Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


Friday, December 28, 2007

Masculinity and Feminity: Definitions?

I'm starting to feel like this is the Molly Blog. Did everyone else run away? Has the experiment (getting comps and egals talking?) failed? Is it just experiencing the beginning of birth pangs (I hope so)? What?

In the meantime, a quote from a feminist thinker:

"Women's liberation is the liberation of the feminine in the man and the
masculine in the woman." (Corita Kent, LA Times, July 11, 1974).

And a question to go with it:

Where do we get our definitions for what is masculine and what is feminine? Is the author of this quote speaking sacrilage, or is she pointing out that perhaps our ideas of what masculinity and feminity are have been too narrow, too stifling, therefore harmful for both sexes...?

Are your current definitions of masculinity and femininity purely cultural (from your childhood experiences and/or from your culture at large), are they individually defined, or are definitions for masculinity and femininity something that we find in the Bible (clearly or veiled).

Please support Biblical claims with references.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Considering the Roman Household Codes

As a patriarchalist, I didn't know there were any Household Codes, and this includes three full years of studying Bible and Theology at a Bible College.

The first time I heard about the Codes was after I'd begun questioning some of the presuppostions of a patriarchal interpretation of Scripture. I was shocked and, admittedly, felt I'd been lied to. Why are so many unaware of what seems to be a rather important "cultural norm" during the time the Epistles were penned?

When it comes to interpreting the instructions to wives, slaves and children in Ephesians and Colossians, the Household Codes are an incredibly important piece of background information. The Codes don't necessarily prove or disprove any side's position, but I'd say they are a necessary parcel of cultural information for all who study these areas, in the same way that it's helpful to know what leprousy is in order to better understand why it was meaningful for Jesus to heal lepers (much less touch them).

Michael Kruse of Kruse Kronicle writes,

Writing instructions for the proper household management was a common
practice of Greek social philosophers. These “household codes” usually
instructed the father in the household to “rule” over his household wisely.
Instructions were not given to the wife, children, and slaves. The
husband/father/master was exhorted to bring his wife, children and slaves into
submission as his duty in preserving the social order. (1)

The Roman household (familia) structure was very similar to the Greek
household structure. The ruler of the Roman household was called the
paterfamilias. His wife, children and slaves were subject to him until his
death. It is important to understand that the household code in Ephesians is not
referring to three separate sets of relationships. (husband and wife, father and
children, master and slaves) It is referring to the relationship of one person,
the paterfamilias, to the rest of the household. (2)

[Molly adds: Please read the full post (very recommended) here, an insightful and informative article on the Household Codes and how understanding them helps us understand what Paul may have been communicating to his audience. Peter Kirk also comments on this subject and provides more articles Kruse has written on the Household Codes here.

Primal Subversion muses here on the impact the Household Code must have on the way we view Ephesians and Colossians, and I appreciate their questions. Why do we assume that Paul was being subversive about slavery, but yet making foundational arguments for the continuation of patriarchy? Isn't that an inconsistant hermeneutic?

Whatever the case, the Household Code needs to be addressed by both complementarian and egalitarians alike. It is an important piece of the puzzle, particularly if our goal is to understand the words as they would have been read by the original recipients of the letters, as that probably remains our best shot for obtaining an accurate interpretation.

The complementarian handbook, "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood," responds to the Household Codes thusly (1995, p.204):

"As for the "household codes," there were lists of expected behavior for
husbands and wives, parents and children, and servants and masters in the
ancient world, but close comparison of ancient lists with those in the New
Testament shows very few exact parallels except that these various
groups are named. The form (if the New Testament authors were even
conscious of using such a form) was extensively "Christianized," so that few
similarities remain. And at any rate, what we have in Scripture now is the
morally binding authority of God's own words. If we say that no unique
authority or leadership for husbands in marriage was the ideal, but that Peter
gave in to cultural expectations and failed to teach that ideal, this would
seem to impugn Peter's courage and integrety, because it implies that Peter (and
Paul, too!) to command Christians to follow a sinful, sub-Christian pattern of
behavior in their homes---a most unlikely course of action for those accustomed
to running against the tide! Moreover, it implies that God would command
Christians to follow a sinful pattern of marriage just to attract unbelievers to
the gospel--something inconsistent with God's won pattern of telling His people
to use morally righteous means to achieve righteous ends. We may
conclude that both of these attempts to avoid the force of Peter's directions
today fail to be persuasive.

A few immediate questions popped into my mind as I read this. If we follow the complementarian hermeneutic above, it appears we must conclude that Peter and Paul were advocating slavery as God's design for living in a fallen world. Why? Because we're now required, if we submit to the complementarian explanation, to believe that if slavery is not God's design, then Peter and Paul were cowards for not openly condemning slavery. I mean, the above argument declares that it is only godly to openly buck the tide, whereas only cowards are quietly subversive, doesn't it?

So we must conclude that slavery is currently blessed by God. After all, since it was written down and canonized, it's now a "morally binding authority," right?

While I am sure that many complementarians will not agree with this sort of argument, it appears the complementarian handbook is using the "morally binding authority" argument as a way of shutting down the validity of considering the Household Codes as a helpful means toward interpreting the meaning and intent of Paul's words.

Isn't the complementarian argument above essentially saying that we must take Scripture literally as a command-for-all-time, no matter what the context is (so who cares about a thing called Household Codes? It has no bearing on interpretation).

If not, what else is meant by the statement, "And at any rate, what we have in Scripture is now the morally binding authority...?"

I appreciate the complementarian attempt to address the Household Codes, but I think the Codes deserve more thought and attention than they've been given. (Perhaps that level of attention has been given to them, and I'm just not aware of it yet. If so, I'm very interested to hear a complementarian response).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Husbands and Wives are as Gardener and Soil (and should LIKE it)

In the name of Holding Tight to Scripture, I have a request.

Equality for women? That is madness. Women are our property; we
are not theirs. They give us children...and belong to us as the
fruit-bearing tree belongs to the gardener."
In the Words of Napoleon, p. 104
It's easy to talk about the outdated view of Women As Property, thinking it an old concept, long gone along with Napoleon--- something we've outgrown through modernity's logic. The education of women has provided us with a myriad of practical examples, armies of thinking talented females exposing the age-old lie of women's natural inferiority.

But hear the words of a Christian leader and champion of patriarchy (who, so that I will not be accused of misquoting, also believes that men and women are equal image bearers, and that men should rule lovingly):
As Peter teaches, women need to understand they are being led by a lord. "As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror" (I Peter 3:6). Unfortunately, many women are led (if it can be called leading) by men who believe themselves to be nothing more than walking, talking, living, breathing impositions. How many Christian women today can be considered as daughters of Abraham? How many of them could imagine calling their husband lord with a straight face? Him? But a husband is one who cultivates with authority.

...Husbandry is careful management of resources---it is stewardship. And when someone undertakes to husband a woman, he must understand that it cannot be done unless he acts with authority. He must act as though he has the right to be where he is. He is lord of the garden, and he has been commanded by God to see to it that this garden bears much fruit. This cannot be accomplished by "hanging around" in the garden and being nice. The garden must be managed, and ruled, and kept, and tilled."

Douglas Wilson
Reforming Marriage (pg. 78-79, emphasis author)

Wilson would probably disagree that he views women as property (or then again, maybe he wouldn't). But if a person is teaching that a wife is made for her husband (as in, she is made for his use) and that a wife is to be managed and ruled in a way similar to a farmer plowing and sowing a field (deciding what it will grow and when), then how different are Wilson's words from those of Napoleon, other than that Wilson throws God into his reasons?

I appreciate that the complementarian handbook, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, disagrees with the patriarchal view of a husband "sanctifying" his wife as a farmer tills the ground, in that the complementarians do not teach that a husband has been "commanded by God to see that [his wife] bears much fruit." In fact, in reference to Ephesians 5:26, 27, the complementarian handbook says,
"Yet the uniqueness of the redemptive work of Christ means that these aspects cannot be imitated precisely by the husband." (Chapter 8, p. 172)
At the same time, however, the handbook also teaches things like this,
"The important thing for the wife to know is that she should submit to her husband "in everything," that is, that her submission is coextensive with all aspects of their relationship." (p.170, emphasis mine)
So if a husband felt that he was to cultivate fruit in his wife's life, to manage her affairs and to require her to ask permission before making decisions, etc, then (according to comp. teaching) she really has no choice but to obey him "as unto the Lord."

Some complementarians may scoff at this, saying, "Most Christian men would do no such thing," but it's a fair question, as history shows that humans in power tend toward corruption, not to mention the dismal record of abused wives. To clarify, let me share that I fully believe, had God made women physically stronger than men, the ratio of abused husbands would be much higher than it is. Point being, high ratios of abused women are a normal sight on this fallen planet. If someone is going to teach women that they must submit in all aspects of their relationship, somebody needs to be there when that submission is taken advantage of.

The handbook also says things like this,

"Surely God confers upon them equal worth as His image-bearers. But does a wife possess under God all the rights that her husband does in an unqualified sense? As the head, the husband bears the primary responsibility to lead their partnership in a God-glorifying direction. Under God, a wife may not compete for that primary responsibility. It is her husband's just because he is the husband, by the wise decree of God. The ideal of "equal rights" is an unqualified sense is not Biblical.

Second, the "natural outcome" of godly male headship is female fulfillment, not a denial of female rights."

(Chapter 3, p. 105, italic emphasis authors, bold emphasis mine)

I try to post quotes because I want to be very careful to NOT to put words in the mouths of my complementarian and patriarchal friends. And I sometimes wonder just how much the complementarian and the patriarchalist differ---if they do, it seems like not in the majors, but only in the minors. Both believe that men are to lead women. Both feel that God has both decreed it thus, and designed men and women in ways that complement said heirarchy.

What's worse, though, is that both complementarian and patriarchalist camps say that in these roles, men and women are to be happy.

Piper says, in his little book, "What's the Difference?" that
"Biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her
husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.
This is the way of joy" (p 48).
A woman who is submitting to her husband in all things (in an unreciprocal way) should feel completely fulfilled, according to the complementarian books and patriarchal books alike. If she's not, then something is wrong with her heart, not with the system. Which makes the unhappy women say, "What is wrong with me? Why am I so sinful for not loving this?" Women might learn to smile through the pain, so as not to be rebellious against what they believe to be God's will, but that does not deny the pain.

Why would anyone think that women would love being led "in all things" by a fallen sinful human being? Why would someone think that women want to be tilled like a garden, thought of like a plot of land owned by a farmer? Why would a group think that a woman would find fulfillment in being permenantly subordinated from birth to death, whether through patriarchy or (the slightly gentler) complementarianism?

Might it be for the same reasons that while 99.9999% of all slaves long for freedom, the master (through-out all time!) thinks his slaves happy and well-treated, thinks of himself as a kind and benevolent ruler, the kind anyone would be happy to serve under? "Who wouldn't want to revolve their life around me?"

As an aside, I have met men, when patriarchy crumbled, who were shocked to learn that their wives were unhappy the entire time, but were stuffing their feelings down in order to be obedient to what they thought was God's plan for marriage. (This was true for my own marriage as well, prior to our exodus from patriarchy ala Douglas Wilson style). What is it about us, as humans, that makes us tend to think rulership is good and righteous, as long as we're the ones ruling?

Joy is found in Christ, not in marriage roles or the lack thereof. Tell your women they must obey, if that is what your theology dictates. But don't add to the literalist interpretation of Scripture by telling her she must feel fulfilled in her subjection, and don't fool yourself into thinking that she is.

Monday, December 17, 2007

1 Peter 3:6, Amplified Version

It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging
his headship over her by] calling him Lord (master, leader, authority).
And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you
[not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve
you]. 1 Peter 3:6 Amp

Just how accurate is this "amplification" in your opinion (as a complementarian or an egalitarian)? What are areas you agree or disagree with, and why? How would you amplify it? Please use Scripture to help explain your answer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Assumptions, Ezer, and the Pyramid Game

As a non-complementarian, I would like to share something complementarians teach that I do not see as being either Biblical or logical. Perhaps a complementarian can help explain the concept below better for me.

"On the other side of the paradox, the woman is the man's helper. The
man was not created to help the woman, but the reverse. Doesn't this
striking fact suggest that manhood and womanhood are distinct and
non-reversible? Doesn't this make sense if we allow that, while the man
and the woman are to love each other as equals, they are not to love each other in
the same way? The man is to love his wife by accepting the primary
responsibility for making their partnership a platform displaying God's glory,
and the woman is to love her husband by supporting him in that godly

So was Eve Adam's equal? Yes and no. She was his spiritual
equal and, unlike the animals, "suitable for him." But she was not his equal in
that she was his "helper." God did not create man and woman in an
undifferentiated way, and their mere maleness and femaleness identify their
respective roles. A man, just by virtue of his manhood, is called to lead
for God. A woman, just by virtue of her womanhood, is called to help for

(Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1991, Chapter 3, p

I will freely share that I believe the argument above is founded on deep underlying assumptions.

First, it assumes the concept that "help" implies the absence of leadership on the part of the helper. Help is seen as a subordinate helping a superior.

Secondly, it assumes that the "help" needed was that of assisting Adam as he did his work.

But help (ezer) does not con notate subordination or the absence of leadership. The English word, "helper," certainly does infer a support role, but the Hebrew word, ezer, emphatically does not (unless we say that God takes up a subordinate role when He flies on the wings of the wind to ezer/help mankind). In fact, Hebrew men seemed to think the word indicated warrior-like qualities, certainly not subordination, as they seemed to enjoy naming their sons with the word!

Also, to shoot another assumption in the foot, the above quote assumes the kind of help Adam needed---that woman was made to help Adam with Adam's unique task (as a subordinate helps by assisting a superior officer). But where in the text do we learn that Adam's problem is that he needs a secretarial staff?

We know from Genesis 2 that God said the problem was that, "It is not good for man to be alone."

The help of the woman, then, it seems would solve the problem of aloneness. That much we can infer from Scripture without being in danger of assuming something that is not in the text. CBMW's assumption of the problem, unfortunately, is not supported in the text but something that must be read into it.

Also, assuming that the work was Adam's and that the woman was there to assist him in his calling is not only an assumption, but it also ignores Genesis 1:28, where the calling of God was given to both male and female, not to one gender alone.

The real question is then what is it that makes us assume these things? Why do we automatically assume that "help" is subordinate? What is it in us that is always seeking rank and position, jostling for place, trying to figure out who's on top ('cuz Lord knows, someones gotta be or how can we have functioning relationships...right)? We humans are always looking to scale the pyramid and/or maintain everyone elses place on it so that they won't threaten us by rising.

Jesus showed us what to do with a higher rank: He came and ezer-ed us, let the creation He'd formed from dirt nail Him onto one of His own trees. Jesus showed us how to view a higher status position: He poured out that others might live.

But Ortlund, the author of the chapter quoted above, says,

"It is the word "helper" that suggests a woman's supportive role...
Subordination is entailed in the very nature of a helping role." (p.104).

By this logic, we can "prove" that Jesus is subordinate to humanity. After all, He took on the role of a subordinate by helping us, didn't He?

I have a request: when speaking in terms of "facts," let's try to stick with the Bible. Sure, we will grapple through whether or not man was made to be superior in rank to woman, and there's good Scriptural argument on both sides, proving that in this argument, how we are interpreting said Bible is key. I realize we all have to interpret at some point, interpretations that we may never all agree on, but it's important that we maintain a posture of humility, taking great care that we present our underlying assumptions as assumptions, not Biblical facts.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Apologies for comment delays

Apologies for the delay in moderating some comments on this list. This is because Wayne is away from home, and was very busy just before he left. With Wayne's permission, I have just accepted the comments submitted in the last couple of days. I will look again tomorrow. (I don't receive e-mail notification of comments for moderation, but as a blog contributor I can view and approve them.) Wayne should be able to get back to this on Monday.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Complementarianism: Sola Scriptura or Sola Traditio?

David Kotter has completed his three part series "Sola Scriptura is Essential to Complementarians" in response to Molly, mentioned here: part 1; part 2; part 3.

Molly has written a reply to the first two parts.

And I have just posted a reply to all three parts, with the title Complementarianism: Sola Scriptura or Sola Traditio?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gender Blog and Molly

One of our co-bloggers, Molly, is featured in today's post on the Gender Blog. Molly has told me by email that the blogger, David Kotter, treated her nicely, including sending her his post ahead of time. Sounds like he is not only a Christian but also a gentleman.

Suzanne (sometimes Sue, depending on which computer she is using) has responded to the Gender Blog post on her own blog.

It's too bad that the Gender Blog doesn't have comments enabled. If it did and David Kotter treated everyone as graciously as he treated Molly, we might not have had a need to start this blog. It's so good when "brethren [I suspect it means sisters also!] dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1).

I am thankful for how much you all here try to discuss together "in unity" even though we have different interpretations of Bible passages relating to gender issues.

Wouldn't it be great if complementarian and egalitarian leaders could gather at a blog like this one, where we have both complementarian and egalitarian bloggers, and discuss their different interpretations of Scripture passages and we could all interact with them. Maybe someday something like that will be possible somewhere. I think God would be pleased.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Authority - What Is Its Place in the Church and Home?

I think most of us agree that power can corrupt. Shakespeare said it well in Measure for Measure (1604), writing,

But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

In the name of authority, those with power can be crushingly oppressive, something true of both genders (as abuse of power is not born of gender but from a selfish self-focused heart). Yet we must also admit that there have been gentle life-giving shepherds who have cultivated life, not squelched it or used it for their own aims. These great leaders can be found both in spiritual realms and earthly. Names like St. Paul, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and others quickly come to mind, people who led both with authority and with a deep and obvious love.

Authority is something that we post-moderns tend to distrust, and not without good reason. Blind obedience and unquestioning acceptance, favored concepts in Modernity's "follow-the-formula-and-it-will-all-work-out-fine" mantra is what made a little man named Hitler become Fuhrer of a nation that went on to turn a blind eye to policies of gold stars and ghetto packing.

It is good to question authority, if only for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not a claim to authority is an actual one or merely a power play to gain followers. Some authority ought not to be obeyed. Jesus questioned the authority of the religious leaders, for example. Blind obedience to them equalled, "the blind leading the blind." I recently wrote a post about an experience common to many exiting abusive churches and ministries, in fact,that of the anger an abusive authority displays when someone dares to question them. Their raging response does not mean that questioning their authority is wrong---if anything, it likely proves the validity of the original questions!

However, it's also good not to question authority, if in fact the authority figure is truly placed in charge (and/or if we do not want to pay the price for rebellion). If I want to question the value of a speed limit, for example, I have every right to do so, but I need to be willing to accept the consequences of a speeding ticket handed down from an authority placed over me to see that I obey. Jesus paid taxes to Cesar, for example. If I want to question something considered to be an authority, I need to be prepared to pay the price.

Also, when an authority is established as something right and good, like God, it is not wise to ask the sort of questions that stem from rebellion and mocking. Satan questioned God's right to the Throne, questions that were birthed out of pride (a created being thinking itself higher than its Creator). Jesus did not question the authority of the Father when he walked on earth as a Man, and encouraged us to do likewise. To rest in Christ is to believe in His authority over sin and death, among other things, not to question it.

In summation, authority exists in the world, for better and for worse. And authority, in and of itself, is not a bad thing----Satan has a measure of authority, but that doesn't make authority bad, because Jesus has authority, too. What matters is who is using the authority, what they are doing with it and for what purpose.

Can we use the Scriptures to find some sort of base for comprehending authority's purpose in a New Covenant relationship?

What is the place of authority in Christendom? What is that authority for, based on what we can see in the Scriptures? If a person is a leader in the Church, why? How does one "get" authority in the Body? What and/or who are they to lead? Why and how? What does a Spirit-filled leader look like? Does it always feel good to follow one?

Note: Let's steer clear of gender in the comments of this post and concentrate mainly on authority in the relationships of the Church. Many think the family is a microcosm of the Church. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but the concept of the place of authority in the Church (based on Scripture) may help us discuss authority in a less loaded context.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas presents for the TNIV translation team

Someone mentioned the TNIV Bible version in a recent comment on this blog. I appreciated the honesty in that comment. Whether we like it or not, the TNIV Bible has become part of the gender debate. I do not wish for debate about the TNIV to appear on this blog. In fact, since this blog is now being moderated, I would likely not approve comments which continue the TNIV debate, because they are not directly related to the focus of this blog. The comment already posted did not continue the TNIV debate. Comments about the TNIV are appropriate to post on the TNIV Truth blog, where I also hang out.

But here's something which I do encourage people to do, especially those who enjoy good English and can spot when English writing could be better. If you have been reading the TNIV, and have spotted any wordings which seem to you could be improved, there is a webpage (created by me) where you can post that wording and a suggested revision.

You do not have to a Bible scholar to spot wordings which need revision. You just need to be an English speaker who can sense when something is not written quite right for normal English.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Proverbs 31:30 of the TNIV has "a lion ... who retreats". Can you sense a problem with this? I did and suggested that the proper way to word this would be "a lion ... which retreats."

1 Samuel 19:4 of the TNIV says, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David." The words "let not" are in reverse order from what most English speakers have said for a long time. It would be better to say, "Do not let the king ..."

We shouldn't enter the TNIV debate on this blog, but we can do something constructive and help the TNIV translators improve the TNIV.

Further directions will be found on the TNIV revisions suggestion page. If you don't have a TNIV, there are directions there for downloading a free copy of the TNIV.

Oh, if you decide you would like to check an entire book of the TNIV (there are several Old Testament books which have not been checked by non-TNIV translators yet), please note which book you will check in the survey with the green background on the TNIV Truth blog. If you do not have time to submit revision suggestions by the January 1 deadline, you can still submit them. It is an annual deadline. Your suggestions would just need to wait until the annual meeting of the TNIV team to be considered if they are submitted after January 1, 2008.