Who Says What’s an Egalitarian?

Before I get to “The Chart,” I turn to Katelyn Beaty, of CT:

Many scholars have noted that “traditional gender roles”—defined as a husband working outside the home while a wife stays home with children—are a relatively new phenomenon in human history. Take, for example, the world of the Bible, wherein most husbands and wives co-labored to scrap together a subsistence living. We don’t see Boaz coming home from the fields, propping his feet on the coffee table and asking Ruth to fix him dinner and put the kiddies to bed. In fact, their romance begins in a field, where Ruth works hard gleaning behind harvesters to provide for herself and her mother-in-law. And in the New Testament, we meet Joanna, “the manager of Herod’s household”—I wonder if she’s read Lean In—and Susanna, both of whom seem to be bankrolling Jesus’ preaching ministry (Luke 8:1–3).

So Strachan, Kassian, and other Christians who say that men must work outside the home while women must work inside it demonstrate a classic case of anachronism—and a troubling case of broken anthropology. Because when it comes to questions of what God designed us humans to do, some complementarians put women into a mold they were never obligated to fill….

Whatever you do, lady reader—and however much or little money you make doing it—do it with all your heart, knowing that you receive your calling and identity from God, not from fellow Christians who play exegetical leapfrog with Scripture.

Now speaking of “exegetical leapfrog,” I just have to bring up a most exhilarating conversation we had in my Women in Ministry class at Northern Seminary two weeks back. One day one of our students brought in Wayne Grudem’s chart of marital relations, which she called “The Chart” with the kind of emphasis that you know she lives in a world where plenty refer to The Chart. What I want to look at is how he defines Egalitarians, and it makes me wonder if he’s asked any what they really think, or if he’s ready any “egalitarian” literature, and before I get there this:

The word “complementarian” was used very early in this discussion — way back when the first breakouts and breakthroughs occurred — for what is now called “egalitarian” by “complementarians,” and the word “complementarian” meant “mutualist” and was preferred by those now called egalitarian. Confusing? Read on.  Those egalitarian-complementarians saw marriages and men and women relations as complementary and equal and not hierarchical. So the early egalitarians among evangelicals saw themselves as complementarians and then the complementarians grabbed the term, and frankly it sounds better than hierarchicalists. But the fact is that the word complementarian today means hierarchalist while the term egalitarian can mean totally equal or mutualist. I really like the term mutualist. I remember studying this issue and it dawning on me that I was an old-fashioned complementarian, which meant different, equal and complementary, but not roles or hierarchy, and I felt flummoxed by the whole discussion. Then a friend pointed out to me that the egalitarians originally wrote a book called “complentarity without hierarchy” so I suppose you could say we have two kinds of complementarians: those without hierarchy and those with it.

Which leads to The Chart by Wayne Grudem, in his book about Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, endorsed by a number of heavyweights. Grudem cuts the world into three groups:

The Effeminate Left, made up of “No Differences” (=radical egalitarians?) and “Egalitarianism.”

There is the Complementarian Middle, made up “Equality and Differences and Unity” and “Male Dominance”.

And then there’s the far right “The Violent Right” where there is “No Equality.”

(I find it a strain, but I’ll accept it for the moment, that a complementarian sees himself as a the middle. He who writes the story controls the glory.)

I’m concerned today with how he describes Egalitarians. Here are his breakdowns:

Defined: “removing or denying many differences between men and women” (not a very good definition). Instead of carping, I’m going to ask You, o Egalitarian, what terms you’d use to define egalitarian. Notice Grudem uses negative terms: they deny things.

All I ask here is for you to define or describe each of these as an Egalitarian. I don’t care what others think of egalitarians; what matters first is how the egalitarians define these things. Let them speak. Go ahead, write up your words for each item on The Chart.

God: mutual submission in the Trinity.

Man, Woman: no gender-based role differences to marriage.

Marriage: mutual submission [which happens to be biblical, right there in Eph 5:21]. Grudem: “often husband as wimp and wife as usurper”

Children: children raised with too little discipline, little respect for authority.

Family Responsibilities: all responsibilities shared equally between husband and wife or divided according to gifts and interests.

Sex: men become unmasculine, unattractive to women; women become unfeminine, unattractive to men.

Natural Desires: moving ‘contrary to nature’ (Romans 1:26). (Leading, he says, to unlimited same-sex activity.)

Religion: no governing or teaching roles in church reserved for men.

Authority: suspicion of authority.

Sports: anticompetition.

Crime: criminal seen as victim to be helped, not punished; punishment long delayed.

Property: no one is allowed to be very rich; large-scale dependence on welfare state or government.

Education: systematic pressure to make boys and girls do equally well in all subjects.

Nearly all of the above is quotation from Grudem, and so is this: “This chart contains many generalizations and is only meant to show broad tendencies…”

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  • Mark Stevens

    Are you kidding me? My wife still thinks I’m HOT and my kids are very well disciplined. Ok, I will admit I am a little suspicious of authority…did I mention my wife thinks I’m hot? 😉

    It seems Mr Grudem is trying to describes liberals or lefty tree hungers (like they are the worst people in the world).

    Sorry for the tone Scot but I am flabbergasted by his gross over generalisations!

    Did I mention my wife is hot? :)we are equally good looking! 😉

  • When people talk about the late Steve Jobs there is a term that comes up: reality distortion field.

    “The Chart” is a prime example of a reality distortion field at work.

    This has long been my problem with much of ‘specialized’ or denomination evangelical theology, within our silos we survive on feedback loops in our sub-cultures, and use specialized definitions to such a degree that we are left with something that makes no sense, or holds little truth, to those outside of its influence.

  • scotmcknight

    Mark and mrdcbrush, both see a reality distortion here… which is why WE need to provide words for each of these categories. Let’s get some terms out there so the Grudems of this world will know how we approach these topics.
    God: Yes, perichoresis and eternal generation.

  • fjt

    hahaha… sounds more like a description of a democrat than an egalitarian.

  • Mark Stevens

    Challenge accepted Scot. I do wonder if it is worth being against someone like Grudem. Maybe we should think through and outline why we undertake our marriages this way. I wonder if Grudem would say Gordon Fee is these things in his marriage?

  • scotmcknight

    I am unconvinced he’s got any evangelical mutualist or egalitarian in mind. I can’t think of anyone of our ilk who affirms what Grudem says in this column. Anyone.

  • Children: Each child is a gift from God and as parents we are entrusted to train our children ‘in the way they should go’. Children are raised to respect others, regardless of gender or authority, as a basic extension of God’s grace to all of us.

  • Phil Miller

    Please tell me “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!” is next on “The Chart”…

  • Excellent, thanks for this. I’ve long thought that “complementarian” is an excellent name for my position, or would be if Piper and Grudem hadn’t hijacked the term first.

    As for the chart, there’s not much to say. You gain nothing with building a rational argument for someone who’s not operating in good faith. Grudem knows egalitarians don’t agree with his generalizations but doesn’t care.

    The funny thing is that there’s some great potential for discussion among some of those items (why does it track so closely with evolutionary psychology? Why does the PUA game work for so many?) but Grudem clearly isn’t equipped for those conversations.

  • scotmcknight

    Micah, the point at hand, though, is that Grudem defines others in light of his own view being right and the others wrong, to one degree or another, so his orientation is what is wrong or dangerous with the other view. It is very important to define others in their own terms.

  • Steve Johnson

    My ministry is about children and family so my eye jumped to his analysis of children. I don’t know that Tim Kimmel is egalitarian (may be, I just don’t know), but I think he gives a good term for egalitarian parenting with Grace-Based Parenting. I do know that Scott Turansky and Joann Miller share their ministry as equal partners. They call their parenting model Heart Work.

    I’ve ministered for years as a children and family pastor in a church that crossed egalitarian lines. I knew a few egalitarians who taught too little discipline to their kids. Not usually because they were egalitarians but because they weren’t that involved parents. I was the same among the complementarians. Sadly, I saw a number of strong complementarians who thought their kids were well disciplined, but they were really just afraid of the parents (usually dad) and acted completely different when dad was out of the room.

    On the sports thing: Who cares? What the heck would that be included for. I guess because there’s some sort of expectation that manly boys like to beat up on those who are weaker and know that they won in the end. My new term for egalitarian sport is that games are for fun, not for stratifying our children into the strong and the weak.

  • PLTK

    Here is my try:

    God: Unselfconscious, joyful, mutual submission in the Trinity.

    Man, Woman: Differences are not set in stone, but instead based on gifts,
    interests, and mutual decision-making. These differences are re-evaluated and
    adjusted as the individuals grow and change. The great variety of ways in which
    differences are manifest in each individual woman and in each individual man is
    both accepted and celebrated.

    Marriage: mutual submission. Each looks for the good of the other. No final,
    single arbiter of marital decision making.

    Children: parents seek to teach children to maximize their abilities in
    submission to God, to be accountable in what they do, and to be servants who act with integrity and respect in their relationships to other.

    Family Responsibilities: responsibilities shared between husband and wife according to their available time and divided according to gifts and interests.

    Sex: each partner seeks to pleasure and enjoy each other. Inhibitions are
    respected but experimentation is encouraged.

    Religion: governing and teaching roles in church divided according to the
    talents with which God has gifted each person.

    Authority: Leaders are to be servants who seek out the counsel and contributions of others. They develop the gifts of their followers and joyfully relinquish authority as the gifts of these followers grow.

    Sports: Each seeks to perform the best according to their abilities. Winners
    do not lord it over others while those who do not win celebrate the performance
    of those whose gifts and work enable them to do well.

    Education: systematic teaching to help all students fulfill their potential.

    For some of these, I can develop definitions that I believe to be what God
    wants, but I am not convinced they are necessarily a component of
    Egalitarianism. I think that is one of the problems that Grudem and others have
    in that they conflate their stance with other, not necessarily related issues (e.g.,
    government, crime, etc). I thought the “natural desires” comments was amusing
    in that those in same-sex relationships may also fall into dominance/submission
    roles similar to what complementarians espouse.

    Natural Desires:

    Crime: Accountability for actions is required with appropriate restitution
    and consequences. (But not sure if this is a necessary component)


  • scotmcknight

    On Marriage… the operative word for me is “love” and, when defined biblically, leads to a life for the other.

  • RtRDH

    “It is very important to define others in their own terms.”

    Exactly, Scot, this is my problem with a lot of conservative evangelical scholars like Grudem. And even many liberal scholars, it’s getting really tiring explaining what I believe to others.

  • Ben Halliburton

    I have no words.

  • timsneath

    What’s tough about responding to your challenge is the idea that my view of the role of men and women has any bearing on such diverse topics as sports, crime or property. It betrays an utterly US-centric view of the political divide that has almost nothing to do with the Bible.

  • Perry L. Stepp

    I’ve made an honest effort to engage this project. The pejorative, polemical tone of Grudem’s categories is so offensive to me that I simply cannot do it.

  • I’m not sure I qualify as an egalitarian, but I love that you opened with the story of Boaz and Ruth in the field. As a sociologist whose focus is rural women in leadership, I’ve come to the conclusion that (exegetical leap?) the Victorians really messed us up. LOL Because of the Industrial Revolution, many families were forced to stop working as a single unit to produce goods and/or services. We know the story: wealthier families were able to afford “separate spheres” – work (men) and home (women). But smaller farms with less machinery were excluded from this scenario, to some extent, since everyone was needed for work. (Visit any small family farm today, and you’re still pretty likely to see Ruth and Boaz out bailing hay together.) I don’t advocate returning to a pre-Industrial-Revolution way of life. However, I do think that by selectively relying on the social and economic circumstances of middle-to-upper class White Victorians for “traditional” or “biblical” gender roles The Chart might be overlooking a wee bit of historical and sociological context, to say the least.

  • Pam

    The first part of this post reminds me of Wendy Alsup’s recent popular post “A New Wave of Complementarinism.” (found at http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2013/04/a-new-wave-of-complementarianism.html). I wonder if a most modern complementarians have marriages, relationships, and families that are structured — and where practical every day life — looks like a egalitarian union? If so, we don’t disagree on what daily life really looks like. The terms are really just a front for other theological differences.

  • I am confused as to why sports, crime, and property are even on this list. Did I miss something in the scriptures about gender roles and whether I will grow up to be a sports enthusiast, criminal, or property owner???

  • So many of my friends who identify as complementarian are egalitarian in practice, even if they won’t cop to it. I think it’s pretty common. I just finished reading Sarah Sumner’s Men and Women in the church, and she makes the point that the trouble with the complementarian position is that it takes the traditional view that women are inferior and must therefore have subordinate roles, and it rejects the notion of inferiority. However, it continues to insist on subordinate roles, only without logical justification. My guess is that functionally egalitarian complementarian men are men who realize that their wives are their equals not only in worth but also in competence, and therefore cannot bring themselves to treat them as subordinates.

  • Seems like there needs to be more than three choices. It would be nice if we could get rid of labels completely but we all need words in order to communicate. Sad that it has to end up so complicated that we need to qualify and define everything even to start out a conversation.

  • Egalitarianism is a pretty broad umbrella, but here’s my take on Grudem’s descriptors (which are sometimes way off and sometimes phrased pejoratively when they ought not to be)

    “God: mutual submission in the Trinity.” I’ll acknowledge that most egalitarians believe this (myself included, if pressed). However, I tend to agree with John Stackhouse in Finally Feminist. Both sides need to just admit how much of a mystery the Trinity still is and stop pretending they understand it so they can score points in an unrelated debate. (He phrased it much more charitably).

    “Man, Woman: no gender-based role differences to marriage.” As an egalitarian, I’m willing to concede that there may yet be some merit to talking about gender-based differences between men and women. However, before we can begin to discuss these (and explore whether they’re due to nature or nurture), we have to ackowledge: a) that we’re all of the same species. We’re both human, and have much more in common with each other than with anything else on the planet. Complementarians spend so much time focusing on the differences between men and women that spouses can begin to see each other as inscrutable puzzles. This is hardly necessary. Most of the time, I can ask myself how I would want to be treated and infer from that how I should treat my husband. And b) all of us are individuals. I’m not married to “men” or “the average man.” I’m married to Aaron. He likes Star Trek, but also Jane Austen, and I love cooking and baking, but also engaging in theological debates. So my response to Grudem is that egalitarians see people as human individuals before they see them as men or women, and believe it makes more sense to get to know individuals than superimpose a paradigm for male/female interactions on all relationships.

    “Marriage: mutual submission [which happens to be biblical, right there in Eph 5:21]. Grudem: “often husband as wimp and wife as usurper”” First of all, I am so over complementarians calling men wimps just for acknowledging their wives’ competence and refusing to treat her as a subordinate. And “wimp/usurper” doesn’t sound very mutual to me (although I doubt that it’s an accurate descriptor of many egalitarian marriages). Basically, egalitarians believe that husbands and wives are partners. They fulfill different roles according to individual competence and the demands of the season, they make any important decisions together, and each spouse makes the good of their family unit and of their partner their ultimate goal. When this is observed consistently, there is never any need for the man to pull rank.

    “Children: children raised with too little discipline, little respect for authority.” I think this partly has to do with differing approaches to authority. Most egalitarians are quite happy to obey rules if the rules are in place for good reasons, but unlike complementarians don’t value unquestioning obedience to authority. They want to know why the rules are in place, and if seemingly unjust rules are in place without a convincing rationale they try to modify those rules (see: the whole gender roles debate). Each side tries to instill their respective values in their children, and as a result complementarians think some egalitarians’ children are undisciplined while egalitarians think that some complentarians’ children lack critical thinking skills.

    “Family Responsibilities: all responsibilities shared equally between husband and wife or divided according to gifts and interests.” Yes. Doesn’t this sound lovely? Doesn’t this make much more sense than forcing men and women into one prescriptive pattern? There’s even space for a completely traditional division of labour, if that’s what’s best for the individual couple. I’d also add that each partner should have a basic level of competence in all skills required to run a household (housework, financial management and provision, etc…) That way, if tragedy strikes and they are left running it alone, the family unit won’t suffer as badly.

    “Sex: men become unmasculine, unattractive to women; women become unfeminine, unattractive to men.” Good freaking grief, this is a completely meaningless sentence. Also, does it really matter whether my husband is attractive to all women and I’m attractive to all men? Couples should mutually seek to please each other. That’s pretty biblical. Remember 1 Corinthians 7?

    “Natural Desires: moving ‘contrary to nature’ (Romans 1:26). (Leading, he says, to unlimited same-sex activity.)” How do we know what is and isn’t natural? Every human being is a product of both nature and nurture, and disentangling the influence of each factor isn’t always easy. As far as same-sex activity goes, I take Grudem’s point to a certain degree. If we reject the notion of God-ordained gender roles in marriage, then we don’t necessarily have much of a rationale for why God would forbid monogamous same-sex pairings. We tend not to be satisfied with “because God said so” because we believe that God is not an arbitrary willful God who commands us around for His own amusement. We believe that every command He gives He gives for good reasons, and we seek to know those reasons. If we cannot find good reasons, we go back to scripture to ask ourselves whether we have misunderstood God’s commands. We don’t think of this as rebellion, we see this as seeking to know the mind of God. However, I take issue with Grudem’s use of the word “unlimited” Egalitarians are divided on the issue of same-sex marriage. Some of us fall on Side A, some of us fall on Side B, but the vast majority of us still believe in monogamy, not unlimited sexual activity.

    “Religion: no governing or teaching roles in church reserved for men.” That sounds pretty accurate to me. I’m not looking for a 50/50 split, necessarily, because it’s possible that more men than women may be gifted in one area and more women than men in another, but it seems to me that by barring wise and gifted women from certain roles the Church only handicaps itself.

    “Authority: suspicion of authority.” We’re suspicious of authority that refuses to allow questions and give coherent answers. We don’t think that’s a bad thing, we think it’s good and healthy. However, when those in authority treat us with respect, welcome our input, and are always open with us about the rationale behind their decisions, we’re much more likely to work harmoniously with them.

    “Sports: anticompetition” I’m not much good at sports, but if Wayne Grudem thinks egalitarians are anticompetition I challenge him to a game of Trivial Pursuit. With that being said, ministry is not a competition. We`re all working on the same team for the glory of God. Frankly, I have no idea why sports is on this chart.

    “Crime: criminal seen as victim to be helped, not punished; punishment long delayed.” I’m not sure that views on gender roles have a direct impact on views on crime, but I don’t see the problem with an approach to justice that prioritizes restoration. That seems more gospel-centered to me. Also, the glib and dismissive way Grudem talks about criminals as victims indicate that he hasn’t taken the time to consider how the American justice system is hampered by problems like institutionalized racism.

    “Property: no one is allowed to be very rich; large-scale dependence on welfare state or government.” Again, gender roles don’t directly impact one’s economic views. I’m sure you can find egalitarians all over the spectrum. I’m Canadian, though, and I happen to think socialism is working pretty well for us, as a rule. I’m proud of the fact that a homeless person and a company CEO receive the same level of care when they go to the hospital. And given Jesus’ warnings about wealth, I don’t see why we should fight for laws that encourage further wealth accumulation for the very rich.

    “Education: systematic pressure to make boys and girls do equally well in all subjects.” Umm, try systematic pressure to make sure that each student performs to the best of their ability in each subject.

    Grudem seems to be working with straw men rather than real egalitarians, but I suspect the problem is that he’s trying to reduce a diverse group of people to a single point on a spectrum. If nothing else, the annoyance I felt reading through this list is a reminder not to fall into the same trap when engaging with complementarians.

  • Here’s my response (in parenthesis) to his definitions:

    God: mutual submission in the Trinity (AND mutual authority, mutual dominance, mutual self-giving, mutual exalting – I suggest extreme caution in comparing human relations with Trinitarian relations. We are not little “gods” able to imitate a transcendent God whose oneness/threeness is mind-blowing. If you want to look at God’s immanence in Christ’s incarnation, then compare yourself with how Jesus elevates and honors women.)

    Man, Woman: no gender-based role differences to marriage. (Why do complementarians insist that any discussion on man and woman equals a discussion on husband and wife? We are all first either a man or a woman created equal in the image of God to rule and steward creation in mutual partnership (Gen 1). And then some may get married and live in an intimate mutual partnership (Gen 2).)

    Marriage: mutual submission [which happens to be biblical, right there in Eph 5:21]. Grudem: “often husband as wimp and wife as usurper” (Mutual submission, yes! Wimp/usurper, no! Now it’s an issue of discipleship and some serious marriage counseling.)

    Children: children raised with too little discipline, little respect for authority. (Hmmm…maybe we should do a study of families in both egalitarian and complementarian communities and see if there is proof of this. Or let’s look at how kids turned out in the OT under patriarchy.)

    Family Responsibilities: all responsibilities shared equally between husband and wife or divided according to gifts and interests. (Or fulfilled cheerfully without grumbling, which may not be equal or according to gifts/interests but according to the season and need of the moment. Or assumed with freedom of choice and mutual agreement, sometimes according to whoever has the best income potential – in my case, I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling egalitarian mom who later got an MDiv in theology.)

    Sex: men become unmasculine, unattractive to women; women become unfeminine, unattractive to men. (Mutual initiative is way more fun – my husband of 34 yrs is still a handsome hunk of a man and he thinks I am more beautiful than the day we were married.)

    Natural Desires: moving ‘contrary to nature’ (Romans 1:26). (Leading, he says, to unlimited same-sex activity.) (Wow! This connection between mutuality and same-sex activity is weird. Mutuality has not changed my natural desires any more than my enjoyment of power tools might change me so I want to stand up to pee in the toilet.)

    Religion: no governing or teaching roles in church reserved for men. (Except for classes on how to be a better husband or father or leading a men’s ministry.)

    Authority: suspicion of authority (No, just suspicious of authoritarian or abusive leaders (male and female) and leaders who exclude women.)

    Sports: anticompetition. (You should see my husband watching a sports event – yelling and pounding on the walls. And I like winning any competition I’m in though I also don’t mind losing.)

    Crime: criminal seen as victim to be helped, not punished; punishment long delayed. (Again, read the Gospels and how Jesus loved the criminal, the guilty, the law-breaker.)

    Property: no one is allowed to be very rich; large-scale dependence on
    welfare state or government. (Yeah, this is getting more politically motivated. I am a Republican and mutualist and I love worshiping with Democrats and mutualists. And I am suspicious of men who insist women depend on them for an income or believe women should not generate any substantial income.)

    Education: systematic pressure to make boys and girls do equally well in all subjects. (Yes and no – Yes, girls can be just as good in science, math and theology as boys and be told they can. Yes, boys can take home ec if they want to. No, boys may not be left brained or athletes. No, girls may not be right brained or cheerleaders. Doing well in a subject is based on ability, not gender. If there is pressure to be applied it is to make every subject AVAILABLE to both boys and girls and resist any stereotypical and cultural pressures. Observation on complementarian fathers: Seems as though everyone else’s daughter should conform to cultural stereotypes except your own.)

  • Lindon Coffee

    Ah, but Scott, the Grudem’s of evangelicalism are defining it for us. That is how it works. And it does work. If I even mention that I am egalitarian in many evangelical circles, the next thing I know I am viewed as proclaiming NO gender differences at all. As if there is a pink Holy Spirit for women.?

    Personally, I have no problem with being called an Egalitarian but think Mutualist is better. Egalitarian has too much of a French Revolution sound to it, Citizen McKnight, instead of a more “see how they love one another” sound like mutualist.

    Years ago when I started researching this issue, I was cheered the pesky liberal Christian Egalitarians I was reading were so…well, “Christian”. Not only that but quite smart. From my reading around I found them very scholarly and short on the vitriol I saw in the coming of age comp movement of the time which was bringing in big dollars, btw. That lack of vitriol in the egal camp seems to be a more natural result of thinking of others as not only equal but as important as ourselves.

  • Levi

    I would have hoped that Grudem had enough intellectual integrity to avoid straw men like this. But apparently it’s not to be. His chart is a caricature of the “wimpy liberal” and not remotely an accurate picture of an egalitarian.

    One point that both Grudem and Piper keep coming back to is that egalitarians deny that differences exist between male and female. But I have yet to hear such an argument made on the egalitarian side. Of course there are differences! Anyone with eyes can see that. But differences are not handcuffs; one’s role in the family, the church, and society ought not be determined by the presence of either a penis or a vagina. We are free in Christ to serve one another according to our gifts, interests, desires, and the need at hand.

    Here’s my attempt at your challenge.

    God: God is to be loved, worshiped, feared, adored, and obeyed.

    Man, Woman: Men and women are both created in God’s image, therefore one’s value as a person is not dependent on the presence of either a penis or a vagina.

    Marriage: Husbands and wives are to submit to one another, love one another, respect one another.

    Children: Boys and girls are made in the image of God, are to be taught to love and obey God, and are to be protected from harm.

    Family Responsibilities: One’s role and responsibilities within the family are not dependent on the presence of either a penis or a vagina.

    Sex: is to be enjoyed by both husbands and wives. Doug Wilson (derisively) called it an “egalitarian pleasure party.” I’ll gladly appropriate that label and run with it. With my wife. To our bedroom.

    Natural Desires: We all do what we don’t want to do and don’t do what we want to do.

    Religion: (It sounds like Grudem is referring more to the church than religion here) One’s service and leadership within the church is dependent on gifting and calling, not the presence of either a penis or a vagina.

    Authority: We are to submit to civil authorities whenever possible, unless in direct and unavoidable conflict with christian belief and practice. We are to advocate for justice and liberty to the best of our ability, whether we have a penis or a vagina.

    Sports: Our bodies need exercise. Good sportsmanship should be practiced by all participants. Co-ed participation or lack thereof should depend on the particular sport and developmental level of the athletes. (This isn’t egalitarianism per se, but just regular wisdom: the degree of emphasis on competition should be depend on the age, ability, and desires of the participants.)

    Crime: Criminal behavior is sinful and ought to be treated as such. Criminals ought to repent of their sins, and victims should be given justice. Civil authorities should be notified of lawbreaking and the church should not hinder investigators in their duties. See “Authority” above.

    Property: We ought to give to God what is God’s. Property rights are not dependent on the presence of either a penis or a vagina.

    Education: All people should receive an education sufficient to become productive members of society. Access to any given field of scholarship should not be dependent on the presence of either a penis or a vagina.

  • Perry L. Stepp

    Grudem’s definitions of masculinity & femininity, etc., are anachronistic; masculine AS MODERN AMERICAN CHRISTENDOM HAS DEFINED IT, etc. We construct masculinity etc., they are not timeless or universal. And he ignores the differences between modern American definitions of these phenomena and ancient Mediterranean definitions.

    You want proof? Read the Jacob stories from Grudem’s perspective. Jacob was a momma’s boy, preferred cooking and needlepoint. When entering a potentially dangerous situation, he hid behind his wives and children. And on at least one occasion, he wrestled with a man all night long.

    See the pitfalls of universalizing a particular culture’s definition of masculinity?

  • Nathan Willard

    God: Trinitarian being in loving relational harmony – creator, redeemer,
    source of all goodness.

    Man, Woman: General physical differences can be observed and have led to a
    general division of labor. Yet because of individual gifting, disposition and opportunities,societal differences, and technological changes there are no universal, morally right or wrong, roles assigned to each gender. (An example pertaining to what many complementarian’s view as a primary function of maleness: men have traditionally been the warriors in society because, in general, they are physically stronger; however technology has rendered physical strength less crucial, while other talents which women, in general, excel at have become more important.)

    Marriage: Traditionally the institution of marriage accomplished one very
    important societal function; it provided legal protection for wives and their
    children. It limited the sexual freedom of men and placed upon them certain
    responsibilities. Also, in many instances it gave men a sense of ownership of
    their wives and children. We reject that a husband has any sense of ownership of
    his wife, or children. We uphold that marriage is a partnership which provides
    individual benefit, and requires individual responsibility including mutual
    submission and sacrifice in love, always considering the other more important
    than the self. With such an attitude no universally predetermined gender roles
    are necessary, nor should decision making require one member to bear the final
    say in all matters.

    Children: Children should be raised to above all love God, be empathetic and
    respectful to all people – as well as display all other morally positive
    character traits which can in no way be described as gender specific – girls should
    be brave and boys should be submissive to those who have authority over them.

    Family Responsibilities: All responsibilities shared equally between husband
    and wife or divided according to gifts, interests and opportunity. It should be remembered that, though the family is possibly the foundation of human society, is not the foundation of the Church.

    Sex: Mutual care and concern for the pleasure, sensitivity and needs of the

    Natural Desires: We live according to the Spirit, not the flesh (the flesh
    being our desires corrupted by sin).

    Religion: Governing or teaching roles given according to gifting, wisdom,
    and submission to Christ.

    Authority: In relation to the Church – submission to Christ and his body. In
    relation to the kingdom of man – submission to the authorities ordained by God,
    but motivated by love of neighbor working for justice and the removal of
    oppressive people from positions of power.

    Sports: Exist to develop positive character traits, including those “warrior”
    traits such as courage, grit, self-denial/delayed gratification, cooperation,
    and sacrifice, none of which are gender specific though they are manifested in
    individuals differently.

    Crime: Capable of seeing the complexity of factors which contribute to particular
    behaviors and therefore recognizing that not all similar actions are equally
    deserving of punishment or reward.

    Property: As a Libertarian (not all egalitarians are Democrats) I recognize
    the right of individuals to own private property and engage in free
    (non-coercive) non-fraudulent trade. The role of the authorities in a society is
    to protect freedoms, and prevent and punish fraud. (But I’m not sure what this
    has to do with egalitarianism other than Grudem trying to close the minds of
    complementarians by making associations between egalitarianism and political
    positions which those in his camp have demonized.)

    Education: Allowing individuals to pursue and excel in those areas God has
    gifted them in.

  • danaames

    I appreciate what you are getting at, Scot. Grudem and those who think like him are bound up in a systematic way of thought that assumes so much and dismisses so much. It’s so exhausting at times, and it’s tempting to not even engage, but that’s not the answer, either. Thank you for all you are doing in this regard.

    You know, one of the (many) reasons I swam the Bosporus is that on a theological level this problem does not exist, and therefore one doesn’t have to spend the energy fighting this fight. One can shift more of one’s energy to “the one thing needful” – although I know that all aspects of how to show love to one another are also covered by that “one thing.”

    I offer a word from St Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian (4th century):

    “…if there is a difference between the sexes, it is visible only in that men have a stronger, more vigorous body. As for the rest, the cultivation of virtue is the same; they march together on the road leading to life eternal, and in this no one has anything more than the other except the difference of his merit and his toil.” (Carminum Liber I, quoted in Hausherr, “Spiritual Direction in the Early Christian East”)

    If Grudem and those who believe as he does can’t hear this, then they can’t hear the definitions we offer either. But it’s good to put them out there, because someone may actually hear; it’s happened before…

    I would start with the following 2 theological points, and anything else I would have to say would proceed from there:

    -We can’t start with “mutual subordination” in the Trinity. That’s so not the point of Trinitarian relations. All the Trinitarian Persons are consubstantial: equally God in every way. This has to do with the question “Who is Jesus”? and it was settled a long time ago

    From D.B. Hart: “… the most appealing, intellectually sophisticated, and plausible fourth-century alternative to what would become Nicene orthodoxy was some variant of ‘subordinationism.’ This was the school of thought…that saw the Son and Spirit as derivative and lesser emanations of the Godhead of the Father—’economically’ reduced versions of God … Among Christian thinkers the most consistent and austere form of this fallacy was found among the Arians, who were so anxious to preserve a proper sense of the Father’s transcendence that they were moved to assert that the Son was a creature: the highest and most god-like of creatures, of course—worthy even of being called ‘God’ honorifically…—but a creature for all that… The greatest achievements of this period, in defense of Nicene orthodoxy, were those of the so-called Cappadocian fathers: Basil of Caesarea, Basil’s younger brother Gregory of Nyssa, and Basil’s friend Gregory of Nazianzus. These three, in the course of their disputes with the “Eunomians,” the intellectual heirs of the Arians, grasped with a special urgency that a proper attention to biblical language regarding Father, Son, and Spirit—and, most particularly, regarding the story of our salvation in Christ—makes a subordinationist construal of that
    language impossible.” (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/the-lively-god-of-robert-jenson-4)

    -If we cannot have subordinationism in the Trinity, then we can’t have it in relationships between creatures who are made in the image of God, either. To posit that as the main point in any male-female relationship is to reduce females to something less than human, just as subordinationism in the Trinity reduces Jesus Christ to something less than God. Viewing males and females as so very much “other” to each other logically results in one of them being viewed as the standard of being human, and the other as “less than” human. This is Aristotelian, not Christian. To be human is to become a man or a woman who transcends “male” or “female” in the ability, like Jesus Christ, to offer oneself in love to God, even to the point of death for another, and to transcend even death – to go through death and out the other side into resurrection, in both the physical and metaphorical senses. Fr John Behr is very good on this: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/svsvoices/women_disciples_of_the_lord_part_one.

    Sorry to be so long-winded. You know I could have said more 😉


  • Jean

    “So my response to Grudem is that egalitarians see people as human individuals before they see them as men or women, and believe it makes more sense to get to know individuals than superimpose a paradigm for male/female interactions on all relationships.”
    Great insight Christina. Thank you for the post.

  • I love the St. Gregory of Nanzianus quote. Such a refreshing perspective from a patristic-era theologian. Thanks for sharing!

  • debjs

    The closing line had me roaring. Grudem’s chart is largely almost beyond laughable. On a serious note, I do think there is a burgeoning tendency in the egal movement to so strongly resist the cookie-cutter views of gender that restrict us that we can come across as looking like we see no differences. We egals were the original “complementarians,” but when that label was stolen from us, it was like it almost became a prophecy. Although we do it for a very good reason (the clothes handed us do not fit), I think the movement has a tendency to push-back TOO hard on gender distinction discussions.

    Cross-cultural studies of broad categories such as aggression and verbal skill DO show
    that the average man and woman are very, very close together (two
    almost entirely overlapping bell curves). However, there are still
    differences in how these categories generally manifest, in the
    development stages and timing for the genders, and in how gender
    distinctions generally look in our individual societies (sometimes these
    distinctions are restrictive and harmful, but sometimes all-out
    dismissing them can indicate that we are not able to integrate ourselves
    into our cultures for a lack of wholeness). I think Jonalyn and Dale
    Fincher, egal apologists, strive nobly against that tendency. I will be the first to say that I do not relate to some of the “female family resemblances” that Jonalyn sees in herself such as a great ability with crafts and penchant for fashion (in her book Ruby Slippers). But I have and celebrate many other “female family
    resemblances” and hold not a few strengths in common with what are seen
    as masculine ideals too. I have as many of these masculine ideals in me as the feminine, but I am able to celebrate the feminine ones as things that help me belong to my “family,” some of which are gifts from it insofar as my experience of living in a female body and its vulnerabilities helped to cultivate some of those traits that my personality predisposed me to. (And incidentally, I think Jonalyn’s use of the family resemblance theory of sociology in the area of gender is
    genius–the redhead in a family or brunettes is NO LESS family just b/c
    she has recessive traits.)

  • Nathan Willard

    “Why do complementarians insist that any discussion on man and woman equals a discussion on husband and wife?”
    Great point. It is extremely irritating that many complementarians seem to think that their view of the relationship between a husband and wife shapes every other interaction between men and women, as if every woman must submit to every man no matter the situation.

  • Amanda B.

    I guess I know where my complementarian friends get their ideas of what egalitarians believe…

    God: Triune Godhead, equal in glory and honor, equal in every way that qualifies what it means to be God. None can be less sovereign, less humble, less servant-hearted than another. It would seem from Scripture that each member assumes particular roles to a degree, but it does not seem that They fit a strict hierarchy.

    Man, Woman: Bearers of the image of God. Gender distinctions are *descriptive*, not *prescriptive*. Being masculine or feminine is simply what you are, not something you attain to.

    Marriage: Ephesians 5 pictures both husband and wife as called to loving service, and neither called to leadership. The role of husband and wife alike is to prefer one another and seek the benefit of one another.

    Children: Children are to obey their parents in the Lord, for this is right, and is the first commandment with a promise. Children are a gift and blessing from God.

    Family Responsibilities: Husband and wife work together to make sure they are all covered. The specific breakdown will look different in different families.

    Sex: Reserved for a husband and wife; should be a free and open exchange of love and trust and enjoyment between the two.

    Natural Desires: Apart from Christ, everyone’s desires are broken and many will tend towards self-destruction. In Christ, we are being renewed inwardly day by day by the Holy Spirit, and we grow in our desires for righteousness (as seen in Scripture, and particularly in the character of Christ).

    Religion: Biblical Christianity, which in no way hinges on gender roles.

    Authority: Submission to godly authority (though of course coupled with godly discernment) is biblical and right.

    Sports: …Huh? I have no religious stance on sports. Play by the rules with integrity, I suppose.

    Crime: Crime is bad. Lawfulness is good. I think it’s good to try and rehabilitate criminals–the point is to stop crime from happening and save lives. I am no criminal justice expert, however, so I claim no expertise in the best way to do that.

    Property: Not instrumental to biblical Christianity. Christians have lived under, and served in, all manners of governmental systems, and have lived in both extreme poverty and in great wealth. Personally, I believe anyone who has earned or been given property has the right to say what happens with it. But I also believe God has called us to be generous and live simply.

    Education: It’s a good thing. Children should be nurtured and challenged to reach their full potential in every subject. Children’s natural strengths and weaknesses will vary from one individual to the next, and this will affect what sort of education they need to thrive. These differences are in no way guaranteed to fall along gender lines.

  • Loretta Rogers Cooper

    Christina, thank you for your patient and cogent “walk through the chart”. This blog was my first introduction, and frankly I was baffled until you unpacked it. My church tradition (Church of God, Anderson IN) began with 5 itinerent pastors, two of whom were women, so gender roles were never an issue in my early experience. Frankly, as a grew up and into the larger church I was shocked to realize how marginalized women have been — and then to learn that there is a supposed Biblical basis for the waste of God-given talents (!) Well, that is simply mind boggling. In any event, thank you for contributing to my education!

  • Jennifer Stahl

    Unfortunately, in many complementarian homes, there are sports ”for boys only” and ”girls only. ”
    Mess with that as an egal… and you’re out to make society androgynous. :/

  • Kamilla Ludwig

    Hi Scot,

    When you say, “The word “complementarian” was used very early in this discussion — way back when the first breakouts and breakthroughs occurred — for what is now called “egalitarian” by “complementarians,” and the word “complementarian” meant “mutualist” and was preferred by those now called egalitarian” — can you tell me approximately what time frame this is? Who were these early egalitarian-Complementarians?


  • John P Darrow

    Grudem seems to be mixing up a lot of false dichotomies and bogeymen in his view of egalitarianism, along with mixing in a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with gender practice (but a lot to do with socio-political posturing).

    One of these false dichotomies is his view of the spectrum of gender practices. I can see at least four extremes of gender practice. On one side is the enforced sameness that seems to be at least part of Grudem’s bogeyman. On the other side are the multiple extremes of enforced differences: male superiority/patriarchy is one (Grudem at least acknowledges this), and is at least conceptually mirrored by female superiority/matriarchy. But Grudem fails to realize that his “middle” of complementarianism, even if it could somehow theoretically work things out so that its men’s and women’s roles did not contain any aspects of one side’s roles being more respected, more valued, etc. than the other (which, despite its proponents’ claims, is never the case in practice), is still an extreme in its enforcing of differences. The true “middle” is what egalitarianism truly seeks: nobody is forced into certain “roles” due to some categorization, but each is free to be and do in accordance with the uniqueness God has created them with and gifted them in.

  • SRB

    Reverse engineering all this (given the stereotyping in his list I feel free to feed the fire) – do complimentarians have more in common with Islam than Jesus?