Charlie Olivia Grantham is a twenty year-old college student from New Orleans, LA. She studies Media Production and Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi and hopes to work in the film industry one day. She enjoys blogging, yoga, and spending time with her fiancé and her dogs. You can find her blog at https://charlieolivia.
I am tired of seeing people use the same handful of scriptures to limit over half of the Christian Church. I am bored with hearing the same theological debates about how “women can’t lead” over and over again. I am confused because many Christians (that I’ve encountered) can recite Scripture forwards and backwards with ease, but don’t seem to know the Christ.
So, for a moment, let’s put away our interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 and all of the traditions we have clung to so tightly. Let’s take off our religious masks and ask, “What would Jesus do?” Better yet, what DID Jesus do?
Lets look first at John 2. In it, we find a rather unique miracle story. Not only is it Jesus’ first miracle, it is also the only account where Jesus seemingly performs the miracle reluctantly, as if he doesn’t really want to perform it. Who could lead Jesus, the Son of God, to do anything? Of course the answer is, “his mother,” which you may brush off as the punchline to a joke, but I believe this holds great significance.
“When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.” Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.” She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.” John 2:1-11 MSG
Jesus chose to show His mother respect and publicly submit to her request, despite the fact that society would have allowed for him to tell her to “know her place.” Yet today, in a society that is no longer structured around patriarchy, that is exactly what “Christian” men are doing to their sisters in Christ.
In John 4, Jesus chose a woman to preach to an entire village, and the Bible says that the men believed because of her. He had twelve male disciples that could have easily done the task, but He went out of His way to choose this woman for the task.
Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus, was the first Christian preacher. It wasn’t a coincidence that a woman was the first to see the resurrected Christ; after all, I believe there are no coincidences with God. It was a divine appointment that a woman was the first there, and the first to preach the Good News.
Jesus called her to preach the Good News and praise the Lord, and she followed her calling in opposition to the social norms! What a strong example Scripture gives us that women are called to lead. While twelve men were hiding and doubting the resurrection, a woman was boldly proclaiming the death and resurrection of the Christ!
Given the few examples above, it sure seems to me that Jesus was all for the full inclusion of women in His ministry.
Judging from His actions, I would say that Jesus wasn’t threatened by a woman having authority. This shouldn’t be a surprise either, since He knew more than anyone about Deborah, Naomi, Esther, and the many women like them. After all, He created them. After all, He appointed them to their positions of leadership.
As easy as it is for us to forget those “irrelevant Old Testament exceptions,” the concept of women being unfit for leadership must have been as absurd to Jesus as the idea of carpenters being unfit to build a table is to us.
If Jesus were physically present today, He would stand with women. He would stand with the women struggling to find a church that doesn’t discriminate based on gender. He would flip tables over pastoral applications that say, “Men only should apply.” He would teach husbands and wives about the beauty of mutual submission, and He would eradicate any theology that places women below men.
We must be Jesus’ body as a Church. We must reflect His Spirit. Is that as simple as encouraging women to take leadership positions in the church? Of course not! But when people are told that they are unworthy; when people are told that they just aren’t called; when people are told that they need to sit in the back, I think “wait, but aren’t those the ones Jesus said he came to die for? Better yet, isn’t that all of us?”
No one has spiritual authority over another. Only Christ has spiritual authority over us. That is the way it has always been, and that is the only way that Christ’s actions and words can work.
It is time to stop paralyzing ourselves as Christ’s body. It is time to stop believing lies of “rank.” It is time for us all to give up our pride.
This has nothing to do with leadership. Also the arguement is not confined to just one verse to Timothy but the whole passage that follows which gives it context.
I expect the whole WWJD movement started off as being very well intentioned, but one has to ask the Question, Which Jesus? People go to the bible, look at the verses that seem to support what they already have in mind, quote them often out of context and thus construct a Jesus of their own imagination and this Jesus always agrees with them. The question is not just about women in leadership. It is about two things at the same time, it is about 1) women in authority over men and 2) teaching. You have to hold both of these things at the same time and Paul speaking what is God breathed gave a command and just like being given an order in the military, it is not to have a discussion, it is to be obeyed. Most of the argument is red herring. It really about what suits people own agenda and imposing it on the bible rather then letting the bible speak to us.
For me, the hard part is that if I look honestly at Jesus in the gospels, He seems to encourage women to preach and teach, but he chose men to lead and be in authority.
Also, it seems like the egalitarian position would have to say that Jesus and his mother had equal authority and were leading equally in John 2. But, if I am honest, that is difficult for me to see in the text. I can see mutual submission in John 2, but Jesus is still leading and in authority.
The other examples in the gospels prove that women should be encouraged and chosen to teach and preach and evangelize, but it doesn’t seem like they are in authority. So I couldn’t attend a church where women never speak or teach, but I am ok if the leaders/elders are all men.
Thanks for the thought-provoking article! It helped clarify some things for me!
The last three paragraphs are where it is at! It hits at the deeper problem in the Church which is the obsession with power and authority over others. The very kind of thing Jesus told us not to pursue. It is not enough for us to get women equal footing in a system built on inequality, we must change the system as a whole.
Jesus probably would turn over tables with applications for pastors on them regardless of what they said just because we were turning a spiritual gift into a proffesion. And acting as if that is more necessary in the Church.
I like the track you’re on. Keep growing deeper in Him!
While I agree that women shouldn’t be denigrated to a subservient position, there are a few issues with your blog. First, while your point essentially remains the same, the Message is not Scripture – it is not a translation, nor is it a paraphrase; at best it is a commentary, and should not be quoted as Scripture. Second, nowhere does Christian doctrine teach that a woman is less valuable than a man – but it does teach that they have a different role. There is a distinct difference in someone’s value, and someone’s position. As God stated in Genesis 3:18 (ESV), “I will make a helper fit for him” (italics mine). Woman has a different role than man. This does not mean that women cannot be leaders or in positions of authority, but they do take a different role in marriage and in society. (Don’t mistake “different” as “worse” – it is just different, and the way God designed it to be and it has been for thousands and thousands of years.) Third, you are absolutely wrong about spiritual authority. There is – and always has been – earthly spiritual authority over everyone. From father, priest, and rabbi to pastor, team leader, or another appointed person (whether male or female), there has always been a God-designed spiritual hierarchy. Jesus, Himself, frequently mentions that His authority comes from the Father (Jn. 5:27; 8:28; 10:18; many more), and Matt. 9:8 states that God has given authority to mankind. Paul respectfully apologizes for criticizing the authority over him (Acts 23:5), insists that he has authority over the churches he has planted (2 Cor. 13:10), and commands us to honor all authority over us, including non-Christian authority (Rom. 13), as God-appointed. Clearly there IS spiritual authority over each of us. On the other hand, many churches do overly restrict the participation of women in leadership roles. Scripture clearly gives many examples of female leadership. If you attend a “church” that tells women they are “unworthy”, “can’t be called” into ministry, or need to “sit in the back,” – leave that cult and find a real church – a body of believers that values and appreciates every person’s call to ministry and helps them find the place where they best exemplify Christ Jesus, regardless of gender!
Glad to hear so many men have such an interest in this topic, and so similar in tone.
Brad was saying :”the egalitarian position would have to say that Jesus and his mother had equal authority and were leading equally in John 2.” Not so…who has equal authority to Christ? “Ye have ONE MASTER, even Christ and ALL ye are brethren.” We are all siblings with only one master, no? “It shall not be so (authoritarian) among you”…then there is Matthew 7:12…egalitarian to the core…not to mention God’s repeated declaration in Ezekiel chps 18 and 33 “is not MY way Equal, is not YOUR way unequal”?
I don’t think ANY position should put Jesus equal to any man or woman. That is why I have trouble believing the (SELECTED FEW) words of Paul that seem to restrict women need to be scrutinized against not only the massive number of words of Paul that do not restrict women, but also against the manner in which Jesus and God the Father address and relate to women.
God has clearly left just enough evidence to give you men the slip as far as ROLES for women. Huldah, whom no man has ever preached about in my presence, was ordained as a prophetess by God to instruct King Josiah, a role that doesn’t fit complementarian thought at all. Even a King had to seek her to find God’s will…everything that men cringe at when this is pointed out. Abigail’s role also is reversed with her husband Nabal and God approves mightily. God addresses Samson’s mother through His angel and seems to be avoiding Samson’s father, partly because the man hasn’t the spiritual discernment of his wife.
God and Hannah were in direct communication and Hannah decided to give the son she bore to her husband to God, with no evidence of the husband’s acquiescence…or God’s disapproval. Deborah doesn’t fit the role of biblical womanhood either, nor does Ruth, Rahab, Esther, the courageous business woman of Proverbs 31, Priscilla, Phebe, and on and on. Jael fought in a war to win and was as much a warrior as any man. The wise woman who had the head of Sheba thrown over the wall was a leader in every respect and again reaped the reward of being recorded positively in scripture and the woman who threw the millstone over the wall and killed Ablimelech took incentive that none of the men had at the time. I find that few women in scripture fit the mold or role that so many prescribe for women today.
God and His angels ALWAYS communicated with women directly without going ‘through’ any man in their lives, brother, father or husband in a well placed slight to the view that women need a man as a cover…Mary and the angel Gabriel as a case in point. If one studies the scriptures closely enough one begins to see that much of what passes as doctrine doesn’t pass muster when comparing scripture with scripture.
I still say, that while the examples given are very interesting, they are all way off the subject. It is teaching and authority over men that paul brought up and both of these have to be held together at the same time. Most examples given are before the establishment of the the church, and none of the women were teachers. It also seems to me that prophecy was distinct from teaching. Nowhere is a woman forbidden to prophecy. I think a lot of the arguement as it is presented is based on an assumption that women had to have no say at all and it seems to me that was never the case. I think it comes from that portion of scripture that says “Women should be silent” The translators have done their best, but I suspect that “Silence” is the closest word to what paul meant, but it lacks something and so we do not have a direct translation. I am by no means a linquist, but I can say things in Scots that I can translate into standard English,but the translation always lacks something. I think we have a similar problem with the word silent. I also have to say that just because God said something only once does not mean that it is not valid. It is still something God commanded.
I agree with you that Paul said women are to be silent in that verse. But what is the cultural context? The beginning of the book notes that Paul was writing to combat syncretism, so what was the syncretism creeping into the church in Ephesus at the time? It was the Artemis goddess cult (Diana was her Roman name). A cult that insisted that Eve was created before Adam, a cult whose goddess was the goddess of labor and childbirth, a cult that castrated males and was led by priestesses. And interestingly enough, a cult that eventually took over the church. (Timothy was martyred for speaking out against Artemis.) I think this context really matters as you read this book because it makes a lot of those weird verses (a woman will be saved through childbirth… huh?!) make sense.
I agree with what you said. Scripture is timeless… but it is also contextual. Do you read, “Slaves obey your masters” as prescriptive for today? Does it describe the desire of God for his people? I don’t. I think Paul was working with the slaves and slave owners in the particular time and history that they found themselves in. But I don’t think it means that we should try to keep slavery around. In the Timothy books, Paul was dealing with a problem where the system of worship was based in the Artemis cult (that included women dominating and ruling and perhaps even castrating men). I think there was a woman (or women) that were bringing in elements of that religion into the church and Paul was going to have none of it. But I don’t think we should use that singular verse to limit 50% of the church, unless it can be backed up by evidence that it was a timeless prescription. Was it ever contradicted in other places of the New Testament? Yep.
The Bible does not contradict itself. As you said, we have to prove that women were in fact in teaching authority over men to even have a case. We do. Before Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila were leaders in the house church movement in Ephesus (same church!!). Priscilla was said to have “explained the way of God” to Apollos (who was called an apostle). (With thanks to Margaret Mowczko for the following Greek explanation…)
Luke is the only New Testament author to use the Greek word ektithēmi (explain). He uses it four times, and only in the book of Acts. Ektithēmi means “to put forth, declare, explain”. In this sense, the definition of ektithēmi is “to convey information by careful elaboration”. This sounds a lot like teaching to me. Luke uses the word in this sense three times in Acts: of Peter in Acts 11:4 when he was explaining to the Jews why the Gentiles were part of God’s people after his time with Cornelius, of Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18:26, and of Paul in Acts 28:23 when he was explaining to the Jews how Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses. It is important to note that there is nothing at all trivial in these three instances where “explain” (ektithēmi) is used. Additionally, the verb “explain” is plural in the Greek indicating that both Priscilla and Aquila were involved. And the fact that Priscilla’s name is listed first, before her husband’s in Acts 18:26, seems to indicate that Priscilla was the more active one in giving the explanation – this was a standard writing convention of Paul’s time. Name placement indicates prominence. You will note that Barnabas’ name was first in Acts until Paul became the leader of their ministry, rather than Barnabas’ protege. Scripture describes this couple as the first house church leaders in Ephesus and commend BOTH of them multiple times. There is never any indication that Priscilla had a lesser ministry, and in fact there is some evidence that hers was more prominent than that of Aquila.
Anyway, this IS an important text for egalitarians to deal with. However, I keep going back to the realization that in every office available to the early church (in Ephesians 4), you find women. Prophets, evangelists, pastors-teachers, and apostles. There are examples of women for each category in the NT church. Not a ton of them, but they are there. And even the existence of one destroys the argument against women in these positions exactly because Scripture cannot contradict itself. If women taught men authoritatively in the early church (and they did according to Scripture and church history), either we are reading something incorrectly in the couple of verses that seem to indicate otherwise or the Bible loses its authority.
George, Paul, and others: I realize it is impossible for you to make your full views known in short comments here…much of my response has been referring to Complementarian viewpoints, because I have had a 30 year overdose of their views…if you don’t hold their views you are in no way the intended recipient of my “aggressive” comments or, likely, Dalaina May’s.
However, I suspect, that if you really noticed, you have never been in full agreement with egalitarianism either, or we would not have picked up the (perhaps) slight tendency to their point of view…I may be wrong because, as I said, it is impossible to express your full intentions or view in a comment post. If you feel attacked it is on the points within your comment that have the essence of Complementarianism, despite being perhaps modified by a desire for agreement with egalitarianism on your parts.
If you feel attacked, it is likely not on the parts that were clearly in agreement with us, but on those comments that you need to consider as being more Complementarian than you wish…there are ideas to which Egalitarian women have become sensitized, as you apparently are sensitized to some of our arguments.
This is a great opportunity to fine tune our understanding of the different views, for, as Dalaina said, we are only doing what others here (male) have done, presenting our perspective, only we have been equally strong, perhaps, in our tone, because we also feel the need to express ourselves, as you do. I think it is clear that you all do NOT agree with us in full and to that extent, so don’t be surprised if we don’t capitulate and ‘surrender’ our liberty on those points. We are no longer willing to be the good little women who once used to acquiesce on every point…never again, in my case. If you agree with us that is great. If you don’t that is great too. Liberty is great is it not?
Regarding women being “silent” in the church I have learned and believe that Paul is answering questions from 1 Cor 7:1 onward to the end of 1 Cor. When you come to chp 14:34-35, I am of the view that this was a question from the Judaizers and that verse 1 Cor 14:36 is Paul’s answer. He was at war with these men who believed we all should be under the law and that women should be silent and I believe he rebuked them in vs 36. Some scholars (notably Philip B. Payne among others) have drawn this conclusion.
It is not my idea, but it makes perfect sense if you read the book from 1 Cor 7:1 where Paul begins answering a series of questions, beginning with the comment “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: ” If you underline all the ongoing series of ‘questions’ you will find them and the answers following. As there was no such thing as “quotation marks” in those days, we can never know for sure where the questions begin and the answers begin. Try it and you will find it most interesting. But if this is true, it is sad that the Judaizers seem to have won out over Paul, in that many believe it is Paul who told women to be silent…all because punctuation marks were not a part of their language.
Paul…I see no italics? “As God stated in Genesis 3:18 (ESV), “I will make a helper fit for him” (italics mine). Woman has a different role than man. ”
Please advise where God says woman has a different role than man? Surely you don’t mean the “ezer kenegdo” of Genesis…a phrase that also refers to God as our helper…for that infers at least an equal if not superior position or at least as a face to face confrontational advisor and equal…for God gives THEM dominion over all the earth…not the man alone…and God says they are to be ONE flesh…hardly unequal then. “The Torah Study for Reformed Jews site says ezer kenegdo means a helper against him. That suggests an adversarial relationship.” So if this is the verse you mean, then comparing scripture with scripture, where are there other instances that support your interpretation of a fixed type of role for men that is universally applied and the same for women? What of Proverbs 31 that says a woman to be chosen is “chayil” or “strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army ability, force”…I know it says virtuous, but the Hebrew word does not say this…not that virtue is a bad quality, but the word is a word that is often used to describe only men…why have we dismissed this?
Apparently italics don’t work….
First, everyone has a different role (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12), including women. Second, you are correct that the original Hebrew implies an adversarial relationship between woman and man after the fall. This is seen even more clearly in Gen. 2:16, where God states to the woman that “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” The Hebrew for “desire” indicates a struggle for a dominant position in the relationship, in many ways reflected in this very article…. I will admit I did not select the best verse to support my point, which is NOT that women cannot/should not be in positions of leadership, including pastor, deacon, or elder, but that each person, regardless of gender, should be careful to “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function” (Rom. 12:3, ESV). It is an individual thing – not a gender thing. Not every woman is cut out for a position at the top level of leadership, but neither are most men. What I see more often than not are people who believe they can lead at a higher level than they are capable of (again, not gender-specific). In short, I agree with the premise of this article; I believe it could have been better supported, and that some of the comments within are excessive (most denominations do not teach that women are “unworthy” or cannot be called into ministry, and there most definitely is God-ordained spiritual authority).
Third, different roles do not imply inequality. Of course women have different roles than men. I cannot be a wife, bear children, or be a mother. For thousands and thousands of years, men and women have had different roles – do you actually think that only in the last few decades we’ve “figured out” that different roles means inequality? Paul assigns different roles to men and women in Eph. 5, but nothing he writes indicates one is inferior to another. It is a great disservice to treat women the same as men – they are not the same, but in no way are they inferior. We think nothing of buying our children different gifts because they want different things; why should treating women differently mean they are inferior? The fact is, women are different than men – that is perfectly okay, perfectly normal, and exactly how God designed us. In no way does that mean women are inferior. Every person should be evaluated and treated based on their abilities, not their gender. Be proud of being a woman, equal to man, yet different in God-given ways!
Paul you are making arguments about a woman’s being (the ability to biologically mother a child) with a man’s function (ability to lead a church). These are not the same thing. Of course men and women have biologically different roles (mothering vs. fathering), but that is not what this is about.
In regards to leadership, few argue that women are not capable of this role. (They would be stupid to try to do so as there is plenty of research to back up female leadership ability) So what the argument boils down to is essentially that a woman *CAN* lead but shouldn’t because of a prohibition of Scripture. Okay… even if we concede the Scripture disallows capable women to lead for reasons that are God’s alone (the complementarian argument), we recognize that she is prohibited on basis of her BEING female.
That sends you right back to the logical conundrum that complementarian theology sits it. “Women are equal in being, but because of their being are unequal in function (again not talking about biological functions, that isn’t the argument).” This is nonsensical.
You must conclude that the equality of their being REQUIRES the equality of their functions… Or they are, in fact, unequal.
This article (Equal in Being, Unequal in Role) twists my brains into knots, but it is so very much worth the read. She addresses much of what you wrote with far more eloquence than I ever could. 🙂 It was one important “aha!” moment for me in my own journey from heirarchy to full equality. http://www.ivpress.com/title/exc/2834-18.pdf
Dalaina May…so VERY well said…very logical and precise…thanks…when one considers, is God logical (He said come let us reason together)…one cannot think that God would refute your clear thinking…even gave you the mind to present it ☺
Without a doubt Jesus would rebuke you for dismissing His word and call you to repent of your rejection of His authority and Gods given order.
I have been party to a very passionate debate on this very subject, and it has caused me to seriously study Gods words and seek His guidance. Tradition has stood so long for a very good reason. It is what the bible says and what God has ordained. That cannot be changed.
Time and time again, all through the debate, I have heard very emotive arguments with no theological base. Invariably, they begin in a similar way to yours … “Did God really say?…” Perhaps you should take another look at the bible and see who was the first to question Gods word in that way.
Well Ian P you claim that no scriptures support egalitarianism? You really do accuse God of being a respecter of persons and ascribe to the idea yourself.
By necessity you also say God’s was in unequal…and you are not alone in scripture…see Ezekiel chapters 18 and 33…”Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” Yes God reminds Israel 4 times that his way is equal and their way is unequal…so are your ways Ian.
You also disagree with Paul who said ELEVEN TIMES that we are no longer under the law but under grace…and yet you must believe that Paul has actually created NEW laws for women in his writings that didn’t exist before.
You also say that headship, despite Jesus, who counted it not robbery to be equal with God who is His Head, ACTUALLY MEANS INEQUALITY. Therefore you insist that headship, illogically, means inequality between men and women while it means equality between Jesus and God. Y
You also defy Paul’s statement that there is neither male nor female in Christ, for you insist that there IS male and female in Christ and they are required to be separate, distinct and of different status….anything else?…I can find more scripture if you like…☺…
sorry…I meant God’s way, not God’s was…
Paul: “If you attend a “church” that tells women they …“can’t be called” into ministry, – leave that cult and find a real church –”
OUCH…you are hitting a huge majority of churches, I think…Southern Baptists, almost all the various “Free………” denominations and most Reformed churches no?
Are they all cults? I think not. I have rarely heard of any church that believes women can be called into ministry…aside from the Salvation Army and some Wesleyian denominations…where are these ‘real churches’?
Let me clarify: “called into ministry” is not restricted to the position of pastor, deacon, or elder; Baptists, in general, and most other Fundamental, Evangelical, Protestant (FEP) denominations do not hold women back from ministry – only from top leadership positions. I agree with you that the Church, as a whole, is missing out on invaluable perspective and leadership by choosing to limit women; fortunately, there are several denominations that do not do that, mainly Pentecostal or Charismatic ones (who also do not limit the Holy Spirit and other gifts). You said, “But when people are told that they are unworthy; when people are told that they just aren’t called; when people are told that they need to sit in the back….” If a “church” teaches that women are less than men, are unworthy or unequal, or are only good for doing things the men don’t want to do, they are clearly not teaching Scripture, which means they are not a biblical church. This is NOT what Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, or most other FEP denominations teach; they simply restrict upper-level leadership (individual churches and pastors may teach something different, but the doctrinal statement of these denominations does not support treating women as inferior in any way).
With respect, Paul, if you tell me as a woman that you are allowed to do A,B, C, D, E but I may only do C, D, E – that IS treating me in an inferior way. I understand that some will try to use Scripture to justify it, and that is a different conversation, but it is giving women a lesser status in the church by limiting the areas in which she is allowed to serve.
It makes zero sense to say that women are equal in being but unequal in function because of their being. They are either equal or they aren’t. You can make the case for either one, but please let’s be honest about what it really is.
If A through E are all things capable of being done by a woman, then I agree. But men and women are different, and there are things that one gender can do that another cannot. I cannot bear children, be a wife, or be a mother. So we are not equal in function, we do not have equal desires, nor do we have equal abilities. Equal means “being the same in value,” and has nothing to do with ability, position, or function. Too many people equate equal treatment with equal value and that is wrong. If I bought each of my children the same toy, it would be equal, but they do not want the same toy, nor can each child use the same toy with the same level of skill. Each child is of equal value to me, but to treat them exactly the same is inherently unfair. You cannot compare equal value with equal treatment. This transcends gender; one man is of equal value to another, yet one choses to be a commercial pilot and the other chooses to manage a McDonalds – to require them to be treated equally (same pay, benefits, work environment, etc.) is ludicrous. Women absolutely are equal in value, but not completely in function, and to treat them exactly as a man is treated is unfair to them.
Paul please name one thing that a woman cannot do that is not a biological part of her being. As mentioned in the thread down below, it is illogical to bring biology into this. No one says that men can mother or women can father. No one is saying that there are not wonderful complementary differences between genders. The question is: is there authority inherent to those differences?
Let’s talk about functions in the church. What exactly is it that women on the whole cannot do that men on the whole can do? What is the A and B? That is what this conversation is about, not whether or not a man can get pregnant.
I’d also like to make 2 points on this statement -“one man is of equal value to another, yet one choses to be a commercial pilot and the other chooses to manage a McDonalds – to require them to be treated equally (same pay, benefits, work environment, etc.) is ludicrous.”
#1 – Choice. This would be very different if you have two men. One is allowed to be a pilor while the other must choose McDonald’s despite his desire to go to flight school. That is a more accurate comparison. Women have no choice under complementarian theology if their desires and callings are in certain fields.
#2 – McDonald’s employee has the option to quit and change his career to be a pilot if he so desires. Women in complementarian theology are boxed in. It doesn’t matter what we want. We are told that we cannot do certain things because we are women. It’s not because we are not able, it’s because we are not allowed. Those are very different statements.
thank you Dalaina May…I totally agree with your answers to Paul…especially about the lack of choice and limitation of options or the opposite: compulsion to do unchosen things. These are the very issues that need to be addressed. I also find it frustrating when ‘motherhood’ is brought into the equation…I can’t be a father…so what has that got to do with equality? We are equal AND different. Parenting doesn’t limit parents as to the expression of their persons, and neither should the church. What audacity and dangerous precedent to limit God, who gave a woman her gifts and talents, by silencing her message from God. As the pharisee said “Refrain from these men (women), and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” That was one wise pharisee, Gamaliel!
I know this sounds like semantics,but it is not intended to be. The key to any discussion is asking the right question. Indeed a woman CAN teach and She Can have authority over men by virtue of the fact that she exists. The question is really “Should she, not can she”.
Bingo! That is my point. I think once we get past the “can she,” (duh, yes), we can get to the meat of it with “should she”? I maintain that the whole host of women in the old testament and new testament that had authority over men is all that we need to cheer with an affirmative YES!
“Yet the doctrine of male rule presupposes that woman is uniquely designed by
God not to perform certain distinctively human activities. In order to be true to her
divine design and her God-given femininity, woman must not engage in these activities
(which, per patriarchy, are no longer distinctively human but reclassified as
distinctively masculine). By contrast, there are no uniquely human behaviors from
which male humans must abstain in order to be true to their masculine being. No,
masculinity is defined precisely in terms of certain distinctively human activities
that only men are deemed fit to do—namely, the spiritual discernment and high-level
cognitive/rational behaviors involved in making decisions and directing and
taking final responsibility for one or more other human beings.
According to the patriarchal paradigm, women do have their own uniquely feminine activities not shared by men—for example, bearing and rearing their young
and being submissive and obedient to the master of the home. But note that these
activities are not unique to human beings; rather, childbearing and nursing are
shared with females of all mammal species, and submission to the household master
is shared (albeit in a different sense!) with a wide array of household pets.25 Certainly,
it is a privilege and joy for women to bear and rear children. The point is not
to diminish the value of motherhood but to note that while childbearing and nursing
are distinctively female capabilities, they are not, in and of themselves, among
the distinctively human capabilities (such as high-level rationality).”
(An excerpt from Equal in Being, Unequal in Role from the book Discovering Biblical Equality. See link for the rest of the article. http://www.ivpress.com/title/exc/2834-18.pdf )
I think we agree, but are presenting it from different angles. I agree with your statement, “Women in complementarian theology are boxed in. It doesn’t matter what we want. We are told that we cannot do certain things because we are women. It’s not because we are not able, it’s because we are not allowed. Those are very different statements.” That has been my point all along – position should be dictated by ability and desire, not gender.
In response to your other question, “No one is saying that there are not wonderful complementary differences between genders. The question is: is there authority inherent to those differences?” – authority comes with position, not gender, except in marriage where God clearly set the husband as head of the family. Each of us is called to submit to the authority over us, regardless of gender. I submit to the female staff and pastors at my church in the same way I submit to the male staff and pastors. If women are at a church that limits their involvement, they should leave and find a church that does not limit them rather than be rebellious. If men are at a church that allows women to be in positions with which they disagree, they should leave and find a church that does not rather than be rebellious. The sin of rebellion has always brought the most devastating consequences throughout Scripture.
Paul: “in marriage where God clearly set the husband as head of the family. ” Please define what you mean by ‘head of the family’…in what sense do you believe this?
Actually, I don’t see this particular issues only as Dalaina May does…please, if you don’t mind, I would like to hear the answer to my question also…as I may have an insight that is different from Dalaina’s and one that is rarely mentioned or grasped.
I think I know where you are coming from, Paul. And I encourage you to keep studying…
Head in modern English has the connotation of “leader” and implies authority. It does not have the same connotation in other languages… Koine Greek would be one. Head most often meant “as opposed to the body” or “source” (head of a river). You have to ask, if there is another very reasonable understanding of “head,” is there any other place in Scripture where a husband is told to have leadership over his wife. Short answer: no. Ephesians 5:22 tells a wife to submit to her husband, but the verse before tells both of them to submit to one another. The only passage in scripture that talks about authority in the marriage is in 1 Cor 7 where they are given authority over ONE another. The entire chapter (the longest in the Bible that speaks of marriage) is one of mutual submission, each command mirroring given to both partners.
This is a really good article that goes through the idea of headship. It’s got some great links and a good bibliography. http://juniaproject.com/5-myths-of-male-headship/
Or if you want something more scholarly… I 100% agree with this article. The husband IS the head of the wife, but only in the way that Paul intended that word, not as we moderns read it. http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/e-quality/i-believe-male-headship?page=show
Ephesians 5:23 & 24: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” The Greek word, kephale, is defined as “head (of a body); top; by extension, someone or something in a primary place” (The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, word #3051, used 68 out of 75 times as “head” or “heads”). You can cut off an appendage and still live, but you will go nowhere and live for no time without a head. (On a side note, this would have been an ideal place for God to have inserted that “Christ was head of man, and man head of the church” if that was His intention. Since Christ is head of the church, and men and women are both “the church,” who is to say that women cannot be pastors? This verse certainly does not imply that only men can be the head of the church.)
The Greek word for submit is hypotasso, defined as: “to put in subjection, subject, subordinate; to submit, be subject to” (word #5718, used 37 out of 38 times in some form of the words “submit,” “subject to,”, “put under,” or “obedient”).
I think it is pretty clear that the husband is the leader of the family. The problem with a “looser” definition of “head” is the resulting deconstruction of the church’s relationship with Christ. Husband is to wife as Christ is to the church. If you lessen the husband-wife relationship, you also lessen our need to submit to Christ. In every way these verses/phrases/words have both the denotation and connotation of “leader”.
I believe the deeper issue is that many men and women think that submission involves either domination or inferiority, but that is not the sense in which men are to be the head of their families. Jesus submitted to God the Father, yet we know that Jesus is fully God and is an equal part of the Trinity. In what way did God dominate Jesus, or in what way is Jesus inferior to God? In the same way, a husband is not to dominate his wife, nor is his wife to be considered inferior to him. Absolutely should submission be mutual, and it is incredibly hard for men to “love [their] wives, just as Christ loved the church” (v. 25), which is why we are commanded to do so. It is equally hard for women to respect their husbands, which is why they are commanded to do so (v. 33). No one has to be told to do what comes natural, but what feels foreign to us.
For those of you who missed it so far – I agree that women should be treated as equals within the church, and have simply been trying to present that case from a male point of view, however poorly I may have done so. If women treat those who agree with them so aggressively, no wonder men are concerned with how they will be treated should such women attain a position of leadership (and, yes, I know I will be attacked for that comment, too, but I’m just trying to be honest for those of you who will take it to heart.)
With all due respect, I must leave this conversation at this point. Feel free to respond to this comment, as I will do my best to read them.
I don’t have an argument that wives are to be submissive to their husbands. That is all over Scripture. However, husbands are also told to be submissive to their wives, explicitly in Eph 5:21 and indirectly all the other “one another” verses in Scripture. I am at a loss as to how a man pulls unilateral authoritative rank while still being obedient to these verses. Certainly there are situations when he may be the best leader, but submission is for both spouses (as you mentioned), so how would you say a husband submits to his wife and holds unchanging authority over her at the same time. Seems mutually exclusive to me.
Again, I think that when head is used to make a comparison between Christ and husbands, nowhere is it in terms of Christ’s authority over the church. Is Christ is authority over the church? Certainly, but that is not how the metaphor is used. Christ is also redeemer to the church, but “redeemer” does not describe a husband’s relationship to his wife. Christ is “authority” over the church, but that does not describe a husband’s relationship with his wife.
Christ’s “headship” in relation to the Church is mentioned 5 times in the New Testament:
Colossians 1:18 – Christ is metaphorical head of the Church, source of life after death
Colossians 2. 18-19 – Christ as metaphorical head of the Church, to help her flourish
Ephesians 5.23 & 25 – Christ as metaphorical head of the Church, saving her, loving her, giving himself up for her
Ephesians 1:20-23 – Church is metaphorical body of Christ, Christ provides for Church’s growth
Ephesians 4:15-16 – Church is metaphorical body of Christ, Christ equips the Church for growth through love
How is Christ’s headship of the Church described?
Giving abundant life
Helping her flourish
Giving himself for her/dying for her
What don’t we see in these passages?
Many other times when Christ is called the “head” of something, Scripture adds language to explain that he is also in authority over that thing. This “authority over” language is missing in every single instance of Christ being the head of the Church.
Is Christ the authority over the church? Yes.
Is Christ the head over the church? Yes.
But those are two different things. So when husbands are described as heads over their wives AS Christ is the head over the church, it can only mean “head” as Paul meant it. I think you have to infuse modern meaning of “head” into the text to make it mean “authoritative.”
I am not sure if you were directing your comment about female aggression to me specifically, but I will assume so since it was my comment that you replied to.
Honestly, I am not sure how to take that. I have been assertive about my opinion, but I would like to think I have been kind, respectful, and assuming your good-heartedness as well.
It is interesting to me that you chose to label me as aggressive, yet refrained from labeling some of the men in this conversation who went so far as to “rebuke” others on this comment section. Seems like a double-standard, and I wonder why you felt that I (and perhaps Judy) were aggressive while not making sure to include the men (including yourself) who were just as and more “aggressive” with their opinions?
It’s been noted in research that the same characteristics that people appreciate in their male leaders – assertiveness, directiveness, and confidence – get female leaders labeled as dominant, aggressive, and bi*chy. Curious how the perception of the women on this comment thread is different than the perception of men who have acted no different (or far more unkindly)…
All that to say, thanks for interacting, Paul. You seem to be good-hearted and doing your best to follow the Lord as I am as well. I wish you the best on your journey.
I will take one last moment before I leave for the week to reply to a couple of your comments.
1. I never said you weren’t respectful; you said that. 2. I never compared you to anyone else; you did that. 3. Other than the four or five comments posted before my first post, I haven’t read a single other comment, male or female, that wasn’t in my stream. Therefore I didn’t speak of that which I did not know (the only comment I vaguely recall by a man was attacking the writer, not the issue, and, therefore, wasn’t worth responding too). 4. Not only here, but in several of your other comments, you have inferred things I did not say, and twisted what I have said to imply things I did not mean – that is what I mean by aggressive. Aggressively seeking to find what is “wrong” with my perspective and ignoring what is right. I deal with assertive, confident, and dominate women frequently each week, and am not bothered in the least. Generally speaking, you simply restated what I had already said in a different way. Outside of the question of family leadership, I think we’ve mostly agreed on everything, but yet I can’t seem to measure up. Rather, each new comment elicits new criticisms. Perhaps you are hyper-sensitive to this issue, as you seem to be making false assumptions and reading into things that which isn’t there?
And, thank you – I am on a journey to discover greater and deeper truths about my Lord and Savior through His precious Word; I wish you wisdom, passion, and deep discernment on your journey, as well. Have a blessed week!
Paul, I appreciate the clarification. It truly makes me feel a lot better that you were just dealing directly with me and had not been reading and willfully ignoring other comments that were equally as “aggressive.” I apologize for making that incorrect assumption.
I think perhaps you misunderstood my passion and my desire to dig deeper as being argumentative. If you look over my comments, you will see I agreed with your point about submission, and once you clarified that you were not arguing about equality in the church but in the home, I dropped that matter completely. I don’t think I was the only one who was unclear that was your opinion in your first posts. 🙂
“Outside of the question of family leadership, I think we’ve mostly agreed on everything,” – yes, that seems to be the case, I agree (again)… “but yet I can’t seem to measure up” – I am not sure why this is personal to you. I am critiquing your opinion, not your person. I believe I have repeatedly affirmed my perception of your good-heartedness. I have attempted to engage you as someone who seems invested in the issue, respectful of me, and capable of an intelligent conversation (pretty much my criteria for “bothering” with a conversation online. It’s sad to me that my thought-out, respectful attempts to dialogue with someone of a differing opinion have left me feeling dismissed as “aggressive” or perhaps “hyper-sensitive.” *Shrug* I guess it is what it is.
Paul said (I think I received this twice) “If I bought each of my children the same toy, it would be equal, but they do not want the same toy, nor can each child use the same toy with the same level of skill. Each child is of equal value to me, but to treat them exactly the same is inherently unfair.”
Women ARE NOT CHILDREN and God’s gifts are not the same either, yet they ARE equal, because God’s way IS equal (Ezekiel chp 18 and 33). How is it possible that when God gifts with different gifts they ARE EQUAL?
God HAS given us different gifts ( in fact it is clear some have 10 talents, others only 1, and this is equal treatment from God is because His gifts are according to His purpose, not for us to play with). But the Complementarian scenario is that some us ARE NOT PERMITTED TO USE His gifts. This has nothing to do with children getting toys…it is who we are and how we express, not only ourselves, but God’s message to mankind. God has ordered that “to whom much is given much is required”…so much for women who are highly gifted and are FORBIDDEN by mere men, of great ego, to use their talents…someone will have to answer to God for this. Be sure it is not you.
☺ Go girl! ☺ This practice flies in the face of Matthew 7:12 and yet they cannot see it is SO unbiblical.
Paul…”the doctrinal statement of these denominations does not support treating women as inferior in any way”…well take a look at all the denominations represented on the following website…you may be surprised…
Approx 75,000 ministers take this ‘oath’ as part of the Articles of Faith for sermonaudio.com: I was stunned when I read that they are not open to the dissemination of such distinctive Charismatic and Pentecostalist views …as women pastors/preachers/elders, etc.” and “All broadcasters must adhere to the site’s Articles of Faith. Absolutely no exceptions ” In other words better not preach on this or permit it either if you want to be on our website. An egalitarian admitted that many denominations make it part of a legal contract for minister/leaders to keep women out of leadership. The sad part is that this website reaches Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Iran etc. with the message that Christians are just as bad as you are regarding women…so come join us and keep women down…How can we ever reach Muslim women when they find Christian men just as sinful as their own men and proud of it?
I guess you could argue that is not teaching inferiority of women, but IT DOES teach that…no matter how you cook it up and serve it. I spent 30 years in one of those churches on that site and the last lesson I learned was that they never let women pray in the services, only in prayer meetings…I had supposed it was just a coincidence, not a DETERMINATION…Frankly, do you think God wants us to be silent, even in prayer…my silent prayers would probably shock these men, even during “their” services, especially during the last two years before I left…☺ I am waiting for God to answer my prayers…they should beware how they treat God and present Him before the churches…it may just come home to roost…because God is no respecter of persons and Jesus is a freedom fighter!
I just wanted to offer my encouragement as you speak against the male authoritarianism that has become a part of the DNA of churches in America in the last 40 years. You’ll get lots of people who will criticize anything you write because it is not (by nature an article cannot be) a complete systematic theology. If you write about experience, you will be dismissed as using subjective reasoning. If you offer a theological perspective on a verse, you will be criticized for not bringing in other verse. If you spend time writing the whole thing out (which will be a book), your motives will be questioned and you will be dismissed as a hysterical/angry/emotional/divisive woman. You cannot “win” arguments with people who want to tear you and your words apart rather than considering what you are communicating.
My 2 cents from my experience in this world: pray hard and use wisdom about who to engage with. Don’t spend your precious minutes casting pearls before swine. Follow the Spirit’s leading to engage with people who are honestly seeking to understand. Even if they never come to agree with you, you will find that they will become an odd sort of ally who will defend your love for the Scripture and for daughter’s of God as the root of your activism. That has a lot of value.
Keep writing. The ones that listen don’t usually comment. They’ll come to you, usually privately, and that is the place that you will have the most influence and opportunity to share what you are learning. Posts like this are life-lines to people who are drowning in patriarchy and thinking -hoping, that it just might be a mis-representation of the message of Scripture.
Carry on, Ezer Warrior!
Dalaina May….what a lovely and true response…true in every respect and oh so encouraging. I have found everything you say to be true, except that many of us who listen also comment…it isn’t only the ones who FEEL THREATENED by women…and it isn’t only men who feel threatened by egalitarians…many women see their safe lunch ticket going out the window when they see their husband’s ‘job’ possibly endangered by women who might have a gift of preaching, teaching or even executive qualities that might threaten the job of church management. It is sad because, instead of seeing what IS and all that there is….why can’t they see that more people in ministry would expand the spread of the Gospel…it is the problem that there is only one pie, instead of seeing the expansion as the creation of many pies (ministries).
The bottom line is STATUS…that is all that is behind keeping women out…not scripture.
I (with sadness) agree. So often this thing is approached as a zero sum game. It isn’t God’s economy doesn’t work like that. Like you said, this isn’t so much about taking ministries and positions from men, but moving with the expectation that God is expanding his own kingdom and that is the reason he is calling so many men AND women into leadership. When women don’t take the positions that he is calling them to in this battle, we all lose ground against the enemy.
My experience with women that won’t consider the merits of egalitarian perspective is that they usually have a lot of fear. Someone very close to me told me that she doesn’t like what I write/talk about (and will not actually engage with it) because she likes the fact that her husband carries all of the responsibility for their family on his shoulders. For her, it is such a scary thing to have to be responsible for herself and her kids that it is easier to just not consider the idea… regardless of the fact that she leaves her husband holding a burden he was not meant to carry alone. It’s sad.
In my experience writing publicly on this issue, there are some awesome people who will comment publicly to encourage, but the vast majority are the ones who feel they have their toes stepped on. And sometimes their combined voices are so very loud. It’s nice to hear voices like yours in the middle of the criticism.
Wow! Thank you so much for the encouragement! It means so much! 🙂
Ian P…said :”I have been party to a very passionate debate on this very subject, and it has caused me to seriously study Gods words and seek His guidance.”
That is good…you need to keep on seeking His guidance until you see “Him” and His heart…you are not there yet.
You said :”Without a doubt Jesus would rebuke you for dismissing His word and call you to repent of your rejection of His authority and Gods given order.”
Well I am sure all the women here are waiting for Jesus to rebuke them and require they repent of their sin, but you rebuking them is not part of the Word…and you speak very loosely when you dare to say we ‘REJECT HIS AUTHORITY AND GIVEN ORDER’…especially in the light of HIS given order being that ‘he created them male and female and gave THEM to have dominion over…the whole earth.” How then does egalitarianism reject this? It enforces it. What you call God’s order is actually Satan’s order, ordained after the Fall. In Christ, there is neither male nor female…Christ has broken down the wall of partition ending the enmity and restoring oneness between men and women…to rebuild the wall is in fact defying Christ’s work at the cross.
Paul, by the way, when you say you agree with us, why did you make this comment?
“While I agree that women shouldn’t be denigrated to a subservient position, there are a few issues with your blog.”
Your sentence carries the trailings of Complementarianism despite your intentions to the otherwise…when you say”I agree women shouldn’t be denigrated TO A SUBSERVIENT POSITION”…even some men would say…well then, to what degree do you believe women SHOULD be denigrated? After all the prepositional phrase (to a subservient position) only defines the degree of denigration ☺ Do you see what I mean?…and you still have issued with the blog as well…this does not make a woman feel accepted much…the language is hesitantly confrontational, even if you didn’t mean it to be…perhaps we all need to learn better how to have a civilized discussion as we are ALL not used to discussing, since men are just used to giving orders and women to doing what we are told, then the conversion to civil two way communication will of necessity be a learning process…