Rachel Held Evans has posted a long list of articles written by men and women from the egalitarian perspective for this year’s inaugural Week of Mutuality: Mutuality 2012 Synchroblog. I found this to be quite exciting! As I’ve said, I came to Christianity through Pentecostalism where the gifting and calling of a person was the sign of what the Holy Spirit sought to do in and through their life, not their gender. This doesn’t mean gender is not important, but rather that it does not limit. As the prophet Joel said of the New Covenant given to us through the Holy Spirit, “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy (2.28).” Indeed, these contributions are a wonderful example of God using his children–men and women–as instruments. There are more great articles than you will have time to read, but I recommend you browse through the list.
The church is a better place when the Spirit’s work is not quenched because a man has bias against a women or a woman has bias against a men. A marriage is healthier when two people are committed to being a team unit rather than a hierarchy. Even for so-called “complementarians” who believe in particular gender roles I think the challenge stands: love your wife as Christ loved the church. That hardly means, “Your maleness is a trump card.” I know there may never be a day this side of the Second Coming where the Apostle Paul’s words “in Christ…their is neither male nor female” will be fully recognized just like there may never be a time without war, or a time where no one is impoverished, or a time when there is no sickness. But when I see little glimpses of what I saw through this Week of Mutuality I am reminded that the eschatological dream of God can happen just like there will be a time when weapons are destroyed, the poor are made rich, and our bodies are completely healed through resurrection life.
Thank you Rachel Held Evans and all the other contributors for giving me a little piece of eschatological bliss this week!
“Even for so-called ‘complementarians’ who believe in particular gender roles I think the challenge stands: love your wife as Christ loved the church. That hardly means, ‘Your maleness is a trump card.'”
Was Christ’s “Christ”-ness a “trump card”? Could the roles one day be reversed and the church lead Christ? Why does the challenge to Christian men to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church stand if the exhortation to Christian women to submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ gets dismissed as culturally relative and outdated? Doesn’t the challenge to egalitarians to take the other half of the verse seriously stand as well? 😉
If we follow that line of thought we should overthrow our government to restore a monarchy because Christ is a King. Maybe we should have a form of slavery since Christ is Master and we are slaves? Maybe every man in the church should be weirded out that we are Christ’s “Bride.” Let’s be careful that we don’t push the imagery beyond the point of absurdity.
I want to start off by saying that I am strongly in favor of the complementarian position of belief, and I believe that it is backed by scripture. However I neither believe that this is related to the equality of the different genders, or even the competency of the genders. Male and Female were created equal, but placed in different roles. It’s not about who can do it better, it’s not about who “is” better, it’s about the divine command that has been placed on your life. I’m a guy, and while I strongly feel that scripture has called me to lead my wife in love, I also know that this has nothing to do with my own strengths. In fact when seen in the light of scripture, this idea can on;y bring true complete humility. In the knowledge that I am representing Christ, and that I am in many ways failing in that duty.
“Even for so-called “complementarians” who believe in particular gender roles I think the challenge stands: love your wife as Christ loved the church. that hardly means, “Your maleness is a trump card.”
While I agree with what you are saying here, I believe that the message would come across more clearly if it were presented in love, as to brothers and sisters in faith. You seem at least in this case to be more interested in bashing the belief of the “other side” than in trying to prove what is holy and acceptable unto the Lord. And I think that your ideas will be heard more clearly if stated in discretion, love, and compassion.
Maleness is never a “trump card”, in fact when the command is given to men it is not “submit your wife”, but rather it is “love your wife”. The woman is commanded to submit, the man is not given permission to submit her. A Husband is called to love his wife through everything whether or not she chooses to submit. A wife is called to respect her husband, and to submit to him. Not to be walked over by him, but to give deference to the positional nature of the marriage union.
I could go around and around with you on this but I gave you plenty to read through the link, so I won’t. But I do think two points should be made:
(1) I have lived a life where I have shown love and a commitment to unity even when I hold strongly to the egalitarian position. I have gone to a seminary where I can’t think of one faculty member who is egalitarian and where complementarian students outnumbered egalitarians about 20-1. Also, both churches that I’ve attended here in Oregon hold to make eldership, and my wife and I committed to not making a stink of it. I love my siblings in Christ and as I said in a previous post, I don’t lose sleep over others living the complementarian model.
(2) I am glad you and your wife (assuming you are married) can live that way. My wife and I cannot. I do not see my maleness as a calling to rule over her or her femaleness as the demand for submission. I understand how that may have worked in the first century and I don’t blame Paul for baptizing patriarchy but I find that trying to force that model on a marriage moves from the spirit of Paul’s words to the letter.
Hey Brian. I’m still sifting through this issue so I stop by your blog to check up on the egalitarian side of things. One question I wanted to get your thoughts on is this, what is the significance of gender? You stated in your post, and I hear many egalitarians make it as well, that gender is “important” but simply does not limit. Why is gender important? If there are no distinctions in roles or essence, what is at stake in ones maleness or femaleness. Why does it matter that a man is a man, or a woman a woman. It just seems that gender becomes an obsolete enigma, a paradigm that is only good for speaking in terms of procreation and marriage (and that’s only if you hold to a heterosexual view of marriage). My query comes b/c as I look back at the Genesis account of creation, there seems to be something inherently significant about God creating us as male and female. He makes a distinction in gender. This is pre-fall, thus I agree with your statement that male and female gender distinctions are important. I’m just not sure why from the egalitarian position. I’m assuming it is something greater than simply pro-creation or marriage, but I haven’t come across an egalitarian defense of gender distinctions yet. I’m interested in your thoughts. If you’ve already posted a blog on this, you can just reference me to it.
Obviously gender does matter for biological reasons such as reproduction. I think those biological realities influence how maleness and femaleness are displayed in the world, but I am careful to avoid too many generalizations since most gender distinction has to do with what cultures create on the basis of the outworking of those biological realities (e.g., Christian women in Corinth may have worn veils and they may not have cut their hair, but I doubt you ask your wife to obey Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11). Likewise, not every man and not every woman are the same, so the generalizations are dangerous (I am quite sure that Mark Driscoll has more testosterone than me, but I am a man none-the-less, even if I don’t like MMA fighting).
Yes, the creation of man and woman shows they are different, but how different and different in what way? I think this is something that can be quite fluid in culture and more specifically in marriage. Not to be a jerk, but my wife is far brighter than many men with whom I have studied at seminary and she may be a better leader than most too. If she felt called to be a pastor can I say, “No, pastoring is a man thing!” Hardly. Some silly denominations may tell her that, but I wouldn’t want to be part of those denominations. Why can’t there be a woman pastor who shepherds with the care of a woman, using the emotions and insights of a woman, especially as relates to her particular, individual manifestation of her feminine being? Does a woman being a Senator make her a man? Does a woman as Secretary of State make her a man? I don’t think so and I don’t think most complementarians would say so. So the problem remains for complementarians who may try to equate their cultural creations of gender distinction with realities based in nature, but who upon closer examination should realize their ideals have more to to with the 1950s U.S. white, middle class than with first century Greek, Roman, or Jewish gender ideals.
I want to continue to recommend Rachel Held Evans first paragraph in his post “4 Common Misconceptions about Egalitarianism (http://rachelheldevans.com/4-common-misconceptions-egalitarianism). She says it better than I can and she puts it in a way that I think we should recognize to be true to reality.
Let me say in addition to what I wrote that the passage of Scripture that I quoted indicates that maleness and femaleness can continue to exist even as the Spirit uses both equally. As I said, I think gender characteristics can be quite fluid (e.g. our wives both get hair cuts and wear pants, a big no-no in our culture a century ago), but as long as the biological reality is there it will create trajectories that influence how culture perceives basic maleness and femaleness, though Evans is right when she says, “I’m egalitarian, and I believe there are differences between men and women too. Some are (clearly) biological, others are (possibly) biological, and still others are socially conditioned. What makes me egalitarian is the fact that I do not believe those differences to be universal, prescriptive, or indicative of hierarchy.” In other words, there is nothing “male” about preaching or teaching Scripture, there is nothing “female” about caring for a crying child or changing diapers. Some cultures may create those realities, but that shows their subjectivity and fluidity.
Brian, thanks for clarifying some of your thoughts. I wrestle with the answer though b/c you seem to insinuate (and please correct me if wrong b/c I don’t want to put words in your mouth) that there is something significant about maleness and femaleness, but we can’t define it b/c 1) biological differences skew our views and 2) its too fluid of a notion. Furthermore, the defining of these differences is based in cultural nuance, and our culture (as well as the historical patriarchal society of the NT) unfortunately got it wrong.
This is the hurdle I can’t get over with egalitarianism. God creates gender, but leaves man to guess at its significance (outside of pro-creative/biological terminology). I just don’t think the Bible is that silent on the issue, or that it only speaks up to correct a deficient cultural male (or female) dominated view point. My questions aren’t necessarily whether or not women can be effective leaders. I know they can be, and am acquainted with several of them personally. Furthermore, my question is not whether or not women can be involved in ministry. They absolutely should be. (Although I make a distinction between ministry and an office). For women to forgo ministry is sin, and for men to deny them ministry roles is equally as sinful. However, there seems to be something more significant to gender distinctions that seems to be defined by God, not culture, and is inherent in our creation. I expect both complementarians and egalitarians to make a solid case for what those distinctions are, and why God instituted them in the garden before the fall. So far I see complementarians trying to define what some of the distinctions are and understand why many don’t like them. As for the egalitarian view, I simply remain unmoved by a biological/pro-creative (or “just not what culture says”) answer. With advances in science and genetic engineering, soon procreation will be off the table as a necessary distinction. There has to be more involved with what it means to be male and female than just plumbing and testosterone (or lack of it).
I am saying that the biological differences are the objective base for gender differences (i.e., anatomy, contributions to sexual reproduction, chemical, et cetera). So obviously men and women are different. What I find to be subjective is how cultures work out these differences. In Corinth it seems that women wore veils and did not cut their hair. In the Middle East some women must wear dressed to the floor and a head covering. But are these things intrinsically female? If a man completely covers his head is he being feminine? If a women in the United States doesn’t cover her head or goes to get a hair cut is she being masculine? Some people say, “yes,” but I am saying that this is subjective.
Likewise, I don’t think eldership is intrinsically masculine. Paul may have advocated it in his context using the creation narrative for his contextualized argument, but he does the same for head coverings and we ignore it. Why don’t we ignore it when it comes to women speaking in the assembly? Probably because we like our wives’ pretty haircuts but we are intimidated by their preaching on Sunday. Evangelicals are notorious for this selective hermeneutic.
It seems your main concern is the slippery slope, but where does that leave us. Have you already contributed to the slippery slope by “allowing” your wife to wear jeans or get a hair cut? If we took her back to the 1920s in the US many would say “yes.” We say “no.” Why? Because culture changed, not because something grounded in the fabric of the universe changed.
Like you I don’t think the Bible is “silent,” but I do think it must be interpreted and applied and that hermeneutical process includes our horizon. Paul didn’t blink an eye when telling slaves to obey their masters, but we do! In fact, the same evangelicals who say women can’t preach are at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking. Why? Because we saw the trajectory of Paul’s writing where he called masters to be better masters under Christ. This was the right direction, but the logical conclusion is that all humans share the image of God so we should take equality as far as possible and remove master-slave relationships as much as possible. Likewise, Paul reflects first century gender roles (even using Adam and Eve to argue for head coverings!) but his trajectory was away from the strong patriarchy of his day. Egalitarians notice this and we say if a woman is educated and gifted why should we treat her as if she is a uneducated teen bride first century Corinth?
I agree that it could be complicated, but I can live with that. I can’t live with telling a woman she can’t be who God called her to be because Scripture addresses male-female relationships in the first century differently than we understand them to function today.
There were women prophetesses. That doesn’t seem to have been one of the roles where gender distinction applied (biblically). Recall that complimentarianism is not the same as prejudice, hegemony, or necessarily without scope.
I simply need to keep studying at this point. Some of this issue is distinguishing what is cultural and what is not. There appears to be both. If Paul in Gal. 3:28 makes a universal statement about women in ministry and in relation to gender then why even bother giving distinctions in 1 Cor. 11. If anyone wasn’t interested in placating to the culture, especially when it went against God’s design for life in the church, it was Paul. Thus, I’m not convinced that complementarians apply a selective hermeneutic any more than egalitarians do.
My main concern is not the slippery slope, but that the church at large is erasing distinctions in gender that that go beyond roles. One may not affirm the subjective culture markers of gender, and many may be wrong, but you still have to define how men/women are different and in what way. God made distinction in creation and if Scripture indicates what those distinctions are, we need to honor and live by them. In that I know we both agree, although our conclusions may lead down different paths.
I fail to see the connection between human trafficking, and teaching that the office of elder is for males only, OR that if you won’t let a woman be a lead pastor then you’re treating her as an “uneducated teen bride.” Those caricatures are drastically overstated. You can affirm smart, intelligent, gifted women, and also affirm that an office is for men only. One does not negate the other.
It truly is a complicated issue. I never thought the debate would go as far as its gone in Christian circles. I’m surprised at how angry people get, including myself, when trying to get to the bottom of it. At this point, I’m definitely leaning towards a complemetarian position, but in no way do I see this view (at least as I’m holding it) belittling women or treating them as insignificant little pawns in man’s endeavor to rule the world. I learn from gifted female teachers (Beth Moore being the big ones people talk about). I watch and help my wife in ministries she is involved in. I don’t think affirming an equality of essence but a distinction of role is chauvinistic or masogynistic (as many egalitarians want to claim).
Correct, Paul does not say that women cannot be prophetesses.
I think Paul did conform to culture when necessary. He said slaves and masters are equal in Christ but appears utterly practical in handling the matter pastorally and contextually. I think he did the same with wives.
Also, as I’ve said, sure, your church can say no to women elders and pastors, but don’t expect me to subjugate my wife and daughters to a church that thinks their female anatomy makes them insufficient. My wife and I attend a church like this for now, but it will be the last time. If others can function in that setting and your wife feels no slight from that worldview, then I am more than happy that your church can function that way. For some of us that is an impossibility.
I haven’t yet followed the link at the top (darn! guess I just missed that week!) but I did recently write and post an article on this topic that might be of interest to you because it talks specifics and purposes. The revelation I got while writing it has been valuable to me. It’s called “Gender Roles: Two Faces of the Same Coin” on sailingspirit.wordpress.com I will now follow that link and read the articles referenced. Thanks for those!
To be honest, I’ve never labeled myself “egalitarian” or “complementarian.” I guess I haven’t been in the debate ring long enough to realize camps had given themselves names. I would have to research the definitions before I could attempt to discern whether I fit into either category. I suspect, if I did, my answer might be “both” or “neither” since I’ve never neatly fit into anyone’s shoebox and probably won’t start today.
Just wanted to say I’m delighted to have stumbled upon this page today, and particularly happy to read a discussion that stays to the point rather than getting emotionally heated or barbed (as I’ve seen in other places where people get frustrated about their ability to express themselves clearly or persuade others). I will visit again!
My name is Andrea and I am a prophet. I have been given visions from God , I have preached in his Glorious name with the support of the Holy Spirit. Have you all lost your faith? Everything is possible with God. God chooses who God chooses, are you so intelligent that you can tell God who is perfect to deliver his message of hope and love? Jesus said when we die we will be like angels, with out sexual organs. That is because that is how God see us. Judge people if you must, but by their actions not their bodies which will decay and become old.
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