I made a rash decision yesterday to comment on a Desiring God post by John Piper about the decline of male headship theology. He was saying that “Christlike headship will endure because it is true to God’s word,” and in explaining its decline, he said that those who are becoming egalitarians are being influenced by secularism or are bitter.
This was my comment:
I can tell you why I became an egalitarian, if you are really curious. I grew up Conservative Baptist, went to an Evangelical college, went to a reformed seminary, maintaining my complementarian worldview/interpretive lens. Along the way I met some egalitarians who deeply loved God, had beautiful marriages, and held to the Bible’s authority with a high view of Scripture. Not like I had been taught egalitarians were like. Then one day, as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, I was sitting in a Bible study and heard God say loud and clear to me: “I want you to co-pastor with your husband.” I was not reading “liberal” theologians, I had little “secular” influence in my life, and I was not bitter about my role. I am naturally a submissive, quiet person. So I started studying the issue of women in ministry and was convinced by egalitarian interpretations. I think it is helpful to talk to actual egalitarians about why they believe what they believe rather than speculating and painting them as secular or bitter. The Bible tells us to consider others better than ourselves, so in the least, we can give others the benefit of the doubt rather than mischaracterizing their motivations. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of our complementarianism/egalitarianism, so let us love one another.
I regretted this comment pretty quickly, after receiving the first two comments:
Ken Edwards: Anytime someone says they’ve heard from the Lord I always hope they’ll compare what they’ve heard with scripture. If the two don’t line up one might be wise to question who was speaking.
Annie Carder: Your definition of “submissive” is off. There’s your problem.
I sat on these comments for an hour, telling myself, “You don’t have to reply. You can walk away,” then I replied,
I realize I posted in complementarian territory, and we all don’t know each other from Adam. Just wanted to say that the overall premise of the argument that egalitarians are influenced by secularism or bitterness is 1) unloving, 2) counter to my experience knowing many egalitarians, 3) untrue of my own change to egalitarianism. Just wanted to make the suggestion that y’all talk to egalitarians as brothers and sisters in Christ rather than maligning them and never engaging with their actual arguments.
At what point do you walk away? I should have trusted my instinct. I was in an unsafe place. When complementarians comment on posts on The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors FB page, I always treat them with respect, kindness, and hospitality. It is rare that I am treated well on complementarian playgrounds. They assume that I am worldly and bitter, so they gift me with “tough love.” Like this man who emerged next…
Steve Hulbert: But then you’re not engaging with what’s being said to you…
I took the bait.
To Ken Edwards: I definitely did. Had to read egalitarian theologians and pastors to understand their interpretation of headship, creation order, women in ministry, etc. Have been taught the complementarian perspective all my life and it always seemed clear and right to me, so I was shocked by the idea of co-pastoring. Also have never experienced anything like that before or since. The next day, someone recommended the book “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership” and this article by Dr. Walt Kaiser, and I haven’t really stopped reading since then (five or six years). http://www.walterckaiserjr.com/women.html
To Annie Carder: Didn’t realize I had defined submission in my original post. Was just trying to say that submitting to my husband as the head of the family was not hard nor was it making me bitter or power hungry. I find that egalitarians take submission further, with mutual submission.
To Steve Hulbert: I was regretting my post, feeling gun-shy about being the odd one out in this comment thread. I appreciate everyone’s kindness.
Then Steve started in. He stuck around until he told me to get lost, pretty much. But here’s how he began:
Steve Hulbert: I’m reading that link and it’s pretty much what I would have expected: poring over many small details and blaming mistranslation for what the text appears to say. It doesn’t make any sense in the context of Corinthians 11 to say that the sign of authority is a sign of the woman’s power when the preceding verse has said that woman was created for man and not vice versa, and earlier that the man is the head of woman. I’m no expert to interpret that passage but I notice he’s only referred to one verse and nothing about the rest of the context.
To which I replied,
Thanks for reading the article! I hate debating but can send links at light speed if anyone ever wants more info. Another egalitarian resource is newlife.id.au. Here’s her post on 1 Corinthians 11: http://newlife.id.au/…/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11…/
Then got this gem, which I ignored:
Enoque Júnio Calado: So did Mohamed, so did John Smith. All have claimed they heard the voice of God and created false religions. No further revelation apart from the bible should be made into doctrine, and those who plainly deny the scriptures should be anathema.
Jason Warner: Such a facinating discussion. As I see it…evangelical comps and evangelical egalitarians essentially function in the same way. Russel Moore has commented on this as well – regarding the inconsistency of comps on paper and in function – that comps want to check the comp box. Piper and Grudem created the comp concept, as we know it now, within the last 30 years. But even those within the Reformed camp do not agree on what it actually means or how far to take the concept (home, church, work, Trinity, etc.). Last year’s ESS uproar is an example of the “infighting.”
I liked that one. Then got this,
Joye Stewart: Found this on the internet..
The place to begin in this, as in other biblical questions, is to ask, “What does the Bible say?” Even a cursory reading of the pertinent texts reveals three important observations: 1) there were no known women pastors in New Testament times; 2) none of the instructions regarding church order include instructions for women pastors; and 3) some texts on church order explicitly forbid women to occupy that role. Paul, in 1 Tim. 2:12, states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (NIV) . This verse is introduced by a statement that women should learn “in silence,” and it is followed by the statement that “she must be silent.” The word silence means being possessed by a calmness of spirit and peaceful disposition. It is set as the opposite to “teaching” and “having authority over a man.” Paul does not expect that women will not or can not learn or teach (compare with Titus 2:3-5 and 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14,15). He states that they cannot teach or have authority over men. Thus, they cannot have a pastoral position, or perform the pastoral function, for that puts them in authority over men.
If the scripture says women are not to teach or have authority over men, then I would follow the scripture over the voices in my head.
I didn’t have to sit around deciding whether or not to reply to this comment. Outright misinformation needs correction, for the sake of silent observers. I said,
In reply to point 1, there are many known women in ministry in the New Testament, even in relation to men. Junia, Lydia, Peter’s daughters, Phoebe, etc. https://godswordtowomen.org/pastors.htm
Per point 2, many instructions have been interpreted with male pronouns where the original text was inclusive. The Holy Spirit descended on men and women at Pentecost, the gifts of the Spirit are never gender specific. It was prophesied that “your sons and daughters will prophecy” and that has come to pass.
Per point 3, I believe the egalitarian interpretations of those passages are compelling and align more with the overall message of Scripture – men and women are both fully created in the image of God and were both given dominion and authority by God. Both men and women are told to submit to one another and to serve and make disciples. The first missionary was a woman (the Samaritan woman at the well evangelized her whole city), and the first person to preach the resurrected Christ was Mary.
Jason Warner commented again, and he seems to be a super nice complementarian. Very kind and gracious.
Jason Warner: Ruth – comps have strong biblical support as it relates to some specifics (elders, etc.) too. You bring up good points to consider though. The idea that women in the Bible didn’t always operate within the modern “comp” structure is an example of how difficult it is to pinpoint what comp actually looks like on any consistent level. Once one gets past elders and pastors (Catholics would then be comps too if that’s the measuring stick) it become merely, in my view, much about talk and labels. I’d like to see Piper and OT Deborah work this out together …now that would be interesting!
Me to Jason Warner: yes, I agree. Comp theology always made sense to me….until it didn’t anymore.
And then Steve got back to me.
Steve Hulbert: So you don’t have an answer to my point then.
Please don’t spam this page with questionable links.
Does Steve run the Desiring God page? Did he even open the link? Marg Mowzcko’s blog is a highly rated Bible scholarship website.
Got these lovely comments next:
Julie Castin Cordeiro: praise the Lord!!! I am getting a master in theology…my husband is a 3year convert. God has called me to ministry not him.http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-17/neglected-history-of-women-in-early-church.html
Ruth dont waste your time…God has called you be happy and submit to His calling. If these who object you can prove your gifts are from the devil, then ok…otherwise praise the Lord and serve ❤ . And by the way ridiculous those who compare your quiet time with the Lord with Mohammed…like they never read and heard God speak!!!
Rosie Turner: Thank you for sharing Ruth, I agree with you 100% and it is encouraging to hear your voice on this thread and after reading such an upsetting article from DG. Thank you.
And these not-so-nice comments:
Darnell Turner: That was Satan not God.
Joye Stewart: Sorry but I don’t buy into that Ruth. You’re forgetting your place. Whenever someone says God spoke to them I always cringe. The devil is a liar. The best lies are the ones that are mix: ed with a little truth. It doesn’t say that you should be a doormat in the Bible but you are not equal with men and you’re not to have authority over them. You’re making up your own gospel to suit your fleshly desires. The devil was proud and wanted to be equal too, he wanted to be God and he was cast down for his rebellion. The devil spoke to Eve and she ignored Gods instruction seems like a mistake a lot of women nowadays are making.
Steve likes Joye’s comments.
Had the conversation with myself again, “What are you doing here? Walk away!”
Didn’t listen. Things went downhill quickly from here.
To Steve Hulbert: Walt Kaiser was the president of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, where Tim Keller went. Not a scholar to dismiss, someone to engage with and consider. I got the feeling that you were trying to find the weakest argument in his article that you could defeat and I am not interested in debate. I find that debate is not a fruitful endeavor when both sides are in defense mode rather than listening to understand. My primary beef with the original article by John Piper was that he was maligning egalitarians to complementarians who are eager to agree. If you really believe male headship will stand the test of time, you can defend it without tearing down your “enemies,” who are actually part of the Church. I shared another article on the passage you asked about because if you want to understand egalitarian theology, an actual theologian will explain it better than I can.
To Joye Stewart: Paul said that Adam was the one who sinned. Both sinned, both were punished, and that is where hierarchy among gender began. In the Creation story, God told both Adam and Eve to rule over Creation. The Hebrew “ezer kenegdo” that is translated “suitable helper” literally means “corresponding strength.” God is repeatedly our “ezer” throughout the Bible, swooping in to “help” God’s people in battle, and is in no way subordinate to us. “Kenegdo” connotes equality, partnership. Together, men and women are a strong, dynamic duo. No gender hierarchy in God’s original design. Makes sense that God would give Adam a partner rather than an assistant for the big task of ruling Creation. Two heads are better than one, it’s not good to be unequally yoked, etc.
Steve Hulbert: I didn’t look for a weak argument. I found one on the first page.
Sarah Allen: And yet, in Britain there are women in the role of prime minister and head of police, there are women working as judges, police officers, CEOs, university lectures… everywhere there are women in positions of authority; instructing, guiding and managing the lives of men and other women. Why can equality not translate to the church?
Me to Steve Hulbert: Ok, I respect your pov. We probably aren’t going to change each others minds but I appreciate your gentlemanly engagement.
Steve Hulbert: “Why can the church not be more like the world”
I wish every egalitarian would be so honest
Me to Steve Hulbert: patriarchy is the way of the world. Although the tide is shifting towards equality in some cultures, we aren’t there. It would be nice if the Church were leading the way, as the early Church did in elevating the status of women.
Steve Hulbert: Ruth I feel rather nauseous hearing you talk about something God has clearly instituted as “the world’s way”. I think perhaps we should quit while we’re behind.
Steve Hulbert: It grieves me that godly submission is being misunderstood and resisted in the church as in the world. God led me to start taking a submissive attitude to my father and it’s been a challenge as I’ve always liked to think I know better than him. But it’s a game changer in terms of how God is able to bless you. Submission is so much at the heart of God’s way of life that you forfeit your blessings in a huge way by not embracing it. Joye will probably tell you precisely that if you listen instead of arguing. Feminism is of the enemy. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and that’s what feminist is. I’ve had to learn to put aside the MRA stuff and the bitterness it engenders which is fine for the world but not fit for God’s people. You’ll be misled into thinking feminism is better and it’s not. Entitlement culture is not God’s culture. Grasping for equality is the antithesis of Christlikeness. In fact making sinners feel or appear equal has never been a biblical concern or slavery would have been prohibited.
Since I was making Steve nauseous with my argumentativeness, I let him have the last word and will leave things at that. I realize that I don’t have to attend every argument I am invited to, but it is a fine line figuring out when you are having a fruitful conversation and when things are becoming toxic. It’s not every day that I get compared to Mohamed and John Smith, get called entitled, bitter, grasping. I reject those words.
This comment thread was also a good reminder to me to watch my words so that I do not do this to others. It is tough to oppose a doctrine that I believe is inherently abusive without demeaning those who hold to it. How else can you describe a system that subjugates some under the authority of others due to one factor alone: gender? Not spiritual maturity, callings or gifts. Gender. GENITALIA.
Hierarchy in the Church sidelines the majority and celebrates the ministry of the few, the John Pipers. Their words have authority and power while others, who also have a relationship with God and have the power of the Holy Spirit within them, are powerless in the Church. It is not just women but also most men who find their God-given authority and gifts unused and unvalued in hierarchical churches.
We must also consider the epidemic of domestic violence and emotional abuse in the Church. Or the epidemic of gender violence, rape culture, sexism, FGM and femicide, financial inequality, objectification and sex slavery, etc., in our world. Let the Church be a force for the empowerment and honoring of women and girls! Let us heal the brokenness that patriarchy has brought to the world since the Fall!
Typing conversations is hard. It is easy to misunderstand and hear unintended tones. The moral of this story should be, love one another, give one another the benefit of the doubt, and if your gut is telling you to walk away, listen! 😉
Here’s a link to the comment thread on FB if you’d like to see how it has devolved since I posted this article.
Thanks for your careful analysis of your responses. I appreciate those who speak up in ‘unfriendly comp’ environments. It gives me hope that there really are others out there who believe that women are gifted by the Holy Spirit in all ways for the Kingdom’s goals. Your remarks were excellent. Remember, you are more likely writing to influence those who are reading the comments than those who are a writing them.
Thank you for your encouragement! Yes, we certainly are gifted. Women were present when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. Women are leading and preaching and teaching and being awesome all through the Bible. 🙂
There’s this Bible verse that pretty much says that God will make important teachings clear to you, so think on them and let the Holy Spirit teach you. This idea often has a lot of guys running scared and so they end up denying the Holy Spirit because it’s utterly unpredictable and entirely uncontrollable and they’re afraid what would happen if they let it reign free.
When I was talking with the Head Covering Movement, they said pretty much the same thing: “You can trust any gut-feeling / instinct if it’s in accord with what the Bible says, but if the Bible doesn’t say it, then it’s obviously a sinful notion.” They used that logic to affirm head-covering women who felt holy and blessed and sanctified, while scolding women who didn’t feel those things and didn’t agree with their interpretation. It’s odd that they would never consider the possibility that the Holy Spirit within you was whispering the truth to your heart and that sometimes the truth doesn’t look like a two-thousand year old Bible verse.
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I know of many men who have had similar experiences when God called them into ministry and they were celebrated, encouraged, ordained, believed. I kept my experience to myself after the first two responses were, “I don’t see that for you” and “I suppose when your husband dies you could become a pastor.” Had to really learn egalitarian theology before I felt comfortable speaking about it again.
A lot of energy in engagement, to be sure. You represented yourself well and I appreciate your comments for the silent majority. I love this summary:
“Hierarchy in the Church sidelines the majority and celebrates the ministry of the few, the John Pipers. Their words have authority and power while others, who also have a relationship with God and have the power of the Holy Spirit within them, are powerless in the Church.”
Yes. At what point does one-sided gender submission cease to become about following God’s call for our lives and become a crowd control tool for those already in power?
Warrior On. It is for freedom that he has made us free.
I also grew up complementarian and have gone over to egalitarianism. I used to engage in all the arguments and anything that rubbed me the wrong way. It’s hard to do that graciously when it relates to something you care about so much. Recently, I’ve realised I’m tired of fighting and just want to go get it done for Jesus, regardless of the naysayers. I think you responded well. May God grant wisdom to know when to engage and when to walk away… it’s a tough call! 💜
I think there is a series of stages when you change perspective on something. First, you are thinking about it a lot so you want to talk it through with others. Then you’re convinced one way or the other and want to bring others to your perspective, so you always engage. Then you get burned so many times and see that debate doesn’t actually change people’s minds, and you evolve to just living for Jesus and influencing people through loving relationships. Thanks for reading and commenting! Keep on keeping on! 🙂
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