Paul Was a Sexist Simpleton?

Well, no, I don’t think so, but in one of the best demonstrations I’ve seen of how not to argue, that is a view attributed to others by writer Andrew Wilson on the New Frontiers Theology Matters blog (HT: 42).

Within evangelicalism, four main lines of interpretation can be discerned. (Outside of evangelicalism, the response is fairly simple – Paul was a sexist simpleton who didn’t know any better; we’ve been enlightened now, so we should ignore him – although one wonders if the catastrophic track record of post-1960s white people when it comes to marriage will cause this approach to lose its lustre).

Now it’s hard to tell just who this statement refers to, because evangelicalism is so loosely defined these days. I know I’ve been accused of ignoring Paul. But I get part of the foundation of my egalitarianism from Paul, while at the same time looking to him as a master of working with the culture as he found it. In other words while I suppose someone might find reason to call Paul sexist, though I think they’d be wrong to do so, calling him a simpleton is utterly ridiculous.

(I’m not going to go through the rest of the article, but there are other, less glaring problems in characterizing the evangelical streams the author refers to.)

So who might we say, “resembles” that remark? I know of nobody who does. I’m not saying there aren’t any, but I am a member of a church that ordains women in leadership, and is egalitarian in its theology, and I’ve never encountered anyone who would say something like this about Paul.

What I have encountered are a few people who think all complementarians are either secretly sadistic tyrants or, at a minimum, enablers of the same, something that I again know from personal experience is not the case.

We’re going to make enough mistakes in understanding and characterizing one another’s positions. We need to avoid this kind of statement in Bible study.


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