Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why Labels Are Dangerous

I heard a term I’ve never used before, the other day. The term is egalitarian and I heard it used to describe Rachel Held Evans. If you don’t know who she is, she is the self proclaimed “follower of Jesus” who has gathered a following by making fun of the Bible, including doing such things as sitting her roof for 89 minutes because Proverbs 21:9 says, “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a large house.” Proverbs 21:19 is similar, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman.” (Which may explain why some men like to go hunting.) But my intention isn’t to talk about her silliness. Instead, I want to talk about the problem of labeling her as an egalitarian.

While it may be true that the egalitarian vs. complementarian debate may have been Rachel Held Evans’ motive for her silliness, I don’t want to label her an egalitarian. That’s not to say that she doesn’t hold to the ideas held by egalitarians, I think she does. The problem I see is that the moment we assign labels, people start saying “I’m an egalitarian” or “I’m a complementarian” and form up teams on either side of the issue. Once this happens, someone on the egalitarian team will listen to those on the egalitarian team to learn more about it and they will reject what people on the complementarian team are saying and vice versa. It doesn’t take long before you have people who are staunch supporters of their team and are certain that the Bible backs them up, but they don’t even know what the Bible says on the subject. I have seen this happen with the issue of Calvinism vs. Arminianism. People assume that if you aren’t a Calvinist you must be an Arminian, when most people are neither.

Ultimately, it is the Bible that should be our guide to doctrine. We should not place labels on ourselves that will prevent us from changing our mind if we find the Bible says something we didn’t realize it said. And if we do change our mind, we should not feel compelled to jump from one side of the debate to the other because doing so may cause us to support ideas that are wrong. To put it in political terms, a Republican shouldn’t have to become a Democrat and support abortion just because he has decided he likes fiscally liberal policies.