Women and Reading Passages Honestly

From Arise…David C. Cramer is a doctoral student in Religion at Baylor University with an emphasis in theological ethics. His article, “Creating a Culture of Equality as Witness to the Truth: A Philosophical Response to Gender Difference,” was a finalist for the student paper competition at the 2009 CBE conference in St. Louis and was published in the Summer 2010 issue of Priscilla Papers (24.3). He has a forthcoming article in Priscilla Papers in which he further assesses the illogic of hierarchical arguments.

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“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11, NIV).

Recently I read a poignant reflection on Colossians 3:11, which argued that Paul’s vision expressed in this verse erases all social divisions within the church. When we look at others in the church, ran the argument, we don’t see race, age, economic status, et cetera—all we see is Christ.

What made this argument remarkable to me was that it was written by a well known complementarian scholar and posted on a well known complementarian website. So I asked the author whether gender should be considered one of those social divisions that are erased in the church. And then it became clear that like things were going to be treated differently. The author responded that, according to Paul, males and females are equal with regards to justification, but that does not mean that gender divisions are erased within the church. After all, Paul continues to address men and women separately.

This was not the first time I had heard complementarians suggest that gender equality is merely spiritual (pertaining to justification only) and not social/ecclesiological (pertaining to the church), and that pressing gender equality beyond a spiritual status leads to an undifferentiated, androgynous race, and thus implicitly endorses homosexual practices. What struck me, however, is how inconsistent this logic was, given the logic of the author’s own reflection on Colossians 3:11. Race and age are much more than merely social divisions as well. They are arguably every bit as determinative of one’s personal identity as gender. Moreover, in the very passage under discussion, Paul not only addresses wives and husbands in this passage (3:18-19), but he also mentions children and fathers (3:20-21) and slaves and masters (3:22-24). But, while he still employs these distinctions, he concludes by stating that “there is no favoritism” (3:25).

So it seems that there are at least three ways to read this passage: (1) These social barriers do still exist within the church, which is why Paul continues to address different social categories in verses 18-24; (2) All social barriers with the exception of gender are made null in the church; or (3) Truly all social barriers (including gender) are rendered insignificant within the church.

If we adopt option (1), then it appears Paul’s vision does not eliminate social barriers in the church after all. Maybe Paul is only referring to our spiritual equality with regard to justification, and his argument has no bearing on our ecclesial (church-related) practices. Perhaps Paul would be okay with Christians maintaining generational, racial, or socio-economic—not to mention gender—divisions within the church. I would suggest, however, that this reading should be dismissed by anyone who follows the logic of Paul’s argument, which concludes with his rejection of any kind of favoritism.

If we adopt option (2), it seems that we would be treating like things differently. On this option, Paul believes that in Christ all social divisions within the church are done away with, except perhaps, historically, one of the greatest divisions of all: gender. But why would gender be excluded from Paul’s vision? As we have already noted, these other social divisions are also more than merely human inventions. Some of them—e.g., race and age—are just as much biological as they are sociological. Clearly the point of Paul’s argument is not that these markers are literally eliminated. His argument is rather that they are superseded by our identification with Christ. But, then, why would gender be any different? After all, in a strikingly parallel verse (Gal. 3:28), Paul explicitly includes gender along with these other social categories.

Thus, it appears that (3) is the best option. It fits the logic of Paul’s vision much more smoothly and does not run into the seemingly overwhelming difficulties of (1) and (2). But, of course, option (3) is precisely what we would call egalitarianism.

I presented this trilemma to the complementarian author, and I wish I could report that it changed the author’s mind (it didn’t). But, minimally, I trust that reflecting on the similarities between race, age, and gender should clarify why the standard complementarian objection to egalitarianism is flawed. Just as our equality in Christ within the church does not create a literally raceless or ageless society, neither does it create an androgynous one. Rather, gender distinctions—as with those of race and age—are superseded by our identity in Christ, in which there is no favoritism. And that is treating like things the same.

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  • Amos Paul

    I think that there’s a massive difference between finding your own identity/recognizing others’ identities in Christ and literally losing your identity in Christ. While I’m not calling properties like gender, race, etc. necessary definitions of who we are–have they not played a part in forming who each of us is? While we are all one in Christ, are we not yet still different?

    As far as gender is concerned, do we really want to say that there is *no* objective fact or essential kernel which defines masculinity and femininity? Should we really call them unimportant and completely irrelevant labels?

    Genesis 1:27
    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

    Something. I think there’s something to being male and something to being female. Something created. Something(s) distinct. And I’m not arguing that we must necessarily accept whatever seemingly arbitrary distinctions any particular complementarian or cultural context has presented to us, I am saying that I think there’s got to be something there.

    While these truths may seem to be in tension–literally all and equal in Christ while each distinct and personally different. Truth is found in tension.

  • On the analogy with children and fathers, isn’t it possible for a social “division” to be removed in Christ, yet for the two to continue to relate to each other with different roles? This, it seems to me, would be a much stronger complementarian understanding of Colossians 3:11 than to argue that gender divisions were not removed in Christ. Members of a church can voluntarily submit to leaders (Heb 13:17) without this destroying their unity in Christ, can’t they? Aren’t unity in Christ and submission (which presumably is what the anonymous complementarian was arguing for) compatible?

  • Jon McGill

    I think Amos is on to something. The issue is really about what precisely is being superseded in the male/female distinctions, rather than the fact that it’s happening. Egalitarians might need to explain more helpfully what kind of distinctions there still are between male and female because, as Amos points out, there has got to be something. Paul can say “there is no longer Jew nor Greek,” but he still says, “to the Jew first and then the Greek.” Now, I’m a default complimentarian who has gone undecided in this debate because I’ve recognized I’ve not studied it for myself. I’m truly open and searching at this point for the best explanation. How would you, Scot, articulate the distinctions between male and female and what precisely is superseded when Paul says, “Neither male nor female”?

  • Robert

    I’ve heard this one too; it’s one of the reasons why I could never be an evangelical. They persistently claim that everything in the Bible is ‘true’, however they want to phrase that, then as soon as they come to a passage they don’t like, they become evasive, they obfuscate, it’s not really true after all. I can’t live with that.

    I think Paul’s vision there is spot on, but he wasn’t able to work it out in practice. He saw that all barriers are swept away – if slaves become free when God redeems Israel from Egypt (I’m guessing that this came into his reasoning), and in Christ God ceases to make a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, then what distinctions can remain? He had to live with the existence of slavery; his reaction to the freedom of Corinthian women suggests that he couldn’t cope with an unfamiliar culture, but I haven’t yet tracked down anything satisfactory on women in the ancient Mediterranean so I may be completely wrong. He did tackle the Jew/Gentile dichotomy. It’s up to us to put his vision into practice, not to go finding excuses!

  • JIm L.

    I believe Paul is speaking about oneness in the Church. If we are one, then we are together working and hoping for the same thing. This distinction of roles doen’t make sense to me. What role does a black person have that is different from the role a white person has? We don’t speak that way anymore, but my father did in the sixties. The Spirit gifts us for service and not “roles”.

  • rjs

    Jon McGill,

    Some people prefer to use the idea of complementarian without hierarchy, because we all complement each other and males and females are complementary in some very important ways.

    But the issue comes down to roles and permissions and superiority and headship. This is where I think Jim L hits the nail on the head – the issue should be service not roles. How best do we all serve each other in mutual submission?

  • There is neither slave nor free but Paul recognizes the reality of some people being slaves. There is neither male nor female, to quote a different passage, but there clearly are still men and women and Paul addresses them specifically and in a complementary fashion. To take passages like this one and the complementary passage in Galatians as somehow erasing everything else Paul wrote is hardly an “honest” reading of the text. The truth that in Christ men and women, Jews and Greeks, slaves and masters are all saved is in no way in disharmony with the truth that God has created men and women different and He did so intentionally. In that creation there are mutually exclusive callings and functions. I AM NOT called to bear children, no matter what people on Jerry Springer might say. I AM called to lead my family as the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. A truly honest reading of the text readily leads to this conclusion. To suggest that only the egalitarians interpretation is “honest” is in itself dishonest.

  • Glenn Sunshine

    It is worth noting that many theorists believe race is a social construct, not truly biological since it exists on a continuum without sharp edges. Age is a biological category, but unless you think it is appropriate to have children as elders(!) and pastors, evidently there is a role distinction there as well. In Genesis, it appears that the distinction between male and female is intrinsic to our nature and part of the image of God as He created us, and I don’t see Paul suggesting that Christ eliminated a pre-Fall aspect of human nature. In short, I don’t find this argument particularly compelling as it stands.

  • Diane

    I agree that men and women are biologically different. I would never want to essentialize them as entirely the same. However, the main practical biological difference is that women bear children and men don’t. Other than that, history and experience tells us that women can and do have the same gifs as men for leadership, learning, teaching, etc. To use biology to limit a woman’s sphere, to condone letting her talents lie buried and not to multiply, is a sin against God and creation, imho.

  • Susan N.

    Thanks for this well-developed presentation of a case for an egalitarian reading of scripture. It saddens me that gender divisions/hierarchy is (still) such a paramount issue among some in the Church.

    For me, I think the issue is wholeness…living fully as the person God created and purposed for each of us to be. There is a foundational belief among complementarians, ISTM, that females are less than in every way compared to males.

    There is a passage/scene in the currently popular book/movie ‘The Help’ in which Aibilene is forced to acknowledge the “goodness” of now having her own “separate but equal” bathroom facilities. The villainous Hilly Holbrook took it a step further, however, by demanding that Aibilene also say ‘thank you’ for this degrading “gift.”

    This reminds me of the situation in the (complementarian) Church toward women. If we (women) accept the logic of this theological perspective, a required degree of self-loathing must be involved, the way I figure it. I am learning to say, ‘No thank you’ to that which is inconsistent with my knowledge of God through the Person of Christ.

  • Joe Canner

    Glenn #8: Whatever the writer of Genesis was trying to teach (or not) about gender, the biological reality is that gender is also a continuum. Yes, there are usually sharp divisions with respect to physical manifestations (although there are occasionally ambiguities there too), but there are a lot of overlaps with respect to emotional and psychological differences. So, while on average men and women may be better equipped for different tasks within the church, there doesn’t seem to be any warrant (biologically or spiritually) for certain gifts to be off-limits to either gender, unless (as Diane in #9 points out) the task has to do with bearing children.

  • Rick

    One of the best books I read was Sarah Sumner’s “Men and Women in the Church.” I paraphrase, but she opens by explaining she will piss off both sides in her detailed study of Greek, theology and culture. Her claim is that the bible views men and women differently in the home and in the church.

    If you are still wrestling with this issue and want a bit of a fresh perspective with solid scholarship then add this to your reading list. I believe this is an issue we must grapple with as it’s quite possible the church is excluding some amazing gifts unnecessarily – or not!

  • David L.

    Categorical error. Gender divisions in the Bible are not social/cultural divisions. Enforce “tota scirptura” before coming to such conclusions. Woman have equal value, but different roles in ecclesiology.

  • EricW

    Genesis 1, as well as Genesis 2 and 3, are the old creation. Christ took on human nature, not only male human nature, and ended the race of Adam (both pre- and post-Fall) and came forth as, and brought forth, One New Human. All the members of the Body of Christ, the Bride, are “female” in relation to The Bridegroom, the Head, Christ. What differentiates the members of the Body is not class or race or sex, but the gifts and ministries and functions the Holy Spirit gives them, and none of those giftings is gendered or gender-specific or gender-restricted.

  • I would like to echo Diane’s sentiments in comment #9. Saying that women and men are equal, holding to an egalitarian point of view, does not negate biological differences between the two genders. That is an absurd conclusion. However, to hold those biological differences against women and to insist that their spiritual gifts are different/less (or wrong?) is a huge injustice to half of the Church.

    Why should we hold ourselves back in our fallen nature, clinging to the curse, when we’ve been redeemed by Christ and have been made new?

  • EricW

    “I want you to do something else” by Shirley Taylor on her blog today, bWe Baptist Women for Equality:


    ISTM she’s arguing for cutting the Gordian Knot (so to speak) on this issue.

  • EricW @ #14

    If that is true, why does Paul refer back to the Creation order and the Fall when discussing gender? (see 1 Cor 11: 7-9) and 1 Tim 2:13). It seems that for Paul the issue of gender in function and calling is alive and well.

  • abs

    13. David, L., yes, we should enforce tota scriptura, which means that while we read Paul’s limitations of particular groups of women in some contexts, we cannot also ignore his practice of praising the leadership of women in others. This is precisely the problem with interpreting Paul from the complementarian approach. It is his practice of putting women in leadership (ie.Priscilla) that causes us to dig deeper into contextual study of his letters of limitation.

  • DRT

    Wouldn’t this have been a lot easier if Jesus was female? I bet he may have even been a hermaphrodite.

  • DRT

    btw, isn’t ben adam and uios tou anthropou pretty much gender neutral?

  • DRT

    Correct me if I am wrong, but there has yet to be a complementatian responder to this post who addressed the argument in the original post. Will somone do that?

  • abs# 17

    What “leadership” position did Paul place Priscilla in? Whenever she is mentioned, she is mentioned alongside her husband which is interesting and she is likewise not recognized in an explicit leadership role. I don’t recall any of the disciples who were married (see 1 Cor 9: 5, a number of the disciples and itinerant evangelists/church planters were obviously married) being listed alongside their wives. Doesn’t it seem curious to you that Priscilla is always listed with her husband or do you just chalk that up to “culture”?

    You seem to be arguing that references to Priscilla and whatever her perceived leadership position in the church may or may not have been trumps what Paul (and Peter) taught regarding the relationships between the genders in the home and church. Paul is never using a cultural argument when he makes his statements. He appeals to universal themes like referencing the creation order and making a comparison in relationships between husbands and wives being like Christ and the church. What we do know about what Paul wrote is far more persuasive than arguing based on what we don’t know about Priscilla (or Junia for that matter)

  • I would argue that pressing male and female into strictly defined and polarized gender roles does more to encourage homosexuality than breaking down those divisions ever would. If one does not fit into the “God ordained” stereotypical male/female ideal, then where does one fit?

    Arthur, if you go on to include 1 Cor. 7:12 – Paul’s argument could be understood as more egalitarian – man is source of woman, woman is source of man. I think we have failed to understand the cultural ramifications of Paul’s arguments such as these because of our patriarchal lenses.

  • Rob

    @ 1 and 2,

    I find this a curious argument. No egalitarian I know or have read(at least in an evangelical context) suggests that men and women are exactly the same. The are obviously different in any number of ways. The question is whether these differences logically and necessarily lead to strict role differentiation. Respectfully, the agrument that egalitarians are denying basic biological differences of the sexes is a “straw man”.

    Have you really heard egalitarians making the androgyny argument?

    @ 13

    I run into this argument often as well. How does one claim equal value but different roles for women in the the church when in a complimentarian context women are subordinate to men (excluded from leadership, decision-making, and sometime even speaking in mixed company)? Substitute race for gender, would you make the same agrument for equality but different roles.? If not, why?

  • Resi Arriot

    In 2Cor.11 Paul compares the entire Corinthian congregation to Eve. It doesn’t appear that he is as concerned with “creation order” as you allude. It does appear that he is concerned about AnyOne who may be in deception.

  • Amos Paul

    @ 24,

    I never addressed the roles of men or women at all. I addressed the distinction that truly any and all barriers, or we could read that as distinctions, between men and women in our actual, social lives are rendered thoroughly null and void by Christ. Certainly, you might still argue that there *are* differences between the sexes/genders… but if you don’t accept that these differences represent themselves in our actual lives in any objective way, shape, or form beyond mere body function–I wonder how these ‘differences’ are really differences at all.

    In actuality, that *is* a denial of gender. Gender is a socially constructed and meaningful idea which, one might argue, derives from the biological distinction of sex. I think it may derive from more than simply biological distinctions, though I’m not altogether cerain what gender necessarily implies in its entirety.

    I think egalitarianism is one extreme end of the spectrum of which impassable and fundamental barriers between men and women is at the other end. Both are unhealthy in my opinion. For instance, my wife vocally laments not having any education or encouragement in ‘being a woman’ growing up. Our post-modern American culture consistently gave her the message that she not only *could* be just like men, but that she *should* be. Elsewise, she got the message that she was somehow inferior for wanting to learn and be more like a traditional woman.

    I still say that it’s a stretch to conclude that there is not only perfect unity without distinction for our identities in Christ, but that there is also literally no meaningful differences about our fundamental identities that represent themselves in our actual lives such as by gender.

    Do we think gender, a Creation of God, is actually meaningful? If so, how? Does Jesus really erase this meaning within us whole cloth?

  • Elaine

    It’s unwise not to recognize and respect the range of differences among people created in God’s image, but it’s also destructive to overemphasize differences or grant them unwarranted theological or mystical significance. Much of the pagan religious and cultural sexual sins the Biblical writers confronted arose from exaggerated or spiritualized notions of masculinity and femininity, ‘not’ from under-emphasis of them. Another thing that must be taken into account is that singleness is commended above marriage as the preferred state (1 Cor. 7).

  • Diane

    Thanks Katie.

    Elizabeth, thanks for bringing up cultural lens. MIeke Bal writes about this compellingly in her essays on Judith–one might also take a glance at Lacan’s Etude XX–this is hard stuff (I, for one, have to read Bal twice to “get” what she is saying (note to complementarians: this is not because I am a feeble-minded female.) The point is that a cultural lens that “already knows” what these texts say blinds us utterly at times to what is going on. Even in Genesis, “the Fall” is an interpretation: God never says mankind has “fallen;” he says, you did this, this is the consequence. He never points the finger at Eve especially either–that’s merely an interpretation of “you will suffer in childbirth and long for your husband.” Men get hard labor. Saying this, I agree with the interpretation of a Fall–but the point is to underline the difference between what the text says and what it means–what are words and what is interpretation. Thousands of years of patriarchy have blinded us.

  • abs

    Arthur, yes it does seem curious to me that she is listed alongside her husband,but for a different reason than you might think. What is curious is that she is listed at all. If she’s not a minister, why list her? Just because she’s married to one? And even more curious, 4 of 6 times she is listed first, before her husband. That certainly cannot be “chalked up to culture”, because it was against cultural norms. That being said, there is a reason she is listed. For instance, it was she and her husband who “corrected” apollos (Acts 18). Not much more “explicit” a leadership position than that. Now, I can hear the argument already, perhaps suggesting that her husband was doing the correcting and she was just along for the ride, but if that is the case, why is she named, and moreso, named first? Peter had a wife, (Jesus healed his mother-in-law) and she was never named? why not? because she wasn’t a “co-worker” (Romans 16) like Priscilla and others. Her position was, house-church leader, and yes alongside her husband, but there is nothing in the text that suggests she was merely a side-kick.

    And she isn’t the only one, see Phoebe, the deacon (same title given to Timothy, Tychichus, Apollos, and Paul himself), Junia and a handful of others.

    If the evidence suggests that women maintained roles of leadership in Paul’s communities, and I believe it does, then it doesn’t have to merely trump any of Paul’s instruction, but it does however cause us to dig deeper into the context of his instruction and his practice. When we do so we are left with a choice. Either place priority on what Paul said or on what Paul did. I, for one, can’t imagine Paul putting into practice something that is he believes is universally unacceptable. I can however imagine Paul putting limitations on acceptable practice in some context for the sake of furthering the gospel or dealing with a problem with a particular group of people in a particular location.


  • Paul Johnston

    Perhaps the arguement presented by Mr. Cramer is miscontextualized. If I read St. Paul correctly than the issue transcends egalitarian/complimentarian concerns. The issue is to predispose our will to accept God as “all in all” within our being.

    Does Jesus prioritize right political ethics their understandings and applications, or does He predispose Himself entirely to the will of the Father, irrespective of what he might reasonably conclude are fair social and political outcomes to His person?

  • EricW

    He never points the finger at Eve especially either–

    Not only that, but one could possibly argue, based on the Hebrew text, that only Adam was kicked out of the Garden. Which, if this is so, raises the questions: Then when did Eve leave, and why? 🙂

  • PaulE

    Where would the option fall that Paul is mainly referring to our spiritual equality and that it has some but not total bearing on our ecclesial practices?

    I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying our unity in Christ has “no bearing” on ecclesial practices. After all, Jews and Gentiles should now have table fellowship together, whereas before they couldn’t. But it’s hard to read 1 Timothy 5, for example, and not get the impression that Paul thinks age still has some bearing on how people are treated – e.g. whether a widow should be put on the church’s care list.

  • Rob

    Amos Paul @24,

    You say “Do we think gender, a Creation of God, is actually meaningful? If so, how? Does Jesus really erase this meaning within us whole cloth?”

    Yes. Gender is meaningful. Gen. 1 indicates that male and female are together the image of God. Men and women are different. In general, they think differently, behave differently, etc. They are complimentary.

    The problem is when these general difference are turned into absolutes (“All men are/should be…” and “All women are/should be…”) It sounds like we agree on this point.

    There may be some extreme forms of secular feminism that I would agree respresent the other extreme, but I don’t see anyone in this conversation arguing that version of egalitarianism. The definition I am using means simply that a person’s sex/gender should not trump all other factors (giftedness, passion, calling, etc.) in determing the role/activities one can participate in.

    It is precisely because men and women are “different” that we loose out when, in our churches, only men are in leadership. Only men are involved in key decision-making. Only mens’ voices are allowed in public worship. Are we celebrating gender “distintives” in this context? Or are we ignoring them?

  • DRT

    PaulE#32, Imagine that you are (me) someone who, from the time they were a child recognized that women and men are identical regarding competence, capability, leadership, savedness, (and women happen to be hotter than men), except for *average* physical strength. Sure there are ways about men and women that are, *on average* different, but the overlap is much much more broad than the difference.

    I suggest, rather than trying to pick my argument apart, that you spend some time meditating on feeling that way, really try to get into my shoes. Now also imagine that the community that you belonged to also felt the same way. There really is no difference between men and women.

    Then pretend you encounter a race of people who feel that women are not allowed to participate in religious practices in the same way as men. That they are taught in religion to be subordinate to them. Wouldn’t you feel like you just discovered some remote tribe running around in Africa?

    I am serious. Please spend some time with this, half the world’s population will thank you.

    I remember when I was young, I was taught that the Soviet Union was the enemy. I had an holy spirit type of feeling in my bones and knew that those people were different from us. They were the enemy. They were not human at some level like us and we are on the right side and it is our cosmic place to defeat them.

    Now, I have a hard time summoning the feelings I had when I thought that way, but, surprisingly, I still can if I really concentrate. It is like the way many people feel about the difference between humans and chimps. Isn’t it obvious that they are totally different?

    I will definitely back down and say that the chimp example is no where near what I think comps think. But the enemy one may hit close to the mark. I invite you to take some time to actually try and put yourself in the position of someone who has an inherent feeling of total equality, and this may take months, but I invite you to try and see where it takes you.

    This is not an analytical exercise. Everyone told me that the Soviets were the enemy, and they were, they were less than us. But, I found out that they are not.

  • DRT

    Also, funny that I was pondering Jeff Cook’s comment on the Biblicism post about Worshiping Truth, and I was confused about what he meant about that.

    As I am thinking through this issue, I want to as the Comps here what the downside is to getting rid of the differences. I mean, what could it really hurt, right?

    But then I suddenly realized that this is an example of the worship truth that Jeff Cook is talking about. Please, is that what the Comps think? Even if it is so much more respectful and, dare I say, Christian, to treat women equally you would rather worship truth in your tribe’s interpretation?

  • EricW

    Methinks that when Protestants threw much of the Roman Catholic bathwater out, but retained as the primary Sacrament the Reading of the Word of God, they retained the concept of a male-only priesthood in the person of The Pastor.

    I.e., as in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches only males can be priests (because Christ, after all, was a Male, and the priest (re)presents Christ to the people, and (re)presents Christ to God when making prayers for the people), and only they in persona Christi (RCC) can offer the Male Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, in many of these Protestant churches the Dispenser of the now Supreme Sacrament – the Sacrament of the Reading of the Word of God – also had to continue to be a Male, because….


    Maybe I’m wrong about this. But maybe I’m not.

  • Tom F.

    There is a spectrum of thought on what men and women’s essence as men or women is. From what I can make of it, some complementarians ground gender roles in these (distinct) essences. That is, prohibitions on what women (or even men) can do are rooted in who they are biologically, physically, spiritually, ect. These different capacities and abilities are rooted in creation, in the essence of who men and women were created to be.

    Likewise, some feminists argue against gender roles for the same reason, that is, they argue that men and women are essentially the same, perhaps even androgynous, and therefore there should be no distinction in roles. (However, I am not aware of any evangelical egalitarians who argue in this manner. Would be interested to hear if others know of any.)

    However, there are a few other middling positions that are worth keeping distinct. On the complementarian side, I don’t know if many complementarians are as comfortable with the strictly essentialist argument anymore because of what we might call the any man/no woman argument. For essentialism to logically uphold the strict prohibition against women (or even men) EVER functioning in certain roles, than it needs to be the case that there is no woman that is any more gifted in the role than any other man. Otherwise it becomes impossible to justify that absolutely no women should ever have a particular role in any possible situation.

    To take an example, is it not possible that in the billions of marriages throughout human history, there was a significant minority of marriages where the wife was more talented in the “work” sphere and the man more talented in the “child-rearing” sphere? A strict essentialist has a hard time with such a situation, and either has to deny that this ever happens (vastly implausible), or allow for exceptions, or stop being a strict essentialist.

    And you’ll be hard pressed to find a strict essentialist, even among complementarians. Yes, they talk a lot about the genders being differently gifted, but most of them realize that in order to maintain a strict prohibition (no exceptions), you have to add something else into the mix. So they talk about submission mirroring Jesus’ submission to God, or take other more theological approaches.

    And perhaps there is or is not something in those theological approaches (though I personally don’t think there is). But the main thing to keep in mind, the thing that is so easy to lose sight of, is that no one is really grounding role restrictions on the basis giftings or talents or abilities. This is really key, and it means that any discussion on this topic that gets bogged down in discussions of giftings is besides the point.

    The middling egalitarian view (what I have seen in more than a few evangelicals, and what I would myself hold) is that there are gender differences, and they are real, and worth celebrating as God’s creation. Women are not the same as men in significant ways. However, because of the force of the any man/no woman argument, gender roles can be more fluid without making gender completely fluid. Also, leadership can be fluid too, with spouses alternating the servant-leader role in the areas where they are gifted individually.

    And so, to connect with the original post, complementarians have to (and they know this) ground absolute role restrictions, such as leadership in ministry, in something else besides the capacities and abilities that come from who we were created to be, because it can clearly be seen that these vary. However, in their search for another place to ground them, verses like those in Colossians and Galatians should make it very hard to ground them in theological differences in what manhood and womanhood are, since these difference are real, but apparently not fundamental, at least according to Paul in these verses.

  • One of my favorite quotes I’ve read on gender issues: “The question is larger than what women can do in worship. The question is what view of women shall we have?” (Carroll Osburn, Women in the Church, pg 2, 87).

  • John W Frye

    A gifted and called leader who is a sister in Christ is never passed over to be an in complementarian churches because of her giftedness and calling, only her gender. That’s not her “role” according to the comps. “Role” is a word from the theater and had no place in these discussions until the 1970s. Do we audition or are we called?

  • John W Frye

    Oops. #39 should read “…passed over to be an elder…”

  • Patrick

    It’s a bunch of ado about nothing. Do I have more value or “equality” to God than my minor children? Obviously not.

    Do I get to make the rules around here and they do not? Yes.

  • DRT

    Patrick#41, what’s your point? That you get to make the rules with women?

  • Vicki

    #10 – the illustration from The Help is one of the best I’ve noted on how the complementarian viewpoint impacts women. Thanks for including that in your post. I am

  • Vicki

    @abs #18 – great point. Thanks for including it. This reminds me of Scot’s application in The Blue Parakeet. The presence of women leaders throughout scripture should cause us to call this limited cultural applications into question.

  • Scot, while going through First Corinthians I am struck by how culturally radical 1 Cor 7:3-5 would have been at that particular time. A great set of books that I have stumbled upon have helped me to see this with more clarity that before… Dr Bruce Winter’s two wonderful books (After Paul Left Corinth: (The influence of secular ethics and social change) as well as his book Roman Wives, Roman Widows: (The appearance of the new roman woman.)

    It seems to me, and I am only a modestly educated country pastor, that Pauls teaching on women would have brought about every militant fundamentalist feminist from a ten mile radius to come and hear about this Jesus guy. Many of my commentaries if any are missing this passages significance in regards to gender equality within the church.
    Anyways… Paul’s application of the Gospel equality in marriage and rebuke of what appears to be male centered form asceticism(1 Cor 7:1) seems to be a little more than just spiritual in 1 Cor 7:1-5.

  • JohnM

    Tom F #37 – If I’m understanding you I think you are correct – middling views are possible. I’m no egalitarian but I would say SOME complimentarians do paint themselves into an absolute men-must-always-women-can-never corner.

    On the other hand egalitarians pose a false dilemma if they insist the only choices are a rigid, absolutist form of complimentarianism or none at all. If fact by referring to the possibility of “a significant minority of marriages where the wife was more talented in the “work” sphere and the man more talented in the “child-rearing” sphere” you may have conceded more to the complimentarian view than you intended.

  • I apologize Vicki I should have addressed my comment to you. I did not know who wrote this post until I clicked the RSS feed. 🙂

  • Never-mind Vicki I’m an idiot… I was under the idea that you wrote this post but alas my ignorance has gotten the best of me again. 🙂 Still trying to figure this site out… 🙁

  • Diane


    Do you equate women to minor children?

  • Thanks, Scot, for posting this, and thanks, everyone for the lively discussion.

    It seems that many who have commented here have missed the point of the post, which is to be a reductio against the complementarian reading offered. I haven’t yet seen a direct response to the trilemma offered.

    Regarding the other issues that have been raised: Clearly gender is more than merely biological (as many have stated). But so is race and age. And the argument is strictly about “social division within the church,” so the discussion of distinctions outside the church–in the family, etc.–also misses the point. Within the church there are no social barriers. And yes, on this reading even the young can lead if they are adequately gifted to do so (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12).

  • Patrick


    Nope, my point is that God gave a division of labor in marriage using Christ as the role model for me and the body of Christ for my wife as an example. That does not make her less than me or more than me, it is a non issue in that respect.

    Same difference as my role as a father vis a vis my kids.

    It’s a division of labor mandated by God, there is no extra value placed on having a Biblical role of authority or not.


    Nope, I equate women to women.

    I share the Biblical view of the relationship of the wife and the husband as a metaphor for Christ and the Church and think it is valid for the husband to at least love his wife as much as he loves himself and she should respect her husband.

    If they achieve spiritual maturity, it moves onto a higher plane from there.

    To me this is a non issue as I told DRT.

    If either side can’t get there, the marriage will fail and should never have been entered by reasonable humans.

  • JohnM

    #50 – Not sure if this is part of what Patrick meant by “non-issue”, but not all of us have a “trilemma” when reading the verse quoted, which is one reason for not responding as directly as you desire. Put simply, neither the epistle nor the specfic verse are about what you’re trying to make them about. You’re trying to pack cargo the container isn’t shaped to hold.

  • John M (#52),

    If you don’t like the three interpretive options of Col. 3:11 based on the complementarian’s own logic described in the post, then please offer another. I’m open to quad-lemmas (to coin a word!). I’m not trying to make these verses about anything; just trying to understand the logic of my complementarian brothers and sisters when it comes to this passage.

  • Taylor

    I’ll take a stab at creating an option 4;

    Paul was dealing with prejudices and not positions.

  • JohnM

    D C Cramer #53 – Not much time right now, so the point may not come across here as well as it should – but briefly, I don’t see the verse or the passage addressing the complementarian vs egalitarian question in the first place. The sufficiency of Christ is the point, acceptance as part of His body apart from religious and/or ethnic background or practices. It’s not about who gets to do what in the church. Let’s be honest. When you talk about social barriers – barriers to what excatly? Aren’t you talking about women and leadership in the church and not something else? Paul is not talking about that here. On a secondary note, many on both sides of the issue would disagree that the argument can be strictly about “social division within the church”, without reference to anything outside the church, which is why they spend so much time talking about the family, etc.

  • EricW

    Glenn Sunshine @8.: “In Genesis, it appears that the distinction between male and female is intrinsic to our nature and part of the image of God as He created us,…”

    Rob @33.: “Gen. 1 indicates that male and female are together the image of God.”

    Does Genesis 1 really say or teach “that male and female are together the image of God”?

    Or does it simply say that humans are in God’s image, and the fact that they come in male and female is more of the nature of human physical nature than of the nature of God?

    When Jesus references Genesis 1 in Matthew 19:4ff. and Mark 10:6ff., He’s more talking about (against) divorce than about whether man as male and female = God’s image. He’s emphasizing that when male and female marry they become one – and hence can’t or shouldn’t be be un-oned – but He doesn’t equate this married oneness with being more reflective of the nature of God than singleness. In fact, in the next few verses in Matthew 19 (19:11-12) He discusses singleness and those who choose such for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He doesn’t indicate that a male needs a female (or vice-versa) to be complete or to better image God.

    While Paul says in Ephesians 5 that the husband-wife union reflects Christ’s union with His church, he doesn’t reference Genesis 1 or say that male + female = a fuller expression of God’s image than male or female alone. In fact, elsewhere Paul writes that the male human (as opposed to the female human) is God’s image (1 Corinthians 11:7).* He doesn’t say that male and female together image God or better image God than single persons do.

    * Of course, in 1 Corinthians 11 he could be quoting something that had been written or told to him, and was perhaps refuting or challenging it, rather than affirming it. 1 Corinthians 11 is another one of those tricky passages.

  • Taylor (#54) and John M (#55):

    If you read the post closely, you’ll note that I am responding to a complementarian author who himself argued that this passage “erases social barriers in the church.” I did not introduce that element into the discussion. All I was trying to do is to take his own logic about racial and generational social barriers and see whether or not it also applied to gender. So, given the author’s premises, I offered him three options. If you reject the author’s premises, then I agree that there might be other interpretive options available. The author argued that in Christ, i.e., in the church, all social barriers are erased. I simply asked whether he really meant all or not. And it appears he didn’t.

    You’re free to read into “social barriers” whatever content you want. In another context, I would be happy to argue that if leadership roles are restricted to groups of people because of their race, age, or gender, rather than because of their proven spiritual giftedness, then that would be an instance of continuing “prejudice” or “social barriers.” But I didn’t argue that here, as it wasn’t my intention to offer my own constructive view.

    At any rate, thanks for your interaction, which helps me to see how the argument could have been a bit clearer in order to convey the rather specific point that I was trying to make.

  • Elaine

    @51 “Nope, my point is that God gave a division of labor in marriage using Christ as the role model for me and the body of Christ for my wife as an example. That does not make her less than me or more than me, it is a non issue in that respect.”

    It never ceases to amaze me how some can read verses containing metaphors which illustrate unity (ie. heads attached to bodies) and find “division” in them…

  • Luke Allison

    Dr. McKnight,

    As long as this issue is handled with wisdom, I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said.

    I’ve found, however, that this is often not the case in the church. On what level to do we bring the Scriptures to bear on what it actually means to “treat like things the same”? On what level do we bring cultural ideas to bear? Too often, the latter is more prevalent.

    I work with a youth ministry of about 3000 students. That’s a large segment to observe. Young people have heard “treat like things the same” from every media outlet since they were young. Which means, “Girls are guys with different genitalia”. Which means “treat them just as coarsely as you treat each other”. And then you have girls who claim to be “just one of the guys”, but in reality are getting all their identity from forging deep emotional intimacy with members of the opposite sex. Hardly the reason why I hang out with the guys.

    So, what am I saying? What difference does Christ make in teaching us that “like things are the same”? He has to change the normal cultural assumptions of what that means. Because guys and girls are fundamentally, deeply, beautifully different.

  • Dana


    “Nope, my point is that God gave a division of labor in marriage using Christ as the role model for me and the body of Christ for my wife as an example. That does not make her less than me or more than me, it is a non issue in that respect.”

    Would this comment mean that neither Christ nor the church should be view as any more or less than the other, it’s just a division of labor? A non-issue? Just asking – that would be new idea for me.

  • Patrick


    I’ll return to the original example.

    The father has the Biblical role of authority. The child has the role of respecting the parental authority. It doesn’t involve value to God, the roles have nothing to do with that issue.

    I used the terminology “division of labor” above.

    A sports anaology would be less controversial. The lineman blocks, the runner runs, together within that division of labor, the team wins. That shouldn’t be seen by a reasonable human as “dividing” anything, it’s a term describing a way for a unified team to prevail over an opponent.

    The Church is no different, God gave each of us a specific ability, mine is not yours. IF we each max out ours (division of labor), Christ’s Kingdom advances.

  • Patrick (#61),

    Are you saying that no women have the “specific ability” to teach or lead?

    Also, your football analogy fails for a couple reasons: (1) The roles on a football team are not determined based on gender, race, etc., but on ability. (2) On the football team, there is no hierarchy of roles.

    The issue with church division is that some have “authority” (i.e., a position of hierarchy) over others. If everyone was simply “maxing out” their spiritual gifts with no hierarchy, then I think egalitarians and complementarians would be on the same page. But, unfortunately, that isn’t the reality in churches today. So, to make your football analogy fit the church reality, you would have to say that it is okay to have all white managers/owners and all black players because, afterall, these are just “roles” or “divisions of labor” and have nothing to do with “dividing.”

  • Dana

    I’m not sure I understand why you would return to the example of a parent and child, unless you are saying that men have the role of authority and women have the role of respecting authority, like a parent and child. But you already said that you don’t view women as children, but as women. That’s confusing.

    I also don’t understand why you would abandon the Man/Christ, Women/Church analogy, since that is the one given to us in Ephesians. I don’t know why you would see a football team analogy as better.

    I don’t want to argue, but your answers are bringing up many questions for me.

  • Luke Allison

    DC Cramer #62

    “The issue with church division is that some have “authority” (i.e., a position of hierarchy) over others.”

    Would you suggest that only those apostles who received their authority directly from Jesus (Peter, Paul, James, John, etc) were worthy of having positions of authority? Isn’t hierarchy a natural part of humanity?

  • Luke #63):

    No, I would suggest that the apostle’s authority, as with all authority in the church today comes through the Spirit and the Word. I don’t know if hierarchy is natural or not, but I do believe it was abolished by Christ in the new Creation, of which the church is a sign. Every member of the church is given a gift to use for the sake of the body, of which Christ and Christ alone is the head.

  • Elaine

    Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    Noticed here what it does *not* say.

    It does *not* say,
    “You have all the authority now. Go and make disciples of all nations taking authority over them, baptizing them and teaching them to obey you.”

    It’s not their own personal authority obtained from God. It is the authority of God’s Word. The authority is God’s. Paul didn’t take authority over people, but rather authority over error and false doctrine.

    That is such an important point. The one who was to be a watchman to protect the sheep was told to identify false doctrine and to speak forth God’s word (1 Peter 4:10,11)

    Think about the O.T. and how the Israelites wanted a king so they could be like the other nations around them.
    “They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons don’t follow your ways. So now appoint over us a king to lead us, just like all the nations have.” But this request displeased Samuel, for they said, “Give us a king to lead us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel,

    “Do everything the people request of you. For it is not you that they have rejected, but it is *Me* that they have rejected as their king. Just as they have done from the day that I brought them up from Egypt until this very day, they have rejected me and have served other gods. This is what they are also doing to you” 1 Sam. 8:4-8.
    “When you come to the land the Lord your God is giving you and take it over and live in it and then say, “ I will appoint a king over me like all the nations surrounding me”.

    These words of Moses were both a warning and a prophecy. Compare the words of Moses with the words of the people to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:5:
    They said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons don’t follow your ways. So now appoint over us a king to lead us, just like all the nations have.”

    In both texts, it is the people who demand a ruler, just as in both their motivation is to be “just like the nations.”

  • Luke Allison

    DC Cramer: “I don’t know if hierarchy is natural or not, but I do believe it was abolished by Christ in the new Creation, of which the church is a sign. Every member of the church is given a gift to use for the sake of the body, of which Christ and Christ alone is the head.”

    Did Christ abolish hierarchy? Is eldership not some form of hierarchy? Wasn’t Jesus engaging in social hierarchy when He told men to follow Him?

    I agree with you that Jesus abolished our way of doing things, but I don’t think He abolished the concept of “systems of persons or things ranked one above the other.” That’s a necessary part of living.

    What Jesus did was redefine the roots of hierarchy. Leadership was now about humility, not honor. To rule now meant to descend, not to ascend.

    We need to be careful with our natural penduluous tendencies.

  • EricW

    If Jesus’ Kingdom of God functions according to the “same old, same old” tired and failed authoritarian patriarchal hierarchical structure that all (or nearly all) of the fallen tribes of the earth have used since time immemorial, how is that either “Good News” or a “New Creation”?

  • Luke Allison

    EricW: “If Jesus’ Kingdom of God functions according to the “same old, same old” tired and failed authoritarian patriarchal hierarchical structure that all (or nearly all) of the fallen tribes of the earth have used since time immemorial, how is that either “Good News” or a “New Creation”?”

    Just point me in the direction of the text where Jesus specifically abolishes the concept of “systems of persons ranked one above the other”, and I’ll completely agree with you.
    If He had done that, there wouldn’t have been such a natural move towards eldership and structure in the early Church.

    The problem in American churches is multifaceted, but something I’ve definitely noticed amongst the “no hierarchy” folks is that they tend to be very uncomfortable being confronted with their own crap. Is that Jesus’ message? “You’re your own person, so screw everyone else’s opinion!”?

    We need to be careful not to apply the cultural assumptions we naturally carry (America is a breeding ground for personal autonomous authority) to the Biblical text. Was hierarchy really a problem in Jesus’ context? Or was oppressive authority the problem?

    Read Dickson’s “Humilitas”. The Cross shifted the way people thought about authority, but it didn’t abolish authority.

  • Elaine

    @67 “Wasn’t Jesus engaging in social hierarchy when He told men to follow Him?”

    Are you equating following God with following men?

    In English Bible translations, “follow” comes from the Greek “mimetai” or “mimetes” which means “to mimic” or “imitate”: “Be followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (ie. 1Cor 11:1; 1Cor 4:16; Phil 3:17; 2Thes 3:7,9).

    In every case where Bible translations tell us to “follow” Paul, the Greek meaning is, “Follow my example or imitate me only as I follow Christ’s example and imitate Him.”
    Paul did not once tell anyone to get behind him as he went about his agenda. He asked people to imitate the ‘good examples’ of himself and others.

    Another Greek word “opiso” which means “to the back” is translated as “follow” also. “Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people”, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke14. This type of “following” is only appropriate when it is Jesus we are “following”.
    The word “akoloutheo” which means “to be in the same way with, to accompany” is translated as “follow” – “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers… My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” John 10:2-5, 27.

    Neither Paul nor other disciples use these two words (“opiso” & “akoloutheo) regarding “following” them personally.

    Jesus uses both in one makes a very poignant statement: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, ‘If any man will come after (opiso) Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow (akoloutheito) Me’”

    In Scripture no one is instructed to “take authority over” anyone else or to “take the lead” over anyone else. There is no true submission, if it is forced – because then it is no longer submission.

  • Rob

    EricW #56,

    I am not suggesting that man+women (in a marriage) equal a more complete or whole image of God and that single men and women are necessarily missing something (however I have heard some at least implicitly make this claim).

    I do think the Gen. text suggest that the image of God (at least its fullest expression) exists in the human community (male and female). Marriage is one form of this male/female community, but single people can experience this community as well (i.e. church). IMHO, when one member of this community (male or female, in mariage or the church) is silenced or otherwise subordinated to the other, the *imagio dei* is distorted.

    I understand Paul (in his ways for his days) to be pointing the early church towards an ethic of mutuality among men and women.

  • Luke Allison

    “Are you equating following God with following men?”

    Did they know He was God at the time? Or were they following a preexistent social hierarchical structure?

    I’m not even arguing for hierarchy as a good thing. But is it an escapable thing?

    For instance, I’m assuming you have studied these things more than I have. Would I be overturning Jesus’ teaching by bowing my head to you?

    I work with young people for a living. The physical prime of the body never matches up with the height of wisdom. Is it wise to put 16-year-olds in charge of the emotional and spiritual health of a group of, say twenty middle-aged women?

    All I’m saying is that the concept of hierarchy isn’t a fallen concept in and of itself. If you already believe culturally that hierarchy is a horrific thing, you will endlessly seek to apply that same passion to your reading of the Scriptures.

  • EricW

    Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “…Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant.” (Mt 23:1,8–11, NLT)

    Here is the original text:

    Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐλάλησεν τοῖς ὄχλοις καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ λέγων·…ὑμεῖς δὲ μὴ κληθῆτε· Ῥαββί, εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὑμῶν ὁ διδάσκαλος, πάντες δὲ ὑμεῖς ἀδελφοί ἐστε· καὶ πατέρα μὴ καλέσητε ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὑμῶν ὁ πατὴρ ὁ οὐράνιος· μηδὲ κληθῆτε καθηγηταί, ὅτι καθηγητὴς ὑμῶν ἐστιν εἷς ὁ χριστός· ὁ δὲ μείζων ὑμῶν ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος.

    And here is my (improvable) translation:

    Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples and said: “…But as for you all: Don’t have anyone1 address2 you as ‘Rabbi,’3 for you all have One Teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters.4 And don’t call anyone1 on earth your ‘Father,’5 for you all have One Heavenly Father. Nor are you to be called ‘Instructors,’6 because you all have One Instructor,6 The Christ.7 [Unlike other religious leaders8], the one who is the greatest among you must be9 as your servant.”

    1 “anyone” is implied by the Greek.
    2 Or “call”.
    3 I.e., Master Teacher.
    4 Translating the common-gender noun ἀδελφοί.
    5 “Father” is emphasized in the Greek text, which is literally: “And ‘Father’ not you-should-call your on the earth….”
    6 “Instructor(s)” is used to differentiate this word (καθηγητής) from the word that is translated in this passage as “teacher” (διδάσκαλος).
    7 I.e., The Messiah.
    8 See Matthew 23:2-7.
    9 Translating the future as an imperative as the NLT does. See BDF §362. (Blass, F., Debrunner, A., & Funk, R. W. (1961). A Greek grammar of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (183). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.)

  • Tom F.

    John M: My understanding of complementarians in my own context has been one of sharp restrictions on participation in certain ministry roles and in marriage. I do not see any thought that women with more natural talent can take a leadership role over a man in either marriage or in teaching in the church, without the man being incapacitated somehow. For example, in “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”, the authors argue that in the church and the home, the man is “responsible for the primary pattern of life” (59). This is an absolute restriction on women taking leadership over the general direction of a family or church. Why is it that no women will ever be more talented or gifted than any man in determining the “primary pattern of life” and enacting that as a servant-leader in either a marriage or a home?

    In any case, the authors of the above book never appeal to abilities except in generalities. When it comes down to these absolute prohibitions, the authors of this book at least seem mostly to feel that general leadership by women is somehow damaging to both men and women and families, and that is the justification of why general leadership is prohibited to women. So even if a women is more gifted in leadership abilities, she should let men take the general lead because to do otherwise is to do harm. This is the best of what I can make of what these authors call “the created order of men and women.” It has nothing to do with capacities or talents, but rather something intrinsic to manhood and womanhood that requires men to lead and women to follow, otherwise their basic personhood will be violated.

    But of course, men can not always lead. Men have to follow other men, and men have to follow God, the same way women have to follow God. So a man is only intrinsically damaged when he is lead by a women then, right? And of course, complementarians have to concede that it is actually only in the church and marriage that manhood will be damaged, lest they restrict women from leadership positions over men in business and government.

    And some of them do. For example, J.I. Packer wondered if a female executive having a male secretary would actually be damaging to the humanity of both. (same book, page 43) I have to confess its hard to understand this for me, having worked under women, and knowing that J.I. Packer was a titan of reformed evangelical thought and probably objectively smarter than me. I don’t mean to zing Packer, but to simply pause and painfully acknowledge how radically different of a worldview he and I have while still sharing the same faith.

    Others can allow women to be in leadership positions in the world, but only because the world doesn’t witness to God’s kingdom purposes. This seems to me a subtle way of saying that, ideally, women would not have leadership positions in the world.

    For example: Russel Moore on Women as president:

    “On the face of it, there is no contradiction since Scripture teaches that the church, not the world, is presently the outpost of the new creation. The state in this age doesn’t — and can’t — reflect God’s kingdom purposes in the way that the church or a family can.”

    I would like to know what Moore thinks is below the “face of it”. Why qualify this statement? Why not simply say there is no contradiction between a women having a leadership role in the world and the biblical teaching about womanhood?

  • Elaine

    “I work with young people for a living. The physical prime of the body never matches up with the height of wisdom. Is it wise to put 16-year-olds in charge of the emotional and spiritual health of a group of, say twenty middle-aged women?”

    How would the 16 year-olds be “put in charge” if we were no longer operating under determined hierarchies, but instead, operating within the kingdom paradigm of serving others according to our God given gifts?

  • Patrick


    I confuse myself, too.

    I returned to it because I figured it was a less controversial way of saying what I intended originally, whatever our roles are, they do not reduce our value to God.

    Do I think the logic of Paul on marriage is immpeccable? Yes . Is that a better example than football? Yes. Is it more controversial? I thought so after a few replies.

    So, I tried to backstroke and avoid controversy is why I returned to the father/ child analogy and ended up creating more because it led some to assume I was equating a grown woman to a minor child and I inadvertently led a poster to think I was seeing divisiveness by using the term “division of labor” when discussing the marriage paradigm.

    That led me to use the football analogy where each player has a specific role to succeed at which unites the team in success.

    The harder I try, the worse I fail.

  • So now that you have all written 74 comments and expressed your view, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to go on to the next blog and say the same thing? Or by chance, are you going to speak up in your church, to your congregation and tell them that your church will stand beside women, and if you have by-laws that deny women certain offices, that you will work with them to change those by-laws?

    Will you seek to change the attitude of the women in your congregation that adhere to the complementarian view that she is to submit to her husband and not have authority over men? Will you give them the same arguments that they are equal, that you have given here?

    Maybe your church already allows women the equality that is hers. What are you going to do now? Will you help support a woman in church that does not allow it? Will you call a woman to be an intern and to mentor her, and use your influence to help her fulfil God’s call in her life? Will you write letters in your local newspapers, and your church newsletters supporting women?

    Your wisdom is invaluable. Putting your action where your mouth is, is priceless.

    God bless those of you who speak up for over one-have of your congregation.

  • Shirley,

    Good words. We’re working on it on multiple fronts, of which writing is merely one small piece. Blessings on your efforts as well.


  • #78. Thanks DC. I am working on it on other levels also.

  • #79. DC, I sent you an email telling you what I am working on. I am not ready to make it public yet, but it will be soon.

  • Diane


    Since I am part of a denomination that practices female equality, and as I haven’t been called to enter into churches that are not my own and declare they must give women positions of leadership and authority, what I do is speak out on this subject when I can. Frankly, I get tired and often wish I could be doing something else. So for me, having a blog voice is not nothing, and I am grateful to Scot for not allowing women to be ridiculed on this blog. However, I understand that actions speak louder than words. I do work harder and harder to be conscious of the ways I have allowed myself to be defined and limited by patriarchy and to more intentionally follow God’s call on my life to be a whole person. Being the faith is important. I also am not against a call for women to leave churches that don’t affirm their full humanity. The damage goes further than the individual woman who stays in a church that denies her full use of her gifts. Others see this as normal and thus would limit other women. Others, who dislike it, shudder and turn from the Christian faith. When we can finally have eyes that see, this pigeon-holing of the full potential of women will fade away like the illusion it is–but we do have to keep naming it as a falsehood.

  • Luke Allison

    Elaine: “How would the 16 year-olds be “put in charge” if we were no longer operating under determined hierarchies, but instead, operating within the kingdom paradigm of serving others according to our God given gifts?”

    What if they believe one of their gifts to be that of a shepherd?

    I want you to understand: I’m not a complementarian.
    But I have a feeling you believe in hierarchy. After all, you want me to agree with you about this issue, right? What if the church you are a part of started to articulate complementarian theology from the front? What would you do?

    It’s hard to convince me that you don’t believe in hierarchy when you come down this passionately on one side of a theological issue. How could this idea ever be promoted? By arguing on this blog, you’re showing me that you believe in hierarchy. You have a knowledge base that you believe others should pay attention to.

    And that’s not a bad thing.

    I happen to think that elders should be elders, and kids should be kids. I’ve heard a lot of horrible talks from young people who supposedly have a “call” to preach. From whose perspective?

  • Dana

    Patrick – thank you for answering me. I really appreciate it.

  • Diane, thank you for you response. When I speak with women of denominations that recognizes women’s full equality, most are surprised that this is still an issue in other churches. I feel strongly that the time has come to put this behind us, so women and churches can move on and do what we are called to do – together. As you know, there are those who will not hear of women’s equality and they have loud voices, and a big pulpit. So we must continue to speak out. For me, I must put action to my words and encourage others to do so too.

  • Diane


    While I am a believer in flattening hierarchy as much as possible, yes hierarchies do develop. Perhaps as a “typical” female, I have seen group consensus as quite natural–hierarchy doesn’t seem inherently “natural” to me. Leaving that aside, the issue, however, is “how do we determine hierarchy?” This is a profound question. In the US, we have been drawn into two bitter, bloody wars over this issue in the past 150 years: the Civil War and WWII. These were wars over ideology. The “happy plantation” ideal of the Old South understood every person to be born to a particular place in the hierarchy, a hierarchy based on skin color and gender. If you were born black, you would find the deepest happiness and fulfillment to the extent you accepted your subordinate, childlike status. If you were a woman, you would find your deepest fulfillment as childbearing angel of the home and submissive supporter of your husband. Etc. If everyone would just get into their God-given places, society would be harmonious. Except–it didn’t work according to that manmade plan. Color and gender were not accurate indicators of “place” in and of themselves. Ditto with the Aryan vision: according to this one, if all the peoples of the earth simply acknowledged that white Germanic males were meant to be lords of the universe, that Aryan females were meant to bear children and take care of the home submissively, if Slavs only understood they would be happiest as slaves, and if Jews were eradicated, harmony would prevail. Well, once again, people slotted for the lower echelons didn’t agree with–or fit into– this vision. What this says is that over and over we have to fight the battle against man-made plans for social organization. Our wisdom is not God’s wisdom. God repeatedly chooses the least and most unlikely to lead. He exalts the humble and humbles the proud. We need to subordinate ourselves to his plan for who God calls to leadership, without any preconceived notions.

  • Luke Allison

    Diane: “God repeatedly chooses the least and most unlikely to lead. He exalts the humble and humbles the proud. We need to subordinate ourselves to his plan for who God calls to leadership, without any preconceived notions.”

    The entire narrative of Scripture attests to this, yes. Well said!

    But leadership is inevitable, correct? That’s really all I’m responding to in this conversation. I work for a church with four woman pastors.

    I’m just trying to push back against the natural desire to throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. The baby, of course, being the concept of hierarchy, the bathwater being the unfortunate and destructive ways we have worked that concept out. I personally am very happy for hierarchy. Without it, I would never have learned the slightest thing about submission and humility. Do we think these things happen in a vacuum?

  • Luke,

    I would happily affirm “leadership,” but still want to distinguish it from “hierarchy.” Leadership comes through a recognition of one’s gifts by those in one’s community. So, if one has the gift of disciple-making, others recognize their leadership in that area. If one has a gift in teaching, others recognize their leadership in that area. Etc. Thus, there is a plurality of leaders, varying in their leadership roles depending on the needs of the community at a particular time. The problem is when one or two of those leadership roles–say teacher/preacher or elder–becomes the privileged leadership role and solidifies into a hierarchical structure, as has happened in most of Christianity. Then to add insult to injury, these few roles of authority are further limited to persons based no longer on their giftedness per se, but on their race, age, gender, etc. Sure, most elders should be elders, but sometimes a youthful prophet is nice to have around too!


  • Luke Allison

    DC Cramer: I have had such a different experience with authority than you describe in this paragraph.

    Are you sure that you’re not applying too much of your own negative experience to this concept? You’ve articulated a bit of a utopian viewpoint, which reminds me of the few years I spent hanging out with a “Christian anarchist” group. I recall one conference where we spent hours discussing why police had too much authority, and why we needed to go back to something resembling a “hue and cry” structure. The irony was that all of these people were generally physically unimposing. I was in the Army for a few years, and so I could have conceivably overpowered any of them had I felt like it. That, of course, would have been mean. But who was going to tell me that?

  • Diane


    Yes, leadership does emerge.

  • Luke (#88),

    Thanks for inquiring into the motivations for my viewpoint. Actually, my real-world attraction to non-hierarchalism is not from negative experiences as much as it is from positive experiences of the type of “utopian” communities you describe. I agree that what I’m describing is humanly impossible. But that’s why the Holy Spirit is so important. Rather than arguing further biblically or theologically, let me instead simply introduce you to two places where this is happening to a greater or lesser extent: the church I attended in South Bend and the church I just began attending in Waco. In the first, Keller Park Church, we still have a paid, full-time pastor for logistical reasons, but otherwise, there is a plurality of leadership–male and female–based on recognized giftedness. One person leads the tutoring program, another the Sunday morning music, another the community garden, etc., etc. The decision-making is often in committee if not completely open to the church. And even the teaching is shared among a plurality of people, though admittedly the pastor carries the heaviest load. In short, while there is a great amount of leadership, there is no sense of hierarchy at all. The second church, Hope Fellowship–a part of the Shalom Mission Communities–has no paid staff at all and makes all of their important decisions by unanimous consensus. Again, I could go into all the biblical and theological reasons why I find the approach of these churches to be preferable (for more see this book), but it might just be something you have to experience. These communities are far from utopian, in the sense of being problem free, but when you’re there, it just resonates with Paul’s vision of universal giftedness and ministry. They might be the best argument I can give. I think with this issue–as with the question of violence–a robust ecclesiology and pneumatology is crucial. The church cannot determine how it functions based on what the world deems possible.

    Peace, brother.

  • Elaine

    Please refer to my comment #70.

    DC Cramer@87,
    Well said.

  • Paul Johnston

    When we suffer human injustice it is imparative that we convene with Jesus. The cross absorbs and absolves. Grace and wisdom are the outcomes. To those whose response to limited female leadership is love, submissiveness and humility, continuing to serve in whatever capacities are available to them, their covenant is true. They shall inherit the earth.

    To those who would withdraw, condemn and undermine, how is this the way of the cross?

    In my church, I am denied priestly office on account of marriage and family. Should I rail against the injustice? Should I seek to undermine authority? To any sister reading this paragraph, what do you suggest? What does your covenant prayer, your contemplation with the Holy Spirit tell you? Shall I politically organize myself and others to overthrow this injustice or shall I “humble myself before the Lord so that he might exalt me.”

    “The workers are few” and the work abounds. If one door is closed to you, another is open. Trust in the Lord.

  • Luke Allison

    Elaine #91: That’s what I was referring to. But it’s probably not a conversation worth dragging through the mud any further. I’m probably not going to agree with you, but I definitely think you make some good points.

    DC Cramer #90: “The church cannot determine how it functions based on what the world deems possible”

    That’s a great statement, and I completely believe it. I just don’t think that higher structural rank necessarily implies corruption, or a perception of “higher value”. Again, in the model of Jesus, the one who is greatest is the servant, and the one who is first is the bondservant to all.

    I’ve been a part of a community similar to the ones you’ve mentioned, but didn’t resonate with it for very long. Granted, it was full of primarily young men, who desperately needed some direction from somebody other than each other.

    I think the situation you describe, while certainly ideal and beautiful, is a powder-keg if you don’t have exactly the right sort of people involved in it, with the right motivations for doing so. If a person prefers that structure, not because of a robust pneumatology or ecclesiology, but because they read a book and now think that EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE, I don’t see it being successful. That was my experience.

    Having older men in positions of authority to tell me when I’m being a knucklehead has been indispensible in my spiritual formation.

  • EricW

    Working against patriarchal hierarchicalism in order to achieve full equality for women in the church is not contrary to the Gospel, or contrary to the way of the Gospel – it IS the Gospel.

  • Paul Johnston

    To DC Cramer, the very notions of egalitarianism and complimentarianism are irrelavent to the Kingdom. Ironicly a right understanding of the passage on which you base your argument tells you so. Social divisons won’t be erased until His time, our time with Him. Sadly people won’t have it any other way. Until then, pray and fast so that Christ might be “all in all” in what you do. It is satan who inspires dissent. It is satan who would disuade us from service on account of real or percieved hierarcical injustice.

    To the heart that remains faithful to Christ, serving His will in whatever capacity is available to them, no human injustice will prevail.

  • Elaine

    Paul @92,

    Christ’s suffering was a path He chose and not a tragic fate imposed upon Him.

    You chose to marry. I had no choice in being a woman.

    “Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunity.” 1Cor.7:21

  • Luke (#93):

    Your comments speak to the wisdom of intergenerational churches, of which both of the church I described certainly are, and which points back to the original post. Churches that divide their services into “alternative” (primarily younger folks) and “traditional” (primarily older folks) are doing the church a grave disservice through such social divisions, as it sounds like both you and I agree. But having older folks (elders) sharing their godly wisdom with younger folks doesn’t necessitate a formal hierarchal structure. And, practically speaking, hierarchal churches are just as “powder-keg” if people are involved with the wrong motives, etc. Thus, again, the need to rely on the Spirit. At any rate, I appreciate your push-back as well as what seems to be some moments of agreement between us.

  • Paul (#92 and 95):

    I agree that as Christians we are called to imitate Christ by absorbing the world’s injustices against us. But that doesn’t mean that we should acquiesce with such injustices in the church. Indeed, imitating Christ necessitates that we also stand up to injustice. Thus, if you feel led by the Spirit to a certain ministry that is restricted by your church, I think it would be important for you and others to speak out against such man-made restrictions on your ministry, while at the same time ministering as God has called you. And it is also your duty as a person of privilege to speak out against the injustices toward the underprivileged—in this case women in the church.

    But it sounds as though we have a different understanding of the role of eschatology in the church. Your comments suggest that because the eschatology isn’t fully realized yet, we can’t begin living now in the church as though it were. According to a partially realized eschatology (which I hold), we are called to live out the eschatological vision now within the church—with the belief that it will one day be fully manifest in the world through Christ.

  • Luke Allison

    DC Cramer: “At any rate, I appreciate your push-back as well as what seems to be some moments of agreement between us”

    The feeling is mutual. There are probably more of those moments than you might think.

  • Verity3

    Paul, I agree with you that service opportunities abound, even in the face of injustice. And I agree with D C Cramer that we can minister while still speaking out.

    If your church is allowing you to be part of the body of Christ, you may continue to serve there. Yet I suggest we keep in mind that those sisters who leave certain churches may not be railing against injustice or undermining authority, but rather, recognizing that they have been disfellowshipped against their will.

  • Paul Johnston

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, D C. Leaving the discussion of “man made” restrictions aside, I suppose my difference with you would not be eschatological so much as it would be in the way we might differently interpret the words “injustice” and “underprivileged” insofar as they apply to the subject at hand.

    I prepose that my responsibility to the Lord is such that I work to the best of my abilities in the service of the Kingdom. I hope in return that opportunities be given me, to assist in Kingdom work. I do not qualify my request with a subtext that insists my opportunities to serve be no less than anyone elses. I see no injustice in the Lord bequething “more talents” as it were, to someone else. I may disagree with human authorities that limit my participation in some areas but I have found it always to be true that the Lord will provide sufficient and important work in areas that are available to me, so as to render such disagreements insignificant. Well perhaps not insignificant, wounded pride never seems to be an insignificant thing, but at least it becomes less important than the task at hand.

    The only legitimate injustice, might be that the very work of the Kingdom itself was being impaired by the restricitions imposed. Discernment through prayer and fast must always inform the decisions our Church authorities impose. If I believe that to be so, and at present I do, than I accept what might otherwise be interpreted as a violation of my civil rights and defer to church disciplines.

    If I may digress for a momemt I think a big part of the problem for those who prioritize egalitarian issues before other Kingdom work is the errant conflation of democratic principals with the spiritual truths of our faith.IMHO, One cannot read the “beatitudes” widely viewed as the Christian declaration of what constitutes a right response to the human experience and see it as anything other than an ethos that openly conflicts with most democratic declarations of human rights and priorities. The “upside down Kingdom” that we serve, if you will pardon the crass British expression, pretty much takes the “piss” out of everyone, or is intended to.

    If a person can find no opportunity in which to serve our Lord and the Kingdom, then I think the injustice argument prevails and should be immediately addressed. If not true, then let us serve proudly and dilligently, to the best of our abilities in the capacity given.

    If a lesser form of justice; an imperfect eschatological present, be true, and to some degree or another( that being my point in my earlier post) I suspect this will always be so until He comes again, what of it?

    The first shall be last, the last shall be first, those who suffer legitimate persecutuion for His name’s sake will be glorified and judgement of those who have done wrong is the perogative of God. He shall repay.

    Not wanting to continue too much longer with this response let me only say with regard to being “underpriviledged” that I am very uncomfortable with applying that term to any western middle classed person who perceives his or her church’s ecclesiology, treats them unfairly.

  • Paul Johnston

    Elaine, thank you for your response. I understand the material distinction you make and can only say this. Firstly, I don’t think anyone can choose celibacy. It is an ongoing grace and gift of the Spirit. It is no more a choice than is prophecy or healing. Though not materially evident, my suggestion to you is that a celibate or non celibate has no more choice over his or her condition than a person does regarding their gender.

    Secondly, I have always assumed, correct me if you disagree, that an egalitarian would find the restrictions regarding marriage in the Catholic faith equally disturbing. That is to say, what if at some future date the church ordained women but still maintained it’s restrictions regarding celibacy. Would not an egalitarian person reject such restritions as unjust? Would not a married woman with children make the same arguement as all women could make today?

  • Elaine

    Paul @102,

    Are you saying that you had no choice in marrying?

  • Paul Johnston

    Thank you Verity3, for the push back. The contingencies addressed by my responses are incomplete. I really do not mean to affirm that “disfellowship” should be a consequence of a patriarchal hierarchy. That would seem to me, as I alluded to earlier, a case of undermining the very work of the Kingdom itself. Discerments are difficult and each situation ought to be judged on it’s own merits. Sadly some judgements will be errant. As will some responses to judgements.

    If I stand by any idea unequivocally it is this;Faith and fidelity through service trump egalitarianism, complimentarianism or for that matter and form of hierarchical structure imaginable. I do not mean to say that egalitarian principles have no place at the table. Where egalitarian principals advance the Kingdom in such a way as it would otherwise be lacking, let them prevail.

    Where they are primarily concerned with earthly rewards and equality of opportunity as envisaged by a well intended sense of human rights, I am deeply concerned that they are a misplaced priority.

  • Paul Johnston

    No Elaine, I am free to choose marriage. Likewise I am free to pray for the gift of celibacy. The outcome of which is grace and not choice. His will not mine.

    I would suggest likewise that a female servant of the Lord would be well within her spiritual right to pray for a more wholly egalitarian expression of Church. Not her will but His.

  • Tom F.


    I understand your hesitancy about “rights” and your concerns about fidelity to the kingdom being primary before looking out for one’s own privileges.

    Do you think egalitarians could advocate their position on the basis that egalitarianism in the church is a better witness to the kingdom than complementarianism? That it is more just not in the sense of “rights”, but more just in better reflecting who God made us as men and women to be. I understand that you may not become an egalitarian, but would you find these ways of advocating for egalitariansim more resonant with the gospel and what the church is called to be?

    Also, the argument could be flipped around the other way as well. What if a complementarian finds themselves in an egalitarian church? Are their ways that they could advocate their position without disrupting “faith and fidelity” in the church? And, if so, wouldn’t these ways also be open to egalitarians?


  • Elaine

    “Having older men in positions of authority to tell me when I’m being a knucklehead has been indispensible in my spiritual formation.”

    Did you take the advice/wisdom of these men ONLY because they were in “positions” of authority? Or was it that you recognized the truth in what they said?

    Would you have been completely unwilling to take that same guidance had they been ‘merely’ the older layman in the pew next to you?

  • Paul,

    It sounds as though we come from such vastly different ecclesial contexts that too much further discussion on a blog thread might prove unfruitful. So, let me just tie down a few loose ends and maybe we can call it a day:

    (1) “The only legitimate injustice, might be that the very work of the Kingdom itself was being impaired by the restricitions imposed.”

    This is precisely my argument. It isn’t about “rights” as much as it is about “gospel.”

    (2) “If I may digress for a momemt I think a big part of the problem for those who prioritize egalitarian issues before other Kingdom work is the errant conflation of democratic principals with the spiritual truths of our faith.”

    Writing a blog post about egalitarianism is much different than “prioritizing” it over other Kingdom work. I believe it is one piece of Kingdom work, but certainly not the only or even the most imporant part. Indeed, much of my scholarly effort is focused on questions of (non)violence, though even that is just a part of Kingdom work. Nevertheless, social equality is a part of Kingdom work, and thus it is worth talking about.

    Moreover, as others have mentioned, democracy has no exclusive claim on egalitarian principles. As my original post intimates, social equality is a very basic biblical principle.

    (3) “Not wanting to continue too much longer with this response let me only say with regard to being ‘underpriviledged’ that I am very uncomfortable with applying that term to any western middle classed person who perceives his or her church’s ecclesiology, treats them unfairly.”

    I never agreed to delimit our conversation to western middle class persons. This quote seems to suggest that gender inequality–and the fight against it–is primarily a western middle class issue, which is of course patently false. Gender discrimination is a problem everywhere, so the word “underprivileged” is still apt to describe women relative to men, though I would of course agree that western middle-class women are not underprivileged relative to persons from poorer, less developed parts of the world.

    At any rate, it is always good to have one’s thoughts run through the ringer of others from different backgrounds and perspectives, and so I’m grateful for your interaction.


  • Elaine

    Paul @105,
    Yes, you were free to choose. Being a woman was not a choice for me. I’m sure you’ve gathered that was my point.
    Because I am not Catholic, it seems to me that much further discussion breaks down as one comparing apples and oranges. But I am glad that you are concerned enough with this issue to discuss it. Thank you for the polite exchange.

  • Paul Johnston

    Sorry fot the lateness of the responses.

    Tom F, I am not in disagreement with anything you have so thoughtfully and generously written. Rather I just see the purview, the context, be it complimentarian or egalitarian rhetoric, as the lesser thing. Henri Neuwen once said something to the effect that whenever he examined the choices of Jesus, Jesus always seemed to take the descending path, the humbling identity. As St. Paul said humbling himself even unto death on the cross. Like Jesus then let us not concern ourselves with title or position. I remain convinced, irrespective of church inconsistencies,errors or slights that those who would perservere in service to the Lord will have both their ministries and their lives blessed beyond measure. If our focus remains on Jesus than we are certain of right outcomes in the end. May we all find the courage and support to carry our crosses until that great day.

    May we all find the courage and faith to let our lights shine. How will we reveal the Incarnate reality of God to others? Through oyful service to their needs in the name of Jesus or through argumentation, apologetic and fairer political infrastructures. Is the work of God dependant on the right hierarchical order?

    I shall offer an evening rosary to all women who have been unjustly wounded by their churches. I shall pray that our relationships with one another, man to women, become more as Christ intends them. I shall pray that the response of every person, man or woman, to the sins of others in the name of Jesus still reflect joy amidst their suffering….”Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Paul Johnston

    D C Cramer, may God continue to bless you in your vocation. May the Incarnate God commune with you often. Let your voice, be His.

  • Paul Johnston

    Elaine, Thank you for the very kind response, my sister in Christ. As we say in our church, may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.

  • Paul Johnston

    In reading my last group of reponses. I do believe I’ve made a serious omission. D C Cramer I was wrong in my inferences regarding your post. My push back was with egalitarianism in general and not always consistent with the specifics of your post. I was wrong not to articulate this distinction and you are quite right in comment #108 to hold me accountable. I apolgise to you for the error on my part.

  • Thanks, Paul. Blessings to you too.

  • janie harris

    David L stated: Woman have equal value, but different roles in ecclesiology.

    What role is it women have in ecclesiology? Baking cookies and bringing the covered dish? :p

  • TL

    ”The truth that in Christ men and women, Jews and Greeks, slaves and masters are all saved is in no way in disharmony with the truth that God has created men and women different and He did so intentionally. In that creation there are mutually exclusive callings and functions. I AM NOT called to bear children, no matter what people on Jerry Springer might say. I AM called to lead my family as the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.”

    First, male and female is a physical division that humans have also made a social class division. The point in Galatians is not that individuals in these social classes can be saved (that was never an issue), but that IN Christ they all will become full inheritors of all the blessings and promises of Abraham’s seed. This is the same point in Col. 3:11.

    I might also point out that the social divisions of gender are not really about who is able or not able. While men are not able to bear children, women are able to become leaders in various areas of life. Social divisions in all areas of classes (restrictions by birth characteristics) are about preferences for some and restrictions for the not preferred. This is why Paul encourages us away from them.

    And Paul in Ephesians never told husbands to BE the head OF their wives any more than he told wives to BE the body OF the husband. Paul instructed the wives to treat their husbands as their heads in the same way all believers treat Christ as their heads. A reasonable question is, what way is that. And Paul instructed the husbands to treat their wives in the same way they treat their own body, with conscientious attention to its needs as a necessary part of their life.