Harry at Little Geneva has been blogging about me again. (Do a Google search. I'm not linking to it.) Well, it's more throwing links around in a derogatory manner than any serious discussion of anything in my post, but that's standard procedure over there. I even responded in a comment, only to receive insults in response (oh, and what seems to be an admission that he refuses to handle the level of argumentation required to engage in reasoned discussion). It's kind of sad that Harry should have such a huge following at a blog that promotes such a reprehensible view as what he calls Kinism, which is really just racism, despite all his insistence to the contrary. Just read some of his statements all over his main page about the moral character of various ethnic groups. Whenever he links to me, I get a flurry of hits, with no one either at my end or in the comments of his post actually interacting in an intelligent way with anything I said. For a while Little Geneva was near the top of the Blogdom of God simply because so many Christian blogs link to it, until Adrian Warnock noticed it and decided that there should be limits on what sort of blog can be in the Blogdom. [I'm not sure if this is the best place to put this, but I noticed after I wrote most of this post that someone unrelatedly found my blog last night by searching for badlands little geneva. This search was performed on a computer on the house.gov network. I'm not sure what to think of that.]
But occasionally I'll see an interesting argument at Little Geneva. I noticed one yesterday in a different post lower on the page (Feb 2). He notices that many of the people who promote miscegenation (which for Harry doesn't really mean promoting it as better than anything else but simply means acknowledging that there's nothing wrong with it) will point to Gal 3:28, where Paul says that the divisions of Jew, Greek, male, female, slave, and free are broken down in Christ. Harry notes that many conservatives will insist that this doesn't mean the male-female distinction is completely broken down to the point of irrelevance. Paul was simply saying that in Christ all have the same access to salvation. It doesn't mean men and women have to be treated as if they are the same gender or as if they have no gender. I agree in large measure with all that, so it's interesting to see what Harry then concludes. He says someone who says that then has no right to use Gal 3:28 as a basis for thinking there are no morally relevant race distinctions because it mentions the Jew-Greek barrier broken down in Christ. Now I think this is a very interesting argument, even if it ultimately misunderstands what Paul is saying (and what those who think there's nothing wrong with miscegenation are saying), so I wanted to record my thoughts on the matter.
I want to say that I'm not writing this for Harry. He doesn't usually interact with anything I say, choosing instead either to insult me in place of any argument or simply deleting comments he doesn't know how to answer (both of which happened in the comments on his latest post, with two deletions occurring with on-topic discussions unrelated to race and the insults appearing when I corrected his false statements about what my post said). The most he will occasionally do is offer a one-liner that's wrong on so many levels that responding would require me to write more than he (by his own confession) would bother to read. Rarely do I see this sort of interesting argument, though, and I'm responding to the argument because I think the argument itself commands a response, not because I think he deserves one. This argument could just as easily have come from an absolute egalitarian perspective on gender, such as that held by many evangelicals who seek to resist the biblical role distinctions in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, I Peter 2, I Corinthians 11, I Corinthians 14, Titus 2, and I Timothy 2. Since it was a real argument that someone who cares about intelligent discussion could make, it does require a response, and I thought it worthwhile to work through how that response should go, even if the person who happened to have offered it really doesn't care what I think (and has said so repeatedly).
I think the answer is fairly simple. First of all, the view complementarians about gender roles want to defend does not generally say that Paul's statement in Gal 3:28 is merely about equal access to salvation. Paul is saying that there are no barriers in Christ between male and female, between Jew and Greek, between slave and free. All are equally members of the body of Christ, and all are equally gathered around the throne of God in heaven spiritually speaking, worshiping together. Thus in the lived reality of the earthly manifestation of God's kingdom, there's no justification for division among those who in Christ are not separated according to lines of ethnicity, gender, or role in society. All are equal in Christ in that sense.
Paul's statement is consistent with thinking there are morally relevant differences between slaves and free (or the contemporary equivalent), between men and women, and between Jews and Greeks (or any other ethnic groups). Harry is right about that. But where his argument goes wrong is in thinking that the kind of morally relevant differences complementarians about gender roles find in scripture are anything like the morally relevant differences Kinists take there to be between ethnic groups.
Paul doesn't remove all sense of distinction. He doesn't deny that men are not women and women not men. Slaves are not free with respect to their slavery, even if they are free in Christ in another sense. Jews are not Greeks, and Greeks adopted into the family of God are not ethnically Jewish even if Paul speaks of Gentiles in Christ as spiritually descended from Abraham. These are still clear distinctions, and people remain in the category they are in when they begin to follow Christ. Slaves remain slaves (though that can be changed if they are freed). Women remain women. Norwegians remain Norwegians. These are real distinctions.
Furthermore, these can be morally relevant distinctions. Paul elsewhere commands slaves to obey their masters. He also very strongly suggests that Philemon should recognize the basic equality in Christ that he has with his runaway slave Onesimus and thus set him free. Those are obligations that can come only if the distinction has moral significance. This is fairly similar to differences in obligations between employers and employees in our contemporary setting. Those are morally relevant distinctions as well. Such moral distinctions did not in the ancient world prevent slaves from being elders in a local congregation that included their masters as members, just as they don't now prevent employers from being members of a church where one of their employees happens also to be their part-time pastor/elder (which in fact was the case in the congregation I grew up in).
My being an American citizen gives me an ability to shape the direction of this country in a way that someone who is not an American citizen cannot, and that might give me a moral obligation to steward what God has given me with responsibility and care, which means seeking to vote responsibility and to influence the political scene in other ways in a righteous way. This is consistent with recognizing that my primary citizenship is in heaven. Being of a particular ethnic community might give someone some responsibilities to others in that community, just as being in a family does (though not to anywhere near the same level). If one ethnic group has historically been persecuted, it might allow for treatment by other groups that acknowledges that and seeks restitution. These are indeed moral distinctions that Gal 3:28 should allow, since it does not deny that these real distinctions in the lived world are not a basis for division in any way. Recognizing distinctions is fully consistent with refusing to allow divisions on the basis of those distinctions.
So too with complementarian views on gender distinctions. Physical differences between men and women might result in differences in how we should treat each other (though not necessarily in a way that justifies the exact conventions any given culture happens to adopt on that basis). If there are differences in roles God has assigned in marriage, the equality in Christ doesn't minimize those but simply means that there's nothing lesser about either set of roles, and this goes also for those who take Paul seriously in restricting the eldership and the teaching role (when men are present) to men. It's clear in I Cor 12-14 anyway that role differences in the body of Christ do not justify seeing someone as better or worse, so the kind of equality in Gal 3:28 that does not allow division but insists on loving cooperation as a reflection of our unity in Christ can easily recognize role distinctions without thereby allowing divisiveness.
So I have no problem with moral distinctions along slave-free, male-female, or Jew-Greek (or any other ethnic group) lines. What Harry is trying to argue, though, is that we can similarly say that blacks and whites, for example, should be able to segregate themselves and not have any interaction with their brothers and sisters. If his own behavior is any clue to his view, then he must even think Gal 3:28 is consistent with using derogatory terms and insults about those of another race simply because of their race and speaking very nastily to those who seek unity in Christ rather than the division Kinism insists on. But even if you don't take it to the purely racist level that Harry's behavior demonstrates but merely insist on the technically limited Kinist view that he professes, it involves valuing a kind of divisiveness that true unity in Christ should consider anathema. Indeed, serious and unrepentant divisiveness is one of three characteristics in John's epistles that serve as grounds for excommunication (along with serious and unrepentant immoral living in other ways and serious and unrepentant teaching of doctrinal errors).
I just can't see how any of Harry's conclusions could possibly follow from the original point. Kinism seems to violate outright the very kind of unity in Christ that Paul is talking about, and you can fully acknowledge morally relevant differences between ethnic groups while saying that. Equality in Christ is consistent with different roles (or we couldn't have elders with spiritual authority and others under them), but it cannot tolerate deliberate exclusion across any lines that Christ has broken down. It can tolerate different treatment based on legitimate distinctions. It doesn't allow for those who insist on furthering the divide that Christ has removed, which is what Kinism seeks to justify.
Harry seeks for like to associate only with like, for cultures to remain stagnant by ignoring and osctracizing the entire rest of the people of God rather than being influenced by the good in other cultures, because each culture contains some good despite some resistance to the things of God, and each one can learn from any other culture that hasn't got the same elements of the world offering up resistance to godliness. Kinism seeks for those who are in Christ to act in practice as if large segments of others in Christ are irrelevant to them and not part of the same body of Christ. Does Harry's argument really mean to suggest that Gal 3:28 would allow something like this along gender lines if the complementarian interpretation is correct? Only then would someone adopting a complementarian interpretation of Gal 3:28 be forced to accept Kinism as well. But there's no way that Paul would tolerate the kind of sex-segregated body of Christ that would be analogous to what Kinism does with ethnic groups, and no complementarian I know of holds such a view. Harry's argument rests on that analogy, but the kind of complementarianism required for the analogy to work isn't one that anyone holds.
So I don't think this argument should raise any worries in the end for complementarians who recognize that racial lines are not to be barriers in Christ, but working through exactly why has, I think, helped me clarify some important distinctions relevant to several key issues.