With keen precision and erudite scholarship, Andrew Bartlett pinpoints all the relevant arguments on both sides of the complementarian and egalitarian divide. For those willing to consider objective analysis and think carefully, Men and Women in Christ is the most accessible and capable treatment to date. It is sure to challenge and (one can hope) close some of the gap that persists in this continuing controversy over the roles of men and women in the home and the church. Bartlett tackles a tough problem that continues to hold back the church, especially in the USA. His treatment is fair to both sides of the argument and his interpretive methods are exceptionally transparent at every turn. Each chapter ably distills both the complementarian and egalitarian positions while offering fresh insights that are sure to advance the discussion. The most ardent defenders on either side will greatly benefit from Bartlett’s well-reasoned, biblically sound, and informed writing. This is now my go-to recommendation to those unfamiliar with the more academic discussion and readers on either end of the divide will benefit greatly, regardless of convictions. TOLLE LEGE!
What follows is a snippet toward a full-on review.
After a clear introduction, identifying the debate’s key players, and laying out his methodology, Bartlett begins chapter 2 with some key insights from 1 Corinthians 7. Even though 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 “is the only place in the New Testament where there is an explicit statement about a husband’s authority over his wife” (p 18), complementarians have all but ignored this text. And yet, Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives regarding their sexual activity is viewed as paradigmatic of the entire marriage relationship. A significant contribution is that Bartlett sees the husband and wife have equal authority in bed and in prayer as they are called to yield to one another (1 Cor. 7:3-5). As I understand it, the argument is essentially a fortiori as he states, “If there is equal authority and mutual submission at the physical and spiritual centers of the relationship, it would be strange indeed for there to be an overarching hierarchical relationship in less distinctive or less central matters” (p 23). Though this maneuver is inferential, it is by no means unreasonable since it makes a great deal of sense out of the passage and the other relevant Pauline data.