Review: Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate by Benjamin Reaoch

4.5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Benjamin Reaoch
Publisher: P&R
Buy Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate
Reading Level: Moderate

Gender issues are the hot topic of our day especially with the Church of England’s decision to prevent women from holding office as bishops. Reaoch approaches this topic exegetically--interacting heavily with William Webb’s Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. Webb is a proponent of  the redemptive-movement hermeneutic. This hermeneutic finds seed ideas in Scripture whose ultimate fulfillment lands outside of Scriptural prescription. So they might argue that although Paul may have restricted women pastors, he also put in place principles that would undermine that same principle at a later date. More on this later.

Reaoch has done a wonderful job at carefully exegeting the principles passages and fairly representing his opponents  For instance  he wasn’t afraid to express agreement with Webb and others (pp. 87, 106, 127, 151) when their exegetical points were strong. One of Reaoch’s major contentions is that the passages describing the slave-master relationship and those that describe the husband-wife relationship aren’t totally parallel. Yes they part of a household code but typically there are different ground statements and different impetus for obedience for each. He also spends a lot of time describing the creation narrative and apply what I would call a common sense hermeneutic. Many times people fail to read and understand Scripture with a little common sense. For instance, Reaoch in his discussion on the creation narrative points out Webb complicates passages to strengthen his point. Occam’s razor should be applied to our hermeneutics.

Back to the redemptive-movement hermeneutic to close. Reaoch points out:

This reveals a fundamental problem for any redemptive-movement hermeneutic or developmental hermeneutic, for we must not assume that God’s Word contains tension we must resolve. The grave danger in such an assumption is the elevation of our contemporary subjective ideals above the authoritative instruction of the Bible (p. 138)

The R-M hermeneutic undermines Sola Scriptura (p. 116). You cannot have Scripture as a final authority for life and doctrine but also have our current cultural preferences (p. 111) directing the interpretation of Scripture. In the final chapter, Reaoch also interact with those egalitarians in the R-M camp who urge Christians to read the passages like Galatians 3:28 and put aside those that seem to restrict women’s roles until the end of the debate. Reaoch rightly points out the folly of this recommendation. You could practically make a case for anything in Scripture by urging your opponent to turn a blind eye to passages of Scripture which don’t support your thesis. Dangerous indeed and a warning for all. Reaoch’s balance and winsome interaction on this topic is needed. If you want an exegetical foundational on the issues of women, slavery, and homosexuality Women, Slaves, and the Gender Debate is your book.

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