"You know who must be very secure in their masculinity? Male ladybugs".
Today, I had a plan. By gum, I was going to write on that subject so long as the creek didn’t rise or the Lord returned. However, moments ago it struck me. I was behaving like some hyper-authoritarian pastors I have known. I have often complained that they do not consult the priesthood present in their churches for input into their “plan.” They are in charge and it is going to stay that way. One pastor I knew said that his elders had only disagreed with him twice in 28 years. Either the guy is a specially anointed prophet or the elders are falling down on the job.
Last Thursday, we published an article by John Piper on his concern for the Reformed movement. This post generated the most comments in the short history of TWW. However, Piper's statements were not the subject. A discussion ensued on the topic of complementarianism versus egalitarianism. And what a conversation it has been! The priesthood has spoken loud and clear and, finally, this frail vessel got it. It is time for this conversation.
The two issues are defined as such.
Complementarian: “is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles in life and in the church. It is rooted in more literal interpretations of the Creation account and the roles of men and women presented in Scripture. It is also known as the Traditionalist or Hierarchical view".
Egalitarianism: “Christian Egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ. All have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God. God freely calls believers to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race."
The definitions are easy; however, the way they play out is terribly complicated. In general, complementarians have diverging views which range from women are to keep utterly silent in church, teaching only small children and other women to those who would allow for women to be deacons.
In general, egalitarians believe that the church should allow women to be pastors and leaders.
The role of women in the church has become a HOT BUTTON issue in recent years due to the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention and the rise of strict Calvinism dubbed the New Reformed Movement. The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has become known as the home of strict complementarianism. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is home to a controversial doctrine known as The Eternal Subordination of the Son to the Father. This dogma essentially states that Jesus remains subordinate to the Father throughout eternity. The framers of this doctrine apply it to women by further stating that women will be subordinate to men throughout eternity. My cynicism leads me to suspect that the latter belief may have been the impetus for the “new” doctrine.
There has been pushback by a number of theologians and groups such as the Christians for Biblical Equality.
I have an evolving perspective on this issue. My life has been fairly traditional. Although I have a degree in nursing and hold an MBA, I have stayed at home with my children. On the other hand, a former pastor, Pete Briscoe, son of Jill and Stuart Briscoe, asked me to teach Christian history at his church, a role that I wasn’t sure I could play. He convinced me of the validity of women being able to teach and thus began a rather long history of teaching both men and women in church settings.
My husband and I both reject the idea that a husband is a wife's covering. For each of us, our covering is Jesus Christ. In fact, my dear husband has often stated that I “covered” for him when we taught due to my knowledge base in both history and theology. I do not believe it is sinful for men to learn from women. God gave me a love for history and theology which I freely share with whomever would freely choose to listen to me. I believe God gave me both a brain and a love for the theology. Am I really to just shut up? Some would say yes and others would say, “We wish she would.”
I have a simple question. What harm would it cause for a man to learn about the devoutly Christian Wilberforce’s battle to end the slave trade in England from me, a woman? How could this harm a man? Paige Patterson fired Sheri Klouda for teaching Hebrew to men at SWBTS. Once again, what harm would it cause to these men to learn how to parse a verb from a talented woman?
Frankly, I am getting a little weary of the “Bible says it; I believe it” crowd. If this was such a simple question then why are there so many permutations of the role of women among committed, conservative evangelicals? This range goes from veiled, utterly silent women to women serving as assistant pastors. So, no simple verse is going to prove the point once and for all. Even amongst the Calvinistas, a range of variations occurs.
I guess I have a problem with both views and have begun to think of myself as neither. If one looks at the history of the Jewish people, there used to be only one hierarchy. God was in charge and His people followed. But His people got restless and asked for a king like all the other folks on the earth. God gave them a king but said they would not like having such a king.
Having a king was not God’s best for man. Most of the kings in the Old Testament were known primarily for doing evil in the site of the Lord. The only perfect King was our Father but we didn’t seem to want Him to rule over us. It appears that earthly hierarchy was a man mandated desire and not the original intent of God.
It seems to me that we are all supposed to outdo one another in imitating our Lord who chose to wash the feet of His disciples. We are to be servants of one another. The cynic in me sees far too many leaders of the servants than servants of the flock.
I have questions, lots of questions. And anyone who thinks that they have this issue down pat is deceiving himself. One only has to look at the wide variety of practices within orthodox, conservative Christianity to understand that the issue is not clear and HUMILITY (and not the kind that C J Mahaney practices) should be the name of the game.I fear that there are far too many self-assured people on all sides of this subject.
Is some of the hierarchy of Scripture an accommodation to man’s wish for rulers other than God?
Are there God allowed accommodation to cultural mores in Titus and Timothy? If not, then why aren’t today's women wearing veils and promulgating very long hair?
How do we explain Junia who was counted among the apostles?
There is some evidence that women led some of the meetings of the early church. Why not now?
The church has used Scripture to justify slavery, racism, and jailing of scientists for believing that the earth revolved around the sun. How do we know for certain that this sort of thing is not being done by restricting the role of women?
I am now including some comments from some of the participants to kick off the discussion. I commend all of those of differing views who are discussing this hot button issue with respect. You are a credit to the church of our Lord. And I am blessed to have you read this blog.
Sat, Jul 17 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm (Edit)
Michael, I appreciate where you’re coming from — I suspect that most of us have held to your position at one point or another. I don’t know many Bible believing egalitarians who weren’t previously complementarians, as complementarianism is what is commonly taught in Bible-believing churches.
As one who holds to the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, and has always been part of churches that teach that (and would not want to be part of a church that didn’t), I was always led to believe that it was impossible to be anything other than complementarian and be true to the Bible. It took a lot of time and study, and a willingness to say, “What if the Bible actually teaches something else than I’ve been taught and that a surface reading might lead me to believe?” before my views shifted.
But I’d encourage you to read, study, and pray about what conservative, inerrantist, devoted followers of Christ who are egalitarian have to say about the passages most commonly used to promote the complementarian viewpoint. You might be surprised at what you’d learn. You might not change your views as I did, but at least you’d be able to see that it is possible to be fully committed to the truth of Scripture and not accept the complementation perspective.
The meaning of kephale would be a good place to start. I recommend that you don’t just accept what complementarians say it means (which is going to include many, but not all, lexicons and dictionaries); rather, spend some time looking at the writings of those who hold to the egalitarian perspective, who have gone back to both biblical and secular source material and done comprehensive exegetical studies.
Oh, and by the way, the Greek for “husband of one wife” is “mias gunaikos andra (more literally “man of one woman”), and interpreters have proposed a variety of possible meanings. There’s nothing specific to the Greek that would prove that it refers to polygamy.
If Lydia (a dear friend of mine) has anything on her shoulder, I think it is simply the burdens that are constantly being placed there by those who would attempt to hold her back in service in God’s kingdom. She’s always having to brush that off.
Sat, Jul 17 11:12 am at 11:12 am (Edit)
Radiance, what you have described above is taking the whole scope of scripture for undertstanding AND realizing that several proof texts are used for some to have preeminance over others in the Body and marriage. You have hit the nail on the head.
One must ignore quite a few “one anothers”, not lording it over,the first shall be last, etc., in order to come to their men always on top conclusions.
Michael would not know this but I was a comp for many years. We really did try hard with the rules, roles and formula’s. I worked in that world in mega church marketing and was around quite a few of the comp celebrities/authors/seminar people for years. It is a HUGE industry on it’s own. But I got to see it for what it really is. That started the questioning. I was around some famous comp couples for a long time and the wife was either Patton back stage directing the “performance” or a doormat who thought it was a sin to have an opinion different than her husbands.
Then a deep study of the Word really showed me what an empty shell of doctrine it is. Entire doctrines built around the word “authenteo” which is used only once in the NT and is a rare word even in Koine Greek. You canot even trust the Lexicon on that word. How is it used in Greek Antiquity? It certainly does not mean ‘authority over’ as it was translated. From what I can tell it has connotations of rule by force as in murder.
I think the biggest AHA moment and a point of falling on my knees for the sin of comp thinking came when I found through study the horrible translation of Gen 3:16. A monk named Pagnini changed “turn” to “desire”in his 1300 translation of the Bible. Think about that. The whole meaning changes. God was saying that EVE would turn toward Adam ( away from God) and he would rule over her. And that is EXACTLY what happened! But many want us to believe that Eve’s turning to Adam is a virtue! It is so drilled into heads that many reading that will think it is a good thing. No. God is first. Women are to turn to God first and be a ONE FLESH UNION with their husband. The consequence of sin God spoke about in Gen 3:16 was the resulting Patriarchy that ensued. And we all know that God regulated everything eventually through the Law.
An even bigger problem comps have is that there is NOT ONE SINGLE prohibition about women teaching men in the Old Covenant. Yet, they want us to believe that all of a sudden, in the New Covenant, it is a sin. One way they get around this is to map the Levite Priest to the elder/pastor function in the Body. It does NOT map.
There are tons of examples of horrible translations when it come to this particular issue. Ironically, in 1 Tim 5, the word for “manage” the home is the same Greek word we get “despot” from! The wife is the despot of the home. Husband and wife are co-rulers as a ONE FLESH UNION. Seems the translators could not stomach such a thought.
And the translation and understanding of 1 Corin 11 is so sad it makes me weep. A passage on the cultural problem of headcoverings in the NT Body is used for everything from teaching Patriarchy to a foundational verse used for ESS! ESS is heresy!! And it is everywhere from Mohler to Grudem to Piper, etc!
But I think the most damaging part of comp theology is what they do to the Trinity through ESS and with Ezer.
Because of their insistence that Ezer kenegdo means JrAssistant (in a one flesh union?), they actually dimish God who is referred to as an Ezer throughout the OT. Some males are even named after that word. Grudem goes as far to say that God “submits” to us when He helps us. Think about that one for a while.
Comp theology has entered the realms of apostasy in these cases in their attempts to defend their doctrine of preeminance. I pray that many will run away from this stuff. Rules, roles and formulas are easy to follow. Abiding in Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit is where we need to be as believers, whether male or female.
Jesus left NO earthly layer or mediator for women. The temple veil was torn in two for them, also. Women believers are NOT perpetual children who need a male leader. It says more about the men who insist on this.
Sun, Jul 18 04:05 pm at 04:05 pm (Edit)
I guess at the moment then, my greatest problem with the Reformed community is the lack of prominent, public female leaders, speakers, and thinkers. They don’t have to be “pastors,” but why do only MEN get to speak at conferences such as “Together 4 the Gospel?” Why is it that only MEN are allowed to attend annual “General Assembly” meet-ups, where key decisions are made with regard to the direction of their prospective denominations? Why is it only MEN who are writing on subjects such as Reformed theology, church history, and culture?
Why is that the women’s voices are only relegated to the subject of Titus 2 revivals and feminism bashing? It seems these days the only way for women to have a voice is only if they have “expertise” on the subject of “Biblical Womanhood.”
Why is that we aren’t considered valuable assets and contributors to the OVERALL theological, intellectual, and scholarly discourse?
Sat, Jul 17 12:45 am at 12:45 am (Edit)
I am still learning in this area, but I’d like to share with you what I learned in the first three months of my marriage.
My wife and I were not in agreement about which church we should go to. I liked the church I had been attending for a year and really believed that was where the Lord would have us worship. My wife disagreed.
I remember so clearly when I walked into the bathroom one Sunday morning, I looked into the mirror, and I know the Lord asked me, “Are YOU willing to change?” That was quite a question because I was taught by the misguided bible scholars that SHE was the one who was supposed to change, not ME, since I had, “authority,” in the marriage. I felt like the Lord was also asking me through that experience, “Where do you think your wife learns humility?” “From you.” Guess what? I WAS willing to change and the next week we went to another church and my wife and I agreed that was the church we needed to attend.
I think authority in that situation was leading with humility, preferring her over myself, and setting a right example of laying down my wrongly- perceived right to demand her compliance. One of the Greek words for authority means the power to choose. So, I used the power of choice to choose something we could agree on. I could have used that authority to demand my way, and my wife would have complied, but reluctantly. But, that would not have been godly and it would have hurt my marriage.
I also developed a belief early on that, no matter who was right or wrong and no matter who started an argument, I was the one who was responsible for initiating reconciliation. It seemed to me that if I was the head of the wife like Christ was head of the church, and even though He was the One offended by our sin, yet HE was the One who initiated reconciliation, then even if I was the wronged in our marriage, I was the one who was responsible for initiating reconciliation.
I’m not saying that my wife shouldn’t, I’m just saying that I thought it was my responsibility; a leadership responsibility that carries the power to choose. I could choose not to, but again, it would not be godly and it would not help my marriage.
When you ask about authority, I think and answer regarding responsibility. When someone has a responsibility, I believe they have authority in that area. So authority means to have the power to decide. But with that power comes another responsibility; to love. And if one has the responsibility and authority to love, then he will choose ways where he and his wife are in agreement or wait until they are in agreement. He is not to lord over his wife.
I think the husband’s judgment comes in the way of a crappy marriage if he doesn’t treat his wife right. We tend to reap what we sow, right?
Thu, Jul 15 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm (Edit)
What I find hard to accept in hyper-Calvinism: (aside from the complementarianism thing — I have been an egalitarian on race since about age 10, on gender since about age 15, and on sexual identity since about age 35)
They worship the sovereignty of God, making it more powerful that God himself. It is as if God is not sovereign over his own sovereignty. But he is, and he choses to not exercise his sovereignty over us, allowing us to choose to love him and to obey him out of that love. Thus free will does NOT contradict the sovereignty of God.
As a parent, I wanted my children to love me and obey me. I could have commanded them to do so. I could have made all of their choices for them. But then they would not have learned how to choose and their love would not be love by choice, and it probably would be closer to fear and respect than to love.
BTW, we made our children explain what choices they had made that resulted unhappy adults because of their behavior, beginning about age 3. We would talk with them about consequences, and soon made them talk about how behavior sometimes had a natural consequence and sometimes an adult imposed consequence (never spanking in our house, but a lot of lost privileges and time out). Before age four, our son said “Daddy, don’t make me talk about choices and consequences, just spank me like Bobby’s daddy spanks him.” Now both of our children are competent adults who know how to make good decisions and to weight outcomes and consequences.
All of that required that we withhold some of our sovereignty over our children so that we did not determine their behavior, only some of the consequences of that behavior.
I believe that God is a better parent than I ever could be, and more generous and loving, enough to come and die to remove the consequence of my disobedient choices. To say he is trapped by his sovereignty is to make him a god I could not worship, which is why I cannot be a Calvinist.