A Summary of Egalitarianism and Complementarianism

Christian marriage: For complementarian marriage: love this!

God is so incredibly complex that he created two beautiful, multi-faceted genders to represent his good characteristics and glorify His name on this earth. Below I explain my understanding of the two basic camps held by evangelical believers. Later I will post/propose my thoughts on the possible melding of complementarianism and egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism                                                                                                                  

The primary source for the position of egalitarianism are the “Christians for Biblical Equality” (CBE) who stand for serving God by giftedness, not by gender. Their mission statement of equality is in 30+ languages and proclaims that the Bible teaches full equality of men and women in Creation and in Redemption for the furtherance of the gospel and the glory of God.  They rightfully interpret the inerrant, authoritative Word of God holistically, thematically, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Creation is an enormously important part of the gender role deliberation. Egalitarians knowingly refer to Genesis to solidify the argument for full equality by citing joint responsibilities between men and women concerning child bearing/rearing, dominating creation, (Gen. 2:26-28) as well as a joint responsibility in the Fall of mankind(Gen. 3:6; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). Egalitarians explains how the word “helper” implies no subordination or inferiority, but instead how that particular word is most often in the Old Testament as a reference to God. Similarity the rib, and the word “suitable” also both point to equality and denote unity. Lastly, Egalitarians assert Adam’s rulership over Eve in Genesis 3:16 was a prediction of the upcoming harmful ramifications of the Fall, not a prescription of God’s original plan in creation prior to sin entering the world.

The forgiveness of sins for salvation is offered to all mankind despite race, age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Therefore upon salvation, the gifts of the Holy Spirit (healing, miracles, prophecy, wisdom, etc.) are bestowed upon women as well. They are called to develop their gifts, whatever they may be, for the body of Christ.  Additionally important to Egalitarians, the New Testament teaches that women exercise the prophetic, priestly, and royal functions (Acts. 2:17; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5; 1 Peter 2:9-10, Rev. 1:6; 5:10). All passages that appear to contradict these function for women are to be studied in the total context and interpreted in relation to the broader teaching of the Word. When such proper hermeneutics are applied, the problem with female leadership will thusly be understood as a cultural situation (1 Cor. 11:12-16; 14:33; 1 Tim. 2:9-15).

In considering the roles in family, CBE cites ten biblical references that indicate that both mother and father are responsible in the training, nurture, teaching, and disciplining of their children. Secondarily, they see that the Bible teaches how husbands and wives are both co-heirs with Christ and bound together in mutual submission and responsibility to each other (1 Cor. 7:3-5; Eph. 5:21; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Gen 21:12). Within this mutual submission, the husband function as “the head” by serving and lovingly giving of self, just as Christ modeled during his time on earth.  In the home, Christian husbands and wives should both be serving one another, and humbly considering the other better than themselves. They should equally divide the leadership responsibilities based on competencies, availability, and desire. In conflict, if a decision cannot be reached, instead of the husband imposing the final word, they are to use biblical methods of conflict resolution. This is to protect women and children from abuse that too often tragically follows male headship.

To honor the Source of spiritual gifts and to model the unity and harmony that should characterize Christianity, the church should allow women to serve in all levels of involvement. Though the world may discriminate, segregate, and make some feel inferior, God’s people will honor Him by recognizing gifting despite gender and by being a light of equality and development. The goal of egalitarianism is to free men and women from unbiblical traditionalism that creates dangerous caricatures of both males and females that stifle both individual’s reflections of Christ. In embracing mutual accountability to each other in Christ with a heart of humility and servanthood, they model to onlookers how obedience to Scripture puts out fires of domination and inequality and encourages fulfilling love of God and love of neighbor.

Complementarianism

The primary source for defining complementarianism for the purposes of this paper is found in the Danvers Statement of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) (Piper & Grudem, 2006). In expressing ten points of contemporary development that aroused deep concern in several evangelical leaders they include the distortion and “neglect of glad harmony” that egalitarianism brings. Their ten points clearly show a godly distain for any hermeneutical misdealing, and a deep desire for believers to delight in the gender diversities God has beautifully established. Complementarians steadfastly affirm the equality and high value of men and women before God as persons created in his image. However, they equally affirm that God has purposefully created male and female distinct in their gender roles (Gen. 2:18; 21-24; 1 Cor. 11:7-9; 1 Tim. 2:12-14).

For men, the result of the fall was the distortion of man’s once perfectly loving, humble headship into a dominating or passive headship. The role of headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall (Gen. 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor. 11:7-9) and not a result of the fall. Additionally, prior to the fall, the woman perfectly, intellectually, willingly submitted to her selfless husband. Her submission was not a result of the fall, but her struggles in submission are.  The beautiful redemption that Christ brings removes both distortions caused by sin. The power of the Holy Spirit can help move men and women back to the original roles of a husband’s loving authority, and a wife’s joyful submission (Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; Tit 2:3-5; 1 Pet 3:1-7) Principles of male headship in the family and in the church are throughout the Old and the New Testament (Gen. 2:18; Eph. 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; 1 Tim 2:11-15). Though redemption in Christ brings equal blessings of salvation to both men and women, there are some governing and teaching roles within the church that are assigned specifically only to men (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 1 Tim 2:11-15). Complementarians affirm the truth that Christ’s authority is supreme over all, and no earthly submission needs to be followed into sin (Dan 3:10-18). They also affirm that Biblical criteria for ministry trumps passion or desire for ministry every time (1 Tim 2:1-15; 3:1-14; Tit 1:5-9). Both men and women must be subject to God’s word concerning ministry roles. Neglecting these God ordained principles will lead to devastating consequences in families, churches, and societies. Lastly, the Danvers Statement pleads with its readers to realize that the ways people in this world understand the gospel and experience the love and grace of God are exceedingly vast and diverse. Because of this every believer in Christ, regardless of gender, is provided with incalculable opportunities to experience a fulfilling ministry in word or deed for the glory of God. Though there are biblical criteria for some particular ministries, the harvest is plentiful and the gifts of God’s people are richly diverse. There is not one worker who needs to feel that their gifts are not able to be used.

The goal of complementarianism is for men and women to understand and celebrate the beauty of being equal in their value yet distinct in their roles. Refining the harmonizing roles of manhood and womanhood best epitomize God’s original design as seen in creation.  The human heart will be most fulfilled when resting and excelling in these roles of male headship and female submission.  Weakening biblically defined roles by following culture instead of the clear gender distinctive teachings of the Bible devalues God’s creation design and will surely bring eventual devastation.

John Piper (2008): "Wimpy theology makes wimpy women. Wimpy theology simply does not give a woman a God that is big enough, strong enough, wise enough, and good enough to handle the realities of life in away that magnifies the infinite worth of Jesus Christ." (Designed by Jennifer Knight.) http://dsr.gd/Mtd6Nk

Is it Wrong for Men to Listen to Female Speakers?

I almost think this is an absurd question. Are there people who think it is wrong for a woman to speak to a group of men about Biblical or theological things? Unfortunately, there are. Now, I’m not going to dive into this debate today (maybe soon!), but I do just want to offer up a quick 3:25 minute clip from Desiring God about the topic.

“I am happy to learn from Beth Moore. But I don’t want to get into a relationship of listening or attending a church where a woman is becoming my pastor, my shepherd or my authority. I think that would be an unhealthy thing for a man to do. I could give reasons for that biblically, experientially and psychologically, but I have given the gist of it.” -John Piper

How to Catch the Eye of a Reformed Guy

calvin-spurgeon

How to Catch the Eye of a Reformed Guy

Reformed men who don’t live in their parent’s basement

Seem to be a rare commodity.

Ones who are willing to initiate and pursue are even

more of an blessed oddity.

So if you find yourself rubbing elbows

with a man with much appeal

Here are some things I’ve heard you can mention

to really seal the deal:

“Just call me Miss ESV

Why, yes these are the

Institutes you see!

My favorite passage is

Romans 8:28-33

I love the atonement,

Substitutionary!

I have a Spurgeon based blog

I write in every day.

I love beards and free trade coffee

Jon Edwards all the way!”

After saying things like that to him

His heart will skip a beat

But if he is timid or apprehension filled

You can try some of these:

“I love how godly women

Are to just sit back and wait

For godly men

Following Christ’s example

To initiate.

One of the favorite subjects is

Complementarianism

I love the incarnation, alcohol,

and debates on paedobaptism!”

Affectionately reference Tim Keller, Martin Luther, Abraham Kuyper

B.B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, and of course, John Piper!

And if time is running out,

and you need to make a last impression.

All you need to do quote

As much as you can of the Westminster Confession

Simple Formulas

It’s interesting how certain words connote certain emotional reactions. For example, at the word ‘vacation’ your body may immediately loosens up as you think about a tropical breeze across your bronzed arms, whilst when ‘mother-in-law’ is mentioned you suddenly feel agitated and begin second guessing yourself, and perfecting  your meatloaf recipe. For many reason, when the word ‘submission’ was brought up in conversation, my body would instantaneously react with feelings of hostility, pride, and annoyance. I would quickly dismiss all biblical references with the idea that somehow I could distort scripture into saying that it doesn’t apply to me.

But I quickly found out how unfulfilling disobeying Scripture actually is. I started to research Feminism, the Sexual Revolution, and Biblical Womanhood. I realized how perfect and necessary this idea of submission is in my life. I realized that the vision of complementing the men in my life via submission is “beautiful and satisfying…not onerous or oppressive. It does not promote pride or self-exaltations. It conforms to who we are by God’s good design” (Piper 33). It is not a matter of superiority and inferiority, for Jesus Christ himself submits to the will of the Father (Luke 22:42) but instead a matter of order and intentionality. Though these truths play out in many areas in our lives, I will be addressing only the roles and responsibilities of women in the church according to the inerrant Word of God by means of the Pastoral Epistles.

The main text I’ll be working from will be found in 1 Timothy 2:8-14, it reads as follows:

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

That’s quite a mouthful. For me it formulates three key questions that I’ll be addressing in this paper. 1.) Why did Paul find it of utmost importance to write Timothy concerning this particular subject? 2.) What exactly is Paul saying/how did the original recipients understand his instructions? 3.) Does this apply to me today?

Let’s start off with a little background. What was going on spiritually? False teaching, that’s what. If Ephesus could have just gotten a dime every time false teaching was being spread, Paul never would have had to build another tent the rest of his life! The two most emphasized false teachings of that day were Gnosticism and Asceticism. Both taught abstinence from certain foods, marriage, and sex; while belittling the role of both mother and wife (Piper 181).The women were no longer identifying themselves with their husbands. They could show this defiance outwardly by wearing ostentatious outfits. Something else I found very interesting is that their head coverings represented their marriage status, so by not wearing your head covering you are declaring singleness. It is culturally equivalent to contemporary married women never wearing their wedding rings in public (Grudem 204).  There was outright insubordination in the church, not just to their husbands, but to all men in leadership, responding consistently with criticism and dispute. This not how a church should function. Paul’s mission statement for 1 Timothy is stated clearly in chapter 3 “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth”. So this is why he wrote. He wants God sheep to understand how to behave in the church.

How did the original recipients interpret this letter? Is Paul demanding mindless, numb, female followers? No, of course not. When he commands them to “learn in quietness and full submission”, there is a (sinful) pull to want to focus on the HOW. Ms. Feminatzi starts jumping up and down, “Look, look!” she says, “Paul is telling all women to be quiet and submit all the time. How terrible! I don’t want to be quiet! I have opinion too! Look at me! Look at me! I am strong! I am smart! This is wrong!” Okay, okay, calm down. First of remember how this passage is for THE CHURCH; and instead of just looking at the HOW and making it the WHAT, realize what the WHAT actually is. LEARN. He wants women to learn, to be educated, to be able to properly understand, defend, and articulate their beliefs in a way that is God-honoring. That’s a big deal .That is exciting. That is encouraging! What’s even more exciting is that he commands women to teach in church.

That’s right. Titus 2:3-4 says that women are to teach other women and teach children. This is the line. This is the black and white. There is no gray. It doesn’t get much clearer Ladies. Do NOT hold a position of teaching men. DO teach women and children. Timothy himself was taught by TWO different women (2 Timothy 1:5) Paul knows that spiritual gifts were given to both men and women (1 Cor. 12:7-11). The gift of teaching is not a gender specific gift. There are a lot of Christian men who do not have the gift of teaching and a lot of women who do and vice versa.  Women are indispensable to the life and growth of the church just as men are; but the roles are different.

The point of a women not having authority over a man within the Christian community seems just as simple to me. 1 Timothy makes it clear in chapters three and five that governing activities in a church are ascribed to elders. So the formula is simple:

IF…

A=Elders are the leaders in the church

B= Elders cannot be women

C=Women can be leaders in the church

THEN… A+B ≠C

            So lastly, we move to the point, does this apply to me today? Perhaps it was just time period specific? Or situationaly specific? Just as we culturally tweaked “head-coverings” to mean wedding bands , can’t we also change “teach men” to mean “preach to men”? That is much easier to agree on. A woman cannot be a head pastor, isn’t that enough? Fortunately, no.  We look back to the text and examine Paul’s argument. He goes back to where it all starts. Dawn of time. We realize that “by citing creation rather than a local situation or cultural circumstance as his basis for prohibitions, Paul makes it clear that, while these local or cultural issues may have provided the context of the issue, they do not provide the reason for his advice” (Piper 150). This is Paul’s foundational reasoning.  It’s the relationship roles that God created and instilled in Adam and Eve. Therefore, for a woman to have authority over a man is to ignore the reason for Paul’s principle. It wasn’t because of any specific event or activity, but based solely on the fact that this is how God designed us to function.

Understanding my vital role in the church is an exciting and yet humbling realization. Exciting because I know I will be most fulfilled when I am glorifying God, and part of that fulfillment in being part of a local church. It’s good to know my responsibilities. I also say that it is humbling because it made me twinge at first. I don’t want to submit. As fallen humans, we (and I mean all of us) NEVER want to submit. Because in our pride and selfishness we think we know what is best. I had a hard time with the idea that I couldn’t lead men in a church setting because my focus is on myself and not on Christ. I want to be in the limelight leading us to VacationBibleSchool victory!  But it is not about me.

IF…

A=God created men and women with different strengths and responsibilities

B=Those strengths are to benefit the Body of Christ

C=I can loving embrace the principles laid out in the Pastoral Epistles dealing with Women’s roles

THEN…

A+B=C