Book Plunge: Men and Women In Christ

What do I think of Andrew Bartlett’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This book is about the different viewpoints of complementarians and egalitarians. I will state upfront that I consider myself to be much more of a soft complementarian. I do believe in men leading, but at the same time, when it comes to the household, if a man is the king of his castle, his wife gets treated like a queen.

Bartlett approaches the question not wanting to take either side and using a more judicial approach to looking at the issues. This is really a very interesting read where you will think you have a good argument for a position and Bartlett has a way of slicing right through it. Practically every issue in the debate is covered.

Bartlett has also done his homework well. He knows the views of some of the fathers, such as Chrysostom. He has also looked at the writings on this issue from the leading scholars today. He takes shots at arguments on both sides throughout the work.

No one can also say that this work is not thorough. There are several chapter devoted to many of the passages in the New Testament. 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2? Got them covered. Bartlett tends to start from a position of seeing if we have brought any unspoken assumptions to the text that might be working against us.

He’s also got a problem with people taking some implications from Scripture as if they were the main message itself. This is often done by taking old creation and assuming that this is the way it is supposed to be in the new creation. There is an interesting turn around in the book where Bartlett takes the verses that we often cite to be seen as keeping women down, and actually pictures them in a world where women are in charge and that each of them actually argues the case for female leadership. It’s a really ingenious approach.

I will freely grant that this is one issue I have not read much on, although I do try to read on marriage issues very regularly. On those lines, Bartlett points out that many complementarians seem to sadly avoid 1 Cor. 7. In that passage, when it comes to sexual relations in marriage, Paul says both husband and wife are to give to one another without denying one another except by mutual consent and even then for only a short time. He shared a humorous saying that apparently exists about differences in marriage of “Man is head except in bed.” That’s one that will stick with you.

I think it could be interesting to see how complementarians and egalitarians both respond to this work. Both of them will have something to reply to. Bartlett ultimately hopes we drop those labels entirely and I gather he thinks there’s some truths that each side has.

One other thing he advises also is not making this a gospel issue, as if one side just isn’t taking the Scripture seriously and the other is. Unless we have information to the contrary, let us try to assume that our fellow Christians are trying to take Scripture seriously. If you think Scripture teaches one side, you should hold to that side.

Those interested in this debate should not pass up this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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