That Slippery Slope Again

Together for the Gospel recently had some discussion about one of its central ideas, namely complementarianism. (Sigh.) Two points can be found in the clip below: Russ Moore and Greg Gilbert say many of those who say they are complementarian are living functionally egalitarian lives [one might wonder why], and Piper claims there’s a slippery slope from egalitarianism to getting the gospel wrong.

From Associated Baptist Press by Bob Allen:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) – A movement in evangelical Christianity that promotes male headship and wifely submission in marriage faces competition today not from radical feminists but rather believers who are “complementarian” in name only, according to a panel at a recent pastor’s conference.

“What I fear is that we have many people in evangelicalism who can check off ‘complementarian’ on a box but who really aren’t living out complementarian lives,” Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during the April 10-12 Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Ky.

“Sometimes I fear that we have marriages that are functionally egalitarian, because they are within the structure of the larger society,” Moore explained in an audio now posted on the event website. “If all we are doing is saying ‘male headship’ and ‘wives submit to your husbands’ but we’re not really defining what that looks like, in a Christ-centered way of discipleship [this is a doorway big enough for egalitarians to drive through], in this kind of culture, when those things are being challenged, then it’s simply going to go away.”… 

Together for the Gospel’s affirmation of beliefs includes a statement that “God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the Church, and the society.” Planners recognized that not everyone who comes to meetings, however, believes that God has ordained for men to be leaders in the home and church and used the opportunity to appeal to those still on the fence.

“I don’t think you have to be a complementarian to be saved,” said John Piper, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. [Can you hear the “but” in his concession here?] “So it’s not essential at that level, but as soon as you move beneath that level and ask what are the implications of not following through with what Ephesians 5 seems to say or First Timothy 2 seems to say [only “seems”? he doesn’t mean that, he means that it teaches complementarianism]  — those would be the classic marriage church texts — the implications hermeneutically for the gospel are significant.” [So, there’s a direct line from this text, when read in an egalitarian way, to corrupting the gospel? This is really sad to throw up logic like this.]

Piper said “the kind of gymnastics” required to escape such texts chart a direction of biblical interpretation so that “sooner or later you are going to get the gospel wrong.” [So it really isn’t about what it seems to say. Those who disagree are using gymnastics.]

Piper said egalitarianism — the view that roles described for men and women in the Bible are not God’s design but reflect the culture of that era [I don’t know who said this but it is hardly a fair sketch]  — makes senseless Paul’s use of the marriage relationship as a witness to that of Christ and the church [odd, because many of the egals I know think egalitarianism here makes abundant sense of the Trinity and the gospel]. He also said that churches not led by “strong male proclaimers and leaders” sooner or later will “malfunction along the way.” [Sigh.]



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  • CGC

    Hi Scot and all,
    Okay, I understand all the “sighs” but here is my sigh. When did Jesus or Paul or any NT writer for example teach pure egaitarianism or pure complementarianism? Why do these have to be pitted against one another whether from Piper’s complementarian side or from the egalitarian side? Is it possible that both sides could learn something from the other and God is possibly sick of all of “our sides?” How come this hast to be another dividing point within the church or another binary political “your in or out?” Why does either/or modern apologetics still reign in the academy and seminaries when postmodern proclivities are supposed to be more both/and? How come the church more represents on controversial or debatable issues our modern polemical American politics than it does the ethics of God’s kingdom? Just asking? Sigh!

  • Mark Edward

    How can anyone say that not being complementarian means ‘sooner or later you are going to get the gospel wrong’? What in the world does disagreeing on the role or freedom of women in the Church (or society in general) have anything to do with ‘the Gospel’ in and of itself? This is the most basic form of grasping at straws to scare people into agreeing with a particular worldview: ‘If you don’t agree with me, you’re at risk of corrupting the Gospel itself, and you wouldn’t want that now, would you?’

  • Ben Thorp

    Coming from a more charismatic church, I find it very interesting that (in my experience) most charismatic churches seem to teach complementarian values inside the home, but egalitarian leadership within the church. They teach spiritual headship for the man, and submission for the wife (submission, not subjugation 😉 ), but will also have a view of the “priesthood of all believers” that promotes gender-equality within church governance.

  • Paul

    I’m trying to figure out the logic behind some of the comments in this article (because as an egalitarian I strongly disagree), and it seems to me that the following may come into play…thoughts?

    – If the family is the most important unit for teaching children
    – Then having the family unit live correctly (male headship from their perspective) would be very important in living out the gospel

    – If the church is called to live out the gospel
    – Then having the church (men and women) in proper roles would be very important to fully living out the gospel

  • Scott Eaton

    “Piper claims there’s a slippery slope from egalitarianism to getting the gospel wrong.” It seems to me that exactly the opposite would actually be true!

  • It is possible that Piper senses that this is a departure from an authoritarian stance, and thus, will undermine the notion of an authoritarian God. So, the whole thing is tied up together in his mind.

  • Geesh! Some of my brethren seem intent on raising my blood pressure with their unkind and unsubstantial insinuations.

  • Robin

    Clarification from someone in attendance at the event

    Re: Greg Gilbert and Russ Moore…the example was given along the lines of “what does it mean to be complementarian for people in your church?” The typical response was “If there is a decision that has to be made, one way or another (like whether or not to take a new job in a different city), and we have prayed about it for weeks and weeks and cannot reach a mutual conclusion, then at the moment of decision the husband will have to assume leadership and bear responsibility…outside of a situation like this complementarianism plays no role in families, husbands are not actively trying to love their wives sacrificially, washing them with the word and leading their families in devotion and wives are not partaking in reciprocal activities.

    Regarding Piper’s slipper slope…his focus was specifically on hermeneutical approaches, and how the hermeneutical approaches applied to texts like “there is neither Jew nor gentile…” to support egalitarian arguments also validate interpretations that support homosexual marriage, etc.

    On how egalitarianism can effect the gospel I believe he specifically mentioned how a marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and his church (Christ sacrificially leading the church by dieing for her and the church joyfully submitting to Christ’s leadership) and if you replaced sacrificial leadership and joyful submission in the family with mutual submission, then you distorted the picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

    I don’t desire to argue about the validity of any of these points, I just thought the article did a really poor job of getting at the core of the discussion that occurred and wanted to give people who weren’t there a better picture of what was said.

  • Ben Thorp

    Paul/Mark – I think you need to go back and read what Piper says again. His implication is not that egalitarianism itself will somehow lead to getting the gospel wrong. He is saying that (in his opinion) the type of Biblical interpretation required to justify egalitarianism has the potential to allow you to interpret the Bible to justify other things. It’s not an uncommon thing to say – I’ve heard people suggest that the next step after justifying women elders based on a cultural interpretation is to, say, justify homosexual relationships based on a cultural interpretation.

    What Piper has said is in no way new, or complicated. I would suggest that maybe the reporting has not made what he said particularly clear, but I wasn’t there so it’s difficult to tell.

    (Hope that clears up what Piper was saying – I’m not trying to be difficult! 😉 )

  • Joe Canner

    “God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home…” (T4G affirmation of belief)

    Aside from male leadership and female childbearing, does anybody know what “roles” are referred to here? It’s no wonder Moore says “we’re not really defining what that looks like” because as far as I can tell there is precious little in Scripture that gives guidance on the specific roles of men and women within the home (or Church and society, for that matter). Moore et al should put up or shut up: tell us what the Biblical roles are so we can discuss and debate them, or stop complaining about functional egalitarianism and leave husbands and wives to work it out for themselves.

  • Phil Miller

    I think Piper and others take this position because to them the Bible “clearly” teaches one thing – I mean it’s there in black and white! How can anyone dispute it? If people doubt this, what’s to stop from doubting other things? So that’s where the slippery slope comes into play.

    I think that logic is very weak, though. For one thing, it insists on reading the Bible in a very flat way that will certainly lead to contradictions. It’s interesting that many of the people who insist the Bible clearly teaches complementarianism will go out of their way to insist that other things, such as spiritual gifts (charisma), aren’t for today. Another thing they will fall back is tradition, which is a very poor thing to lean if one is Protestant.

  • Aaron

    “What I fear is that we have many people in evangelicalism who can check off ‘complementarian’ on a box but who really aren’t living out complementarian lives,” – hmmm wonder why? Maybe it’s because it really doesn’t work that well?

  • Robin

    Also regarding Piper and slippery slopes/gospel…

    He mentioned specifically the reason he got involved with the issue of complementarianism was that Bethel, where he was still teaching at the time, had gotten into the habit of inviting evangelical feminists to campus to promote their views and attack traditional approaches to scripture. This was about the time that the CBE split from the ECW over homosexuality. So he did witness an entire group (the ECW) slide down the slope from an orthodox evangelical feminism to an approach that none of us would any longer recognize as orthodox.

    At the very least I thought it was interesting how this debate grew out of the split between the ECW and CBE and the feminist activism at Bethel.

  • Robin

    On that last point…what got Piper involved in discussing complementarianism…I think it is also interesting to think about when teachers/preachers go from playing defense to offense. Piper got involved in the issue because he was playing defense (with his students and church members) against moderate to liberal feminists engaging in activism, but with the foundation of CBMW and other activities he is now perceived as being mainly on the offense against egalitarianism in broader evangelicalsim.

    It reminds me immediately of Roger Olsen who, it seems, began getting a little more outspoken in the arminianism/calvinism debate because he was on the defense from Calvinistic students that were pushing their agendas…but now he seems to have gone on the offense against calvinism in broader and broader circles.

  • Thomas

    Scot its to easy to dismiss an argument rather than refute it. You may not like that implication of egalitarian beliefs, but does not mean it is wrong.

    Modern church history more than supports the argument as there as not been one mainline denomination that did not first embrace egalitarianism before moving onto denying the authority of the Bible, the historicity of Adam and Eve, and supporting homosexuality. Even if you look at this blog and the comments on it, you will find sympathizers for all of these.

    If there is no correlation whatsoever than I would love to hear any churches or denominations that held firm to complementarianism but drifted to liberalism. So it is not a slippery slope when all who do move toward liberalism embrace egalitarianism. The slope is not slippery, just factual.

  • Dave Leigh

    I would argue, contra Piper and his kind, that it is complementarianism that sets itself up as an enemy of the gospel, in that it seeks to shut the mouths of God’s female servants, who would give voice and strength to the gospel’s proclamation and progress in this world. In restricting women from using their Spirit given gifts as equals with men, they force the Bride of Christ to enter her spiritual battle with one arm tied behind her back. And in many cases, it is the better arm. As for doctrinal slippery slopes, Piper’s camp has already corrupted their teaching of the Trinity with an eternal subordination of the Son that can only make him less than equal with the Father in his eternal relationship to the Trinity. So here we have another example of how calling yourself “for the Gospel” can actually be an attempt to compensate for the fact that you are actually working to oppose it. This is not new to that camp, as they brandish the word “complementarian” without having a hint of complementarity in their role-theology. Slippery slopes indeed!

  • It does seem to me – as another commenter pointed out – that Piper’s logic behind his ‘slippery slope’ argument is thicker than the thin representation in this article. My main issue with that is that there are competent scholars whose work in this area should be sufficient to demonstrate that at the very least the burden of proof lies on Piper to demonstrate that his fears are justified. Consider just two examples: Webb’s ‘Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals,’ or for an older example Keener’s ‘Paul, Women, and Wives.’ I doubt you could examine the work of either egalitarian (this is doubly true with respect to Keener’s vast body of work) and not come away with the impression that it is at least possible to avoid the kind of ‘slippery slope’ Piper cautions against. This isn’t to say that reading those two books would simply settle the matter, but it demonstrates (again, at the very least) that perhaps the future of biblical hermeneutics from an egalitarian perspective isn’t as dim as some make it out to be.

  • Unfortunately, much of what we proclaim as necessary truth is nothing more than a reaction against something rather than seeking God’s heart in the scripture. Much of the dogmatism for complementarian theology arose in the context of modern feminism. Too many equate egalitarianism with liberal biblical interpretation and/or radical feminism.

  • Pat Pope

    @Aaron, 2.5 years after serving as a female elder in a church, a small group decided that it wasn’t biblical to have women elders. One male elder even made mention of having female bosses as if to justify himself (you know, the ol’ “My best friend is black” argument). I always wonder about these people who don’t decry female leaders in the business world or even in the political sphere, but when it comes to Church, it’s a whole different ball of wax.

  • Phil Miller

    I don’t know about liberal complementarians, but there are plenty of conservative egalitarians. I think of a denomination like the Assemblies of God which I grew up in (my dad’s a pastor). Many, if not most of the members, are very conservative theologically – young earthers, etc. – but as a denomination they have had women in leadership positions and been ordaining women really from the very start.

    Honestly, because I grew up in the AoG and was always around women pastors, I never knew that people even fought about this stuff until I was in college. I just assumed everyone knew that women could be pastors and elders.

  • Anna

    What’s the difference between submission and subjugation, anyway, if you keep telling someone over and over that in order to be a good Christian she has to ‘submit’?

  • Piper is increasingly using the type of rhetoric that says: if ones do not believe this particular aspect of my Christian tradition (which is non-essential), one will inevitably get the gospel wrong and it will be destructive to the Church. He had a very similar attitude and sayings that demonstrated this in his book and articles addressing NT Wright’s view of justification. I’m not convinced that this type of argument is helpful, at all.

  • RJS

    Robin (11:07 am),

    I was an undergraduate at Bethel when Piper was on the faculty there. I never had him as a professor, but my husband (to-be, we didn’t meet until several years later) took two classes from him. Piper’s view of “evangelical feminist” is pretty interesting. At the time it seemed to be anyone who suggested that a wife could work outside the home, teach in the church (beyond young children or other women), be on a biblical studies faculty, or be the boss of a man in any situation. I won’t tell you the terms used by many of my classmates at that time to refer to him. Even the way the Keller’s describe marriage in their book would have been out-of-bounds.

    I guess it was the “feminist activism” that allowed me to go to graduate school (although provided rather little encouragement).

  • phil_style

    “He also said that churches not led by “strong male proclaimers and leaders” sooner or later will “malfunction along the way.”

    Did he really say this? I’m prepared to give piper the BotD on this, and hope that perhaps the writer has unintentionally misunderstood.
    I cannot imagine that someone would forget that the church has the greatest history of malfunction and failure under strong male proclaimers and leaders.

  • Thomas

    Agreed Phil, there are examples of conservative egalitarians, Dr. Groothuis is a great example of this. Yet that is not my point or the one that Piper is making. Rather there are no theological liberalism that is complementarian. Therefore, egalitarian is not sufficient for theological slope into liberalism, but it is necessary.

  • Gymnastics? Surely you jest… I think it requires far MORE gynmastics to be consistent with the issue of complentarianism yet abandon other “requirements” that are in the same texts! This logic just doesn’t hold and it’s disappointing. The desire to make sure this view is being fully “imposed” by the men in their churches AND homes is a little alarming though. Is that “really” where they want to head with this? Wow!

  • Thomas

    That annoying part and frustrating is the attitude that Dr. McKnight takes in just dismissively “sighing” away the argument and truth of what Dr. Piper says, rather than refuting it. Modern church history is on Dr. Piper’s side here.

  • Robin


    He did say something remarkably similar to that. I recall him mentioning that despite the grreat growth of the church in the global south that was being led by women, and other great missionaries elsewhere, after a period of time, the errors introduced by egalitarianism would bubble up in unexpected places and cause malfunctions.


    Despite Piper’s statements in your husbands class…do you recall any of the notable evangelical feminists that Bethel was bringing in at the time? He hinted that some of them have since gone pretty far off the deep end but I cannot recall any of their names.

  • Robin

    It also reminds me of N.T. Wrights comments about the creeds. We have creeds which completely overlook the life of Christ because at the time the creeds were written the life of Christ was not a contentious topic, his nature and birth were.

    By the same token, we got the complementarian movement that we did because of the evangelical feminist movement that preceeded it…and by extension we now have the growing orthodox egalitarian movmement because of real and perceived overstepping by the complementarian movmement. I wonder what movement we’ll get next.

  • Luke Allison

    Isn’t this all just a matter of hermeneutics? I mean, a “plain reading of Scripture” will obviously bring us to conclude that women should be silent and not allowed to teach.

    But, a “plain reading of Scripture” will also lead us to conclude that God changes his mind, that God is surprised by events that occur, but also that God is in fellowship with Satan, that demons are sent specifically by God to torment people, that children are punished for the sins of their fathers, and that women are called to be leaders over and against men depending on the circumstance.

    All of this is from my “plain reading” of Scripture. So the question becomes, how plain is plain? And how valuable is plain? Piper thinks that plain applies in some areas while not applying in others. I would be out of line to suggest that any of us are immune from this kind of selective reading.

    This is a difficult one. How normative are the instructions of the Epistles for Christian life? How much of their “plain meaning” should be “interpreted out” of them? Is it even possible to arrive at a “plain meaning” when we’re dealing with texts this old written in extinct languages?

  • Thomas,
    I have to join Phil Miller in drawing your attention to denominations that have been historically conservative AND egalitarian. I’m a member of the Church of the Nazarene. We had a greater percentage of women in leadership 75 years ago than we do now. And I hate to bring up such an old argument, but if we’re really worried about the slippery slope, than I guess our forefathers (and mothers) should have stuck to their guns in support of slavery. Just to uphold the authority of scripture, you know. Clinging to what many of us consider a flawed hermeneutic out of fear seems completely contrary to the spirit of the gospel.

  • Ann


    Pentecostals, such as in my denomination – the Assemblies of God, have ordained women since I’ll inception, and we are not liberal nor any closer to accepting homosexuality than Piper or any of the Reformed crowd is.

    And, the fact that there are no liberal complementarians has no bearing on whether or not complementarianism is true or false. There also aren’t liberals who practice “secondary separation” or are KJV-only like the fundamentalists, but that doesn’t by default make those positions true.

  • Ann

    ***our inception***

  • Kenton

    That annoying part and frustrating is the attitude that Dr. McKnight takes in just dismissively “sighing” away the argument and truth of what Dr. Piper says, rather than refuting it.

    Uh… “The Blue Parakeet”???

  • RJS

    Robin (11:43 am),

    It wasn’t specific things he said in class (although he may have said things) it was the attitude and conflict that was palpable at the time. I don’t recall who was brought, and I rather expect some may have gone off the deep end … the temptation to walk away is ever present, and I certainly don’t think anything goes. But I also don’t think the retreat and circle the wagons approach is the way to combat this.

    Frankly I think the biggest temptation that destroys the church is self-aggrandizement (arrogance, pride, ambition …). This is present in aggressive feminism (even evangelical feminism) and gives me real problems with the movement. It is present in liberalism, both protestant and Catholic. But it is also present in conservative Christianity, with male leadership, and is seen within some of the complementarian language.

    We are all called to be servants, to go last, to put others (of either gender) first, and to take up our cross and follow Jesus. Self aggrandizement … plays no positive role in the church.

  • Gloria

    As Kenton above states, read The Blue Parakeet.

  • PLTK

    Thomas, I believe one could just as easily point to those churches were these is much hierarchical and familial abuse that takes place and argue “it is primarily in those churches that first start to aggressively push complementarianism that then sooner or later slide down the slope to places where those that those sorts of abuses become common place and accepted.”

  • PaulE

    @Rory – Hi friend. Though I’ve not read it, I know Grudem dedicates a chapter in “Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism” to examining Webb’s redemptive-movement hermeneutic as a possible path away from orthodoxy. I believe he looks at Keener’s work in this regard as well. I make no assessment of his arguments; I only wanted to say that both their approaches have been criticized along these grounds.

    Personally, I think Webb’s approach very much creates a vehicle to go beyond what is written. In fact, this seems rather the point of it. I’m not very familiar with Keener’s work, so I won’t comment there.

  • PLTK

    RJS a strong amen to your argument that it is the arrogance, pride and ambition that distort the gospel both on the liberal and conservative sides.

  • Thomas

    I’ve read Blue Parakeet, but that hardly gives license or sets a good standard to blog in a manner that is completely dismissive. Why even post if you have no room to reason?

    @ Ann and Sharon

    As I stated before, I am not saying you can’t be conservative and egalitarian (though history usually shows this position is not tenable). My point is that egalitarianism is always a necessary condition for theological liberalism. It is not sufficient but it is necessary. As I said before, there are no liberal or mainline churches/denominations that are complementarian. Therefore, egalitarianism remains as a corollary condition for theological liberalism.

  • Percival

    RJS 11:55 am
    Well said. So there actually is a slippery slope but it is primarily spiritual in nature not exegetical.

  • James

    I’m complementarian. I still don’t see what’s wrong with husbands being the head?

    I don’t know any complementarian who functions as some hard task-master to their wives….headship to me means: initiative of making sure your family is being brought up in the Lord, skills in influencing the direction of the family, willingness to take the burden of any negative consequences of hard tie-breaking decisions that may be employ 2 or 3 times in a lifetime (eg after hard prayer on where to raise your family)….

    Is the main counter to complementarianism a slippery slope argument? that it tends to lead to abuse or something?

    It would be interesting to see whether minor conflicts or major things like abuse are different between complementarian ‘Leave it beaver’ households vs. more egalitarian ‘Roseanne’ type households…. between Asian patriarchal households vs. Western ‘equalitarian’ households.

    I say it’ll probably be similar and the differentiating factor will be on the spiritual maturity level of the husband. Eg does the guy choose alcohol and football on a Sunday or ensuring the family attends church.

  • Gendered preferences are a very strong impetus to read reality & scripture itself in particular ways. What strikes me every time I come across the multifaceted arguments justifying male preferences is that, in the end, it all boils down to women being unable to hear God for themselves. If a woman hears a call to ministry – to everyone (not only to women & children), she must be mishearing God/Him. If a woman speaks the truth as the Holy Spirit has testified within her, and a man disagrees with that insight, his “truth” trumps hers. The ontological foundation of the female is lesser, subordinated, overridden & lorded over in their reality, which forms a theological feedback loop that God’s image reflected in created woman entails believing the same within Godself, ergo affecting their Trinitarian understanding.

  • Aaron

    Why are we always so afraid of the slippery slope to Liberalism. What about the slippery slope to conservatism, the Pharasees were as conservative as it gets and Jesus had the harshest/condemning words for that group. So maybe we should be concerned about hard complementarianisms effect on the slippery slope to conservatism?

    Following Jesus is difficult precisely because you can not rest in the illusion of safety the confines of religious conservatism or Liberalism try to offer.

  • Kaleb

    If you do not agree with Piper, in every aspect of his theology, you already have the gospel wrong… Scott you wondered why people seem to polarize so much towards N.T Wright or Piper and I think this would be a prime example of the way this shift happens. There are generous and gracefull ways to talk to people that disagree without saying it will lead them astray in the future as Piper does. Lack of generousity in ones theology and arrogance in ‘our’ views seems to be the main culprit for Piper.

  • Wow – James! Using the analogies of Leave It to Beaver and Roseanne for marriages stacks that deck of cards!

  • *Sigh* We’ve been through it all before. Moore, Gilbert, and Piper are not only wrong, they’re dangerous. I’m done listening to them, and too tired of fighting them to bother with a more detailed response here. I’m too busy living my egalitarian life to fight folks like them for my right to do so.

  • Sue

    “It would be interesting to see whether minor conflicts or major things like abuse are different between complementarian ‘Leave it beaver’ households vs. more egalitarian ‘Roseanne’ type households…. between Asian patriarchal households vs. Western ‘equalitarian’ households.”

    Fortunately Nicolas Kristof in Half the Sky has done the homework and demonstrates that countries where women have equal access to labour are better off financially, and families where women make decisions have healthier children. This is why global microcredit efforts are geared at offering equal credit access to women in order to ensure that children get the required number of calories in day to survive.

    There is no question about the need for women to have equal decision-making ability on a global scale. World Vision has a very clear statement to this effect.

    Complementarianism can only exist as a mirage in a country where women to have equal civil and legal rights. It is illegal to actually relieve a woman of equal decision-making in terms of contracts, debts and responsibility for chlidren, voting, and any other civil matter.

  • Thomas at 12:15pm, may we point out that your hermeneutic interprets Scot’s “sigh”-ing as being “completely dismissive”? For many of us, it becomes wearisome how often this discussion must take place. John Piper, and many who agree with him, seem unable to permit others to disagree; there is something obsessive in the refrain that undergirds their work, from the outside perspective. That undergirding is not the foundation we know and which is testifed to in Scripture. e.g., Psalm 136, every verse, “…for [the LORD’s] steadfast love endures forever.”

  • Percival

    I don’t think a sigh is dismissive. It is an expression of sadness and perhaps being disheartened. It can also be a prelude to a thoughtful response instead of a reflexive reactionary response.

  • Thomas

    Where did Piper not permit others to disagree? You are reading into his motives where he is making an argument. Rather than ascribe motives why not deal with the argument? Besides if what he is saying is so patently false, you do not need to grow weary with it, just refute it with historical reality.

    That is why I have stated the point three times now and had no one actually engage it but rather bring up tangential diversions that don’t deal with the actual point Piper was making and that Dr. McKnight believes to be “sigh” worthy. Egalitarianism has shown itself to be a necessary condition to move into theological liberalism. How is Piper arrogant for making a historical observation? I am still waiting to hear of churches or denominations that are complementarians and liberal in their theology. Now at this point you can either engage facts and reason, or you can divert and sigh.

  • PLTK

    Thomas, you have said numerous time that egalitarianism is a necessary condition for theological liberalism. Any support for this beyond casual association pointing to liberal denominations?

  • Percival

    Your demand for a counter example is not relevant to the truth value of the issue. We also cannot find any liberal churches who are for slavery or for forced marriages or for circumcision or for littering or for telling ethnic jokes. It would make as much sense to say that being against littering is a slippery slope to liberalism because all liberal churches are against littering.

  • Thomas

    Take your pick PLTK. Any mainline denomination or seminary that has moved toward theological liberalism started with a step of egalitarianism as a trajectory or first step toward other liberal beliefs. This by definition is what a slippery slope argument is.

    Take Episcopal bishop James Pike. In 1964 he ordained the first woman as a “transitional deacon,” in the Episcopal church. In the following years, he would deny the virgin birth, divinity of Christ, doctrine of the Trinity and most major Christian teachings. By the 1970’s ordaining women was normative in the mainline denominations and their trajectory since has been to continue to move toward accommodation views since. Notice though that egalitarian convictions is always a part of the move toward theological liberalism. We have no examples to the opposite, so when a condition is always the case it is more than just “casual.”

    If you want more recent examples look at just the last 15 years and the path that most leaders, churches, and theological convictions in the Emergent movement/conversation went down. Tony Jones and Doug Padgitt traveled an identical path but just did so in a much more hyper-fashion than the mainline denominations.

    You could simply prove my whole argument wrong and Dr. Piper’s historical observation false, by showing even ONE church or denomination that is theologically liberal and complementarian.

    If every church that is liberal is egalitarian it is academically foolish to ignore this point.

  • Robin

    I think a far more intriguing question in light of Thomas’ question is what separates the denominations that slide down the slope from the ones that don’t. I mean, most mainline denominations that started with egalitarianism have gone full monty for homosexual ordination at this point. It isn’t just Thomas’ imagination. The PCUSA just underwent, what, its fourth split on its way down the slope over this issue.

    So, if people waving the slippery slope flag about the PCUSA and ECUSA churches back in the 70s were prophetic, then what exactly is it about Nazarene or other denominations that have allowed them to be egalitarian for so long without hearing the Siren call that has beckoned the episcopal and PCUSA churches. That is a truly intriguing question.

    Kind of like, if becoming a calvinist turns lots of people into jerks, what is it about some calvinists that keeps them from being jerks. The exception is more interesting than the rule.

  • Robin


    For most of the mainline denominations I would think that their path to liberalism began prior to their egalitarianism. The OPC split from the PCUSA decades before women’s ordination became an issue (back when Machen wrote Christianity and Liberalism). Decades later that liberalism became more evident and the PCA split off, and now it has become even more evident and they have had another split.

    In these denominations egalitarianism isn’t a cause of liberalism, but a certain kind of egalitarianism driven by a certain kind of hermeneutic if a symptom that reveals the liberalism that was already present…at least this is what it looks like when I consider the history of the Presbyterian Church.

  • Barb

    The *sigh* to me is not dismissive–it is sort of a frustrated sigh–the complementarianism position can’t be defined in anyway that can actually be followed. Why is that so hard for those who claim it to be truth to understand? Yes it’s a wide door to drive through–because there is no real way to apply it anywhere–women are either equal or not. I would love to hear just how complementarian apply this belief in the church–what are the rules?

  • Phil Miller

    Saying egalitarianism correlates with liberalism is meaningless. So does Volvo ownership. It doesn’t mean owning a Volvo makes someone more likely to become a liberal.

  • Percival

    Historically speaking, here is the real slippery slope. It all started when the Protestants started insisting that lay people had access to the scriptures in their own language. Before that, the Roman Catholic church with the force of their monopoly and tradition could dictate orthodoxy. Thank God they have somehow resisted married priests and women priests. Thomas, maybe you are on the slippery slope of liberalism until you return to the mother church. ; )

  • Sue

    Another slippery slope is that of living in a democracy and not honouring emperor and empire.

  • Thomas

    @ Phil, your analogy fails. If every liberal drove a Volvo than we would have a reason to think there is a correlation, but not ever liberal drives a Volvo. Yet every theological liberal is egalitarian.

    @ Robin
    Yes! Now those are some very intriguing and interesting questions. I to think those are worth pondering over and inquiring as to the example of AoG and others that have not become theologically liberal yet hold egalitarian convictions. And you are absolutely right Robin, that egalitarianism has hardly been the starting point for theological liberalism, that would be overly simplistic view of modern church history. Yet it has remained as a necessary theological conviction that is held with absolute unanimity among theological liberals.

    As I said before Phil, if you would like to prove my historical argument to be false all you have to do is show one church/denomination that is theologically liberal and complementarian. This is hardly a high bar get over, and actually shows the force of Piper’s historical observation.

  • James

    My ABCD points on this (D is more directed at the Piper quote):

    A)I consider myself a complimentarian, and so based on Eph 5, what’s wrong with:

    i) Husbands, ensure your family is being brought up in the Lord. Wives submit to your husband in this and children honour your parents.

    ii) Husbands, as how you love yourselves and care for your body, give that same sort of attention to your wife.. cherish her deeply and see that she is doing well and flourishing in her faith and as a person. Wives submit and respect your husband when he takes the lead like this.

    B) Tie-breaking authority? Leads to abuse?
    i) Church submit to Christ. Wives submit to your husband. Is Christ a hard task master? Did Christ ever abuse us or instruct us to sin? Yet on non-sin issues, if Christ is leading the church into a certain direction, the church submits to Christ’s authority does it not? (This tie-breaking authority on non-sin issues I can only seeing being used on big issues such as where to raise your family…The wife will trust submit that God is leading the husband to lead the family in this and she submits to that leading. To be honest, I don’t even see it being used more than 2-3 times. At the same time, it can even be more stressful on the husbands—since they made the final call, any negative consequences are put more his shoulders).

    Leads to abuse?
    Like I said in an above post, I have a feeling conflict or serious abuse will be more causally related to whether the husband is demonstrating what Paul outlines for husbands to be like. If he’s a mature spiritual person who obeys Ephs 5, those families will flourish vs. if a non-Christian husband who would choose on any given Sunday alcohol and football over taking the family to church. In the latter case husband, I have a feeling if that husband doesn’t believe he’s the household and opts for the wife to the spiritual leader for the kids as she takes them to church, if he’s abusive he’s still abusive.

    Therefore, because I think rates of abuse will be equal between complentarinism or egalitarian as a function of whether the guy actually obeys and acts as the godly husband described in Eph 5, all the more I support complementarism. This distinctiveness allows men to be challenged. What guy wouldn’t want to be seen as like the hero to their kids and be respected by his wife? This distinctive role allows husbands to shine.

    C)My rebuttal to the egalitarian view if I took their rebuttals and used it on parenting and the children’s ‘role’:
    i) Children honour your parents.
    Why should children honour their parents? Sounds a bit too hierarchical…don’t we know in that in God, ageism does not exist. Whether young or old, God sees our value as equals, so why should kids obey their parents? This is the sort of regressive hierarhial view between parents and children that leads to kids being abused in the traditional families. But, thank goodness for child services where kids have a place to escape these imposed cultural rules.
    (yeah, it’s facetious and is a bad analogy, but in some places, I see some parallels. No?)

    D) Piper’s slippery slope?
    —In the gospel, Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. In response, the church submits to Christ’s headship.
    —In marriage: Husbands take the initiative to love and nourish your wives. Wives, submit to your husbands in this.
    —Piper says: Could we not say then if our marriages aren’t mirroring this, then we’re not truely modeling the gospel. If we don’t act it, then it’s just head knowledge.
    —Example: If husbands aren’t taking the initiative for the spiritual well being of the house but rather for eg. initiate more poker games at the house with friends than date nights, is he then not modelling the gospel? Likewise, if the wives rather opt for morning yoga classes to feed her spirituality than submitting to her husband’s plans to pray together, then is it far-fetched to say we’re not getting the gospel?
    — Complementarianism in a nutshell on the part of husbands: Initiative, Love sacrificially, Be willing to make the hard decisions and bear any risks, You make the extra effort to see that the family is flourishing up in the Lord.

    Thank Christ that this is what makes him unique in the gospel narrative between Him and us.

    So, what’s the beef?

  • John C

    Thomas – try reading Tim Larsen’s essay ‘Women in Ministry: An Historic Evangelical Distinctive’. It’s nicely provocative, but makes the point that evangelicals were encouraging women preachers long before it became fashionable among liberal Protestants.

    You can read part of it here:'s+ministry+evangelical+distinctive&source=bl&ots=ZOUPzvavrk&sig=H3qiMS8fl_tgkqY0ExOPJ9Jp8HE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=34ahT9XgIurP4QThr4H2CA&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=tim%20larsen%20women's%20ministry%20evangelical%20distinctive&f=false

  • James

    ^ I wish I edited my poor grammar.

  • Percival

    One last try. Your historical perspective is correct in that there is a correlation between liberalism and this issue. This is for two reasons: 1) Those who are willing to reject a past belief are often more willing to reject other past beliefs. 2) In our little corner of the world and in the very brief period of history in which modern liberalism arose we see that liberals associate injustice towards women with an entrenched conservatism of church and society. Thus, it is very easy to throw the baby with the bath water. The fact that some groups, like the Nazarenes, threw out only the bathwater shows that these are indeed separate issues.

    Finally, don’t worry about your grammar. You were clear enough, but in case you were wondering, you should have used the past perfect here. “I wish I HAD edited my poor grammar.” But please folks, don’t correct my grammar, I’m too sensitive about such things : )

  • Dan

    James @2:16, all I have to say is “sigh.”

  • James

    @ Percival ^ ^
    I wish I had taken my high school English courses more seriously.

  • Ron Fay

    In Piper’s defense, if you disagree with him on anything he says you’ll get the gospel wrong, it is not just this debate.

    As for the main issue of discussion here, I’ll stay out of it.

  • Dan Arnold


    For egalitarianism to be a necessary condition of liberalism, you must show a causal link not just a coincidental association. There is a big difference, which you seem to be missing. Yours is a guilt by association argument.

    That said, at this point I have no idea what you mean by theological liberalism, but from your context, I assume you equate it with heresy. That being the case, every great heresy in the early church sprang from those holding a patriarchal point of view (our comp/egalitarian terms would be anachronistic) which is reflected to modern-day complimintariianism. Hence by your logic, complimintariianism leads to heresy, an obvious non sequitur.

  • Ann


    Many, if not most, cults have a patriarchal view of women. Other religions do too: think Islam, Mormonism, etc. So what? Does that prove a complementarian/patriarchal view false? No, of course not. If the best argument either side can find is a slippery slope or ad hominem attack, then the battle is not worth fighting.

    And considering the size of the global Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, it is no small thing that we ordain women yet are not liberal. We are not the exception. There are far more Pentecostals & Charismatic women in ministry around the world than there are liberal women ministers.

  • T


    I found this interesting, which was consistent throughout your comments: “Complementarianism in a nutshell on the part of husbands: Initiative, Love sacrificially, Be willing to make the hard decisions and bear any risks, You make the extra effort to see that the family is flourishing up in the Lord.” How does this not describe the wife of noble character in proverbs 31?

    I guess I fail to see how these are not also things we want in wives who are disciples of Jesus. The command to love like Christ loves is for all disciples whether they’re married or single, male or female. The “proverbs 31 woman” is nothing if not a person who takes initiative for the kinds of things you mention and then some. Is there a part of Christ’s character that women should not imitate? You wonder if there is not gospel-drift “if the wives rather opt for morning yoga classes to feed her spirituality than submitting to her husband’s plans to pray together.” Are those really the choices of Christian wives? Morning yoga (presumably of their own initiative), or the joint prayer that the husband has planned? I find the options incredible. My wife (thank God!) doesn’t need me to plan/initiate everything she does to teach our girls about Jesus and his way. How do you get “taking initiative” as the husband’s exclusive role? How sad would that be if actually lived out?

    Also, I found this quote disturbing, especially in light of the kinds of things that are being attributed to an exclusively male role, even in this string of comments: “What I fear is that we have many people in evangelicalism who can check off ‘complementarian’ on a box but who really aren’t living out complementarian lives.” I’m wondering what this person thinks should be happening that isn’t in these lives? Are too many wives taking initiative? Too many loving sacrificially like Christ? Too many husbands listening to the wisdom that their wives speak with and following it? What is it specifically? The comments here have not been encouraging as to what it could be.

  • P.

    A few points came to my (female and therefore easily deceived) mind as I read this article:

    Complementarianism is also culture-based – based on the culture of the last several thousands of years. So, the complementarians are looking at the Bible through their own culture-based perspective too.

    Tie breaker? I still don’t see where the Ephesians says that the husbands has to make all the final decisions. Starting with Ephesians 5:21 and going forward, plus taking in other points in the book, it seems to me that there’s pretty much an egalitarian framework that a couple are free to tweek into a form that works best for them. There is no one-size-fits-all-marriage.

    I think that the view that egalitarianism leads to the false-teaching type of liberalism is faulty, a faulty cause and effect. There is something in the culture of these chuches that on the good side led them to egalitarianism, yet on the bad side, lets them slide into false teachings. For example, as a Methodist, I think it’s great that the denomination lets people think for themselves on many things, yet on the bad side, they don’t always take a firm stand for “true” (Apostles Creed) teachings because, you know, people can decide for themselves.

    My two cents from the back pew.

  • Thomas

    @ Ann
    Cults are nothing new and don’t show a link at all between complementarian views and cultish actions. In addition 1900 years of church history being overwhelmingly complementarian shows the foundation of complementarian views being bedrock with orthodoxy.

    @ Dan
    Its a historical observation of theological trajectory and patterns. There is no guilt by association but rather a necessary doctrine of all who are theologically liberal. I am sure you are smart enough to know what the term theological liberalism generally means 🙂

    The link is more than guilt by association as well when as I have said multiple times now, there is not even ONE theologically liberal church or denomination that is complementarian.

  • Luke Allison

    What is “theological liberalism” anyway? You can’t lump massive groups of people into one category, no matter what commonalities they may have. I feel like “theological liberalism” is the YRR’s Voldemort.

    How conservative is the complementarian viewpoint, truly? One has to do all kinds of hermeneutical gymnastics to arrive at a traditional American conservative family values culture. How conservative is a viewpoint of Genesis 1-3 that reads in a way that literally no ancient readers would have understood it? That’s positively liberal!

    Realistically, I could say that complementarianism is a slippery slope toward abuse and hierarchical authority structures based on post-Fall understandings of power. Look at Driscoll. Read all of the horror stories on these blogs about womens’ experience in complementarian circles. Tell me that the Spirit of Jesus is the one informing such behavior.

    Therefore, based on the “slippery slope” logic of Piper, complementarianism should be avoided at all costs…because it obviously has a correlation with evil abuse and mysoginy.

    I won’t say that, though, because it would be a generalization based on fear and anxiety.

  • Thomas

    Luke this is the diversionary stuff that I am talking about. This post was about the historical observation of Dr. Piper saying that there is a trend toward theological liberalism and egalitarian convictions.

    The argument is more modest than many on here are seeing. I am not arguing all the other aspects only saying that the argument and observation Dr. Piper has made is warranted by the facts of modern church history. I will be more than happy to say that Dr. Piper is wrong in his observation if you can show even ONE parachurch/church/denomination or even person for that matter who is theologically liberal and complementarian. This is to strong of a correlation to just ignore.

  • Thomas,
    Just so I can understand where you’re coming from….if there IS a “necessary” link between theological liberalism and egalitarianism (for argument’s sake only, please) AND if you also acknowledge that it doesn’t always go the other way (theological liberalism is not “necessary” to egalitarianism as evidenced by the AoG & the Nazarenes) – what then? Beyond being an interesting observation, what would this mean?

  • Luke Allison

    “I will be more than happy to say that Dr. Piper is wrong in his observation if you can show even ONE parachurch/church/denomination or even person for that matter who is theologically liberal and complementarian. This is to strong of a correlation to just ignore.”

    Thomas, what is your definition of “theologically liberal”?

  • Dan Arnold


    Actually, I really don’t know for sure what you mean, which is why a had to gather from the context that to you, theological liberalism is heresy. It may also mean (and I don’t mean to be pejorative here) somebody who believes something I don’t.

    But as Robin has noted (and I’m pretty sure Robin advocates from a complimentarian position), since classic protestant liberalism far predates complimentarianism, it cannot be necessary to liberalism. As for the counter-example you keep requesting, I submit to you that Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) is both theologically liberal and strongly complimenterian.

  • Sue


    It is a recognized fact on a global scale that the more the mother contributes to decision-making in the family, the healthier the children are. That means fewer children die. This is a known global outcome for mothers having equal say in the family. It is measurable.

    Fortunately, in North America, mothers do have this equal role in civil society. Complementarians operate within this civil egalitarianism and therefore the effect of their children’s welfare cannot be compared usefully to egalitarians living in an egalitarian society.

    But globally and historically, we can measure infant mortality and child health with the equal legal role of women.

  • Ray S.

    If I were Satan (and I’m not), I would keep people busy ‘majoring on the minors’ so that they never ‘majored on the majors’. I mean really, at the end of all these repeatedly long, drawn out discussions on topics like ‘Complementarism vs. Egalitarianism’ what have we acccomplished? Well, nothing. Just cerebral jousting that ends up non-productive for the most part. More time spent on the peripheral instead of on the central. And time just keeps on ticking away.

    This may seem overly simplified (I’m a simple man who has to have it that way), but why don’t we get back to our “first love”, you know, ‘Jesus’? When we try to understand Him and His word with theological debates and scholarly ‘diggings’, WITHOUT the closeness of relationship that is required on a daily basis, then what have we accomplished? Again, I say, nothing. Just more noise on an already cluttered avenue of ‘forum’.

    Let’s watch ourselves on the temptation of ‘distraction’. We just may miss the Master as he passes by.

  • TJJ

    “What I fear is that we have many people in evangelicalism who can check off ‘complementarian’ on a box but who really aren’t living out complementarian lives,” Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology ”

    Sounds to me that the those advocating some severe understanding of complimentarianism are more/less aware that many in the churches and seminary and ministry give it lip service to fit in and be considered orthodox in their group/denomination, etc., but in their own personal lives and marriages to not really live that way any. That ought to be a big red flag that people in their own churches are not really buying into their teaching/exegesis, even if they do not challenge it openly. And it is also a red flag that eventually what is really being practiced/beleived privately, will evetnually make it’s way into Church and ministry, and who knows, maybe even southern Baptist Seminary. Though no doubt Piper, Mohler, and others will not doubt go down with the ship (Titanic?).

  • Phil Miller

    @ Phil, your analogy fails. If every liberal drove a Volvo than we would have a reason to think there is a correlation, but not ever liberal drives a Volvo. Yet every theological liberal is egalitarian.

    Well you’ve yet to prove your assertion that every liberal is an egalitarian. Even it were the case, it does not prove that there is a cause and effect relationship between the two. All alcoholics drink, but not everyone who drinks is or will become an alcoholic. The case for alcohol is actually clearer than what you’re stating because drinking is obviously a prerequisite for becoming an alcoholic. Being egalitarian isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a liberal.

  • Phil Miller

    I meant to put that first paragraph in blockquotes up there. Just to be clear, I’m quoting Thomas’ earlier comment.

  • Ray S.,
    On many subjects I could agree with you. But if you are a woman who feels called to pastoral ministry, this is not just a distraction.

  • Robin and RJS, I think one speaker Piper mentioned by name was Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.

    Piper mentioned how he was mocked back in the 80s (?) for saying that the egalitarian use of Gal. 3:28 would lead to the dissolution of all sexual distinction and thus the endorsing of homosexual relations. He said with dismay that no one mocks him for saying that now. That is interesting and lends some weight to certain slippery slope arguments. Worth thinking about.

  • Ray S.

    @Sharon A. Hello, Sharon. Has this long, drawn-out discussion been beneficial to you, or, is it for the most part more of the same? If you’re a woman, and you know the ‘call’ of God is upon your life for ministry, who is it that qualifies you? Theologians? Scholars? Laypeople who just enjoy a good debate? No. It’s God. It’s Jesus your Savior.

    So, whose permission do you need to follow the vision of God in your heart? Is God not able to “make the way straight” for you? Yes, we both know He can and will. There is so much ‘stuff’ already out there in print that more of this ‘stuff’ is just beating a dead horse. It’s really tiresome. And the problem with it, if you’re a woman who senses God’s ‘call’, is that it can create ‘doubts’ in your mind if you keep listening to the opinions of men and not the clear teaching of the Word and leading of the Holy Spirit. What men mean for good, sometimes, satan means for evil. You don’t have to read 10,000 pages on this topic in order to get settled in your heart on what God wants for you. I say all of this in love and sincerity. When God speaks, follow that. You won’t go wrong.

  • James

    @ T-says,

    My ABCD in response to your points..I’ll go bottom up:

    A) Context and audience is important.
    You said, “I’m wondering what this person thinks should be happening that isn’t in these lives? Are too many wives taking initiative? Too many loving sacrificially like Christ? Too many husbands listening to the wisdom that their wives speak with and following it?”

    No, what they see is….. actually, let me just speak for myself. What I see is:
    ——–Women doing a great job on their part in building up the church and in their families. Among my group of circles, there are more ladies who are deeper in their faith, who are active in building up the church, who care more about issues in their community and in the world. Some of them are now new mothers and you can just tell even by their facebook pictures a comments, how deeply and sacrificially they love their kids — to the point even, where no guy could dare to even imagine how much love they have and what they are willing to do or have done.

    So, what is it that I see that I’m bothered by?
    ———For one, the single ladies in the church who love Jesus, who are so rich in their faith, but yet at Bible study, there’s a 3:1 ratio of girls to guys. Then among the guys, there’s even less who take their faith seriously. Yet these women still pray to be at least equally yoked and if they get blessed, perhaps God provides a man who they can even look up to and learn from.. but again it’s rare and more often the girls are spiritual leaders more so because the guys aren’t as interested.

    So no one’s knocking down the ladies here and neither is John Piper:
    —– I’ve only heard praise from Piper about his wife and his mother who he said played a key role in changing his views on race as he grew up in the South. John Piper even said how he enjoyed playing with his daughter who loved dolls as she grew up after having raised only sons. (I hope liberals don’t bash Piper for that now— “Why dolls?!”).

    Recap of the points of what these men like Piper may want to see:
    i) Women, you’re doing a great job and we only hold high esteem for your contributions.
    ii) But let the following message be for the men while you close your ears (and with guys like Piper or Driscoll… often the message is directed at guys). They’ll say, men where are you? Many of the early church disciples who became martyrs for the church were men. Men, we need you in the church. We need you to lead the church. Why are out valued mothers, daughters, and sisters bearing the burden in our families and in the church, when it really ought to be us- guys. As Driscoll had said, Men, hold the door for her, walk nearest to the road on the sidewalk when you’re walking with your wife, men be leaders in your family and not another boy for your spouse to mother.

    So context and audience is important here.

    B) Exclusive? Who said anything about one characteristic being exclusive?
    ——When I got married, often the way I complimented my wife is saying how much she reminds me of the Proverbs 31 lady and then some..— because I also praise her external beauty AND even her gentle and quiet spirit. Often, what I admire in people (which I lack) are those people who are slow to speak, eager to listen first and are simply just humble people.

    Of course, it doesn’t mean the wife or women in general can’t take initiative.

    C) Now here’s the controversial part.
    ——I don’t put them as exclusive characteristics but in a marriage— in the context of the ideal dynamic between husband and wife, I feel Apostle Paul envisioned where in matters between a husband and his wife, the husband ought to be the leader. Does this discredit the role of the wife? If this is all about power…. I think it takes more strength and security to take on the role of supporter. It takes a person of peace and love to trust and to give your vote of confidence in major decisions to the guy by waiving your opposition.

    So I package and melt initiative, leadership by sacrificial love, willingness to burden the risks, and be more accountable in the spiritual life of the family towards the husband. Husbands ought to play the Jesus role in the gospel in the context of marriage on matters that effect both of them.

    Case scenario: what’s the ideal way in dealing with things when for eg.. both prayed.. both feel God is leading them to two different places…. the wife offers her wisdom and insights… and yet after all this, who plays the role of submitting? the one who can submit out a position of strength and faith. Who bears the burden of the risks involved? The one who will risk their lives for the family if in that decision it somehow came down to it.

  • Luke Allison

    The main point I’m trying to make here is that all of our supposedly solid theological categories (liberalism, conservatism, etc.) are far more fluid than we know.

    Interestingly, Thomas has brought up both Tony Jones and Doug Padgitt as two examples of those who have gone off the rails theologically. These, I believe, would be the “theological liberals”.

    And yet, Tony Jones still affirms very strongly (and bravely, in the face of genuinely liberal deniers) the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and its significance as the turning point of history.
    He denies original sin. So do I. So do many, sometimes without knowing. Where did original sin ever become the touchstone?
    He denies that the modern gay lifestyle is anything close to what was being discussed in the Scripture. So do many. He has very good reasons for doing so.
    He denies that substitutionary atonement is the non-negotiable center of the Gospel. So do I. So does our stalwart host. So do many. So have many.

    So, what again is a theological liberal? Somebody whose hermeneutic is different than John Piper’s?

    I see this as the YRR continuously creating a fear and anxiety-based view of those who differ with them. They are constructing a bogey, a shadow-man who represents everything that could potentially happen to those who wander away from the narrow path and strait gate of their theology.
    So it’s the old “modernism vs. fundamentalism” dichotomy, foundationalist epistemologies, rationalism masquerading as exegesis, inerrancy debates upon inerrancy debates, and doctrinal gatekeeping…all in the name of “conservativism”.

    But isn’t this very liberal, in the purest sense of the word? Isn’t this a way of understanding reality and belief that is alien to the context of the Scriptural authors? Isn’t this highlighting what we know at present in the face of what once was known?

    So who’s liberal?

  • Homosexual relations have been weaving in and out of every culture in every century since Rome in the 1st Century. So to connect egalitarianism to the blurring of sexuality is ignorant of the scope of history. I’m wondering if Piper has read Romans 1:10-30. I don’t see egalitarianism connected to homosexuality in the moral slide.

  • James


    “But globally and historically, we can measure infant mortality and child health with the equal legal role of women.”

    I don’t disagree. I agree on that. we need women in society.. in fact put some more women in the decision making process in matters of how to approach war… perhaps there’ll be more peace.

    Again in support of complimentarianism, maybe another way to think about it is: husbands ought to lead as like how an older brother would for his younger sister.

    Is that still hard to swallow?

  • Dana

    James –

    In suppport of egalitarianism, maybe you could think about it this way: Husband and wife mutually supporting and serving each other. Is that so hard to swallow?

  • DRT

    If I am complementarian only when my wife let’s me, am I on the slippery slope?

  • Phil Miller


    Again in support of complimentarianism, maybe another way to think about it is: husbands ought to lead as like how an older brother would for his younger sister.

    Sounds very condescending to me. My wife has a PhD in microbiology, and is a very smart woman. She doesn’t need me to take care of her or look out for in that way. She is very much able to fight her own battles. Certainly I do have her back, and she has mine, but neither of us is the head of our household. We both are. I don’t see why that’s so hard to grasp. We share household duties and responsibilities, and neither of us has “veto power”. We’ve been married for almost 13 years now, and I honestly can’t think of a situation where we’ve needed such a thing.

  • James


    No, it’s not hard to swallow at all. In fact, is that not the norm of how society views how marriage should be? Remember Michelle Bachman getting into controversy for saying how she submits to her husband and then had to take it back? On a side note, you know that even Bill O’Reilly thinks heaven and hell exclusively on their response to Jesus is extreme.

    I’m more or less taking the issue as…. whatever concerns one may have on complimentarianism, it may not be with the motives often one may initially conjure up when we hear words as ‘submit,’ or ‘headship.’

    Statistically, is there any stats at all supporting the view that in marriage, complimentarian views lead to more domestic abuse? I doubt it because for one, I doubt most marriages even takes it as seriously as we do.

    Maybe in pre-counselling sessions, the notion of informed consent on basic philosophy on the role of the husband and wife should be discussed so that both bride and groom go in with eyes wider open. In that way, any potential perceived imbalance of power is discussed and both consent to it. In that way, at least it’s not seen as though either side has no choice.

  • DanS

    I believe the issue is not egalitarianism but hermeneutics. Those who hold to a specific view of Scripture and inspiration will tend to be complementarian because they believe scripture requires it. Those who hold to a different view of Scripture and inspiration will tend to be egalitarian.

    The historical path in the Episcopal church, ELCA, PCUSA, UMC has been to take see scripture as less of an objective deposit of truth and more of a source of religious sentiment. Bob Sanders, an Anglican theologian, described revisionism as the view that “…Scripture is the history of religious experience given objective content according to the social and historical forms of ancient Israel and the primitive church. Consequently, one must first hear the “Word within the biblical words” in order to sense the Divine that transcends all historical contexts. Then, once glimpsed, the Word within the biblical words is expressed in contemporary categories. The concept of “contemporary categories” allows experience to become a norm transforming Scripture.”

    So the meaning of the text gets increasingly separated from the text itself. Many in the Anglican movement see women ordained as priests and bishops as a symptom of a view of scripture that allows other Biblical teachings to be redefined according to changing cultural norms. That drift away from the text itself as the norm and toward cultural revisionism as the norm is the concern.

    One can make a conservative case for egalitarianism, but the more liberal the approach to scripture, the less likely one is to be complementarian.

  • James

    @Phil, my wife has a Masters degree in education and could go for a Ph.D if she wanted to.. and she’s an artist. so what? I also have lots of female friends and they got M.D.’s and they don’t see me as condescending towards girls.

    And Why is that condescending anyway? Older brother to younger sister, as though younger or sister has some sort of negative connotation? Paul used the words ‘weaker vessel,’ so what’s up with that?

  • DRT

    Catching up. Spent the day building our chicken coop for my daughter…I love being unemployed…for now….

    Journey Pastor

    Geesh! Some of my brethren seem intent on raising my blood pressure with their unkind and unsubstantial insinuations.

    I cannot tell if you are reffering to the article or the comments…seriously.

    Robin (wish we had comment numbers…) – If the only issue is husbands having the trump card in a tie breaker than it is still inherently wrong.

    Robin – you also made a few points giving context for Piper’s claims, but that does nothing to diminish the bigotry he professes in the end. I don’t care if he slid down the conservative slope to hopeless bigotry. In the end he is sitting there.

    Dave Leigh

    I would argue, contra Piper and his kind, that it is complementarianism that sets itself up as an enemy of the gospel, in that it seeks to shut the mouths of God’s female servants

    I have a working hypothesis that the radical right tends to throw out things like saying the left is unbiblical, or they do not have values, or that they are soft, and these type of allegations make the left say that you should not insult people like that. Scot is a great example in this post, he is not titling the article that Piper is unbiblical, but is attacking his method. But there are times when we have to not be shy about saying the right is the one who is sliding toward sin and an enemy of god. Good call.

    phil_style – BotD?

    Thomas, Robin, – the point is that they are really missing the a big part of the message of Jesus. Do you really think Jesus would want one partner to have the final say just because they ahve a penis? No thoughts about least, or turn other cheek, or servant, or meek, or anything like that?

    Sharon Autenrieth and Thomas and Ann – If you are saying that your churches are egalitarian and conservative, I have to ask, how do you define conservative? Is the litmus test accepting homosexuals as Ann says?

    …now more to read….

  • Phil Miller

    And Why is that condescending anyway? Older brother to younger sister, as though younger or sister has some sort of negative connotation? Paul used the words ‘weaker vessel,’ so what’s up with that?

    It’s totally condescending. Imagine if you had a friend who came up to you and said, “James, I’m going to treat you like my younger brother!”. You might be flattered at first, but after a while you’d realize that it means he sees himself as wiser, more experienced, etc. He feels its his place to take care of you. While that might be driven by a good impulse, it can breed resentment after while. Why can’t he just come up and say, “James, you’re a brother to me!” The difference without the adjective is that you are now on equal footing.

    As far as the “weaker vessel” that was Peter, not Paul, but regardless, there are a number of ways to look at that. Certainly, on average, most women don’t possess the physical strength men have. And certainly a strength advantage isn’t something that should make a man feel superior to a woman in any way. Peter reminds his readers that women are co-heirs to salvation, and that they should be honored. It’s actually a very counter-cultural statement at the time.

  • James

    @Phil, anyway just to be a bit snarky, as the MAN of the household for 6 years in our marriage, while still being in my 20’s, I will still continue to buy roses for my wife on valentine’s day, initiate date nights, write poems for her, and value her as being more emotionally mature, intelligent, and with a stronger E.Q. than me,

    and this is my final snarky burn: even recommend Piper books like ‘Let the Nations be glad,’ or ‘The Prodigal God,’ by Tim Keller.

    What does she tell me: going into year 6 in our marriage and she still gets butterflies.

    Anyway, tried to give a different perspective but I guess we all need a villain, but as I side with Piper on this one, just want to bless you in your egalitarian marriages. Hey, if it’s working for you, why fix it? If both parties are happy, then good.

    I just wonder if Piper is right (or was it Driscolll) when he said something to the effect of how there would have been no feminist movement if men actually were men which I take it as gentlemen who hold their wives in the highest honor. Piper tweeted a post about how men gave up their life-boats to mothers and children when the Titatic sank, and whether we can prove this or not, it’s the principle I agree with.

  • DRT


    RJS and PLTK have it right. Why can’t the Piper crowd see how the complementarian view is arrogance, pride and ambition on steroids? ( I am stating it more strongly than you did )

    Jame 12:28

    I don’t know any complementarian who functions as some hard task-master to their wives….headship to me means: initiative of making sure your family

    I think this is a good point and one that seems practical on the surface. The harm in it is that it breeds pride, ambition and arrogance for men. If we want to solve this pragmatically then we should cast lots to see who has the final say, not always make it men.

    Ann F-R

    in the end, it all boils down to women being unable to hear God for themselves.

    Wow, you are telling it like it is, good for you. We should not get caught up in the minutia of the argument, we need to argue this from the macro level and you did it.


    Where did Piper not permit others to disagree?

    [sigh] I actually think you are not kidding in this. Thomas, Piper is saying that you are risking they eternal life by not agreeing with this. If that is ever a conversation stopper then it is one. And before you say he did not say that, it does not take much mind reading to realize that is what he believes….read the article with that lens.

    Robin – said, more or less, what is the difference between denominations that slid down the slope and others, if they take the step toward complementarianism. I believe you are confusing correlation and causation. The more liberal denominations probably picked that cause first because it was socially acceptable. Those who pick egalitarianism now are not on the forefront of change, they are, by definition, behind the times and likely conservative.

    James@2:12 – You are missing the point as to why people, at least me as a people, are against it. In my view there is exegetical evidence to point the way (read Blue Parakeet) but there is also the big picture of Jesus teachings. He would never make penis the reason to pick one over the other. If the big deal is just pragmatism then cast lots!

    Luke Allison@3:17 echos my question. Define liberal vs conservative for me please. And then define why one is better than the other.

    Thomas – wow, you really are not seeing what others are saying. Why would it ever be appropriate, based on Jesus teachings, to put one half of the human population under authority of the other? If you say it is just practical, then why can’t we just cast lots to determine who is in charge today or on any particular issue?

    …more to read

  • Dana

    Well, James, if you had that friend that was like an older brother to you, maybe even 6 years into the relationship he would still invest in the relationship by spending time with you and prioritizing your interests.

    I mean, he would probably still be older and wise and invested in guiding the relationship. But if you two had talked over perceived power imbalances and given your consent to them, I’m sure you would still find it to be a very fulfilling relationship.


  • DRT

    Ray S@3:50 –

    I would keep people busy ‘majoring on the minors’ so that they never ‘majored on the majors’.

    Yes! But, on sites like this I feel it is good to debate this. The trouble is that these issues are in the mainstream and that is keeping good people from majoring in the majors.

    Summary – I think the liberal vs conservative labeling is significantly getting in the way here. Some are using the label liberal to be derogatory, and many who may be liberal are perceiving it that way. I too don’t want to be labeled liberal because there are so many out there who are prejudiced toward liberals.

    So we need to either stop using it, or define it well. Being liberal does not mean that one is an anything goes person.

    For those, like James, how do you define liberal and conservative?

  • DRT

    Jame 6:10

    @Phil, my wife has a Masters degree in education and could go for a Ph.D if she wanted to.. and she’s an artist. so what? I also have lots of female friends and they got M.D.’s and they don’t see me as condescending towards girls.

    obviously it is only because they are too polite to actually say it. Your comment speaks for itself.

  • DRT

    Phil Miller – excellent comments about how the younger brother or weaker vessel is condescending. I also want to add that it is condescending because it places a higher value on physical strength, and it is quite obvious that physical strength is not the primary mechanism that we should judge people by.

    And, I am 50 and to this day my sister who is 15 months older than me still calls me her “younger brother”. I am her only brother. It is meant to be condescending and I hate it…..

  • DRT


    anyway just to be a bit snarky, as the MAN of the household for 6 years in our marriage, while still being in my 20′s, I will still continue to buy roses for my wife on valentine’s day, initiate date nights, write poems for her, and value her as being more emotionally mature, intelligent, and with a stronger E.Q. than me,

    and this is my final snarky burn: even recommend Piper books like ‘Let the Nations be glad,’ or ‘The Prodigal God,’ by Tim Keller.

    What does she tell me

    I’ll tell you what it tells me, you are one of those people on the slippery slope toward egalitarianism! Stand up for yourself man! Get a backbone! 😉

  • CGC

    And Jesus sighed! 🙂 (Mark 8:12) Sighing doesn’t mean indifference. It means “Here we go again . . .”

  • DRT

    “..and Jesus sighed!” Well, I think for it to be strictly parallel it would have to be:

    “Jesus sighed”.

    Love it! Thanks for that.

  • holdon

    “Article III:
    We affirm that truth ever remains a central issue for the Church, and that the Church must resist the allure of pragmatism and postmodern conceptions of truth as substitutes for obedience to the comprehensive truth claims of Scripture.

    We deny that truth is merely a product of social construction or that the truth of the Gospel can be expressed or grounded in anything less than total confidence in the veracity of the Bible, the historicity of biblical events, and the ability of language to convey understandable truth in sentence form. We further deny that the Church can establish its ministry on a foundation of pragmatism, current marketing techniques, or contemporary cultural fashions.”

    I hate Articles as if the Christian has to be put under law again. However the touchstone of “Scripture” and “veracity of the Bible” are very appealing to me: what else is there? Oh but some say there is: “Culture”, “volvos”, “homosexuals” and “women with Phds”. How is that relevant to me?
    But I don’t need these legislators either who talk with the royal “We” and lay claim to “the Church”. If I don’t agree with one of their other Articles (and I happen to see a few problems), do I no longer belong to “the Church”, or what?
    How pale and bland are their formulations compared to the Word of God! Because where do we read of “propitiation of the wrath of God toward sinners”? Where that “Jesus Christ is Lord of His Church”? Where is the “Christological unity of the covenants”? Where that “the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers”? Where a thing “organized as a Gospel Church” (whatever that is)? Where is there in Scripture a ” teaching office of the Church assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings” (suppose God calls me; can I teach or do I have to go through their seminary)? Etc. etc..

    Hold fast to the word, unless you believed in vain. 1 Cor 15. There is nothing else.

  • Luke Allison

    I will also emphasize on top of everything else the danger represented by these “slippery slope” arguments. Solid Biblical scholars have been treated like whipping boys in recent times over completely non-essential issues, in the same spirit that is motivating all the arguments laid out by Moore, Piper, and Mohler.
    I’ll give four names: Mike Licona, Peter Enns, Bruce Waltke, and most recently and ridiculously, Anthony Le Donne.

    These are faithful men who love Jesus and who have been treated as something resembling garbage by their respective institutions. Over what? In Licona’s case, one hotly contested passage.
    In Le Donne’s case, he is a propitiation offered to donors whose wrath has burned hotly over his apparent violation of their own historiographical preferences. From all accounts (and I haven’t read it yet), his book is profoundly orthodox and totally within the bounds of Christianity.

    Why does this happen? The fear and anxiety of the slippery slope. Not only are these men in danger, but those who support them are also in danger. Eternal life is at stake.

  • T


    Thanks. First, most of your issues (everything prior to your “C”), have nothing to do with egalitarianism vs. complementarianism. The vast bulk of what you want would be great with egalitarians: more guys need to be better disciples of Jesus. Amen! If I hear you correctly, taking initiative spiritually, financially, etc. is for husbands and for wives (men and women). Loving sacrificially is for husbands and wives (men and women). Making extra effort to see the family flourishing is for husbands and wives. And taking risks and decision-making is for husbands and wives–all of which we see in proverbs 31 alone. So the big difference is in the (rare?) occasions where the husband and wife discern something differently in terms of a family decision? And/or when one of them (alone) has to sacrifice themselves for the family? Is that it?

    I can’t believe that’s all that Russell Moore is talking about in the quotes above.

    Also, to others who have raised the slippery slope / hermeneutics argument: I’ve discussed this in depth in prior posts, but cessationism requires far more “gymnastics” with the scriptures than egalitarianism ever did or does. Further, cessationism seeks to undo a far greater quantity of scriptural teachings and examples. So, where is the outcry and the slippery slope? Since cessationism requires greater violence to more thematic teachings and examples in the NT, doesn’t it follow that people who twist the scriptures to support cessationist doctrines are also going to get the gospel wrong eventually? In that case, a great percentage (majority?) of his Reformed brothers are in danger!

  • RJS

    DRT (6:36 pm),

    I didn’t say that the complementarian view is rooted in arrogance, pride or ambition. I know and have known some complementarians for whom the view was definitely not rooted in these things.

    I did say that self-aggrandizement (arrogance, pride, ambition …) is the most destructive force in the church. I think it is, in fact, the slippery slope to most everything negative.

  • James

    @ Dana, If I had an older brother figure who wanted to mentor me, I would love that. I’d totally consent to that… and even if I become ‘smarter’ than him I’d still treat him as my older brother. To me equality isn’t everything.

    @ DRT, you said, “Piper is saying that you are risking they eternal life by not agreeing with this.” I’m not so sure about that statement… I think we’re looking way too deeply if that’s our conclusions.

    you also said, “Breeds .. pride, ambition and arrogance for men.” ? Again, how do you know if men are encouraged to be leaders of their household, that it would breed pride, ambition, and arrogance? It would be interesting to hear from someone who spoke with wives in complementarian based marriages.

    And my views on definitions on liberal vs conservative…?
    —-Politically in the U.S., you can be fiscally conservative and/or socially conservative.
    But I would say, socially conservative is what most people think when they hear conservatives and that’s the connotation attached when you go into theology.
    —-Those who are theologically conservative take more of the socially conservative positions such as: eg. marriage as defined as husband and wife and a more conservative position with less adherents would be what we’re debating about here.
    So there’s a spectrum.

    What’s more insightful is this video I saw that reported findings of values between those who consider themselves socially liberal vs socially conservative.
    Liberals value that no harm be done on anyone and valued equality very high.
    Conservatives also valued these two but to a slightly lesser degree.
    The real key difference was that self-described conservatives valued the following three just as high as i)equality and ii)wanting no harm done on others, where as liberal tended to score these 3 values much more low. They are:
    iii) Order
    iv) Loyalty
    v) Purity.

    You can see why we vilify one another and both claim moral superiority.

    As for us in here, it’s a debate between theological moderates/conservatives vs. theological very conservative with a tad touch of some in here wanting to appear more progressive. I also get a sense by some in here, that they’re in the charismatic camp but want to be seen as more progressive or dislike Piper b/c of his bashing of the prosperity gospel. Hence, they target the only group that is more conservative than them which is Piper’s group and try to any wedge issues between the two camps. (This last paragraph is pure speculation though).

    For me, the future theological liberal v. conservative debate will be on :
    i) Should pastors wed two gay persons if they promise to be monogamous.
    ii) View of literal Satan or not
    iii) Whether you can be a Christian by deed even if you don’t believe in certain creeds including the resurrection.
    (ok I put the fulcrum too close to the liberal side, but that’s the debate going on there).

  • Luke Allison

    “that they’re in the charismatic camp but want to be seen as more progressive or dislike Piper b/c of his bashing of the prosperity gospel. Hence, they target the only group that is more conservative than them which is Piper’s group and try to any wedge issues between the two camps. (This last paragraph is pure speculation though).”


    Stop trying to put everybody into categories. That’s your first mistake. To claim that charismatics don’t like Piper because he bashes the prosperity gospel is not a very well-informed statement.

    Social liberality and theological liberality do not necessarily go hand in hand. Theological liberality, as I have been saying in every post, is something of a bogeyman in the hands of Mohler and company. Everyone who interprets Scripture is a theological liberal to a certain extent. Don’t believe the fearmongering anxiety-ridden hype.

    The debate in question is a matter of hermeneutics and ontology. Words like “inerrancy”, “infallibility” and “authority” have the power to divide churches, seminaries, and maybe even Bible studies.
    One side has a particular view of Scripture, and the other has a particular view of Scripture.
    That’s really all there is to it, I think.

  • James

    @T says,

    I’m saying complementarians view husbands ought to take that role as the leader and be the one more responsible. I.e. if your family becomes dysfunctional, if God were to address anyone in the family, it’ll be the husband. Likewise, if a sports team becomes dysfunctional, either the captain of a team will hear it first or the coach will be fired. Complementarians are saying there is a captain in marriage and that should be the husband’s role without seeing it as superior or inferior. A President can chart the direction of the country, likewise the husbands ought to be the ones bowing down in prayer before God in seeking God’s help because just as how teachers will be judged more severely, likewise God will address Adam even if both sinned.

  • Dana

    James, I can’t tell if you are getting my point or not. So, do you consider yourself to be your wife’s mentor? A man is to find a women who is less mature and marry her with the intention of mentoring her? Maybe I’ve a little naive, but I don’t believe that it is accepted for people to be involved in a mentoring relationship that includes sex. I’m not sure whether I’ve run across any advice for marriages to be that. I don’t think so.

    So, yes, I understand that you desire a relationship with an older and wiser mentor. I’m pretty sure that you would not want it to be a sexual one.

    I beginning to understand, and be surprised that you appearing to say that you consider a husband/wife relationship to be one where the husband mentors the wife. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

  • Luke Allison

    My wife is 6’3″, so she looks at me like a little brother.

  • James

    @Luke I just threw that speculation about charismatic resentment out there just for my own sake.. in a way, I wanted to be proven wrong.

    But I do agree it is about hermeneutics and ontology, but I’m sure it can be put down as a spectrum (eg those who take the Word as more literal on one end, and those who view the whole Bible as a big metaphor like the resurrection can be one axis.) And depending on where you are on this scale, labels like conservative and liberal are often associated with it because your hermeneutics will end up answering the question about what the Bible says about whether your church should marry two gay men wanting to get married.

  • Phil Miller

    So if a woman cheats on her husband, the husband will be held accountable for it by God? That’s the family becoming dysfunctional, is it not?

    I don’t see why there needs to be a captain, general, coach, etc. in the context of marriage. It just seems like an odd thing to me. I think marriage is a more symbiotic and organic thing. It’s like a duet. The same person isn’t always singing lead, and harmony is the goal.

  • Phil Miller

    For the record, neither my wife nor I have ever wanted our church to marry two gay men… I don’t even think there have ever been two gay men who wanted to get married in any of the churches we’ve been involved in.

  • Sue

    “I don’t disagree. I agree on that. we need women in society.. in fact put some more women in the decision making process in matters of how to approach war… perhaps there’ll be more peace.””


    Personally I am not sure whether this is true. But we do know specifically and for certain that in the home, mothers make decisions which promote the health and well-being of their children, over and above the decisions that fathers make. This is known on a global scale.

    It is not about women in government but about women as mothers in the home, being able to be leaders, or co-leaders if you will, to lessen infant mortality and poor heath outcomes for children. What more can one say than that the survival of children is at stake, globally, in the area of women having equal decision-making in the home.

  • James

    @Dana, yes you are misunderstanding me. I think the deeper principle is what you view as a violation of equality, I understand it to be more of a structural order of things. Another way to look at it is: In the west, on a societal level democracy type of government is respected, whereas in Asian or perhaps even Middle Eastern cultures, it’s more of a Confucius hierarchical structure. To us in the West, democracy is highly prized whereas in Asia or in the Middle East, it may not be.

    It’s Like how maybe God the Father is to Jesus, is how Adam is to Eve, is how the husband is to the wife. Is Jesus inferior to God the father? Is Eve inferior to Adam? In complimentarianism, the husband’s role as head means he’s accountable first to God for his family, just as how Adam was addressed first by God when him and Eve sinned in the garden.

  • James

    @Sue, if I was the husband and believed myself to be the head of the house, I would give all decision making authority on nurturing children in the younger neonate to infant to even early childhood years to my wife. I would do all I can for my wife to form as close a bond with the child as I can.

  • Sue

    Regarding hermeneutics, here are some gymnastics –

    1) The NET Bible note on Junia contains misinformation, never corrected. Pss of Sol. 2:6 does not conform to the information in the NET Bible note. This issue has simply been ignored by many complementarians. Not gymnastics, just a simply misquotation.

    2) The NET Bible, however, admits that 1 Cor. 14:34,35 were in the margin of the original manuscript. However, in spite of this, it states that we are certain that Paul added it to the margin, therefore it is inspired. There are several hurdles to leap in this notion.

    3) Authenteo in 1 Tim. 2:12, was used for the rule of inhuman masters over their slaves. There is no known use of authenteo which suggests that it means “to lead in church.” This lexical data is entirely missing, and the meaning of authenteo is derived from the context. This means using an educated guess.

    These are the three most used verses for the role of women in the church. In the home,

    Eph. 5:21 was always understood by commentators as establishing relations of mutual submission in the church. But the ESV study Bible has now reversed this understanding, and ways that it means that we submit to others according to the roles in society. Mutual submission in the church is not in consideration. However, Clement of Rome, Chrysostom, Calvin, etc. all thought that this referred to mutual submission.

    Overall, I find that there are many unusual exegetical decisions that complementarians put forward, at least as many as any I have heard of from egalitarians. The difference is that many complementarians believe that they have better access to a literal understanding of the Bible than egalitarians. Some egalitarians agree with this. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • DRT

    RJS 7:58 pm, that sounds like picking nits to me. You did say that “But it is also present in conservative Christianity, with male leadership, and is seen within some of the complementarian language.”

    Granted, and point taken, that you are not attributing it all to that. So I stand corrected and recognize that you will say that you think that it is a component of the problem, yes?

  • Sue

    “Sue, if I was the husband and believed myself to be the head of the house, I would give all decision making authority on nurturing children in the younger neonate to infant to even early childhood years to my wife. I would do all I can for my wife to form as close a bond with the child as I can.”


    Men need to be explicitly told, in words of one syllable, that the mother has equal decision-making power for neonates, for toddlers, for teens, for investing and taking on debts, for voting and signing contracts, for standing over the hospital bed. This needs to be made explicit.

    I can’t think of one tiny area of life where men ought to make decisions for their wives, or where men ought to have more decision-making power than their wives in matters that concern the family.

  • Dana

    No, James, I don’t think I do understand. It sure sounds like you view your wife as not equal in the relationship, needing your guidance but she likes it because you bring her flowers and plan dates. Plus, you’ll “give” her decision making authority about her own children. So maybe she needs your mentoring in some areas, but not others? Do you “give” her the decision making authority because it is really all your responsibility but not hers? And this makes her Jesus and you God? My understanding was that complementarian doctrine likened the husband to a divine Christ and the wife to a human church. Maybe I’m wrong about that.

    Nope. I don’t understand at all.

  • James

    @Phil, I’m just trying to find any analogies that can help communicate what I’m trying to say knowing they fall short. Let’s go with the music analogy you brought up. I see the husband in the home being like a conductor of a concert band, as how Jesus is the conductor for the church. Husbands mirror this.

    Anyway, apologies for clogging up this wall to readers here… I’ll be leaving soon.

  • DRT

    James 8:07

    You are putting the burden of proof on people who are already involved in a complementarian relationship. I don’t think that is a very good way to resolve this.

    I think the best way is to generalize the idea and go from there. I will generalize this as one person in the relationship is given an authority over the other. I don’t think there is any question that a situation where one is given authority over the other will promot pride, ambition and arrogance. Do you seriously not agree with that? If some person is told that they have final authority over the other it will certainly produce pride, arrogance and, well, ambition may not be in order since they are already the boss.

    I agree with your thoughts on liberal vs conservative, and based on that find the labels to be terribly inadequate. Saying someone is conservative because they are complementarian reduces to the idea that they are swayed by loyalty to their existing power system and, therefore, it is quite different than the common use of the term.

    [hmmm, does not James 8:07 seem like a biblical verse that a quote from a blog….perhaps it is fitting]

  • DRT

    I stated my argument poorly in this sense.

    The argument of sex roles is not inherently conservative or liberal, and would like to eliminate those labels. Like most issues today, the conservatives are the one who decides if a stance is liberal or conservative. It is conservative if it is different from the other people. If they agree on an issue they do not label it that way. I could envision a world, that would think the way I do, that would so the more conservative approach is to have equal status with men and women. And by most definitions that is the more conservative view because it balances people’s views and balances risk. These group games distort the truth.

  • James


    When I see, ‘husbands love your wife as how Jesus loved the church,’ I first see it as directed to me to:
    — first ask, ‘what is Jesus’ role and what did he do for the church,’
    —and then second, ‘how can I mirror how Jesus was to the church and apply that as a husband to my wife.’
    —I see Jesus being the one who put his life down for the church, who’s helping us all to grow, who took the initiative to love and forgive, and I do see Jesus as more an authority figure in relation to the church, but with greater authority means greater responsibility (Paraphrase from Spiderman), and we all know how Jesus bore responsibility for wrongs we committed. Likewise, it’s also a calling for husbands in a conflict, you be the man (or be Christ like) by taking the hit in the conflict that I’m sure both contributed to for the higher goal of reconciliation.
    —Never does it cross in my mind that my wife is inferior or that I’m superior to her.

  • DRT

    James 8:40

    First, I appreciate your thoughtful engagement here.

    Next, you said ” those who take the Word as more literal on one end, and those who view the whole Bible as a big metaphor like the resurrection can be one axis”

    That is a very false dichotomy. The question is not whether the bible is a metaphor or not. Or whether some parts are poetry or not. A post or two ago on my site I interacted (poorly) with an interview with NT Wright where he put out the idea that some parts are concrete and some are abstract. Clearly we cannot view the whole bible as either concrete or abstract, and those categories get us out of the idea of a literary genre that we all can debate.

    So the real issue is not whether some people feel the bible is metaphor, it is whether we agree or not whether particular parts are concrete or abstract.

    Liberals do not view the whole bible as being abstract.

  • DRT

    I still think the test for this issue is whether we could substitute casting lots for male headship. If we can then let’s do that. If we can’t then we need a better reason than Paul said it.

  • James

    @DRT, “[hmmm, does not James 8:07 seem like a biblical verse that a quote from a blog….perhaps it is fitting]”

    care to elaborate? not sure if you’re saying I’m typing in a prideful way, or that I took something from another well known blog, or I remind you of someone from another blog and thus is that person?

    @DRT, if you were given authority by the President to teach theology to his wife and kids and add Biden to that list for 1 year with the hope that they be more fluent in theology…. and you had final say on the curriculum … in failing or passing them, would you feel arrogant?

  • James

    @DRT, I agree some parts are concrete and some are abstract, but I wasn’t presenting it as a dichotomy but as the polar ends. For example, the closer you are to one end on this axis, 6 day creation is literal, Job is literal, Satan is literal, hell is literal, Revelation is literal… then as you move out to the middle, you consider the various genres, author’s intent, context, etc.. and then I would consider that something like the bahai religion who consider the Bible on par as the Koran because to them, the real essential truth is to love one another and all stories are just metaphors for this essential truth and hence they do not conflict.

  • Dana

    James –

    I am glad that you do not consider yourself superior and your wife inferior. Your previous comments on how you did not need “equality” in a mentoring relationship followed by explanations about how some people are concerned with equality and others aren’t (western democracies/Asian and Middle Eastern cultures) did not give a good indication of your true feelings.

    Your previous comment about how husband are to wives as The Father is to Jesus is a bit of a puzzle. I see that now you are referring to the instructions in Ephesians to husbands. I fail to where you are instructed to bear greater responsibility. But I guess you do see it.

    Anyway, I’m glad that you don’t consider yourself superior to your wife. Maybe you could consider that she actually has decision-making authority over her own children and it is not yours to grant. That would be nice. Probably even nicer than date night.

    You’ve been a good sport. Thanks for the conversation.

  • Dana

    Just to be clear James – you have decision-making authority over your children also. This is something that parents share. Not grant to one another. Share. You shouldn’t pass it all over to her, either. Share it with her. Your kids need both of you.

    Again, thanks for the discussion.

  • James

    @Dana, you know maybe this would be easier in person.

    a) The cultural comparisons are to highlight how values of equality as seen in our Western culture may not be a concern to other cultures as much. For other cultures, structures aren’t necessarily about power but maybe to create order. There’s got to be levels of authority for society to function smoothly, (eg teacher vs student), but those who have it aren’t to abuse or exploit it. it also doesn’t absolve responsibility from others and maybe responsibility is not even the right word, but husbands, love your wives as how Christ loves the church… that’s a big command.

    b) Parenting. Again if I were to assume the head of the household I’d give all tie-breaking authority to my wife in relation to nurturing neonates, to infant, to early childhood. Of course I’ll have a say and also be responsible but if I want my 1 month old kid bottle fed but my wife says she feels breast feeding would be better, I’m going with her on it. She gets the final call after considering what I have to say.

    c)Again tie-breaking authority should only be on big big issues such as where to live if indeed it comes down to it.. I see it should only be used once or twice in a lifetime. Why not cast lots… well who gets to decide that it should be.. in a party of two, who acts as the supreme court? And, I just think there may be much to gain from the experience than casting lots.

    Anyway, I’m gonna end it here, but yeah if you see that there may be potential harm, then pray for me …. likewise with John Piper….pray for him. You can still be tough on the points but yeah pray a gutsy prayer and say, ‘I pray Piper changes his views on this issue.’ If you consider Piper to be such a wicked person, remember Saul in Acts? Yeah, he wrote half the New Testament.

  • Ok, this is weird. The comments from 6:36pm on have disappeared into a black background & I have to highlight them with my mouse to read them!

    Thomas, I consider it perfectly possible to answer your challenge directly. You wrote, The link is more than guilt by association as well when as I have said multiple times now, there is not even ONE theologically liberal church or denomination that is complementarian.

    I’ll note, parenthetically, that complementarian in the sense you use it, if I understand you correctly, means that women & men have separate roles, that women are excluded from specific functions of ministry within the Church. Furthermore, I’ll note that, according to Scripture, “the Church” is not a building but the many-membered and diversely gifted Body of Christ, in accordance with Scripture. We are “the Church”.

    From my POV, the answer to your question that there are far MORE than ONE theologically liberal church that is complementarian, and that includes the UCC, the ECUSA, the PCUSA, the ELCA, for starters. They are all complementarian in that they continue to privilege men in numerous ways within their denominational hierarchies, and the visible & “sanctified” location of that ostensible favoritism has been shifted once again. Just as partiality for men in business circles went from within offices, into men-only clubs, and then underground; and as partiality for men in the Academy went from physical assumptions (size & brains), to educational assumptions (e.g., women’s emotions interfere w/ their intellects), and onward into more and more subtly defined areas; so, too, has the partiality for men in the church been shifting and morphing until the latest, last door – which led them right into the church’s bedroom where the union of male & female should bring forth life. The historical & theological barriers vs. women were justified by inferior physical strength, inferior mental capacities, inferior emotional stability, inferior wisdom &/or inherently flawed spiritual discernment, inferior/subordinated imaging of God, etc., etc. Now, the “theologically liberal” churches have shut the bedroom door against fully & faithfully imaging shared dominion in the family which Paul/Ephesians’ author specifically identifies as reflective of Christ & the Church. (If men laying down their lives doesn’t mean reflecting Christ’s self-emptying of God’s privilege [Phil. 2:6] to build up their wives, to serve her as Christ did us, with mutual submission, we miss the point.) Even though they ostensibly “honor” women in the pulpit, as elders, deacons & and on church sessions & boards, with the other hand, they dishonor mutuality and co-dominion.

    ISTM that the very co-dominion Piper, CBMW, and T4G refute is also refuted in praxis by their ostensible opponents, but they’ve merely shifted the location within the Church.

  • Dana

    Well, James, there you go. I was all done, too. But I have to ask – where did I say Piper was a wicked person? I’ve never said any such thing.

  • James, in Scripture, the “tie-breaking authority” lies with God. So, patient prayerful waiting together and seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance seem a more biblical strategy than the trumping one another you describe.

  • DRT

    James, sorry, when I said “[hmmm, does not James 8:07 seem like a biblical verse that a quote from a blog….perhaps it is fitting]” I was referring to the way I had to address the post.

    It used to be that we could say Jame#43, but now I we have to quote a time. So the format looks like a bible verse, like Roman 4:30.

  • Thomas,
    Regarding your question about why “liberals” are universally egalitarian, Katherine Bushnell answered this 100 years ago:

    “Expositors of the Bible will never be able to understand, or to set forth a clear, consistent, correct interpretation of the Word of God as regards women until they abandon, once for all, the attempt to found the social, ecclesiastical and spiritual (as far as this life is concerned) status of Christian woman on the Fall, and found it, as they do man’s social, ecclesiastical and spiritual status, in the atonement of Jesus Christ. They cannot, for women, put the “new wine” of the Gospel into the old wine-skins of “condemnation” before God’s law. The skins burst, the wine is spilled; and such “theology” is responsible for much “free-thought”: among justice-loving persons, who confuse the teaching of the expositors with the teaching of the Bible, and denounce the latter instead of the former.” -Bushnell (source)

  • “So where’s the beef?” -James

    As someone who walked the comp talk for @22 years of our nearly 30 year (Oct) marriage, “the beef” is that it is deadly to a woman’s spirit; robs her husband of his equal/meet ezer; and I’m convinced that it contributes to the high divorce rate among evangelicals.

  • Alan K

    Charis 9:08, you have said all there needs to be said on this matter–women and men everywhere and at all times are interpreted by Jesus Christ before anything else. Thanks for the quote.

  • Kristin

    There was a post on here awhile back about the shift in the court system about dividing custody between mothers and fathers and the historical bias towards mothers as ‘better caregivers’ towards their children. Now there is push back advocating father’s get equal custody. I think these two discussions are similar:

    What if the church started spouting off things like “It is inappropriate for men to hold their children unless the mother is absent and unable to do so (or given permission by the mother), to do otherwise usurps the God-given role of the female in the family.”

    Any man who would be offended by that: well that’s exactly how us ladies feel when told that our opinions, thoughts, ideas are always secondary to those of our husbands and we need to just “submit” to their authority, no questions asked. Saying “oh, well a good husband listens to his wife and considers her opinion” is akin to saying “oh, well a good wife would allow her husband to hold the baby on occasion.” So, what then? Is any instinctual desire by the man to hold his own baby there by accident? After all God made WOMEN the caregivers. His desire to hold the baby is obviously just stemming from his sinful nature and wanting to control everything!

    I realize this analogy has it’s limits….but just some food for thought. 🙂

  • I.e. if your family becomes dysfunctional, if God were to address anyone in the family, it’ll be the husband. -James

    What do you do with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5? God did not stop after addressing the husband!

    Sapphira’s erred in her “agreement” with her husband to lie to the Holy Spirit (ie she was in denial, she enabled, she was “submissive” unto her own destruction… BTDT)

  • J @ North Park Sem

    I’m tremendously disappointed that Piper is continuing to trumpet this view as if it is at the core of the gospel. He is implying that the method of biblical interpretation used to get an egalitarian viewpoint is a dangerous method, which could ultimately undermine the gospel message. This is plainly, simply false. While Paul, in one instance, tells women to be silent in the church, he also affirms women prophesying in church (1 Cor 11) and instructs women on the proper etiquette in the matter. He is speaking to specific, contingent situations in these letters, and plain-sense prooftexting, which is often Piper’s M.O., doesn’t always cohere with other passages. For a good, biblical defense of women in ministry, read any of Klyne Snodgrass’s work on it.

    But either way, Piper is just trying too hard now to preserve the male superiority tradition of the church. His recent comments that Christianity has a particular male “bent” or “flavor” illustrates it further. I just have no interest anymore in upholding church, home, and societal conventions that have questionable theoretical (or biblical) foundations, but clearly oppressive or constraining results. Piper obviously thinks differently.

  • phil_style

    why is the direction of liberal theology always “down the slope”?
    Why isn’t conservatism “down the slope”?
    Why isn’t there a horizontal axis, instead of a vertical one?
    Why is the slope “slippery”(does one movement always imply uncontrolled momentum?) ..but not just a pretty standard spectrum?
    Perhaps it’s a “climb up the ladder” to liberal theology? How about that for an equally loaded and unpleasantly patronising metaphor?

  • CGC

    Hi Phil,
    Slippry slopes only apply one direction. They are used as apologists weapons to be intellectual defeaters or scare people from not going down a certain road or direction. They don’t neccesarily apply across the board and they certainly do not apply to one’s own viewpoint. I don’t think I have ever seen the slippery slope argument used for people on the theological right and left to hold hands so that neither side slips down a slope!

  • phil_style

    CGC, yes. everyone uses the metaphor to indicate that someone ELSE is sliding down (down being bad, of course).

    I can understand the concept that certain positions might be necessary steps prior to development in one direction or the other.
    But to assume that the way “they~” went must be down, or to assume that it is a slide (uncontrolled) is, to my mind, arrogant.

  • CGC

    Oops Phil, you said the “A” word. I’m not sure that is in bounds anymore from one post I read from Scot. Go to a thesaurus and find another word (just kidding!)

  • phil_style

    @CGC, thanks for the heads-up… I accept full responsibility for any repercussions of using that term. 😉