Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Baptist Pastor-Theologian Molly T. Marshall: "Biblical Inerrancy Was a Mere Tool for the Preservation of Patriarchal Power and White Male Privilege

Molly T. Marshall, "The peril of selective inerrancy":

I contend that biblical inerrancy was a mere tool for the preservation of patriarchal power and white male privilege.

I was unwittingly in the cross hairs of it all, having begun my Ph.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979, the year of the first fundamentalist victory following the Pressler-Patterson playbook. By the time I joined the faculty there in 1984, the controversy was at full throttle, and one's position on the role of women in ministry became the litmus test for inerrancy. As a working pastor in the SBC at the time I was hired, I became exhibit A of all that male leaders feared: an ordained woman who claimed her rightful place as a pastoral leader. 
In the summer of 1984, the convention had notoriously resolved that women should be barred from pastoral ministry because of Eve's "priority in the Edenic fall." Talk about selective inerrancy! Proponents picked one obscure text as proof of God's enduring disposition about female culpability and therefore incapacity to lead a church. Of course, this is the only place in all of Scripture (other than Genesis) where Eve is mentioned, and the hermeneutical approach of the Southern Baptist conservatives conveniently ignored the majority of the Pauline corpus with its accent on Adam's transgression…. 
Selective inerrancy is as damaging as cherry-picking of texts that reinforce liberal presuppositions. Reading the whole of the human-divine text tells the story of God's engagement with humanity in the various epochs of forging the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Bible relentlessly speaks of societal changes and the hope that the new community forged by Christ will override patriarchal structures. 
Hiding behind inerrancy in order to preserve male privilege does irreparable damage to a lucid Christian witness. Lord knows, we need to tell our story better and live it more fully, so that both women and men might flourish.

(Bold-facing of the opening statement is my doing and not in the original.) 

The graphic: Masolino de Panicale's Adam and Eve; the original is in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, and the image is available for online sharing at Wikimedia Commons, with no copyright restrictions in either Italy or the U.S.

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