Richard Hays: An Intellectually Honest Egalitarian

It has been a great blessing to teach through 1 Corinthians this year in Sunday morning Bible Study at my church in Dallas, TX. This past Sunday I taught on chapter 11:2-16, the passage on “headship” and “head coverings” in the church. In my preparation for teaching, it became abundantly clear that the interpretation of this passage has caused no little controversy among commentators—most of them struggling to reconcile Paul’s apparent patriarchal language with a gospel that they think affirms the current culture’s flattening out of gender distinctions (cf. Galatians 3:28).

In order to resolve this tension, commentators tend to interpret Paul’s language non-patriarchally (i.e. head in v. 3 means “source” not “authority”), thereby removing the clash with texts like Galatians 3:28 and with a culture that is manifestly moving to obliterate gender roles. The unhappy result of such an approach has been the defanging of Paul’s patriarchal vision of the Gospel (for more on patriarchy as Gospel click here). To my mind, this kind of exegesis represents more a caving in to feminist cultural pressure than a faithful exposition of the clear meaning of Paul’s words.

One egalitarian interpreter is an exception to this trend and actually interprets Paul on his own patriarchal terms. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians, Richard Hays of Duke University argues that,

Any honest appraisal of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 will require both teacher and students to confront the patriarchal implications of verses 3 and 7-9. Such implications cannot be explained away by some technical move, such as translating kephalē as “source,” rather than “head,” because the patriarchal assumptions are imbedded in the structure of Paul’s argument (p. 192).

I really do appreciate Hays’s willingness to let Paul’s voice be heard. There is no attempt here to bend Paul’s teaching to conform it to feminist, anti-patriarchal sensibilities. This is remarkable given that Hays is himself an egalitarian when it comes to the role of women in the life of the church (see review of Hays’s Moral Vision of the New Testament).

Yet not everything that Hays argues in his commentary is helpful. Although he recognizes that patriarchy is “imbedded” in Paul’s teaching, he ultimately rejects Paul’s teaching in favor of egalitarianism. Hays thinks that Paul has misinterpreted the creation accounts in Genesis and thus that Paul is in error in what he argues in 1 Corinthians 11:3ff. Hays writes,

There are various possible approaches to this problem . . . we must reconsider how the doctrine of creation might lead us to conclusions about the relation between male and female that are not precisely the same as Paul’s (p. 192).

So Hays is an intellectually honest egalitarian in his willingness to interpret Paul’s meaning on Paul’s own patriarchal terms. Hays is also intellectually honest in acknowledging that Paul’s view is in conflict with Hays’s own egalitarian view.

Yet, I think Hays’s analysis represents what’s at the heart of the evangelical gender debates: whether to accept the Bible’s teaching on its own terms and to submit to its teaching even when it is radically counter-cultural. While Hays is willing to read this text on Paul’s terms, he is not willing to let Paul’s patriarchal vision have any authoritative weight over the Christian’s conscience.

While I appreciate Hays’s willingness to let Paul’s voice be heard, the implicit compromise of biblical authority makes his solution untenable for the Christian who wishes “to live on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Russell Moore’s ETS Paper: The Best Yet

The week before Thanksgiving, I attended the 57th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Evangelical scholars gather annually at this meeting to present scholarly papers on sundry biblical and theological issues. Out of all the papers and addresses that I have heard over the years, only a very few have stood out to me as particularly good.

I have to say that the best paper presentation that I have ever heard at ETS was given at this latest meeting by Russell Moore of Southern Seminary. The paper was titled “After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians Are Winning the Evangelical Gender Debate” and can be accessed here. Not only was Dr. Moore right on target in what he was arguing, but he delivered the paper with passion and conviction (two traits that are sadly lacking in too many ETS paper presentations).

Last week, Moore blogged on the post-paper fallout on Touchstone magazine’s blog site. He wrote,

The stakes of the gender debate for all of Christian theology are apparent even at the ETS meeting itself, with egalitarian theologian Alan Padgett arguing for mutual submission between Christ and the church from Ephesians chapter 5. In his presentation, Padgett argued that Jesus “submits” to the church at the cross. Touchstone readers will remember Padgett for his interaction with Touchstone editors in the pages of the magazine over feminine God-language.

This proposal assumes that service means submission. The church did not send Jesus on the redemptive mission; the Father did. Jesus everywhere notes that he is freely offering his life in obedience to the Father’s mission. Moreover, Jesus in his love for the church refuses to submit to the foundation stones of his church, when they demand that he will never be delivered over to the Romans. Instead, he sets his face like flint toward Jerusalem. That is servant leadership, and that is headship.

Stunningly, in his paper presentation Padgett argues that the church’s submission to Christ ends at the eschaton. This is sub-Christian at best; Canaanite at worst. An article about the Padgett presentation can be accessed here. If this is where evangelical feminism is going, it is clear that the movement is even more self-consciously more feminist than evangelical; more egalitarian than Christian.

Download and read Moore’s paper. You will be glad that you did.

FYI-postscript: My very favorite plenary address was delivered by John Piper at the 1998 meeting, and it was titled “Training the Next Generation of Evangelical Pastors and Missionaries.” My second favorite plenary address was at last year’s meeting, and it was delivered by R. Albert Mohler: “Truth and Contemporary Culture.”

Bush Knew That There Was No Connection between Iraq and 9-11

A story in the National Journal claims that President Bush knew ten days after 9-11 that there was no connection between Iraq and the attacks of 9-11. My response: big fat hairy deal!

This little tidbit of information would be important if the administration had ever claimed that Iraq was somehow directly involved in the 9-11 attacks, but neither the President nor the Vice-President ever said any such thing. Anyone who claims that the administration did make such a claim participates in cynical historical revisionism.

I wrote pretty extensively on this subject before the presidential election of 2004 (click here to read “Making a Staw-man out of the President’s Iraq Policy”). The Democrats were regularly making the claim that the Bush administration had lied to the American public by telling them that Iraq participated in the attacks of 9-11. I argued in 2004, and I argue now that no one can find any statement by any administration official to the effect that Iraq was directly behind the 9-11 attacks. To accuse the Bush administration of making such a claim is a dishonest rewriting of how the Iraq war began.

In the 2004 Vice-Presedential debate, John Edwards made this false charge against Vice-President Cheney. John Edwards said, “Listen carefully to what the vice president is saying. Because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11th — period. The 9/11 Commission has said that’s true. Colin Powell has said it’s true. But the vice president keeps suggesting that there is” (source).

Yet the Vice-President’s response to Edward’s charge was very clear: “The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there’s a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there’s clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror” (source).

So this article in the National Journal does not present anything new. The story resurrects a red herring that’s at least a year old. My guess is that the people who followed the red herring then will be more than eager to follow it now. Unfortunately, the group of gullible followers includes many mainstream media outlets. What a shame.

Questions about the Safety of the Abortion Pill

In today’s New York Times:

Federal drug regulators have discovered that all four women in this country who died after taking an abortion pill [RU-486] suffered from a rare and highly lethal bacterial infection, a finding that is leading to new scrutiny of the drug’s safety. . .

Ms. Patterson died seven days after taking Mifeprex. She lived in Livermore, Calif.
On Dec. 29, 2003, Vivian Tran, 22, of Costa Mesa, Calif., died six days after taking Mifeprex.On Jan. 14, 2004, Chanelle Bryant, 22, of Pasadena, Calif., died six days after taking Mifeprex. And on May 24, 2005, Oriane Shevin, 34, of Los Angeles died five days after taking Mifeprex.

In each case, Clostridium sordellii infected the women’s uteruses, flourished and then entered their bloodstreams. The bacterium can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness but may not induce fever, so victims often fail to realize how sick they are until it is too late and succumb to toxic shock. Antibiotics are often ineffective once an infection has flourished because even in death, the bacteria release toxins.

Vice-President Cheney Makes the Case


Photo Credit: Associated Press

In a speech yesterday, Vice-President Dick Cheney made the “two plank” WMD argument that I talked about in a previous post. Here is the relevant excerpt from the Vice-President’s speech (the parts in brackets are mine):

[1st Plank] Although our coalition has not found WMD stockpiles in Iraq, I repeat that we never had the burden of proof; Saddam Hussein did.
[2nd Plank] We operated on the best available intelligence gathered over a period of years and within a totalitarian society ruled by fear and secret police.

What this part of Cheny’s speech illustrates is that the Bush Administration’s WMD argument for the war had two planks. First, the administration argued that Iraq had failed to verify the destruction of its pre-1990 WMD stockpiles in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Second, the administration argued that it had intelligence that indicated that Iraq was seeking to reconstitute its WMD programs, including is nuclear weapon program.

The first plank was a slam dunk. Everyone agreed and still agrees today that Saddam never accounted for all his old WMD stockpiles. Cheney argues that this plank by itself was a sufficient casus belli. The second plank is where the intelligence failures come in—failures that Cheney acknowledges “are plain enough in hindsight.” Nevertheless, Cheney is correct to claim that the war was justified on the basis of the first plank alone.

The Bush administration needs to re-educate the American public about how it made the case for war in 2002 and early 2003. Vice-President Cheney is right on the mark in arguing that the “burden of proof” was on Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions (which he never did). Yet the President himself is going to have to make this case himself if he desires to penetrate popular public opinion.

My ETS Paper

For those who read my blog, you may think that my only interest is politics. The truth is that following politics is more like a hobby. The thing that I am most serious about is the Bible. Yet most of what I write on biblical studies does not make it to this blog. That’s I why I am happy to share a paper that I presented on Thursday at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Here’s the link:

N T Wright, Corinthian Sloganeering, and Paul’s Doctrine of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 6,12-20

This paper is a work in progress. However, I received some good feedback at the meeting and hope to incorporate it into a revision. If any of you readers have any suggestions for improvement, I would highly appreciate hearing them.

Russell Moore’s Review of New Johnny Cash Movie

One of the things that I love most about Russell Moore is his taste in country music. He is not nearly as much a Dixie-Chick-Keith-Urban country music fan as he is a George-Jones-Loretta-Lynn kind of a fan. He likes the old timey stuff.

That’s why I enjoyed reading his review of the new movie about Johnny Cash. Moore discusses the movie Walk the Line and generally gives it a good review. He also talks about Cash’s conversion which is not featured explicitly in the movie. The last paragraph of the review sums up Moore’s admiration for the late Johnny Cash.

My sons know Johnny Cash quite well because they hear his music around them all the time. My infant son’s lullaby each night is a Carter Family song. When they are older, we’ll watch Walk the Line. But we’ll follow it up with a reminder from Scripture that sums up Johnny and June more than celebrity can ever explain: They loved much for they were forgiven much. There was a Man in Black, not because of a marketing gimmick, but because he understood with lifelong pain what it means to descend into a “Ring of Fire” and to find a Deliverer on the other side.

Read “Walking the Line” by Russell Moore