Where the women aren’t

Nebcanuck and I were recently discussing complementarianism. It’s a doctrine, popular among some evangelical (or fundamentalist) Christians, which states that men and women have different, complementary roles in the Church.

I reject complementarianism in favour of the alternative position, egalitarianism. It’s an issue of longstanding importance to me. I’m happy to return to the issue from time to time because the strong arguments in favour of egalitarianism bear repeating.

The complementarian position

So-called “complementarianism” attempts to put a positive label on the politically-incorrect notion of male headship:  i.e., that women are always to be under male authority. Scriptures like 1Ti. 2:11-13 are regarded as determinative of church practice:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (Today’s New International Version)

I end the quote at verse 13 because the reference to the order of creation is crucial. Complementarians argue that this is not a transitory rule, required only in the first century context. The rule is rooted in creation and therefore permanent and universally binding.

The egalitarian position

It is obviously true, biologically, that men and women have different and complementary functions. But complementarians elevate this into a general principle, and forbid women to exercise leadership in the church or to teach men. I suppose complementary in this context means, “I rule and teach, and you follow and learn.”

But if women are no less intelligent than men, no less responsible, and no less vessels of the Holy Spirit —

“In the last days,” God says,
      “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
      your young men will see visions,
      your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
      I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
      and they will prophesy.”

(Acts 2:17-18, TNIV)

— how is it that complementarians prohibit women from leading or teaching men?

Texts in tension

It’s important to note that the issue doesn’t turn on one side remaining faithful to scripture while the other side repudiates scripture. The issue turns on which scriptures are regarded as paramount. While complementarians emphasize 1Ti. 2 (and other, similar texts), egalitarians emphasize Acts 2 (and other, similar texts).

In other words, an interpretive problem arises when we try to reconcile one thread of New Testament teaching with another thread of New Testament teaching.

For example, St. Paul says (1Co. 14:33b-38 ) that women are to be silent in church. He states that this is the rule in all the churches (taking the latter half of verse 33 with the verse that follows — translations differ on this point).

But elsewhere in the same letter, St. Paul refers to women prophesying and praying. Indeed, as long as women wear a symbol of authority on their heads (1Co. 11:5-16), Paul indicates that it’s OK for them to pray and prophesy during corporate worship.

On the face of it, there’s a contradiction between these two texts, even though they were written by the same author in the same letter. One of the texts must be qualified (interpreted narrowly) in order to bring the two texts into harmony with one another. The question becomes, Which text is paramount, and which text must be construed narrowly?

Rules vs. actual examples

New Testament texts diverge in a similar fashion on the topic of leading and teaching. As with the 1 Corinthians problem, the pattern is this:

  1. On the one hand, there is a rule that women are to submit to male authority (which makes it out of bounds for them to teach men) ;
  2. On the other hand, there are actual examples of women carrying out ministries that involve leading and teaching.

Thus we can rephrase our earlier question:  Is the rule paramount? — or is the church’s practice paramount?

In one of his books, John Stott (a leading evangelical) lists the following biblical examples of women leaders:  Huldah, Miriam, Deborah, the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, Philip’s four unmarried daughters (who prophesied), the women who prayed and prophesied at Corinth, Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche, Phoebe, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, and Junia.

That’s quite a list! It establishes an a priori case that God approves of women ministering in ways that necessarily involve leading and teaching. As in Acts 2, we see the Sovereign Lord pouring out his Spirit on women and empowering them for ministry.

Junia and Priscilla

Stott’s last example is the most intriguing (though not the strongest). Jounian is almost certainly a contraction of the feminine form of the name,1 indicating that Junia was a woman. Paul describes her (Rom. 16:7) in the somewhat ambiguous phrase, “outstanding among the apostles.” The most natural reading of the verse is that Junia was a woman apostle.

But perhaps my favourite example is Priscilla. She was clearly a teacher:

[Apollos] spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. … When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (Acts 18:25-26, TNIV)

And at least on this occasion she taught a man (Apollos).

Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned a number of times in the New Testament. Clearly this husband-and-wife team played a leading role in the nascent Church.

Complementarians might prefer to think that Aquila (the husband) was head of the team, but that isn’t the impression one gets from scripture. On the contrary, when the two names are mentioned, Priscilla’s name comes first in five verses out of seven, including the text quoted above. It seems that she was the key figure of the two.

Arguably the saddest New Testament example is the women who were the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. It’s sad because, though the Lord presumably selected them for this honour, “their words seemed to [the apostles] like nonsense” (Luke 24:11). It wasn’t until men subsequently received resurrection appearances that the testimony was believed.

Conclusion:  the church’s witness

To repeat:  there is an a priori case that God approves of women ministering in ways that necessarily involve leading and teaching. Despite many such examples, complementarians regard the “rule” texts as paramount.

Complementarians harden the rule and wield it inflexibly. In effect, they are trying to bind the Holy Spirit. The rule necessarily implies, The Holy Spirit is prohibited from raising up female leaders and teachers.

Of course the Holy Spirit persists in ignoring the rule, just as He did during the biblical era.

I care about this issue for three reasons. First, because I strongly support justice for all social groups, not least women. After all, women make up 50% of the population; and more than 50% of the church population. Complementarians would thus constrain the majority of Christians from fully exercising their spiritual gifts.

Which brings me to my second reason:  I care about this issue for the sake of the Church. The Church is stronger when everyone fully exercises all of his or her spiritual gifts.

Finally, I care about this issue because the complementarian position is damaging to the Church’s witness.

Consider the historical context. This year, Hillary Clinton came very near to winning the Democratic nomination. If she had won, she likely would have become the first woman President.

  • India has had a woman Prime Minister;
  • England has had a woman Prime Minister;
  • Israel has had a woman Prime Minister; and
  • Canada has (albeit very briefly) had a woman Prime Minister.
  • There are women Justices on the Supreme Court of Canada; and
  • women in Cabinet in the Government of Canada, even in a Conservative government.

In contrast, take a look at the council of the Gospel Coalition — a leading complementarian organization:

Gospel Coalition Council(h/t nonesoblind at Wildervoice)

I ask you, how is this complementarianism? How can women complement men when, in practice, they are completely excluded from the councils of leadership? Thus complementarianism is actually a policy of negating women.

Unchurched people in our culture will take away the following message:  women can lead a government, or preside as Chief Justice over a Supreme Court; but they don’t have what it takes to teach a Sunday School class (assuming there are adult males in the class).

Is that message damaging to the Church’s witness? You bet it is!


1 "… as was taken for granted by the patristic commentators, and indeed up to the Middle Ages. The assumption that it must be male is a striking indictment of male presumption regarding the character and structure of earliest Christianity." — James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, Word Biblical Commentary vol. 38B, ad loc.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Where the women aren’t, part 2 « WilderVoice
  2. nebcanuck
    Jun 16, 2008 @ 12:02:16

    All right. Now I enter the fray, after a couple days of thinking and busying… with the latter being the main cause of my silence! 😉

    First off, I’d like to say that when I saw this post, I was glad that you didn’t rely on the argument that it was “sheerly cultural”, and that Paul intended it to be such. The grounding in the garden of Eden is crucial, and clearly demonstrates that Paul intended to be drawing some sort of universal conclusion; I’m glad you did that portion of the argument justice!

    Now, I think it’s important to note that you are claiming that one thing is the case, when it clearly isn’t. You argue that in both arguments, certain texts are downplayed, while others are played up. You’re coming in with the assumption that one has to do so in order to make the texts’ ends meet. If you’re going to take it that way, clearly there’s going to be some room for the interpretation you’re bringing in. But this is the one area you really don’t do the complementarians justice. Those who argue from a complementarian position are basically always seeking to interpret these things from the perspective that the Bible is infallible in every facet, and that there are no such contradictions that need to be played up or down. Your argument that Paul’s practice and preaching don’t match completely overlooks this claim by the complementarians, since they would argue in return that ultimately if there is a contradiction in action and word, the word has to be taken as absolute while the actions are taken as sin. After all, the text, not the people, is that which is flawless. You can’t somehow argue that Paul’s preaching is sin, or else the Bible is flawed. But you can argue that his actions were imperfect, but the Bible fulfills its role as flawless by recounting those episodes properly.

    That being said, I don’t think the argument should stop there, because we should be paying attention to the actions of our teachers to learn from them in that way, too. If, indeed, they are being hypocritical, we’re in for a tough ride. There’s not much that undoes an argument faster than hypocrisy, and if the leaders of the Church weren’t able to demonstrate conviction in their own message, it would be very difficult to argue that the rest of the world throughout history should. So, I’d like to consider your supposed contradictions, to analyse them from a semi-complementarian perspective… which is what I would claim to have, since I don’t agree with certain facets of the complementarian perspective. Those portions I would bring are simple: That the Bible is infallible and uncontradictory, and that men and women have specific and complementary roles within the Church and the Home.

    Now, it should be noted that you’re relying on some pretty weak assumptions to keep your argument going, for the first part. The idea that women are given the Holy Spirit in equal portions does not contradict Paul’s statements about how women should act in relation to men, because, frankly, he didn’t comment whatsoever on their relationship with the Holy Spirit to justify his arguments. Also, the assumption about Priscilla and Aquilla is easily your weakest moment in this argument. Come on! There’s no way you can say “the suggestion is”, and then go on to use it as a full assumption. Name order doesn’t really give away much, and it certainly doesn’t answer even partially who is the head of the relationship. If Paul claims the man is to be the head, I think it’s safe to assume that he’s seeing their relationship as fitting that mold, unless he otherwise specifies… and the potential supposition derived from name order is hardly adequate to count as such! Finally, your statement that they are led to prophecy and pray certainly does not contradict the passage stating that they should not be teaching, since neither is the same as teaching. Re. the seeming contradiction between women remaining silent in Church and their permission to prophecy and to pray, well, I can’t give a full answer but to suggest that, if nothing else, prophecy and prayer can be internal and private, as opposed to public. But I think I’ll turn to one of my theologically-oriented friends, Todd, to get back to you on that one in a fuller and more satisfactory answer.

    Now, there’s another instance where you don’t really do the text justice, and it’s one that I would hinge upon the most to use as a springboard for the rest of my argument. Your statement about Junia is misleading, as the text reads that “they” (aka Junia and Andronicus, probably her husband), are outstanding amongst the apostles. It’s worth noting that one of the most direct translations – as well as one of your favorites – reads slightly differently. The ESV states that “they are well known to the apostles.” But, this doesn’t reveal much about their actual position, and the fact that most major translations read that they were outstanding amongst the apostles suggests to me, too, that there are textual hints in the Greek that they are more than just known by the group, but that they play a role amongst them. But that doesn’t change that there is no recognition of Junia being an individual leader; nor is there any such recognition of Andronicus. Much like Priscilla and Aquila, there seems to be a team effort going on here – which is the most important fact we can derive from these brief passages.

    The biggest problem with the picture you bring up of a Complementarian team is not, in fact, that so many men are present, and also not that there are no individual women are present. It’s the opposite: The problem is that so many individual men are present, or, rather, that no women are present in partnership. Each of those photos should be a pair – a husband and a wife. I think there is a drastic flaw in a system where we emphasize complementary roles, and then refuse to acknowledge half of the partnership. When you say “I ask you, how is this complementarianism? How can women complement men when, in practice, they are completely excluded from the councils of leadership? Thus complementarianism is actually a policy of negating women”, you are correct, at least in the fact that these men are not really leading in a complementary fashion.

    But that’s just it, really. You’re focusing on the abuse of the situation, rather than the theory. Paul isn’t talking about men excluding women; men make it that way for their own gain. Rather, in the same book as the passage you cited about teaching, Paul refers to the fact that overseers and deacons should be the husband of one wife, and that that wife should be virtuous as the man (1 Timothy 3). The difference is, there are slightly different virtues which the husband and wife should be aspiring to. Amongst the male designations are teaching and managing the household, while the women are encouraged not to slander, and to be faithful in all things. Elsewhere, it is clear that women are called to nurture children (eg. 1 Timothy 5:10), to be helpers and supporters for their husbands (eg. Genesis 2:18), and to obey their husbands (1 Peter 3:5). Indeed, these roles are emphasized as crucial by God in the creation story, and are clearly supported by the apostles as a whole. And both roles are crucial. The lack of representation of the other half is like taking a picture of half a man’s body and claiming “this is the half that matters.” Without both halves, the whole stops functioning. Leadership which overlooks women is flawed.

    This abuse of the position is one which is derived from sin. But the abuse doesn’t negate the theory. Your argument suggests that it’s bad for the image of the Church for men to be portrayed as the only individuals that matter, and you’re absolutely right. But it’s not complementarianism that brings this about, it’s sin. Complementarianists are like Paul: They always speak in pairs. Christ and the Church. God and Man, Master and Slave, Employer and Employee… Husband and Wife. They demonstrate that harmony is brought about in the universe by a union of responsible authority and willing support. And ultimately, because of the way that men have abused the situation, claiming that authority is reason to ignore women, or to abuse them, or to reject them as human, the Church has had to face a struggle to really demonstrate any sort of union, or any sort of harmony.

    Let’s face it. Today, the Church has broken down into a series of individualistic, self-centred practices. There’s no sense of coherency. Divorce is equally rampant in the Church as elsewhere. People debate issues that are secondary or tertiary, but then choose to overlook primary issues because they “look bad.” Churches break down in leadership struggles, as my home church in Ottawa has recently faced as an issue. And it’s all because we forget that ultimately everyone should be looking to see which authority they can bow to. The only being that is given freedom from any headship is God Himself, and yet the Church gets caught up in post-modernism and emphasizes that everyone should be free to do as they will.

    That’s what gives the Church a bad name. Not Paul’s theories. Paul, in his theories, is speaking of God’s natural order. And headship is a part of that – helping to beautify the world, not render it into a series of tyrants with damaged slaves underneath them.

    I’d like to extrapolate more on the real nature of headship, as I understand it. And I think I’ll do so by doing a whole separate post. For now, I’d like to close with one other comment: That I disagree with certain “hard ball” positions the Church takes re. Women.

    I think you’re right to bring in Old Testament examples of women, even though technically I would be justified in proclaiming that Jesus causes a cosmic shift in priorities. However, I believe you are correct that the Holy Spirit can and does lift up women to be leaders in extenuating circumstances (although I would also point out that your comment that complementarians limit the Holy Spirit is ridiculous. There’s a difference between talking about how the Holy Spirit does, or tends to work, and talking about how it is able to). And Paul never fights the idea that there were female leaders in the Old Testament. However, Paul is primarily concerned with the organized Church and Household, not the geopolitical rebellions talked about in the Old Testament. For women to be leading in a geopolitical fashion is not actually talked about in the New Testament, and I really don’t think it’s one of the realms the Church should enter too far into. The wonderful message of the New Testament is that there is a new order, one which re-establishes the initial plan for God to relate directly to Man. No longer is God’s primary role one which ties heavily into the people of Israel. Instead, it is one which involves the Holy Spirit moving individuals directly, throughout every people. The examples in the OT of women stepping up are examples of God’s priorities. Clearly it would be silly to worry more about “roles” than about the existence of God’s primary vessel on Earth. If the Church’s survival ever depended on men stepping up, I’d have no doubt that women would potentially be called to do the leading. But since it’s a lot harder to envision an absolute collapse of the Church than it is an absolute collapse of the tangible geopolitical force that was Israel, I think it’s a lot harder to imagine places where women would have to lead in place of men.

    Because of the move away from politics, the claim that complementarianists would object to Hillary Clinton winning the race may be accurate, but is picking again at a sin rather than a Biblical suggestion. Firstly, that’s a secular world, which Paul considers very different than a Christian one. Secondly, God’s shift away from any particular geopolitical force suggests that the Church itself becomes an order apart from any politicking. It’s good for Christians to consider who should be leading, but the goal shouldn’t be to transform one’s country into a Christian force. Rather, it should be to help pick leaders who are going to allow the Church the freedom it needs to witness to the world around them, and then seek to operate through the structures the apostles talk about in the NT. Too often, the Church is seen as a political entity which is vying for power in government. That, too, does us a disservice, and gets back into power games which damage the individuals leading the Church, as well as the Church’s image.

    And ultimately, if the Church could step out of that, and stop supporting this “Male vs. Female” debate that rages in government – as opposed to fueling it, as they seem to do all too often – then they could demonstrate real unity while the rest of the world struggles with power-hungry genders. The presence of the Church, and the demonstration of peace within it, would be a far more powerful demonstration. As I would like to bring in in my post, there is a reason that our headship is conflictory rather than peaceful, but I think it’s unquestionable that when Paul talks about authority he’s not seeing it as one gender pushing down the other, but of the two operating peacefully within equally difficult and equally important roles in order to demonstrate Christ’s relationship with the Church.

    This is a long, rambling argument. There are undoubtedly poor phrases and such. Feel free the pick at them. I’m sure I failed to answer adequately, but hopefully it’s somewhat adequate, and what I lack I can turn to God and other people to help answer! 🙂


  3. Stephen
    Jun 16, 2008 @ 14:34:55

    On the contrary: I think that’s a thoughtful, reasonable response to the post. At least provisionally! My opinion on this issue has evolved as I have revisited it repeatedly at intervals. Perhaps you’ll find that yours does, too.

    I’m glad you’re going to post on the topic: it can be looked at from a variety of angles (as I have done on the several occasions I’ve tackled it).

    A quick response to some of your points:

    (1) I’m glad you concede that the photo from the Gospel Coalition doesn’t equal true complementarianism. On the other hand, I think you’ll find that it’s not the exception, but the rule among complementarians. That’s one of the things I would ask you to take away from our dialogue: i.e., a thought to consider in future, when you’re looking at other complementarian bodies.

    (2) I want to emphasize that I never used the word “contradiction” in this post. At minimum, I would say that the various texts are in “tension” with one another. Whether the tension amounts to outright contradiction is in the eye of the beholder.

    The 1 Corinthians example is the most flagrant, but it reflects a tension (between the rule and the practice) that exists in other New Testament texts, if they are laid out side by side.

    I understand that evangelicals won’t concede an error in any of the texts. Therefore the tension presents an interpretive problem. That’s all I said in the post, having chosen my words very carefully.

    I insist that, in practice, conservatives give paramountcy to the “rule” texts, whereas relatively liberal Christians give paramountcy to the “practice” texts. You’ve offered a justification for doing so, but I don’t find it persuasive. In the end, the practice (women exercising leadership and teaching ministries) isn’t a sin on the part of the Church; it’s brought about by the Holy Spirit and therefore it is a demonstration of God’s will.

    Can the various texts be reconciled? Read on.

    (OK, point #2 was too long! I must try to be briefer.)

    (3) A question: is it possible for women to prophesy without thereby exercising authority? Doesn’t a valid word from the Lord have to be taken into account in the Church’s decision-making? How then can a prophecy be non-authoritative?

    Similarly, I would argue that prophecy necessarily involves teaching. It fills a gap in the Church’s knowledge, albeit not in a “classroom instruction” sort of model.

    (4) Re the ESV translation of Rom. 16:7 — the ESV is, in fact, a complementarian translation. I use it despite that fact; but of course I am theologically aware enough to make allowances for it as I read. (In this post, I made allowance for it by utilizing the egalitarian TNIV instead. ) 😉

    (5) Let me return to the point you commend me for: my acknowledgement that Paul (or at least the author of 1 Timothy) grounds male headship in the order of creation.

    You should have a look at my earlier argument at WilderVoice. In the conclusion of that argument I outline John Stott’s solution to the dilemma. Stott tries to reconcile the texts-in-tension.

    Stott acknowledges that male headship is grounded in creation and therefore permanent and universal. But he tries to distinguish specific, first-century applications of the principle from the principle itself. Indeed, most Christians do so with respect to head coverings for women: the specific application is set aside in most of the churches that retain the principle of male headship.

    Stott dares to consider that the absolute prohibition of women (a) teaching and (b) exercising authority over men may be a first century application of the universal principle. His response is to suggest that (in our very different cultural context) women should be permitted to lead and teach men, with the proviso that they do so as part of a team with a male head.

    That view is too restrictive for my sensibilities. But I respect it as a clever way of trying to do justice to both threads of New Testament teaching. The problem with Priscilla and Aquila vanishes, for example, if we concede that Priscilla taught Apollos, but under the covering of her husband’s headship.

    (6) Finally, on that last point — I insist that the order of the names is significant. it is conventional to mention male names first, precisely because men conventionally play a more prominent (leading) role in society. The name-order convention is changing only as women break through the traditional constraints.

    Thus when Paul (in his epistles) repeatedly refers to Priscilla first, just as Luke had in Acts — that’s remarkable. It indicates that Priscilla had deeply impressed both Paul and Luke — that she was not a passive helpmeet vis-à-vis Aquila. On the contrary, she tended to overshadow him.

    Even so, I can accept the argument that she acted technically under Aquila’s headship, per Stott’s position. So let me say that I think you concede my most important point: that the Gospel Coalition (and other complementarian organizations) could open up its leadership to women without thereby violating the principle of male headship.

    But that’s essentially guts the complementarian position. In practice, complementarians insist on barring women from any official leadership role.

    If they could correct that failing, I wouldn’t feel a need to keep attacking the complementarian position.


  4. nebcanuck
    Jun 16, 2008 @ 19:17:05

    On the other hand, I think you’ll find that it’s not the exception, but the rule among complementarians.

    I would also argue that it is not the exception, but the rule, that the Church is scarred because of our sinful natures. I can’t judge the hearts of people, but when there are significant issues that are against Biblical standards, such as obsession with power, money, sex, or whatever, I find it hard to accept that they are leading through the spirit. I also find it hard to believe so if they are overly nonchalant about such topics. I would emphasize that I was not actually denying that “good” complementarianism is the exception, not the rule. That doesn’t taint the Bible, nonetheless. I’ll get into this one more in the post, since it relates so much to headship.

    I want to emphasize that I never used the word “contradiction” in this post. At minimum, I would say that the various texts are in “tension” with one another. Whether the tension amounts to outright contradiction is in the eye of the beholder.

    And I’m saying, if there are any tensions, one would logically have to side with the portion that is less flexible, if one were looking from the perspective that all facets of the text are infallible.

    If you assume the actions are correct, you have to assume that Paul was either falsely applying a contextual idea in a universal fashion, or that he was a pig and didn’t know what he was talking about at all. Their actions, on the other hand, can be interpreted with his teaching in mind, and they either become different than we would interpret them otherwise (such as the Priscilla/Aquila situation) or they become sin. The latter is, I agree, something which is hard to take, and since they’re inspired by the Holy Spirit, I would tend to avoid putting a lot of “sin” labels on their actions. Rather, I would suggest that their actions are not, in fact, contrary or even in tension with his teachings. And you’ve got to be kidding me if you’re going to expect me to rely on traditional name order over a lesson that is repeated a dozen times in the New Testament. That’s not tension unless you’re looking for it to be.

    A question: is it possible for women to prophesy without thereby exercising authority? Doesn’t a valid word from the Lord have to be taken into account in the Church’s decision-making? How then can a prophecy be non-authoritative?

    Prophecy and teaching are treated as two separate gifts in the Bible, and as such, I would say that no, they are not the same thing.

    Teaching is to take a stance that your knowledge is sufficient to inform another and help to build up their own knowledge. Prophecy is a revelation from God, and otherwise unrelated to experience, learnedness, or ability to pass on knowledge. As such, it doesn’t really give the person a position of authority, but rather suggests they are a filter, or a channel through which God is speaking to the congregation. Paul himself contrasts it with speaking in tongues, arguing that tongues is a self-edification, while prophecy edifies the entire church. I would argue that teaching falls in between the two, since it requires some submission to the authority of the teacher, as opposed to taking God as the source.

    Of course, it’s slightly circular, since clearly God was the one who delivered any abilities to us whatsoever, so teachers depend on God entirely for their knowledge and experience. But again, I verge on some of what I would like to talk about in the post, so I think I will stop there with the comment that going in such circles is inevitable, but ultimately a teacher is able to become prideful far more easily than someone who is prophesying.

    Re the ESV translation of Rom. 16:7 — the ESV is, in fact, a complementarian translation. I use it despite that fact; but of course I am theologically aware enough to make allowances for it as I read. (In this post, I made allowance for it by utilizing the egalitarian TNIV instead.)

    As you know, my Bible that I read from most often is actually the NLT, which comes from a more liberal source, too, I would suspect. However, the ESV does have the distinction of being a more word-for-word translation; biases are easier to put forth if you’re translating with the desire of interpreting already.

    So let me say that I think you concede my most important point: that the Gospel Coalition (and other complementarian organizations) could open up its leadership to women without thereby violating the principle of male headship.

    I think that as long as we think too much in binaries of male/female power struggles, we sow the seeds of tension amongst our church body. I think that, ultimately, the man and woman become “as one flesh”, and as such it’s ridiculous to propose that one is operating independently of the other. However, within that relationship, the man is the head, and the woman is the helper, and as such I would say that the roles of direct public teaching and other such actions fall to the man.

    However, leadership is not just these teaching and directing principles. Women fulfill leadership in a different and equally important way, and to fail to acknowledge that is prideful and damaging on the part of men. I don’t think I agree with Stott’s position… while you find it too conservative, I tend to find it too liberal. It depends highly on the argument that the applications are contextual. I disagree.

    What I would propose is that our view of the application has been tainted for year, or even centuries. We quibble and quabble over who’s the “leader”, when it’s really a unit that have specific roles doing the leading together. The only exception to this is when you get single men on a team, and since the half already given the task of direction and teaching is the male half, those single men are given the position of leadership whereas single women are not. There’s more behind it Biblically than just this, but since the case is that almost all men in Church leadership are married, I think that we can accept that much for the sake of consistency in roles, if nothing else. There’s bound to be more on that… in my post 😉 .


  5. Zayna
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 21:01:00

    I don’t know if this affects the arguement either way but as a daughter to 2 fathers, a sister to 6 brothers, a wife, a mother to a 20 year old son and an Aunt to 3 nephews…

    I can attest that the best way to influence a man with an idea or opinion is to do it quietly and in private.

    This doesn’t mean my opinion means less, it just means I understand what it takes to really be heard.

    I have no problem with not getting credit for my part of the good works of man, as long as I’m not taking the blame when they don’t listen.


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