Christianity 201

April 10, 2021

Why Limiting the Role of Women Limits God Himself

An ongoing, front-burner debate among Evangelicals involves the role of women in the hierarchy of both families and churches. The article we’re presenting today obviously leans to one position over the other, but brings out an aspect of the discussion I had not considered before.,

Ernest Vance blogs at Sincere Son of the Sanctifier (say it fast ten times) where you’re invited to click the header which follows. The blog has been inactive for about a year now, but there are some great articles in the archives like this one!

When Bad Theology Mocks God

I have to say, I am not in a bad mood right now, so hopefully I can contain my angst enough to get my thoughts clearly on paper.

I am angry at the past leadership of the church for setting forth a theology that mocks God’s goodness in His creation as well as His goodness in His grace. What theology is this you might ask? It is the theology based upon two repugnant assumptions: Women, because of Eve are either easily deceived (flaw in God’s creation) or usurpers (cause of the fall of Adam).

How does this mock God? It mocks Him by saying that He created Women woefully flawed to the point that He supposedly had to lock her into a position of subservience, ‘aka submission to all male authority’ for all time. Never mind what He did on the cross that redeems us all, it wasn’t enough to keep women from usurping male authority or being easily deceived. Frankly we are humans and we are all easily deceived, so this one is just as weak an argument as any especially considering the logical follow-through as to why the daughters of Eve are supposed to remain in submission: Sons of Adam should know better. And isn’t it part of the curse against Eve that God ordained women would constantly covet man’s power? Seriously? Where does the ‘man’s power’, er, excuse me… authority, come from anyway? Did God tell Adam and Eve, ‘Now dear ones, please understand, Adam was made first, therefore Eve, you are in submission to him in all things. OK?’ No, God did not. The ONLY rule God set forth prior to the fall was that they absolutely NOT eat of ONE tree. An entire garden to choose from and the both find themselves staring at what is forbidden. The fall had already begun the moment they paused there. The fall continued as Adam did not remind Eve in that moment that they should go somewhere else. The fall continued further when neither one of them rebuked the evil one for mocking God and His one rule.

The fall had nothing to do with Eve usurping Adam’s authority. Eve was totally Adam’s equal. The Hebrew words, Helper Meet literally describe a word-picture of two equal beings face-to-face. God called them, ‘one flesh’. There wasn’t even a hidden message in how God talked with them. Yes, God addressed Adam first, but God did directly address Eve. He did not go through Adam as in a priest. Go ahead, read Genesis 2 and 3. It’s all there, no matter the version, though you will have to check an interlinear to see the Hebrew meaning of help meet, or the Septuagint which translates Helper comparable.

So in this bad theology where one might take meaning that men are somehow superior to women in that we somehow are less frequently deceived or usurpers of authority such that women must be ‘put in their place’ for all eternity, do we suppose that God is the one who set this up? Let us look at the wording of the curse in Gen 3. To the serpent God said,

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

It is absolutely clear what God is declaring as His action and proclamation toward the adversary.

But to Eve He said,

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be [e]for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”

The first line is clearly God’s doing. Then the remaining three lines are simply statements of what will be. Leaving us to wonder, was this God’s intent, His doing? Or was this simply God saying, this is somehow the result of what happened. I am not doing this to you. Either one can fit. Thus it is not clear in the slightest whether God was forevermore putting Eve and all of her daughters in a place of submission. Nothing in all of the Old Testament clarifies this question. Indeed, Numbers 30 where we see that Fathers have veto power of oaths their unmarried daughters take as do husbands is the only hint at this. But it is further muddied by the fact that if there are women who have neither husband nor father, no one had veto power over her oaths. Widows, therefore, are fully autonomous according to the OT Law. There is no accommodation saying a brother or brother-in-law must take up the mantle of authority over her. Adding to this a Prophetess/Judge named Deborah in Judges 4,5 who had no one in authority over her as she administered these God-given duties.

Thus we get to the matter of Creation and Grace. Both male and females fell from the perfect state at the same time. Adam is clearly blamed for this throughout the NT by the same guy who arguably wrote 1 Tim 2. So why has much of history held women so responsible for the fall that they cannot even hold a position of teaching a Bible study with men present? It is not as clear as some would say and for more of that you can see my reasons for saying so here. But truly, as I have mentioned before, it is based upon two terribly misogynistic ideas that have been carefully couched in ‘holy speak’: women are easily deceived and inclined to be usurpers. The first I have shown to be weak, the second is even weaker. Eve has not shown up as a usurper in Genesis 3, at most she is curious and falls prey to the oily words of a good sales-man… er snake. But Adam has clearly not taken up a mantle of authority and simply allows the entire thing to go down without saying a word either to the snake, or to Eve. At best, in a complementarian view, we should be placing the blame squarely on Adam’s shoulders and by extension the sons of Adam and telling all men to not give into their laziness and apathy. That leadership is, therefore, man’s mantle to take up since Adam failed so miserably. But failing that, women should not be left to wonder which way to go if a man does not lead. In a complementarian society that is both loving and fair, the women should never be told to avoid stepping into a leadership role that needs to be filled when there is no man to take it up.

But I will take this one step further because there is no clearly defined passage that says women who do so are outside of God’s will. As such, there is not any valid, Godly reason for a governing body of a church to see a women with appropriate leadership qualities, well trained and suitable to teach yet avoid placing her in that position. It is just not there. Indeed, in Romans we see Paul greeting a female deaconess (Phoebe Romans 16:1) and many other women in leadership roles, yet we misrepresent him as saying in 1 Tim 3:12 that only married men can be a deacon. I could go on since there are so many women who Paul recognizes and then seems to later define women or even single men (except himself? Really?) out of positions of authority. But all we really need to recognize is that we have made a mistake and overly exegeticized (probably not a word, but I’m sure you get my meaning) certain things in accordance with some men’s presuppositions (giving them too much credit? Possibly).

It is past time we give up these notions that God meant what he didn’t clearly say, concepts that break both his creative goodness and his glorious satan-works-defeating grace, and therefore we must over-emphasize on his behalf and look the other way when someone brings up the fallacy of our too-long-held dogmatic belief in male superiority couched in holy-speak. I am done.

 

January 30, 2014

Women’s Role In Marriage

In the early days of Christianity 201, where the motto is, after all, “Digging a Little Deeper;” we weren’t afraid to tackle controversial topics. So today, I am including an article by author Mary Kassian that appeared at the True Woman blog. This is part two of a three-part discussion, the link to part one is below and I encourage you to watch for the third. While you may not agree, there are many scripture links here that are worth clicking. And if you’re single, or male, or both, remember that marriage is often used in scripture as a picture of Christ’s relationship to His Church.  To read this at source, click here.


FYI: This is Mary Kassian’s second post in a three-part series on the complementarian view of male-female relationships—what it is and what it is not.

In the movie The Matrix, the main character, Neo, is offered a choice between swallowing a red pill or a blue pill. The blue pill would allow him to remain in the Matrix, an illusionary computer-generated world. The red pill would lead to his escape out of the Matrix and into the real world. It was an either/or scenario. He couldn’t have it both ways.

The Evangelical world often frames the discussion about gender roles in “either/or” scenarios. Women are led to believe they only have two choices: They can choose to swallow the red pill of mutuality or the blue pill of complementarity—but not both.

I want to firmly stake the claim that complementarity and mutuality are not either/or concepts. The exact opposite is true. Complementarity embraces mutuality. Complementarians desire mutuality as much as egalitarians do. Our point of difference is not mutuality but rather our respective views on the means whereby this will be achieved.

  • Complementarians claim we achieve mutuality by embracing God-given male-female role distinctions.
  • Egalitarians claim we achieve mutuality by embracing the fact that no such distinctions exist.

The question is definitely not about which viewpoint upholds the dignity, honor, full personhood, and mutuality of woman. They both do. We merely disagree on the route the Bible says we must take to reach the destination. But this disagreement is no small matter.

Acknowledging the Both/And

Complementarians believe God created male and female to reflect complementary truths about Jesus. Role distinction and mutuality in a redeemed male-female relationship reflect characteristics of the Godhead and of Christ’s relationship to the Church. Yes, practically, this involves males stepping up to the plate to head up both individual and corporate church families. But no, this doesn’t logically necessitate wooden, unilateral relationships where men boss women around. On the contrary, complementarity solicits cooperation, togetherness, and mutuality. It calls for a profound reciprocity.

Complementarity solicits cooperation, togetherness, and mutuality.

Instead of either/or, authors of the Bible acknowledge the both/and. When they discuss distinct male-female roles, they almost always frame up the conversation within the context of male-female mutuality. For example:

  • The Genesis creation account emphasizes that male and female were both created in the image of God and that both were given dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26–28).
  • In Ephesians 5, Paul correlates the relationship between a husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and the Church. He advocates distinct gender-based roles but emphasizes the “one flesh” and “one body” nature of the relationship. He emphasizes that “we (male and female together) are members of his (Christ’s) body.”
  • In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul points out differing roles in the Godhead and draws a parallel to the husband-wife relationship: “the head of every man is Christ, the head of the wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (v. 3). He also emphasizes male-female mutuality: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman” (vv. 11–12).
  • After directing wives to submit to husbands, Peter is careful to direct husbands to honor their wives. He reminds men that women are “heirs with you of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

Complementarians ought to clearly acknowledge the “both/and” nature of complementarity and mutuality when we speak of gender roles. To fail to do this paints an incomplete picture. In male-female relationships, as in the Body of Christ as a whole, our differences ought to be the foundation and catalyst for a profound unity and mutuality.

Complementary and Mutuality in Marriage

In His Word, God has given us some sex-specific assignments. He instructs me to respect my husband as the team leader of our family unit. He instructs my husband to be a good leader—a self-sacrificial, loving one who looks out for the best interests of his wife and family. But He also gives us both a host of instructions about His expectations of everyone. Though we’ve been assigned different positions, there are many clear responsibilities my husband and I have toward one another as followers of Christ. They include the instructions to:

The Game Plan

All of our common responsibilities are to be carried out in the context of relationships in which God has delegated some individuals—like the husband of each family unit—the additional responsibility to provide loving team leadership in his respective corner of the field (Eph. 5:21–32).

Yes, it’s true that some Christian men don’t take their assigned responsibility seriously. Yes, it’s true that men fail. But the same could be said of women. When I read the list, I am conscience-stricken about my own short-comings.

The fact that some people don’t carry through on the game plan doesn’t mean the plan is a bad one. Nor does it mean we should hold a collective mutiny and declare a free-for-all. It just means we need to work harder to execute the game plan in the way God has designated.

February 12, 2012

Does a Christian Wife Always Follow Her Husband’s Leadership?

To read all of today’s Bible study, you need to click the link at the end of the portion showing.


I really appreciate it when an online article forces me to think, especially when two seemingly diametrically opposed schools of thought converge in the pages of the Bible.  Andy Naselli re-introduces us to the story of Abagail and Nabal.  You’re encouraged to click the link to this Bible study on Andy’s blog.


I emailed this to a friend earlier this week:

I was just reflecting on the story of Nabal and Abigail in 1 Samuel 25. This nicely illustrates a difference between authoritarianism and complementarianism.

  • Authoritarianism would say that Abigail sinned by not “submitting” to Nabal since she sent David and his men a lavish gift without telling Nabal, who had expressly refused to give David and his men anything.
  • Complementarianism would commend Abigail for wisely not following her wicked husband and for shrewdly saving her household in a way that honored the Lord.

Are you aware of any books or articles making this connection? It’s an important one, I think, especially re how alleged complementarians (who are really authoritarians) encourage women to endure sinful abuse of various kinds in the name of submission.

The next day another friend of mine posted this from Nancy Wilson’s Building Her House: Commonsensical Wisdom for Christian Women:

The commands of submission and obedience are only difficult when we disagree with our husbands. If we agree with them and do what they say, it can hardly be called submission. Submission comes into play when we differ with them over an issue, but we defer to them and willingly give way.

But what about when the husband is in sin? This is a very important issue. What if the husband has adopted a wrong attitude and is heading in the wrong direction? Is a wife obligated to go along? It all depends.

I have often been saddened that we don’t see more Abigails in the church today. She was not afraid to call her husband a fool and make arrangements behind his back without his permission [1 Sam. 25]. God blessed her abundantly for intervening in this way. She did not stay home and wait for David to attack her household while calling herself a submissive wife. She recognized…

[…continue reading this excellent article here…]

Cartoon image — not part of original article — was sourced at a related article by Rebecca Trotter (click image).