Dr. Scot McKnight has posted a page about how complementarians have changed their interpretations over time (read simply, according to McKnight, complementarians=hierarchalists=patriarchalists–Never mind that all Christians who read kephale in 1 Cor. 11:3 as “source” (including radical egalitarians) would be hierarchalists and patriarchalists too since arche means source!). His overall point seems to be “Hey, since these guys change their exegetical views, maybe prohibiting women from being priests is wrong!” There is one major problem though. No one has ever said that there are infallible arguments for a position. In fact, a key point of the book Women and the Priesthood ed. by Fr. Thomas Hopko is that no one’s argument in the book is infallible. Nonna Verna Harrison thinks that the bridegroom-bride theology of the priesthood is an effective argument whereas Met. Kallistos Ware does not.
When I was an anti-Trinitarian, I would always point out how Trinitarian interpretations of the Bible disagreed with one another. For instance,
“Of the great God – There can be little doubt, if any, that by “the great God” here, the apostle referred to the Lord Jesus, for it is not a doctrine of the New Testament that God himself as such, or in contradistinction from his incarnate Son, will appear at the last day.” (Albert Barnes commenting on Tit. 2:13)
“Of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.—The translation here should run, of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. From the English version, it would seem that Paul’s idea was that the Christian should live waiting for the glorious appearing of the great God, accompanied with our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Elicott’s commentary on the same verse)
Of course, ironically egalitarian views also shift. For instance, Manfred T. Brauch, in Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible makes the argument that 1 Cor. 11:3 should be interpreted as “source”. Whereas some egalitarians just simply state that Paul was wrong or that this text is cultural. Dr. McKnight himself thinks that 1 Cor. 14:34-35 does not apply “for today” whereas Dr. Jeremiah Gibbs doesn’t even believe that it belongs in the Bible to begin with.
Now of course, it may be answered that the difference between these radical egalitarians and these complementarians that McKnight is referring to in his post are that these radical egalitarians keep an individual constant hermeneutic but this is equivalent to saying that one can be their own infallible interpreter of the Bible and essentially their own God. Ironically though, some radical egalitarians have been so all their lives, some opponents of women’s ordination have been so all their lives. Some radical egalitarians have converted from opposing women’s ordination and likewise goes for some opponents of women’s ordination. Dr. McKnight even recounts his own conversion story from what he would consider the “patriarchal” view in his book, The Blue Parakeet. Should we just say that since radical egalitarians change their views on scriptures that the Bible cannot be relied on as the sole guide for this debate over women’s ordination? (YES!) So where exactly is the difference?
Maybe the difference is that both sides of the women’s ordination debate within the Evangelical sphere are trying to assert their view is the one and only “Biblical” view and the other’s is not. Maybe this is why the argument makes sense. But again, if the Evangelical radical egalitarians can make arguments about their opponents in the Evangelical sphere, they should be ready to embrace the same critique themselves. Every individual’s understanding of things will change over time and this does not mean they’ve necessarily abandoned their old positions. I used to be a bit more of a rationalist until I started attending Greek Catholic liturgies. I’ve changed my own positions and arguments around numerous times. This does not mean I believe I stand on a shaky ground. I believe my own church is infallible–including their stance on women’s ordination. If radical egalitarians can’t even agree on a single hermeneutic, why should we believe their stance is any less shaky?