Women in Ministry: Galatians 3:28

Women in Ministry: Galatians 3:28 April 10, 2007

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians the apostle builds an argument that former barriers to the blessing have been knocked down — everyone comes into the family of God by faith. And then Paul gives what my colleague, Klyne Snodgrass, calls the “most socially explosive statement in the NT” — and he says folks have four options when reading Gal 3:28:
Here’s the verse:
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

An ethnic mandate, a socio-economic mandate, and a gender mandate.
Here are the options:
1. Paul did not really means these words: maybe he got carried away.
2. Paul meant this only in part: all have access to salvation on the same basis.
3. Paul’s theology developed after this – away from it — 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 show that Paul changed his mind.
4. Paul meant exactly this – and his theology grew toward it — mutuality, unity, and giftedness are the same for all three groups.
Many things can be said, have been said, and will be said about this verse. It both carries far too much weight for some and scares the traditions of others. I offer only a few observations:
1. To distinguish between soteriology (access to God) and ecclesiology (what one can do in church) cannot be sustained by this verse. For Paul, ethnic, socio-economic (class), and gender divisions are broken down because what Paul is claiming here fulfills OT expectations.
2. The theme of the immediate verses is not about soteriology but about unity — that each of these groups is brought into a new family — hence, the fundamental orientation is about ecclesiology and not simply soteriology.
3. Identity changes in Christ: one’s identity is no longer simply ethnic, socio-economic or gender but what one is in the new family in Christ. This does not obliterate any of these realities — Paul sustains ethnic difference in 1 Cor 7 etc. It eliminates these realities as boundaries between people and with God.
4. The most significant OT background to this text is not Genesis 1:27 (male and female) but New Creation themes found in Isa 2:1-5; 25:6-8; 51:4; 66:19-21; Mic 4:2-5; Zech 14:16 and Joel 2:28-32; 3:1-5.
These themes are developed by Paul in 2 Cor 5:14-17 and also at Ga. 6:15.
I suggest the following ideas feed into Gal 3:28:
a. The eschatological gathering of all to worship the one true God together.
b. God will gift all people — ethnic, socio-economic, and gender — with God’s Spirit so that all will be gifted to ministry. Notice Joel 2:28-29 as background to Gal 3:28:
Joel 2:28
Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

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  • Scot,
    We just got done talking about this in my ‘Women in Christianity’ class.
    Our professor suggested that those who give priority to Gen 1 (man and woman created in the image of God) end up on a track of giving priority to Gal 3 (“neither male nor female…”)
    And those who give priority to Gen 3 (the woman “causing” the fall)end up on a track giving priority to 1 Tim 2(“I do not permit a woman to teach”)

  • I’m failing to see any connection between this verse and gifting in the church. I think to argue either view from this verse doesn’t add exegetically to the overall argument. This is simply about the all-encompassing and inclusive nature of what it means to be ‘in Christ’.

  • Stephen,
    Good point. It is not immediately obvious — what is obvious, though, is that Paul ties soteriology to ecclesiology. And this theme of all-inclusion is tied to all-giftedness in the earliest churches (Acts 2, eg) and one sees it in Joel 2:28–3:5. The New Creation theme is what generates the connection.

  • Asking if Paul “really meant” Galatians 3:28 is a loaded question, and it’s a little like asking if he “really meant” Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” and then insisting that “everything” really must mean “everything,” or else we’re not taking the scripture seriously.
    The context of Galatians 3:28 is not merely “that each of these groups is brought into a new family,” but how they are: “through faith in Christ,” “baptized into Christ,” “belong to Christ” (vv. 26-29). I can’t see how soteriology is not in view here; it is certainly much more in view than the question of who can do what in the church.
    Women in ministry is perfectly valid, but the use of this verse as a catch-all to remove all gender distinctions is simply bad exegesis.

  • Keith,
    I don’t deny soteriology and that is clear in the very first paragraph: the “how” issue is up front for me. The focus is on “unity.”
    Do you think I’m suggesting that this removes all gender distinctions? (#3)

  • Words – » Blogs in Review – 4/10/07

    […] Scot McKnight (http://www.jesuscreed.org) discusses Women in Ministry in Galatians 3:28, and continues his series on love in the key to delight with part seven on Song of Songs 1:15-17. […]

  • Oh, Scot, I have too much respect for you to make this about what I think you’re doing! It’s a reaction I have from my seminary days.
    But since you ask…. if this verse doesn’t eliminate all gender distinctions, then give me an example of a gender distinction it doesn’t eliminate, and explain why the verse doesn’t apply to your example but does apply to church leadership. In your #3 above, you shift ground to ethnic distinctions (although what 1 Cor. 7 has to do with ethnic distinctions, I don’t know…)
    The real problem I have is in pitting verses against one another: as Jennifer wrote, do we “give priority to” Gal 3 or 1 Tim 2. I’d prefer to look at how all the relevant verses together modify one another to get a complete whole that speaks out of all of them. I don’t much like “trumping” one verse with another. And I don’t see how one can say that Paul’s “theology grew toward” what Gal 3:28 says, when Galatians is an early letter and 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy were later. I think most people who want to oppose one verse with another would have to say that Paul got it right early on and went off track later.
    I gotta run to work. Won’t be able to respond quickly. Sorry.

  • Rich Scheenstra

    While this passage isn’t directly about gifting, it is about bondage. In the previous paragraph, Paul talks about those who are “held prisoners by the law.” In the following paragraph, Paul writes, “…God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights as sons.” In other words, Christ, who was born of a woman (one form of slavery) and under the law (another kind of slavery), has set free those who were slaves either because of the law or because of their of their gender (by receiving the full [same?] rights as sons). Wouldn’t it be fair to say that just as being a gentile or being a slave would no longer exclude a person from being an apostle, prophet or pastor, neither would being a woman exclude her from being an apostle (e.g. Junias, Rom.16:7), a prophet (e.g. the daughters of Philip who prophesied, Acts 21:8,9) or a pastor (e.g Priscilla, I Cor.16:9)?

  • RJS

    There is an Orthodox and Conservative Jewish prayer to be prayed daily by male Jews “Blessed are you for not making me a Gentile. Blessed are you for not making me a woman. Blessed are you for not making me a slave.” While this prayer in the form we know it dates from Rabbinic Judaism, not first century Judaism – at least we have no record of it from that era as far as I know – it probably didn’t arise from a vacuum as “spontaneous generation” in the minds of the later Rabbis.
    When we compare this with Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” the parallelism is striking. I think that Paul clearly meant what he said in terms of soteriology, in terms of ecclesiology, in terms of reflecting the image of God, in terms of the favor of God following equally on all who call on his name.
    But what it means in terms of roles of people in the body – the complementary nature of the body is a different issue. In this topic of “Women in Ministry” it gives lie to those who wish to claim a distinction in inherent nature before God based on gender, but is silent on the issue of leadership and authority.

  • Scot, great thoughts. I see this verse as having to do less with the means of salvation and more to do with the results of salvation. So, in the Jesus Movement, there is neither “male nor female.”
    In other words, the passage isn’t a comment on who recieves salvation (though it is implicit), rather it is a comment on what the saved look and act like as a result of salvation. This is a call we should be proclaiming again in our day.

  • While the soteriological implications are not excluded from Gal 3:38, we would be hard-pressed to conclude that the sociloglical implications are not included, even emphasized. I think Scot’s suggestion of “new creation unity” is right on, especially if we note Paul’s parallel teaching in Colossians 3:5-14 with verse 11 glaringly placed to declare unity in Christ, not just salvation in Christ. The context is about what destroys unity (5-10) and what unity looks like in the new humanity of God (12-14)…the expression of unifying love; no sociological barriers breeding verbalized division and relational factions.

  • Oops…should read Gal 3:28 and “sociological” (comment #11).

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  • # 8, Rich, “by receiving the full [same?] rights as sons”–yes, that’s a theme repeated over and over again throughout the NT. We all have the freedom, privileges and responsibilities of adult sons.

  • So often I’ve had people refuse to engage in discussions as to whether women are equal or lesser than men because of this verse. The claim that it only refers to salvation dismantles for them any argument that women are full people (it often does the same for other races as well turning a verse I see as defining freedom as a justification for sexism and racism).

  • Piggybacking on RJS #9, Socrates used to say daily the that there were three blessings for which he was grateful to fortune:
    First, that I was born a human being, and not of the brutes [brutes essentially equals slaves]; next that I was born a man and not a woman; thirdly, a Greek and not a barbarian. (“Lives of Eminent Philosophers” by Diogenes Laertius, I.33 (LCL))
    This type of formulation preceded Paul in the Greek world by centuries. The influence on of Greek thinking in Judaism was pervasive by Christ’s time. I think the origins of rabbinic prayer are obvious.
    As people of Paul’s day thought of the temple worship, what image came to mind? There was an inner court where men worshiped. Beyond that was the Court of Women where Jewish women could peer over the balcony and watch the proceedings. Beyond that was the Court of the Gentiles, which was as close as anyone else could come. Paul obliterates these distinctions. Paul makes explicit this imagery in passages like Ephesians 2:14 when in writing about Jew and gentile he says:
    For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
    If Gal. 3:28 is about salvation, why the need to announce that Jewish women were now saved? Were Jewish women not previously saved but now under Christ they are? No. Salvation is not the issue. Something has changed about their status in relationship to God and to other believers in Christ, just as it has changed for gentiles and slaves. The “for” verse 28 does not elaborate “equal justification” but rather that “…you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    Also, don’t overlook verse 3:29:
    If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
    The only way to become Abraham’s seed in the past had been through circumcision, which meant women were connected only through the men to whom they were related. The new sign of the covenant was baptism which is available to all. All enter on an undifferentiated basis.

  • #7 Keith
    You wrote:
    “I’d prefer to look at how all the relevant verses together modify one another to get a complete whole that speaks out of all of them.”
    I agree that when we are trying to discern ethical principles we have to take into account the whole Word and the whole narrative. Scripture interprets scripture. However, I think we also have to examine what each passage says and doesn’t say on its own merits within its own context. The readers of Galatians didn’t have 1 Timothy or other NT books available as cross references. What each book says on its own merit is an important lens to look through.

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    Weekend Quick Takes (04/14/07)
    Here are my WEEKEND QUICK TAKES this week. Simply click on the headlines for the links: Handling Criticism Great suggestions from Perry Noble Women in Ministry: Galatians 3:28 Great post from Scot McKnight…—–
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  • RJS

    Michael #15, Scot, etc.
    Thanks – that comment puts some flesh on the context I was trying to get at. Paul meant what he said – unity in Christ – in a cultural context where that concept was revolutionary. The formulation of Gal. 3:28 is intended to overthrow the accepted norms – Jewish and Greek, in language with a parallelism that would make the revolution immediately apparent to the intended audience.
    Christianity at its heart is not a multi-tiered system – Christ has broken down the walls between us.
    But while I think this passage limits some exegesis and interpretation of other key passages of scripture, I do not think that it specifically addresses the issue of women in leadership roles in the church or how God “gifts” people in his church.

  • Scot,
    I’m preaching through Galatians right now at City Church and my next text is Galatians 3:26ff…I feel like I’ve hit the sermon prep jackpot with you bringing this up now in your series!
    Other than your commentary, of course ;), Richard Hays in The Interpreters Series is excellent on the book of Galatians, and even goes as far as calling those who would still oppose the equality of women in ministry to be current day Judaizers who are insisting on a bygone era, and not embracing New Creation realities (Fee makes much the same argument in Discovering Biblical Equality)… everything for Paul is about living in light of the new world birthed in the midst of the old, the first fruits of which is Christ in his resurrection.

  • I favour option 2 myself, although I think to label this view as being only meant “in part” is a little unfair. After all no one thinks the verse means “and God repented of his mistake of creating two genders, and has now decreed that there now be only one”. So unless you are avocating a new androdgynous Christian community, option 4 is “in part” too.
    I also think it is far from clear that the context of verse 28 *requires* us to interpret it ecclesiologically. But I do accept that there is nothing to exclude that possibility.
    The immediate context (v27) surely is speaking about salvation, and the wider context (esp v29 and early parts of ch 3) seem to me to point very strongly to the clause “neither Jew nor Greek” as being the main point of this verse, with “male and female” and “slave and free” being supplementary (but obviously very important) points. I think Paul could have used “young and old” or “rich and poor” in place of “male and female” without changing the main point he was making.
    I liked your suggestion though that Joel 2:28 might be the background to this verse. Do you have any other evidence to back this up apart from the fact that male and female are mentioned?

  • Tom Hein

    Those of us who are complementarians see great beauty and infinite wisdom in God’s design. We honor women as spiritual equals and as an awesome complement to men, but believe that God has created men and women in uniquely male and female ways physically, psychologically, and socially.
    Male leadership is a pattern from Genesis One, from Adam’s creation before Eve, his responsibilities delineated by God, and his greater responsibility for the fall (God comes to Adam first). This pattern continues all throughout the Old Testament into the New Testament in marriage and in the church. The differentiation of men and women in their unique roles is not based on culture, but on creation theology (1 Cor. 11:3-16; Eph. 5:21-33; 1 Tim. 2:11-14). These distinctions preceded the fall.
    In terms of life experience, it’s my experience that if men are not challenged to rise to leadership the women will do the work of ministry, and the men will sit back and let them do it. That, I believe, is the unique genius of why God called men to be leaders in the home and the church.

  • Mark, what does salvation mean to you? My view of salvation is becoming an heir to the kingdom of God because I laid down my life to follow Jesus toward wholeness and shalom. I am filled with the spirit and commissioned to go out and proclaim the gospel–and not just to other women!
    I think Paul used the triad Jew, Greek and Woman because these were precisely the exclusions from the new kingdom that Jesus did away with.
    Paul wasn’t talking about a literal removal of sexual characteristics. There is a difference between sex and gender, by the way. Sex refers to biological traits and gender refers to socially constructed roles and behaviors.
    Paul said their are no more gender restrictions placing women outside of the priestly calling of believers.

  • Tom said, “in terms of life experience, it’s my experience that if men are not challenged to rise to leadership the women will do the work of ministry, and the men will sit back and let them do it. That, I believe, is the unique genius of why God called men to be leaders in the home and the church.”
    I used to believe this. But why does it have to be either or? Either the men are leading–or if they don’t, the women have to take over. My goodness, there’s enough leadership to go around. If men sit back and “let” women do all the work then they are shirking their calling and need to be made accountable.

  • Tom (#22),
    Based on your previous comments at JESUS CREED, many of us who frequent here knew already what you just posted. You also know that Scot and many others of us are equally convinced of an egalitarian position after doing intensive exegesis on the same passages you referenced. Your very use of the term “roles” reveals how culture has shaped your theology and not the text. “Roles” is a 19th century invention of psychology coming out of the theater. It entered this theological issue in the mid-1970s with George Knight III’s work. What does “role” have to do with the Hebrew and Greek text?

  • Tom Hein

    John (#24)…
    Paul’s arguments from creation theology are clear, unless you ignore them.
    The meaning of “kephale” (head)is clear, unless you twist it.
    Current culture is so egalitarian that some parts of secular culture have tried to erase all distinctions between male and female. I’m not saying that you’re doing that. I’m just saying we live in a culture where we have to be very careful to delineate masculinity and femininity.
    By the way, your opening sentence was a bit snarky. My take on it is that since you and others and Scot hold an egalitarian position you are trying to bully me into not posting. I don’t have to post, but I thought this was a conversation.

  • Tom (#26),
    No, not snarky; and if it came across that way, I’m sorry. We are having a conversation, but you advanced it, how much? There is nothing in the Christian egalitarian position that even hints of erasing the differences between male and female or is careless about the delineations of masculinity and femininity. Are you reading role-based psychology into the Hebrew and Greek text? The equality of male and female is very clear to me in the creation accounts and “kephale” is a clear non-hierarchial term. We agree.

  • Matt R

    Maybe a bit off topic, but…
    Isn’t part of the issue here that we too easily read Scripture through a modern systematic theological lense. ‘Soteriology’ and ‘ecclesiology’ are not always clear seperate categories in Paul. As this passage illustrates, soteriology and ecclesiology are intertwined and inform each other.
    My understanding of the phrase “in Christ” goes beyond personal justification, it includes a communal reality.. the “new creation” being birthed in the world of which the Christian community is a sign. This doesn’t negate distinctions but it does begin to undo the social reality we have built around these distinctions; how we live together in relationship, who is qualified for leadership, etc., are all now to be seen in a radically different light. So the theological categories of soteriology and ecclesiology are not so seperate.

  • Benjamin Bush Jr

    Your belitting of ther term “role” is interesting, since you refer back to the initial development of modern psychology as well as culture.
    Did you not know that this same psychology, along with it”s organically structured purpose to convert patriarchal structures into matriarchal ones, has been instituted into law in this country. Our whole society’s design is lawfully bent toward neutering any male authority in the home and substituting the authority of the State as the husband and father. The State then deals with the family through the female, with the male fulfilling the narro function of breadwinner.
    So, if any one is influenced by culture, it is the one espousing egalitarianism.
    In fact, the entire educational system has been under the spell of egalitarianism for most of the existence of this country. It has just taken a few generations for the results of their work to become evident.
    The result is that the school is the “Alm Mater” (Holy Mother) of most children, with the State being the father, from which flows the authority.
    It could be concluded that the State has indeed influenced your theology.

  • #28 Matt R
    I think you offer an important critique. I think you are right that we should not compartmentalize too much. However, it seems to me that Paul’s thrust here is “New Creation.” I think soteriology is penultimate in this particular passage.

  • Diane

    While I am of the equalitarian position, I appreciate male and femaleness not being cast as one-to-one sameness.
    Obviously, biological differences exist between the two sexes. Women bear children. Men don’t. But both men and women in my experience have the same capacity for leadership. If men could bear children but were told they shouldn’t, because, in some people’s interpretation of Scripture, it was forbidden, but they physically could … wouldn’t they? Aren’t we in some way compelled to use the gifts we’re given? Is it a violation of the abundance God has offered us to reject his gifts/burdens?

  • Hi Amazitha, here’s some questions in response to your comment (#23)…
    I fully agree that the great comission and the filling of the Spirit is for all believers, male or female, “leaders” and non-leaders. I also agree that the “priestly calling” is for all believers, male or female, “clergy” and “laypersons”. And similarly salvation (in both its now and not-yet aspects) is for all believers. I do not think any complementarian would deny any of these things. But gifts and callings to specific ministries are given according to God’s sovereign chose – not every believer has every gift or every “office”. Does this make God unfair?
    Do you think women and slaves were excluded in some way under the terms of the Old Covenant?
    I had not come across that “gender” vs “sex” distinction before, but then I am not widely read on this topic. Are you saying that the differences between male and female as God created them are only and exclusively biological? Does not the female “role” of nursing small children exist because of a biological design decision by our Creator? (as my five year old daughter astutely observed today – “mummies have boobies, daddies don’t”). Unless of course you view formula milk as a delayed blessing of the New Covenant, or perhaps men had breasts before the fall! I would genuinely like to know what egalitarians think about this sort of thing – did God create inherent “inequalities” by virtue of biological differences?

  • Matt R

    Michael #29,
    That’s part of my point… “new creation” language was never meant to be just about ‘personal’ salvation, it was a new reality that re-imaged our life together as Christian communities. We must not forget that even if Paul spoke in what seem to us to be soteriological terms, this is a letter to “the churches” (Gal. 1:2)… ecclesiological concerns are never far behind.

  • Tom Hein

    I can let go of the word “role.” That’s fine.
    And, as I’ve said previously, if I could be convinced from the biblical text of an egalitarian position I would gladly embrace it, but at this point I gladly embrace a complementarian position because that’s what I see in the biblical text. I just don’t see an egalitarian position in Eph. 5 or 1 Tim. 2. And since those two passages directly speak to the issue of men, women, and leadership in the home and in the church they are key passages that would need to convince me to change my position. Galatians 3:28 is interesting, and I picked up many insights from Scot’s article today. Mary’s role in Jesus’ life and ministry is interesting, and I picked up insights from his article the other day. But, I’m not convinced that there is a broader application to leadership beyond the importance of Mary’s “testimony” or the Galatians 3:28 relationship of soteriology to ecclesiological unity. I’ll be waiting with eagerness to see how Scot deals with some of these other texts.

  • Tom #22 and #26
    I am with John. It think your comments are provocative and if addressed have the effect of diverting the discussion into a free ranging debate over the entire landscape of egalitarian vs. complementarian controversy. We know your position. You know Scot’s position and the position of many of us here. The topic is Galatians. What about Galatians?

  • #33 Tom
    As often happens, my request gets answered even while I am composing. Thank you.

  • Tom (#33),
    If you’re leaniong on the term “head” (v 23) in Eph 5 and not on the mutual submission of verse (v 21), I can see you confidence in the Eph text for complementarian. However, egalitarians don’t invest “head” with the meaning you (and others) assign it. As for 1 Tim 2, egalitarians view the text as *ad hoc* addressing specific issues of deceived women (deceived by the false teachers, not because they’re inherently more deceivable than men) in that time and place. There is no interpretive need to see Paul defining “timeless truths” for all cultures even with the appeal to the creation account.

  • Tom Hein

    I pretty much agree with all what Scot has written on Gal. 3:28.
    However, I do not see a direct correlation between gifting and leadership roles in the home or in the church as some posters have stated as they jumped off from Scot’s statements. Just because someone is gifted to do something does not mean that they should do it. And,there are many, many contexts for using ministry gifts. My wife has speaking and writing gifts. She has plenty of ministry, teaching, writing opportunities with women and men, but she’s not going to be an Elder because we don’t see that in the text of 1 Timothy 2 or any of biblical texts addressed to Elders.
    What I wrote elsewhere (#22,26) was in response to some of the other posts, and not to Scot’s post.

  • Tom Hein

    You wrote, “However, egalitarians don’t invest “head” with the meaning you (and others) assign it”
    I respond: Yes, this would be some of the issue, plus the analogy of husband being the head of his wife as Christ is head of the church, a statement that seems pretty clear.
    You also wrote, “As for 1 Tim 2, egalitarians view the text as *ad hoc* addressing specific issues of deceived women (deceived by the false teachers, not because they’re inherently more deceivable than men) in that time and place. There is no interpretive need to see Paul defining “timeless truths” for all cultures even with the appeal to the creation account.”
    I respond: I would put more emphasis on verse 13, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” as justification for why men are to lead, and then on vs. 14 I would agree with you.

  • Just because someone is gifted to do something does not mean that they should do it.
    I guess I will never understand that type of logic. So God gifts someone to do something but never expects them to use that gift? Or is it just humans who give God the finger and say screw your gifts we wont allow them to be used.

  • Benjamin Bush Jr

    Is it possible that this verse is referring to the fact that God is not a respector of persons, whether Male Female, Jew, Greek, Master or Slave?
    This was referred to a number of times in the OT. It is also specifically referred to in Ephesians 6 after dealing with various positions, husband, wife, parents, children, masters and slaves.
    In spite of these distinctions, all have an equal standing before and access to God. On cannot expect favoritism when approaching God because He views us the same in spite of the different positions we occupy. This equal standing is true, even if there are perceived or real discriminations or inequalities taking place in our lives or those around us.

  • Benjamin Bush Jr

    Sometimes, it’s not whther or not a gift is used. It is “how” the gift is used. How do we teach or preach or prophesy or lead or exercise authority. In what capacity do we exercise that authority.
    I guarantee there is no one on this blog who wouold back me in my efforts if I were to say that I had as much right to the Presidency as George Bush, therefore I should be the President. I could say the same about alot of official positions. After all, did God gift those people more than me? Maybe. Were they somehow born with more inalienable rights than me? Obviously not. Yet, pursuant to God’s Word, I am not allowed to hold that position at this time regardless of what I think. But that does not meran that I should not properly exercise whatever authority I already possess from God.

  • Tom,
    Do you believe that some women (and perhaps even some men) are given pastoral/leadership gifts and are then not allowed to use them? If this is the case, why would God gift these individuals with such things? It sounds like a cruel game to me. I would appreciate some clarification on your position if it’s not getting too far away from the intent of the original post.

  • I know you suggest new creation passages as the most significant background passages, but I think it is also possible that the unique wording of Gal. 3:28 is an allusion to Gen. 1:27–neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, not ‘male and female.’
    Having said this, I find it conspicuous that Paul’s (and possibly deutero-Paul’s) later allusions to this possible baptismal formula consistently leave out the male-female pair: 1 Cor. 12:13, Col. 3:11. For whatever reason, I see the early church unable or unwilling to follow the principle through in this age.
    But we have no reason not to enact the kingdom now…

  • Benjamin Bush Jr

    It is a vital point that related to this equality mentioned in Gal.3:28, we are told in a few places that we only have the earnest, the down payment, of our inheritance. There is much more to be revealed at a later time, when we experience redemption in its fullness. Until then we “wait for the redemption of the purchased possession.”

  • Ken,
    Totally agreed on the Gen 1:27 reference, but what I think Paul is doing is taking the UrCreation (Gen 1:27) and undoing it (somehow) in the New Creation.
    Yes, both 1 Cor 12 and Col 3 omit the “male and female” but I’m not yet clear in my mind why Paul does not bring them up there — perhaps because the context didn’t need the mention?

  • Tom (#39),
    I, along with other egalitarians, see no need to invest priority in creation (Adam was created first) with “authority over” in relationships. What if Paul is simply noting the reality of creation as presented in Genesis? What will you do with the parallel “and the woman was deceived, not the man?” Many have pointed out that in Hebrew poetic structure, the ending is the creational climax. Even Adam was stunned at the woman God made. The pinnacle in the story however is not man or woman, but the creation of marriage (Gen 2:24-25)—two equals living and serving under God, having dominion over the earth together.

  • Hi,Mark, you wrote, “I do not think any complementarian would deny any of these things. But gifts and callings to specific ministries are given according to God’s sovereign chose – not every believer has every gift or every “office”. Does this make God unfair?”
    Let me be clear. I don’t think God is unfair. It give me the greatest joy to lay down my life and find it again by trusting God.
    God gives gifts to those he chooses. Nowhere does it say that women can’t have the gift of teaching and prophesying or being apostles.In fact,Scripture says they shall have these gifts poured out in abundance.
    “Do you think women and slaves were excluded in some way under the terms of the Old Covenant?”
    In the old covenant, women and slaves were not excluded by God, but they didn’t have the same legal rights as men. That’s the whole point of the NT stating in so many ways that all believers have the full rights, priveleges and responsibilities of adult male heirs in God’s kingdom.
    “Does not the female “role” of nursing small children exist because of a biological design decision by our Creator?”
    Nursing a baby is not a role, it is a biological function.
    Women bear and nurse children. Those are biological functions, not roles. Mothering, however, is a role that begins once a child is placed in a woman’s care. It’s not dependent on biology. One doesn’t have to give birth to be a mother.
    Hope that clarifies. And if this comment appears twice, I apologize!

  • Without picking on any one person, I think several people have alluded to the idea that this verse really is about salvation, and that it is already a given, “of course salvation of souls is for men and women, what else would be true?” I’m so sure that this was a given for all generations of Christians.

  • I recommend http://www.gal328.org to you.

  • Also, Sarah Sumner’s book, Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership, is an excellent treatment of this subject.

  • Mark, I tried to answer your questions but my comment didn’t show up. I’ll try again if this comment goes through.

  • Diane

    I completely agree with you that it’s how the gift is used that counts. If a man had the gift of childbearing but aborted all his children or abused them after they were born, that would be wrong. But would it be inherently wrong for him to use his gift for the good of building the kingdom of God? Likewise, if a woman used the gift of leadership to lead people to lies or to manipulate them for her own purposes, that would be wrong. That apparently is what Eve did and under the old covenant women were punished for it for many generations. But Jesus atoned for that. I do think that if you use your gifts for the Kingdom, God honors that. I think Jesus alludes to that in a house divided against itself doesn’t stand: what was happening there but that the “unauthorized” were doing good in the name of Jesus and he honored that?
    I do think that everything Paul is driving at is telling people that the Jesus community is not about external social revolution but about a collective transformation of heart such that social distinctions become meaningless because everyone is living in love. I think Paul’s seemingly contradictory statments can be reconciled if we can just understand his conceptual framework better, which I think is what these discussions are about.

  • Benjamin Bush Jr

    The point you make about Hebrew poetry is excellent. If anyone knew Hebrew poetry, it was Paul.
    Is it not significant, then, that he chose to refer to the specific passage he did instead of the climax of the poetry. And isn’t this because he was addressing a specific need that the poetry addressed which meant that the climax was irrelevant for the need at hand?
    In fact, doesn’t the fact that he addressed the first part of the poetry for Timothy signify the importance of that part? Doesn’t his specific mention, coupled with the exclusion of the climax tell us that the climax doesn’t override or eliminate the reality of the first part of creation?
    If the climax was all important, wouldn’t he have mentioned it?

  • Tom Hein

    Linda (#43)
    Question: “Do you believe that some women (and perhaps even some men) are given pastoral/leadership gifts and are then not allowed to use them? If this is the case, why would God gift these individuals with such things?”
    Answer: I see “poimen” (shepherd/pastor) as a function of the ministry of a team of Elders in the local church (and I don’t find women Elders in the New Testament, unless you stretch a text or two such as 2 John verse 1, and I don’t think the stretch works). See Acts 20 for Elders = Shepherds = Bishops. Mature men serve as leaders who teach, shepherd and administrate in the local church. Also see Titus 1:6… An elder is “the husband of one wife…” I realize that we all come from different traditions and terminology, so some of this doesn’t always fit with the way in which you understand local church ministry, and I’m OK with that. I’m just trying to answer your question.
    As for gifting, there are a multitude of gifts given to many people (1 Cor. 12) of both genders. It takes many, many gifted people to do many, many different kinds of ministries. So, I think there will always be plenty of ministries for women (and men). As I wrote, I’m just trying my best to be faithful to the texts.
    Blessings to all of you who read this and agree or disagree with me. Ultimately, those of us who follow the Lord Jesus Christ are brothers and sisters in Christ, and I honor you and appreciate your thoughts. I have some actual work to do tonight, so this is my last tidbit. Sorry to John, I don’t have time to respond any more today, but maybe some other time.

  • Tom,
    I’m just curious. You say, “Also see Titus 1:6… An elder is “the husband of one wife…”
    So, does that mean a man has to be married to shepherd a congregation? Where does that leave Jesus who is the Great Shepherd? According to your interpretation Jesus is disqualified from pastoring.

  • Dana Ames

    Ben, I’ve had my coffee, so the caffeine is aflowin’.
    Please, I ask you- and anyone else reading who thinks our culture is “egalitarian”- please sit down and think about this.
    If our culture REALLY valued women,
    -half the sites on the internet would not exist (I hear that’s how much of it is devoted to pornography).
    -we wouldn’t have had to pass laws to ensure equal pay for equal work (and by the way, women still make only 70% of what men make for doing the same job).
    -95% of domestic violence would not happen. (I believe I read that there is somewhat less domestic violence among Christians, but it’s still there.)
    -there would be no market for female mud wrestlers, Girls Gone Wild videos, or a host of other kinds of “entertainment”.
    -movies would stop portraying beautiful women as life-threateningly dangerous.
    -song lyrics would be different than they are.
    -human trafficking *into this country* for sex would dry up (80% are female; 50% are CHILDREN- that deserves a yell! This is a degrading of all humanity- males and females!)
    The list could go on, but I think that’s plenty of food for thought. There is NO WAY our culture is “egalitarian”. No bloomin’ way.
    The State is not conspiring to break up the family. People are doing it, even Christians are doing it, and they don’t need help from the outside. I like you Ben, I think you’re smart, and compassionate- and I can’t for the life of me figure out how you could believe that claptrap.
    Christians could make a difference with all that stuff I’ve listed, if we were really willing to get involved with people in the messiness of life- if we were willing to look again at what following Jesus means- if we could possibly figure out what “being saved” and “offering salvation” really includes.
    Gotta eat some dinner. If I can.

  • Scot, I like to think that the absence of “male and female” in 1 Cor. 12 is because the Corinthian church has some women causing problems there (thus the strange mention of women leaving their husbands as Jesus tradition when Jesus is far more likely to have indicted men leaving their wives or at least had this emphasis; also the women unveiling in mixed worship, shaming their husbands…). So I can see the Corinthian context steering the language away from a more default “egalitarian” approach. Can’t prove it of course!
    Colossians I find more difficult, but then I again, I go with Jimmy’s “Timothy secretary” hypothesis if I stop short of pseudonymity.
    Thanks for championing this cause!

  • RJS (Waaaay back in #19)
    “But while I think this passage limits some exegesis and interpretation of other key passages of scripture, I do not think that it specifically addresses the issue of women in leadership roles in the church or how God “gifts” people in his church.”
    I wanted to respond to this. I agree that it doesn’t specifically address the issue of women in leadership. However, prior to Christ these distinctions would automatically have precluded all but male Jews in leadership. Gal. 3 removes these barriers. Are there other concerns that might have an impact? It does not say because the passage is not about leadership. But if all are one, then it seems logical to infer, barring restrictions on some other grounds, that everyone would be a candidate for any type of service. This is clearly the conclusion that was drawn from passages like this when consdiering Jews and gentiles. Some see a different issue with women because of the way they interpret other NT passages. I don’t. But that is for a later Jesus Creed dialogs.

  • david m.

    I am always amazed at how God inspires and challenges our thinking. This text is one that I will be preaching on in an upcoming series and these comments have been helpful in developing my ideas. I was rereading this entire section tonight and wanted to make two comments:
    First, I think Paul is trying to highlight the implications of what it means to be baptized into Christ. That is the Jew, the Greek, the slave, the free, the male and female all now becomes Sons of God. And Secondly, because we are now chosen/adopted as Sons each one us is given the Holy Spirit and the promised inheritance.
    This oneness in Christ creates a whole new way of living in relationship with one another. In several places (Romans and Ephesians) Paul tells us that the shedding of Christ’s blood has removed the hostility or barrier that exists between God and his people thus resulting in peace. I believe Paul is saying here in Galatians that the same peace that is experienced in ones relationship with Christ must now be applied to the hostility that exists between males and females, rich and poor, black and white. While the God-give differences still exist we are now called to live at peace with one other because we are one in Christ as adopted sons/daughters who have received the same Holy Spirit and are promised the same inheritance.
    Just a few thoughts on this increadible new life we have in Jesus

  • Here’s a good essay in First Things Journal: http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9704/opinion/nolan.html

  • Dennis Martin

    Regarding # 49 and # 61 please see
    Nolan’s refutation of this calumny was posted last fall in a Jesus Creed thread. To have reposted as fact a refuted claim that originated in a 16thc jokebook by a participant in that thread last fall is disingenuous.

  • Benjamin (#54),
    Wow, you said a lot and I tried to follow the logic. I think you’re right on. All I was saying is that there is no exegetical/interpretive need to invest “authority” into the sequence of male and female creation. It flies in the face of the mutuality of male and female in Genesis 1–“God blessed THEM and said to THEM, ‘Be fruitful…have *dominion*…”. There was one authority–God–and creation sequence does not mention anywhere that God gave greater “authority” to Adam. Does it? You could, of course, read New Testament defintions of “head” and Paul’s 1 Tim 2 reference BACK into the Hebrew text–regressive revelation–we could call it. But there is no need to. Right?

  • See Michael Nolan, “The Defective Male: What Aquinas Really Said,” New Blackfriars, 75 (March 1994), 156-66.

  • Dennis Martin

    What’s the deal with retroactively modifying # 49? It renders no. 61 and 62 incomprehensible?

  • What Dennis is saying is that I have deleted Jennifer’s assertion about the supposed council in 585. Comments in 61 and 62 respond to that assertion. Since the information is false, I don’t want that information to appear here. But, I’m happy to include the links to articles that show the falsity of the supposed council.

  • Mike J

    All comments were great, but I believe Watchman #10 got the closest to my view point. Consider Galations 2:20. Paul said he was “crucified with Christ…” yet it wasn’t Paul who was living but “Christ lives in me…” Regardless of male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, each of us has (or should have) Christ living in us and through us.
    This becomes important in light of the Jewish cultural idea of sonship. The son, especially the first born son, was primary in almost all aspects of the culture: he received the inheritance and the blessing which was of paramount importance to that culture. Jesus is the “Son” (not the “Child”) which allows us to remain faithful to the Jewish cultural model and symbolism.
    Jesus is the “first born” of many. He is the Son of God; He receives the inheritance. Therefore, those who are “in Him” have acces to the inheritance He receives! The New Testament calls us “joint heirs” with Him! We can receive only through Him all with which God blesses us. Without Him, we have no standing, whether male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.
    I have told the women in my Sunday School class that, in spiritual terms, they need to view themselves as “sons” in obtaining anything they need from the Father: they have equal access to Him through Jesus. In a cultural sense, they are like a “son” because of THE Son, and not like a daughter with no access or inheritance.
    My view is Paul is saying regardless of what the culture or society is telling you, in Christ there is no differentiation and any line we might perceive has been erased.
    But, this doesn’t address the sociological aspect of our fallen natures and the practical aspect of our culture. Some men will not listen to a woman because she is a woman, so until he comes to the understanding that she is, indeed, a joint heir, a man needs to preach to him. Some men (and I’m sorry if this offends some readers, but it is what it is) cannot, physically, listen to some women’s voices. To some, it’s literally like fingernails on a blackboard. And how can they believe if they are not taught and how can they be taught if they won’t listen?
    As in all of God’s dealings with us, there is spiritual and there is psychological and there is physical. We must consider all three.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    I am going to go out on a limb here and admit that this is the way I feel – only the other way around.
    Some men (and I’m sorry if this offends some readers, but it is what it is) cannot, physically, listen to some women’s voices. To some, it’s literally like fingernails on a blackboard.
    I have actually walked up to the communion rail for 15 years calculating how I can be sure that I don’t receive communion from a man, ensuring that a man does not hold out the sacrament to me. I don’t want to make a nasty comparison here like “fingernails on a blackboard” but I do feel it.
    Both sides need to be heard.

  • A very interesting, yet somewhat troubling discussion going on here. From my perpsective, Scot has begun to present a solid, biblical basis for both the dignity and equality of women; this in turn can help us understand what God’s Spirit is doing among women in our day. What troubles me as I read some of the comments is that certain individuals, and I won’t name them, seem to view the Scriptures with an eye to limit women despite their dignity, the gifts they have, and to keep women out of leadership positions based on the questionable assumption of being faithful to Scripture. By using a microscopic view of Scripture which locks all intperetation to 1st Century customs without reference to the present work of the Holy Spirit, they end up asserting oppressive positions. For those of you who truly believe that 1 Cor 11:3-10, 14:34-35, 1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-8, Titus 1:6-9, should be interpreted as God’s commands for all people at all times, consider this:
    Although it must have been uncomfortable for some of the 1st Century Christians to accept uncircumcised, lawless, Gentiles into their communities, however, by their sensitivity to the Spirit of God they were able to formally acknowledge that it was God’s leading that they do so (Acts 15). In the same way, we in our day need to exercise the same sensitivity to God’s Spirit in order to embrace his work in our midst. It is certainly safer to forego any such effort of being sensitive to God and instead to attempt to read the Bible as if it already contained all the ready-made answers for every situation. However, this is really a question of whether or not we are willing to relate dynamically to the Living God or to simply stagnate in our already preconceived culturally conditioned understandings of this inspired book. To quote John Cobb,
    It is sad, indeed, that for so many people being a Christian is associated with an idolatrous understanding of the Bible. The writings that should liberate us to think critically and creatively in ever new situations have been turned into bonds that tie us to ancient and outdated notions. We become absorbed in petty and even silly questions that have nothing to do with faith in Christ. Paul’s distressed question to the Galatians applies to the contemporary church as well: ‘Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?’ (3:3).”
    Thus, when the Scriptures which are intended to give us spiritual sustenance, encouragement, and hope are used in such as way as to support ideas such as women are less important or intelligent than men and thus shouldn’t teach, they are surely being misused and cease to be “the word of God” but end up being merely the words of confused, lost men.

  • Chuck,
    I don’t think you will help the argument along by accusing your opponents of views such as “women are less important or intelligent than men”. Doubtless someone somewhere has thought this, but it is not the view of complementarians.
    Also, I am uncomfortable with the way that many egalitarians arguments seem to imply that a woman is only important if she is a preacher. In fact, the desire to be important is the very antithesis of the heart of what a Christian leader is supposed to be. The vast majority of men and women in any church, egalitarian included, will never preach. Do these people have dignity and worth in the exercise of their unique gifts and callings? Of course they do.
    Another thing I find very insulting (and I don’t accuse you of this Chuck) is the regular insinuation that women in complementarian churches are all downtrodden and failing to fulfil their God-given vocations. It is a real slap in the face to the multitudes of vibrant, faith-filled women who are serving in diverse ways the church, community, home, & nations.

  • Mark,
    OK, I’ll rephrase in order to emphasize what I was getting at for your sake: When the Scriptures are used in such a way as to suggest that women are created as deficient to men in the areas of church leadership or Bible teaching, they are being misused. For example,
    You might have heard of Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong-there are a number of books by her and about her. She has a ministry to drug addicts there and has planted churches all over Hong Kong. She can preach, teach, and lead drug addicts to Christ because God has called and anointed her to do so. She has many stories of miracles, of heroin addicts coming off drugs through the power of prayer. She LEADS churches, and is arguably a modern day apostle. So, just out of curiosity, how does anyone who holds the view of Scripture that women can’t or shouldn’t do these things come to grips with her established, powerful ministry?

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    What concerns me more than anything is that women can’t engage on par with men in biblical studies. They can’t study on par, teach on par, discuss on par, because, when it comes to the Bible they are not supposed to “teach adult males”. They can’t have careers like academic posts, with equal access to resources in engaging in research like text criticism or whatever, in many complementarian circles.
    But women do have the equivalent capability and therefore, some women in the complementarian ethic will by necessity, have to stifle some of their skills. There is simply no other way. They will have to be treated like they are perpetual juniors to men all their lives and perform as juniors. Really not worth it.

  • Chuck,
    I go to a newfrontiers church. The group is as a whole complementarian – we had Wayne Grudem over at a recent conference to speak on the subject. But though most speakers are male, we do actually have female speakers, and not just to talk about women’s issues. Examples would be Philippa Stroud (who worked with Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong and is now active in UK politics), Elaine Storkey (president of Tear fund), Amy Orr-Ewing (an apologist with the Ravi Zaccharias trust). Our worship is often led by women (e.g. Kate Simmonds), and a number of the highly regarded prophetically gifted people in the movement are women. Perhaps we’re being inconsistent, but as you say, sometimes you just have to come to grips with God’s gifting on a person even when it doesn’t fit nicely into your categories (even the non-charismatic complementarians seem to be fine with Elizabeth Elliot or Joni Erikkson teaching them!). I am also currently reading a commentary by Karen Jobes which is easily as intellectually thorough as commentaries I have read written by men. Interestingly she left the male dominated world of computer science to follow a path as a Biblical studies teacher.
    Suzanne, your point is a good one. It is a real shame that more women don’t get really into studying the Bible seriously, and it is quite possibly because they see no avenue to teach at the end of it. I am trying to actively encourage all people in the small groups I lead, male and female, to seek to get more into the Bible. I also encourage all of those who have a desire to teach to find contexts where they can (small groups, youth work, blogging even!). But I freely admit that if a woman showed great gifting in these smaller contexts and felt a calling to teach on a wider scale (and felt herself that the Scripture did not exclude this possibility), then that would pose something of an awkward problem in complementarian churches. Hopefully at the very least it would be handled with grace on both sides.

  • Suzanne (#72),
    We should not be reluctant to move the “women in ministry” discussion away from the tedium of exegetical jousting and call the complementarian limitation of women from select leadership (male headship) positions for what it is: an expression of injustice.

  • Mark said, “Also, I am uncomfortable with the way that many egalitarians arguments seem to imply that a woman is only important if she is a preacher.”
    Hmmm, how to answer that…it’s not about wanting to be important, Mark. Men who aren’t preachers aren’t less important than men who are preachers. But a man who is qualified can become a preacher in complementarian circles, while a woman who is qualified cannot. That’s all we’re saying. We’re not devaluing all the other roles women have, just like we don’t devalue to diversity of roles men fill.
    Last night I had a great discussion with some young men who are leaders in my church. I am older than their mothers, by the way. I challenged them to think deeply on a few theological assumptions and they really engaged and learned. Ironically, we were at a bar waiting for a concert by a famous Christian rock band who was making a small venue visit.
    The sad thing is, because I’m a woman and the things I said were not a sermon, the guys don’t consciously recognize the authority of my words. That doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit didn’t use me last night. But it just illustrates how we make false dichotomies about the authority of teaching.
    I could never share these things with the whole congregation and offer them the same “aha” moment these dear young men had.

  • Paul Johnston

    What was the cold blooded killing of our Lord and Savior, if not a monsterous injustice. And yet, what became of the consequences?
    Jesus absorbed the full weight of human institutional injustice. He absorbed it knowingly. As the “Gethsemane” account tells us he was frustrated and fearful but never did he waver. He remained wholly committed to the will of the Father, to the point of sacrificing His very being. By so doing, Jesus Christ, once and for all time, redeemed mankind; saved us from our sins….
    Is seeking political redress from what we percieve to be human injustice the true/right calling of the Christian believer? Did the “good news” articulate a policy of right political action with regard to social injustice? Can any institutional prejudice, however great or small, prevent any of us from experiencing the fullness of a life with Jesus Christ?
    As a Catholic married man, I too am prevented from attaining roles of pastoral leadership within my community. Does that restriction really stagnate my ability to fullfil my Christian potentials? Will not our Lord open whatever other doors are neccessary for me, in order for me to serve Him to the fullest? What really limits my ability to serve Him? A perceived institutional injustice or the limitations of my faith and it’s resolve?
    Anywhere you look in the world today, where there is extreme poverty, catastrophe and injustice, you are likely to find an order of Catholic nuns somewhere close by serving Jesus; serving mankind. Does the so called “injustice” of male headship demean their person; demean their ministry? What does Jesus really think about two women; one who struggles in anonimity and poverty somewhere where the need is great or another who lives a comfortable “western” life, while seeking to alleviate what she perceives to be a personal discrimination?

  • Paul,
    Settle down. You are coming from centuries of male authority in the HRC; your “family” is different from ours. And we applaud the faithful, sacrificial nuns in your tradition. However, this is a Protestant evangelical family feud that took escalated in the 1970s. Many conservative evangelical institutions were not only sending women to the mission field as church-planters and pastors, but were ordaining women for ministry here in this country. Then it became evangelically and politically incorrect. With the invention of this phrase “equal in essence but unequal in function,” injustice spread over the Protestant evangelical world. OK?

  • Paul Johnston

    John, brother in Christ, truthfully sir, I am “settled down.”
    While trying to give some context to my thoughts by acknowledging my Catholic experiences and perspectives, in of themselves, they weren’t the point of my comment in #76.
    I’m simply challenging, (respectfully I assure you) points of view that I believe might be too narrow and self centered an interpretation of what it means for all of us, to be followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
    As for the implication in your post that this discussion isn’t any of my business, please understand that if my point of view seeks to dialogue and understand the transcendant spirituality; the real meaning a life in Christ has for our lives; a little thing like not being Protestant isn’t likely to keep me quiet…lol

  • Paul (#78),
    It seemed to me that you were worked up, especially over my introducing the idea of “injustice.” I admit that I was wrong based on your response. I didn’t mean to remove you from the conversation, but to emphasize that what you offered isn’t going to immediately connect with and sway “the Hatfields and McCoys” on this particular issue. I appreciate your thoughtful responses and your spirit. Peace be with you.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    My problem is that grammar, exegesis and text criticism seem to me to be natural for women. They are tuned into the tedium and detail of manuscripts and lexicons. It feels like a female domain to me. I think half of all exegetes should be women and given equal access to job opportunities in that field.

  • Paul Johnston

    Thanks, John. The feelings are mutual.

  • alice shirey

    Wow … That’s all I can say after reading many of these posts with a pretty sick heart tonight. Wow.
    I spent the last 2 days on the campus of Colgate University with my daughter, who was accepted there, and at several other top-notch academic institutions. Colgate has an eloquent, brilliant, female president who also has an M. Div. from U. of Chicago. To watch her interact with her colleagues (male and female) brought tears to my eyes. She was humble, full of grace, and brimming with wisdom about the power of higher education. She obviously led that university with wisdom and skill. Her male colleagues enjoyed her, validated her giftedness, and deeply respected her. She offered the same respect to them. There seemed to be deep joy found in each other’s talents. To me, it was a beautiful picture of mutual service, respect, and submission that God would want His male and female children to display to the world.
    How ironic that this picture would be played out at a secular university … and oh, so rarely in Jesus’ church.

  • RJS

    It isn’t perfect in secular Universities – not by a long shot and not even in Universities with women in top administrative posts. But the environment is certainly much better – and there is in most cases an eye-to-eye relationship. Certainly this is the ideal and the expectation, even if not always followed through in practice. Blatant discrimination is not tolerated. Frankly the environment has improved a great deal over the last 30 years.
    Unfortunately the environment in the evangelical church has not changed significantly – and I am not even talking about “leadership” or professional ministry per se here – just the whole issue of eye-to-eye conversation. The difference in mode of interaction is palpable. Involvement in the church is a constant exercise in humility and restraint – providing excellent opportunity to develop the fruit of the spirit.
    Like you, I read much of the conversation on these “Women in Ministry” posts with a sick heart.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    It is certainly in the eye-to-eye interaction that I see the difference. In my secular workplace I never feel unequal or patronized. I feel like a normal person.
    But in the church, I feel that men treat me as if I am deluded, that I would have anything to say. I feel patronized, although I am trained as an exegete academically. Really the evangelical church in which I was brought up has absolutely no place for me.

  • Suzanne (#84),
    Your comment “Really the evangelical church in which I was brought up has absolutely no place for me” is no commentary on you, but sadly and glaringly on that church. How many threatened males hide behind their “biblical” superiority…oops! not in essence, but in function?

  • Paul Johnston

    Some personal thoughts… Though unspoken, the “spirit” of this series seems to inspire/construct a complimentarian “straw man” who, unlike the real life men and women I know, is opposed to women in ministry, much less leadership, and worse still probably harbours mysoginist tendencies. My experience with like minded men and woman who support a complimentarian approach is that we defer to church authority, a concrete act of self sacrifice through obedience, and happily engage ourselves in the many good works available to us. Every gift God has given us can be made fully manifest to His glory, irrespective of where we are in the pecking order.
    I have a very traditional RC background and have never met a man who was seriously engaged with the Lord and His church, or his wife or his daughters, or his sisters or his mother, or his friends or his colleagues, or his….(I think you get my point ;)) and at the same time felt superior to womankind.
    Personally, though I have struggled to understand a right sexual posture free from sexually objectifying and demeaning behaviors, I firmly believe with all my heart, that I hold a right love and respect for all women. I think most, if not all, serious complimentarians do.
    My heart, thanks John Frye for helping me recognize the difference in “dialect”, is wholly open to an egalitarian paradigm, (one that includes full rights of leadership for both women and married men) if and when my church believes it to be the right expression of Christ’s will for His church.
    To those who have reflected, in this window, and in others within this series, a general sense of anger, resentment and sickness of heart, I truly desire to better understand your opinions. Unfortunately unless we lovingly dialogue with regards to the particulars of your concerns, and their motivations, I’m not sure how to incorperate your feelings into my sense of understanding.

  • It isn’t just women who are put off by this. In recent years I have found myself in heavy interaction with some complementarian contexts. A few years I ago I made some life decisions to pursue some different uses of my time and that has made my wife the primary breadwinner. Twice I have had complementarian men tell me I was sinning because I was not providing for my wife. (Which earned them a look from me like the one I gave to the guy standing in line at the Motor Vehicle department who asked me if they were beaming the same messages into my head from the satellites that they were beaming into his 🙂 )
    I am not exaggerating when I tell you that when I have been engaged in these contexts to a significant to degree it is culture shock. I realize there is a considerable variability from church to church and from person to person, but as RJS wrote “The difference in mode of interaction is palpable.” The workplace isn’t utopia but it is nothing like what I experience in these contexts. I will say, Paul, that even though I very strongly disagree with their theological position relating to women serving in certain ways, I don’t have this same level of inconsonance in Roman Catholic settings or the few Orthodox settings I have been in. The settings are very different to me.
    I’m frequently viewed as an Evangelical conservative type in my PCUSA world but I can get along well with people who differ from me on variety of issues, either because they are more conservative or more because they are more liberal. However, should I for some reason be compelled to find another worship community, by no means will it be with one that is affiliated with one of these complementarian Evangelical denominations. The climate is foreign to what I experience in the rest of life at it is foreign to what I understand to be taught in the Word.

  • alice shirey

    I really wasn’t trying to start a whole new conversation at the tail end of this post. And I must say that my hat, as always, is off to Scot and what he does here. Never do I feel “sick” when reading what he writes.
    I was simply trying to express this idea of “culture shock” I felt while on the beautiful Colgate campus with my beautiful and gifted daughter, who is a follower of Jesus. It pained me, to be honest, to see such free, easy, collegial interactions between top level male and female leaders … only because the same interactions seem so bizarrely strained in much of the church environment.
    I am fascinated by all the discussion about “what this verse means” and “what that verse means,” and want to be faithful to the heart of Scripture; the heart of Jesus. But, for me, at this season of life and ministry, I’m just not going to get in the fray on the minute details of scriptural exegesis when it comes to what we “allow” women to do or not do within the church.
    I wanted to join the conversation by simply sharing an honest reaction to these two completely different experiences I’d just had: reading all the comments on this post vs. spending two days on the campus of Colgate University. Culture shock is one way to describe it. My other thought was … if all of the folks I was with at Colgate got a peek in at this “controversy” within the evangelical Christian world, I have a very strong hunch they would run the other way and that makes me sad. I am concerned that unless we can handle this issue in a way that is remotely in-touch with the culture in which we follow Jesus, we will eliminate the possibility that many of our friends will ever want to know who Jesus is, not to mention “follow” Him.
    Paul – #86 – I appreciate your thoughts. I found myself wondering, however, if the average male in the evangelical church might say, “You know, I don’t see people behaving in superior ways or implying that men are superior. I just don’t see it at all” because they are not of the gender that is limited simply by gender. (Poor sentence structure, but I hope you see what I mean.) I listened to NPR this morning about what constitutes a “racist comment” and was struck by how differently white people hear things from minorities. So, I appreciate your perspective on real people in the church, but encourage you to continue to listen to the voices of women, who may hear and experience comments and situations very differently because they are female and therefore the comments and situations impact them in ways they will never impact you.
    I also want to say that adhering to a complementarian stance until your church decides otherwise may be seen as an act of humility and submission and if that is what it is for you, I applaud that. For some, however, it may be an act of cowardice and turning a blind eye to injustice perpetuated in the name of God. Understand, I’m not pointing this comment toward you. I’m just trying to make a wider point … that many of us might have said the same about slavery … “I’ll just wait until my church changes its mind about the evil of slavery,” but thank God some folks didn’t do that. Thank God.

  • #88 Alice
    “…if all of the folks I was with at Colgate got a peek in at this “controversy” within the evangelical Christian world, I have a very strong hunch they would run the other way and that makes me sad. I am concerned that unless we can handle this issue in a way that is remotely in-touch with the culture in which we follow Jesus, we will eliminate the possibility that many of our friends will ever want to know who Jesus is, not to mention “follow” Him.”
    My sentiments as well.

  • RJS

    Your post struck a chord with me because I know exactly what you meant – I agree and have said so before. I live in this secular University world.
    And – the reaction of those in the University to this “controversy” within the evangelical world is as you fear – to turn and run, to write off the whole. I have been asked, more times than I care to recall, how I can be an evangelical Christian given how poorly women are treated. This is a bigger turn-off than the science and faith issues.

  • Paul Johnston

    Hi Alice, thank you for the response but unfortunately I find it once again, as has happened on this and other threads within this series, misunderstands my contentions.
    Rather than reiterate, if you’re interested you can read back to some of my earlier comments on this and other windows in this series and if interested please respond to the specifics of exegisis, cathecism and the broader scope of Christian morals that I make reference to. I’ve asked many questions through the persuit of these dialogues and sadly, to me anyways, those who disagree with my position(with the exception of “Beyond Words”) either ignore/misunderstand or in some cases, misrepresent my perspectives.
    With regard to the latter, I’m dissappointed that you took the words of a Catholic man who was trying to show a logical empathy for your perspectives, (given the fact that I too am restricted from certain functions within my Church for reasons of person), but disagrees with egalitarian conclusions and respoke them as the voice of some unknown evangelical, “straw man”.
    Further and unfortunately for the second time on these threads, my misrepresented perspective was then parralleled so as to suggest it supports racism and/or slavery.
    Personally, I take no insult, mostly because I know who I am but also because I sense a generosity of spirit in you, through your writing, that I don’t think means to do that.
    I will say though that I cannot imagine any woman in an affluent, north american church community, upon reflection, who would want to argue that her conclusions of church prejudice in some way mirrors the horror of the african slave experience.
    Finally Alice, the suggestion that some might see my obedience to Church authority as an act of cowardice, is truly bewildering to me. The RC Church is my spiritual parent. It has a long history of tradition, experience and service to the Lord our God. It comes to it’s conclusions carefully, after much sober reflection and critical study. It seeks to be wise and discerning, in the name of the Lord. It gives me instruction in love, for love. I make efforts to obey It’s authority as a tangible reciprocation of that same love.
    No more, no less.
    Paul Johnston
    P.S. I hope my words don’t seem harsh, Alice. I truly do not mean them to be.
    May His peace be with us.

  • Paul #91
    “Further and unfortunately for the second time on these threads, my misrepresented perspective was then parralleled so as to suggest it supports racism and/or slavery.”
    I did not read Alice’s statement to any way suggest that your position supports racism or slavery. Abolition of slavery is not explicitly taught in scripture yet Christians have come to oppose all slavery based on a larger narrative of scripture. It is held that women occupy a certain status with regard to men in the Bible that is culturally transcendent but some believe the larger narrative tells a different story. It is in this sense that I think Alice is making a comparison. If we are willing to move to a different ethic regarding slavery, then why not with women. Or conversely, if we can not reconsider this issue with women why were able to with slavery. That is a valid comparison assuming the position that the church has held uniform positions on slavery and then reversed it.
    It turns out that with slavery or women there have been considerable variations with how the issues were dealt with across the centuries. Slavery was all but abolished prior to 1000 CE because of the Church’s prohibition against holding another baptized person as a slave. As Europe became Christian slavery vanished. It re-emerged in the 15th century with colonization in Africa and America. The Popes stood against slavery but were powerless to enforce their position against powerful nation states who opposed them. So at least with the Roman Catholic context, it is not entirely correct to say that the church embraced slavery and then reversed it.
    However, in some influential American Protestant circles in the 18th and 19th century explicit theological justification was given for slavery. Furthermore, this justification was grounded in the way hierarchical way God had created the world and direct links and comparisons were made to the fact that just as women were created to be subordinate to men, so were slaves to be subordinate to their master. Slavery, while not mandated, was an acceptable part of God’s ordained order. It was maintained that the abolition of slavery would destroy the entire social order and bring chaos to society, including the ordained hierarchical relationship between men and women. Many opposed to women in leadership in Protestant circles today try to characterize the championing of women in leadership as purely an affectation of secular feminism that arose in the 1960s. Any reading of American history will show that the modern struggle on this leadership issue extends back to the mid 19th Century and is directly tied to the exegesis that came from abolitionists. Therefore, it is entirely legitimate to draw comparisons.
    You experience this comparison as an attempt to impugn your heritage and position. In the Protestant perspective, unwillingness to acknowledge the linkage of the two feels like a disingenuous attempt at historical revisionism. I think a lot of this depends on the context we are bringing to the discussion.

  • Donna

    Alice,Michael,RJS, I understand your thinking and I’ve experienced it myself working in the secular areas of medicine and law. Does anyone have any insights or thoughts on how women from cultures where they are subservient ( muslims for ex.) are ministered to and taught from the complimentarian view. I would like to begin to research that not sure where to start or who to ask…like a comparitive study,church planting etc. Sorry if got of topic as this might be more of a missions type question,but still relates to women.

  • Donna

    PS… despite what our view of the UN -United Nations role
    is in the world whether effective or not I have to admit it appears God is using it in many ways more than the christian church to bring deliverance to women and oppressed peoples.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    What if their paternalist fantasies had come true, and a world of kindly slave masters had developed? Would slavery be acceptable? Of course not. Even a well-treated slave is diminished by his status. As a social or legal institution, slavery has built into it a denial of the social basis of self-respect: it defines the slave as lower in status by denying that she could have personal aims worthy of consideration and rejecting the enslaved person’s right to manage his or her own affairs.
    When you’re a slave, someone else is in charge of your life. What keeps the wound from healing is that this subordination is something you inherited from your parents and will pass along to your children.

    This is an excerpt from a recent article by Kwame Appiah on slavery.
    The comparison stands, to treat one’s other as less, as having a different status, as created for subordination, is an insult to the human dignity of that person.
    In response to Donna, I have read recently in a book by a missionary how he explicitly counselled a woman to return to her abusive husband. He was proud of the fact that he could bring about this witness to the gospel. It was published in the 1980’s – maybe a less informed era – I would hope.

  • Alice, my RCA sister,
    I think you are hitting on another very important, perhaps most important, point. The weighing of one’s missional effectiveness in a culture that has largely embraced the equality of women. I think more and more complimentarians who desire to be effective in mission in urban contexts in particular, are re-thinking their exegesis and finding it to be wanting in light of the work being done by people like Linda Belleville, John Stackhouse, NT Wright, William Webb, Rebecca Groothuis, and to be honest, Michael Kruse! They read blogs like this one and ask themselves why on earth they are holding to a position that a) is killing them missionally, and b) they can no longer defend with confidence.
    >>complementarian Evangelical denominations. The climate is foreign to what I experience in the rest of life at it is foreign to what I understand to be taught in the Word.

  • eek… somehow my comment on Michael’s comment got deleted. seeing that this thread is already about off the page…I’ll just say: I agree.

  • You are too kind Fred, thanks. (BTW, check is in the mail.) 🙂
    I think you are right about missional effectiveness pressing the issue to the foreground.

  • Paul Johnston

    Michael #92.
    Thanks for some historical perspective on the differences between Catholic and Protestant responses to the horror that was the African slave experience.
    With regard to the rest of your response, I believe you missed my talking points, those being;
    1. My views were not heard and responded to in context; as those of a married Catholic man who likewise by reason of person is restricted from certain offices, but rather recast as an “average male evangelical”
    2. This “average male evangelical”/the Catholic complimentarian apologist formerly known as Paul,:) by reason of the fact that he is not gender restricted doesn’t understand gender restriction. (Please feel free to reread talking point #1 ;))
    3. Curiously,(you tell me what it would mean to you) the next point made is with regard to what constitutes a “racist comment”. It speaks to how white people/”average male evangelical?/ the CCA formerly known as Paul??, hear things differently. While I am not specificly or directly referred to as a racist, I am advised to “keep listening.”
    4. In conclusion I’m told that my deferring to church
    authority can be viewed as an act of cowardice. Not a view subscribed to by Alice, “if” it is a sincere act of humility and submission it “may” be viewed otherwise, but one she apparently thinks others can legitimitly conclude. Perhaps with regard to me and most certainly with regard to others like me.
    This conclusion can be drawn because some people, people like me who deffered to church authority, by so doing supported the “evil of slavery”….
    hence my response, ““Further and unfortunately for the second time on these threads, my misrepresented perspective was then parralleled so as to suggest it supports racism and/or slavery.”….
    Michael, as for your not seeing the “parrallels suggesting” my support of racism and/or support of slavery, all I can do is file that under “things that make me go hmmm.”

  • Paul, as to your points #1 and #2, your married status is a chosen status. Being female is not. You are not excluded by the very nature of your being. That is what is at the crux. No one is saying that the experience of women today is comparable to the oppression of African slaves. What is comparable is that one group of humanity is excluded from certain human activities (or at a minimum trivialized in the participation in these activities) by the nature of their being. If you are not among the excluded on this basis it is hard grasp exactly how that feels.
    Just as a quick aside, I frequently get the come back here that women can have children and men can’t. Thus women have been assigned some “roles” men don’t have. Childbearing is not a human trait, it is a mammalian trait. We share it with a host of other species on the face of the planet. What makes us distinctly human are things like the capacities to love, to use moral discernment, to reason, to teach, to create, to organize others for a common mission, etc. Both the issues of African slavery and the hierarchical gender framework exclude one class of humans (people of dark pigmentation and people of a particular sex) from participating in the full range of human expression. (And there may or may not be legitimate reasons for doing so but let us not gloss over the reality that this is indeed the case.)
    “While I am not specificly or directly referred to as a racist, I am advised to “keep listening.””
    And what I took Alice’s comment was not that you are a racist but that you might be a sexist, so keep listening. 🙂 She was listening to a NPR story about a group of people who get excluded based on some aspect of their being and identified with that. She was transferring the lessons learned there into this context. Rather than hearing “You exclude women, therefore you must be a racist as well,” I heard, “You oppose racisim, why do your therefore exclude women? Please engage this with me by truly listening and, by way of analogy, think about the race question.” The attempt is to get you to apply the logical that is applied to slavery/race to the issue of women. I think you are flowing the argument in the opposite direction of what was intended.

  • We are presently working our way through Kenneth Bailey’s DVD series Women in the New Testament: A Middle Eastern Cultural View. We were going over lesson four of six today and he made a passing remark about Gal. 3:28, which I had not picked up on before. The correct translation of verse 28 is:
    …neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female…
    Some translations errantly translate this “male nor female” to keep the pattern in tact. Bailey argues, as do many other scholars, that this particular phraseology is a direct quote of the Genesis 1:27 passage.
    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
    So in what sense is “male and female” being undone from what Genesis explicitly said was Gods intention. Actually none. Bailey argues that what Paul was addressing was the teaching of the Hellenized Rabbis who had become so deeply influenced by Greek thinking and had fallen away from the elevated status of women in the Old Testament. These rabbi’s were teaching that women were lesser because of the created order and woman were created to be man’s “helper” (Genesis 2:18), which they interpreted more as a house servant than an equal co-regent over creation. As Scot pointed out in his post on Genesis, the creation stories themselves give no significance to the order of creation and the Hebrew word translated “helper” is often used of God as one who brings superior strength to one in need. Paul was challenging the “male and female” construct that the Hellenized rabbis were teaching and so clearly expressed in their prayers to God thanking God that he had not created them as women. (See #16)

  • Paul Johnston

    Michael, I could say a lot but I won’t.
    I will say that I don’t think you’re giving my perspectives objective consideration; I think you’re being partisan.
    Consequently I withdraw from this dialogue.

  • Sorry to hear that Paul. I regret that you interpret as partisan what I assure you was a genuine attempt to bridge the gap between understandings. I hope to see you around in future dialogs.

  • alice shirey

    Just back from another college visit, so missed most of this discussion of the last 2 days. Again, I really did not mean to start something, to cause people to feel misunderstood, to create a “straw man,” to accuse folks of being racist, to compare sexism to slavery, to disrespect the Catholic church … etc. I really just meant to bring up issues that keep rearing their heads in my life, as I traverse the path between the “world of the church” and “the world.” Navigating this road creates a weird schizophrenia in me and causes me to wonder all kinds of things … sometimes I wonder aloud in this space because it feels safe and I can usually elicit thoughtful, intelligent responses … even when they differ from my train of thought.
    I like a good, hard-edged discussion, but if you knew me, you would know I don’t mean to hurt others or create division or controversy. Lord knows, we have enough of that. And Lord knows, I create enough of that simply by standing up on Sundays to teach from God’s Word. It’s kind of like getting up to bat with an 0-2 count before a pitch ever gets thrown.
    Paul, I know the tendency to want to pull out of these conversations, trust me. I haven’t posted for a long time as I found some of these conversations wounded me. Some of that has to do with the nature of our communication … you know? I’m sure if you and I sat down together and could communicate face-to-face, we would find much common ground and could explain misunderstandings and miscommunications. I would encourage you to stay in this … when your spirit allows. We followers of Jesus need to find ways to communicate together about hard issues, if not for our own selves, then for the sake of a watching world.
    I appreciate the insight from all of you. Especially those of you who really do navigate in the secular world (Is the world outside the church really “secular?”) But, you know what I mean. Will this issue of women and men and roles and rules cause us to lose any credibility we still have with a watching world? As one of my good friends would say, “I’m sore afraid …” 🙂
    Peace to all of you.