Complex and Critical Questions

Written by Father Bill 2 Comments

Consider the following from a religious feminist “in the pews” who poses the following related questions:

Do Egalitarians present a fundamentally different approach to theology from Complementarians? Do they possess a fundamentally different experience of Christ and life in Him from Complementarians? Do they know a different Christ from that of Complementarianism? [Adapted from the original post in a thread found here.]

Good questions all, but complex questions. And to unsnarl the complexities and to tackle answers to the issues raised here, this is the first of a series of blogs which unravels the complex questions into simpler, clearer questions before giving an answer.

 No Longer an Intramural Debate

“Complementarian” is the term coined by CBMW to name those who embrace the classical Christian understanding of the relationship of the sexes. “Egalitarian” is a different “term of art” for evangelical feminists, a term that seems to be preferred by evangelical feminists themselves.

From the time that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was founded in 1987, that organization has consistently adhered to a viewpoint about evangelical feminists , namely that they are authentic Christians, genuine Christians, orthodox Christians, and so forth. This may have been the case 25 years ago. It may still be the case. But, something has changed in the past 20 or 30 years as this debate has percolated within broadly evangelical American Protestantism. Over time opinions on both sides have sought validation and endorsement from the seats of authority within evangelicalism – the Bible and theologies derived from the Bible. What has emerged – particularly within the religious feminist camp – is a growing body of literature in which a new theology of the sexes is being articulated.

This development provokes a change in the nature of the controversy. Where before evangelical Christians disagreed on the relationship of the sexes, this debate has now begun to spill over into different areas than the merely pastoral or ecclesiastical. And, those different areas are more and more expressly doctrinal across the spectrum of theology. As the scope of the disagreement widens, It does so by involving greater and more foundational planks of Christian belief – the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the economy of salvation itself.

So, 25 years after the founding of CBMW, the debate within the evangelical camp is no longer an intramural disagreement on whether or not women may be ordained, or whether or not men are heads of their marriages and families, much less heads of the Church. Instead, we are seeing the debate to resolve into what amounts to two different religions.

Are evangelical feminists Christian in anything other than a cultural, derivative sense? Are they, for example, “Christian” in the way that Christian Scientists are Christian? In the sense that Mormons are “Christian?” Are egalitarians more Christian, or less Christian, than Roman Catholics? Succeeding blogs in this series will attempt to answer these kinds of questions.

What Is Not Being Asked

Egalitarians are understandably sensitive to anything that implies they are not saved, that they, for example, will be turned away by the Lord with “I never knew you” at The Doom. And, these blogs do not make a judgment on the eternal destiny of any man or woman who professes to be an egalitarian.

On the other hand, this blog will advance the argument that evangelical feminism, AKA egalitarianism, has evolved into a religious faith that is different from orthodox Christianity. Though it is impossible to know certainly if anyone professing egalitarianism is among the elect, it is possible to distinguish the faith they profess from the faith once for all delivered to the saints by the Apostles of our Lord. And, because such a distinction can be made, we may also say that those who embrace and propagate evangelical feminism do so at great — possibly eternal —  peril to their souls.

Proposed Topics In This Series of Blogs

To give an overview of the topics to be explored in future blogs, here is a proposed list of topics I will explore. If any reading this have suggestions for additional topics, suggest them in the comments.

  • Defining terms: I will likely refer future readers to this blog because they use terms differently from how I have defined my use of them in this series.
  •  Biblical meaning of the sexes: evangelical feminism is essentially gnostic with respect to the sexes. This blog will point instead to the meaning of the sexes as Paul reveals it in Ephesians 5.
  •  Sex and the Incarnation: Is it necessary that God become incarnate as a man rather than as a woman? Or was the sex attending the incarnate God arbitrary? Or was it a condescension to the limited patriarchal bias of the Jews when Jesus was born?
  •  Mistakes about Jesus and Mistakes about God: Because of the Incarnation, mistakes about the nature of man lead straightway to mistakes about theology proper.
  •  The Disintegration of Trinitarian Faith: One of the strongest repudiations of modern religious feminism is the classical doctrine of the Trinity. Consequently, we see among evangelical feminist thinkers a deconstruction of Trinitarian doctrine and a replacement of it with a quasi Unitarianism.
  •  Religious feminism and the gospel: Is religious feminism a “gospel issue?” Asked another way, does a thorough-going (rather than a cherry-picking) egalitarian point of view render the gospel preached by egalitarians to be a gospel different from what the Apostles preached?

Looking back over these proposed blogs, the scope looks ambitious. And, in fact, in these blogs I will be tackling issues which will eventually find their way into a book entitled The Masculinity of God. For now, though, I’ll confine the scope of this series to the issues raised by that religious feminist quoted at the beginning of this blog.


  1. Fr. Phil Lewis+   |  Thursday, 13 October 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Good questions and it is time to start questioning – SERIOUSLY. I have always been soft on this issue. I don’t ordain people. I like women a great deal. What is the big deal?

    After the abomination of 2003, and I as was serving in a Revisionist Diocese and under a revisionism female Bishop (I violated the 11th commandment “Thou shalt not kid thyself” – however theologically she was probably more “conservative” than about 80% of HOB), I was called to one of those God-awful “listening sessions” (which are nothing more than baptized Marxist agit-prop). After trying to keep my mouth shut the whole time, finally the good “school marm in God” asks me; “So tell me Philip, how do you FEEL about all this?” Still trying to escape the trap I tried to demure that she really didn’t want to know how I felt. When she insisted, finally I asked one question, “If you can do THIS, what won’t you do?” What amazed me is how quick her answer came – “Well, we changed our mind about divorce and the ordination of women!” I told her she had just confirmed the fears of every Anglo-catholic friend I had.

    I have since totally changed my mind on the subject of women “ordination.” Since I don’t ordain anyone it is still not in my job description. Of course, the problem is confusion with “ministry” and “presidency” or leadership and representation. I think our argument should be we may have all the women “ministers” we want but we need to be very clear how calling to the Presbytry actually takes us out of a lot of real ministry. We cannot have women leadership and presidency and representation as this is a very clear violation of scripture and we cannot call our selves “catholic” or recite with a straight face the creeds that believe in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” if we are going to throw out the very clear traditions of 2000 that have come down form those apostles, not to mention the scriptures.

    We also have to abandon any talk of ecumenical relationships with the vast majority of Christendom the is either Roman or Orthodox or Reformed and will never allow women’s “ordination” or “leadership/presidency.” The confusion has been “ministry” (the deaconal function which women are allowed) and representative presidency which only a male can do since the primary representation is not of people, but of God, whose revealed nature is overwhelmingly “masculine.” This, of course, is the war, the real revolution. We must make a “god” in our own desire for an egalitarian image.

    Another thing this blog could do is answer all the absurd notions of there being women “apostles” in the bible. This is a form of linguistic and rhetorical preying upon the ignorant. There is no room for such non-sense and any “theologian” who asserts such ignorance should be shamed out of the room. This is what “peer review” is for – to throw the “weak stuff” out of the gym.

  2. Fr. Bill   |  Saturday, 15 October 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Greetings, Fr. Phil,

    You didn’t mention her name, so I won’t speculate out loud about the bishop you refer to, though I think my guess would come close!

    Divorce and gays. That puts it together pretty well, I think. And, It shows how untenable opposition to mainstreaming homosexuality actually is, when that opposition has been comfortable with unrestricted divorce and remarriage for a couple of generations now!

    And now within TEC Lewis’ warning is exactly on point: “ … when the modern world says to aloud, ‘You may be religious when you are alone,” it addes under its breath, ‘and I will see to it that you are never alone.’ ” In our old parish (from whence we departed for Anglican Christianity out of communion with Canterbury) the vicar is a solidly evangelical chap after about ten years of intra-parish jostling between revisionist and traditionalist camps). The “victory” is problematic because it must be lived out in public; those who do not embrace TEC’s mainstreaming of homosexuality can never be alone in the public life of the parish – when it gathers for worship on Sunday, when parish committees meet, when the choir practices, when votes are held for the next class of “vestrypersons.”

    And, so, when two gay men in a public domestic partnership arrive in the parish, with eyes keen to detect any diminution of their entitlement to participate in all parish life as a gay couple, what are parents of impressionable young children supposed to do? Neither they nor the vicar may say anything; nor may they express their “private” opinions in overt testimonial way. Their only option is to seek another TEC parish where such parenting challenges are (for the nonce) still missing.

    I understand your distinction between “ministry” and “presidency.” It’s a distinction that cannot be maintained (except in the most theoretical sense) among non-sacramental non-liturgical evangelicals, even conservative Presbyterian ones. They simply do not have the theological categories in their DNA for such a distinction to make any sense to them, and catholics (note the small “c”) who make the distinction sound instead like nit-norty equivocating purveyors of weasel-words. But, even within catholic climes, is the distinction that useful anyway? If one frames the issue this way – Is sex a qualification for the presbyterate? – the issue is joined head-long, rather than fracturing into sub-debates on whether presiding at the Eucharist is reserved for the presbyterate or not, whether filling the pulpit may be done by a woman or not, and so forth.

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