardless of how patriarchal gender relations may be explained or masculinity and femininity defined, the fact remains that woman’s subordinate ‘role’ is determined exclusively and necessarily by her personal nature; that is, SOLELY on account of her BEING female she MUST be subordinate. Therefore woman’s ‘role’ designates not merely what she does (or doesn’t do) but what she is. She is female; she is subordinate.

It may sound quite plausible to insist that woman’s subordination and man’s authority are merely roles assigned by God and so do not entail woman’s personal inferiority. Roles, by definition, do not necessarily bespeak qualities of personal being. But patriarchal gender roles are not roles in accordance with the usual definition. These ‘roles’ have a ONE-TO-ONE CORRESPONDENCE WITH BEING. WHERE THE ‘BEING’ IS, THERE THE ‘ROLE’ IS ALSO. ‘Female being’ corresponds precisely to ‘a role of subordination to male authority.’ The word ROLE is used in a way that renders its meaning basically synonymous, or redundant, with BEING” (320).

It is often said that a woman’s being is EQUAL to a man’s; however, a woman has a different role than a man. And why? Because of her BEING—because she is a woman!!
But if the woman’s UNEQUAL ROLE is based on her being, then isn’t the woman’s being UNEQUAL to the man’s? And yet, this is the opposite of what complementarians say—that the woman’s being is EQUAL to the man’s!!! So now, it seems, that the woman is both EQUAL and UNEQUAL in her being to the man.

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis concludes Part One of her chapter “Equal in Being, Unequal in Role” with these words:

“Thus evangelical patriarchy does not have woman being unequal in a different respect from the way she is equal. Rather, a woman is unequal (subordinate) in the same respect that she is equal—by virtue of her being, as a constitutive element and necessary consequence of her being. Therefore woman’s equality (as biblically defined) and woman’s subordination (as defined by patriarchalists) cannot coexist without logical contradiction. Evangelical patriarchy’s EQUAL BEING/UNEQUAL ROLE construct must be deemed internally incoherent” (322).

There is a “logical contradiction” between the equality and inequality of the woman’s being because it violates the Law of Non-Contradiction:

“…the foundational and indisputable law of noncontradiction, which states that ‘A’ and ‘non-A’ CANNOT both be true at the same time in the same respect. The law of noncontradiction is not a mere human construct that God’s truth somehow transcends. Rather, it is necessary and fundamental to all meaningful discourse and communication—including God’s revelation of His Word in Scripture. That is why biblical scholars who hold to the Bible’s infallibility SEEK TO RESOLVE APPARENT CONTRADICTIONS in Scripture; it is AXIOMATIC that if the Bible contradicts itself, then it cannot be true in all that it affirms” (“Discovering Biblical Equality,” page 304 ).

This makes the issue of equal in being/unequal in role logically impossible to uphold. Complementarians, therefore, have a philosophical problem in their view of women—if not a theological one.

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