Inventing the reason why: Galatians 3:28

As they opened their front door, immediately their eyes fell upon the shattered vase on the floor. The babysitter was sleeping soundly upon the sofa. One of their two young boys greeted them with, “the dog broke it.” At that moment their other son was nowhere to be seen.

Like most parents, an innate detective gear kicked into action. The dog was still in his doghouse in the backyard. In spite of the rain, no muddy dog prints were on the kitchen tiles. The babysitter had slept through the crash and could offer no insight.

Explanatory stories are powerful. Explanations answering “why” empower attitudes and action. Accurate explanations point us in the right direction!

Two backstories were vying as explanations for why a destroyed heirloom lie scattered upon the floor. On one hand, an ardent young boy was earnestly claiming, “the dog did it,” while his brother silently looked on sheepishly. The talkative son tried to strengthen his position with, “Our dog jumps too much, that is why all dogs are too jumpy. Animals break things, that is why our dog broke it.”

The other backstory involved two young rambunctious kids and a sleeping babysitter. Although this idea occurred to both parents, dad favored this story. Mom, however, did not want to believe her son had lied to her.

Sometimes, people desire a particular outcome. When this happens the preferred explanatory story will seem compelling, in spite of contrary evidence. Desiring a particular outcome can cause someone to become susceptible to the hermeneutic of desire.

Alternatively, sometimes people value truth above all else and thus follow the evidence. What we value most will win our hearts.

With these observations in hand, let’s examine Galatians 3:28. Everyone agrees that Paul teaches in this text that those in Christ will receive the same salvation and inheritance, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or social status.

However, an explanatory story exists that vastly expands its range of meaning and practical applications. Assuming that distinctive roles constitute injustice, identicalists propose a backstory.

Identicalists assert that because redemption in Christ eliminates all distinction between males and females in regard to salvation, this reveals redemption eliminates all gender distinctions in other realms as well. According to them, Paul’s real focus in writing this letter was not limited to the specific topics he addresses, rather these are simply representatives of the larger spheres of injustice and power inequality he addressed.

Thus they understand redemption to override God’s creative work of male and female thereby creating androgynous individuals in Christ which Paul’s language of “neither male nor female” reflects. What this means is Christ ushered in a new world order abolishing gender roles within the church. In its more radical form this story also empowers active homosexual relationships.

How does this story square with the evidence? Using Galatians 3:28 to create such a backstory involves the same logical fallacy the little boy used. When the boy argued that all dogs are too jumpy because his dog jumps, he committed the fallacy of hasty generalization. So too, to argue that Christ’s elimination of gender distinctions in salvation also means that they are eliminated in other arenas involves a hasty generalization.

If an identicalist were to equate Christ’s new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) with their proposal of Christ ushering in a new world order that eliminates distinctions in all arenas, this would involve the fallacy of equivocation. Why? The context of 2 Corinthians 5:17 only focuses on salvation and redemption.

Furthermore, just as the boy committed the fallacy of a sweeping generalization when he argued his dog broke the vase because animals break things, the same fallacy is involved in asserting that no gender roles exist within worship because everyone experiences the same new creation in Christ. No necessary link exists between the two, unless someone wishes to beg the question by assuming the new creation entails their proposal.

Additionally, this explanatory story causes Paul to contradict himself at numerous points. For example, in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 Paul described distinctive gender roles within the worship assembly, yet according to identicalists he nullified them in Galatians 3:28.

However, whenever people reject this backstory thus allowing Paul’s language of “neither male nor female” to be restricted to the context he described, Paul remains consistent throughout his writings. Perhaps a few centering thoughts are appropriate.

Jesus said the greatest commandment involves loving God, which we know entails obeying him. Discipleship involves submitting our will, our good intentions, and our great ideas to Christ’s authority and Lordship. We relinquish notions of being in charge of his church.

When God’s people divisively lined up behind different teachers, Paul reminded them that God will judge the quality of each teacher’s ministry (1 Corinthians 3:12-16). He instructed God’s people to avoid judging the teachers, namely condemning or commending what God had not revealed. Furthermore, disciples should avoid going beyond what was written (1 Corinthians 4:5-6). This remains great advice.

Companion articles include:

Neither Male Nor Female Again

Bonhoeffer, Culture & 1 Corinthians 11

The Hermeneutics Of Desire And Fear

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

One thought on “Inventing the reason why: Galatians 3:28

  1. Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson when I asked Dr. Phillip E. Johnson a question about creationism and evolution. He explained that when discussing subjects or asking a question, we should use neutral terms or equally weighted terms, not ones that favor a particular point of view. Our terms will frame how a topic is perceived. For example, he said an “ism” is always at a disadvantage. Hence, creation and evolution or creationism and evolutionism, but not creationism and evolution.

    Accordingly, I hope to use neutral language when representing the two different viewpoints on gender roles within worship. In my viewpoint, the typical labels describing the competing perspectives on this subject favor a particular position because of our cultural values. Perhaps I am wrong, but I suspect that the commonly applied labels could cause many to hear a soft version of tyranny versus fairness. Regardless of what topic was being addressed, which would you vote for? Hence I prefer the language of identicalist instead of egalitarian.

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