Van Loon: Pharisaism, “Sabbath Elevators”, & Gender Roles

Michelle Van Loon writes about pharisaism and gender rules in the church , specifically about a list of 80-something “do’s and don’ts” for women in the church that Wayne Grudem has compiled.

Her analogy of “Sabbath elevators” (which I’d never heard of) is perfect.

Grudem’s list states that either a man or a woman may teach a high school Sunday School class, but says that only a male may teach an adult Sunday School class. A woman may teach an 18-year old man until he graduates from high school, but the moment he dons a cap and gown, he may no longer sit under her teaching. I’m not quite sure how high school graduation – a modern, culturally-bound notion if ever there was one – becomes the line of demarcation between childhood (when a woman may exercise “authority” over a male) and adulthood (when the rules of complementarianism apparently kick in). In his rush to build a fence around his fence of interpretation of what Scripture says about gender and authority, he’s created a Shabbat elevator.

I think what troubles me most about lists like this are the way in which they become prescriptive for certain church leaders. Grudem is a theology professor, not a person in a position of relationship with or authority within a specific denomination or group of churches. And yet, church leaders who may not wish to devote much time or prayer to this issue will simply appropriate, then rubber-stamp this list with the words “Case Closed”.

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