Freed to live through the death of another.

Category: Ordination of women (Page 1 of 2)

Egalitarian or Complementarian: How to Decide?

Both the complementarian and the egalitarian positions ultimately must stand or fall based on their interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Both sides agree that male and female were created alike, with the same human nature, both created in the image of God with equal dignity and value; but was it God’s intention for there to be distinction in role or was it not?

One basic rule for the interpretation of Scripture that is adopted by the majority of evangelicals is that Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. In other words, where an issue is dealt with in obscure places and then again in clearer places, we must allow the clearer revelation to interpret the less clear. Also, it is standard hermeneutical practice among evangelicals to allow the newer revelation to give clarity to the older (since Christ is the mystery proclaimed in the OT, but revealed in the NT, which has implications for everything!).

This issue is a good place to employ this helpful rule. While scholars may debate the validity of seeing a distinction in role in Genesis 1-2, the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has already given us a clear and authoritative interpretation. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Paul argues that women must not teach or have authority over a man in the local church, and he cites Genesis 1-2 as his rationale: “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Lest we think this was an appeal only relevant in a particular situation in a particular local body of believers, Paul uses the same logic again, in 1 Corinthians 11. In this passage he argues that within the kingdom of those redeemed in Christ (therefore, among those spoken of in Gal. 3:28), “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of a wife is her husband”. His defence of this position is drawn from the same text in Genesis, and he says “man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” To these passages must be added Ephesians 5:22-33. In this glorious text, the apostle looks back at the “profound mystery” of two becoming one flesh, which is spoken of in Genesis and says that the original human marriage is patterned after the loving authority-submission relationship of Christ and his bride, which God had purposed to establish from before the creation of the world.

In these decisive passages, where Scripture interprets itself, we are able to see clearly that it was God’s intention for there to be a distinction in role, including a loving authority-submission structure within marriage, and therefore within the local church. Many other details of many other arguments from both sides could and should be examined where time and space allow, but here it suffices for us to know that the testimony of Scripture is on the side of the complementarians. Throughout the Bible, from creation on, through the fall and ultimately through redemption, God has testified that he has a plan for male and female, equally created in his image, equal in essence and value, yet distinct in their roles in the home and in the church.

The Gender-Issue Landscape

Seeing as how I’ve been giving some really broad, yet really brief overviews of theological positions this week (dangerous at the best of times, but necessary just about always), I thought I’d continue with that pattern but on a different issue.

So, we approach again the gender debate. Are women free to take any office in the NT church, or are they restricted by their gender? Are men more valuable than women? Did God create men & women with difference in roles, or is that result of sin or some construct of society? Does redemption in Christ undo gender distinctions? These are just some of the numerous questions involved in the gender issue.

Despite how some argue, there are only two positions on the issue of women in ministry in the local church: one is either a complementarian or an egalitarian. This is so because it must be decided, Is being a woman (just having this gender) a disqualifying factor at some point for some positions of ministry or is it not? Regardless of where one draws the line, as soon as a line is drawn, one becomes a complementarian at some level. What follows is a brief sketch of both the egalitarian and complementarian arguments.

  1. Egalitarians
  2. Egalitarians argue for created equality. Adam and Eve were created as equals, both alike in the image of God; there was absolutely no distinction between them other than gender. They have functional equality as well, both given responsibility to rule of the creation. As a result of the fall, however, human relationships have been subjected to disorder and falsely established and wrongly motivated hierarchy. Sin introduced disorder into God’s creation, and the result of the curse of God was that man would “rule over” woman, but woman would “desire” man (Genesis 3:16). The perceived supremacy of male over female in relationships, in the world at large and throughout history is a result of the fall and the resulting disorder. However, now that we are in Christ, and because of the redemption that he has accomplished, “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). This means that the relationship of equality in essence, function, and relationship has been completely restored. Differences have been obliterated and females, like males, are encouraged to pursue all areas of ministry in the local church.

  3. Complementarians
  4. Complementarians, just like egalitarians believe that Adam and Ever were alike created in the image of God, and that both are of absolute equal value. Complementarians, however, see a distinction in role between male and female, even in the Garden of Eden, before the fall. This is shown in several ways: Adam was created first, then Eve; Adam was given the command and the primary responsibility for the care of the garden; Eve was created to be Adam’s helper; and, the fact that Adam was the one to name Eve. That there was a distinction and overall distinction greater than that admitted by egalitarians is demonstrated by the apostle Paul’s use of the Genesis texts in places like 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. For the complementarian, the fallen disruption of God’s created design is perceived differently. Where there was loving leadership and glad-hearted submission before, Adam’s desire is to “rule” (that is, by force of power, not lovingly) over Eve, while Eve’s desire is “against” (that is, with evil intent, to subvert and rule over—see Gen. 4:7) Adam. Complementarians argue that there is true role restoration in the redemption that Christ accomplishes, but it is not of the nature envisioned by the egalitarians. Rather, it is a reestablishment of the loving headship-submission relationship of Adam and Eve, which was designed to prefigure the relationship of Christ with his bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). That this is a restoration of the relationship as it was in Eden is evinced by 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

Who’s In Your Church?

The Kerux has had quite an interesting conversation emerging on his blog lately about the issue of baptism and church membership. These are issues I’ve thought about for some time, but I confess, I have not come to a firm view.

The arguments against having paedobaptists as members are legion, but I think that most (all?) of them fall short. Here’s one of the arguments against it that drives me nuts:

Paedobaptists have aberrant theological views. We should not allow people with aberrant theological views into church membership. Therefore, paedobaptists should not be allowed to be members in baptist churches.

Some even extend this logic to the issue of who we allow to partake of the Lord’s Supper. That just doesn’t make any sense to me! Does that not seem unbiblical to anyone else?

It seems to me that when I examine the New Testament evidence, there is no theological quiz given before the Lord’s Supper. Believers were not required to jump through theological hoops to be considered ‘valid church members.’ Membership in the local church was based on identification with Christ–which, granted, included baptism.

But paedobaptists believe they have been baptised, and if they are believers, have identified themselves with Christ. So why do we exclude them? Because they believe an ‘aberrant theological view.’

But don’t you hold ‘aberrant theological views’ too? I’m certain that I do.

So whether we like it or not, we’re either (a) saying that we hold no aberrant views on any secondary issues, or else (b) what we’ve already done is drawn a line in the sand, saying that there are certain aberrant views we will accept and others that we won’t.

Why draw that line at baptism? What if someone in our church is a dispensational premillenial (gasp)? What if someone is a continuationist rather than a cessationist? What if–God forbid–one of our people should be Arminian? Do we say ‘Get out of our church!’ or, ‘There’s no bread for your types around here!’?

I think not! If someone were to start picking apart my systematics with such a fine-toothed comb, I would think it would not be long before I would be barred from the Table!

Let me pose this question to all who are concerned for the preaching of doctrinal truth from our pulpits: Who do you want in your church?

I want people who love my Lord Jesus and are committed to loving him with heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want paedobaptists in my church because they’ll hear me preach on baptism. I want Arminians in my church because they’ll hear us teach on God’s sovereign saving grace. I want egalitarians in my church because they’ll hear the truth about gender distinctions in the church and in the home. I want charismatics and cessationists in my church because these are secondary issues and we love and serve the same Lord and we all have much to teach each other!

Where else will all of us with ‘aberrant theological views’ go to hear the truth, if not to our local church?

All-Male Eldership, Part 6: Concluding Thoughts

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.


It has been the intent of this series to present several of the exegetical arguments for the complementarian position. Admittedly, some arguments are more persuasive than others, but we have been firmly founded in the God-breathed texts from the Old and New Testaments throughout.

We have not claimed to have all answers for all questions, nor have we come close to providing exhaustive definitions, arguments and proofs, so as to close the case—that was not the intent. What was desired has been accomplished, however, and the Scriptures have been allowed to interpret themselves in order to present the reader with a broad view of how God inspired his writers to structure the husband-wife relationship.

Since this has been a presentation of the classical interpretation and the plain reading of all of the passages mentioned, a personal plea to the reader must be made:

Do not allow yourself to be swayed away from the doctrine of Paul, Peter, and the historic Christian church by any showy argument.

If there is any temptation to move to a novel egalitarian position, scrutinize motives in agonizing detail: Why do you desire to depart from the biblical teaching?

Examine arguments carefully: Are they logical? Are they consistent with the style and intent of arguments of biblical writers? Are the criteria used biblical in nature?

And most importantly: Make sure your position is derived from Holy Writ and nowhere else. No other text is God-breathed, and no writer since John has been inspired. We may be absolutely sure that God’s will (at least at one point) was for wives to submit to husbands. We may not in any sense whatever be certain that it was ever or ever will be God’s desire for a husband-wife relationship to exist without headship and submission.

Seriously consider: Where does the burden of proof lie? The argument must not be framed in a way so as to make complementarians the ones who must give an explanation why we believe what we do, since what we believe is plainly revealed in Scriptures. The burden of proof clearly lies on egalitarians.

For those swayed by the “cultural exceptions” type arguments, let me ask you this: Just for a moment, put yourself in Paul’s place, wanting to lay down clear and binding regulations for the male-female relationship for all Christians everywhere… how would you present it? Would you refer to the creation order and why we were each created? Would you refer to the relationship of man and woman prior to the fall? He did. Would you refer to the undoing of the curse in redeemed Christian relationships? So did he. Would you refer to the inner workings of our Triune God? That was Paul’s approach. So now, let me ask you, what could Paul have referred to that would convince you that this commands are binding for all time? There is nothing left! You’ve rejected every God-breathed reason that has been given.

If we complementarians are wrong, it is because we have attempted to stick too closely to the revealed will of God. If egalitarians are wrong, it is out of desire to abrogate the commands of God in order to appeal to a feminist and pluralistic culture. Clearly, unless there is absolutely not one a single doubt anywhere in your mind that an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture is correct, it only makes sense to remain a complementarian with Paul, Peter and the 2000 years of church history that has followed them. May we all be able to stand before the judgment throne of God one day and be cleared of any charge of adding to or subtracting from all the words of his divine self-revelation.

All-Male Eldership, Part 5: Headship and the Trinity

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.

The Trinity

Perhaps one of the more sobering truths about the egalitarian-complementarian debate is the reality that more is at stake than just the interpretation of a few words or a few verses. Rather, our whole vision of God is altered by how we view the nature of authority relationships. This is so because authority relationships plainly exist within both the immanent Trinity and the economic functioning of the Trinity.

As it has been noted, the husband is given authority over the wife in 1 Cor. 11:3 because “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Since the word kephalē has never been acknowledged as meaning anything other than “one in authority over another,” we must plainly see that this verse is teaching not only that men are to submit to Christ and that wives are to submit to husbands, but that the example for these requirements to submit is the relationship of Christ submitting to his Father. This example is important because it clearly shows that there can at the same time exist 1) equality in a relationship, and 2) an authority structure within a relationship.

Within the Trinitarian relationship, the Father “gave” his Son (Jn. 3:16) and “sent” the Son (Jn. 3:17, 34; 4:34; 8:42; Gal. 4:4; etc.). The Father predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29; cf. 1 Pet. 1:2) and “chose us in the Son” before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). The Son is obedient to the commands of the Father (Jn. 12:49; Phil. 2:5-10) and confessed that he had come to “do the will” of the Father who “sent him” (Jn. 4:34; 6:38). God the Father created the world “through” his Son (Jn. 1:3; Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 8:6). These relationships are never reversed. The Son never initiates of his own will, never directs the Father, never creates through the Father, never sends the Father. The Father never speaks the words that the Son gives him to speak. The Son sits at the right hand of the Father (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3, 13; 1 Pet. 3:22; etc.). The Father never sits at the right hand of the Son.

These relationships are proven to be eternal (ie. they exist in the immanent Trinity and are not limited to the economic functioning of the Trinity while Christ was on earth) for several reasons. It is easily seen that the Father created the world through the Son (see above). Even before the creation of the world, however, the Father chose his elect in Christ to be reconciled to him through Christ (Eph. 1:4-5). Furthermore, passages such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 make it plain that it was the predetermined and definite plan of God the Father that Christ would come and suffer for the sins of his people (interpretation affirmed by NT preaching; Acts 2:23). Moreover, it is plainly visible in John 17, at the end of Christ’s earthly ministry that he viewed both his words and his own followers as those which God the Father had given him. After the defeat of death, at the consummation of all things, Christ remains under the authority of God the Father who has always held all authority (1 Cor. 15:26-28).

God is one and all parts of the Trinity remain equal in holiness, worth, beauty, etc., yet there is clearly presented within the Trinity an authority structure relationship. All this has yet said nothing about the Holy Spirit who is portrayed as being under the authority of both Father and Son, yet is himself in authority over neither of the others. We must allow this picture to form our understanding of value and authority in a culture that views being in authority as great and being under authority as horrible. The picture of submission within Scripture itself shows that submission to a rightful authority is a beautiful, noble, even wonderful task because it models the Trinity itself. Thus the husband is seen as a picture of Christ (because he is an authority over his wife, as Christ is authority over man) and the woman is seen as a picture of Christ (because Christ is under the authority of the Father and gladly submits to his will). Both positions in the relationship are godly and God-glorifying.

All-Male Eldership, Part 4: The NT Rationale

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.

Apostolic Proof Texts

When providing the basis for his statements with regard to the male-female authority relationship, the writer of the God-inspired text almost always appeals to an eternal principle, outside the realm of sin and never once does he appeal to the secular culture of his day.[i]

In 1 Cor. 11 Paul makes it clear that “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (v 3). The Greek kephalē (“head”) has always referred—without exception—to one who has authority over the other. While many egalitarians have attempted to make kephalē mean “source”, this meaning is absolutely without precedent and cannot even be verified as a legitimate possible meaning for the word (and that is without even dealing with the context which clearly shows that an authority in relationship is within the purview). [See this article, originally published in JETS, for more.] Paul’s point is clear: Inasmuch as the relationship of Christ to God, or man to Christ cannot be altered by time or culture, so it is clear that the relationship between husband and wife cannot be altered by time or culture.

In Eph. 5 Paul draws the parallel of husband and wife to Christ and the church. In no uncertain terms, he states this repeatedly. “For the husband is the head (kephalē) of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its saviour” (v 23). So Christ is the head of the church and the church (his bride) is his body. Thus the command in v 28, “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies,” because Christ’s bride is his body. “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (v 24). Again, the wife is to submit to the husband every bit as much and in every way as the church submits to Christ (hence, Christ is the Lord of the church, vis-à-vis the command in v 22 to submit to the husband “as to the Lord”). Continuing on, the apostle draws out in great detail how the husband is to love his wife sacrificially “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v 25). As if it were not enough in this instance to refer to the relationship of Christ and the church, Paul relates the marriage of Christians (after the redemptive work of Christ) to the marriage of Adam and Eve before the fall and quotes Gen. 2:24! He, by inference, is saying that by maintaining this order, the Christian marriage will uphold God’s plan for marriage as it was before the entering of sin into the world as well as modelling Christ’s relationship to his church to a sinful world.

In 1 Tim. 2:13-14 Paul refers to creation (before the fall) as the reason why the women in the family of God are to be characterized by good works and a quiet and submissive spirit (vv 10-12). As noted above, the creation order is significant to Paul, the inspired OT commentator, who says “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (v 13).

This reasoning is true even beyond the scope of Paul’s writing. Peter, too, when he commands the continual observance of the authority relationship between husband and wife (1 Pet. 3:1-7) cites God’s desires, and the approved tradition and pattern of holy women. Women are exhorted to let their “adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (v 4). Indeed it is precious, because it is what Eve was created to be! This is the reversal of the effects of the fall whereby the woman’s desire is against her husband, to usurp his authority. In the tradition of the “holy women who hoped in God” (v 5), the NT wife is to submit to her husband. The husband is to honour his wife and live with her in an understanding way (not rule over her harshly, as in the curse), but he is to remember that she is a fellow heir with him of the grace of life.

Thus it can be seen that the repeated pattern of the NT authors was to not rely on the realities of their own sinful, transitory and shifting culture for the pattern of a God-honouring husband-wife relationship, but to refer back to either an eternal relationship which cannot change (viz., Christ and the church, Christ and God, man and Christ) or else to refer to God’s original creation before the effects of sin (viz., creation order, purpose in creation), or both. Never did an apostle base his argument for the authority relationship of husband and wife on culture—not even once.

[i] The example of 1 Cor. 7 might be cited as an exception. In that case, however, the authority over each other’s bodies is contextually limited to the sexual relationship within marriage. Moreover, the only actual concession to culture in that instance is that men and women should indeed marry rather than remain single, because it is better to marry engage in God-pleasing expressions of sexuality than to be “aflame with passion.

All-Male Eldership, Part 3: More on Ephesians 5-6

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.

Wives, Children, and then Slaves

It is purported by some that since Paul’s instructions to slaves and masters are now passé, it can be argued backward, that his instructions to wives must also be cultural, and thus passé as well. This is rejected outright for the following three reasons:

1) The Structure of Marriage was Ordained Pre-Fall. Slavery, on the other hand is most definitely a result of the fall. Scripture clearly acknowledges, then regulates, minimizes and mitigates the effects of slavery (particularly in the nation of Israel). The commands about slavery may in fact be deemed to be temporary because of their origin (post-fall), but the analogy fails with the marriage relationship because it originated and was ordered before the effects of sin (see above).

2) The Consistent Picture. Throughout Scripture marriage is pictured as good (cf. Song of Solomon). Though sometimes effected by the fall so that it was not practiced as intended (Gen. 3:16; OT practice of polygamy / harems, etc), in the NT, as a result of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross which reverses the effects of the fall, marriage is defined with all the more clarity (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22ff; Col. 3:18-19; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1; cf. elder qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:2ff and Titus 1:6ff). While slavery is pictured as a result of sin and the effects are mitigated, the order in marriage is consistently seen as good, particularly after the redemption accomplished in Christ.

3) The Parent-Child Analogy. While egalitarians argue backward for the abolition of the authority of the husband on the basis of the temporality of the commands to slaves, they ignore the logical and necessary implications with regards to the parent-child relationship. In fact, this must be intentional, because the parent-child relationship is discussed in between the commands to husbands and wives and the commands to slaves and masters (this shows intentional manipulation of the text). If it is true that the authority relationships discussed with regards to slaves and masters and husbands and wives are all passé, then what becomes of the commands to children to obey their parents? It must be supposed that a mutual submission would be the ideal state (cf. the egalitarian interpretation of Eph. 5:21) in that regard as well, if the logic is applied consistently. Therefore, parents should have no more authority over children than children have over the parents.

Historical Novelty of “Mutual Submission” Overruling Authority Relationships

It is worth noting that not until 1971, after significant strides had been made in the west by the feminist movement did a single commentator ever present this argument from Eph. 5:21. In contrast to that, commentators as early as Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) and John Chrysostom (c. 345-407), right through Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and Calvin (1509-1564), to Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), John Wesley (1703-1791), and Charles Hodge (1797-1878) all saw the classical complementarian interpretation as being plainly in view (namely that the instruction to submit to others in the church is qualified by the instructions that follow which detail some specific authority relationships).

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