TGC, Women, and Krish Kandiah

TGC, Women, and Krish Kandiah February 2, 2015

TGC chose to republish a video with D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper about their beliefs about the roles of women and courage to hold true to the Bible and critique of the lack of courage on the part of those who don’t hold those views. That seems a fair description.

Because they reposted their video I thought it would be good to repost Krish Kandiah’s original response to that video. Before we get to his response I want to make an observation or two about this so-called “courage.”

Courage is determined by one’s social group. It takes no courage at Northern Seminary to affirm women in ministry while it might take more than a little courage in some TGC churches or conferences to stand publicly for women as senior pastors and pulpit preachers. To say it again, it takes no courage in TGC settings to stand against women in ministry while it would take some courage to stand up in a class at Northern and oppose women pastors.

Thus, for the folks in this video to posture themselves as courageous is to say they are in a safe tribe that will support their views. It takes no courage for them to say folks in other settings don’t have their courage.

Put differently, the claim of courage is little more than patting one another on the back. [Now to Krish Kandiah’s piece.]

Used by permission

Just in case it needs reiterating- the views represented on my blog and in this post are my own – I am not speaking on behalf of any organisation that I work for.

If you know me a little or if you have read this blog before you know I love Tim Keller. He is one of my favourite authors and preachers. His gracious tone makes him one of a very small number of people I know of who have the capacity to take on the role of Global elder statesman in the mold of John Stott and Billy Graham (in his prime). I have had the opportunity to tell him this in person. I also had the opportunity to ask him directly about one area where I found his position puzzling. It was on the role of women. Tim was one of the founders of the Gospel Coalition whose name suggests that it is a gathering of Christians around the gospel. Indeed on the Gospel Coalition website it says “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.”

Included in the Gospel Coalition’s founding documents are very clear statements around the distinctive roles of men and women in church and home:

God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.

Now of course groupings such as these have the right to include and exclude any one they like from their membership. What saddened me was that Tim Keller speaks very highly of the work of Intervarsity and IFES and in fact I have heard him talk about the fact that his theological and apologetic formation happening through such groups. IFES has always taken a clear distinguishing line between first and second order issues and never sought to make views on gender roles an issue that would exclude others from fellowship or ministry. So as one of the founders of GC I was surprised that Keller would include this in his list of entry requirements.

When I had the privilege to spend some time with Keller I asked him if he thought views on the role of women were part of the gospel, he said they weren’t but that they were very important. I came across this video recently on the GC website where along with Don Carson and John Piper he goes a lot further. To say I found this video discouraging is an understatement:

Very recently I commended Keller on some fantastic rules of engagement he had produced on how to deal with views that he didn’t agree with. Particularly:

  • Never attribute an opinion to your opponents that they themselves do not hold.
  • Represent your opponents’ position in its strongest form, not in a weak ‘straw man’ form.
So it was sad to hear the arguments used in this little 17 minute video. Yes I think that Keller was the person offering the most conciliatory and bridge building role in this dialogue – but he neither disagreed nor challenged those expressed by his fellow participants. Here’s what I heard being used as arguments against including egalitarians in the gospel coalition, I am open to be corrected of course.

1. Having a non-complementarian view of gender roles means you have a “loose approach to scripture.” (Keller)

This seems to transgress two of Keller’s main rules in engaging with “opponents.” As an egalitarian I have a very high view of scripture so I am being attributed a view that I don’t own. Secondly no one in this discussion has engaged with egalitarianism in its “strongest” form. Carson dismisses other views of reading Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2 as reconstructionist and does not tackle any of the biblical texts or theological themes that egalitarianism at its best draws upon. Yes it is true that some egalitarians use purely cultural and sociological arguments – just as it is true that some complementarians do ( I was at a told recently that women buy more new age books than men so they obviously are not fit to teach or lead.) But again using this kind of argument is not dealing with the theological position in its strongest form.
Even when Keller tries to soften his statement by saying that “there are plenty of people” only loosen things on this issue and then “keep it tight everywhere else,” the point is still that egalitarians cannot hold to a high view of scripture and come to their conclusions – it has to involve loosening their grip on scripture at some point.
The problem with the argument that people who take a different view on the role of women are “loose with the scripture” is that it assumes that there is only one way of reading scripture on this issue. As Carson rightly notes in his opening comments – that is not how the GC understand the way that evangelicals read scripture when it relates to Baptism or Church Government. For me to argue that I have met more people that have turned away from gospel doctrines such as belief in the resurrection or the uniqueness of Christ that also held paedobaptist views – see for example the large number of self described liberal presbyterians or anglicans – would be a facile and prejudiced line of reasoning.

2. Trajectories (John Piper)

Piper’s line of reasoning here is that to take a different view on gender roles will lead to changes in view on homosexuality. This seems to contradict Keller’s rule “never attribute to your opponent a view they do not hold” or even more explicitly never “attribute to antagonist no opinion that he does not own, though it be a necessary consequence.” It is true that some egalitarians have argued that the church should change its views on the role of women and our views on the practice of homosexual sexual intercourse. But it is also true that some have argued that male headship in the home is license for domestic violence against women. Neither of these views are “necessary consequences” and so Keller is wise to argue that you shouldn’t assume the worst when engaging in conversation. But this is precisely what Piper does. As an egalitarian I believe that leadership roles are available to men and women in the church, this does not lead me to change my views on homosexual sex.

Perhaps there is a contextual issue at stake here. Perhaps things are different in the US? Two examples from the UK. The first UK denominations to ordain women were the Salvation Army (c.1870 ) and the Baptist Union of Great Britain (c.1920); neither are liberal today. (Thanks to Steve Holmes for this information). Perhaps a wider contextual awareness may help. But the bigger point is – just because some egalitarians change their minds on homosexuality -doesn’t necessitate that all will. For example just as many complementarians end up becoming AngloCatholic doesn’t mean all will.

3. Egalitarians apparently dont know the difference between men and women – we have nothing to say to 8 year old children on the issue of gender (cf John Piper).

This is a straw man/woman (!) argument. To argue that men and women both have the opportunity to lead in the church does not mean that all egalitarians see no differences between gender. It is true that we may not agree with some of gender differences that some complementarians attribute to men and women – mainly because we think that those differences owe more to culture than biblical exegesis. I have heard a number of complimentarians argue that all women want to be “rescued” and lead by strong men. But this leaves little room for biblical women role models such as Esther, Deborah or Priscilla.

4. Gender is an issue of this time ( baptists and paedobaptists used to argue but this is not the issue that is addressing our culture) (Carson)

I would love to understand how Carson understands the polyvalence of the Bible on the issue of baptism and why it is different from the role of women. I can’t believe that Carson is arguing that our willingness to believe the hermenteutical best of those who read the Bible differently to us on baptism is just an accident of history. As Keller argues your view on women is not a central gospel truth but surely your views on how someone is saved is part of the gospel. Some of my Anglican paedobaptist friends believe it is possible for someone to be saved without personal faith in Christ and that on the basis of promises made by Godparents an infant is regenerate and included into the body of Christ. To argue that this is not an important issue for our time seems to reduce the importance of the gospel. To elevate gender roles above the issue of how salvation operates seems strange to me – but I may have misunderstood Carson on this one, or it is possible he is not being entirely consistent.
I find it hard to believe that the rise of egalitarianism is seen as one of the most pressing dangers facing the church and the culture – above global poverty, gun control, the environment…

5. Confusion on Gender is part of what is at the heart of what is wrong with our culture (Carson)

It seems that Carson is arguing that the breakdown of the family in many western contexts is due to a more egalitarian view of gender roles. I would love to see the evidence for this. Isn’t it possible to argue that while the church has been predominantly complimentarian we have seen the greatest increase in family breakdown.

6. Lack of courage (Piper) “If you arent willing to stand against the tide on this issue you will cave on other issues – gospel issues.”

This doesn’t seem to be portraying egalitarians in their strongest terms. It also contradicts Keller’s fifth rule of engagement “Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing theology–because only God sees the heart.” Writing off egalitarians as cowards is hardly a theological critique. I would like to understand why Piper and Keller who participated fully at the Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization seem so completely unaware of itscommitment on the issue of unity across views on gender roles:

We recognize that there are different views sincerely held by those who seek to be faithful and obedient to Scripture. Some interpret apostolic teaching to imply that women should not teach or preach, or that they may do so but not in sole authority over men. Others interpret the spiritual equality of women, the exercise of the edifying gift of prophecy by women in the New Testament church, and their hosting of churches in their homes, as implying that the spiritual gifts of leading and teaching may be received and exercised in ministry by both women and men.[96] We call upon those on different sides of the argument to:

  1. Accept one another without condemnation in relation to matters of dispute, for while we may disagree, we have no grounds for division, destructive speaking, or ungodly hostility towards one another;[97]

7. We are not listening to what scripture says on its own terms “it is not listening to what God says” to take a contrary view on this is “not to tremble at God’s word” (Carson)

Carson joins in the attack on the character of egalitarians – again contradicting Keller’s rule “Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing theology–because only God sees the heart.” Basically we are trembling at God’s word if we agree with Carson’s apparently infallible reading of the gender texts.


I contend that it is possible to have a high view of scripture and believe that women can take on leadership roles in the church.
I contend that egalitarians are not all cowards – sometimes egalitarians have faced significant opposition from conservative friends and colleagues because of where their reading of scripture have taken them.
I contend that the role of women in leadership in the church is not an unasailable division – if we have found a way to find unity in diversity on baptism surely we can on this issue.
I have benefitted greatly from the ministry of all of the men in this video, they have produced some brilliant books and materials, its such a shame this video is not up to their usual high standards.
I would like to encourage the Gospel Coalition to reconsider its position in light of Keller’s very helpful rules of engagement and consider removing this inflammatory and insulting video. I would like to suggest a dialog between evangelical complementarians and egalitarians modelled on Keller’s rules that can genuinely engage with each other’s convictions at their best and explore ways we can find unity in the gospel rather than division on this matter.

Post Script

I have been asked to provide some reading material to help read Egalitarianism at its best.
Here’s my limited list – very happy for other suggestions:
6. Women in the Church: A biblical Theology of Women in Ministry, Stanley Grenz
Here are some others recommended through social media ( I have not read them… yet)
Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters’ by Philip B Payne
Women and Authority, Ian Paul , Grove Booklets
I suffer not a woman’. Kroeger & Kroeger;
‘Women & Religion’ Clark & Richardson.

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  • It is good and right to point out the contrast between Keller’s own guidance and the contents of this video. The contrast between their conduct and their commitment made at and with Cape Town is equally important.

    It’s just sad. Lausanne is a wonderful example of a coalition truly built around the gospel. The organizations ought to switch names. Perhaps more importantly, the men in this video ought to either retract some of their statements in it, or withdraw from Lausanne, and do so publicly with their reasons made clear.

  • sanctusivo

    If the non-complementarians really lacked courage, then there would be no need for Piper’s insults. That such egalitarians take a stand evidences both their courage and his fear-and-mongering.

  • Don Bryant

    It takes courage to hold to complementarianism in general. I don’t think your reading of “in your own tribe” is the setting being referred to. Clearly they know it doesn’t take courage to hold to what your friends are holding to among your friends. In general complementarianism runs across the grain of our culture and among the broader set of Protestants. This seems to me to obviously be their point.

  • Jeff Blair

    Great article, Scot. I have to say, Keller looks uncomfortable almost the entire time Carson and Piper are talking. In fact, I think his illustration from Henry V is in response to the comments of the other two and is gentle attempt to turn the conversation toward a more irenic tone. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Dr Keller were sympathetic to your observations.

  • While I agree that “their point” is courage to stand up against culture (rather than “against their own tribe”), I would argue that it really doesn’t take as much courage to stand against culture (when one’s tribe is with you) as it does to stand against one’s own tribe (even if the culture is with you).

  • Phil Miller

    I don’t think courage should be confused with stubbornness or simply being obstinate. In general, for men, taking a position one way or another on this doesn’t cost much. I suppose there are certain times when taking a position could cost someone a job, but most of the people are simply towing the party line.

  • Don Bryant

    So true. It does take more courage to resist one’s own. Only God knows how much compromise goes on inside a person to remain in the home tribe. It’s a “terror-able” thing. I have friends who have gone the ten rounds for the pension thing on both sides of the issue. Your own tribe can exact a price the culture cannot.

  • Bill Donahue

    I am not sure whether I am sadder or angrier about those who make such terrible, bullheaded remarks. The TGC has 55 people on their leadership body — ALL men! (because the Bible teaches that if you have a non-profit organization that is Christian, only men can sit on the advisory board!).

    These voices crying out in their self-made wilderness (perhaps sounding a bit loud now, but even in some conservative circles growing fainter each year) will fade even as their “theological” support crumbles under the increasing weight of biblical and theological study done by male and female scholars! They remind me of Blefuscu and Lilliput, who were so big and mighty, proudly defending their territory, until Gulliver arrived and their smallness became so apparent.

    Perhaps from both blindness and fear/arrogance, they cannot see that how their selective interpretive methods, used only with a few isolated texts, if applied to slavery, for example, would make that practice normative for today (a kinder slavery to be sure, but just as oppressive and restrictive). Their reactions (not really responses) to clear truth about what the Bible teaches (!) about women in leadership — and modeled in church history — are often fear-based, ill-informed, smug and condescending, aligning with similar fundamentalist views in other areas (the ranting of KJV-only types, Hyper Calvinist, or other regularly combative tribes.)

    They ignore key interpretive principles when handling the Timothy and Corinthian texts, overlay an OT patriarchal priesthood system onto the text, ignore the clear example of women leading men (chosen by God, like Deborah), might as well tear Romans 16 out of the Bible, ignore the primacy of Priscilla in the relationship with Aquila (note word order, and her roles as teacher, leader and co-church planter with him), and have a narrow, wooden view of Scripture and its implications for men and women in the church. (Do the wives of these cowering “men” call their husbands “Lord?”). Are they so insecure?

    There may be some young zealots who align with them (YRR types), but a rising generation of clear thinking, biblically grounded, theologically astute, and mostly very humble young women (and courageous men!!) are rising up against this nonsense, not by returning insults and heavy-handed rhetoric that is used to marginalize them, but by their transforming, loving actions leading and discipline and preaching and building ministry.

    Lead on Ladies. This is a historic moment in history and you are here for such a time as this. Like the civil rights movement (where evangelicals finally arrived albeit late to the fray), it is time to speak the truth in love, offer non-violent resistance, and take your rightful seat alongside men at the front of the bus. No more ignoring Romans 16 (like the Masters Seminary saying,”We train MEN as if lives depended on it!” In line with Jesus and Paul, we train WOMEN and MEN as if lives depended on it!!

    Within churches, schools and non-profits, this is a movement of the Holy Spirit and it will not be stopped. Thank God. Rise up O Men…and Women… of God.

  • Jeff Blair

    Courage implies the possibility of significant loss. What is clear is that each of these three men would stand to lose much more by going against the grain of complementarianism than the ‘loss’ they might ‘suffer’ by holding to complementarianism. It’s hard to see how holding to a position which will cost you less could be described as courageous. Courage, of course, is irrelevant to the conversation anyway; it shouldn’t be a part of the dialogue between brothers and sisters who are having an in-house debate. I seriously doubt whether courage has anything to do with why Dr McKnight or Dr Keller hold the positions they do.

  • Don,

    Do you see any issue with the contrast b/n (i) Keller’s own principles and this video’s content, and/or (ii) the Lausanne/Cape Town Commitment these men made and the video’s content?

    Further, as a broader issue, I find it unfortunate that TGC has chosen such a broad name and purported focus (“Gospel”), but made their coalition conditioned on more (reformed, complementarian, etc.). I have no beef that reformed complementarians want to parter up, but would prefer if they would use a name that made it clear that they have more particular requirements and focus than the gospel alone as the basis for their fellowship. It’s ironic that the Lausanne / Cape Town effort sounds more locally formed and focused, while TGC sounds more universal for all Christians, when the opposite is true.

  • There is a point at the end where Piper speaks of TGC and the Church (proper not local) interchangeably as if to suggest there is not distinction between them. I believe that that wasn’t simply a slip of the tongue but rather, if I’m candid, one of the underlying assumptions that guides why these conversations are not conducted with more care and end up producing more strife than help within the Church.

    While Keller is helpful in many ways and TGC continues to move towards his more balanced posture, at some point he has to be guilty by association. It’s not enough to hold him in high regard and ignore the company and coalitions he keeps.

  • M.A.N.

    Your comment was very encouraging, Bill. It’s nice to see that other people see this as well.

  • Bill Donahue


  • And then this happened – a man stands up and attempts to contest Bishop Libby Lane’s ordination.

  • I think there is a difference between a complementarianism informed by 1950’s gender roles and one informed by the Bible. Perhaps many don’t.

    Andreas Kostenberger puts it like this…

    “Scripture doesn’t give a lot of detail as to how God’s design for man
    and woman is to be worked out, so a traditional division of labor (women
    in the kitchen, changing diapers; men at work letting women do all
    household chores) doesn’t square with the biblical design (we’ve
    discussed the inadequacy of labels here)…There is flexibility within the
    basic framework, and each couple has unique circumstances in which to
    work out God’s design and plan for them personally, both leader and
    partner. The biblical pattern is loving, self-sacrificial
    complementarity where the couple partners in conscious pursuit of God’s
    mission. Marriage is part of God’s larger purpose of reuniting all of
    humanity under one head, the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10).”

    And then…

    “Succinctly put, the overarching model that many have
    implicitly understood in recent years has been male leadership and
    female submission…we believe that this approach may unduly constrain the
    woman’s role and contribution in marriage and the church. We might
    rather categorize the biblical teaching in these terms: male leadership and female partnership.”

    Hannah Anderson wrote a great book on men and women as image bearers in an attempt to peel away the gender role influences of the 1950’s – Made for More: An invitation to live in God’s image.

  • scotmcknight

    My point, David, is that we speak in concrete cultural and social contexts, not national ones. They are speaking from a circle of friends, and so am I and so are you. Sure, our national culture is not complementarian but I have to say that in most TGC contexts that culture is not interested or not listening. That’s not a criticism but the social reality.

    If each of them had a column in the NYTimes or the Chicago Tribune or LATimes or USAToday, the national context would come into play.

  • cornofear

    In the title and the body you mention Krish Kandiah, but then never get back to him. Where is his response?

  • Curvie Model Inc

    On point 5, the breakdown of the family is not due to complimentarianism in the church, it’s due to the loss of gender roles in our country’s culture. The point is, if the church follows suit, it will destroy us. In my own Christian marriage by default I have ended up financially supporting our family. You have no idea the effects this has. It’s a domino effect into every corner of intimacy.
    I have been to the Gospel Coalition women’s conference and heard these 3 speak on the subject myself. I’ve also heard Kathy Keller speak and seen Tim and her interact- there is no one suffering here and it’s beautiful to watch them each giving their different contributions to the Glory of God.
    Your points seem to be grasping at straws to make your point.

  • Bill Donahue


  • Phil Miller

    It seems to me that one could easily read the causation the other way. What I mean by that, is that we could create a case that the breakdown of traditional gender roles has a lot to do with the wage stagnation and decline in the middle class. Today, the only families that can really survive on one income are those where one spouse makes a relatively high salary. Otherwise, it’s simply not possible for those gender roles to exist. In any case, those gender roles are sort of red herring when it comes to this issue. Those really have more to do with a certain vision of what a nuclear family should look like that is more cultural than Biblically mandated.

  • Curvie Model Inc

    “Wage stagnation and decline in the middle class” is due to women stepping out of their roles. I am one of those women who resents feminists…they fought for so called ‘choices and options’ now we don’t have the option to keep our traditional roles. I’m not suggesting everything was perfect before and that women aren’t created for more than cooking, cleaning, and baby making, but my husband doesn’t even feel like a man anymore and all that additional competition in the workplace because women must work now…it’s just all messed up :-/
    We have 1 child and would love more but my job doesn’t allow me to carry a child.

  • Curvie Model Inc

    I was at a birthday party with all church mommies and kids and I was the only one who works (in NYC!) and I have 1 child compared to their 4-6…I left feeling less than a woman…

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I once posted a comment that they should call themselves The Complementarian Gospel Coalition, but the post was quickly purged. By declining to avoid overstating their position, they self-repudiate it.

  • RJS4DQ

    The article after the link (used by permission) was written be Kandish.

  • Phil Miller

    I don’t really think you can blame feminists for the current situation. While it is true that women’s overall participation in the workforce has increased since 1970, a good deal of those increases have been in fields that were seen as OK for women to be – dental assistants, secretaries, nurses, etc. So even before 1970, there were women working these types of jobs. The overall rate of women in the workplace went from 38% to 47%. So it’s hard for me to believe that 9% increase is responsible for society’s problems. Those women aren’t stealing all the good-paying jobs for men. There are larger forces at work. I personally would say it’s mainly combination of globalization and tax policy.

  • Lisa

    If you were made to feel less-than, then firstly, I am sorry, and secondly, I would suggest that the “church mommies” have elevated following certain gender roles above the gospel itself (James, Galations, etc are full of exhortations to welcome others, that we are all one in Christ, etc)

  • Curvie Model Inc

    I don’t think it’s any way they act towards me, I think it’s my own longing and feeling ‘stuck’ where I’m at. If anything I get annoyed cause they act so burdened by having to be home all day with the kids when they have no idea how blessed they are lol! It’s my own ‘stuff’ and The Lord is walking through it with me 🙂 I trust His plans purposes ultimately but I get spiritual amnesia at times!

  • ao

    That’s very sensitive of you, but if you have to read into Keller’s body language and allusive illustrations in order to find his sympathy with Krish’s observations, then Keller’s handling of the situation is all the more disappointing. He had plenty of chances to *say* something–anything–that reflects Krish’s concerns, but he didn’t. Indeed, based on Keller’s *words* (e.g. Krish’s Point 1), a reasonable read would be that Keller’s not sympathetic to Krish’s concerns, or is at least lacking the…courage?…to say he is.

  • Deborah West

    Thank you. That doesn’t seem to be enough, but again, thank you. We need good, courageous, Christian WARRIORS like you to stand up and speak out.

  • Alison Watson

    This did my sore and weary heart some good.

  • Deborah West

    If your H doesn’t ‘feel like a man’ because women are in the workplace, then he truly needs to search his about what ‘being a man’ really is. Our Lord JESUS CHRIST was supported by WOMEN, both financially and spiritually

  • Alison Watson

    You aren’t less than a woman because you work and have a single child. It dismays me that you feel your femininity is dependent on staying at home and having loads of kids.

  • Scot, I completely agree about the social context of courage but do you really think NYC is TGC?

  • Alison Watson

    Do you resent having the vote and an equal right to an education as well?
    Women in the workplace are not taking men’s rightful jobs away from them – they have the same right to be there.

  • Alison Watson

    I don’t agree with your views on gender roles, but if being a homemaker and having more children is important to you, I hope it happens soon for you.

  • Alison Watson

    Yes, especially when the tribe can fall back on the threat of hellfire if you don’t conform!

  • Aaron Visser

    I enjoyed this very much. However, I struggled with this line at the end: “I contend that the role of women in leadership in the church is not an unasailable division – if we have found a way to find unity in diversity on baptism surely we can on this issue.”

    The baptism issue has been a discussion on when and how. Egalitarianism is about who. I would say this issue affects the lives of 51% percent of the global church, but it is likely to be even more. Churches are generally made up of many more women than men . . . except in the head leadership roles. To simply be okay with significant organizations preaching and teaching that the majority of their congregations are not fit for leading groups that are made up primarily of their own gender IS an unsailable division.

    However, regardless of the make up of the congregations, this is an equal rights discussion. There is no middle ground. Either you believe that men and women are created equally and are equally gifted, or you don’t.

    When I hear a discussion like this, I see a pulpit with a sign over it stating: For Men Only. That is not something anyone should be comfortable with. We do not “agree to disagree” when it comes to issues such as these.

  • Andrew Dowling

    So all of the manufacturing middle class jobs left in the 70s and 80s because women entered the workforce? Interesting theory!

  • Bill Donahue

    glad to hear that

  • Bill Donahue


  • PSF

    Excellent discussion here. I really liked what you said about courage!

    You asked for recommended resources . . .

    A few weeks ago, I posted a list of resources on egalitarianism here:

    I’ve also been writing a blog series on the topic (7 posts so far). You can find those here:

  • Andrew Dowling

    Bill is right on below; the same selective interpretive framework could easily be used (and was used for over 1000 years) to justify slavery. And the same “defenses” as the GC people are using here were used then.

    I find it more than ironic that many of the conservatives who proclaim they are fighting against “the culture” on social issues are almost always from places where the dominant “culture” is one that shares their views on those issues to a T. I’ve heard a pastor from rural Tennessee talk like he’s had to dodge literal bullets because he “boldly” was against SSM and had “traditional” views on gender roles . . in frikkin’ rural Tennessee, in one of the reddest, most Bible-touting counties in the nation. It’s a classic bait and switch when the arguments you have are inherently weak . . .”you’re persecuted?? But . .but what about MY persecution?!” etc.

  • Bonnie

    Resources — Elaine Storkey has written very well on, not egalitarianism per se, but gender and feminism. Her works can be googled.

  • SteveSherwood

    I used to hold Keller as “different” than run of the mill TGC folks on some of these harsher positions, but let’s be honest, he’s at the heart of the TGC. He just comes off more gently.

  • Alison Watson

    Indeed – “What’s Right With Feminism” is a very useful book. It can be a little hard to get hold of, but worth it.

  • Alison Watson

    I think there’s a good split of opinion on the subject in most churches and denominations. Whichever side you fall on re. women in leadership, someone will take issue with you.

  • Alison Watson

    Very well said, Aaron. I realise this issue will not go away any time soon, probably never. But I struggle with the idea of tolerating, or actively having to make room for, the views of people who want to explicitly discriminate against more than half the church.
    I doubt most churches would be so accommodating towards people who believed (as some sadly still do) that white people were created to rule over blacks.

  • Win

    The key to complementarianism is hierarchy in the home, not what any one person does. As long as there is male leadership it is complementarian. But missionary history and church history do show that women display leadership and they can function in a godly way without being the partners of males.

    Clearly calling a woman partner does not make her a partner. She is under male leadership. Basically there are two views. In one women are under male leadership and men show initiative. In the other women can lead and take the initiative. Hence, history is what it is.

  • TRice

    The cultural relativity of “courageous” beliefs in regard to gender equality in the church couldn’t be more true. What’s more, the difficulty of *being* “a woman in ministry” is also relative. I frequently hear women who were raised in egalitarian homes and in egalitarian faith cultures try to address the hardships of being a woman in ministry, and while I do not doubt that they have been looked down on in certain situations, I find many of them really don’t make room for the experiences of egalitarian women who were raised rabidly complementarian, graduated from complementarian colleges, etc. Courage is relative, indeed, and to hear Piper and his peers speak of being “courageous” in this area is a bit rich.

  • Jeff Y

    Is the TGC actually moving towards a more balanced posture? It seems to me the YRR guys there are not. I actually find them more attack oriented and showing a more fundamentalist hand on several topics. But, I have slowed down my reading on that site in the past year or so – so I’m not up to date.

  • Jeff Y

    Or, just “fire” (as in, ‘you’re fired’) if you don’t conform. 😉

    Money is a huge weapon – a use of power – in fundamentalist/conservative churches.

  • Jeff Y

    Very good stuff, thanks. I appreciate the points on courage. Courage is always dependent on the cultural context in which one is speaking/acting. It was courageous for 1st Cent. saints to take the Lord’s Supper. It’s not courageous to engage in that act in 21st Cent. America. That said, I think Keller – who is in NYC and seeking to evangelize that city – does show more courage than Carson or Piper on that count. But, perhaps that’s also why he is more sensitive to the issues. However, his commitment to TGC on these matters is ultimately disturbing. That said, as Jeff Blair noted, courage is irrelevant to the discussion of the theological issue. Loved the re-post. Excellent piece.

  • Malcolm

    I’d support the equality side pretty strongly, but Curvie Model has a point.
    Just because the Male Authority side takes over-dogmatic views without good supporting evidence, doesn’t mean the other lot aren’t also sometimes guilty of the same error.
    Freedom for a woman (or a man) to choose doesn’t just mean freedom to choose the right way which “all right-thinking” people approve of. If a woman chooses to be a homemaker, if she and her husband (or he and his wife) choose that , and are happy with that livestyle, then that’s their business and any feminist looking down on them is merely a different form of bigot ( a socially approved one – which is much more dangerous).

    I’m writing this while watching a very slow backup of a client’s broken ecommerce website. My wife has just brought me a fullsize meal to eat while I work, because she believes it is her duty to support me.
    When she is out working, I get the best meal I can on the table, together with a hot coffee as she walks through the door.
    That’s called serving each other, submitting to each other.
    And when she sits down to a meal and says “Oh I needed that” I feel ten times a man.

  • John Lawless

    I will make this short and succinct: God NEVER intended the woman to oversee and direct the actions of men.

  • Just some food for thought as you contemplate the roles of men and women as relates to the breakdown of the family … I once heard a complementarian minister saying the breakdown of the family was due to industrialization. His point was that the industrial age took women away from their work in a previously agricultural setting, thus away from their homes and children. Never once did he bemoan the fact that men in an industrial society are also forced to work away from home and have less interaction with their wives and children. Surely it is just as important for a man to have this kind of family connection as it is for a woman.

    God’s instructions to His people in Deuteronomy 6 to impress the commandments of the Lord upon their children, by spending time walking and talking with them, was not directed to one specific gender. Both mother and father are important in this process. To give men a “pass” to be less involved with their families because they are the ordained bread winners is not biblical. As with many complementarian arguments, the logic alludes me. Furthermore, to heap guilt upon women who, like the Proverbs 31 “woman” (who actually wasn’t one woman but a list of valuable characteristics), seek to bring in income for their families through their skills or management abilities is quite puzzling.

    The fact is we who do not live in past eras must find a way to live out biblical principles in our current setting, with both mothers and fathers working to raise children who grow in the knowledge of our Lord. As long as that goal is being accomplished, the methodology is beside the point.

  • fawnparish

    Is it possible pride may be a factor here? Ed Silvoso says spiritual pride is like bad breath, you’re the last person to know you have it. Could there be a day when Egalitarians and Complementarians come before Jesus face down, listening to Him on this subject? Could we honor the fact that both sides are seeking to please the Lord? I am an Egalitarian pastor serving with a Complementarian pastor. We seek to honor each other, we genuinely love each other, and we seek to be open to the Holy Spirit, and His many surprises.

  • NorrinRadd

    Regarding books, my top two are always the one by Payne that you cited already, and “Discovering Biblical Equality — Complementarity Without Hierarchy,” edited by Groothuis, Pierce, and Fee, with individual chapters by various authors. It’s a great all-around resource.

  • NorrinRadd

    Charming the way you tossed that onto the virtual porch like a flaming bag of poo. Do you care to discuss your assertion further? I’m always ready to engage anyone willing to have a dispassionate discussion of relevant Biblical texts.

  • NorrinRadd

    I think we need to be a little careful here. By the very nature of “gifting,” I don’t know that we can be certain God distributes His various gifts “equally.” By assuming and declaring that, we run the risk of imposing some sort of “Affirmative Action” program on the Church.

    I find Scripture reasonably clear in teaching that all leadership roles are equally available to men and women. I don’t find it nearly so clear in teaching that all of those roles are to have men and women in equal numbers, or even in numbers proportional to church attendance.

  • NorrinRadd

    With all due respect, Curvie, how your husband “feels” about the situation is a problem unto itself. He needs to work out whether he “doesn’t feel like a man,” or whether he “doesn’t feel like the traditional male stereotype commonly promoted in traditional Xianity and conservative American culture.”

  • NorrinRadd

    Truly the Church should not be “follow(ing) suit” relative to the culture. Rather, it should be making its best effort to understand and apply what the Bible teaches, and then leading the way, not trailing behind. Most Egalitarians / Mutualists are not seeking to imitate the outside culture (despite the dishonest or ill-informed claims of some Complementarians), we are seeking to understand and apply Scripture.

  • Alison Watson

    John – why do you think God chose Deborah and Huldah, out of all the men around them, to lead/judge/prophesy, then?

  • Alison Watson

    Oh dear, your first sentence made me double over with laughter.

  • Phil Miller

    “NEVER”, you say? At what point in a man’s life does this prohibition start? I would venture to guess that all men have been overseen by women at some point in their life, whether it be their mothers, sisters, aunts, Sunday School teachers, elementary school teachers, etc… Any line you draw is going to be completely arbitrary and based on nothing else than your preference.

  • Aaron Visser

    I am saying is that gifts are not available along gender lines. There is no specific gifting that is only available to men or to women.

  • NorrinRadd

    Thanks for clarifying. I get a bit pedantic… because it’s my nature, and because years of debating things has shown me that people will seize a small point and make it into a big deal.

  • Malcolm

    “I will make this short and succinct: God NEVER intended the woman to oversee and direct the actions of men.”

    An interesting comment. Could you clarify the scriptural basis for that -with particular reference to the recorded ministry of Paul and the women with whom he worked?
    I don’t know your attitude to tradition, but I’d also be interested in your view of the position held by Brigit of Kildare, and the man she appointed to help her rule the church, or the authority held by Abbess Hild of Whitby.
    Please post more details, I’ll look forward to them.

  • Dana Craft

    …sorry, but I’m still searching for a dry shirt to replace my tear-soaked one! I am living and serving full-time in Guatemala, Central America (the land of heretical doctrines), and to combat these warped and deadly false doctrines I’m using tons of TGC materials, which are printed in Spanish, and are given to us at no cost. They are truly blessing the other pastors I am training and, of course, I’ll still be working with [the] GC for as long s they want to share in this battle. However, as one who’s wife is an incredibly adept preacher (who has served in 22 countries), bringing this myopic, rigid and ankle-deep theology to the light of day has left a sour taste in my mouth.

    Suggested reading: Kenneth E. Bailey, “Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes.” Esp. pgs. 296-314: which delves into 1 Cor. 11:1-16.

  • Dana Craft

    And, sighting no scriptural support, let me “toss” this one your way. Following the natural progression of the six days of creation, I am assuming that you would see our Lord as traversing upwards from “base” to “exceptional,” correct? Well (as Kathy Bates said in some classic movie), “Mr. Man,” with whom did our Lord complete His grand act of creation? Hint…there’s a verse clarifying that. But to keep “this short and succinct” I’ve omitted it.

  • hoosier_bob

    Thanks for reposting this.

    To be honest, I’ve come to have fairly serious doubts about the integrity of Tim Keller on this and a variety of issues. When speaking to non-evangelical audiences, he says all the right things. I those contexts, one can easily come to the conclusion that, “Yeah, I could be an evangelical like that.” Keller is even fairly open about the sinful ways in which evangelicals have often treated their perceived enemies in the Culture Wars. Even so, when he is confronted with folks engaging in these sins–as is the case here with Carson and Piper–Keller withers. He displays something that looks like the opposite of courage.

    I spent about 15 years in the PCA. In most instances, I had pastors who were fairly weak inerrantists (if inerrantists at all), who had strong reservations about prohibitions against women in leadership, and who openly admitted that the Bible is not as clear on the issue of gay marriage as many think. And what did these guys do to challenge the prevailing views that they believed to be wrong? NOTHING! And then they were surprised when many of us started leaving the church.

    For younger evangelicals, there are three main issues: (1) dumping inerrancy in favor of a more honest hermeneutic (a la Pete Enns); (2) ending the patriarchal hold on leadership, and the narrow gender roles associated with it; and (3) adopt a more accommodationist stance on committed same-sex relationships. And, no, we’re not pushing these issues because we lack courage to stand up to the culture. To the contrary, we’re pushing them because we believe that these stances comport more closely with the truth of the Gospel…and because we have the courage to stand up to traditional evangelicals and call them out on their unbiblical fetish with the 1950s.

    If guys like Keller, Carson, and Piper are supposed to represent courage, I’ll pass.

  • hoosier_bob

    No one outside of a narrow band of neo-Refromed evangelicals even has a clue who Piper and Carson are. So, even if their views run counter to those of the culture, it costs them nothing because neither depends on it for his stature. Carson and Piper know little besides the neo-Reformed evangelical ghetto.

    The story’s a bit different with Keller, but he generally avoids these topics when he moves outside of the ghetto. In fact, when he moves outside of the ghetto, he often gives the impression that his views are far more moderated than those of Piper and Carson.

  • Daniel Fisher


    Just happened along this page – if I may humbly suggest, perhaps we can give the speakers you mention at TGC a bit of slack, as the term courage can be used in various contexts and with different nuance.

    For instance, I would challenge anyone who critiqued your repeated use of “courageous” in your review of McGrath’s C. S. Lewis biography, simply on the grounds that McGrath’s immediate social group may have been supportive of his writing. His immediate social group may well have been supportive – but I would not find that an adequate basis for challenging your description of his biography as being courageous in various ways. It isn’t out of bounds to recognize some aspect of courage in his writing even if it was not immediately challenging to his own “safe tribe.”

    Maybe we could give these other gents a bit of slack in the same manner? It doesn’t take courage to stand up for these views at a TGC conference, granted, but in today’s world and social climate, I can appreciate the courage to continue to stand for things that are wildly unpopular, even if you have an immediate cadre of folks around that hold similar views.

  • While I don’t have the energy or desire to address all the issues raised in this post, I can tell you that being a complementarian in a church that has an unbroken 141 year history of complementarianism within a denomination that is aggressively egalitarian takes courage. We have been marginalized and ridiculed despite the fact that God has blessed us with hundreds of verifiable and enduring conversions in the last 5 years. We haven’t moved, and yet we have been pushed to the margins. That is hard and enduring that with grace (which I have not always done) takes courage. This is a hard issue and I would imagine it takes courage regardless of what side you fall on. We simply do not live within a single affirming context. Ever. It takes zero courage to preach in my pulpit because I enjoy an affirming congregational context. However, to speak in my wider tribe, as I do, requires a great deal of courage. We all operate in multiple, overlapping contexts and as such, require courage to hold consistent views. Grace to all.

  • What happened to the spirit of kind engagement that Scott was advocating for? Easier to accuse others of intolerance than to self reflect. For the record, I’ve never heard comments so filled with anger and dismissal on sites “from the other side” as I am reading here.