Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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


Thursday, January 31, 2008

What can women do? (a complementarian viewpoint)

Today's CBMW's Gender Blog post is titled What Can Women Do? The post, mostly by Lydia Brownback, excerpts 16 points from a 1995 sermon by John Piper titled A Challenge to Women:

1) That all of your life-in whatever calling-be devoted to the glory of God. That the promises of Christ be trusted so fully that peace and joy and strength fill your soul to overflowing.

2) That this fullness of God overflow in daily acts of love so that people might see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.

3) That you be women of the Book, who love and study and obey the Bible in every area of its teaching. That meditation on Biblical truth be the source of hope and faith. And that you continue to grow in understanding through all the chapters of your life, never thinking that study and growth are only for others.

4) That you be women of prayer, so that the Word of God would open to you; and the power of faith and holiness would descend upon you; and your spiritual influence would increase at home and at church and in the world.

5) That you be women who have a deep grasp of the sovereign grace of God undergirding all these spiritual processes, that you be deep thinkers about the doctrines of grace, and even deeper lovers and believers of these things.

6) That you be totally committed to ministry, whatever your specific role, that you not fritter your time away on soaps or ladies magazines or aimless hobbies, any more than men should fritter theirs away on excessive sports or aimless diddling in the garage. That you redeem the time for Christ and his Kingdom.

7) That, if you are single, you exploit your singleness to the full in devotion to Christ and not be paralyzed by the desire to be married.

8) That, if you are married, you creatively and intelligently and sincerely support the leadership of your husband as deeply as obedience to Christ will allow; that you encourage him in his God-appointed role as head; that you influence him spiritually primarily through your fearless tranquility and holiness and prayer.

9) That, if you have children, you accept responsibility with your husband (or alone if necessary) to raise up children who hope in the triumph of God, sharing with him the teaching and discipline of the children, and giving to the children that special nurturing touch and care that you are uniquely fitted to give.

10) That you not assume that secular employment is a greater challenge or a better use of your life than the countless opportunities of service and witness in the home the neighborhood, the community, the church, and the world. That you not only pose the question: Career vs. full time mom? But that you ask as seriously: Full time career vs. freedom for ministry? That you ask: Which would be greater for the Kingdom- to be in the employ of someone telling you what to do to make his business prosper, or to be God's free agent dreaming your own dream about how your time and your home and your creativity could make God's business prosper? And that in all this you make your choices not on the basis of secular trends or yuppie lifestyle expectations, but on the basis of what will strengthen the family and advance the cause of Christ.

11) That you step back and (with your husband, if you are married) plan the various forms of your life's ministry in chapters. Chapters are divided by various things-age, strength, singleness, marriage, employment choices, children at home, children in college, grandchildren, retirement, etc. No chapter has all the joys. Finite life is a series of tradeoffs. Finding God's will, and living for the glory of Christ to the full in every chapter is what makes it a success, not whether it reads like somebody else's chapter or whether it has in it what chapter five will have.

12) That you develop a wartime mentality and lifestyle; that you never forget that life is short, that billions of people hang in the balance of heaven and hell every day, that the love of money is spiritual suicide, that the goals of upward mobility (nicer clothes, cars, houses, vacations, food, hobbies) are a poor and dangerous substitute for the goals of living for Christ with all your might, and maximizing your joy in ministry to people's needs.

13) That in all your relationships with men you seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in applying the Biblical vision of manhood and womanhood; that you develop a style and demeanor that does justice to the unique role God has given to man to feel responsible for gracious leadership in relation to women-a leadership which involves elements of protection and care and initiative.

14) That you think creatively and with cultural sensitivity (just as he must do) in shaping the style and setting the tone of your interaction with men.

15) That you see Biblical guidelines for what is appropriate and inappropriate for men and women in relation to each other not as arbitrary constraints on freedom but as wise and gracious prescriptions for how to discover the true freedom of God's ideal of complementarity.

16) That you not measure your potential by the few roles withheld but by the countless roles offered.

Since the Gender Blog does not offer an option for publicly viewable comments, you are welcome to comment on the blog post here. As always, please follow our blog comment guidelines, which I updated a few days ago.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

books on egalitarian and complementarian marriage

There have been some comments on previous posts asking if there are books on egalitarian marriage. Click here to find quite a few on the CBE website.

And you can find books on marriage from a complementarian viewpoint on the CBMW website.

Letitia's back. Uh oh.

Some of you might think that I've been on vacation. Yeah, I wish. ;) I have had exceedingly limited time for blogging, so I have spent time working on my own new blog and devoting time to other issues. But I have kept abreast of the ongoings here, moderating comments while Wayne was on vacation (can I get one of those???). I feel the same as the other moderators on this blog, that things have spiraled a little out of control with hostile comments and attitudes unbecoming of our faith. This is certainly not what I signed up for.

I joined not because I thought I would derive much pleasure in becoming mired in what I see as a Christian side issue. Important in its own right, but nevertheless not an issue at the forefront of our faith. Some of you probably see it differently.

The Complegalitarian blog founders picked a theme that is probably THE most difficult issue within Christianity to navigate (thanks!). I joined because it is difficult, and I knew it would challenge my thinking. And it has.

However, I can also do without David's "endless regression of blame." It does no good to the conversation to assign motives and beliefs on another person that they do not hold just to tear it down.

And what about that? There is a strong tendency to argue out of our own past hurts and experiences and accuse others of perpetuating wrongs perceived. That's understandable; we are all human, but this blog could use a big BIG dose of objectivity.

So that is my request. Regardless of your position, please use objective language and try not to take offense so easily at someone else's comments.

My best,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Can 1 Tim. 3:2 refer to women elders?

A blog reader has asked if 1 Tim. 3:2 allows for women to be church elders. The reader is aware that the Greek phrase mias gunaikos andra ("one woman husband") was found to occur in an epitaph for a woman on a tombstone.

Does anyone know how widely this phrase referred to women as well as men?

What is the evidence, pro and con, that 1 Tim. 3:2 itself refers to both men and women?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Endless Regression of Blame

In Wayne's last post, he asked what it would take to achieve a truce in the gender debates. In the comments on that post, it quickly became evident why such a truce has been so difficult to achieve. A complementarian (henceforth known as "C") commented that such a truce would be more likely to happen if egalitarians would stop implying that complementarians are akin to those who justified slavery or that we are all advocating spousal abuse. An egalitarian (henceforth known as "E") then commented to the effect that such characterizations are not without some basis in reality, and the battle was on. C then responded that E was misunderstanding the complementarian position, and then E protested that C was resorting to "ad hominem" attacks!

This is what I call an "endless regression of blame." I'm not sure if I came up with that expression on my own or if I subconsciously stole it from someone else, but what I mean by it is the tendency in any human conflict to justify our own aggression by pointing to some previous injury we've received from someone else. As a father, I see this endless regression of blame every day. Caleb complains that David hit him. David complains that Caleb took some piece off of one of his LEGO creations and used it for something else. Caleb then protests that David does the same thing sometimes. And on it goes.

Since Adam and Eve's first sin, we've all been trying to cover our own sins by laying blame at the feet of another. Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (NLT). As sinners, our hearts have an incredible capacity for self-justification and self-deception. That's why complementarians complain that egalitarians are unfair in their representations and prone to ad hominem attacks. It's why egalitarians voice the exact same complaints about complementarians.

"If only those egals would stop implying that we're abusive and dictatorial, there could be peace!"

"If only those comps would stop twisting everything we say and comparing us to feminists, there could be peace!"

Please. Such protests are pointless. If we want peace, we need to start treating one another with respect, listen to each other with a sympathetic ear, begin giving one another the benefit of the doubt, and avoid the temptation to resort to sarcasm and cutting remarks. We may not agree with each other. We may conclude that the other side's reasoning is seriously flawed. But we can nevertheless do our best to extend the love of Christ to our theological opponents, and put a stop to the endless regression of blame. In the end, it is the only way forward.

Packer on the ordination of women

VirtueOnline has an interesting interview with J.I. Packer. This is mostly about the situation in the Anglican Communion. But in passing Packer gives his thoughts on the ordination of women:
VIRTUEONLINE: On women's ordination. ... do you think that pursuing women's ordination as an issue will eventually bring schism and division among the orthodox?

PACKER: My hope is that the ordination of women will never bring about church division. This is not a part of the gospel, it is a secondary issue rather than a primary one and I would hope that an amicable arrangement, not to everyone's full satisfaction, but a workable arrangement, can be arranged that have differed historically can come together.
I hope that we can all agree with Packer that issues of women in leadership are secondary to the gospel and should never bring about church division.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

a truce in the gender debates

A comment on the preceding post has led me to ponder several times about what a truce in the gender debates might look like. We have experienced some truces among people of faith in the past over issues which divided them (age of baptism, charismatic gifts, acceptability of slavery for people today, etc.). Perhaps it would be possible for there to be a similar kind of truce for the gender debates.

What might a truce in the debates over the roles of women in the home and church look like? How might each side remain true to its convictions while speaking differently about the other side from how it does today? What might each side want to be able to accept a truce?

Dream big.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Jesus and women in authority

WWJD? What would Jesus do? Would he encourage or prohibit women from having authority over men? In the work place? In universities? In Bible schools? In Christian colleges? In synogogues? In the church? In parachurch organizations, such as missionary groups?

Why or why not?

Remember, be nice to each other; it's the biblical thing to do.


The KJV says:
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord [is] at hand.
I tried having the comments on this blog be unmoderated this week, to see how things would go. But the escalation and blame game resumed as in the past. It is not easy to learn to state things without any blame or sarcasm, but I suggest that it is important to learn these skills. We all need them so that we will become more biblical in our communication styles

So, I will take the advice of the KJV (twisting its intent!), and return the blog to moderated status. This comes at an awkward time for me since this afternoon my wife and I will fly to Oregon to help clean out her parents' house so it can be sold to help pay for their costs of living in a nursing home where they recently moved. We will be gone for a week. I will have limited Internet access. There is no phone service anymore in my parents-in-law's house and in my wife's brother's house there is only a slow dial-up connection, so it will be difficult for me to moderate comments.

But other bloggers here have the authority to moderate blog comments. For those who are bloggers here, go to the Blogger Dashboard then go to the Complegalitarian blog. Click on the Comments tab periodically to see if comments need to be moderated. Check to see if a comment follows the blog rules. If there is sarcasm, put down of another commenter, any broad brush negative assessment of anything without evidence presented, or any other communication stoppers, you can reject that comment.

I wish you all well and I hope that we can learn better together how to recognize or reduce using communication stoppers. Let us learn to listen well to each other, respectfully, without blaming the other side for hurt feelings. In fact, if you feel hurt, consider writing a private email to that person so that the atmosphere here can be as objective and educational as possible.

This blog is a good laboratory for learning to debate without using "hook" words that trigger hurt, frustration, or anger in the other person. It is good lab for learning to stop using sarcasm.

As stated in our blog guidelines, let us try to "speak the truth in love". My own view is that communication stoppers are not loving. But, rather than giving up on the effort here, I would encourage us all to dig a little deeper, become more aware of our own deficiencies when attaching negativity to the content we are trying to argue for, and move forward, with God's help. He really does want his children who disagree (which he knows is normal) in loving ways.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Open Letter to David Kotter on kephale

Suzanne McCarthy has responded to CBE and CBMW blog exchanges on the meaning of Greek kephale:
CBE posted on kephale. After a long series of comments including a little nonsense, Gender blog responded. And this is my response to Gender Blog. I posted the following in two comments on cbe's blog.

Open letter to David Kotter of the Gender Blog,
Suzanne presents evidence from her knowledge of Classical Greek. She concludes:
The evidence is overwhelming against the notion that kephale means authority. It is used in reference to Zeus as the beginning, it is used to refer to a small and mobile raiding partly in the army, not the general, it is used to describe the first person in a clan, the progenitor, not the ruler. It is used in many other ways and I have no intention of recreating the various studies. Many people propose it is the source, or the visible or prominent representative. That is also possible. Kephale is not typically used to refer to the person at the top of an organization, as caput was in Latin.

I see no decisive evidence that kephale must mean authority, and much against it.

I would appreciate the Gender Blog admitting that there is a variety of possible interpretations available. There is no need for the remark that those who have experienced a solid education in the Greek language are guilty of “wooden” interpretations, while those who have little education in classical Greek as a language are not. Such unfounded comments are surely counter-productive.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Biblical womanhood and manhood

Professor Scot McKnight's class last night began with a discussion of masculinity and femininity:
To set the whole class into context, we focused last night on discussions about “masculinity and femininity” — asking students to discuss what they are hearing and thinking about such issues — which I followed with a brief description of strong patriarchy, soft patriarchy, evangelical egalitarianism and humanist egalitarianism.
I wish I could have been there.

Eternal subordinationism and complementarianism

I was raised in a strongly complementarian church. I attended (and graduated from) a strongly complementarian Bible school where female students could not take the Pastors major.

But none of my pastors or Bible school professors ever taught eternal subordinationism within the Trinity. I believe that they would have considered such a doctrine not to be taught in Scripture.

It is my impression that connecting eternal subordinationism to complementarianism is a fairly new teaching. It is also my impression that many complementarians do not believe in eternal subordinationism.

What do you think?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Are women called to be pastors?

Some women testify that they have been called by God to be pastors. Blogger Tim Challies believes that they have not been called to be pastors, since the "plain reading" of Scripture is that women cannot be pastors. Tim says on CBMW's Gender Blog:
In The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment I say that the local church is the best and most natural context for the exercise of discernment. The local church serves as the body which will confirm or refute a person's call to ministry. Hence it is the local church which is responsible to search the Scriptures and then to examine a person's life and credentials to see if that person truly is suited for ministry. I am convicted from a plain reading of Scripture that women are not permitted to serve as pastors. Therefore the local church would exercise discernment by telling her that she may not be a pastor. The church would not extend or confirm that call to ministry. Without the local church there is no call to pastoral ministry.
Tim concludes:
So my advice to a woman who felt a call to pastor a church would be to encourage her to speak to the leaders of a gospel-centered, church. Within that context she would have the joy of pursuing ministry, but ministry within the context of the local church, within the gifting and passions God has given her, and within the boundaries God has decreed.
Do you agree with Tim? Why or why not?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why is the gender debate so contentious?

I have frequently wondered why the gender debate among Christians has become so contentious? Is it simply that any disagreement has the potential for much heat to be produced, but there is a time span during Church history before a disagreement is allowed to be simply that, without hindering spiritual unity, risking deeper hurt to the Church? We've had many contentious debates that I can recall over many centuries (you all didn't know I was that old?!): mode of baptism; Calvinism vs. Arminianism; cessationism vs. continuationism; eschatalogy; whether or not a believer in Christ needs to go through a Jewish rite first; Bible versions; Christian pacifism vs. belief in "just" wars; what happens to the elements of the sacrament (ordinance) during communion, Sabbatarianism vs. Sunday worship; etc.

Have any of you wondered about the intensity of this debate? If so, do you have any ideas why there is such intensity? And let's not chalk it up to misogyny or immaturity on the part of anyone or liberalism or any other motive about which we are unable to divine the motives of others.

more on moderating comments

I really don't like posting on something so uninteresting as moderating comments, but I need to periodically remind us all that when a comment is not approved, there is some reason. That reason is never ideological. I approve comments from comps as well as egals. What disqualifies a comment from being approved for posting are things such as sarcasm toward someone else's position or claiming to know what someone else's motives for their beliefs is.

I am a feeling (Myers-Briggs) person and I hate to not approve any comment. This is especially difficult for me when an entire comment is appropriate for posting except maybe one final sentence. For many of you I do not have an email address for communicating with you about your comments, for instance to ask you to remove a final sentence before re-submitting a post.

I realize that some of you may feel that my moderation is unfair, but please try to believe me that I am attempting to be totally fair. Fairness has been a very high priority for me ever since I was a child. Some of you may have noticed that I even approve comments questioning the fairness of my moderation. :-)

One alternative is for us to return this blog to its previous status of having no comments moderated. But most of us can remember the chaos that results. For some reason--which I hope can be discussed sometime here--the topic of gender roles engenders deep feelings and public comments, often with feelings getting hurt on all sides. I happen to believe that even with such a difficult topic we can discipline ourselves to speak more objectively and graciously. Many of you (from both the comp and egal sides) already do that and I thank you. It makes my job as moderator easier.

I have tried to respond to comments which ask if a previous comment has not been approved. But the Blogger system bounces my replies back to me. Unlike some discussion systems, Blogger does not attach the commenter's email address to their comments. I'm sorry. I wish the software could serve our purposes better, but there are security reasons the Blogger system is configured as it is. The system is designed this way to try to keep you all from getting spammed by those who harvest email addresses from Internet blogs, websites, discussion lists, etc.

If you wish to ask me anything about a comment which has not been posted to this blog, please feel free to email me:

wayne-leman at netzero dot com

I have to be upfront and say that my time is very limited for exchanging messages about comments. I have posted previously that it is likely that I will not interact with anyone about a rejected comment because of my time limitations. Instead, I have tried to make the ground rules for acceptable comments as clear as possible in the guidelines in the upper right of the blog margin and in several blog posts. I have a day job which does not allow me much time for non-business email. And I like to spend much of my evenings in the presence of my lovely wife (I don't have any unlovely wife!).

If anyone feels that the complementarian position is not adequately represented on this blog, I always have the door open for anyone else who is willing to be a co-blogger here. It takes work to be a blogger and it takes personal discipline for a blogger to stay within the blog commenting guidelines. I always have an interview with anyone who emails me about being a blogger, to try to find out if they can interact graciously with those with whom they agree.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Huckabee and submission

Last night there was a debate for the Republican candidates for President of the U.S. Mike Huckabee was asked a question about submission:

Huckabee was put on the defensive last night about his religion when one of the moderators asked him about his signature on a 1998 ad in The New York Times, placed by the Southern Baptist Convention, that a wife should be "submissive" to her husband.

Huckabee - who frequently uses his signature humor to defuse testy questions - began his reply with a quip.

"Everybody says religion is off limits, except that they always ask me the religious question," said Huckabee, a Baptist minister. "If anybody knows my wife, I don't think they for one minute think that she's going to just sit by and let me do whatever I want to. That would be an absolute total misunderstanding of Janet Huckabee."

The former governor went on to say that the quote was taken out of context and that the Bible says both a wife and husband should be submissive to each other and to God, each giving 100 percent to the marriage. "I'm not the least bit ashamed of my faith or the doctrines of it. I don't try to impose that as a governor and I wouldn't impose it as a president," Huckabee said, drawing applause from the audience.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Fundamental Irony of Egalitarianism?

In yesterday's post, Peter accused complementarians of dishonesty when they make statements to the effect that leadership roles are not intrinsically "better" than roles which are characterized primarily by submission. Basically, Peter said that we know instinctively that leadership roles are of higher status than others. What's more, he argued that this is a cultural assumption which is supported by the Bible. Therefore, when complementarians assert that there is as much glory in quietly serving others as there is in speaking before thousands, it's nothing more than propaganda designed to mollify those masses foolish enough to follow.

This line of reasoning reveals what I see as the fundamental irony of egalitarianism: in trying to establish "equality" among the sexes, it unwittingly reinforces a hierarchical ranking of careers and callings. Clergy clearly get more "glory" in the church than "laypeople," so we should all aspire to be clergy. Leaders clearly have more "status" than non-leaders, so we should all aspire to be leaders. Quarterbacks clearly get more attention than offensive linemen, so every football player should fight over who gets to throw the ball.

In a sport like American football, where division of labor is necessary and every member of the team serves an equally vital (if not equally glamorous) role, it is easy to see that one role is not intrinsically "better" than another. This notion that all roles are necessary and valuable is certainly supported in the Bible (see Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12). Yet somehow, when it comes to husbands and wives or men and women in the church, any assertion that there is an appropriate division of labor immediately gets shouted down as sexist and dishonest. "There those men go again, keeping the good jobs for themselves while trying to convince the women that they are better suited for the drudgery of housework!"

If you want to say, "Yes, there is an appropriate division of labor within the body of Christ, but gender should not be the basis for the division," that's fair enough. That's a question we can debate. But if you imply that we should all desire to become church leaders because there's more glory and status in such roles, you end up throwing out the cherished Reformation (and Biblical) doctrine of "the priesthood of all believers." You imply that the Christian who chooses to "lead a quiet life" and "work with [his or her] hands" (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13) is somehow choosing a second-class Christianity. In short, you throw out one form of egalitarianism in your pursuit of another.

The fundamental irony of secular feminism was that it denigrated the uniquely feminine roles of wifehood and motherhood in its pursuit of equal status for women in the marketplace. Women who didn't have any interest in "breaking through the glass ceiling" were subtly and not-so-subtly told that they were less ambitious, less intelligent, and less significant than women who were pursuing careers. Egalitarians need to be careful that they don't unwittingly communicate the same message to women who don't have any interest in breaking through the stained-glass ceiling. When a complementarian minister asserts that his stay-at-home wife is just as important to the Body of Christ as he is, he is not necessarily "lying" in order to protect his position. Strange as it might seem, he may actually admire her for the nobility and importance of her service. And who knows? In God's economy, her unseen work may have more of an impact on eternity than his more visible work ever could.

moderating "biblical" comments

This is just a quick note to let you know one of the factors I consider when deciding whether or not to approve a comment for posting on this blog. If someone assumes and *states* that the answer to something is obvious because God said it in some passage in the Bible, yet both sides in the debate understand God to be saying something different in that passage, that post will not be approved. It assumes the truth of the conclusion of the argument. But this is a blog where we want to humbly and graciously listen to each other present our understandings of different passages of the Bible.

It is fine to say, "I believe that your understanding of that passage is incorrect for the following reasons." Such a post will be approved. It is not fine to say, "Well, don't argue with me about it. God is the one who said it." That is another way of saying: "I'm right; you're wrong, but I'm not willing to show you how I believe that you are wrong."

So posts which assume their conclusion will not be approved especially if they put down any individual or position in gender debates.

There are other kinds of posts which are not approved, either, including those which are ad hominem attacks, etc.

I try very hard to be totally fair in moderating this blog. I've had several years of experience moderating similar forums. It is not an easy job. Sometimes one or both sides become angry or frustrated with the moderating. And we moderators sometimes make mistakes. We try to allow as many comments to be posted as possible. I try to err on the side of allowing a comment to be posted than not be posted if there is doubt in my mind about the intentions of a poster. I know that this will be difficult for some of you to believe, but I really do not take into consideration the ideological position taken in a post, such as complementarian or egalitarian.

Sarcasm is one of the signals I look for in a post. Sarcasm tells me that there is a lack of grace and careful listening going on. I often will not approve sarcastic posts.

Thanks for everyone for working as hard as you do to make your posts fit within the blog posting guidelines (see the upper right margin for the guidelines).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The fundamental lie of complementarianism?

You may be interested in the ongoing discussion between Jeremy Pierce and myself in comments on my Gentle Wisdom post Complementarianism: Sola Scriptura or Sola Traditio? Here is a taster:

Jeremy, concerning a view which he attributes to most complementarians:
[The third view] insists that neither set of roles is better than the other
My response:
This in my view is the fundamental immorality, the fundamental lie of complementarianism. Everyone knows instinctively that leadership and teaching roles are in some sense “better” than other roles. This is one of our cultural presuppositions, but it is one which is upheld in the Bible, which teaches explicitly, in 1 Timothy 3:1 (church leadership), James 3:1 (teaching), 1 Corinthians 14:5 (prophecy in the church assembly) etc, that such roles are good and should be aspired to. But what has happened is that some men have decided to restrict these roles to themselves and restrict women to roles which are generally considered to be of lower status - and have then tried to justify this by redefining generally understood notions of status, in a way which fools absolutely no one, except apparently you, Jeremy. I’m sorry, leadership has not suddenly lost its high status because Grudem, Piper etc say so, especially when the apostle Paul says the opposite.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Minister's Husband

A blogger invites our comments on her post "A Minister's Husband."