Can Egalitarians and Complementarians Find Unity?

Can Egalitarians and Complementarians Find Unity? December 10, 2019

Andrew Bartlett says Yes in new book Men and Women in Christ. (#ad)

First, we have to admit some truths and here are his own big-theme conclusions:

After it became clear that the traditional view of women’s innate inferiority was out of step with Scripture, there began a reformation [not The Reformation] in the Christian understanding of what the Bible teaches about men and women. New interpretations have been advanced. We have tested these against the words of Scripture, read in context. Fresh light is still emerging. Complementarian interpretations have not taken the reformation [not The Reformation] far enough, because they still retain unjustified restrictions on women’s ministry in the church, and some still depict marriage as a hierarchical relationship. Egalitarian interpretations of Christian marriage seem to have taken the reformation [not The Reformation] too far, since they deny any definite differentiation of responsibilities of husband and wife beyond the biological. The labels ‘complementarian’ and ‘egalitarian’ are unhelpfully restrictive, because they over-simplify the task of interpretation. It is time to move beyond them. Faithfulness to God and his word requires a revitalized conversation in which we will strive for unity of relationship and of understanding, in order to please the Lord and be a blessing to his world.

He points then to his own peace-making summaries:

Men and women are created by God to be different (Gen. 2). The woman is to be the man’s powerful ally. Husbands are not called to be rulers of their wives. The only explicit statement in the Bible about the rule of man over woman is in Genesis 3:16, which presents this as a negative consequence of the fall. There is no statement anywhere in the Bible that husbands ought to exercise unilateral authority over their wives. Christian husbands are called to a special responsibility of self-sacrificial service to their wives, in demonstration of the self-sacrificial love of Christ for his bride, the church (Eph. 5).

Uthough God’s design does not make husbands masters over their wives, wives are nevertheless called to submit to their husbands. This is for several reasons, particularly to imitate the humility of Christ (Eph. 5; 1 Pet. 2 – 3). But both partners are called to humility and love. In the marriage relationship husband and wife have equal authority and are called to yield to one another (1 Cor. 7:3-5).

In the New Testament, most prominent roles in the church are fulfilled by men. But the question at issue is whether there is a general biblical ban on women’s involvement in church leadership. There is not. Women and men are united in Christ on an equal footing. Ministry is gift-based, not gender-based (Rom. 12:3-8; 16:7; 1 Cor. 12:1-30; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).

Then some his wider themes:

1. The paradox of equality and humility
2. Creation and new creation
3. What it means to be male or female
4. Raising expectations of Scripture

The importance of the divine mandate of unity

The obstacles to unity

1. Ongoing disagreements on interpretation of Scripture
2. Egalitarian misunderstanding of the nature and motivations of the debate
3. How complementarians characterise the debate
4. Re framing the debate

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I definitely want to read his take on the wider theme of creation and new creation. It occurred to me recently that Paul’s theological process often keeps one eye on creation (Genesis) and the other on the future new creation. There are allusions to Genesis within both “headship” texts in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 11, for example.

  • Philip Benjamin

    Yes a path exists that unequivocally affirms that both women and men are fearfully and wonderfully made and yet are substantially different from each other (and therefore Christianity isn’t support for same sex parenting and same sex marriage) – and which doesn’t take a machete to scripture. It’s outlined in my video below.

    Before you watch it though remember this – it is self-evident from creation that God doesn’t consider giving people equal earthly opportunities to be fundamental to fairness. If He thought it was then He would have ensured that every person had the intellect to be a rocket scientist.

    As you will see my key difference, obtained by for example asking how women in 1 Tim 2 could be fearfully and wonderfully made and yet be more open to deception than men, and from asking for example why Paul tells fathers not to exasperate their children in Eph 6:4, and in asking in what way the sexes represent the image of God as outlined in Gen 1:27, is that men are wired to favour principle over people (justice) and women people over principle (mercy). Both orientations are brilliant – ideal. Neither complete without the other. Together they are the full nature of the love of God as shown in the cross. Each sex is better suited to particular circumstances.

    https://youtu.be/BkseE8uwTfU

  • EAB

    Is this column taken from a single chapter in Bartlett’s book? I have a copy and would like to look more closely at his reasons for these themes.

  • Elca

    Can 2 walk together unless they agree? (Amos 3) hum…I think not. If both camps are true to their belief they will never find unity or a meeting of the minds.
    I believe egalitarians are fundamentally and intellectually dishonest in their exegesis of the Written Word. For example..

    The only explicit statement in the Bible about the rule of man over woman is in Genesis 3:16, which presents this as a negative consequence of the fall.

    This statement is false. The reason for the statement of this kind of “Rule” is predicated on the sinful desires of the woman to rule.
    Gen.3:16 is a “Cause and effect” clause. She is NOT to rule over her husbands, that is a “Curse” for a Woman to do so. And when she does, He will “Rule” over her in a negative manner. To omit the root cause (ie) the woman desires, and focus on the effect (ie) the man ruling over her, is intellectual dishonesty.
    Hence, how can we find “Unity” when one side is not being honest.
    Gen.3:16 “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Can we agree to teach women NOT to try and “rule” over men? It is a Curse for her to do so. If we are not prepared to do this, according to scriptures, then her sinful nature will always produce conflict in relationship, and she will lose.

  • Philip Benjamin

    My conclusions are backed up by psychological evidence as you will learn if you watch this video interview of Richard Lippa, psychology professor at California State University, publishes author and expert on sex differences.

    https://youtu.be/h2E1wIuaBxc

  • muzjik

    How do you get from “desire shall be TO thy husband” – especially when coupled with childbearing – to “sinful desire to rule”?
    You really can’t.
    Not unless you come to the verse already with the preconceived idea that marriage was created as a male authority-rule/female subordination hierarchy rather than the “one flesh” partnership that Genesis 2 tells us it was intended to be….which it appears you have done.

    And you especially can’t assume that meaning when the Hebrew word – used only 3 times in the OT – is found in Song of Solomon 7:10 to clearly indicate something other than a “sinful desire to rule”:
    “I am my beloved’s,
    And his desire is for me”

    Therefore, you need to be intellectually honest and admit that your “root cause” is your interpretation only and is not actually found in the Written Word of God. Husbands ruling over their wives is a consequence of sin entering the world and distorting God’s intention that husband and wife be “one flesh”.

    Or as Paul said: “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
    Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
    do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
    Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…”

    Can we agree to teach EVERYONE not to try to rule over anyone else, as Jesus Christ taught us?
    “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.
    It is not this way among you…”

    After all, aren’t we all supposed to be seeking Christ-likeness and to be conformed to His image?

  • Elca

    How do you get from “desire shall be TO thy husband” – especially when coupled with childbearing – to “sinful desire to rule”?
    You really can’t.

    First, it is a curse that is being pronounce. the “desire” in v16 is a negative, a curse. A woman “desiring” her husband sexually so she get pregnant is a Blessings. It is a positive thing ordained by God. So her sexual desires for her husband is NOT what the curse was about.
    The context for her faulty and negative desires, is in respect to ‘rule or dominion over him.” And that is what was cursed and punished by God.

    We see in the OT and NT a consistent theme of male headship/ dominion/rule that is ordained and instructed in the scriptures. We see that a woman is forbidden from ruling or usurping the headship or rule or dominion of men. It is not allowed and it was cursed by God.

    Not unless you come to the verse already with the preconceived idea that marriage was created as a male authority-rule/female subordination hierarchy rather than the “one flesh” partnership that Genesis 2 tells us it was intended to be….which it appears you have done.

    The preconception is all yours, for you are assuming that male headship/rule/dominion is inherently abusive and unfair. But it was God who created Adam first and allowed him to exercise dominion rule over the animals by naming them. And it was God who allowed Adam to exercise the same dominion/rule over the female by naming her ‘woman’. At NO time did Adam abuse the animals or the woman. But he did name them thus demonstrating dominion in the physical realm. At NO time did the Woman did likewise and she did NOT felt it was abusive or unfair that she was NOT allow or giving equal opportunity to name animals or the man. The preconception is yours.
    The NT has instructed the man is the Head of the woman/wife and has instructed the woman/wife to submit to her own husband in everything.
    Was Jesus and the Apostles unfair to women?

    “”I am my beloved’s, And his desire is for me” The context here is sexual. God did NOT curse Eve for sexual desires for her husband.
    However, the next curse about faulty desires is found in Genesis 4:7“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Here God is saying to NOT allow negative faulty desires to control you, but that we MUST rule over our faulty and negative desires. Eve was to do the same and by extension all women.

    Thanks for your reply.

  • Marshall Pease

    … wives are nevertheless called to submit to their husbands. This is for several reasons, particularly to imitate the humility of Christ

    I guess as long as _somebody_ is imitating humility, the leadership doesn’t need to do it in person? And we are also to understand that Christ’s leadership was of the humble, non-boatrocking kind?

  • Malissa

    When you mention rocket scientists, it sounds like you’re confusing career choices with human rights.
    The only time women in general are more open to deception than men, is when they do not receive the same education as men. Sure, you can find psychologists that cherry pick data to make women out to be less intellectual or to reinforce old gender roles, but they are in the minority. That “pink brain, blue brain” stuff has been debunked.
    Genesis 2 and 3 tell us that first God created Adam, THEN He commanded Adam not to eat from that one tree, THEN He created Eve. In that order. In Genesis 3:3, Eve doesn’t know the name of the tree, and she thinks that she’s not even allowed to touch it. Do you think that’s because she was stupid, or because she was given the commandment by Adam, not God? So the serpent approaches her rather than Adam, but Adam is there with her (Genesis 3:6). Then Adam, in willful disobedience, eats the fruit and then promptly blames his wife for it. Maybe that’s why Romans 5:12-19 tells us that Adam is the one that brought the curse of sin upon us.
    Finally, your statement that “men are wired to favour principle over people (justice) and women people over principle (mercy). Both orientations are brilliant – ideal. Neither complete without the other” is a pretty good argument for shared (not gendered) leadership in the church, government, etc. If we are not complete, or balanced, without the other, then we MUST ensure that both genders are represented in positions of authority and that neither gender dominates the other.

  • gingoro

    This is largely a dated concern. Much more relevant is whether LGBTQ+ welcoming and promoting groups can coexist with many who see LGBTQ+ activity as unallowed by scripture.