Christianity and Egalitarianism

Written by Father Bill 29 Comments

This man didn’t mince words.Several generations ago, J. Gresham Machen published a book entitled Christianity and Liberalism.  “Liberalism” in this title referred to the newly popular liberal Protestantism that was capturing the hearts, churches, and seminaries of the main-line Christian establishment of the time.  And in this book title, one could easily see what Machen demonstrated inside the book:  Liberalism and Christianity were two different religions. 

Telling it like it is – in the manner Machen did – has not characterized complementarian leaders over the past 40 years.  But, perhaps that is beginning to change. 

In the blog Mere Comments sponsored by the good folks at Touchstone Journal, senior editor S. M. Hutchens notes that The Gospel Coalition has acknowledged , even if timidly, that egalitarianism is a “gospel issue.”  Hutchens quotes them  from their website:

In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather they complement each other in mutually enriching ways. God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.

I think Hutchens stretches a point a tad.   The Gospel Coalition places the statement quoted above in a section of its doctrinal standards, under a heading styled “”Creation of Humanity.”  This is a good start, insofar as they declare, at least in the case of the Gospel coalition which they have formed, that a criterion for participatinig in that coalition is to affirm, teach, and defend the Bible’s revelation about the nature and relationship of the sexes.  But, I concur with Hutchens that such clarity about egalitarianism is a relatively new thing among evangelical leaders generally, who heretofore seem to have been happy to ignore the egalitarian virus.

In the comments to this blog at Mere Comments, Hutchens provides a succinct summary of American Protestantism’s collapse from the old Biblical Criticism virus of the late 19th Century, and the parallel disaster within 20th Century evangelicalism as it  succumbed to the egalitarian virus.  Concerning the text-critical views of the Bible  – that the Bible is NOT what it presents itself to be: God’s words  – and the liberalizing process that resulted from this errant view of the Bible, Hutchens observes:

The process began in earnest in the 1860s and 1870s in the United States’ mainline denominations, which by the 1930s had become dominated by it. The movement was from a religion in all these groups that would be considered “conservative Evangelical,” to today’s mainline liberalism. In the early 1920s J. Gresham Machen observed, and correctly, I believe, that this liberalism is simply not Christianity, but another religion appearing in Christian habiliments.

According to Hutchens, the evangelicalism of the 20th Century was devastated even more quickly by the egalitarian error:

The same is true of egalitarianism. It is a new religion, as theologically comprehensive as liberalism, and every bit as unChristian. It begins, of course, in anthropology, with beliefs about the equality of men and women, but of necessity reaches from there into Christology and thus to Trinitarian theology, since all are connected at the Christological root. Evangelicalism, which had by the 1970s begun to replace an increasingly moribund mainline Protestantism, at the same time began to absorb egalitarianism, which de-Christianized it as thoroughly as liberalism had de-Christianized the former, and much more quickly.

More quickly indeed.  If the 19th Century demise of evangelical Protestantism ran from the 1860 to 1930 (a period of 70 years), the current wave of egalitarian infection has taken half that time to produce the same result: an evangelicalism decidedly past its theological shelf-life.  What’s even more dismaying is that orthodox evangelicals who ought to have known better back in the Seventies utterly failed to diagnose the disease and its toxic effects. 

This man also isn’t mincing words.So, though it is late, statements like one finds at The Gospel Coalition are welcome.  And even more welcome are words by Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louiseville, Kentucky:

We have to understand that this is not an intramural debate. Quite frankly, that’s the way we’ve been treating it for too long. We’ve been treating it like the kind of conversation dispensationalists and covenant theologians may have with one another. We treat this as the same kind of discussion that Ligon Duncan and I might have over whether or not infants ought to be baptized. We treat this as the kind of situation where brothers and sisters in Christ who agree on all of the main things now get together and talk about some issues of interpretation where “we just happen to disagree.” That is not what is taking place.

[snip]

What we have to ultimately understand is that the Gospel itself is patriarchal. It has to do with the Fatherhood of God, a Fatherhood that is not abstract, a Fatherhood that is not theoretical, a Fatherhood that the entire Bible lays out as a God who is giving a covenant inheritance to his Son. A story line you see all the way from Adam who gives birth to Seth who is in his image and in his likeness, a Fatherhood you see when God says to Pharoah, “You have my first born son in captivity; let him go.” First Timothy 2 really looks like male headship. . . . It is not just the individual texts; it’s the whole trajectory of Scripture, but the whole trajectory of Scripture leads to patriarchy, it leads to the Fatherhood of God, and it leads to the headship of men, not an evil headship, but a loving, self-sacrificial kind of headship. . . .

These words from Dr. Moore were transcribed from an audio lecture and posted at the blog Immoderate .  The original MP3 file is available online here

Finally, a further encouraging straw in the wind is that Dr. Moore’s comments were delivered at a Different by Design conference sponsored by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which in the past has often bent over backward to avoid saying the things that Dr. Moore says in this address.  If their sponsorship of Dr. Moore in this regard amounts to a repentence from earlier timidity to acknowledge egalitarianism as an unChristian faith (no matter how many Christian habiliments it displays, or no matter who among the evangelical glitterati are duped by it), such repentence is welcome indeed.


29 Comments

  1. Leigh Ann   |  Friday, 02 November 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Wow! That is some strong stuff. Thank you for sharing. In all the discussions I have been in the whole attitude has been “we can agree to disagree” because we are all believers. This certainly puts a new light on things.

  2. Sue   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 12:40 am

    I fail to see how men and women complement each other in the church. There is only one description of the distinctive roles in the church that I have seen. The roles allowed for women are a subset of the roles allowed for men.

    I have never heard of a church which does not allow men the role of silence, the role of listening or the role of following.

    It is true that men may not lead women’s groups but women may not lead men’s groups. So each group is equal in leading their own sex. But women may not lead in the church as a whole.

    Women, who have the gift of leadership, in that they can lead women in the church, and can lead men outside the church in the university, cannot exercise leadership in the church.

    This is called different by design. The gift of leadership in women is not designed to be used in the church. It is a gift which is disabled in the presence of the male.

    But the gift is given to the woman by God’s design. Does the conference, Different by Design, explain the mechanism whereby this gift is deactivated in the presence of men in the church. Not just a geographic deactivation, but a deactivation which also responds to the sex of others present, but only in select geographic locations.

    Doesn’t different by design really mean that women are designed to fill fewer roles in the church? Doesn’t that mean that men are designed to fill more roles. Doesn’t the design of filling more roles, and the design of filling fewer roles, mean that the two sexes are not designed to fill the same number of roles. Does that not give us new insight into the elastic and flexible use of the term equality used in this debate.

    I hear these guys saying that women are equal in being, unequal in function and they are designed that way. A curious notion that.

    Is there some reason that using words by their definition is wrong?

  3. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 1:02 am

    Hi Fr. Bill,

    This is a tough one. I went back and forth on this a couple of times with a CBE-supporter on another blog just a little while back. Immediately, you can see the chest swell, metaphorically speaking, and the phrase “taking umbrage” springs to mind unbidden while accusations arise of adding works to faith fill the air. But Christ did ask the question, “Who do you say I am?” and a full answer must include, “You are Son to the Father”.

    I hold to the Protestant declaration of sola fide – as they would claim. But that begs the question – faith in whom? I am more and more convinced there is one simple error at the heart of liberalism, egalitarianism and all the other errors that spring from the same well – it is a matter of doing theology in light of your anthropology. Instead, we must figure out who God is before we can know who we, those created in His image, are.

    Kamilla

  4. Fr. Bill   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 7:33 am

    … the phrase “taking umbrage” springs to mind unbidden while accusations arise of adding works to faith fill the air.

    This will always be true, in some respect, when debating issues which are consciously held by the controversialists. I’ve seen similar dynamics (and experienced them too!) in other areas where Christians contend for irreconcilable convictions (baptism, for example; ecclesiology; etc.).

    But, some issues cut deeper than others, and it is the ability (or inability) to see this that adds extra voltage to the comp-egal controversies. What’s always frustrated me is the thing Moore points to – the debate has always been understood by everyone as an intramural one, between parties in the church which otherwise agree and who should cooperate in those agreed areas.

    I remember being startled by Hutchens’ comment in an editorial he wrote on behalf of the editors some years ago, in which he commented that he (and they) would not participate in any evangelistic enterprise with egalitarians. The “novelty” of such a statement is what first grabbed my attention, but its soundness was immediately evident when he next explained why: “Because we know that we would not agree on what ‘success’ would look like.” Getting a “decision” for Jesus is, at best, the most preliminary of steps. There remains that “… teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” stuff. And what THAT amounts to is very different for an egal and a comp.

    But Christ did ask the question, “Who do you say I am?” and a full answer must include, “You are Son to the Father”.

    And, this is the thing I find egals unable to say without qualification. It’s usually “You are the Son” temporarily, or metaphorically. Or, whatever You are, it is so transcendent of mere father-son notions that Your Sonship is eclipsed by Your unknowable Transcendent relationship to the one you call Father. Meanwhile, egals and comps alike say “God wants us to address Him as Father, but we know that He is ever so much more than Father, infinitely so, and it would be putting Him in a box to insist that Father is the only way we should think of Him.”

    I hold to the Protestant declaration of sola fide – as they would claim. But that begs the question – faith in whom?

    There is also a “faith in what” involved, if we understand “gospel” to signify a set of affirmations, such as we find in 1 Cor. 15 for example.

    … we must figure out who God is before we can know who we, those created in His image, are.

    There is a very great deal of work to be done in Biblical anthropology generally, and human sexuality specifically, particularly to expound the nature of femininity. It is one thing (an easy thing, actually) to affirm that the male/female relationship takes its shape, meaning, and dynamics from the Creator/creature relationship. So much is written in large, bold-faced, capital letters in Holy Writ from one end of the Bible to the other.

    It is quite another thing, in light of this affirmation, to expound masculinity, for one must do justice to two things that are manifestly difficult to balance: the man’s nature as an icon of divinity and the man’s metaphysical nature as a creature.

    And, far more work remains to be done to expound femininity. So much of complementarian writing of the past half-century has been a self-effacing attempt to explain what woman is not – she is not the leader of men, for example – undertaken as a reaction to egalitarian claims that woman is and ought to be man’s equal in all functional areas of ministry. Even if we grant that all such traditionalist writing is correct, it remains essentially apophatic – woman is not this, woman is not that. So very very little that is kataphatic has been written by neo-traditionalists (there’s the word, Kamilla!) about women and femininity – woman is this, woman is that, in the grand scheme femininity is thus and so.

  5. Fr. Bill   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 7:51 am

    Sue,

    I honestly do not know what to make of this barrage of questions, none of which seem to have anything to do with the topic of this particular blog, viz. that the egalitarian religion and the Christian religion are different religions.

    This assertion — that egalitarianism is not Christian, no matter how many Christian accouterments it sports, no matter how many ostensible Christians espouse it — is recent on the lips of well-known evangelical leaders. It merits, therefore, recognition and discussion. Your comments do neither of these.

    And all this talk about “disablement” of women’s leadership! Where is that coming from?

    And, you cannot see how males and females complement one another in the Church??? C’mon. What kind of churches have you been looking at? Maybe you ought to broaden your horizons a teensie bit.

    I have heard anecdotal reports of a very few, very small, and very insiginficant Protestant sects in which woman are virtual ciphers. But, even if I grant that all these reports are factually correct, it is of little consequence if indeed over 2,000 years women and men have successfully complemented one another in church life and ministry.

    Why must the experience (good or evil, foolish or wise) of a sliver of the church be held up as normative for everyone else in the church to follow? It is our contention that in the breadth and scope of its life, the Church has indeed followed the teaching of Christ and the Apostles in how men and women should relate to one another in fulfulling the Great Commission. It’s not difficult to validate this — all one need do is look at what Christ and the Apostles taught and compare that with how the Church has lived out its ministry for 20 centuries.

  6. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 8:51 am

    Hi Fr. Bill,

    Ah yes, I remember that Hutchens commentary! I didn’t like him very much back then – after all, those women were my friends and the way he went after them? Well, I tell you!! (how’s that for umbrage?) But he is absolutely correct – we couldn’t agree on success. There is that little problem of “making disciples”, isn’t there?

    Complementarian writing has certainly been frustrating. I remember my early encounters with the instruction book of complementarianism, “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”. Their little lists of what ministries women could and could not legitimately engage were so, well, I want to say they were demeaning. What, I get to pick one from column a and two from column b like a Chinese menu!? Hmmm, this sounds like it might be tasty. And then there is that ever-ridiculous example of a housewife giving a man directions to the freeway without offending his masculinity or her femininity. To steal a line from John Stossel – Gimme a break!

    And don’t even get me started on the concept of “roles”. I am not an actress, nor am I a female actor who takes up a role when the curtain rises to lay it back down when the curtain falls. But I do endeavour to relate to the people in my life in a more of less godly fashion according to our relationship – whether I be a co-worker, daughter or friend to them.

    I think you are right about the amount of work to be done. I think, perhaps, why so much of the church has been caught flat-footed by the onslaught of Egalitarianism is that these issues have largely been assumed. They have not really been examined, hashed out and defended against hostile forces. It’s the same reason the great Christian universities have been lost to the church – their Christianity was assumed, never examined and defended. And if the supporters of father-rule or patriarchy don’t marshall their forces soon, Geneva, Wittenburg and Canterbury will be lost, and Rome will follow, while Constantinople may still stand.

    Kamilla

  7. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 8:59 am

    Sue asked, “Is there some reason that using words by their definition is wrong

    Well, yes, there is when you cherry-pick your definition and what that definition entails from among several options, ignoring the context and its historic understanding.

    For instance, if my friend tells me, “I went to the premier of the new Pinter play last night. It was a bomb.” What does he mean by that? In order to understand, I would need to know the context. Did he see the premier on Broadway or in London’s West End?

    Kamilla

    P.S. In my personal opinion, all Pinter plays should be bombs. But only in the American sense of that word.

  8. Bethany   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Sue, I’d like to say thank you. I’m not sure that I agree with you on everything but the points you bring up and the questions you raise always help me with the logical side of this “discussion”. Your pursuit of Truth and respectfulness despite the way you are treated is very encouraging.

    Fr. Bill, I truly do want to understand your point of view and why it is what it is. However, I cannot understand why you choose to evade questions by insulting individuals or grouping some entity of people labeled “egalitarian” as all thinking exactly alike.

    Kamilla, please tell me where in Scripture the response to Christ’s question “Who do you say I am?” is “You are Son to the Father.” Mark 8 records Peter’s answer as “You are the Christ.” And then Jesus warns him not to tell anyone. I see far deeper implications and far higher questions arising here than the “gender” of God. And, just out of pure curiosity (we may need to take this discussion elsewhere as it has nothing to do with the topic at hand), what do you mean by all Pinter plays being bombs? I have a degree in theatre and purely out of personal preference don’t care for most of his works but think I can still see the merit in his amazingly written themes and dialog. (This conversation can move to my blog if you’d like to leave me a comment there concerning Pinter.) 🙂

    As to the actual posting: I don’t see what’s worth discussing here if those of us who don’t either agree with or understand what you mean by “roles” of genders really aren’t Christians in the first place. If those who don’t agree, haven’t the Holy Spirit within them to guide in interpretations, why debate them? I suppose you do so with the hope that you can convert those to complementar… I mean to become Believers? Those are extremely large allegations to make. Ones which I would be much more cautious about signing on with. Ones which go directly against what Christ prayed for us… that we would be One.

  9. Sue   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 5:22 pm

    I simply want to thank you for Russ Moore’s quote which makes it clear that we are not talking about complementary roles in the church, but about patriarchy. That makes it much easier to communicate.

    Egalitarians derive their belief from scriptural teaching about God. Egalitarians believe that there was a unity of will between the Father and the Son, and that this unity is a mystery that we understand only in terms of marriage as two being one flesh.

    But true unity as one flesh between two separate physical bodies is achieved, not through the subordinating of one will to the other, but through mutual yielding and reciprocal authority. So Eph. 5:21 is understood as mutual submission and 1 Cor. 7:3 and 4 as reciprocal authority.

    So egalitarians believe that all the instructions in the scriptures to yield to one another, to defer, to honour, to hold the other as more important than oneself, and so on, are all of them instruction that is to be held between believers, not just men to men, but men and women to each other, to display on both parts the submission of Christ to death for us. This is what it means to have the same mind as is in Christ. Phil 2.

    Egalitarians take the commands of Christ to love your next one as yourself seriously. This is derived from the correct attitude towards God, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength. For egalitarians, the two cannot be separated.

    Egalitarians are deeply committed to scripture and do not differ from complementarians in this regard.

  10. Kamilla   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 8:49 pm

    Bethany asked, “Kamilla, please tell me where in Scripture the response to Christ’s question “Who do you say I am?” is “You are Son to the Father.” ”

    If you will re-read my post you will find that I referred to what a full answer must include. It won’t be excplicitly found in Scripture in the format you are insisting on. But then, neither are several other important concepts, belief in which is required to claim to be a Christ follower. Where do you find the Trinity in Scripture? No where explicitly stated, but it is a central tenet of Christianity.

    My remark about Pinter is purely one of personal preference so I have no interest in taking the discussion elsewhere. I find his plays ugly and devoid of beauty. I’d rather pay good money to see Ian McKellan read the phone book. I would pay $1000 to see Dame Judi Dench as the Countess of Rosillon again before I crossed the street to see a Pinter play for free. But it’s just my opinion.

    Sue said, “Egalitarians take the commands of Christ to love your next one as yourself seriously. ” Oh, of course they do! All those silly martyrs, the church fathers, exceptional women like Hildegard of Bingen – all the saints across all branches of Christianity and through nearly the entire first two millenia of the church were just so silly, they didn’t take Scripture seriously enough. I guess we’ve been set straight now.

    Like I say, gnosticism in a new dress.

    Kamilla

  11. Sue   |  Saturday, 03 November 2007 at 9:28 pm

    Kamilla,

    I didn’t mean it like that at all. I meant “egalitarians take the scriptures seriously” as opposed to “egalitarians don’t take the scriptures seriously.”

    You understood that I was saying “egalitarians take the scriptures seriously” and “others don’t.”

    I didn’t mean that at all, but I see how you could understand it that way. Sorry for not expressing myself more clearly.

  12. Kamilla   |  Sunday, 04 November 2007 at 7:17 am

    Oh no, Sue, you do express yourself very clearly but you don’t understand the implications. Taking Scripture seriously entails understanding it. Clearly, one of us does not

    Kamilla

  13. Bethany   |  Sunday, 04 November 2007 at 7:33 am

    A full answer was given, Kamilla. “You are the Christ”! Does that entail being Son to the Father? Absolutely. I don’t see anyone arguing that here. You are quick to conclude that “egalitarians” misrepresent Scripture while you yourself make up your own addition to what the full answer should have been to Christ’s question.

    I’m sorry I asked about something which you brought up briefly but apparently have no desire to discuss. I’m sorry that for you, opinion is fact and not worth discussion with someone else who might show some interest. I’m sorry you have no desire to find any common ground whatsoever.

    I am more convinced than ever that these “discussions” are devoid of purpose. Where can I go to find a true discussion where people want to listen and ask and answer questions honestly?

  14. Kamilla   |  Sunday, 04 November 2007 at 8:04 am

    Whoa, Bethany! Are you upset because I didn’t want to continue the Pinter discussion? (“I’m sorry I asked about something which you brought up briefly but apparently have no desire to discuss”) If so, I must say that is an excellent way to dismiss the discussion. I used it merely as an illustration based on my personal taste and it would be inappropriate to sidetrack the discussion in that manner, so I refused to engage on that side issue.

    And no, the full answer was not given by you. The answer as given by Peter and recorded in Scripture is, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” But, do you really suppose that is all there is to the matter? Is Christ simply that and nothing more? If someone asked who you are, do you really suppose that, “I am John Smith’s daughter” is a full answer?

    No, I am not quick to conclude that egalitarians (or even “egalitarians”) misrepresent Scripture. That knowledge is borne of long and painful experience, I assure you. Lastly, your apprent distate for my answers is no indication this is not a “true discussion” or that I haven’t “answered questions honestly”. In fact, it is probably a sure indication that I have.

    Kamilla

  15. Fr. Bill   |  Sunday, 04 November 2007 at 8:39 am

    Bethany and Sue,

    Bethany writes, “I’m sorry you have no desire to find any common ground whatsoever.”

    A couple of thoughts on this idea of common ground …

    First, I’m not sure there is any. Certainly, the subject of this post is the idea that egalitarianism is a non-Christian faith, no matter how it borrows Christian vocabulary, resorts to the Christian Scriptures, and numbers individuals within its ranks who may actually end up redeemed in Christ in the eschaton.

    Can one find a genuinely born again person within Jehovah’s Witnesses? Within the Mormon Church? It would be rare or unusual to do so, but one can’t rule it out.

    Is Jehovah’s Witnesses “gospel” true? Is the Mormon’s true? Is the Jesus of the JWs or the Mormons the bona fide Christ? No way.

    What is slowly dawning on a few leaders within evangelicalism is that the egalitarians’ Jesus isn’t the real one, that the egalitarian gospel isn’t a saving one, that the whole religion of egalitarianism is no more Christian than the liberalism that Machen correctly charged with being a non-Christian faith.

    Whining that I or others here won’t “discuss” with you won’t accomplish much, except to win you some sympathy from others who reject the Christ whom the Apostles served.

    Here is something I’d like egalitarians to explain: how is it that the patriarchal shape of the entirety of the Bible is repudiated by egalitarians? And, since they do this, why should anyone give any credit to their claim to “believe the Bible?”

  16. Sue   |  Sunday, 04 November 2007 at 11:19 am

    Bill,

    You bring the discussion back to the point. First, egalitarians believe in the same text as complementarians. They do not have a separate text. Can we agree on that?

    Next, there is a great deal of patriarchy in the scriptures. I don’t deny this. But I read constantly in depth, to see what is really there and I see now a much more diverse scripture.

    For example, creation has no mention of hierarchy in the text. It talks of the aloneness of the man, his recognition of the one who was like him, of the same species, there togetherness and then the sin of Eve and Adam.

    The patriarchal narrative has mixed references. Abraham is to do what Sarah says – when he wants her to do as he says, he appeals to hesed not patriarchy. The promise of children is to Sarah and Rebecca as well as Abraham and Isaac. Rebecca, on meeting Abraham’s servant, runs to tell her “mother’s house.”

    Ruth provides for Naomi, initiates the relationship with Boaz, gives the first born son to Naomi to serve Naomi and be named by her.

    Tamar schemes for her right to bear a child. Women had reproductive and sexual rights which they claimed. These women are in Christ’s genealogy.

    In the Hebrew scriptures we find a woman able to go out to war, Serah; a woman builder, Sheerah; a woman judge, Deborah; a woman prophet, Hulda; and so on. We do not find women priests. The priesthood was done away with by Christ, our high priest. No other man is priest to us.

    We find one Psalm full of the song of Deborah. One has to ask, did men sing women’s songs or was this psalm composed by a woman. What do you think?

    You read the scriptures through male eyes and I read it through female eyes. This is how God made us, male and female. What a blessed diversity.

  17. Leigh Ann   |  Monday, 05 November 2007 at 11:05 pm

    Fr. Bill, you should check out the discussion on compegalitarian.blogspot.com under the post on Mary. Some of the views held there underscore what you wrote here to a T.

  18. Leigh Ann   |  Tuesday, 06 November 2007 at 7:51 pm

    “Tamar schemes for her right to bear a child. Women had reproductive and sexual rights which they claimed. These women are in Christ’s genealogy. ”

    Tamar, other women and men are in Christ’s genealogy because of the grace of God. Being in the genealogy is not a blanket endorsement of everything that they did. Tamar seduces her father-in-law. Yes, she was more righteous than he, but that is not saying much and is not God’s commendation on her actions. They were still sinful actions.

    I find it interesting that it is never said of Deborah that the Spirit raised her up. The whole context of Judges shows a spiraling down of the children of Israel and their need for a truly righteous leader thus the repetition of the phrases “there was no king in Israel” and “every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. Here they were at a point where they were looking to a woman for leadership. Elsewhere is Scripture this is used as a condemnation, not because it was a worthless woman but because there was no man to step up and be a leader.

    It is significant that there are no women priests. The physical priesthood was still in full force in the OT and we can’t discount the absence of women from it because now in Christ the signs and shadows are done away with. Egalitarians cannot discount the absence of women in the priesthood and gloss over it as if it were of no importance.

    Women prophets. I see nothing wrong with that. Paul tells us that women can pray and prophesy in the church as long as they have their heads covered. Do you wear a headcovering?

    But all these women pulled from the pages of Scripture and pounded like square pegs into round holes detracts from the central message which is the grace of God in grafting in Gentile women into the lineage of Christ. Did you realize this? God has a heart for women. All these women in the lineage of His Son were Gentiles, outcasts that He graciously brought into His people despite there birth. From the beginning, it didn’t matter to Him if you were male, female, bound or free. He extends His grace to all and makes them all partakers of His inheritance. It does a disservice to the grace of God to try to build a doctrine of “equal rights in all things” out of these women.

    “Women had reproductive and sexual rights which they claimed. ”

    This seems to be what it boils down to as the basis for the egalitarian theology–my rights. When you read the Scriptures with that as your presupposition you are going to come up with a different Christ, a different salvation and a different faith.

    It is a blessed diversity. A created diversity that takes a man and a woman who are both in the image of God and makes them show forth that glory in different way that in no way detract from each other or make either one “less than”.

    Sue, you are a smart, gifted woman. The Lord has created you to do great things for Him in the roles that He has designed for you. Don’t be deceived as Eve was by the whispers of Satan. Eve had a choice and so do you.

  19. Benjamin P. Glaser   |  Thursday, 08 November 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Amen Leigh Ann.

  20. niran   |  Tuesday, 20 November 2007 at 11:36 pm

    the problem with abandoning egalitarianism in gender is that you have less of a platform upon which to stand in order to critique race and colour based discrimination. it is important to note that “different but equal” was used to support an evil regime of segregation.

  21. Leigh Ann   |  Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 9:51 am

    Embracing the egalitarian stance leaves you no platform on with to critique homosexuality and the like. There is a difference between human rights (which come about from all people being made in the image of God) and the authority structure in a church or family which is put forward in Scripture and assigns different functions to different genders. It is the misuse of these things which results in sin and race discrimination (using a right teaching to support a wrong action). You cannot embrace error for pragmatic reasons.

  22. Leigh Ann   |  Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 9:59 am

    I’ve been perusing egalitarian sites and the uproar that they are in at the comp lack of humility shown in their (the comps) belief that the Bible speaks authoritatively on gender issues. They go on and on about little words that they believe overthrow the whole revelation of Scripture (even though, of course, they don’t see it that way). I am reminded of the verse that says something to the effect of “straining at gnats they swallow camels”.
    Also their use of straw men (coming up with the most far out scenerios and them claiming inconsistency in the comp position when comps seek to deal with them) is giving me allergies.
    I am thankful, at this Thanksgiving season, for the breath of fresh air that I find here.

  23. Fr. Bill   |  Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 10:05 am

    I heartily second Leigh Ann’s observations here. One simply cannot “interpret” Scripture so that a particular result is achieved with respect to an agenda outside the passage of Scripture being interpreted.

    Of course, the Scripture is quite blunt about the differences in the sexes, and it stipulates ways in which these differences are to be make explicit in the behavior of the sexes toward one another in marriage, family, church, and society. At the same time, the same Scripture proscribes homosexuality.

    Does God contradict Himself? This question never arises for the theological liberal, who supposes that the Bible is man’s word about God, never God’s word to man. For those, however, who believe the historic view of the Bible (which is, of course, the Bible’s own testimony about itself) … well, in that case, we don’t find God worrying Himself as you’ve suggested He ought to.

    By the way, “different but equal” was not the segregationists’ premise. It was “separate but equal,” lip-service to equality while maintaining a thorough-going segregation of the races in areas such as education and the use of public services (buses, drinking fountains, public restrooms, service businesses such as restaurants).

  24. Kamilla   |  Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 10:09 am

    Fr. Bill,

    This morning I am freshly convinced that your comparison of Christianity and Egalitarianism, per Machen, is so, so apt. I love the terms, “taking umbrage” and “high dugeon” – so colorful, aren’t they? And both are descriptive of a response to my recent post elsewhere concerning modesty and whose responsibility it is. If Paul has been thoroughly deconstructed on terms such as “head”, that is nothing compared to the breathtaking editing of his letters to Timothy and the Corinthians on the issue of modest dress and whether or not we bear any responsibility for causing another to sin.

    ‘Tis a whole other religion, indeed!

    Kamilla

    P.S. Niran, we have the same ground we have always had, Holy Scripture.

  25. Kamilla   |  Wednesday, 21 November 2007 at 10:22 am

    Oops, forgot Romans!

    K

  26. Kamilla   |  Sunday, 25 November 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Fr. Bill,

    I’ve been doing some research tonight and am re-reading Timothy George’s “Peace Plan”. I’m guessin’ you never signed on?

    Kamilla

    P.S. Did you blog on it and I miss it?

  27. Fr. Bill   |  Monday, 26 November 2007 at 11:06 am

    Regarding George’s “peace plan,” no … I have not blogged on it, though there’s plenty there to blog about. Something for the calm, cold evenings of Advent this year.

  28. Seamus   |  Tuesday, 04 December 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I see this is discussion is starting to angle towards the authority of Scripture, which is something that interests me. This might be oversimplifying a bit, and I welcome any corrections to my assessment, but it seems to me that your reading (Fr. Bill et al.) of the Old Testament is that it’s chiefly a set of good examples (with a few exceptions) of human behavior, in the context of a society that is more or less acting according God’s will.

    However, the problematic nature of this stance becomes clear when, for example, Sue points out Tamar in a favorable (or at least, not wholly bad) light. In this case, you condemn what Tamar did– accurately, I believe, based on Biblical moral criteria which are express and difficult to dispute. However, many Biblical characters are more morally ambiguous. Most of the kings of Israel and Judah, for example, didn’t seem to be clear-cut good-or-evil examples. Isn’t it also possible that certain societal mores of the ancient Hebrews were morally suspect? For example, the very institution of kingship seems to have its share of negative elements, even though God permitted it and brought good from it (I’m thinking of 1 Samuel 8, as an example, when I think of the negative elements). A logical response would be to say that some elements of the kingship were according to God’s will, and other elements were the creation of man and therefore potentially fallible. To tie this in with the most recent post, God doesn’t contradict Himself, but men (even godly men) sometimes contradict God.

    By extension, I’m wondering, could one assess Old Testament patriarchy in the same way, and try to separate the fallible human elements out? (Of course, perhaps we can’t make that extension, in which case I’d be interested in why not.)

    But if so, I’m sometimes not sure what’s left, since I’ve heard many complementarians rely very heavily on Old Testament examples that, for me, seem fallible. (What do we make of Solomon’s harem, for an extreme example; obviously, not monogamous and that’s a problem, but in gendered terms.)

  29. Fr. Bill   |  Saturday, 08 December 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Hi, Seamus,

    First, my laptop crashed (or, its operating system did), and I’m just now getting to where I can fish stuff out of its hard drive. In the meantime, this blog has taken a back seat.

    I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that I (and, by extention other complementarians) see the OT “chiefly a set of good examples (with a few exceptions) of human behavior, in the context of a society that is more or less acting according God’s will.” If you would cite specific statements that you think entail this, I could address those.

    For now, I’d simply say that I (and, I think, most complementarians) view the OT as containing mostly bad examples of human behavior, in the context of a society that is more or less always stiff-necked with respect to God’s will. There are moments when individuals triumph in their faith (Abraham on Mt. Moriah, Moses in Pharaoh’s court, Joshua, Samuel, etc.). But overall, the track record is pretty much stacked with examples of failure and disappointment.

    I think what’s at issue in your query is this: is the obvious and overt patriarchalism of the OT rooted in man’s sin or in God’s design and His will expressed in his Law, His covenants, and His promises? Egalitarians say the former (thus, neatly finessing all those places in the Bible where patriarchy “works” righteously). Modern complementarians — as well as Chesterton’s Awful Mob — say the latter. As for places where patriarchs fail, it is not the patriarchy that is at fault, but those who bear it on their shoulders.

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