The 2005 Wheaton Theology Conference focused on the subject of Women, Ministry, and the Gospel. While I didn't get to hear all the lectures, I did get to hear Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen's lecture on "Opposite Sexes or Neighboring Sexes?" The lectures from that conference have been published in a book by the same title, Women, Ministry and the Gospel.
One of the best statements in that entire conference was made by Van Leeuwen: "All too many people yearn for simple black-and-white explanations of complex relations, including those involving men and women."
If anything, that could serve as a motto to faith dance.
Van Leeuwen gave an in-depth look to how both gender egalitarians and gender hierarchalists have misused the social scientific literature on gender in a misguided attempt to essentialize certain ideas about 'gender complementarity' which, in turn, have mistakenly been read back intoScripture."
She says, "Interestingly, in both its absolute and average versions, the idea of gender complementarity is used to defend both gender hierarchy and gender equality in church and family."
She makes three fundamental points:
1. Research in neither the biological nor the social sciences can resolve the nature/nurture debate regarding gendered psychological traits or behaviors in humans, let alone pronounce on whether any of these should be retained or rejected. In a fallen world--however good it remains creationally--we cannot move from is to ought on the basis of science alone.
Under this most she says, "without doubt, the most sailent biological feature of the human being is the plasticity of our brains...we are, as it were, hard-wired for behavioral flexibility."
2. There are very few consistent sex differences in psychological traits and behaviors. When these are found, they are always average--not absolute--differences, and for the vast majority of them the small, average--and often decreasing--difference between the sexes is greatly exceeded by the amount of variability on that trait within members of each sex.
3. To adapt one of Freud's famous dictums, we cannot assume that anatomy is destiny until we have controlled for opportunity. Thuse, even when appeals are made to large crosscultural studies that have found 'consistent' sex differences, we cannot assume universality for those conclusions until we have controlled for the existence of differing opportunities by gender across the various cultures.