Who Says What’s an Egalitarian?

Who Says What’s an Egalitarian? July 1, 2013

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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