Webb: “The Redemptive Trend”


Over on the blog Jesus Creed, there’s a post detailing the beginning of a close reading of new book by William Webb. The book attempts to work out a biblical argument in support of the standard set of “innovations” that mainline churches are commonly critiqued for introducing. The blog appears to be focusing on a discussion of the role of women in ministry, which isn’t an issue for most Episcopalians. However the process that Webb outlines is extendable.

“Perhaps the foundation of the entire debate about women in ministry is in what is today called the ‘redemptive trend.’ Very few would say the Bible teaches absolute equality of women and men in ministry, but instead most would say the Bible establishes the precedent, forms the foundation, and creates a redemptive trend that — over time — creates an equal opportunity for women in ministry. Here’s the book I’ll look at next:

William Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals.

The thesis is this: there is a redemptive trend within the Bible about women (against the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts) and there is an ultimate ethic toward which the Bible points its readers and practitioners. Genuine interpretation involves seeing the ‘spirit’ of this redemptive trend and turning it loose in our world today. Which means, some things are culturally conditioned and some things are transcultural. (Nuance: Webb knows that all things are cultural, but he wants to distinguish what is permanent from what is not permanent.)”

This idea is based in large part on the biblical interpretations that the Abolitionists did in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are lots of scriptural arguments in support of slavery. Any biblically based argument that claims that God abhors slavery (and by extension so does the Church) has to argue from the overall sweep of the biblical narrative and can’t simply quote from a single passage or clear teaching.

So – I’ll be really curious to see how the discussion goes. I’ve not read the book, but perhaps it’s time I do.

Read the rest here: Women in Ministry: “The Redemptive Trend”

(Via Jesus Creed.)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...