Recently I commented on a Facebook post that I disliked the word “feminist/feminism” when used to describe what I would brand an evangelical egalitarian position (that men and women may serve equally in the home, the church, and the world as God has so apportioned and enabled them). Even when adding the adjective “evangelical” in front of “feminism” (as Grudem’s book title does), negative connotations remain. Moreover, “feminist/feminism” is clearly gender-specific having to do with qualities associated with women only and hardly shows a balanced and “equal” treatment. If anything, “feminism” incites heated and rarely fruitful discussion in everyday parlance, at least according to my experiences.
And so, while reading through a few commentaries on 1 Peter 3:1-7, I came across Scot McKnight’s treatment (pp 192-194) where he lays out a spectrum of hermeneutical approaches that I think are helpful with respect to the relevant biblical texts. The table below is derived from his commentary (Note: McKnight admits dependence on A. C. Thiselton’s New Horizons in Hermeneutics. I’ve summarized the main points rather than quoted verbatim.)
McKnight concludes with some penetrating remarks that call for interpretive consistency, biblical fidelity, and cultural sensitivity. I could not agree more!
I urge that each interpreter look long and hard at his or her own principles and see if consistency is achieved in the process of interpretation. It will simply not do for someone to dismiss slavery as outmoded, or to contend for cividl disobedience to governmental authorities, or to argue for some kind of “Mr. Mom” theory, and then not be consistent in permitting to women the same freedom and change of application. Nor is it fair to argue without substantial reasoning for some things being cultural (like wearing jewelry or fancy clothing) and other things being transcultural. Above all, we must be biblically anchored and culturally reasonable if we are to let the gospel have its way of power today.