Spoiling the Beautiful Difference


I have teamed up with Andrew Bartlett QC, author of Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (IVP, 2019), to offer a biblical critique of ‘Beautiful Difference: The Complementarity of Male and Female’, by Andrew Wilson, speaker and theologian for Newfrontiers. For full details of authors and endorsers of this critique, see the end of text.

For an overview of the case for women exercising authority in ministry, see my Grove booklet Women and Authority: the key biblical texts.

Wilson steps up

Complementarianism1 is in crisis. 

1991 saw the publication of the major complementarian work Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. But 2020 saw the publication of Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. You can guess the content from the title. The author, Aimee Byrd, was a woman theologian writing from within a Reformed denomination in the USA which does not permit woman leaders in churches. 

Byrd’s book was reviewed by Denny Burk, a leading North American complementarian. He candidly admits that there is a generation wanting “to exit complementarianism”. He warns: “there’s a generation looking for a doorway, and Byrd provides it.” Her audience “is ready to jump and is just looking for a reasonably intelligent pretext for doing so.”2

Terran Williams was a teaching pastor at a large church in South Africa, committed to complementarianism. He was asked to research and write a better defence of their position. When he thoroughly re-examined it, he found he could not defend it from the Bible.3

Many are indeed jumping out of complementarianism. Women are finding their full freedom in Christ. Men are seeing women with fresh eyes, as their true co-equals.

But Andrew Wilson has stepped up to try to stem the losses. He is a teaching pastor and elder at a church in South East London, which is part of the Newfrontiers family of churches. We respect him as a good-hearted and well-intentioned brother in Christ. He is deservedly known as an intelligent and thoughtful writer.4 He is perhaps the leading European theologian of complementarianism.

Wilson rightly criticizes some aspects of this approach. He acknowledges that it has demeaned our sisters, has read post-war middle America into the New Testament, has defended heterodox views of the Trinity, and has wrongly dismissed those who disagree as theological liberals. Nonetheless, he wants to hold the line, arguing that only men should lead in the family and in churches. 

He is aware that many Christians who get their beliefs from the Bible are not persuaded by the standard arguments for complementarianism. So, he has tried to do better. He wants to re-focus complementarianism as “complementarity”. And he wants to lay a broader biblical foundation for it. He has done this in an influential article, ‘Beautiful Difference: The Complementarity of Male and Female’.5 While he touches on male leadership in the family, his argument is mainly directed to justifying men-only leadership in the church (male elders). 

The article is engaging, and beautifully written – and in fact there are some important truths here with which we agree.6 But does it provide sound biblical arguments for restricting church leadership to men? We think not. Contrary to his objective, Wilson’s teaching actually spoils the beautiful difference between men and women. It stops short of full complementarity. While placing no restriction on men, it restricts women in ways that God does not. Please read on to find out where it goes wrong.7

Wilson’s reasoning

We begin by summarising Wilson’s reasoning. He departs from the proof-texting approach often adopted. Instead, he seeks to follow a whole-Bible approach. His main points are:

1. Complementarity is built into God’s creation, including into men and women.

2. Men and women are hardwired to be different. Their respective traits are what we should expect from Genesis 1-4, where the Man (in Hebrew, similar to the word for ‘earth’) was given the task of guarding the garden against attack, and the Woman, Eve (similar to the word for ‘life’), was identified as the mother of all living.

3. The complementarity of men and women is expressed in marriage, in the family, and in the workplace. According to 1 Timothy 5:1-2, we should interact with older women specifically as mothers, with older men specifically as fathers, with younger women as sisters, and so on, not as gender-neutral units or sexless atomised workers.

4. Centrally, only men should be elders in the church because (a) the task of elders is to guard and protect the church as shepherds of the flock, and (b) in every phase of biblical history, it is men who are charged with guarding and protecting the people of God: 

    • In support of (a), he refers to Acts 14:22-23; 20:17-38; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4. 
    • In support of (b), he refers to seven topics, comprising six examples and one passage of teaching. The examples are: Adam, the patriarchs, the Levitical priests, the Israelite monarchy, the twelve apostles, and features of the New Jerusalem with which the Bible ends. The teaching is Paul’s list of qualifications for church elders.

5. While women are very significant in the biblical story, they serve as women, in ways that are complementary to men. As women, they can do all sorts of things that men can’t or don’t do. 

6. The church should be viewed as a family. Then, denying that women can be elders is simply like denying that women can be fathers and that men can be mothers.

We commend Wilson’s attempt to follow a whole-Bible approach. But his reasoning is visibly flawed: it is false in regard to biblical history, at odds with biblical theology, and unsound in its biblical exegesis. We will consider each of these in turn.

Biblical history

According to Wilson, in every phase of biblical history, it is men who are charged with guarding and protecting the people of God. By this, he means that it is only men and not women who are called by God to guard and protect the people of God. 

But this is simply not true. Prominent counter-examples falsify his proposition:

  • At the exodus of Israel from Egypt, who is appointed by God to lead the people safely through the wilderness, in addition to Moses? Moses’ brother and sister – Aaron and Miriam. See Exodus 15:20-21; Numbers 12:1-2; Micah 6:4. 
  • In the time of the “judges”, God appoints Deborah to lead and deliver the people of Israel, by deciding their disputes, prophesying, and instructing them on going into battle (Judges 2:16-19; 4 – 5). 
  • In the time of King Josiah, God appoints Huldah as a prophet to guide the king and the nation and provoke revival (2 Kings 22:11 – 23:3).8
  • In the New Testament, Priscilla protects the nascent Ephesian church from inadequate teaching (Acts 18:18-28). From the way that Luke tells the story, he evidently sees this as God’s provision.9 She also risked her neck to save Paul’s life (Romans 16:4).10
  • Junia, who was imprisoned with Paul, was called by God to be an apostle (Romans 16:7). Her apostleship was of the same kind as that of Apollos and Barnabas, travelling evangelists and church planters.11 An apostle’s teaching contributes to guarding and protecting the church.

Even some of Wilson’s selected examples do not show men being exclusively called by God to protect God’s people.

First, Adam. Wilson says that he is put in the garden “to serve and guard it” (Genesis 2:15). We’ll assume that his translation “serve and guard” is correct, even though it is a minority interpretation of the Hebrew text.12 However:

1. Genesis 2 does not say that guarding the garden was the task solely of Adam. On the contrary, the woman was to be his helper, or “an ally corresponding to him” in that task (Genesis 2:18; compare 1:28). 

2. In biblical usage, the word for “helper” (‘ēzer), which is applied to the Woman, seems to carry a connotation of “protector” or “deliverer”. In every other use of it, the context shows that the helping activity is protection or deliverance, often God’s help for Israel.13

3. Guarding the garden is not guarding the people of God.14

Second, the patriarchs. Wilson does not identify any Scripture in which God gives to all of the patriarchs the task of guarding the people of God. If he means to rely on the fact that, in practice, some of them sometimes did so, then we can equally cite examples of women who protect God’s people:

  • Abigail protects her husband and the men in her household from a violent death (1 Samuel 25). 
  • Rahab protects the male spies (Joshua 2). 
  • An unnamed woman protects the people of Thebez from being burned to death (Judges 9:50–57). She is a particularly interesting example. She performs a feat of strength (lifting a millstone) in an act of defensive warfare (fatally wounding the besieging king, Abimelech) as part of God’s plan to defeat evil (v56). But it is socially unacceptable for Abimelech to be killed by a woman, so he instructs his armour-bearer to draw his sword and kill him. This illustrates how God’s use of a woman to protect or lead, in order to fulfil his purposes, offends the patriarchal social norms of the culture.
  • The wise woman of Abel Beth Maakah protects the men and women of her city from an invading army (2 Samuel 20). 
  • Esther protects the Jews from being massacred (Esther 2:19 – 9:19).
  • The strong wife of Proverbs 31:10-31 protects her own family and household and also the poor and needy. She is described as an ideal, but this implies that the characteristics described are found in real women, even if not all in one individual.15

Third, the New Jerusalem. Wilson writes: 

the Bible ends with a female city—which includes the entire people of God, whichever sex we are—being rescued by and finally married to a male Saviour, with the walls of the city and their foundations being named for male apostles and male patriarchs.

It is unclear why Wilson regards the New Jerusalem as supporting his proposition. John’s vision is not making points here about patriarchs or male apostles protecting God’s people: 

  • In Revelation 21:12, the gates (not the walls) are inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Gates are entry points. These names designate who may enter, that is, the whole people of God (see Ezekiel 48:30-35; Revelation 7:4, 9). The gates are not for protection: they are never shut (21:25).
  • In Revelation 21:14 the wall of the city has twelve foundations which have on them “twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”. The designation “apostles of the Lamb” points to the foundation of the church through the apostolic message of Jesus as the one who “has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). This is not a point about protection.16

Women were commanded by God to co-rule with men (Genesis 1:28) and, it seems, to co-protect with men (Genesis 2:18). So, even after the adverse consequence of human disobedience in Genesis 3 (“he shall rule over you” – 3:16), we might expect to find in biblical history some evidence of that ruling and protecting behaviour. And that is what we do find. See the examples above, from Miriam to the strong wife of Proverbs 31.

Biblical theology

For accurate understanding of the Bible, it is necessary to keep in mind the New Testament’s notion of two contrasting ages. 

There is the present evil age, from which Jesus came to rescue us, and there is the age to come, which Jesus came to inaugurate. The age to come will be fully put into effect at the future resurrection and the restoration of all things in the new creation. Meanwhile, we live in the overlap of the ages, the ‘now but not yet’. This framework of thought is apparent from numerous passages of Scripture.17

The fulfilment of the age to come is not a return to Eden but is a new and different future, symbolized by a city rather than a garden (Revelation 21:1-22:5). So, at the resurrection, contrary to Genesis 2:24, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage (Matthew 22:30). Procreation will not be needed. The new creation will be peopled by a great multitude that no one could count, from every tribe, nation, people and language (Revelation 7:9; 19:6-7).

Of course, Wilson knows all this. Near the beginning of his article he writes, in reference to the new creation: 

it is not surprising that abolishing the distinction between heaven and earth is connected to abolishing the distinction between male and female.

But when he develops his argument, the biblical framework is forgotten. His reasoning proceeds as if there were no material difference between the first creation and the new creation, or between the old covenant and the new. He rightly says: “Christians are called to express the complementarity of male and female in this present age”, but he fails to attend to how this calling is qualified by the urgent call to express, in this present life, the new life of the age to come.

His omission to think in a way that is faithful to the New Testament framework is vividly seen in his remarks about the Levitical priests: 

The Levitical priests, charged with the protection of the sanctuary and by extension the entire nation of Israel, are all men, and men of violence at that—they spend their days killing animals, and are first ordained for priestly service because they had sufficient zeal for Yahweh to kill their fellow Israelites (Ex 32:25-29).

This is said in support of male elders for churches! But this is a world away from the life of the new covenant. We follow a Saviour who teaches us to put away our weapons, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to turn the other cheek, not to retaliate, to overcome evil with good, to correct opponents with gentleness, and to bring back sinners from wandering.18 In the New Testament, no believer is called, as a believer, to use violence against others.19 The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, not the weapons of the world (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Paul’s “priestly service” is not to engage in killing but to proclaim God’s good news of life (Romans 15:16). All followers of Jesus, both men and women, are called to arm themselves with spiritual weapons for the spiritual battle, which is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-18).20

Seen in the context of biblical theology, the significance of the Levitical priesthood runs directly contrary to Wilson’s conclusion. The priesthood of the old covenant foreshadowed the ministry of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, in whom all believers become priests, both men and women (Hebrews 2 – 10; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10). If the Levitical priesthood is regarded as giving a lesson in leadership and protection of the people of God, the lesson is that under the new covenant both men and women are called to those tasks.21

Wilson’s argument from the first creation is simply irrelevant here. We do not need to discuss the extent to which men are “hard-wired” differently from women in order to understand Christian ministry. Beyond doubt, men tend to have greater muscle strength than women.22 But physical qualities such as muscle strength are not qualifications for church leadership. To be an elder requires spiritual qualities of character and giftedness in order to promote, nurture and protect new life in Christ.

It is this framework of thought (old covenant/new covenant, present age/coming age, first creation/new creation) that gives Paul the boldness to directly contradict Genesis 1:27 (“male and female”) in Galatians 3:28 (“not male and female”). In his letter, he has in mind the contrast between the first creation, disabled through disobedience, and the new creation begun by Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:4; 6:15). In the new creation in Christ, male and female do not have the same significance as before. Just as the abolition in Christ of the Jew/Gentile distinction (though physically it continued to exist) had consequences for behaviour in God’s new family (see Galatians 2:11-21; 6:15-16), so also the abolition in Christ of the male/female distinction (though physically it continued to exist) had behavioural consequences: women became full co-workers in the gospel.

In Christ, a new time has begun. It was foreshadowed in Jesus’ ministry and has been decisively inaugurated by the defeat of death at the cross and the resurrection of Jesus to a new life, never to die again. This new life is shared with those who follow him, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is why, on the day of Pentecost, Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy of the coming age (Acts 2:17-18, NIV):

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and 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.

In the new life of the Spirit, the old social distinctions are disregarded. The Spirit is given to all. As Jesus said: “It is written in the prophets, they will all be taught by God” (John 6:45, citing Isaiah 54:13; see also Jeremiah 31:31-34). 

Spiritual gifts – including for leadership and teaching – are related to the inbreaking of the kingdom age through the Spirit and are therefore given without gender distinction:

  • In Acts 2, women are to prophesy (vv17-18), and it is clear that women were in fact amongst the group of 120 who received the Spirit. Prophesying is a form of leadership.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, the gifts distributed around “every one” include prophecy, teaching and leading.
  • In 1 Corinthians 12, the gifts distributed around “each” (v7) include the message of wisdom (v8), apostles, prophets and teachers (v28).23 It is very striking here that the Spirit ‘distributes to each as he wills’, without any suggestion of gender distinction.
  • In Ephesians 4:11 there is no hint of gender distinction among apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (note also the women prophets in 1 Corinthians 11, Priscilla teaching in Acts 18 and Paul’s female co-workers in Romans 16).
  • In Colossians 3:16, those who protect the church by admonishing and teaching may be men or women.
  • In 1 Peter 4:10-11 “each” may speak “the very words of God”.

Reading the Bible without complementarian spectacles, these teachings confirm the lesson from the replacement of the Levitical priesthood by the priesthood of all believers in Christ. If Peter and Paul believe that church leadership is for men only, why are their teachings about leadership gifts addressed to both men and women, without plainly revealing the restriction? The teachings on spiritual gifts show there is no distinction between men and women in regard to church leadership under the new covenant.

This is not contradicted by Jesus’ choice of twelve apostles to be the founding apostles of his new movement. Yes, they were all Jewish, free and male. But he appointed them at a time of transition, before the inauguration of the new covenant. Corresponding to the twelve patriarchs, they symbolized the reconstitution of the people of God as followers of Jesus. 

There is no dispute that after Pentecost, in the age of the Spirit, subsequent church leaders could be Gentiles or slaves. That the twelve were Jewish and free is not an argument against such leaders. Likewise, the maleness of the twelve apostles is not an argument against subsequent leaders being female.

Biblical exegesis

We now turn to Wilson’s proposition that the task of elders is to guard and protect the church as shepherds of the flock, and to Paul’s list of qualifications for church elders. Wilson sees both of these as mandating men-only eldership.

We agree that, according to the New Testament, one of the tasks of elders is to guard and protect the church as shepherds of the flock. But neither the metaphor of “shepherds” nor the nature of their task points to a requirement that elders be male. 

In the Bible, shepherds are not only men but also women (Genesis 29:9; Exodus 2:16-17), so this metaphor does not imply a gender requirement.

As regards the nature of the task, we readily agree that more men than women are suited to physical combat. When physical wolves are attacking a physical flock, male shepherds may do better than women shepherds. But this has no relevance to the task of church eldership, which requires spiritual qualities of character and giftedness that are shared by both men and women.

This can be seen with great clarity if we review Paul’s statement of qualifications for church elders.24

In 1 Timothy Paul expresses concern about certain unqualified leaders (1:7) who teach falsely (1:3) and whose gender he does not specify (1:3, Greek tisin, from tis – anyone, someone). Immediately following mention of women in 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul turns to qualifications for leaders, starting with a gender-neutral introduction: “if anyone (tis) aspires to become an overseer …” (3:1). 

With just one seeming exception, all the behaviours and criteria which Paul then sets out are capable of being true of women. Whether instinctively or deliberately, Paul reinforces the message that women may have the necessary qualifications for eldership. He does this by using the same or similar Greek words and ideas when he writes elsewhere in 1 Timothy and Titus about women. Running through the list in 1 Timothy:

  • Eldership is a good work (3:1); Paul expects women to do good work (5:10).
  • Elders must be above reproach (3:2); Paul expects women to be irreproachable (5:7).
  • Elders must be temperate (3:2); Paul expects women to be temperate (3:11).
  • Elders must be self-controlled (3:2); Paul expects women to be self-controlled (2:9, 15).
  • Elders must be respectable (3:2); Paul expects women to be respectable (2:9).
  • Elders must be hospitable (3:2); Paul expects women to be hospitable (5:10).
  • Elders must be able to teach (3:2); Paul expects women to be teachers of what is good (Titus 2:3).
  • Elders must not be drunkards (3:3); Paul expects women not to be drunkards (Titus 2:3).
  • Elders must not be lovers of money (3:3); Paul expects women to avoid adornment with gold, pearls and expensive clothes (2:9).
  • Elders must be good managers of their households (3:4); Paul expects women to rule their households (using a word which is a compound of the strong term despoteō) (5:14).
  • Elders must show dignity in the way they keep their children under control (3:4); Paul expects women to show dignity (3:11).
  • Elders must not be new converts, falling into condemnation on account of pride (3:6); Paul expects women to be humble and not under condemnation (5:10, 12).
  • Elders must have a good testimony from outsiders (3:7); Paul expects women to have a good testimony from others (5:7, 10).

Paul also includes a group of further qualifications: gentle, not violent (contrast 1:13!), and not quarrelsome (3:3). It is uncontroversial that these may be found in women. Thus, Paul has listed at least sixteen qualities or behaviours which may certainly be found in both men and women. He appears to regard women as capable of satisfying the qualifications.

Paul’s thinking here is also in line with other remarks that he makes about nurturing God’s people, which include feminine images. He describes his and Silvanus’s and Timothy’s ministry among the Thessalonians as being gentle as babes, like a nursing mother with her own children (1 Thessalonians 2:7). In his ministry to the Galatians, in one of the most astonishing metaphors in the New Testament, he sees himself like a pregnant woman bringing a child to birth (Galatians 4:19). 

This is all a far cry from Wilson’s conception that the qualifications for elders envisage a characteristically male task of protection and are directed exclusively to men. The texts consistently demonstrate that this does not reflect Paul’s thinking.

The one seeming exception to gender inclusiveness in the list of qualifications is that an elder must be a mias gunaikos andra – literally, a ‘one-woman man’ (3:2). This idiom refers to conformity to the Christian standard of sexual ethics – not promiscuous and not polygamous. Because of the context, and because of the way the Greek language works, it should here be understood generically, as applying to both men and women. (Where a Greek writer wishes to refer to both men and women, a standard way of doing so is to use an appropriate noun for males.)25 

The gender-inclusiveness of Paul’s qualifications for elders may come as a surprise to readers familiar with English versions of 1 Timothy 3, which traditionally insert numerous male pronouns and possessives, all of which are absent from Paul’s Greek. But prominent, highly qualified, complementarian scholars such as Douglas Moo and Tom Schreiner agree that the wording of the list of qualifications does not exclude women.26 Even John Piper and Wayne Grudem appear to accept this.27

Moreover, although we commonly refer to Paul’s list as “qualifications”, nearly all scholars and church authorities rightly read it as being indicative rather than prescriptive. It is not a church constitution with a legal definition of qualifications for eldership; it is advice in a letter to a close colleague. We are not aware of any major church grouping which requires elders to be married (literal reading of v2) or to have at least two children (v4). If it were intended to be prescriptive, Paul himself, and even the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, would not qualify to serve as a local church elder. 

So, what are Wilson’s reasons for interpreting the list as restricting eldership to men? He advances seven points.

First, he says that elders are “assumed to be men”. If he means Paul assumes that many elders will be men, we agree with him. But if he means Paul assumes that elders will only be men, we think he is mistaken. There is no such assumption in the list, in the absence of a solid reason for reading mias gunaikos andra as applying only to males. However, even if Wilson’s first point is correct, it does not establish his position, because an assumption is not a requirement.

Second, he says that an elder must be “the husband of one wife”. This is a reference to the idiom mias gunaikos andra. Wilson does not explain why, in context, he judges it inappropriate to understand this term generically. Wilson’s position requires that Paul (1) introduces his list gender-neutrally, (2) sets out seventeen qualities or behaviours, out of which (as Paul sees it) sixteen may certainly be found in women, and (3) expresses the seventeenth in a way that can be read gender-neutrally (because of how Greek works), but nonetheless (4) intends the seventeenth to be understood as a prescriptive requirement that elders must be male. This strains credulity. 

It is also contrary to the understanding that the list is indicative rather than prescriptive. Wilson’s view implies that those who allowed John Stott to serve the church as a pastor were disobedient to God’s word, because Stott was unmarried.

Third, Wilson says:

the church is a family which has, and desperately needs, both fathers and mothers (e.g. 5:1-2), and this is a strong indication that Paul sees overseers as fathers.

But the logic of this reasoning is difficult to appreciate. If the church is a family which needs both fathers and mothers, that would suggest that both men and women should be elders.

Fourth, he believes that the requirement to lead the household well and keep children submissive (3:4) is “a strong indication” that Paul sees elders as male. But, since women lead households and bring up children,28 the basis for Wilson’s belief is not apparent.

Fifth, he argues from the requirement of ability to teach (3:2):

Paul has just restricted women from doing this (2:12; the fact that there is plentiful debate about what exactly he meant by this should not prevent us from seeing the obvious connection here).

But the plentiful debate raises serious issues which cannot be so airily dismissed. Non-complementarian scholars understand 2:12 to prohibit false teaching by certain women. There are real difficulties in complementarian translations and interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12, including, among others:

  • Since Paul’s letter sets out to control false teaching (1:3 and onwards), why read 2:12 as prohibiting right teaching by women, rather than as prohibiting false teaching by women?
  • If Paul means to lay down a general rule, why does he say ouk epitrepō – “I am not permitting/I don’t permit”? There is no example anywhere in the Bible of this expression being used to lay down a general rule.
  • If in 2:12 Paul is concerned with the use of legitimate pastoral authority in the church, why does Paul use the verb authenteō instead of one of the ordinary words for exercising authority?
  • Complementarians translate authenteō as “have authority” or “exercise authority”, but they cannot point to a single clear example of that meaning before Paul’s time, or in Paul’s time, or until about 300 years later.29

However, Wilson’s point about teaching fails even on a complementarian reading, since Paul makes clear at 5:17 that not all elders teach.30

Sixth, he refers to 3:11, where there is an express mention of women in the midst of the qualifications for deacons, which begin in 3:8 and are resumed in 3:12. Because of 3:11, Wilson considers it “almost impossible” that Paul envisaged women elders. But he overstates his case. Commentators have struggled to be sure of the intent of 3:11. English translations disagree on whether Paul is referring in 3:11 to “women”, to “deacons’ wives” or to “deaconesses”. Commentators have proposed five different interpretations. 

A simple reading is that Paul speaks of women in 2:15, then begins his list of qualifications of elders with a gender-neutral introduction (3:1), so it is already clear to readers that the first list is meant for both men and women. But the list for deacons starts straight in with the male term “diakonous”, so while dictating he realizes that he needs to give a signal to show whether he has in mind only men or also women. He gives this signal in 3:11: he is talking about female deacons as well as male deacons. Andrew Bartlett prefers this simple reading. Terran Williams prefers other interpretations which are also inconsistent with Wilson’s view.31

Moreover, we have already seen that Wilson has not taken into account the generic language of the list of elders’ qualifications, with its qualities and behaviours appropriate to women. So, Wilson’s judgment about the significance of 3:11 is of little weight. And, if Paul really means to lay down a rule for all churches that only men may be elders, why does he nowhere say so plainly and unmistakably? Why leave his reader to draw uncertain inferences about elders from a passage about deacons?

Seventh, Wilson states:

even egalitarian commentators often agree that these requirements “present the overseer as a husband and father” (Towner), and that “Paul refers to the bishop throughout as a man” (Wright). In this text, at least, eldership is not sex-neutral.

But this statement is not good scholarship. 

The quotation from Philip Towner is taken from Towner’s commentary on the letters to Timothy and Titus. It is part of his discussion of the meaning of mias gunaikos andra. Wilson has not accurately portrayed what Towner writes. He does not write that the qualifications present the overseer as a husband and father. What he actually writes is that “The domestic assumptions of the code … present the overseer as a husband and father” (emphasis added). We are back to the assumption argument, on which we disagree with both Wilson and Towner, but which in any event goes nowhere, since an assumption is not a requirement.

Wilson’s portrayal of the significance of Tom Wright’s comment is even more misleading, in our opinion. The quotation is from Wright’s devotional book on the pastoral letters in the Paul for Everyone series. Wilson presents Wright’s comment as supporting the view that “eldership is not sex-neutral” but male-only. That is the opposite of how Wright sees it. Here is what Wright says:

Paul refers to the bishop throughout as a man. My reading of the rest of the New Testament inclines me to think that this is more because that’s how Greek grammar normally refers to both genders together, and because in the very early days of the church the leaders of most communities were probably men. I don’t see it as debarring women from this particular ministry and vocation. (emphases added)

Because of his expert understanding of first-century Greek, like complementarians Moo and Schreiner, egalitarian Wright does not see Paul’s list of qualifications as debarring women.

So, where do we arrive with Wilson’s seven reasons for interpreting Paul’s list as debarring women from eldership? None of them holds water. On this point, Moo, Schreiner and Wright are correct, and Wilson is wrong.

True complementarity

We have now examined Wilson’s central proposition: in every phase of biblical history, it is men who are charged with guarding and protecting the people of God. We have found that it is false in regard to biblical history, at odds with biblical theology, and unsound in its biblical exegesis. Wilson’s article fails to provide a biblical basis for complementarianism.

The reality of Wilson’s position is that it spoils the beautiful difference between men and women. It does this because it denies the full biblical complementarity of men and women, made in God’s image. While placing no restriction on men, it restricts women in ways that God does not. It blocks out women’s contributions to leading the church.

This deprives the church of gifts and resources that God has given to her. Complementarian Wayne Grudem has rightly said:

God has given much insight and wisdom to women … and … any church leaders who neglect to draw on the wisdom that women have are really acting foolishly.32

But there is yet more in Wilson’s article that is wrong.

Over-emphasizing sexual difference

As Wilson understands the biblical story, women serve in it only as women, in ways that are complementary to men. He lists about 26 examples, and says: 

In each of these cases, the women in question serve God’s people specifically as women. (emphasis added)

He explains: 

the power of these examples lies in the fact that women can do all sorts of things that men can’t or don’t do, and vice versa. (emphasis original)

This is easy to understand in a case like Mary, as the mother of Jesus. Only a woman can be a mother. But many of his other examples can fairly be described as bizarre. For example:

  • Deborah leads Israel; but a man could lead Israel, and many did. 
  • Hannah and Mary compose psalms and songs which appear in Scripture; but so do David and Asaph. 
  • Huldah and Philip’s daughters prophesy; but many men do too. 
  • Chloe hosts a church; but men do this too. 
  • Lydia runs a business; but a man can run a business, and many do. 
  • Euodia and Syntyche are co-labourers with Paul in the gospel; but so are many men – Paul uses the same Greek term (sunergos) to describe Timothy, Apollos, Silvanus (Silas), and Titus. 
  • Junia is an apostle; but so are numerous men.

Leading Israel, composing songs, prophesying, hosting a church, running a business, co-labouring in the gospel, and working as an apostle are not gendered tasks, like being a father or a mother. 

Wilson is so taken with his idea of seeing all human activity as sexually differentiated that he misreads and misapplies 1 Timothy 5:1-2. 

Paul advises Timothy: “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” (ESV) Wilson acknowledges that the context of this advice is “interactions with people in the family of God”. But he somehow sees it as applying “in the workplace”, and counsels us to treat fellow workers specifically as fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers, and not as “gender-neutral units or sexless atomised workers”. 

Women lawyers or scientists would find it strange if a Christian lawyer or scientist related to them at work primarily as mothers or sisters, rather than primarily as fellow lawyers or scientists, whose gender is (at the most) of minor relevance to their work. Wilson seems to have forgotten his own earlier reminder, derived from Genesis 1:27:

Men and women bear the image of God together, and our identity is far more fundamentally defined by our humanity than our sex. We are humans first, males or females second …

This reminder strikes the proper balance. A woman leader or worker serves primarily as a leader or worker and secondarily as a woman. As a woman, she may tend to bring a mix of qualities and insights which differ from a man’s. While this is a benefit of complementarity, it is not the main feature of her leadership or work.33

In conclusion

Complementarianism contains many gifted Bible teachers, who usually handle God’s word with care. But when they consider men and women, it seems to generate a fog that interferes with their reading and their thinking.34

Wilson concludes by observing that the church should be viewed as a family. We agree, but he wrongly considers that this provides a justification for restricting leadership to men:

To deny that woman [sic] can be elders will sound like the equivalent of denying that women can be CEOs, but it is more like the equivalent of denying that women can be fathers, and that men can be mothers.” (emphases original)35

With all respect to our brother, this is muddled and unbiblical.

It is muddled because it contradicts the very purpose of complementarity. Wilson himself says:

In Christianity, male and female bear the image of God together, with neither male nor female able to fully express it without the other. (emphasis added)

Men and women are the same as each other (human beings, made in God’s image) and are also different from each other (created male and female). In so far as they are the same, both men and women may show good character and have spiritual gifts of leadership. In so far as they are different, they may bring different contributions in leadership. While Jesus was God’s perfect image even on his own, church leaders are not Jesus. In practice, the full expression of God’s image by the leaders of the church is facilitated if they are both male and female. The beautiful difference is displayed in co-leadership.36

It is unbiblical because Scripture nowhere uses “fathers” as a metaphor for local church elders, or as a description of them. The biblical metaphor of the church as family posits not any earthly pastor as father of the family, but God as father and God’s people as children (John 1:12-13), with Jesus as the firstborn and believers as his brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:5-6; 2:10-11). Our leaders are our elder siblings in Christ. Believers are God’s family, not the elders’ family. 

Again, we should emphasize that seeing women and men as both being able to exercise ministry and leadership does not imply that women and men are fully interchangeable and without difference. Believing that both can lead is not a slippery slope to secular gender-identity ideologies. To this extent, we agree with many of the things that Wilson says in the first part of his article about differences in creation; it is the development in the second half to make an absolute distinction in eligibility for eldership that we have shown is mistaken.

Complementarianism’s spoiling of the beautiful difference continues to damage and restrict many churches and many believers. It is not biblical. It is not necessary. It is a tragedy. Let the fog blow away. It is time to leave it behind.

Authors:

Andrew Bartlett QC, author of Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (IVP, 2019). 

Dr Ian Paul, freelance writer, theologian and blogger, Associate Minister at St Nic’s Church, Nottingham, UK, visiting lecturer at St Hild College, Sheffield, UK, formerly Dean of Studies and Lecturer in NT at St John’s College, Nottingham, UK.

PDF of the article is here: Bartlett and Paul Spoiling the Beautiful Difference 13

Critique endorsed by:

Katia Adams, senior pastor of The Table Boston Church, USA, author of Equal: What the Bible Says about Women, Men and Authority (David Cook, 2020).

Simon Benham, lead pastor of Kerith Church, UK.

Terran Williams, author of How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy (Spiritual Bakery, 2022), pastor at Signal Church, Cape Town, South Africa.

  1. Complementarianism is a system of Bible interpretation, developed in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s. It introduced into biblical exposition the sociological concept of male and female “roles”, in support of male-only leadership of the family and of the Church. This differs from most historic Reformed positions in not uniformly requiring male-only leadership in wider society.
  2. Denny Burk, ‘A way-station to egalitarianism: A review essay of Aimee Byrd’s Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood’, July 7, 2020. Accessed at https://equip.sbts.edu/article/way-station-egalitarianism-review-essay-aimee-byrds-recovering-biblical-manhood-womanhood/.
  3. He tells his story and expounds the Scriptures in Terran Williams, How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy (Spiritual Bakery, 2022) (available at www.terranwilliams.com or from Amazon).
  4. See a positive review of his published PhD thesis here: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/does-god-discipline-those-whom-god-loves/ and an interview with him about his excellent God of All Things here: https://www.psephizo.com/reviews/what-can-the-material-world-teach-us-about-god/.
  5. Published on his Think Theology website on 20 November 2020: https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/beautiful_difference_the_complementarity_of_male_and_female. It was republished with minor changes on The Gospel Coalition website on 20 May 2021: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/beautiful-complementarity-male-female/
  6. For example, the idea that men and women are not identical and interchangeable. See the first half reproduced at https://www.psephizo.com/gender-2/beautiful-difference-the-complementarity-of-male-and-female/.
  7. To keep the present article within bounds, our discussion concentrates on church leadership rather than on the family. We note that Wilson’s discussion of marriage and family wholly ignores the longest passage in the New Testament on marriage and the personal relations of men and women (1 Corinthians 7), which is the only place where Paul gives explicit teaching on authority and decision-making in marriage. This is a somewhat inconvenient passage for complementarians, since he indicates that husband and wife have the same authority and that decisions should be made by mutual consent (vv4-5). For a full exposition, see Andrew Bartlett, Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (IVP, 2019), chapter 2.
  8. For more on Miriam, Deborah and Huldah, and answers to complementarian attempts to minimise their leadership, see further Men and Women in Christ, 91-94 (chapter 5, under ‘Women’s leadership and authority in the Old Testament’).
  9. Most commentators note that the Greek of Acts 18:19-21 is irregular and discontinuous; the natural reading is that Priscilla and Aquila planted the church there, but Luke is concerned to note Paul’s close association with its origin. See Howard Marshall Acts (TNTC) 1980, 301; Ben Witherington Acts of the Apostles 1998, 557–8.
  10. On Priscilla’s correction of Apollos, one of the chief teachers of the church, see Men and Women in Christ, 207, 227 (chapter 11, under ‘The nature of the disagreement’, and under ‘3. Authoritative teaching as a special category?’), 240 (chapter 12, under ‘The historical context’).
  11. On Junia’s apostleship, see Men and Women in Christ, 299-306 (chapter 14, under ‘Women’s prominence in the young churches’). Throughout church history, until the recent rise of complementarianism, Junia has been understood to have been a missionary apostle. Her prominence probably explains why she was imprisoned with Paul. In his article, Wilson rightly acknowledges that Junia was an apostle.
  12. Out of 54 English versions on Bible Gateway as at May 2022, just four translate the Hebrew שׁמר as “guard”. In addition, four translate as “watch over”, and one as “be shomer over”. NIV and ESV represent the general consensus (“to work it and take care of it”; “to work it and keep it”).
  13. See the context of the uses of ‘ēzer in Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalm 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:19; 115:9-11; 121:1-2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9; Isaiah 30:5; Daniel 11:34. (In some of these references the point is that the hoped-for protection will not be given.)
  14. In addition, Wilson says that when the fall happens, it is Adam’s responsibility, and it is Adam rather than Eve in whom we all die. But both Adam and Eve are held to account by God in Genesis 3. In order not to misunderstand Genesis 2-3, we need to notice that the writer cleverly exploits the ambiguity of ‘Adam’ as an individual and ‘Adam’ as meaning ‘Humanity’. So, for example, on the surface of the story it appears to be only Adam who is excluded in Genesis 3:22-24, but the meaning is that Humanity is excluded. Paul’s reasoning in 1 Corinthians 15:22 rests on the idea of ‘Adam’ as representative of Humanity.
  15. Perhaps she is the kind of woman that King Lemuel’s mother envisages as his future wife: see Proverbs 31:1.
  16. For more on Revelation 21:12-14, see Ian Paul, Revelation (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), 349-350.
  17. For some examples, see Matthew 19:28; Mark 10:30; Luke 20:34-35; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:21; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 6:5. For a short but comprehensive study of this theme and its importance, see Ian Paul, Kingdom, Hope, and the End of the World; living in the now and not yet of eschatology (Grove Books, Cambridge, 2016).
  18. Luke 22:49-51; Matthew 5:39, 44; 1 Peter 2:21-23; Romans 12:17-21; 2 Timothy 2:25; James 5:20.
  19. Luke 22:38 (“it is enough”) is either a rebuke or a statement that two swords are sufficient to ensure that their journey to, and stay in, the garden of Gethsemane will not be prematurely interrupted. Romans 13:1-4 explains the function of governing authorities, not of the church.
  20. Wilson himself wrote on 5 May 2022: “Jesus never used violence against people, whether to defend himself or to defend the innocent. He teaches his followers to live the same way, not resisting evil, and turning the other cheek (Matt 5; Luke 6). Every time a disciple tries or threatens to use violence in the gospel, even in defence of the innocent, Christ rebukes them (Luke 9, 22; John 19). The apostles regularly present Jesus’s suffering as an example for believers to follow (Rom 12; Phil 2; 1 Pet 2). … . Our struggle is not with worldly enemies or worldly weapons (Eph 6). Christians conquer not by killing but by dying: by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and not loving our lives even to death (Rev 12).” https://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/how_should_christians_think_about_gun_control
  21. We should also note that the development of a distinctive (male) Levitical priesthood is itself a sign of the failure of Israel, since it only comes about after the people are seduced into idolatry by the Golden Calf (Exodus 32), against which only the Levites rally (vv26-29). God’s first intention for his people was that they should all be a ‘kingdom of priests’ (Exodus 19:6), a vision that is now realized in and through Christ (Revelation 1:6).
  22. 1 Peter 3:7 alludes to this fact. Peter’s point is that Christian men should be considerate towards their wives. It is an interesting example of physical complementarity, since women tend to be stronger than men in stamina, endurance of pain and endurance of cold temperatures.
  23. In 1 Corinthians 14:26, those who may bring a prophecy or a teaching may be men or women, as we see from 11:2-14:33. The word for ‘teaching’ here is didachē, which is used likewise of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14:6, and of the teaching of Jesus, of the apostles, of Timothy, and of elders (respectively, Matthew 7:28; Acts 2:42; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9). As to the restriction on women’s speaking in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, there is strong manuscript evidence that those two verses are an addition, not originating with Paul. Those who take them to be authentic have yet to provide (a) a genuinely probable explanation of the evidence, consistent with their supposed authenticity, and (b) a satisfactory reading of how they fit into the context. See Men and Women in Christ, chapters 9 and 10.
  24. There are two lists, in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and in Titus 1:5-9. The passage in 1 Timothy is expressed a little more fully. Our review of the list is taken from Men and Women in Christ, 318-319 (chapter 15, under ‘Do Paul’s requirements include or exclude women?’).
  25. So, for example, in Acts 17:34 Damaris (a woman) is among the andres (men) whom Paul addresses (17:22) and who respond to Paul’s message. For full discussion, see Men and Women in Christ, 319-323 (chapter 15, under ‘Do Paul’s requirements include or exclude women?’). Hebrew usage is similar. The command “you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife” (Exodus 20:17) does not allow a woman to covet her neighbour’s husband.
  26. Douglas Moo, ‘The Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11–15: A Rejoinder.’ (1981) TrinJ 2, New Series: 198–222, 211; Tom Schreiner, ‘Philip Payne on Familiar Ground: A Review of Philip B Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ.’ (2010) JBMW 15, no. 1: 33–46, 35.
  27. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, 56.
  28. Proverbs 1:8; Acts 16:40; 1 Corinthians 1:11; Colossians 4:15; 1 Timothy 5:14; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15.
  29. For more on 1 Timothy 2, see Men and Women in Christ, chapters 11-13 and appendices 3-6; and How God Sees Women, chapter 7.
  30. Because the list of qualifications is indicative rather than prescriptive, there is no contradiction between 1 Timothy 3:3 (“able to teach”) and 5:17 (only some elders preach and teach). Note also that, conversely, a gifted person may teach without being an elder (1 Corinthians 14:26; Colossians 3:16).
  31. For further details, and proposed interpretations, see Men and Women in Christ, 325-326 (chapter 15, under ‘Do Paul’s requirements include or exclude women?’), and How God Sees Women, Appendix 5, 339-341.
  32. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), 944.
  33. When considering the practical effects of sexual differentiation in society, it is useful to remember that most variations between the sexes are less than the variations between individual human beings. The fastest male runners are speedier than the fastest female runners, but a female sprinter runs faster than a male theologian.
  34. For some additional examples of this phenomenon, see Andrew Bartlett’s brief response to some strange reviews of his book in ‘Complementarianism and a listening problem?’, posted at Word from the Bird on 11 March 2022, https://michaelfbird.substack.com/p/complementarianism-and-a-listening?s=r. (But please do not over-interpret our meaning here. We have also seen instances where a partisan ideological commitment to egalitarianism had a somewhat similar effect.)
  35. Historically, theologians who have believed that only men can lead have indeed applied this restriction consistently to the whole of society, and not selectively to church leadership. See https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-historic-reading-of-1-tim-2/
  36. We should note here that this does not mean that women and men should be leaders or teachers, or speakers at conferences, in equal numbers—merely that there is no biblical warrant for an absolute bar on women in positions of leadership. For a discussion of this, see https://www.psephizo.com/gender-2/should-women-be-on-platforms/ and the follow-up articles.

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490 thoughts on “Spoiling the Beautiful Difference”

      • Me neither.
        It is something that, for me can’t be read well on the phone.
        But one initial point relating to the OT; weren’t they exceptions, when the male leaders, weren’t varrying out their roles.
        And Esther is another kettle of fish entirely, guided, led by a believing man. She was a believing queen with an unbelieving King to whom she submitted, to serve God’s redemptive purposes and plan. She wasn’t a teacher/leader of God’s people.
        But a point I’ve made elsewhere: what has been the effect on church decline or growth of women in ordination, eldership. Indeed what has been the effect on church doctrine. Is it more clarified or confused.
        Certainly, I’d see male leadership in church, not outside church, as church being s household of God, protectors of doctrine. Sure, the next questions would be the how of leadership, the methodology within church family, being wonderfully appreciative of female family their contribution, voice, support.

        Reply
        • ‘weren’t they exceptions, when the male leaders, weren’t varrying out their roles.’ Given that there is not the slightest hint in the narrative that this is the case…no.

          Reply
          • Ian, The hint that they are exceptions is that these are the only ones you can find. All the other judges were male. All were far outweighed by their male counterparts… therefore they are the exceptions. The meta narrative makes this clear.

        • ‘Certainly, I’d see male leadership in church, not outside church, as church being s household of God, protectors of doctrine.’

          Well, history says you are wrong. Prior to the 20th century, as far as I can see, all those who disallowed women in leadership in the church disallowed it in society as well, and for the same reasons. I think you are being inconsistent.

          Reply
          • Ian – to back up what you are saying, take John Calvin on 1 Corinthians 14v34

            `And unquestionably, wherever even natural propriety has been maintained, women have in all ages been excluded from the public management of affairs.’

            So Calvin didn’t seem to think that Paul was laying down something that was exclusively a `church’ principle.

            The corollary (of course) is that since in this day and age we have seen some very successful and competent women in the public management of affairs (e.g. Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Nicola Sturgeon) – whose competence may be questioned, but who are clearly no worse than their male counterparts, the principle laid down by the apostle, as interpreted by Calvin, no longer applies …….

          • Indeed. Those who object to women leading in church but don’t object to women leading in society are being inconsistent and not true to their heritage. You either do both or neither.

          • Ian, (I’ve just seen this now.)
            Really, what on earth does being “true to your heritage” mean?
            My grand-dad was a coal miner. My family heritage was thoroughgoing working class. – with large families. I qualified as a lawyer, worked in senior management in the NHS? True to my heritage?
            True to my heritage as an unbeliever?
            True to the Reformation? Pre-reformation Catholicism? The State CoE? My aunt’s Roman Catholicism?
            The heritage of the Sovereignty of Parliament?

          • Geoff – I can’t really speak for Ian, but I think he means the following. Huge swathes of Christianity have been influenced by John Calvin (not only those supportive of his stance, but also those apparently in opposition to him – e.g. Arminius – it’s difficult to see how Arminius could have come up with his own theology if he hadn’t been building on Calvin, rejecting the bits of Calvin that he didn’t like – same goes for Schleiermacher). So Calvin is strongly embedded in the heritage of pretty much everything that claims to be `reformed’ in some way, or non-Roman Catholic in Western society.

            Calvin took the view (sentence I quoted above – straight from his commentary on 1 Corinthians 14v34 – but you’ll find the same thing in his commentaries when he is dealing with the other Pauline verses) that exactly the same logic meant that women were excluded from public management of affairs.

            So – if you take the view that Calvin got it wrong about suitability of women for management of public affairs (as the translator of the commentary put it) then the traditional argument that excludes women from leadership positions in the church also breaks down.

            While many theologians may have disagreed with huge swathes of John Calvin’s theology, there doesn’t seem to have been so much disagreement on this particular point until the 19th century.

          • Jock,
            Thanks, for that response but I ‘m not satisfied with it, also being deeply weary of the whole farago.
            I certainly was not aware, had not taken the trouble to look at Calvin’s commmentaries – not sure I ever have.
            But even from that quote, thered be need to kook at the function of magistrates at that time. There’d also be a need to look at the the dominant Roman Catholic Magisterium system of the day. So to lay this all on Calvin is something of a deep stretch especially as the Reformation was wider than Calvin.
            How far did he influence the CoE and it doctrines, 39 articles.
            So is this whole kerfuffle not a grand -child heritage of the post war 60’s late 19 C?

        • In the case of Esther, in ch4:15 she instructs Mordecai. And in ch5 she constructs her own plan and doesn’t follow what Mordecai has instructed her to do

          Reply
    • I have a reluctance to see this as a conflict between ‘complementarianism’ and ‘egalitarianism’, as terms. The latter is a word which fits with our modern culture. The problem is that if you say “men and women are equal”, there is a clear meaning of ‘equal’ as being ‘interchangeable’. Two plus two equals four. Thus, everywhere you have a two and two added together, this can be replaced by four. It obscures the actual differences between people who are not interchangeable. Indeed, we need each other in our differences. Consider the Body of Christ, as expounded in 1 Corinthians 12. This is a true complementarity, that of interdependence.

      The problem, as I see it, with ‘complementarianism’ is that they take difference too far and it becomes distinction, with a rigid division at least in certain areas. The problem then for this position is trying (desperately?) to find Biblical justification for the distinctions which they think should hold.

      Reply
      • ‘The problem is that if you say “men and women are equal”, there is a clear meaning of ‘equal’ as being ‘interchangeable’. Two plus two equals four.’

        I agree, which is why I never describe myself as an ‘egalitarian’. I am a true ‘complimentarian’; the common use of the term actually describes people who are ‘hierarchalists’.

        Reply
  1. As far back as 2018, I wrote a post to this blog on complementarity and coined the term missional complementarity: “God has imparted significant differences between the sexes (1) to enhance each other in the mission of founding and extending bonds of natural kinship, and (2) to emulate that mission, where appropriate, in the church and wider community (e.g. 1 Tim. 5:1,2).

    You sensibly ask: “If Paul means to lay down a general rule, why does he say ouk epitrepō – “I am not permitting/I don’t permit”? There is no example anywhere in the Bible of this expression being used to lay down a general rule.”

    In response, surely the ensuing archetype of Adam and Eve (that Jesus previously invoked to indicate a general rule prohibiting divorce) would indicate a general rule: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. ”

    So, rather than the mistaken assumption that Paul was imposing a ‘carte blanche’ prohibition on women ever speaking in Church, St. Paul specifically deals with the issue of wives exert teaching authority that undermines and subverts the husband’s God-given marital guardianship. This is borne out by 1 Corinthians 14:35: “if they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home”.

    I have cogently argued for missional complementarity in the following article: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AssphAYLL1d4gfAeKkaTKZ4yGt1Aog

    Reply
      • No. I’m stating that Paul’s teaching ensures that the leadership of wives in the context of the church does not override the husband’s rightful mission in the context of marriage.

        Paul harks back to creation to indicate that the latter is God-given (1 Tim 2:13) and, if thwarted, results in dire consequences.

        Therefore, the instruction is limited in application, but not merely local and pragmatic.

        Reply
      • The extent of assymetrical authority is governed by the extent of the assymmetry of the kinship responsibilities that I mentioned in my article:
        “When compared to men, the demands of the reproductive process on women are asymmetrical (e.g. pregnancy, young children’s relatively greater dependence on their mothers)and have a significant impact on how family responsibilities can be divided between husband and wife.

        Not every couple will have children, but those who do must harmonise the asymmetrical demands that they make on husband and wife. So, at the very least, in furtherance of procreation, male-female complementarity is indeed a key factor in determining the respective household responsibilities of husband and wife.

        Again, I would stress that the Christian view is that these respective responsibilities within the family cannot and should not be extrapolated to become the determining factor for what men or women can or cannot do in any and every aspect of life.”

        Reply
  2. Well, I agree with the main thrust of the article, but I do think that the discussion gets bogged down with too many invented and non-intuitive technical terms. I had never heard of the term `complementarianism’ before – and I would never have imagined that it might be used to mean excluding women from certain roles within church leadership (and coming up with nice cosy intellectual arguments for so doing).

    Reply
  3. It is written:

    My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.

    Isaiah 3:12

    Even nature herself tells you that the woman lies conquered in bed.

    Women should not be sent into battle. The loss of a single woman is disastrous. One returning soldier can impregnate 100 women. No woman can impregnate another.

    Keep putting on all the spin you want. It only confirms men in their view, that church is a place for women and children.

    Since the time of Melchizedek to 1944 there was not a single priestess nor vicarette.

    Reply
    • What seems to me good in your take on this is that there needs to be a glorious template for what a man is just as there is one for what a woman is.

      Our modern culture has no such glorious template for men. At peak woke men were just something to be apologised for, but even without that there is just this total lack of vision of glorious manhood.

      How wrong and how unequal. We all know the glories of women, and the glories of men are equal to that, and should be equally celebrated. By failing to appreciate that, western culture has fallen well behind closer family-cultures, as is bound to happen when you demote families, and family mindedness, in favour of so called personal fulfilment (which is diminished anyway in a non family context). It is often said that the enemy goes for the men first, because so often a family hangs on that. I cannot believe I am speaking of something so awful when it is simultaneously totally unnecessary.

      Reply
    • “Even nature herself tells you that the woman lies conquered in bed.”

      I find this description truly awful. It seems to speak from a godless chauvinism rather than anything vaguely biblical.

      Would that be “fallen nature” speaking? It’s hard to engage with such contributions and I’m not sure one should bother in this context.

      Reply
      • The biblical archetype is not of surrender and conquest, but, instead, union.

        In fact, the prime example of sex exemplifying surrender and conquest is the adulterous woman’s conquest of her male paramour who surrenders prudent restraint for the folly of short-lived pleasure (Prov. 7:10 – 27)

        You don’t have to be a prude to recognise that surrender and conquest through sex is not particularly worthy of emulation.

        Reply
        • Union?

          It is up to each couple how they achieve union – not for you to issue another layer of guidelines, regulations and more directives.

          No wonder the young think ours is a boring religion.

          Reply
      • ‘But Mrs Naomi Mitchison has laid her finger on the real oint. Have as much equality as you please—the more the better—in our marriage laws: but at some level consent to inequality, nay, delight in inequality, is an erotic necessity.’

        Prof CS Lewis

        There – dressed up in nice middle-class language.

        Reply
        • It looks as if you may be in last chance saloon here, which is a pity because there’s far too much cancelling of voices these days which should have every right to be heard.

          I love cats; always have. But there’s a little black cat next door to us whose way of showing his sense of fun is to lash out with claws opened for business. I can tell he wants my attention but sad experience has taught me that it’s not going to end well if my hand gets too close! Being a cat means that he’s not given to changing his ways for a mere human. It’s a shame; but there you go.

          Your experience of life may be a world apart from that of the average commenter here, but I reckon you have useful stuff to say. I just wish you’d keep those claws in because I still want to hear it!

          Reply
    • I have removed your other comments as they are so offensive and unnecessary. I also worry for you and those you relate to. I strongly suggest you seek counselling.

      Reply
    • DS

      I often find myself wanting to modify what you say. Apart from the issue about women in battle I find I agree with most of what you say here. I think the isaiah 3 is an important text for revealing beliefs about women leadership in Israel. And I do think though I’m sure to be mocked for it that the act of sex and genitalia involved reveal something of creational norms.

      Reply
      • We need to be careful not to misuse Isaiah 3:12, where rule by ‘women’ is regarded negatively. The translation ‘women’ is disputed – contrast CEB, CSB, GNT, NET. Assuming it is a correct translation, there are two viable ways of reading v. 12a in the context of 3:1 – 4:1. Probably it should be read as part of the situation that provokes God’s judgment. In that event, it is a reference to the haughty women seen in v. 16. Alternatively, if it should be understood as part of the situation that results from God’s judgment, it is a feature of a disaster in which most of the mature men have been killed (see 3:25; 4:1). Either way, it cannot properly be read as a prohibition of any rule by a woman.

        Reply
        • It. Is not a prohibition of female rule but an observation that such a condition is considered a weakness and judgement from God. This weakness is borne out by infants being their oppressors – another viable, more viable, reading.

          Reply
  4. Quoting a single verse as a proof text is indeed unsatisfactory, because it does not give any reason for the conclusion reached other than “God says so”. A good argument is not sqeamish about using proof-texts, but it backs them up with reasons drawn from the rest of scripture.

    I am shocked at the claim that 1 Timothy 3:2, stating that an episkopos (overseer) shall be a “man of one woman”, is a gender-neutral phrase. “Man” may be a gender-neutral word denoting the whole of humanity in scripture, but not when it is used together with “woman” as it is in this verse. Would not Paul have used a different phrase if he meant someone of either sex who is faithful to their spouse? How can a “man of one woman” mean a woman of one man?

    In the essay above we see the meaning in Paul’s time of authentien called into question, where it is used in 1 Timothy 2:12. What, then, does it mean according to those who dispute that it means “hold authority over”? Paul immediately invokes the relationship between Adam and Eve, suggesting something universal. So let’s look at it. Eve was created from Adam and for Adam. Adam gets blamed for the transgressions of Genesis 3 even though Eve started it. What is the significance of that fact in the present context?

    The essay above says: “If Paul means to lay down a general rule, why does he say ouk epitrepō – “I am not permitting/I don’t permit”? There is no example anywhere in the Bible of this expression being used to lay down a general rule.” But there is something entirely equivalent in 1 Corinthians 7:10-12 where Paul distinguishes between a command given by Jesus and a command laid upon him (Paul) by the Holy Spirit. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are equal in authority.

    But let us return to the situation in Genesis. God’s curse on Eve and womanhood, following the Fall, includes this (Genesis 3:16): “You will desire-your-way [TSHUQAH] with your husband, but he will master [MASHAL] you.” This much mistranslated phrase means that the woman will desire to dominate the man, but will fail. In the Hebrew original, the same construction appears shortly afterwards in Genesis 4:7 when God says to Cain, “Sin desires-its-way [TSHUQAH] with you, but you must master [MASHAL] it.” The two words appear together nowhere else in the Hebrew scriptures. So the Fall is the start of the ‘battle of the sexes’ for authority.

    As for complementary roles, only women (or persons with wombs, if we are going to surrender the dictionary to a very recent movement) can have children. During the time when married women are fertile and having children every 2 or 3 years they must look after their babies and toddlers continually. During this time it unavoidably fell to their men to provide for them. That is why God cursed the male and female role in Genesis 3 as punishment. Complementarianism is an inevitable consequence of physiology.

    Let others do as they will, but I shall remain in congregations led by men. Churches led by women will, I believe, fall into heresy and/or decline. How have numbers worshipping in the Church of England changed since it ordained women? And in Anglican churches outside England which have done the same? Within the Church of England, are liberal congegations and evangelical congregations faring differently?

    in the Mind of Anglicans 2002 survey, fully 2/3 of Church of England women priests who replied to a questionnaire did not believe without question in Christ’s virgin birth. (The figure for men was a marginally less embarrassing 42%.) Plenty of other statistics in that survey, which can be found by googling, are almost as embarrassing.

    Reply
    • A man of one woman suggests a presupposition that we are talking about males. But if maleness is so very much presupposed as that, to the extent that no rider needs to be given, no concessive clause, then where is the equal balance? What is suggested by this is a radical difference between the ways in which men and women are seen, and that is borne out by the NT generally. But in terms of their character, it is a given that men and women can both display the same qualities. Qualities and dovetailing-roles are 2 different matters.

      Reply
    • (1) This heathen behaved thus, but how to deduce that that was praiseworthy?

      (2) The kitchen is not mentioned.

      (3) ‘Banished’ is a diminution/limiting of potential, not a freeing of it. Not that there is not everything right with the kitchen.

      (4) ‘Door slammed shut’ is aggressive.

      Reply
      • Imperial domestic policy good.

        Christian equality policy bad; ensures disrespect and discord.

        Now not sure which is heathen.

        Reply
        • I certainly think that the real life results of a policy must always trump the theory on which that policy is based. On the other hand before condemning a policy we have to be sure that the results we attribute to its failure are not actually caused by other reasons which we’ve not noticed, don’t want to notice, or don’t understand correctly.

          As a general rule, clear lines of demarcation make for a flourishing enterprise; contested lines foster chaos and much discontent!

          Reply
    • ‘In the essay above we see the meaning in Paul’s time of authentien called into question, where it is used in 1 Timothy 2:12. What, then, does it mean according to those who dispute that it means “hold authority over”?’

      It is completely established in scholarship that authentein means ‘seize authority illegitimately’ and is closely associated with ‘taking’ someone’s life.

      The idea that it is a neutral term is completely fanciful.

      Reply
      • I agree, Ian! But your 4th bullet point above relating to 1 Tim 2:12 suggests the opposite. At the very least I think you should have stated its meaning and gone into what is mean by “illegitimately”.

        Reply
        • This point?

          ‘Complementarians translate authenteō as “have authority” or “exercise authority”, but they cannot point to a single clear example of that meaning before Paul’s time, or in Paul’s time, or until about 300 years later’

          I think you might have misunderstood it…? It agrees precisely with what I have just commented.

          Reply
      • BDAG has ‘to assume a stance of independent authority’, so unless you are going to (hilariously!) accuse BDAG of having a complementarian agenda, perhaps it’s not quite so completely established as all that…

        Reply
        • I am looking at my electronic BDAG and this is what I find:

          κεφαλή, ῆς, ἡ (Hom.+) gener. ‘head’.
          1. the part of the body that contains the brain, head
          a. of humans, animals, and transcendent beings. Humans: Mt 5:36 (on swearing by the head s. Athen. 2, 72, 66c; Test12Patr; PGM 4, 1917; cp. Juvenal, Satires 6, 16f); 6:17; 14:8, 11; 26:7; 27:29f; Mk 6:24f, 27f; 14:3; 15:19; Lk 7:46; J 13:9; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:4b (JMurphy-O’Connor, CBQ 42, ’80, 485 [lit.] ‘his head’=‘himself’), 5ab, 7, 10; 12:21; Rv 18:19 (cp. Josh 7:6; La 2:10); 1 Cl 37:5; 56:5 (Ps 140:5); B 13:5 (Gen 48:14); Hm 11:20; Papias (3:2 [not g and h]); GJs 2:4; 9:1; AcPl Ha 11, 1.—Animals: B 7:8 (of the scapegoat Lev 16; cp. vs. 21).—In apocal. presentations in connection w. human figures: Rv 1:14; 4:4; 9:7; 12:1; 14:14; 19:12; w. animals: 9:7, 17, 19; 12:3 {p. 542} (s. δράκων); 13:1, 3; 17:3, 7, 9 (cp. Ael. Aristid. 50, 50 K.=26 p. 517 D.: ὤφθη τὸ ἕδος [of Asclepius] τρεῖς κεφαλὰς ἔχον. A person sees himself in a dream provided with a plurality of heads Artem. 1, 35 p. 37, 14: δύο ἔχειν κεφαλὰς ἢ τρεῖς. Also the many-headed dog Cerberus of the underworld in Hesiod, Theog. 311 al. as well as Heraclit. Sto. 33 p. 49, 14); Hv 4, 1, 6;10; of angels Rv 10:1.—The hair(s) of the head (Philo, Leg. ad Gai. 223) Mt 10:30; Lk 7:38, 44 v.l.; 12:7; 21:18; Ac 27:34. τὴν κ. κλίνειν lay down the head to sleep Mt 8:20; Lk 9:58. Sim. J 19:30 (s. Hdb. ad loc.). κινεῖν τὴν κ. (s. κινέω 2a) Mt 27:39; Mk 15:29; 1 Cl 16:16 (Ps 21:8); ἐπαίρειν τὴν κ. (s. ἐπαίρω 1) Lk 21:28; shear the head, i.e. cut the hair as a form of a vow Ac 21:24; cp. 18:18. Of baptism ἔκχεον εἰς τὴν κεφαλὴν τρὶς ὕδωρ D 7:3. Of the anointing of Jesus’ head IEph 17:1. κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχειν have (someth.) on the head (s. κατά A 1a) 1 Cor 11:4a; also w. specification of object ἐπὶ w. gen. Rv 14:14; Hv 4, 1, 10; or εἰς 4, 3, 1. ἐπάνω τῆς κ. above his head Mt 27:37. Also πρὸς τῇ κ. J 20:12. (ἀστὴρ) ἔστη ἐπὶ τὴν κ. τοῦ παιδίου GJs 21:3 (cp. Mt 2:9).—Well-known expr. fr. the OT: ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύειν ἐπὶ τὴν κ. τινος Ro 12:20 (s. ἄνθραξ). A curse-formula: τὸ αἷμα ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὴν κ. ὑμῶν your blood be on your own heads (s. αἷμα 2a and cp. Demosth., Ep. 4, 10 τ. ἄδικον βλασφημίαν εἰς κεφαλὴν τῷ λέγοντι τρέπουσι; 6, 1; Maximus Tyr. 5, 1d; Aesop, Fab. 206 P.=372 H.//313 Ch.//222 H-H. ὃ θέλεις σὺ τούτοις ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ κεφαλῇ γένοιτο; Phalaris, Ep. 102 εἰς κεφαλὴν σοί τε καὶ τῷ σῷ γένει)=you are responsible for your own destruction Ac 18:6; cp. GPt 5:17.
          b. in imagery οὐκ ἔκλινας τὴν κ. σου ὑπὸ τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖραν you have not bowed your head under the mighty hand (of God) GJs 15:4. Of pers. (Plut., Galba 1054 [4, 3] G. as κ. ἰσχυρῷ σώματι, namely of the Galatian territories) Christ the κ. of the ἐκκλησία thought of as a σῶμα Col 1:18; cp. 2:19 (Artem. 2, 9 p. 92, 25 ἡ κεφαλὴ ὑπερέχει τοῦ παντὸς σώματος; schol. on Nicander, Alexiph. 215 ἡ κεφαλὴ συνέχει πᾶν τὸ σῶμα); Christ and Christians as head and members ITr 11:2. (SBedale, JTS 5, ’54, 211–15; New Docs 3, 45f [lit.]; not ‘source’: JFitzmyer, NTS 35, ’89, 503–11.) S. mng. 2a.
          2. a being of high status, head, fig. (of Asclepius IG II2, 4514, 6; in gnostic speculation: Iren. 1, 5, 3 [Harv. I 45, 13]. ὁ μέγας ἄρχων, ἡ κ. τοῦ κόσμου Hippol., Ref. 7, 23, 3).
          a. in the case of living beings, to denote superior rank (cp. Artem. 4, 24 p. 218, 8 ἡ κ. is the symbol of the father; Judg 11:11; 2 Km 22:44) head (Zosimus of Ashkelon [500 AD] hails Demosth. as his master: ὦ θεία κεφαλή [Biogr. p. 297]) of the father as head of the family Hs 7, 3; of the husband in relation to his wife 1 Cor 11:3b; Eph 5:23a. Of Christ in relation to the Christian community Eph 4:15; 5:23b. But Christ is the head not only of the body of Christians, but of the universe as a whole: κ. ὑπὲρ πάντα Eph 1:22, and of every cosmic power κ. πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας the head of all might and power Col 2:10. The divine influence on the world results in the series (for the growing distance from God with corresponding results cp. Ps.-Aristot. De Mundo 6, 4): God the κ. of Christ, Christ the κ. of man, the man the κ. of the woman 1 Cor 11:3cab (s. on γυνή 1). JFitzmyer, Int 47, ’93, 52–59.
          b. of things the uppermost part, extremity, end, point (Pappus of Alex., mathematician [IV AD] in the 8th book [ed. CGerhardt 1871 p. 379 τῇ κεφαλῇ τοῦ κοχλίου=at the point of the screw; Judg 9:25; En 17:2; Jos., Bell. 2, 48, Ant. 3, 146; oft. pap of plots of ground) κ. γωνίας the cornerstone (so M‘Neile, Mt ad loc.; REB (main) corner-stone, and w. proper omission of the alternative rendering at 1 Pt 2:7 in NEB mg.; the cornerstone thus forms the farthest extension [cp. PFlor 50, 83] of the corner, though JJeremias, Αγγελος I 1925, 65–70, ZNW 29, 1930, 264–80, TW IV 277–79 thinks of it as the capstone above the door; so also OMichel, TW IV 892, V 129 [difft. 151]; KSchelkle, RAC I 233f; RMcKelvey, NTS 8, ’62, 352–59 [lit. 353 n. 1–3]. S. HGressmann, Pj 6, 1910, 38–45; GWhitaker, Exp. 8th ser., 22, 1921, 470ff. For another view s. lit. s.v. ἀκρογωνιαῖος) Mt 21:42; Mk 12:10; Lk 20:17 (on these three pass. s. JDerrett, TU 102, ’68, 180–86); Ac 4:11; 1 Pt 2:7 (Selwyn ad loc.: “extremity and not height is the point connoted”); B 6:4 (all Ps 117:22).—κ.=capital (city) (Appian, Illyr. 19 §54) Ac 16:12 D (but ‘frontier city’ AClark, Acts of the Apostles ’33, 362–65 and JLarsen, CTM 17, ’46, 123–25).—B. 212. Schmidt, Syn. I 361–69. DELG. M-M. EDNT. TW. Sv.

          I cannot find the word ‘authority’ anywhere there.

          Did you read the article giving all the evidence?

          Reply
          • Apologies, obviously I was not clear enough. I was refering to the BDAG definition for authenteo, ‘to assume a stance of independent authority.’ By contrast, you had said it was “completely established” that the definition is to ‘seize authority illegitimately,’ contra Bauer et al. The BDAG entry entirely leaves open the possibility of a neutral usage. They could be wrong, but it’s the standard lexicon, so surely following it is not ‘fanciful’.

          • Hi Ian, Greetings!
            I will confess straight away that I haven’t read the whole article (yet?!) – so I’m not commenting on the article as a whole but on the above BDAG definitions of κεφαλή. I know that we’ve had an exchange before on its meaning, where you were arguing for the ‘source’ meaning in the NT (including in 1 Cor 11), but I find myself slightly perplexed. Have you given us an edited version of the BDAG definitions of κεφαλή (i.e. is the reading of it as ‘source’ lower down, as it were)? Also you say you can’t find the word ‘authority’ anywhere. Whilst that is true, is that not the massive implication of meaning 2a above? I await enlightenment! 🙂

      • There is no need to view it as legitimate authority. Paul’s point is that women teaching is a usurped authority. The strong meaning conveys what he feels about women taking a teaching role in church.

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      • I notice a study by Scott Baldwin in 2008 established that authentien in C1 had a positive meaning. Not until C10 does a negative use arise. Is this study discredited?

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    • Anton

      I largely agree with this. The one area I would quibble is on your discussion of the fall. I don’t agree that ‘Your desire will be unto your husband’ is a statement that Eve will want to dominate her husband. This is a context of divine judgement. The pattern of the judgement is not to create a fault in the one judged but to bring into the sphere where they are primarily active frustrations and troubles. Thus Adam, who will be active as a bread-winner, will find frustration/difficulty in his farming. Eve, will find difficulty in child-bearing and her husband will change his responsibility to lead into an oppressive rule.

      I think the symmetry of the passage requires the trouble to come from the outside source.

      Reply
    • Most scholars still don’t look at objective issues around author invariants and stylometric, sadly. The pastorals are well within the diversity of the ‘core’ Pauline corpus.

      Reply
    • Anton, I am a little concerned about your interpretation of Genesis 3:16.

      I am concerned about your interpretation of Genesis 3:16. Does it say that Eve will now “desire-her-way”, as in resist or seek to overthrow Adam’s rightful leadership role?

      What does it mean that her “desire” (Hebrew: teshuqah) will be for her husband? There are four options: it may mean servile desire, exaggerated desire, rebellious desire (where you seen to land), or God-given desire. Let’s evaluate each of these.

      Servile desire. This view, put forward by John Calvin, says that sin makes her backboneless, completely surrendered to her husband’s every wish, whim and will. Instead of being his helper, she is reduced to being his slave. As this view goes, it gives explanation to women who are voiceless pushovers to the men in their world.

      Exaggerated desire. Since Song of Songs uses the same word “desire” to describe sexual desire between lovers, this view sees a metaphoric version of sexual desire in a morbid yearning for her husband’s company, closeness and affirmation. Like the Disney princess who waits to be rescued by her heart’s true love, this view suggests that this is why a woman so often socially enmeshes herself to a man, idolatrously finding her primary identity in his rather than God’s acceptance and arms.

      Rebellious desire. By this interpretation, she resists or seeks to overthrow her husband’s leadership role. He tries to dominate her and she responds in kind. This is your view. Grudem echoes it—he says, “The distortion was that Eve would now rebel against her husband’s authority. She has an inward urging and impulse to oppose Adam, to resist Adam’s leadership. Her impulse, desire and will are set against her husband.” With Grudem as a member of its translation committee, it’s no surprise then that the ESV thus translates it, “Your desire will be contrary to your husband.”

      God-given desire. This view sees Eve’s desire for her man not as sinful, but as natural. The immediate context of judgments in verses 16¬–19 suggest it is a natural desire, albeit a frustrated one: the woman brings children into the world, something natural, but because of the fall she now experiences terrible pain. Similarly, the man desires to draw food from the soil, but it now obstructs him. And finally, the man whose life is sustained by the land, will eventually be swallowed up in death as he returns to its dust. In each of these judgments a God-given desire has been derailed. Along the same lines as the other judgments, then, her desire for her husband as her equal partner is natural, but unfortunately is thwarted by his desire to rule her.

      Which view is correct? View one is plausible, while view two is plausible and popular, although I suspect for the reasons just given that the fourth view is correct. However, view three—rebellious desire—is misguided. For three reasons: first, as I have already established, there is no reason to think that, before the fall, Adam was Eve’s rightful leader.

      Second, the word “desire” does not mean “contrary desire” (as in the ESV) or “desire to control” (as in the NLT) or, as you say, “desire-its-way”, but “desire for” (as in most translations). The minority of translators read ideas into the word that go back to a 1975 article What is Woman’s Desire? In it, the author notes that the same rare Hebrew word for desire (teshuqah) in Genesis 3:16 is used again in Genesis 4:7 when Cain is told that sin, like a wild animal is crouching at the door and desires him. The article wrongly concludes that the word in Genesis 3:16 must mean, “desire to control.” The contexts of the two passages are quite different, and it is not correct to use context to read a meaning into a word in one passage and then transport that same meaning across to another passage with a different context. But even more to the point, it does not mean “desire-its-way” or “desire to control” in Genesis 4:7, because it is natural not rebellious or contrary for a wild animal to desire its prey.

      Third, its implications are subtly pernicious. It suggests that the reason poor Adam has to exert leadership over Eve is because she keeps picking a fight with him. Although his rule may be tyrannical, by this view, it is at least understandable. What else should one do with an insubordinate subordinate?

      All that to say, Genesis 3:16 is God’s dire prediction not about female insubordination but male domination.

      Reply
      • Terran

        How lines cross. I agree with you on this. I rarely hear this viewpoint expressed. I think the structure of the judgements demand it; the judgement is an external frustration imposed. Of course I see the male rule as a sinful distortion of his creational calling to lead. The problem in life is not patriarchy but distorted and corrupted patriarchy.

        Reply
        • John, I like that we see eye to eye on the meaning of ‘teshuqah.’ But I am afraid we might differ on the meaning of ‘mashal’…

          When God says, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule [mashal] over you,” what exactly is happening here?

          You suggest that because of the fall, the man’s pre-fall benevolent rule over his wife now transforms into a tyrannical expression of this rule. In this view, the word “rule” (Hebrew: mashal) here means oppressive rule. Instead of providing godly leadership, he will dominate her. What was once good (his loving leadership of her) has turned into something brutal and exploitative.

          But is that really what God is saying?

          What is clearly communicated is that Adam, as a result of the fall, will now assume leadership over Eve (and, by extrapolation, men will assume leadership over women). The previous use of mashal in Genesis (in 1:26-28) showed that it is God’s ideal that the man rules alongside the woman. How dark then that, in fallen creation, the man rules over the woman.

          The Hebrew word mashal does not mean oppress. Rather it means reign, rule, govern, master, or lead. Of its 81 occurrences in the Old Testament, it simply means leadership or rule, starting with the sun “governing” the night and day, and Adam and Eve “ruling” creation. Both of the major biblical Hebrew dictionaries that analyse every Old Testament instance of the word list not a single negative meaning for it. Unless it is connected to a qualifying term such as “harsh,” its core semantic concept does not include oppression or tyranny. The sheer fact that the relationship between men and women has, as a result of the fall, become unequal and power-based is horrible enough in itself.

          In the two verses that follow, the consequence Adam must face is that the very ground from which he was originally taken will now only produce food at the cost of his thorn-pricked blood and the sweat of his brow. Taken side by side, Eve and Adam’s consequences are parallel: Adam will now be subject to his source (the ground), while Eve will now be subject to her source (Adam). This is the true genesis of patriarchy—a disastrous, default setting that plays out in every fallen society in which the man is assumed to be the master of the woman.

          Patriarchy itself, like slavery, is a result of the fall. That God accommodates his revelation and redemption to societies that practice one or both is not his universalising or idealising endorsement of it, but evidence of his patience and mercy.

          At the end of history, God will finally rule over an ideal society. But, ever since the fall, he has elected to work redemptively within broken society rather than merely flooding it all in judgement as he once did. For now, God’s redemption rains down in such a way that “the living water of the Holy Spirit pours over the [existing] social landscape, conforms himself like a meandering river to the contours he encounters. Yet as he does so, like the irresistible flow of water, he reshapes the landscape, eventually making the crooked ways straight.” (John Stackhouse)

          The handful of passages wherein the New Testament authors seem to give a hat tip to the patriarchy of the wider culture are in fact examples of God’s accommodation. He works with what he has, and the apostles follow his example—they plant the seeds of the kingdom in soil that is still filled with rocks and weeds. For now, we live in an overlap of the ages. The kingdom of God is here in the midst of a fallen world pervaded by fallen social systems. One day the kingdom will completely eclipse those systems, but for now it sends its roots down into them, and flowers something new out of them.

          Reply
          • Well Terran,
            I knew we would differ at the next phrase but it was good to have agreement while it lasted. Thank you again for a full answer designed to persuade. You’ll not be surprised that I remain unconvinced.

            The word ‘rule’ means just that ‘to rule or have dominion over’. It seems to be normally used of kings. It may be harsh or benevolent. The point is it is authority like that of a king. Such a form of authority was not envisaged in Adam’s leadership in the marriage. It was a leadership of love ‘this is bone of my bone’ . God’s intention was for it to be a leadership of ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for the church”. The word ‘rule’ connotes a different form of leadership – autocratic and absolute as rule was in that world.

            I think the structure of the judgements demand this interpretation. In both cases the area that was their sphere of life and intended to bless became hostile. Sin had created a fundamental distortion in what was initially good.

            In Genesis 1 the perspective is humanity’s place in creation. The creation of man on the sixth day indicates humanity is the crown of creation. Mae and female alike share in the divine image. Yet even here signals exist of male priority. Humanity is not called humanity but ‘man’. The race takes its name from the male of the species.

            In Ch 2 the focus is on humanity rather than creation. Adam is created first – something Paul considers significant. Eve is made from him and for him (a helper and a soulmate). Again Paul’s observation, In both cases Paul sees this as having hierarchical significance. Incidentally it is a misdirection to seek to neutralise the noun helper by pointing out God is also a helper. God is the helper of his people by grace and it is an act of self-humbling in him to so be. Eve is a helper by dint of her created role or purpose. In creation, Eve is Adam’s helper but Adam is not Eve’s helper. Of course in reality they will help each other and just as the woman is from the man so Paul reminds us the man is from the woman. However, when Paul gives this balancing observation it is not with the intention of cancelling out the creational order and purpose.

            Adam’s responsibility as head is clear throughout the narrative, It is to Adam the command with an accompanying sanction is given. It is the man who takes the initiative to leave home to cleave to his wife, It is to Adam God calls out in the garden when they hid.

            The anatomy of the temptation and sin is profoundly patriarchal. It is Eve he serpent approaches and beguiles into eating the fruit. She has taken an initiative that she ought not to have taken. She ate the forbidden fruit without consulting her husband. She in eating was deceived and Paul takes from this a female susceptibility to deception. This, of course, is by no means true of all women, far from it. Yet it is part of the garden narrative that Paul sees as having lasting implications.

            Adam was weak – he did what Eve wanted him to do – but he knew what he was doing. He was passive when he should have been active, compliant when he should have resisted. It is Adam who is held responsible for the fall. Adam not Eve is the head of the race. In Adam, not Eve the race fell. That Adam is the head of humanity seems to me to be an inescapable conclusion and a forceful support of patriarchy.

            We are a strongly egalitarian society and find this male emphasis increasingly bizarre. Yet it is the world the Bible both inhabits and supports. I sketched this earlier in the thread.

            Genealogies are male. The characters highlighted in Gen 1-11 are male. The patriarchs to whom the promises are given are male. Jacob;s daughter has no name in the 12 tribes. Israel’s priests are male. He elders are male. Her judges are male (all but one). Her kings are male. The queens were royal consorts or queen mothers. The canonical prophets are male. The Psalms are written by males. The proverbs is wisdom to a son.

            The 12 apostles are male. It won’t do to say as Ian does these are pre-Pentecost. They are the foundation of the NT church. The leader of the church and the eternal kingdom is male.

            This is to my mind an overwhelming witness to biblical patriarchy.

            I am not discounting the role of women but that is not the focus here. I am simply trying to establish the pervasive patriarchy in Scripture, Sarah called Abraham ‘Lord’. If that’s not patriarchy I don’t know what is.. and Peter uses Sarah as a role model for NT Christian wives.

          • ‘ Sin had created a fundamental distortion in what was initially good.’

            It occurred to me this is a further proof of patriarchy worth unpacking. The judgement meant their two spheres of service became distorted and a source of frustration. For Adam, the ground he was to till would produce thorns and thistles for Eve the husband she was to help would reveal unsavoury autocratic tendencies.

            It seems that Gen 2,3 reveal a battery of patriarchal signals. It’s hardly surprising that the rest of the Bible builds on this.

  5. As someone who was born and raised in a New Frontiers (NF) church, and spend my formative years (16-25) actively involved in and leading/teaching as part of NF churches, I am pleased to see the position of Wilson, Grudem and other influential figures in the theological tradition of that movement being treated fairly and reasonably. I still have Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Grudem’s systematic on my shelf, and regard them well.

    That said, as other commentators here well know, I crossed the boundary into an Egalitarian understanding in my 20s because I was persuaded of it largely by the argument of two books. The first is well-noted above, Men and Women in Christ, an excellent book by all accounts. The second however is Discovering Biblical Equality, Complementary without Hierarchy, a series of essays (published by Apollos) for which one of the editors was Gordon D Fee. I believe this merits a recommendation. I do appreciate that a full bibliography was beyond the scope of this article, but as thankful as I am to Wilson and his writings I thought I would highlight the material that challenged me enough to believe he was wrong.

    Great article.

    Reply
    • Hello Mat,
      Has not Andrew Wilson’s theology moved in emphasis, as he has embraced Biblical theology, with its longitudinal canonical sweep, as seen in his booklet, Unbreakable, and in his book co-written with Alasdair Roberts, Echoes of Exodus?
      I don’t think, either Grudem as a Systematician, nor Piper, nor Burke consider the topic in that way. And while I’m familiar and appreciate some of Fee’s work, coming as he does from a Charismatic background and while from the beginning he wrote in opposition to Grudem, Burke, et al, does he too not write using a similar textual interpretive methodology, that is, he doesn’t write from a Biblical theological position? And accordingly needs to be revisited, using that approach?

      It seems that (some of) those (as I don’t know all) who write from a Biblical Theological position conclude that church leadership is male. (Leithard, Roberts, Wilson).

      Reply
      • Fee

        Like you Geoff, I have benefitted from Fee, particularly his commentary on Corinthians. In Corinthians, as I remember, he deals with the awkward text in 1 Cor 14 by simply saying it is a textual addition that shouldn’t be there (I’m speaking from memory so this would need to be checked). Carson, as I remember, insists there is no ground for such a conclusion.

        Reply
        • I went and checked, you are correct. Fee’s reasoning is that the problematic verses are sufficiently detached from both the style of Paul and the wider argument of the rest of 1 Cor 14 that one must conclude they are a later insertion.

          In his NICNT commentary he doesn’t even deal with the verses in the order they appear, skipping ahead to the end of verse 40 to deal with them as postscript to the chapter.

          Reply
          • While it is true that there is a major problem trying to make sense of 1 Cor 14:34-35 in context, Fee’s primary ground for regarding 1 Cor 14:34-35 as inauthentic is the manuscript evidence. I examined these verses in chapters 9 and 10 of Men and Women in Christ, including consideration of Carson’s argument. It came as a complete surprise to me to conclude that the evidence showed that they were probably inauthentic. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

          • A decent case can be made for their being inauthentic, though one interesting sideline is that 1 Cor is the letter on which 1 Tim typically draws.

          • Stephen, no passage needs to be jettisoned. Of course there are differences of interpretation, but RE 1 Cor 11 some of the best scholars do not see it debarring women from leadership. For example, http://www.bestcommentaries.com rates the commentaries on 1 Corinthians by Gordon Fee (NICNT), Anthony Thiselton (NIGTC), and David Garland (BECNT) as the very best, respectively scoring them 4,91, 4,88 and 4,88 out of 5.0. None of them read gender hierarchy in 1 Corinthians 11: “The metaphor in 11:3 is often understood to be setting up structures of authority. But nothing in the passages suggests as much” (Fee) “Pace Grudem it does not seem to denote a relation of “subordination” or “authority over.” (Thiselton) “Paul is not attempting to establish a gender hierarchy that places women in a subordinate role.”(Garland)

            The language of “disgrace” places it in a discussion about gender-appropriate appearance in a shame-honour culture.

          • Terran, I was not commenting on I Cor 11’s relevance to the debate, only on verse 14’s being similar in style to the passage which you think is inauthentic, a non-Pauline interpolation. Another case of not listening, the atmosphere being so fraught.

  6. BTW,
    Is the timing of the posting of the article significant. The circumstances of Aimee Bird has not newly known.
    The first part of this agument was posted, as Ian pointed out, a good while earlier, so it seems that the second part has been witheld till now or been some while in the making.
    Why now? Well, there have been recent comments in opposition to female leaders in church, notwithstanding the CoE embrace. While it has always been clear that policy was supported by Ian, perhaps there was a *felt* need make it biblically explicit, as being in support, whilst at the same time placing SSM in a different category, which has no biblical support. It is a point S made, clear and succinctly, near the end of the comments section on the last article on Lambeth.
    I don’t think the timing has anything to do with Andrew Wilson being on sabbatical.

    Reply
  7. Well done, Ian and Andrew! Appreciate the care and civility with which you engage as well as the thorough treatment of salient points. This is one for the archives (a.k.a., “Save as PDF”).

    Reply
  8. This is a really helpful article / review, Ian.

    There’s a risk that groups can (maybe unintentionally) police the boundaries of their number, in such a way that theologically trained communicators can prevent people from feeling empowered to rethink the received wisdom of their movements.

    This can lead debatable (and debated) issues to be communicated as if they are unquestionable Theology. Unfortunately, this can also subliminally tell the audience that they don’t need to do their own research and thinking.

    This review makes it sound like the book reads a bit like one of those pieces to me.

    I’d love to read his book now I’ve read your excellent response, but here are a few thoughts I had just from your thorough review and critique.

    ***

    His point 4 (men guard and protect) seems to be a statement of what the author sees as an example from within the time of the Biblical cultures.

    In that context Paul used it as a method of giving the church credibility and traction. Appointing women to church leadership then would have made them look weird and out of step with their culture, in an avoidable way.

    I think that this no longer remains morally neutral in our era, and therefore we are best positioned not to avoid it, by fruitfully appointing both male and female leaders/elders.

    Rather, I think that the precedent for us in this aspect of Paul’s teaching is to fit into a host culture and community in such a way that growth and traction is possible. This means that the precedent in Paul’s policy is not limitations to gendered roles in church leadership, it’s to structure the church appropriately for growth in its setting.

    Even then, WITHIN the church community the genders, races and social classes were treated radically equitably, at least in principle … jew greek slave free male female.

    So this male leadership structure would seem not to be an instruction or commandment, just a description of what validly happened there.

    So our question ought to be how do we make church structures appropriate to our culture.

    In fact, if you applied this quality of literalistic interpretive logic to other issues covered Biblically, it could justify slavery.
    By the way, Hello John MacArthur!

    ***

    His point 5 about the differences between men and women is just obvious, and few would argue.
    But it’s definitely a ‘so what’ moment, as that’s not the issue when looking at the place of men and women in leadership, and in fact (as you state later on) the gender mix in traditional parenting in families is a good example of how more breadth is created by gender inclusivity in roles, despite the ‘normal ‘gender differences.

    ***

    His point 6, about parenting, an argument which seems to have no textual precedent, is very odd for the above reason.
    Why not have 2 parent leadership in the church family, rather than just single parent patriarchy.
    If the family is the example, then 1 parent of each gender would seem to be the norm, if not an absolute rule.

    ***

    I totally agree with you that ‘Ezer’ is quite warrior-like when it applies to God, rendering his point fairly obsolete, and also apparently ignorant of a point that has been made frequently. This is where it can look like an attempt to pull the wool if it’s not careful … although I’ve only read the review and not the book.

    ***

    I genuinely love your commentary on the New Jerusalem aspect.

    Using the Bride metaphor seems a very odd piece of application, connected to an unrelated issue, in a link never made Biblically. That is very odd scholarship. Your points in response are brilliant here, even throwing in New Covenant non-violence taken as read.

    Again, detecting it through the lens of your critique, there seems to be a lot of Alastair Roberts type thought here.
    In my limited understanding and ability to follow his complex and lengthy logic, he has often argued in such a way that he proposes that how things are Biblically and anthropologically is to be used as evidence of how things must and should be.

    Rather than using cultural evidence as an analysis of how things are in an imperfect fallen world that is groaning for New Creation,
    and how things should be in a redeemed community demonstrating the in-breaking New Kingdom.

    In dialogues, Roberts used to go round in circles on that one and seemed unable to see the weakness of his position, using a post-Fall model as if it’s the positive template for all humanity universally.
    I really don’t understand why this line of thinking persists, unless it’s the blinkers created by a position so familiar that it can’t be conceived as being in need of a rethink.

    [I’d like to link to some of AR’s old articles and comments feed dialogues here to take away my own presumptions and misrepresentation, but he seems to have deleted anything that has now been incorporated into his longer book on the topic, so I can’t find the links that I’m referring to. Additionally, a blog site where he did engage couldn’t staff/manage the comments feed when they got a lot of pushback and they turned comments off and deleted all the previous dialogue, so I can’t illustrate my point or check if I was/am being unfair.]

    I know for a fact that I have those blind spots too, but there seems here a refusal/inability to countenance a sensible reassessment of these problems of treating humanity the same in the different contexts of Fall/Redemption/New Creation.

    That seems to me to skew the Biblical logic quite badly in these debates.

    ***

    I agree that the striking feature of Paul’s instruction on marriage in his list of indicative characteristics of elders is NOT the gender – at that point in that culture he could only have written to male elders as all their elders were male. To include women in those eldership descriptions and preferences at that moment would have been jarringly irrelevant.

    That means that he is not giving an instruction about female un-qualification for leadership – instead, the striking emphasis is faithful monogamy, from the word ‘one’, in contrast to some of the cultural practices of the day.

    ***

    The argument that Paul simply assumes that leaders are male, and so that is his teaching for all time, feels like an interpretive method devoid of cultural nuance and awareness.

    I’d point out that this is the opposite of the approach he takes on female head covering, which he sees in different cultural signals and symbols today.
    Culturally that one has been allowed to change.
    So either cultural applications and practices can shift, or not, but he argues in opposite directions on these 2 issues.

    ***

    Finally, those decontextualised Tom Wright etc quotes are very sloppy.
    Surely a published book by an academic should have the same quality of argument and fairness to quoted sources, that you would expect in an academic paper?

    Thanks
    Extremely helpful article.
    Jez

    Reply
    • Just to clarify, in fairness to Andrew Wilson – we are responding to a website article published by him, not a book.

      Reply
    • Things that are merely cultural can change but this is much less than we may think. Specifically the head covering seems to be cultural (Eve did not wear a head covering in Eden) however she apparently did have long hair since Paul sees this as taught by nature.

      The issues here are not as clear cut since Gen 2 does not refer to long hair.

      Reply
    • Arguably the man-made head covering is cultural (Eve didn’t wear one in the garden). Hair as a covering is a different matter.

      Reply
  9. Jez,
    If you are the Jez Bayes, “trying to be a universalist”, where I see the source of the rub in your comment is from a flow that seeks to undermine or dismiss fallen humanity and see it, (as does Colin Hamer a contributor of comments here reception theology), while at the same time not acknowledging the source(s) of your own reception theology, which now becomes a fundamentally, foundational.?
    As someone professionally trained, (in law) I find the whole concept of “blue- skye” thinking/theology, preposterous and foundationally flawed.

    Reply
  10. As someone who was convinced of complementarianism by Andrew Wilson, after being a strident egalitarian for years, I do not find the position presented here compelling, but I will study it more carefully. Well intended as egalitarianism claims to be, it comes across as theology built on wishful thinking. I was struck by the claim that nowhere does Scripture teach that the elders of the church are described as “fathers.” While technically this might indeed be true, it misses the point of the larger contour of Paul’s theology.

    1 Corinthians 4:15 states “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Paul clearly believed that his followers needed spiritual fathers. This easily coincides with the overwhelming early church teaching that the elders of the local church were known as “fathers.” Otherwise, the only way you can uphold the early church practice of presbyters as fathers is by acknowledging a type of misogyny that goes back to the very foundations of the New Testament, and that makes for a terrible apologetic for the faith.

    That being said, I have corresponded with Andrew Bartlett before, and I would say that if anyone could convince someone to lean egalitarian, it would be Andrew. I just got a copy of his book, and I look forward to reading it. I really wish I could be egalitarian, but wishful thinking does not make something true. I could still be wrong about egalitarianism, so I want to keep an open mind on this, but we need more evidence to demonstrate that the overwhelming traditional understanding of a qualified-male presbyteriate has been wrong for the past 2000 years.

    While geared to more of a lay audience, I would recommend the YouTube video series by Calvary Chapel pastor Mike Winger, on women in ministry. Winger goes into detail addressing nearly every argument for having women as elders, that has been published over the past thirty years, point by point. In the end, Winger is quite critical of other complementarians who place unnecessary and frankly misogynistic restrictions against other legitimate forms of female church leadership (deacons, etc.), but he finds the arguments for women as elders as ultimately unconvincing. Alas, Winger wanted to be egalitarian, too, but he just could not get there. Winger’s discussion on “The Egalitarian ‘Silver Bullet’ Bible Verse” for Galatians 3:28 is worth listening to in and of itself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vqYs_Zz4SQ

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting. I have never been an ‘egalitarian’ as this suggests women and men are the same and interchangeable. They are not, which is why I reposted the *first* part of Andrew’s article some time ago.

      If Winger thinks Gal 3.28 the ‘bullet verse’ then he is completely mistaken. For me, the key issues are the complete lack of any hint of hierarchy in the creation narratives, the absence of any comment on women in both OT and NT exercising authority and leadership, Paul’s only comment on authority in marriage coming in 1 Cor 7.4, where both exercise authority over the other, and the complete absence of any of the Aristotelian language of men ;ruling’ over their wives which was a commonplace of the first century.

      I don’t know if Mike W has dealt with those; I did not have the stamina to watch even one of his *two hour* videos. If he cannot make his case in shorter time than that, I think he has a problem!

      Your comment about ‘fathers’ is odd, given Matt 23.9, and given the use of the term in Catholic theology which does not derive from Scripture. Elders becoming known as ‘fathers’ was indeed the result of unbiblical patriarchy.

      Do come back when you have read Andrew’s book. Best regards

      Reply
      • Ian

        I cannot comprehend how you can say there is no hint of hierarchy in the creation narratives when there patently is and Paul explicitly builds on it. (From him and for him).

        Reply
      • Why then does Paul make the point that the man was made ‘first’? Why highlight that? And the fact that it was the woman who was deceived?

        And if it’s really all about preventing false teaching, which presumably can come from both men and women, why does Paul treat men and women differently if in fact he viewed them as complete equals?

        Sorry but it just doesnt make sense to me.

        Reply
        • The man being created first means that (contrary to the Artemis cult in Ephesus) women are not independent of men. And of course Paul makes precisely the opposite point in 1 Cor 11, men are not independent of women.

          The woman was deceived, says Paul here—but elsewhere he attributes sin solely to Adam. Put together, he believes that both were equally liable.

          Paul does not treat them differently; men too are to cease quarrelling and be teachable. The are not the same, but they are equal.

          Reply
          • Man created first is not marshalled to teach that woman is independent of man but in support of the impropriety of woman taking a position of authority over a man. She is to learn quietly with all submissiveness. The issues are authority and submissiveness.

            Nor does he believe that both are equally liable. Adam has primary liability because he has been given primary responsibility. It is to Adam the command with a sanction is given. It is to Adam God calls when both are hiding, Despite Adam trying to blame Eve and by implication God the buck stops with him. Adam was not deceived; Eve was.

            There is a hierarchical relationship, but they are equal.

      • Unfortunately, the article above (while a helpful summary of one position) isn’t adequate to address all the concerns one might have. For those of us lay people who are concerned about this issue (and I think we all should be), Mike Winger’s series of videos have been very helpful for those who want to go deeper but don’t have the time or patience to read a number of academic books on the topic. He carefully goes through the various Bible passages and arguments by leading writers on the topic to help the listener understand the key issues being debated and the reasons for the different conclusions that are arrived at. While 12 hours of video on the topic might seem quite daunting, it’s a lot less daunting than reading 12 academic texts, and just watching the first one or two might be enough for many people. I’d certainly recommend giving it some of your time. There is a playlist here:
        https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZ3iRMLYFlHuBtpJlwi7F5JYw3N5pKyLC

        Like me, Mike Winger was from a ‘complementarian’ background, but went into his research quite agnostic on the topic and hoping to be convinced of the ‘egalitarian’ position. But, seeking to be faithful to the led him away from the culturally acceptable egalitarian position to what he calls a ‘soft’ complementarian view.

        Personally, I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the way that difficult verses are to some extent excused or explained away on the basis of cultural context. Having just been through a church split over the issue of same-sex marriage (the painful outworkings of the recent Methodist vote), I see the damage of compromise with the world and an unwillingness to submit to scripture. While I’ve sat happily under women ministers over the last decade or more, my slightly suppressed niggles about some verses have been surfaced after those arguing for same-sex marriage have said things like: “look we don’t follow those verses any more, times have moved on, so we don’t need to follow these verses” etc.

        Reply
        • You don’t have time to read a book—but you have ten or 20 hours to watch all of Winger’s videos?! You are doing better than me then!!

          It is very odd you talk about ‘an unwillingness to submit to Scripture’—when the arguments in this article are precisely looking at what Scripture actually says!

          Reply
        • “look we don’t follow those verses any more, times have moved on, so we don’t need to follow these verses” etc.

          But I don’t think that is what is being said or assumed here.

          Reply
        • My story is the opposite of Mike Winger’s. I was a vocal complementarian, sure of my position, for some 20 years. It’s when I took a closer look at my proof texts—as well as the arguments put forward by Grudem, Piper, Schreiner, Kostenberger—that I was forced to abandon my position. Both my book and Andrew Bartlett’s take a painstaking look at every counterargument offered by Wayne Grudem to every alleged “egalitarian” argument (over 100!) in his Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. We will have to get round to Mike Winger’s videos—but I doubt he has identified yet more than Grudem. For the record this article is not a summary of a position—just a point-by-point response to Wilson’s article.

          Reply
  11. Am I, Ian, being inconsistent or were they? (Your rejoinder at 3:07 pm).
    Are we talking about the Kingdom of God? God’s house(hold)?
    I don’t see this as being extrapolated, from scripture, elsewhere, though I’m aware, if I’ve read rightly, others, such as Piper, have.
    Incorrect application of a principle, is not an argument, of itself, for non application but for correct application in scope, extent.
    As for exceptions, in the OT I’d certainly have to look at the flow, and context not only the immediate text, but whole book, genre and redemptive and covenantal history flow.

    Reply
  12. Well, that was comprehensive. I shall need to go over it more carefully but a few comments are worth making at the moment

    1. I am wary of interpretations that turn on the head traditional understandings especially when the ‘contemporary’ reading aligns more easily with the current culture than the traditional. I suspect the traditional understanding has shaped culture rather than reflected culture.

    2. It seems to me that the bible both assumes and supports patriarchy. I see patriarchy as instituted in creation in Adam’s prior creation to Eve, Eve being taken from Adam, and made for Adam (she is his helper), Adam’s naming of Eve, God holding Adam responsible for the fall (it is Adam on whom he calls). Some of these are reiterated in the NT in support of male leadership. The creation story is profoundly patriarchal in ch 2/3.

    3. The fall distorted male leadership but not initiate it or remove it. In fact the distortion (he shall rule over you) is a judgement of God upon the woman (man would abuse his leadership responsibilities to the detriment of the woman).

    3. The normalcy of male leadership continues beyond the fall. Genealogies are male . The patriarchs are male. Jacob’s male children inherit and become the tribes of Israel. The priests in Israel (responsible for teaching) are male as were the levites. The kings are male. In particular God explicitly designated the first two kings who were male. It is the exception rather than the rule when leaders are female and usually an expression of weakness in men. In the NT the apostles are male. I will need to look at elders but I’d be surprised if the case for female elders is strong. Elders were probably modelled on elders in Israel who were male. I have ever been impressed by efforts to make 1 Tim 2 say something other than what it says. Paul bases his argument on creation and male priority in creation. He also bases it on Eve being deceived. The more we construct implausible backgrounds to make the text say the opposite of what it says the less impressed I am. patriarchy is an uncomfortable truth for us today but if we hold to the authority of Scripture we will learn to champion it. I am not convinced egalitarianism or functional matriarchy in society has been an improvement.

    4. Patriarchy is found in marriage too. The husband loves and serves his wife while the wife submits to and respects her husband. In fact this patriarchal structure in marriage is intended to reveal the relationship between Christ and his church which is certainly not egalitarian.
    Peter writes,

    1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your 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. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
    7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    There is to my mind no escaping the patriarchal underpinning of life in Scripture.

    5. God is revealed in male terms. Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Kurios, Theos are names for God that are masculine gender ( though this is not conclusive). The trinity includes Father and Son. All pronouns used in reference to God are male. The Holy Spirit is given male pronouns. The Saviour is male he is Son, Prophet, Priest and King. All canonical prophets are male.

    6. It is a mistake to take ‘in Christ there is neither male nor female’ as an argument for roles in the church. This was simply a statement of our standing in Christ. In Christ there is equality but equality is nothing to do with qualification to lead in the church. Nor is ability. Of course many women are more able than men and men will be wise to listen to them as Apollos listened to Priscilla.

    More could be said but I find this . Again, the question is how far we will allow Scripture to be heard in the counter cultural area ad how far we will seek out invalid alternative readings.

    I do, however, intend to give your extensive post a fair hearing Ian. Thank you for writing it. Incidentally I think Andrew Wilson is a very able writer. There are a number of able writers who continue to follow a traditional understanding. I can see, however, how the pressures of the modern world will make it harder and harder for younger men and women to accept biblical patriarchy.

    Reply
    • 1. You should be. So we should be very suspicious of the ‘traditional’ reading of male leadership when it entirely reflected secular culture in previous ages.

      2. There is not a shred of patriarchy or hierarchy in the creation narratives. You really need to do some reading here. Eve was created last…but in Gen 1 humanity was created last. So which is best? There is no ‘naming ceremony’, as Adam says ‘She shall be called…’. God is Israel’s ezer—so is Israel lord over God? God holds both equally accountable for sin. All these claims have long been disproved! Have you not read my Grove booklet…??

      3. ‘ I have ever been impressed by efforts to make 1 Tim 2 say something other than what it says.’ I agree; and the one thing we can be really clear about is that it does not talk about ‘authority’ (since it does not use exousiazein) nor is it a blanket ban on women teaching. Again, these arguments have been set out clearly. Have you not read my Grove booklet?

      4. Nowhere, ever, even once, does the NT call women to obey their husbands. The language here is completely different from e.g. Aristotle.

      5. The idea that God is male is a heresy. The God of Israel is not sexed.

      6. I agree. And yet Priscilla was clearly a teacher and a church planter.

      Overall, it appears to me that you have not done any reading on this from a view that doesn’t support your presuppositions. Have you not read my Grove booklet?

      Reply
      • I’ll get back to you tomorrow on these.

        But Ian, it is ironic, you are accusing all generations of the church in the past of merely echoing their culture. That is precisely what you are doing now,

        However, I doubt that 2000 years of church history was all a blind following of culture. Certainly for a good part of that time Christianity was the dominant cultural influence. Where do we think head coverings and ideas of submission came from for society but from a Christian influence.

        In Gen 1 humanity was created last as the crown of creation. Gen 1 as I’m sure you will agree is approaching creation from a different perspective from Gen 2. In Gen 2 man is centre. I find the whole narrative deeply patriarchal. Adam’s priority in creation. Adam as the source of Eve. Eve is made specifically to be Adam’s helper. God in grace becomes Israel’s helper; it is a task he assumes. For Eve it is her created role.

        Here Paul expressly builds authority on Adam being. Created first. Eve is created from and for the man. Paul expressly says this.

        (ESV) 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

        1 Cor 11 or a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.

        (ESV) Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your 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. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

        The language is that of submitting. This involves obeying. I think this inference is inescapable.

        More tomorrow.

        Reply
        • ‘But Ian, it is ironic, you are accusing all generations of the church in the past of merely echoing their culture. That is precisely what you are doing now.’

          I am not at all. Our culture says that men and women are interchangeable, and that bodily sex difference is unimportant. I refute that, and showed that when I cited the first half of Wilson’s article a while back.

          What I am pointing out is the irony of you and others accusing us of this—when Christian patriarchy has in fact done exactly that.

          Reply
        • Ian

          Re Eph 5

          The general principle is laid out ‘submit to one another’ (v21) and then the specific example given is wives submitting to her husband because he is her head.

          Nothing about Sarah obeying Brahma and calling him Lord?

          Reply
  13. This is a classic case of starting off with a conclusion and then looking for scriptures that can be twisted to support it.

    >Aaron and Miriam. See Exodus 15:20-21; Numbers 12:1-2; Micah 6:4.
    Ex 15:20f refers to Miriam leading other women. It was Moses who led Israel (next verse, Ex 15:22).
    Num 12:1f refers to Miriam opposing Moses – hardly a positive reflection.
    Micah 6:4. This needs some explanation if it is to be cited in favour of the argument. Since Exodus is the only historical record of what happened, any reference to Miriam in a leadership role needs to be interpreted in the light of what Exodus records, in which case see Ex 15:20f. There are no other instances of Miriam being a leader, and she was no role model (Num 12:1, 10, Deut 24:8-9).

    >God appoints Deborah to lead and deliver the people of Israel.
    Yes, because Israel’s male leaders had failed to live up to their responsibilities (Ju 2:11-13). Similarly Ju 4:9.

    >In the time of King Josiah, God appoints Huldah as a prophet to guide the king and the nation and provoke revival (2 Kings 22:11 – 23:3).
    Much the same point – II Kings 22:17. The major and ‘minor’ prophets important enough for their utterances to be preserved as Scripture – fifteen in total, from Isaiah to Malachi – were all male. If male/female differences are to be debated in these terms, does this not count for something?

    >In the New Testament, Priscilla protects the nascent Ephesian church from inadequate teaching (Acts 18:18-28).
    This seems overegged. She and her husband together correct Apollos – privately – because he has not heard about the Holy Spirit. What has this got to do with Andrew Wilson’s argument? I strongly doubt he would disapprove of women, singly or with their husbands, telling the truth about God and his purposes in this way, and it is almost a slur to suggest otherwise. Nor would he be in the least interested in whether a person who risked his/her life for another was male or female. This sort of argument really is the pits.

    >Junia, who was imprisoned with Paul, was called by God to be an apostle (Romans 16:7).
    The most natural reading, I suggest (following the ESV), is that Andronicus and Junia were well known to the apostles, not that they themselves were apostles.

    >In biblical usage, the word for “helper” (‘ēzer), which is applied to the Woman, seems to carry a connotation of “protector” or “deliverer”.
    The word means ‘helper’ pure and simple. The cognate verb, azar, means to help.

    >Women were commanded by God to co-rule with men (Genesis 1:28).
    The biblical text refers to ruling/having dominion over the animals, not other human beings.

    >He rightly says: “Christians are called to express the complementarity of male and female in this present age”, but he fails to attend to how this calling is qualified by the urgent call to express, in this present life, the new life of the age to come.
    In the age to come (Matt 22:30) we will be sexless (or rather all male, encompassing the female). I hardly think that this is what Christians are called to be, even if Origen and some in the 4th century thought that castrating themselves was a good idea.

    Gal 3:28.
    The context is that ‘you are all sons of God, having put on Christ’. The verse requires a more nuanced treatment. On the one hand, there is neither slave nor free, on the other, Paul recognises the reality of these social conditions and does not seek to disturb them. ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek’, but in Romans Paul repeatedly argues on the basis that there is a distinction, indicating that only when the Lord returns will – possibly – the divide be abolished. On the one hand, ‘neither male nor female,’ on the other, I Cor 14:34f, Eph 5:22-24, I Tim 2:8-14, I Pet 3:1-6.

    >Peter quotes Joel’s prophecy of the coming age (Acts 2:17-18, NIV).
    Joel says both men and women will prophesy. I don’t see this has anything to do with the question of leadership and authority. In context, Spirit-filled men and women prophesy to a world that is perishing. If only this happened more often, instead of these futile debates, trying to make the Church think like the world.

    >Prophesying is a form of leadership.
    Prophesying is God speaking through a human being. In such cases we are to attend to what God has to say, not whether the person is mediating it is a man or woman.

    >Eldership is a good work (3:1); Paul expects women to do good work (5:10).
    A QC should know better than to confuse syllogistic reasoning with true logical propositions. “All humans are mortal, dingoes are mortal, therefore dingoes are human.”

    > Why read 2:12 as prohibiting right teaching by women, rather than as prohibiting false teaching by women?
    Because this is not what the text says. And if one is to lecture the reader about context, one might begin by respecting the context of the previous verse, I Tim 2:11.

    >If in 2:12 Paul is concerned with the use of legitimate pastoral authority in the church, why does Paul use the verb authenteō instead of one of the ordinary words for exercising authority? Because the verb means to usurp authority, and in his view, for a woman to exercise spiritual authority over a man is to do just that. Hence his going on to back up his prohibition by reference to the created order (I Tim 2:13-14).

    Reply
    • Yes, Thanks Steven. Yours and John’s comments are appreciated, even while I’ve not yet read the article fully on the computer and I’m not even sure I’d have the stamina to follow up all the references, or even the desire at my stage in life, where I belong to a young family church that supports male leadership, and I am not required to make any argument, an arguement that was made recently by the leadership and supported by women, young, mothers and single and older as we went through a process of structural change. (And for a period of a few years, I was part if a thriving, healthy, New Frontiers church, with male leadership.)

      Reply
    • Steven – thanks for this. Yes, the examples are unconvincing and I’d agree with everything you have stated here – the argument they present from Scripture is unconvincing.

      It would probably be better to use an empirical approach. Look at the life and ministry of William and Catherine Booth – look at the way that God used that ministry mightily to save people and bring them to Him. Based on this, the expression `go figure’ springs to mind. Equality (or `egalitarianism’ as it seems to be called here) was an important principle for the Salvation Army (founded in 1865).

      But just because there are examples from Scripture in this piece which don’t support the case being made (and hence which make the other side look better) doesn’t mean that the conclusion is wrong. The conclusion has been well established for many years – as evidenced by the saving work of the Salvation Army

      Reply
      • Yes, I tried to confine my comment to the issue of whether one subjects oneself to the Word, or interprets the Word in the light of one’s own perception of what is true and good.

        As you indicate, on the one hand there’s a danger of being dogmatic, on the other, proper weight needs to be given to I Cor 14:34f, Eph 5:22-24, I Tim 2:8-14 and I Pet 3:1-6 (which you seem to have overlooked). I don’t know enough about the Booths, so I will simply speculate that they were a married couple acting as one, united in Christ and seeking at all times to please him. Be that as it may, life is complex and God works through imperfect people, imperfect in righteousness and imperfect in theology. I therefore wouldn’t agree that the example of people whom God uses for the good is itself corroboration of a particular theological stance.

        Paul’s (and Peter’s) concern is for harmonious relations, and harmony in the Body flows from a concept of leadership that is centred on service and self-sacrifice. Paramount is the importance of submission to the Spirit, which starts with submission to the Word but extends to the business of being led to do what is right in the changing circumstances of daily life.

        It’s very difficult in the present climate of ‘affective polarisation’ to put one’s ego to one side and listen to the Spirit.

        Reply
    • >In biblical usage, the word for “helper” (‘ēzer), which is applied to the Woman, seems to carry a connotation of “protector” or “deliverer”.
      The word means ‘helper’ pure and simple. The cognate verb, azar, means to help.

      You statement flies in the face of how the word is actually used. The word appears in 20 verses, in contexts (e.g. in the first two verses of Psalm 121). One context is the one in question: Genesis 2. In two contexts it is used of help as an action, but an action to those in need. In one place – Isaiah 30, its context is that Pharoah/Egypt is not the source of protection/help which Israel thinks it is. In the other eleven contexts is used of God (or by God, Hosea 13) as deliverer, protector and defender.

      I have not gone through all of the 77 uses of azar but several seem to be in context of rescuing those in trouble. Here, again, it is used of God’s action:

      Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

      I think it untenable to give both the the noun and the verb the sense of being a subordinate assistant.

      Reply
      • Obviously the word appears in contexts, but it is not apparent that any of your observations demonstrate my statement to fly in the face of how the word is actually used. The paraphrase ‘subordinate assistant’ is yours, not mine.

        ‘Help’ is often used with reference to God, and being God, he is able to help by being a deliverer, protector and defender. But it does not follow that the word itself means being a deliverer, protector and defender, and that is not the sense in Gen 2:18. Help can be provided in various ways – depending on the situational context. That is the virtue of general words. That ‘help(er)’ is the sense is supported by the more literal Bible translations (Ex 18:4, Deut 33:7, 26, 29, Ps 20:2 etc, including the scriptures you cite).

        You have misinterpreted my comment as well as supported Ian Paul’s misinterpretation of the word. What hope is there for consensus when reading and listening skills are at this level?

        Reply
    • Steven says: “This is a classic case of starting off with a conclusion and then looking for scriptures that can be twisted to support it.”
      Steven – Your comment is counterfactual.
      The article on which you are commenting was only intended to address the main points of Andrew Wilson’s article ‘Beautiful Difference’.
      My book ‘Men and Women in Christ Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts’ discusses nearly all of the points that you and others raise, including reading 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Peter 3 faithfully in their respective contexts.

      Reply
      • If you are implying that the article above on which I commented does not deal with the scriptures faithfully in their respective contexts, I can only agree.

        Reply
    • I can see why you are not persuaded—because, sorry to say this, you don’t appear to have engaged in any depth with the issues. To take one example:

      >In biblical usage, the word for “helper” (‘ēzer), which is applied to the Woman, seems to carry a connotation of “protector” or “deliverer”.
      The word means ‘helper’ pure and simple. The cognate verb, azar, means to help.

      And God is the ezer of Israel. So even one minute’s thought would show that this has zero implication of subordination. Any even the most basic exploration of this issue would have told you that.

      Have you not read my Grove booklet on it?

      I don’t think I have the energy to engage with the other issues, which also show a lack of this kind of awareness. Sorry!

      Reply
      • Ian – I haven’t read your Gove booklet on it – but since you have engaged with the issues carefully, I’ll probably do so.

        I’m starting from an empirical position – the work of the Holy Spirit – people getting saved – and I see that this happened in abundance through the work of the Salvation Army – which always, right from the word go (in 1865) maintained a strict equality between male and female – and it’s difficult to see how their work would have been blessed so abundantly if they had been doing something horribly wrong.

        Nevertheless, some of the Pauline texts do seem completely clear on the matter ……

        Reply
        • Jock, I think this an important argument

          Catherine’s Booth was so effective as an evangelist preaching that she changed her husband, William’s theology from complementarian to egalitarian
          Anne Lotz Graham is a better teacher than her famed father
          Amy Orr Ewing is a better preacher than her highly gifted husband
          Ellie Mumford a better preacher than her Apostolic husband John
          Danielle Strickland a better preacher than her ordained husband Stephen
          Heidi Baker is a better preacher than her ordained pioneering husband Rolland
          Mary Pytches a better preacher than her Bishop husband David
          etc

          If the complementarian position is correct, then these women are exercising a SINFUL work and cannot be anointed and gifted by God. Indeed, if the complementarian position is right, their excercise of ministry is a blasphemy, an affront to God. That is the logic of the complementarian.

          I have been a minister 30years – ministered alongside n listened to preachers on several continents and numerous countries – and these women can hold there own with any bloke.

          Reply
          • Agreed. And I think church communities benefit from the spiritual and practical experiences of both men and women. Life experiences for men and women have differences. For the women in a congregation, a woman’s preaching – drawing on the pressures and challenges of womanhood – may provide viewpoints a male preacher would be hard-pressed to understand in the same, experiential way. Likewise in reverse.

            Equally, hearing female experience in the context of teaching can be very beneficial for men as well. And again, vice versa.

            I believe the Church of England has been enriched by the expanded ministries we’ve seen since women started to be ordained.

            At the same time, I respect that there are different theological viewpoints on these issues.

      • Like David Wilson, you are simply not reading what I wrote (sorry to have to observe that). I said nothing about subordination, though, as John Thompson observes, the idea is certainly there, to say nothing of Gen 3:16. Nor about God being the help of Israel. I was simply commenting on your assertion that ‘ēzer ‘seems to carry a connotation of “protector” or “deliverer” ‘. The very text at issue (Gen 2:18) argues against your peculiar view. Has your ideology got to the point where the woman is now seen as the protector or deliverer of the man?

        This inability to listen to the other is very common in contemporary society. Can we as Christians not do better?

        My concern was that you, as a professing theologian, should be objective in your exegesis and not use Scripture to promote an ideology that is foreign to it. Having acquired a certain following, it is incumbent on you to model submission to what the text actually says, whether its message is congenial or not congenial. We have to allow God to speak to us. If you are certain that the understanding of the first 19 centuries AD is morally wrong (and there does seem to be a strong moral animus in your pursuing these questions so relentlessly), you need to beware of the danger of actually accusing God of not being righteous, or ‘with it’.

        Reply
        • Steven,

          Let me just respond to your last point about the first 19 centuries AD. As others have observed, the historical teaching of the church for 1900 years (and the prevailing view in society) was that women are ontologically inferior to men. Women were regarded as morally and intellectually inferior, and they were subject to severe restrictions in life (look how recently women got the vote, as just one example).

          No-one, repeat no-one, believes that any more, whether in the church or in secular society. The outstanding work of women in the two world wars, the social revolution of the 1960s, the opening of education and career opportunities to women, female political leaders like Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, etc, have all buried that evil idea for good.

          The church had used exactly the same reasoning (female ontological inferiority) to justify excluding women from the pulpit. The Bible was interpreted with this in mind (look at old theological works). But it had been disproven, and the old-boys network was in crisis. They needed to keep the women out! So, in the 1970s, they invented a novel new theology, complementarianism, based on the idea of God-given “roles” defined by gender. American Presbyterian theologian George Knight III is often credited as the key figure behind this. The Bible had never been read in this way before – even the word “role” comes from French and only entered the English language in the last 100 years or so.

          And my point is simply that it doesn’t matter if you are egalitarian or complementarian, _both_ positions are markedly different to the understanding of the first 19 centuries.

          And yes, I believe restricting roles by gender is morally evil and totally contrary to the teaching of the Bible. I pray that it will soon be regarded as repugnant as racism.

          Reply
          • I very much doubt that the church for 19 centuries believed that women were ontologically inferior to men. That seems rather sweeping.

    • There’s too much to comment on in your comment. But I will take the bate on two items.

      First, thanks for acknowledging that “authentein” has a negative nuance (you deem it “usurp.” But you have now departed from the standard complementarian meaning put forward by George Knight and echoed by Kostenberger and Schreiner that it refers to “the exercise of legitimate authority.” The argument usually put forward is that Paul is forbidding women from doing something to men (teaching and leading them) which is only appropriate for elder-men to do to other men. The reason complementarians defend this positive definition so stridently is that they accept Kostenberger’s argument that authentein and “teach” (didaskein) are either both positive or both negative. By admitting that authentein is negative (usurping is an inherently ungodly action) you accept that the teaching may be negative—as in either false teaching or a kind of dictatorial teaching.

      Then about Deborah—you say that God raised her up because the men in Israel failed to rise up. But there is nothing in the story that shows men refusing the roles of prophet, judicial authority or military strategist. Barak’s resistance is to none of these roles—his only nervousness is to lead the march into battle without Deborah, for which he is culturally penalized by having to share battle glory with Deborah and Jael. If we know anything about God’s choice of leaders, it is that he prefers to choose the unlikely person. For example, though the first judge, Othniel is the paradigmatic judge, each of the three judges that God chooses thereafter shows God’s preference for surprises. Ehud is “left-handed”—which means he can surprise the average combatant who has been trained to fight a commonly right-handed warrior. Shamgar is not even an Israelite—who expected God to use a non-Jewish deliverer? And, of course, Deborah is a woman, hardly the first person anyone would expect to achieve military victory. For all God’s people thereafter, we should be inclined to receive God’s unexpected choice of leaders. As such, we should not be inclined to reject women leaders anymore than we would reject left-handed leaders or leaders from a different background and culture than our own.

      Reply
      • It was not Deborah who achieved military victory: read Judges 4:15-16. Deborah administered the coup de grace after the army was already defeated. Deborah certainly challenges stereotypes, and I willingly grant that Israel recognised in her a person through whom God spoke and therefore had authority. But I don’t think her example supports the egalitarian position as articulated by Paul and Bartlett.

        Reply
      • As you say Terran, Deborah recognises that there is a certain disgrace for Barak in the battle being won by a women. You write, ‘he is culturally penalized by having to share battle glory with Deborah’. And indeed he is. However, I think, once again this is an indication of the underlying patriarchy in Israel. The onus is on those who consider this patriarchy alien to so demonstrate.

        Reply
      • It’s worth noting that Hebrews in its list of people of faith does not mention Deborah but does mention Barak.

        And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets.

        Reply
    • I almost. agree with that. But it’s not the ‘right wing evangelicals’ who are subverting the text.

      However, there is no virtue in simply discarding the text as you advocate. Hypocrisy is bad but open defiance may be worse. Neither is a position to be in.

      Reply
  14. Mr Robinson

    When the spies returned the people were told about the Nephilim. The people became afraid.

    Moses and Aaron fell on the floor in fervent prayer.

    Caleb and Joshua were ready to launch an invasion.

    Where was Miriam?

    What if we made a list of priests, prophets and kings – would that outweigh Psephizo’s list of women?

    Or even men leading revivals?

    The Roman, Greek and Russian orthodox priests reading this blog must be in stitches.

    Reply
    • There are two different questions:

      – Are women prohibited from leading or teaching?

      – Does one expect equal numbers of men and women in these positions?

      This article is addressing the first, and comes up with the very reasonable answer: no.
      This answer does not imply that the answer to the second question is ‘yes’.

      Given the cultures in which Christianity grew, with their very strong tendency to patriarchy, it is not surprising that the New Testament trajectory of the release of women into ministries was largely neglected. Even so, it is not the case that there were no cases of women with significant authority in the Church in the first millenium.

      During the persecutions of the first three centuries those who had experienced this persecution (and lived) had an authority outside the hierarchy of thie Church. This included women.

      In this country, the Synod of Whitby (664) was held at the joint monastery (i.e. both monks and nuns) at Whitby where Saint Hilda was in charge. It seems kings came to her for advice.

      Reply
      • The church was quite capable of being counter cultural if it saw a biblical mandate to so be. If the apostles (male) taught egalitarianism I have no doubt it would have been widely evident in the church and if it wasn’t the apostles would have been giving corrective preaching of which there is no sign.

        Reply
  15. Dear Ian, though I am often prone to criticise your biblical/theological perspective on matters of human gender and sexuality; I need right now to congratulate you on your exegetical support for the place of women in the Church and the world. As a dyed-in-the-wool Anglo-Catholic, I find myself at odds with the more esoteric A/Cs who have formed the oddly-named sodality ‘Forward in Faith’ that seems to major on the exclusion of women from the ordained clergy. This seems, to me, a direct denial of the ‘catholicity’ involved in the task of bringing the Gospel to all the world. (Despite its patriarchal tenor, even the Old Testament has its moments of clarity on the leadership of women – as you so rightly point out).

    Jesus’ own encouragement of women’s ministry in the N.T., which probably did not go down well with the Sanhedrin, whose patriarchal leanings were often questioned by him, however, he did choose a woman to tell (apostello) the emerging (other, male) apostles the Good News of his resurrection from the dead, but they did not believe her. Guess why!!!

    Pope Francis has raised the ire of some of his Vatican colleagues by his insistence on placing women into position of (lay) leadership in the Roman Catholic Church which, IMNSH opinion, is a step in the right direction. Time will tell whether women ever get ordained as priest and bishops in that traditional male bastion.

    Reply
    • Thank you Ron. I am glad that you recognise the force of the arguments—but I hope you are not just picking and choosing the things you like.

      I take no different approach to this than I do to the other question, and my conclusion is no less robust.

      Reply
      • Well, Ian, I think you might agree that not even the best of us is not right about everything! Both Saints Peter and Paul had their ‘tragic moments’ of infelicity. The only thing with them is that they were able to, later, admit their errors of judgement! There is still time….

        Reply
  16. Is it not rather convenient to effectively dismiss some sentences in one of Paul’s letters as unoriginal? But even if we assume that they should be ignored, does similar teaching not appear in 1 Timothy 2?

    Paul goes right back to the creation and ‘fall’ stories to explain his position – he is clearly viewing men and women differently. Regardless of what the term ‘authority over’ really means, Paul is making a distinction, based on Genesis. So how can you argue that in Paul’s mind, men and women are ‘equal’ in every sense? Note that he says man was made first. Is that not important to Paul’s argument?

    He then says explicitly it was the woman who was deceived, not the man. Is he not implying, at the very least, that women are more prone to be deceived as evidenced by Genesis, and therefore they should not be teaching – that is the man’s role because as Paul can see from Genesis, it was the woman who was deceived, not the man, and who then spoke the deceit to the man, leading him to break God’s command. So not only did the woman ‘sin’, her vulnerability to being deceived led directly to the man’s sin.

    I just think youre completely ignoring Paul’s understanding and argument here, from creation itself and the subsequent ‘fall’.

    So for me the question is – was Paul right in his understanding which formed the basis for treating men and women differently within the church, and is it legitimate to use that universally? I suspect this should be viewed as coming from Paul’s cultural Jewish background and should not be viewed as applicable today. But I dont think you can claim Paul is saying something different and that we’ve just misunderstood.

    (btw I think Paul did believe in a single original couple, even if that couple was/became ‘representative’ of humanity in general, as evidenced by contrasting the single man Jesus with the original man ‘Adam’ in his letters, and in his speech in Acts. An original couple would have made logical sense to him, and Genesis backs that up).

    Reply
    • It is generally acknowledged that 1 Tim 2:11-15 is actually a bit of a puzzle. For instance, why the shift from the plural ‘women’ in v10 to the singular and then back to the plural in v15b?

      The reference to Genesis 2 and 3 is also a puzzle. If the deciding factor is the order of creation, why the reference to the deception of the woman? If the greater susceptibility to being deceived is the issue, then why the reference to the order of creation? I might also add that in Genesis 3, at least there was some resistance from the woman. The man simply eats what he receives from the woman without any protest.

      The best reading I have come across for this is to take the Genesis reference not as the source of the ordering of men and women. (I’m afraid I cannot credit this). Rather, it is an illustrative story, where:
      – the man (well, the ‘adam’) is created
      – the man is instructed not to eat of the tree in the centre of the garden
      – the woman is formed from the man
      – the woman is deceived by the serpant
      The idea expressed is that the problem was that the woman needed instruction from the man, and this was not well done, which opened her to the deception.

      Thus, the problem in Ephesus was not that the women were untaught, and therefore should not teach. The positive action in these verses is that women should learn.

      I might also point out that if one takes v12 literally, noting that ‘a man’ is the object of the verb ‘authenteo’ only, that only men should do teaching. It does not make sense that women should not teach men, but can teach other women and children. What matters with teaching is that it biblical. Authority in teaching comes from its content, not the one delivering the teaching. So, please can all ‘complementarian’ churches staff their Sunday Schools with men only.

      Reply
      • Authority doesn’t normally come from content but the one who gives it. I accept there is an intrinsic authority in God’s word but nevertheless it is normally the value of the one who speaks who gives value to what is said.

        Reply
      • It’s not a puzzle unless it doesn’t suit us. The reference to Eve’s deception is to express the danger of women taking a teaching role in the church.

        Adam had clearly told Eve that the fruit was forbidden – she tells the serpent this. Adam’s fault was his weakness in being led by his wife to do what God had forbidden. I don’t think its possible to argue Eve was ill taught by Adam. It wasn’t a difficult message to convey or understand.

        Reply
    • PC1 says: “Is it not rather convenient to effectively dismiss some sentences in one of Paul’s letters as unoriginal?
      I made exactly that point in my book at p202 “Some readers may be left with a feeling that cutting out verses 34–35 is just too convenient. This is understandable. We are rightly taught to be highly sceptical of proposals to remove difficult texts from the Bible. It is right to emphasize that we are not here dealing with a case of arguments for inauthenticity based on internal evidence alone. If the problem with these verses were limited to the facts that they are inconsistent with their context, that they contain an apparent error concerning the contents of the Old Testament and that no interpretive solution has been found which satisfactorily makes sense of them, we would leave them standing in the text, acknowledge our limitations and hope for fresh light in the future. Here, the external evidence also needs to be explained. …”
      PC1 says: “I just think you’re completely ignoring Paul’s understanding and argument here, from creation itself and the subsequent ‘fall’.”
      What we are doing is addressing the points made by Andrew Wilson. We are not presenting an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.
      If you would like to know why I conclude that complementarian interpretations of 1 Timothy 2 are not correct, you are cordially encouraged to read chapters 11-13 and Appendices 3-6 of my book.

      Reply
      • Andrew Bartlett,
        (Re your comment to Peter- PC1,- June 25,
        2:33pm)
        What we have here is uncorrectable, whatever scholars may say. From a former solicitor’s point of view, I consider them to be akin to “documents of public record.”
        And I think your interpretation of Timothy, forgoes much of the canons of construction of statutes, (even those that were employed specifically in England and Wales to deduce, in this instance, the intention of the writer, even esjem generis, and the mishief rule, even perhaps, the golden rule.)
        And see, Steven Robinson’s comments and John Tomson’s for instances where I don’t think you have a correct understanding or interpretaion of the OT texts, nor the Biblical Theological methodology over the whole canon of scripture.
        Neither am I satisfied for you to refer to your book for detail. Why? I’d employ the same reasoning Ian Paul uses (25 June: 9: 30 am.) for not watching the whole series of linked talks by Mike Winger.
        And, you have chosen to set out what could be seen as your *pleadings* in two blog articles. Simply to ask for a succinct argument, without recourse to citing the *law* ( that is in this context, your authority references or your book in full) I’d suggest is simply to ask for *further and better particulars*.
        BTW, I’ve already said that I’m not with Wilson and Piper as they seek to apply the principles they endorse, male leadership, and see as applying in the Church, to *secular* settings.
        Thanks for your contributions. I’m not persuade to a point of conviction, till I’m sure, nor on the balance of probablities and your dealing with OT texts, continuity and discontinuity, has carried little weight and, at times, from within the confines of a blog article snd comments, are in error.

        Reply
        • Geoff, training in the law is a good thing. But ‘documents of public record’ or ‘statutes’ may not be the best pictures to use for what we are dealing with. Your ‘uncorrectable’ is not about what scholars say, but about what the texts themselves say. And the New Testament letters were just that … letters.

          Reply
          • Bruce is absolutely correct. Letters are usually the first word on something and not the last. They were letters to particular situations. They were never intended to address every situation for all time.
            The NT letters are supremely interesting for what they tell us about the very early churches. They don’t begin to address issues outside of their particular experience.

          • Letters are usually the first word on something and not the last. They were letters to particular situations. They were never intended to address every situation for all time.

            That’s true of most letters. But these letters are different from all other letters ever written by humans in the history of the world, aren’t they? These letters were inspired by God in a way that is true of no other letters ever written — right?

            So you can’t make arguments about these letters based on what is true of other letters, right? Because these letters are unique. No other letters are like them. No other letters were inspired by God.

          • As I say, these letters are of supreme interest to us because of what they tell us about the earliest churches and Christians. They don’t – however inspired by God they are – tell us about the state of churches and Christianity here and now, apart from in more general terms. They were specific letters for specific churches at a specific time.

          • Andrew – well, some are and some aren’t.

            The letter 1 Corinthians was clearly written to a specific situation. After a nice introduction, it’s clear that the apostle can’t believe that he has to write such a letter and he is amazed that they have turned into such a bunch of head bangers in such a short space of time.

            Reading between the lines, when we understand just how horrible the things he was responding to are, (a) we are amazed that he had the patience to actually write to them (rather than simply give up on them as a bad lot) and (b) we should hope that such gross behaviour does not exist in congregations today – hence the letter was rather specific.

            On the other hand, I can’t see that Romans was written to a specific situation. He had never been to Rome, it doesn’t read as if he is responding to specific things happening at Rome – and it is a very clear expression of the gospel message. It seems universal, in the sense that it doesn’t seem targetted at Christians in a specific situation, but provides a very deep understanding of the faith for all Christians in all ages.

            In the context of the current discussion, though, I think I agree with you entirely when it comes to the texts where Paul indicates that he has a problem with women in leadership roles within the church.

          • Jock, you wrote: ‘I can’t see that Romans was written to a specific situation. He had never been to Rome, it doesn’t read as if he is responding to specific things happening at Rome.’
            But wouldn’t this mean that the letter finished at, say, Rom 15:14?

          • Bruce – you are (of course) correct; in Chapter 16 he does turn specifically to people and the situation in Rome.

            But it isn’t really like 1 Corinthians. With the letter to the Romans, you can read the first 15 chapters in a universal way – and then at the end he turns to the people whom he hopes to meet and those who have been working tirelessly for the gospel in Rome.

            In 1 Corinthians, the situation at Corinth really is at the forefront of – and embedded in – the whole letter.

        • Geoff – for much of the New Testament I strongly agree with your `documents of public record’; it articulated in a succinct way exactly what I always thought the New Testament was all about.

          This is with reference to the once-for-all event, where the authors of the NT were well aware that it was essential to establish that Jesus of Nazareth was exactly who he said he was; the Messiah, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and rose again. Also, I’m now convinced that the Ascension also falls into this framework.

          Given all of this, I’m not prepared to accept that Luke was placing voices on the lips of people; there was an overwhelming importance to present an accurate record and every single word that John attributes to Jesus was actually said by Jesus.

          I don’t read Greek or Hebrew, but unless our translators really have made a total horlicks of it for centuries, I don’t believe that all the verses that Paul wrote against women in church leadership roles can be explained away.

          But when Paul is giving instructions on how to run a church fellowship, I don’t see how this falls into the category of `document of public record’. Could it not perchance be that Paul got it wrong on this issue? The apostle Paul never got married – and I seem to understand why, although it would probably be best to leave it to the good women who comment here to explain why he might not have been such an attractive proposition.

          His letter to the Romans is marvellous theological insight from start to finish and the clearest gospel of them all. But when it comes to men and women and the relationships between them – I’m inclined to agree with my father, who tells me that the novels by Thomas Hardy give him much more insight on this matter than the apostle Paul.

          Reply
          • Some scholars believe Paul was likely married at some point but seemingly separated/divorced. It would have been relatively unusual for a Pharisee Jew to have been unmarried at Paul’s age.

          • Some scholars believe Paul was likely married at some point but seemingly separated/divorced.

            Or widowed?

            It would have been relatively unusual for a Pharisee Jew to have been unmarried at Paul’s age.

            But presumably not totally unheard of? Arguments of the form ‘the vast majority of X are Y therefore this individual X must have been Y’ are unsound. Even if 99% of Pharisees were married, that means some weren’t, and Paul could have been one of those.

            Basically you can’t go from statistics to talking about individuals like that. Same as ‘90% of people with this disease are dead in five years’ doesn’t tell you whether a given individual with the disease will still be alive six years from now.

          • If he was a member of the Sanhedrin he would be married I believe. However, it is not certain he was a member.

    • Peter

      I.m totally with you until you unexpectedly argue Paul got it wrong.

      I don’t think you can argue Paul got it wrong or made what was merely cultural universal. Paul roots his teaching in creation as you show. It requires a radical rejection of Scriptural authority to reject patriarchy. I wonder if any society other than our brave new world of Western C21 liberalism has ever done so.

      If I may add to your point I think the fall involved Eve both usurping her authority in presenting the fruit to Adam and Adam relinquishing his authority by giving in to Eve. The first sin was a mutual disregard for their God-given roles,

      Reply
    • Wow! What an interesting thought! Did Adam and Eve have daughters who went on to procreate with their own siblings? That just wouldn’t be allowed – even in our permissive society today!

      Reply
        • I assume he’s referring to my last ‘btw’ comment. But he is right, for those who like Paul believe in a literal Adam & Eve, that is how the human race grew.

          Peter

          Reply
          • PC1 – well, I believe in a literal Adam and Eve – because otherwise I have serious problems with Romans 5.

            At the same time, I don’t believe that Cain went and married his own sister. So you do get people who believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but who do not believe that this is how the human race grew.

          • Agreed Peter.

            Before sin’s effects permeated presumably marrying within family would not be so damaging. Having said that, I do find the way the text simply says ‘Cain knew his wife’ does make me wonder at times where the narrative expects us to think she came from. It seems a sister or niece are the only options.

            Sarah after all was Abraham’s half sister. Marriage within what are now prohibited degrees must have been more common.

            Abraham

  17. Could it be suggested, Peter, that Paul was speaking from his “people of God” position even in his pre(Saul) and post(Paul) conversion life.
    It, scripture, would therefore pertain today and not be tethered to particular time and place.

    Reply
    • I dont think we can assume everything any apostle taught was true for all time and places. I doubt they themselves believed that. Certain instructions may very well have been for a certain time, for specific reasons. I would have thought they would have learned that lesson from the major change from keeping all of Jewish law to only some aspects of it.

      Reply
      • Paul knew the difference between what was creational, and what was cultural. The problem is most of what we are discussing he deemed creational and thus of universal application.

        There is another category that I don’t quite know how to label – there is a body of ethics that grows out of the OT that is built into much of the NT ethical injunction. In a sense the NT writers said little new on morality they simply echo the OT sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly. This also argues that NT morality is intended to be abiding. Other more distinctive aspects growing out of Christ as a model for godly living are also present and are clearly abiding. There is little that is not abiding.

        Reply
  18. I would not wish to stray into the convoluted theological arguments one way or another, except to say that the Church in its earliest days decided that the ordained ministry was only open to men. In this it was acting in a thoroughly Christian fashion since Jesus Himself had said in the last week of His life on earth that when He was gone, the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth and remind them of everything He had been teaching them.
    Whenever there was a problem in deciding what was the right interpretation of Holy Scripture, the Church made its decisions and in the case of ordained ministry this decision lasted pretty well undisputed till 1944.
    I think the whole issue has become distorted in the Reformed churches (and in the Evangelical section of the Church of England) by their total lack of attention to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who performed the highest role in all humanity by mothering the incarnate Son of God and elevated motherhood to the heights of human achievement. Mary is testimony to the ultimate female creativity – the production of new life. Men cannot do this!

    Reply
          • 6 times 7 =42.

            All the generations are men even though some of their wives are mentioned.

            However, the last place is given to Mary because God is her ‘husband’ so to speak.

            This is important . Mary is placed on same first position as all the other men. She subsumes all that went before her only to give way in birth to the Lord. The 42nd.
            6= man. X 7=holy perfection. =42 .
            Incidentally. “the meaning to life, the universe and everything.” Douglas Adams

            I think as Christians we should encourage each other to worship and wonder holding paradoxes loosely. We can’t grind everything down to a doctrine.
            Everything that is made is made from that which is unseen. Light out of the unseen . Earth out of sea. Animals out of plants. Woman out of man. Each one depends on the preceding creation.

        • If the first ministry of a Christian priest is to preside at the Eucharist, where Christ is present; it was Mary who brought forth that first presencing of Christ into the world – in her womb – a truly priestly activity!

          Reply
          • …. well, `Christian priest’ is a contradiction in terms (unless you mean the priesthood of all believers); the first ministry of Christians is not to preside at the Eucharist. The `presencing of Christ’ in the world, as you put it, in the flesh, ended at the Ascension. I prefer the Salvation Army approach to the Eucharist (i.e. don’t bother with it). It is like the bronze serpent of Moses, which Hezekiah smashed to pieces because it had become a source of idolatry.

            It seems to me that you’re thinking about Bellini’s opera `Norma’ – and interpreting the birth narrative through the singing of Maria Callas.

      • You can’t have Christian priests by definition.
        There is the High Priesthood of Christ and the priesthood of all believers. In the latter, no one individual came first.

        Reply
          • How could she be a Christian since Christ wasn’t even born. She belonged to the Old Covenant at that point not Christianity. Arguably Christianity only started at Pentecost.

          • She was a Christian because she bore Christ, this was his/her body and his/her blood.

          • She was a Christian because she bore Christ

            That’s not what ‘being a Christian’ is. A Christian is someone who follows Jesus; bit difficult to do that before He was born, wouldn’t you say?

          • S
            A Christian is someone who is in Christ, incorporated into the Body of Christ. No human is so incorporated as Mary. Her Son is flesh of her flesh.

          • A Christian is someone who is in Christ, incorporated into the Body of Christ.

            Even if we accept that for the sake of argument…

            No human is so incorporated as Mary. Her Son is flesh of her flesh.

            … this is nonsense. The ‘incorporation into the body of Christ’ you wrote of in your first sentence is nothing to do with physical flesh. You’re equivocating again, using a word in one sense and then switching to a different sense to make an erroneous point in the hope people won’t notice the trick.

            I’m here to point out the trick so you don’t fool anybody.

          • S

            Honestly S, I’m really not trying to be contentious, but when you’ve read ‘The Joy of Sex’ you could try reading some theology.
            Karen O’Donnell is really good on the Incarnation.

          • I’m really not trying to be contentious, but some people use this trick a lot, so I might miss some, and this is a really good example, so it might be worth me going through it in order that people can recognise it and not be fooled.

            the way the trick works is, first you make some uncontroversial or at least defensible statement, in which you use a word in (say) a metaphorical sense. Here this is: ‘A Christian is someone who is in Christ, incorporated into the Body of Christ’.

            Note the word ‘body’ here is used metaphorically. A Christian is not literally made into part of Jesus’s literal body, the collection of atoms that walked around in first-century Judea, that talked and slept and was killed and then came to life again and then ate and, finally, was taken to Heaven. So this is ‘body’ used in a metaphorical sense.

            Then — and here’s the trick, watch carefully — you make some wild, ridiculous statement, but you use the same word only in another sense. So if you used it metaphorically before, you use it literally now. Here this is: ‘No human is so incorporated as Mary. Her Son is flesh of her flesh.’

            Did you spot it? Where before the word ‘body’ was used metaphorically, now it’s used literally. The claim is that Mary was a Christian before Jesus was born because his literal body was within her literal body, sharing blood and oxygen with it.

            I’ll do the trick slower, to make it obvious. Here’s the claim:

            ‘Mary was a Christian before Jesus was born because a Christian is someone who is incorporated into Jesus’s body, and before He was born Mary was intimately connected to Jesus’s body.’

            Sounds convincing, right? A Christian is part of Jesus’s body; Mary was conected to Jesus’s body; therefore Mary was a Christian.

            But now I’ll annotate the different meaning for the word ‘body’. I’ll use ‘body-m’ for the metaphorical meaning and ‘body-l’ for the literal meaning.

            ”Mary was a Christian before Jesus was born because a Christian is someone who is incorporated into Jesus’s body-m, and before He was born Mary was intimately connected to Jesus’s body-l.’

            And now you can see that in fact the claim is nonsense! Mary was connected to Jesus’s literal body; a Christian is someone who is incorporated into the metaphorical Body of Christ. Not the same bodies!

            This is exactly the same as, say, arguing that incest is perfectly moral for Christians because other Christians are out brothers and sisters; we are commanded not to be yoked to unbelievers, which means we have to marry other Christians; so it can’t be wrong for a sister to marry her brother, can it?

            Now you’ve seen how the trick works, have fun spotting examples of it for yourselves. There are lots out there to find!

          • Oh I should mention: there are variations where the first time you use the word it’s in the literal sense, and the second it’s in the metaphorical sense.

            And then there’s a more subtle version where both times you use the word in metaphorical senses but different metaphorical senses each time. That one can be particularly hard to spot, and often catches out the unwary! Keep a lookout for it!

            Evry time you read someone’s argument, always check every time you read an important word, ‘Is this word being used in the same sense here as it was last time it was used?’

            If it’s not, that’s a big red flashing light warning that you need to be careful! You may be in danger of being fooled!

          • Karen O’Donnell is really good on the Incarnation.

            Does she use the dishonest equivocation trick I just explained? I bet she does. I bet she does it a lot.

          • S

            So, you don’t understand metaphor either?
            Never mind. For now we see in a glass darkly …

          • S

            And, of course, we’re the flesh of Christ. Don’t you understand the mystery of the incarnation?

          • So, you don’t understand metaphor either?

            If I didn’t understand metaphor, I wouldn’t have been able to spot your little trick, now would I?

          • And, of course, we’re the flesh of Christ.

            Metaphorically we are, yes. We’re not physically connected to Jesus’s literal body, though, are we?

          • The person who can distinguish between metaphorical and literal obviously understands metaphor. The person who confuses or fudges the two may not.

          • To be in Christ is to be united with in his death, resurrection and exaltation.

            Before Christ died on the cross and bore our sins it was impossible to be united to him. Only in his death union became possible.

            In his life on earth Christ identified with us but until he died and took us into his death we were not united to him. Mary’s union with her Lord came the same way as all others. Our union is a spiritual and mystical union it is not a flesh union.

          • Our union is a spiritual and mystical union it is not a flesh union.

            Yup. And being ‘incorporated in the body of Christ’ is a metaphor to help us understand this spiritual reality.

            Nothing to do with ‘flesh of her flesh’, which Jesus was in a literal, physical (not spiritual) sense.

          • Of course it’s a flesh union. Do you not understand John 1. Do you not understand what incarnation means?

          • Of course it’s a flesh union. Do you not understand John 1. Do you not understand what incarnation means?

            Of course I understand what incarnation means. Incarnation means that the eternal God, creator of the universe, became part of His creation, in the person of a human being, called Jesus, born in Bethlehem.

            Jesus’s flesh body died; it lay in a tomb for forty-eight hours or so; it was restored to life; and then a few weeks later it was taken to Heaven. The flesh bodies of Christians are not physically connected to it. Christians are spiritually the body of Jesus on Earth while His body is in Heaven.

            Christians are not in some kind of fleshy union with the man Jesus, who was also God. What a bizarre idea!

            Are you trying to sell some kind of panentheist heresy where the incarnation somehow made all creation divine? Because that’s a totally demonic idea. It comes from the Devil trying to distort the truth.

            The incarnation was specific: God, the eternal God, the creator of all, became a single human being, confined to one time and one place. That’s what’s so amazing, so scandalous about it.

          • In his incarnation Christ became one with us (h became human). In his death we become one with Christ and rise with him to a new life.

            Mary wasn’t ‘in Christ: Christ was in Mary.

          • In his incarnation Christ became one with us

            No He absolutely did not.

            In His incarnation Christ became one of us.

            This is a very important distinction and vital to get right.

          • God became man that we might become divine.
            Good old Athanasius again, the most orthodox of orthodox theologians.
            The early church understood Mary’s priesthood of course since she was portrayed in a dalmatic.

          • God became man that we might become divine.

            That our spirits might be united with Christ’s in His death and resurrection, yes. And that our bodies might be transformed. But the incarnation did not connect our flesh bodies with His flesh body.

            As was said you seem to have a great difficulty with metaphor. You seem to flip between seeing a metaphor for what it is and treating it literally, with no rhyme or reason for the switching.

            The early church understood Mary’s priesthood of course since she was portrayed in a dalmatic.

            The early church got a lot of other things wrong as well.

          • S

            I’m happy to agree in incarnation he became one of us. I want to maintain the distinction you are making, I don’t think ‘he became one with us’ necessarily means any more than ‘one of us’ but it perhaps fudges the important distinction that union with Christ is not in incarnation but in death and resurrection.

          • ‘God became one with us that we may become divine’

            I think we have to be careful with the idea of becoming ‘divine’. We will never be deity. We will never be God.

            Our union with Christ does not mean that we share in his deity. We will have a humanity like his and share in the glory that is his as the Messiah. But he has an essential glory that belongs to him in his deity that we shall see but which we shall not possess.

          • I’m happy to agree in incarnation he became one of us. I want to maintain the distinction you are making, I don’t think ‘he became one with us’ necessarily means any more than ‘one of us’ but it perhaps fudges the important distinction that union with Christ is not in incarnation but in death and resurrection.

            I have two objections to the ‘one with us’ phrase that may in fact be the sane same objection out in two different ways.

            The first is that it sounds like some kind of New Agey panentheist woowoo where we are all really one with the divine spark if only we would just dry our minds free and realise our spiritual potential.

            The second is that it gets the direction wrong, and makes it sound like Jesus needed to become human to learn something, or because God lacked something until He had experience of human life. You know, the kind of heresy that has the Syro-Phoenician woman ‘teaching Jesus not to be racist’.

            We are the ones who need to be saved. Jesus came to redeem our souls and (eventually, at the end) transform our bodies. The flesh Jesus took on in the incarnation was not divine: that’s the whole point. And our flesh now is not divine and was not apotheosised by the incarnation; our resurrection bodies will be like His, but we don’t have them yet.

            So Jesus came that we might be united with Him. He didn’t need to be united with us. There’s nothing in us worth being united to.

          • We are incorporated into Christ through the Incarnation/Annunciation event.
            The Word tabernacled among us.

          • But do go on asserting.

            You made the assertion; and the one who made the assertion has to argue for it.

            Do you have any arguments? Actual arguments, I mean, not vague assertions that rely on careless use of language?

          • Penelope

            Can you show any text that says we are incorporated into Christ before his death and resurrection?

            We are united to him in his death, his resurrection, his exaltation. Our union is with a Christ no longer in this world.

    • ‘ the Church in its earliest days decided that the ordained ministry was only open to men.’

      The Church also reintroduced a sacerdotal priesthood, which in the NT is clearly abolished by Jesus, monarchical episcopacy, which is contrary to NT patterns of ministry and leadership, and began to treat ‘the eucharist’ as a unique ontological category, again without any NT justification.

      The best reading of this is that a church in a patriarchal society was unable to resist its culture. And it has been challenged all through history, not just in 1944. In the nineteenth century, the Salvation Army only allowed male officers to be married to female officers!

      Reply
      • Ian – perhaps `allow’ was a bit much, but given the work of the Salvation Army (and the obvious fact that the spouse of an office would be dragged into doing the work of an officer anyway), the arrangement looks reasonably sensible to me. My mother remembers something about the Salvation Army Sunday school that she was sent to (late 1940’s early 1950’s); the Salvation Army outfit had a male officer and a female officer (as was usual for them) and it was a husband / wife team (as was usual for them) and it worked quite well.

        Reply
    • Though I can’t comment on a theology of Mary in the Catholic Church, the church from the post-apostolic era decided to clamp down on women in public roles. We have examples of women in the first era of the church—AD 33-80s—who led and taught men. As the church became an increasingly “public” institution—no longer merely one or more informal house churches in a city—it began to adopt more hierarchical and definitively patriarchal models of leadership. Some of the fastest growing movements of churches in the last few decades have decided to rediscover these apostolic-era roots in a way that, wrongly or rightly, abandoned Millenia’s worth of post-apostolic ecclesial structures. Your date of AD 1944 is too late—there’s Margaret Fell the mother of Quakerism making a theological argument for female preachers, and there’s post AD 1904, Pentecostals, driven along by the Spirit and a desire to recapture the missional, gift-base of the New Testament released women to do things previously beyond their scope and with great effect. Following this Pentecostal fervency, in my city in the last two decades, at least two of the largest churches have been planted and led by women preachers and leaders.

      Reply
  19. Two possible confusions in the discussion:
    1. In what circumstances can we safely derive binding teaching from a narrative account?

    2. Are there not two meanings to “apostle” —when applied to the twelve (plus Paul) it meant an authoritative teacher—but otherwise it could simply mean one who was sent?

    Reply
    • Indeed. The whole Junia argument is wishful thinking. There is some doubt over gender, apostle may simply mean messenger. Or it may mean ‘well thought of by the apostles’. Any of these would more naturally align with other clear scriptures about male leadership. I think any sense of Junia (male or female) being an apostle seems bizarre,

      Reply
      • Nonsense. Julia’s apostleship is extremely well established. Have you read the book on her by J Eldon Epp? If not, then you are making a case based on ignorance!

        What reading have you done from the other side to your own?

        Reply
        • Not a lot of reading recently Ian. I have partly deliberately tried to make the Bible my main source. I read bit in the past from the other perspective and found as I’m finding with your arguments they stumbled before the bar of Scripture. The last I read was M Bird and found him wanting.

          In any case we can’t always be reading the opposition to reach at the truth. Paul speaks of those who were always searching and never arriving at a knowledge of the truth. It’s what happens when your always revisiting issues with an ‘open mind’. My mind was open a number of years ago. It is now established and I have yet to read anything that shakes it.

          Here is what Roms 16 says

          ‘’Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me’.
          Or
          ‘Salute Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and fellow-captives, who are of note among the apostles; who were also in Christ before me.

          It is hardly a great deal on which to build a case. I would suggest this text must bow to the teaching of other texts. The unlikely reading that Junia is an apostle should be jettisoned in the face of the rest of Scripture. Cults build on dodgy interpretations. We don’t want to be like them.

          My case is not based on ignorance but based on the text. It also is based on others I have read over the years. I find it tragic that you have to appeal to books to establish your position. If an issue like this can’t be proved in a few words by you on a blog then it can’t be proved.

          Again and again others have presented counter arguments and you have ignored them. I find that telling.

          I wish to be generally supportive of you for you are fighting your own fight against Anglican liberalism and unbelief. Perhaps our different journeys play a part in our different outlooks. You are much more intelligent than me and in some areas of Scripture at least much more knowledgable. I want to learn from you and others. And I do learn. Yet I sometimes find views that appear to me to fly in the face of Scripture and I am at a loss to understand how you are convinced of its biblical veracity.

          Reply
          • I think there may be a misunderstanding here. Our article was not building a case; it was examining Andrew Wilson’s very interesting and beautifully written article ‘Beautiful Difference’ to see if his revised foundation for complementarianism was consistent with Scripture and concluding that it was not.
            For example, John Thomson’s comment refers to Romans 16:7 as “hardly a great deal on which to build a case”. But Wilson acknowledges in his article that Junia was an apostle, so her apostleship is common ground between us and it was not necessary for us to go into it.
            If readers are interested in the background evidence and reasoning relating to Junia, please see endnote 11.

      • Again, there seems to be no meeting of minds, the onus being on Ian to demonstrate his contention that Junia was an apostle (but he has declined). I too have not read the book by Eldon Epp, who apparently wrote a whole book on a single verse, so I am likewise ignorant. But logically the difference of opinion must have to do with how to understand Rom 16:7, which the ESV translates: ‘Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They (οἵτινές = who) are well known to (ἐν) the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.’ Here the apostles would refer to the twelve (I Cor 15:5-9). The preposition ἐν here literally means ‘among’. Those of Ian’s persuasion, I infer, understand ‘apostles’ in the light of the preposition to signify a much wider group. They interpret: ‘Andronicus and Junia are well known among their peers, viz. among the group who are acknowledged to be apostles.’ You decide which is the better reading. The two were in Christ before Paul, so perhaps the issue hangs on the scope of the term ‘apostle’ in Acts 1:26, 2:43, 4:33, 4:36 etc. In I Cor 9:1 Paul implies that a prerequisite for being an apostle is that the person have seen the Lord, consistent with Acts 8:1 and 8:14 that indicate that the apostles were centred in Jerusalem. Andronicus and Junia lived in Rome at the time Paul wrote his letter, and their names were Roman, though Paul says they were Jews. Is there reason to think that some Jewish converts were exercising an apostolic ministry in Rome before Peter and Paul came to the city as apostles? Also, does it really make sense for Paul to stress that Andronicus and Junia were well known as apostles if in fact they weren’t and his readers had to be told?

        According to Ian, a lot hinges on the question, and it’s not a matter of two interpretations be possible. He is right, and you are wrong.

        Reply
        • I am glad that you at least acknowledge Junia was a female.

          The academic consensus is that she was an apostle. The ESV which you quote relies on the work of two complementarian scholars—Wallace and Burer if I recall—who wrote an article that was used to justify the ESV translation that opted for: “Junia was highly esteemed by the apostles” and therefore not one of the apostles. But the claim of these scholars (and thus the ESV translation of the verse) has not withstood the principle of peer review. After examining the database and analyzing the vocabulary and grammar, textual scholars like Linda Belleville, Eldon Epp, and Richard Bauckham quickly refuted this claim, demonstrating that it is far more convincing to take the verse to mean that Junia was both a woman and an apostle, in line with the understanding of the early church.

          So compelling are their arguments that even the leading complementarian Tom Schreiner who had earlier taken this view finally admitted that she was a female and an apostle. In the 1995 “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” (p221) he disputes any certainty that Junia is an apostle, while in the 2005 “Two Views of Women in Ministry” (ch. 1) he comes to agree with the majority scholarship. Similarly in his review of Philip Payne’s book “One in Christ” he agrees with Payne: “Junia was almost certainly a woman, and Paul identifies her as an apostle.” He is not alone—other top complementarian scholars who concur are Douglas Moo in his commentary in his Romans (p. 923) and Köstenberger in “God’s Design for Man and Woman” (p. 153).

          And let us not forget the Church Father John Chrysostom’s words in his ancient commentary on Romans 16: “To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles—just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.”

          You ask, “Is there reason to think that some Jewish converts were exercising an apostolic ministry in Rome before Peter and Paul came to the city as apostles?” There is—we know Peter’s and Paul’s journeys prior to AD 57 and they did not include Rome. The Roman church, however, consisted of many Jewish believers with Roman names (see Romans 16) before this time. Perhaps they had come to faith in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem before Paul’s conversion. Or perhaps they lived in Jerusalem in the earliest years of the church and relocated to Rome in the diaspora following Stephen’s death.

          Reply
          • Again Terran, thank you for a clear and helpful presentation of your case. I remain to be convinced that the field of scholarship cited is reliably objective. I am not encouraged by Eldon Epp’s apparent opposition to ant-feminism. On the other hand I do respect Moo and Schreiner. It seems to me impossible to speak with certainty about such a short and obscure reference.

            I am a biblically literate layman with a natural suspicion of the so-called experts. I want to be convinced by proof from within Scripture especially when I am being asked to believe something that seems to me to jar with the plenary teaching of scripture. The academy is not without its biases.

            I would want everyone to base their beliefs on what they see in Scripture and where (like Junia) there is little said and what is said is open to interpretation I’d advice against constructing any significant theology. I don’t think on the day of judgement it will cut any ice to say I just listened to the academy and believed it must be right.

            On this matter I will follow the biblical injunction ‘lay hands suddenly on no man. Don’t be a partaker in another man’s sin.’

          • And so the debate rumbles on, one recent contribution on the other side of the fence being Esther Yue L Ng’s in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (2020). The title of her article ends by asking “So what?” A good question, I think.

            As with Priscilla and Aquila, Andronicus and Junia are mentioned as a husband and wife pair. Biblical teaching is that the male and female in a marriage are one flesh. Their very creation suggests unity: ‘God created the man in his own image … male and female he created them.’ Why focus on Junia to the exclusion of Andronicus? Whatever they are doing in the service of the Lord, they are doing it as a pair.

            If ‘apostle’ is to be interpreted in a wider sense than denoting one of the twelve, what is an apostle? Someone sent, whether by God or by a church community, to communicate the gospel – the good news that in Jesus God offers free forgiveness of sins when they come before him in judgement – to people who have not heard it. Women are as much authorised and as well able as men to communicate that message, and – assuming your reading of Rom 16:7 – they typically do that together with their husbands, the perfect team. As Ian’s post on Luke 10 mentions (the sending out of the seventy), Jesus sends his trainees out in twos.

            It is easy to have strong, morally fervent views on this subject sitting in an armchair. What matters is that the gospel is proclaimed (Phil 1:18). Are we not being ‘merely human’ (I Cor 3:4) in this factionalism?

          • John Thomson, you’re right, we can’t reach complete certainty about Junia. But we do attain strong probability, which in the study of ancient texts, is enough. Again, Bartlett and Paul are in agreement with Andrew Wilson about this.

            Steven Robinson, I do believe you may softened. You sound like you are at least open to Junia’s apostleship, but now explain it as (1) a result of her mutual calling with her husband or (2) a kind of post-ascension apostleship (i.e. wider than the Twelve).

            If it is (1) then are you suggesting that women can lead alongside men as long as they are married to one of the men?

            But I’d like to discuss (2)—which essentially is an attempt to “play down” the apostolic role. In my previous comment I say that Tom Schreiner admits she is an apostle. But he does something similar to you. He writes: “the word ‘apostles’ here probably refers to ‘church planters’ or ‘missionaries’ and so does not place Junia and Andronicus at the same level as the Twelve or Paul.”

            But Schreiner (and you?) seems to not have studied the biblical data sufficiently. Though the word “apostle” means sent one, there are three types of “apostles” in the New Testament.

            There’s the type-one apostle, the Twelve whom Jesus chose while he was still on the earth.

            Then there’s the type-two apostle. This refers to the wider circle of apostles, including Paul, Barnabas and James, whom Jesus may raise up and send out now that he is in heaven. Almost all the references to apostles in the New Testament fit into these two usages, though by the time Romans is written, a few decades into the story of the church, “the apostles” no longer refers to the Twelve, but to the wider group. This was the way Paul typically used the term.

            Finally, there’s the type-three apostle, those selected and sent out by a particular church on a significant errand, notably that of being a courier of a financial gift. In only two places in the New Testament, the word is used to describe a person that a local church may send out with a special task of representing the church to someone or to another church: the Philippian church sends Epaphroditus as a “sent one” to comfort and provide for Paul, while several churches each select and send someone to help carry a large financial gift to the Jerusalem church —the NIV translates the word here as “representatives.”

            So, which does Paul refer to when he says that Junia is one of “the apostles”? It obviously can’t be the type-one apostles whom Paul elsewhere names as “the Twelve.” And they are almost certainly not mere type-three representatives of churches on a special errand. We know this because in the two places Paul uses the term in the sense of a sent representative, he qualifies it with possessive pronouns: Epaphroditus is “your apostle” while the money-carriers are “apostles of the churches.” In contrast, a type-two apostle is not merely a representative of any local church—they are sent by Christ himself. That Paul simply calls the pair “apostles” indicates that they are not merely sent by a church on an errand. Neither Epaphroditus nor the money-carriers risk imprisonment by doing those tasks, whereas Junia and her husband had been imprisoned—most likely for doing the work of a type-two apostle. Like Paul, they are commissioned directly by Jesus Christ to do high-cost groundbreaking ministry, including preaching the gospel as you say, but so much more: planting and establishing churches, setting the doctrine of these churches, and raising and ordaining pastors.

            Though Paul’s apostleship is one-of-a-kind within the wider circle of apostles, because he also writes Scripture much like some of the Twelve do, nonetheless he uses language that identifies the apostolic couple with himself. They are “fellow Jews.” They have been in prison “with” him.

            We wonder how Schreiner’s calling Junia merely a “church planter” or “missionary” makes her something less than Paul, who was precisely that. In fact, Paul uses language to express that, in his view, Junia is his peer. What else can he mean by her being “outstanding [as in, top of the class] amongst the apostles,” which was a group that includes himself. At least part of what so impresses Paul about Junia is that she seemed to have been doing apostolic work longer than he had. As he says, she was “in Christ before” he was. Thus, any attempt to make Junia something less than Paul runs counter to Paul’s attempt to honour her as something like, indeed even more than, himself.
            We conclude: Junia was a woman, and she was an apostle—a type-two apostle at that.

            And now your question—So What?

            What does this all means?

            Though most modern church denominations do not recognize the ministry of apostleship, the New Testament says in two places that it is the most crucial ministry there is. In fact Paul even uses the word “first” when describing the way the Holy Spirit establishes more churches in the world. He says, “God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.”

            This elicits a simple question: if Romans 16:7 names a woman who was an apostle, thus part of the most senior, crucial, foundational, and authoritative ministry in the world, would it be a problem for a woman to lead in any lower level of ministry, including a local church leader? The answer so contradicts the complementarian belief that women cannot exercise high authority in the church, that we now understand the lengths its scholars seem to go to, to bring into question Junia’s gender and apostleship.

            3) Priscilla (Acts 18:18-28), said to have protected the nascent Ephesian church from inadequate teaching. She and her husband had a private word with Apollos, following which the brothers (sic) encouraged his ministry thus corrected. But it was actually Paul who, after Apollos had left, put the nascent church on the right path.
            4) Junia, who the authors categorically say was an apostle (Romans 16:7). This is debatable and, as I discussed above, unlikely. The categorical assertion is misleading.
            The authors go on to say:
            5) In biblical usage, the word for “helper” (‘ēzer), which is applied to the Woman, seems to carry a connotation of “protector” or “deliverer”. This is incorrect; as per the dictionary, the word means ‘help(er)’ pure and simple. It is especially incorrect ad loc., Gen 2:20. Eve was not created in order to be Adam’s “protector” or “deliverer”.
            6) Women were commanded by God to co-rule with men (Genesis 1:28). This is also incorrect. The biblical text refers to ruling/having dominion over the animals, not other human beings.
            7) Gal 3:28. For the reasons indicated, this cannot be taken as a proof text for egalitarianism.
            8) I Tim 2:12, interpreted as ‘prohibiting right teaching by women rather than as prohibiting false teaching by women’. As is evident from the surrounding verses, this is not what the text says, and is ironic in view of the false teaching the authors are promoting.
            In view of the above I don’t see how we can truthfully agree that ‘they are simply setting out the cases for the role of women in an objective way’.

          • Sorry, since I try write my responses on a word doc when I cut and pasted the above comment, somehow I included at the end of it something else you or someone else had earlier written that I had responded to! So everything from “3) Priscilla….” shouldn’t have been included—and indeed, I mostly disagree with 🙂 Goodness, I sure wish I could edit my comment. Anyway, all signs of us being, as you say, “merely human” 🙂

          • What also troubles me is the privileging of tenuous interpretations re phoebe and Junia over texts such as 1 Tim 2 which we are told are obscure. This seems to me to stand Scripture on its head.

            Given the first exposition of Junia and Rom 16:7 outside Roms is over 300 years later I think dogmatism is ill-advised. John Chrysostom, while understanding Junia to be an apostle, does not see this in conflict with biblical patriarchy. He writes,

            “In what sense then does he say, ‘I suffer not a woman to teach?’ (1 Tim 2:12.) He means to hinder her from publicly coming forward (1 Cor 14:35), and from the seat on the bema [i.e. the pulpit platform] not from the word of teaching. Since if this were the case, how would he have said to the woman that had an unbelieving husband, ‘How knowest thou, O woman, if thou shalt save thy husband?’ (1 Cor 7:16.) Or how came he to suffer her to admonish children?…How came Priscilla to instruct even Apollos? It was not then to cut in sunder private conversing for advantage that he said this, but that before all, and which it was the teacher’s duty to give in the public assembly; or again, in case the husband be believing and thoroughly furnished, able also to instruct her. When she is the wiser, then he does not forbid her teaching and improving him.”’

            A woman may each privately but not publicly. I trust those willing to lean on his assessment that Junia is an apostle (whatever that may mean in this instance) are also willing to adopt his patriarchy.

          • I have not ‘softened’, and I was not hard in the first place. On the particular Rom 16:7 point, I am agnostic, not having studied the literature to which you have referred. As I say, the debate rumbles on, and as John says, there is something unreal about so much being made of such an equivocal statement by those with an egalitarian axe to grind. It’s particularly unreal when the majority of the debaters are retirement age, just as in the Church at large.

            Yes, Paul says that God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, etc. If there are female apostles doing their utmost today to make the gospel known, good on them. I only wish there were. Likewise with female prophets, workers of miracles (works of power) and workers of healing. I long for the Spirit to be allowed to work in this way; but see precious little sign of it. I feel uneasy about turning this into a theological debating point, and uneasy about your trying to use Rom 16:7 in a way that, to my mind, borders on sophistry. Since I am non-committal as to the meaning of ἐπίσημοι ἐν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις, I am in no position to answer your question about tiers of apostles. After Paul lists the various roles, with apostles at the top, he goes on, “And yet I will show you are more excellent way. … Love.” That is the emphasis in Eph 5:22-33, the key passage, with particular stress on the man’s responsibility to love. All this obsessing about leadership and hierarchy – it’s ungodly (Matt 20:25f), and I’ve had enough.

            ‘Whoever would be first among you must be your slave.’

  20. I certainly don’t recommend discarding Lewis’s ideas on this (and Eldredge’s etc) before digesting them. E.g. in That Hideous Strength (or Wild at Heart).
    If God is overwhelmingly masculine, as it were, then that explains a lot in Scripture.
    Do men need an adventure/quest?
    Do women love to be chased?
    What is women’s attitude to strong men (in the proper sense of strong)?
    Has romance got better or worse since the distinctions between men and women have been artificially confused?

    Reply
      • Completely incorrect. There are 4 billion females. The answer is therefore ‘Yes for some, no for others’, not as you said.
        The ones who do are classified by you as nonpeople.
        Which we will all reject. They are real people with dignity.

        Reply
        • Completely incorrect.
          Women don’t want to be ‘chased’, unless they have been psychologically abused into a state of submission and low self esteem.
          Women are not prey (well they are, but that is a tragic consequence of abuse).

          Reply
          • Women don’t want to be ‘chased’, unless they have been psychologically abused into a state of submission and low self esteem.
            Women are not prey (well they are, but that is a tragic consequence of abuse).

            You seem to be confusing ‘chased’ with ‘hunted’.

          • Exactly. The definition shows that ‘pursue’ is a different thing from ‘hunt’. Pursuing is just running after. Whereas hunting is running after with a view to devouring etc. If you prefer the word ‘pursue’ to ‘chase’ it is all the same to me, but there is not a hint of intent to devour in the word ‘chase’.

          • If you prefer the word ‘pursue’ to ‘chase’ it is all the same to me, but there is not a hint of intent to devour in the word ‘chase’.

            Indeed; all being chased means is that something is sought after, desired. We speak of ‘chasing riches’ and ‘chasing fame’.

            While I dare say no woman wants to be hunted, which of us — male or female — doesn’t want to be desired and sought after?

            And of course anyone who thinks that being chased can never be fun must have forgotten all those hours they spent playing tig and British bulldogs.

          • Christopher

            It’s horribly asymmetric and potentially abusive.
            Men control and women submit.
            Thousands of years of dangerous patriarchy read as the norm.
            Someone has posted here about the ideal household – children and wives submitting. That ideology has led to centuries of paedophilia and spousal abuse.

          • It’s horribly asymmetric and potentially abusive.

            Everyone note that Penelope Cowell Doe has realised that she has lost the argument, so is shifting the goalposts.

          • S

            You try so hard to ‘win’. Especially when you are abandoning the argument because you haven’t followed the thread, or read the argument or the research or the texts.
            It really doesn’t matter. No one has read everything or is au fait with every theological tradition.
            But, trying to win by shaming others when you aren’t following the argument is just a bit pathetic.
            Enjoy your Sunday afternoon. I’m going to lie on the sun.

          • Especially when you are abandoning the argument because you haven’t followed the thread, or read the argument or the research or the texts.

            I’ve never abandoned an argument in my life — it’s one of my least appealing features — but do please tell us what argument, research or texts would make it so you haven’t confused ‘chased’ with ‘hunted’.

            But, trying to win by shaming others when you aren’t following the argument is just a bit pathetic.

            I followed the argument fine. You just confused ‘chased’ with ‘hunted’.

          • Look up the per-head prevalence of those 2 horrible things *within* intact families, and come back to me.
            I hope you are not really lying *on* the sun, might be a bit scorching.

          • The whole point about chasing is that it is fun. Most popular games revolve round it at a certain age (it/he/catch as catch can, What’s The Time Mr Wolf? Grandmother’s Footsteps, British Bulldog, Please Mr Crocodile, Mother May I? and so on).

            Who would begrudge that? Is innocent pleasure something to be stamped down? The phrase Moaning Minnies springs to mind.

          • Christopher

            I don’t know what the two horrible things are. Something to do with sex, I assume.
            But you are right! I was lying in the sun, not on it! And very pleasant it was too.

          • I don’t know what the two horrible things are. Something to do with sex, I assume.

            I think he may be referring to ‘paedophilia and spousal abuse’ — much more common (about five times more common in the former case, yes?) when step-families are involved.

          • S
            I’m sure you haven’t abandoned an argument. You seem pretty persistent. But also obtuse.
            Chase has synonyms of which pursue and hunt are two. Even if it doesn’t have quite the menace of hunt it portrays an asymmetric relationship in which women are the chased and men are the chasers. Potentially abusive, patriarchal, sub Christian.

          • Chase has synonyms of which pursue and hunt are two.

            You should look up what ‘synonym’ means because you clearly don’t know. ‘Hunt’ and ‘chase’ are not synonyms. Their meanings as similar, but they are not the same.

          • I also wonder what going to a public school like Harrow teaches someone like Christopher about the place of women in society,

          • I also wonder what going to a public school like Harrow teaches someone like Christopher about the place of women in society,

            Bzzt

            Bulverism, fifteen-love.

          • Bulverism yes. And also thinking that because you know less than one percent of someone’s life you can comment intelligently about it.

            I was very counter cultural at Harrow. And I left 38.5 years ago. During which length of time nothing whatsoever has happened (ahem). Nor needed to happen, since I was the most atypical Harrovian anyone can imagine. And there are fantastic things about the school and it was by far the best choice for me, while some aspects in 1980 were beyond appalling, through no fault of the school leaders.

          • Christopher

            Paedophilia and spousal abuse?
            Yes, they are truly vile and are the rotten fruits of thousands of years of patriarchy (itself a consequence of the Fall).

          • Actually I had no idea you had been to Harrow. But thanks for telling us all.
            I was simply making an intelligent guess based on your patriarchal attitudes and your particularly passionate defence of the dark force that was Iwerne.
            The very idea that a formative experience represents less than 1% of a persons life doesn’t say much for either the education received or for self awareness. Possibly both.
            Bulverism was another of C S Lewis’ ideas that didn’t stand up to very much scrutiny.

          • What flaw is there in Bulverism? How is it refuted? Professional philosophers are accustomed to listing it in lists of standard fallacies.

          • Yes, they are truly vile and are the rotten fruits of thousands of years of patriarchy

            Hang on, you reckon that there was no paedophilia and no spousal abuse until there’d been thousands of years of patriarchy? You think that before there’d been thousands of years of patriarchy humans lived without paedophilia or spousal abuse?

            Seriously?

      • I do think, however, the vast majority off woman want a husband who provides, protects and nurtures. She also wants him to ‘lead’. I don’t mean dominate or insist on his own way but have values and aspirations that she admires and can contribute to.

        Reply
        • I disagree. That may have been the case in previous years, when women were less educated than men, but I think the prevailing view now is that marriage is a partnership of equals. Women today simply do not want to be subordinate to men.

          Reply
          • Hi David
            What is the relevance of the fact that something is prevailing. We all knew already that it is prevailing, and you knew that we knew; but the discussion is not about what is prevailing (about which no discussion would be needed) but what is beneficial, and what deserves to be prevailing.
            Yes, most women appreciate a man who takes responsibility, leads, including even on the dance floor. How can a partnership work without distinct dovetailing roles. Just imagine if both dance partners led, or if both played second fiddle.
            You cannot give any relevance to what is prevailing when family outcomes are so much worse now than 60 years ago. What is relevant is what prevails in healthy good-outcome cultures.

          • Women never did want to be subordinate to men

            I remember hearing of one wife who informed her husband-to-be — quite against his will — that she was going to promise to obey him.

            Was not quite sure what to make of that one.

          • I think on paper it is a partnership of equals but in reality women want a husband who will ‘husband’… care for and nurture. They want one who is manly enough to take the initiative in many areas. They want someone they can look up to and respect.

            I have been watching various podcasts about young couples (non Christians) who live on a sailboat or are building a house. I have been struck how the patriarchy dynamic is unconsciously playing out in their relationship.

      • S
        The only ‘time’ free from the error of patriarchy was in Eden before the Fall.
        Do let us know if you find another patriarchy-free era.

        Reply
        • The only ‘time’ free from the error of patriarchy was in Eden before the Fall.

          Is this meant to be in response to:

          ‘Hang on, you reckon that there was no paedophilia and no spousal abuse until there’d been thousands of years of patriarchy?’

          If so let me remind you what you wrote that I was responding to:

          ‘Yes, they are truly vile and are the rotten fruits of thousands of years of patriarchy’

          That is, you didn’t write that paedophilia and spousal accuser where the fruits of ‘patriarchy’. You specifically wrote that they were the fruits of ‘thousands of years of patriarchy’.

          So pointing out that patriarchy began after the Fall doesn’t get you off the hook at all, because you wrote that it took ‘thousands of years’ of patriarchy to bright forth the fruits of paedophilia and spousal abuse.

          In other words according to what you wrote, there were thousands of years of patriarchy before paedophilia and spousal abuse were brought into existence.

          Do you really believe that nonsense? Or are you — I’m beginning to suspect — just very careless in your use of language?

          Reply
  21. Hi everyone, I have found it very interesting to read this closely-argued article and a number of your your comments. I think I am right in saying that the founders of Newfrontiers were Bretheren by background, but influenced by the Charismatic movement. Accordingly, into ‘Newfrontiers’ they brought strongly-held tenets, based on 1 Corinthians, of male headship and women being silent in church. However, a prominent Newfrontiers leader of my acquaintance maintained that not only is complementarianism the Biblical way, but that it also strongly taps into certan aspects of British culture, chimes with some British ideas about the ideal family set-up, and thus promotes Christian mission. So his arguments in favour of complementarianism were both theological/theoretical and cultural/pragmatic.

    Reply
    • Thanks. The difficulty with this is that English readers assume ‘head’ is a metaphor for ‘leader’ or ‘one with authority’ as in ‘head teacher’. But head did not have that metaphorical meaning in first century Greek.

      Reply
      • There may be some of us who use the terms interchangably while accepting completely that Biblically the term is headship.
        But it i suggested that the primary meaning does not come primarily from 1st Century Greek, but the meaning that the is the intention of the author (s) in the context of church as disconuation yet continuation of OT believers as they gather together in worship and fellowship, as God’s house( hold).
        The question then becomes, how is that headship to be practiced, wisely? Or pastored?

        Reply
        • You are also at liberty to question the assertion that ‘head did not have that metaphorical meaning in first century Greek’ (scholarly browbeating is best avoided). As you imply, the assertion is not supported by the New Testament, which is after all a first century Greek text, and generally the meaning of a metaphor is dictated by the person using it rather than some intrinsic or acquired property of the word itself.

          It seems odd to me to suggest that when Paul says that the head of Christ is God, he is not indicating the same subordination that Jesus constantly stresses in John’s gospel. Or that when Paul says that Christ is the head of the Church (Eph 1:22, 4:15) he does not mean that Christ has authority over the Church.

          The Church is the Bride of Christ. As such we are all to practise the female virtue of submission and obedience towards him (I Pet 3:5-6, Eph 5:24), by honouring, accepting as authoritative and obeying what he, the Word of God (Rev 19:13), says to his Bride (John 15:10). He is our husband. While I am aware of its prevalence in the body politic, am I the only one to find the implied belittlement of this virtue deeply disturbing, spiritually?

          Reply
          • No. You’re right Stephen. Why is the virtue of submission so abhorrent? It is right at the heart of Christianity. Christ was submissive and we are to model his submission. There is a sense in which we all submit to each other but there is also a structural sense where wives submit to husbands, children submit to parents and employees submit to employers, No doubt the dynamics of submission vary in each case but submission is nevertheless required.

    • Meri, yes, a number of the “house church” groupings that began around 50 years ago were started by charismatic ex-Brethren people like Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallis, Terry Virgo (founder of New Frontiers), and many others whose names I can’t remember right now. There are two good books on the movement: Apostolic Networks in Britain by William Kay and Restoring the Kingdom by Andrew Walker. And yes, these groupings continued the Brethren view of male leadership. I had some loose connections with them in the 1980s and remember they were also keen on women wearing head coverings – a related sign of their Brethren heritage.

      I also agree that British society was strongly patriarchal, resulting from both formal restrictions on women, but also deeply-held cultural norms. I think all churches reflected this – even those which ordained women were still male-dominated. However, our society has changed and patriarchy is now strongly rejected. It no longer has any pragmatic or cultural value, let alone theological basis.

      Reply
    • And perhaps the more egalitarian understanding flows from St John’s College and a less reformed/conservative strand of anglican evangelicalism.

      Reply
  22. This is a tricky subject at the personal level because many of us within the Christian family will be closely acquainted with women (and men!) who have such strong views about it that opposing points, however objectively and sincerely argued, are taken to be driven by bigotry.

    But surely it’s unsatisfactory to approach this specifically Christian issue from a ready-baked secular assumption which is currently driven by feminist ideology. Christians shouldn’t care either about how this looks or how people feel about it: they should care a) about what God’s intention might be, b) about how well or badly things work out in practice (which itself may well be an indication of God’s intentions).

    The one thing we should all be able to agree on in the Christian context is that it has nothing to do with justice for women: leadership is just another gift in a whole list of gifts, and it’s no guarantee of a better experience (greater fulfilment?) than what any other gift offers. But we have to be honest enough to admit that the one thing leadership (in general) does bring is kudos – a high place in the silently acknowledged hierarchy of worth that nearly all human beings take seriously when assessing each other. And so it’s a powerful driver of ambition. If Christians are not able to jettison that sense of a hierarchy of worth amongst themselves, their minds have yet to comprehend the radical difference between earthly values and those of the kingdom of God (where the washing of feet was about much more than a once yearly public parading of virtue).

    Perhaps we should be pragmatic and decide that the argument must come down to the Gamaliel principle: does complementarity work better or worse than men and women having equal access to all the various God-given gifts and roles. But do we dare look at outcomes objectively? Is there a place for results based policy and, if so, would that better chime with New Testament (early church teaching and experience) teaching, and allow for a particular role to be attached to one sex only? And this last point would mean that even if some women undoubtedly make better leaders than some men (or are at least equal with the best male leaders), the overall result of having a lot of female leaders is worse overall, and so for God’s purposes to be best accomplished it is better not to allow women to become leaders. It could be a perfectly logical conclusion but it would also be utterly at odds with today’s Western culture. Should that bother Christians?

    Reply
    • Don

      I wouldn’t say leadership is as much a gift as a responsibility. In the church it is an office one can desire if qualified (the qualities are mainly moral plus an aptitude to teach, not necessarily publicly).

      In marriage it is simply a duty. However, a lading husband may wisely recognise his wife’s superior gifts in various ways. He may recognise her wisdom and his leading will mean taking her wisdom on board.

      I do tend to agree with those who say that women leadership in the church will mean men will simply opt out of church. Men don’t like matriarchies. I suspect that will stand good throughout the generations.

      Reply
    • I think I would rather stick with what Scripture says. The texts need debate, and some appear to point in different directions. But when the basic facts are agreed, actually things are quite clear, viz:

      . there is no suggestion of hierarchy in Gen 1 or 2
      . ‘head’ is not a metaphor for ‘one with authority over’
      . Paul is arguing in 1 Cor 11 for women to exercise the authoritative ministry of prophecy without head coverings (see v 15)
      . the language of 1 Cor 14.34 is odd, and we need to account for the apparent contradiction with what has gone before
      . authentein does not mean ‘exercise authority’ in any normal or neutral sense
      . Junia was considered to be an apostle by Paul.

      All these are, I believe, well established in the literature.

      Reply
      • Ian

        It depends what literature you choose to privilege. I certainly don’t think they are established from Scripture.

        1. There is very clear hierarchy in Gen 2: Adam created first; Eve created from Adam and for Adam (a helper). Adam naming Eve. Adam given instruction about forbidden fruit and Adam called when hiding from God (gen 3).
        2. Grudem made the case that ‘head’ meant authority. When Christ is head over al things (Eph 1) it is not source but rule that is in view. In any case I suspect source carries authority intrinsic to it. A parent’s authority over his child is because he is the source of his child.
        3. Paul is allowing the woman to pray and prophesy only if she wears a covering.
        4. The language of 1 Cor 14 is clear and we must adjust our theology to it.
        5. Authentein does mean exercise authority or try to exercise authority which is forbidden. She must submit and must remain quiet. She is forbidden to teach for creational reasons outlined above.
        6 Your case for Junia is very weak. I have mentioned other more probable readings above. In any case to build an edifice including Junia as a brick would make the structure very weak.

        I really struggle to understand how you can dismiss these points which are plain in Scripture and were the conviction of theologians for thousands of years. Do we really think we have insight in this issue which they not only missed but got decisively wrong.

        I have not kept abreast with the most recent literature but when I did read more extensively the egalitarian (non-hierarchical) view was very much in a minority and the scholarly consensus was patriarchal.

        You say you would rather stick to what Scripture says but in my view that is precisely what you are not doing.

        What do you make of the dominant emphasis on male priority that I and others have outlined above from Genesis through to the NT. You take the exception and make it the rule. All judges were male other than Deborah.

        And what of the language of submission that is crystal clear in Eph 5; 1 Pet 3, 1 Tim 2

        And of course what of Paul’s appeal to creation and the fall for support to his instruction for women not to teach.

        Ian, I can honestly say I have no intrinsic prejudice against women preaching etc. It is Scripture that shapes my objections. I have tried to see the alternative position but for the life of me I am baffled. I simply can’t see it and can’t see how a man like feel your arguments are valid. I can’t see how you can airbrush the various texts and words that I and others have presented. It distresses me.

        Reply
        • Best would be to count how many texts say A and how many B – then we can get some sense of objectivity.

          Reply
        • There is also, of course, Phoebe the Deacon and patron of Paul.
          I know Ian doesn’t agree with me on this, but she was the first commentator on the Letter to the Romans

          Reply
        • John
          I agree. Also, as I have posted many times, the context of Ephesians 5:22-24 establishes beyond doubt that kephale means authority, and the whole passage (contra Ian Paul) exhorts husbands to model themselves on Christ and wives to model themselves on the Church.

          Phil Almond

          Reply
        • “There is very clear hierarchy in Gen 2”—not true. Even John Chrysostom and the older Martin Luther deny this.

          “Grudem made the case that ‘head’ meant authority.” Kephale was used metaphorically by ancient writers to mean authority, source or most commonly pre-eminence. The interpretive challenge is to discern in each ancient passage which meaning is being used. So, in Ephesians 1 it may refer to Jesus as head, but in Ephesians 4 it may refer to Jesus as source.

          “Paul is allowing the woman to pray and prophesy only if she wears a covering.”—wearing a head covering had to do with shame and honour, not submission and authority. 1 Cor 11:10 does not in the original language refer to a woman’s “sign of authority” but to a woman’s authority over her own head.

          “The language of 1 Cor 14 is clear and we must adjust our theology to it”—yes, very clearly, three times in fact, it says a woman must be silent in church. I don’t know of a church that practices that.

          “Authentein does mean exercise authority or try to exercise authority which is forbidden”— there is no scholarly consensus that the word authentein is always used as a positive action in antiquity. In the first and second editions of the primary complementarian book on the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:12, Women in The Church, Baldwin was tasked with writing the chapter on the meaning of the word, and concluded that, depending on context, it may mean “rule or reign, or control or dominate, or act independently, or instigate.” With regard to 1 Timothy 2:12, he adds that “the meanings to control or dominate … are entirely possible,” and “to assume authority over” “could be appropriate.” Interestingly, his chapter has now been removed in the third edition and replaced by the work of Wolters who claims that authentein almost never has a negative meaning —a conclusion far more supportive of complementarian preferences. Yet Tom Schreiner admits that the word may sometimes be used negatively. Ptolemy uses the word in his Tetrabiblos (AD 127-148) to speak of one planet controlling another planet—this has an undeniable negative nuance: most scholars I have read, including Baldwin and Grudem, translate it here as “dominate.” Though it is true that the church in the post-Constantine era (in the 4th century onwards), often came to use the word authentein positively, meanings of authentein from so many centuries later are not entirely relevant to this discussion. Indeed, one problem with Baldwin’s and Wolters’ studies (as with Grudem’s word studies on kephalē) is that almost all examples surveyed occur centuries after the New Testament period, and thus are of limited use in assessing the meaning of the word when 1 Timothy was written. Philip Payne summarises his findings on the historical development of the word: “The only meaning of authentein that fits with 1 Timothy 2:12 and is also established to have been written before Paul’s day is “assume authority.” To “dominate” appears as a meaning shortly after Paul’s day, while “exercise authority” is a meaning that can only be confirmed much later.” The first confirmed examples, says Payne, of this come in the fourth century in the post-Constantine era. And yet the negative use of the word continued too—the Church Father Chrysostom prohibited husbands from authentein’ing their wives.

          Reply
          • Thank you for a full response.

            Perhaps you can explain why Paul refers to Adam’s priority in creation as a reason why women were not to take upon themselves the authority to teach. And why he bases the issue of headship in 1 Cor 11 on the creational observation ‘ ‘for man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. ‘

          • John Thomson, I assume you were asking me. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 11 deserves a fuller treatment—both Bartlett and I do so in our books, Bartlett even more thoroughly than mine on this. What I will say is that Paul seems to use Genesis 2 in both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians to address women who already were or were in danger of acting dishonourably to men. Paul reminds them of Genesis 2 in which Eve is made from Adam and for Adam (or, said another way, Adam was formed first then Eve)—in other words, he reminds them that Eve and her daughters have their identity and purpose intricately bound up in Adam and his sons. In the case of 1 Corinthians this gives weight to the importance of apparel in women. In the case of 1 Timothy it confronts women who were sinfully influenced by the false teaching to be dictatorial towards men. The application of the principle stands today—Christian women who turn against or treat with contempt godly Christian men violate something of the theology in the garden, which enlists all of us, men and women, to a true complementarity.

          • Thank you Terran. You are the first that has offered an explanation for these references by Paul. I have asked Ian frequently and been blanked.

            You give a reasonable explanation though if I’m reading you properly you stop short of recognising patriarchy. It is not simply some unruly women being a bit dismissive of some godly men in 1 Tim 2. Paul does not say the women were teaching what was false. It was the fact that they were teaching at all that he opposes. His command is unqualified – the women must learn in silence etc. The women by teaching were per se being unruly.

            Paul’s instruction in both 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 11 is founded not on apostolic decree (though that was his privilege) but on creation. It is the creational pattern that drives his teaching. He wishes the creational order to be honoured in the church even if it is ignored everywhere else.

            Thank you again.

          • John, see:
            https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/can-women-teach-part-iii/

            The verses in I Timothy offer ‘a corrective both to myths about Artemis, who was created first and only subsequently took a male consort, and possible misunderstandings of Paul’s own teaching.’

            Paul was addressing cultural issues that are no longer relevant or possible misunderstandings arising from the reading of another letter to another readership (he should have written another letter to address misunderstandings arising from his letter to Timothy). A similar approach is adopted in Ian’s commentary on Revelation, a book he believe only makes sense if you read it in the light of the Leto myth, the eruption of Vesuvius and a host of other antiquarian details.

      • But that’s the problem, the ‘basic facts’ are NOT agreed –

        – debateable, given that woman was made from man not made directly by God, which Paul states explicitly in 1 Cor 11. Genesis was written by someone (Moses?) when marriage was well established, and it may be inferred that any ancient reader of the text would understand Gen 2 as showing hierarchy, which is precisely what was practised within marriage.

        – debateable given that Jesus is ‘head’ of the church. If His headship doesnt imply authority, what on earth does it imply?

        – prophecy is a gift, not a ministry. And Im not sure how ‘authoritative’ it is given Paul’s instructions that words of prophecy need to be tested for validity. I think we are all aware of ‘prophecies’ given by individuals which are quite frankly nonsense and have done damage to individuals.

        – except that your ‘accounting’ is to dismiss the verses as not being by Paul! There may be legitimate manuscript evidence for such a stance, but given those verses continue to be in modern Bibles, there must also be manuscript evidence for keeping them, which is precisely why your view is debated amongst scholars.

        – debatable. But if we assume it means more like ‘exercising inappropriate authority’ perhaps Paul is still referring to it being inappropriate for women.

        – debatable based on the text.

        In summary, none of this is well established.

        Reply
  23. Hi Ian, I have a question about this footnote: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, 56.
    I must have a different edition from yours because I can’t see anything on page 56 about “husband of one wife.” Any chance you could provide a quotation?

    Reply
    • In RBMW p56, Piper and Grudem write: “3. Where in the Bible do you get the idea that only men should be the pastors and elders of the church?
      The most explicit texts relating directly to the leadership of men in the church are 1
      Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:34-36; 11:2-16. The chapters in this book on these
      texts will give the detailed exegetical support for why we believe these texts give abiding
      sanction to an eldership of spiritual men.”
      From this it appears that they do not rely on the list of qualifications in 1 Timothy 3. They do not regard 1 Timothy 3 as being an explicit text relating directly to leadership by men in the church.

      Reply
      • Plaes be consistent. A consistencey, Ian Paul seeks. Headship/ leadership?
        From the bit you cite,
        they do not say that Timonthy is irrelevant, not set out the reasons for not including Timothy, but rather than indulge in a scatter gun approach, merely set out the scriptures considered most explicit with considering necesary to set out a cumulative weight if all the text.
        It would be interstesting to,
        1 look at what Grudem says in his System atic Theology on Timothy
        2 find out how Piper oreaches Timothy
        3 what is the authoorial intent of Paul, bearing in mind the consistency across his textx that Ian is looking for, his background, rooted in OT scripture and culture and what mischief or error is he seeking to address and guard against and why? What are the plain meaning of the words understood by words of a feather, gather together.?
        4 Neither Grudem nor Piper are known for their employment if Biblical theology in looking at authorial intent, (though Piper is a strong supporter of the Golden Rule) whereas I’d argue the Paul’writing is shot-through with allusions, echoes imlications in his his authorial intent.

        Reply
        • You appear to have completely misunderstood this article. It is not a comprehensive argument for women excercising leadership; for that go to Andrew’s excellent book or my brief Grove booklet (have you read it?)

          This article is nothing more or less than a response to Andrew Wilson’s arguments in his article. You need to read that to understand ours.

          Reply
          • Ian,
            If that comment (was made to me (9:22 am) though I’m often slow on the uptake I haven’t * completely misunderstood the article* and neither have others. I read Wilson’s blog post near the time it was first posted.
            And I’ll be giving QC’s book a miss thanks for reasons I’ve commented on above, and not answering basic questions. I doubt that I’m his target audience either.
            What is remarkable is the CoE has already made its decision!
            Like Anton, I’m pleased to be out and not under its spiritual authority.
            And just as a slight aside, there seems to be very little female comment to your scripture articles and You Tube discussions. Is that of any significance in these discussions?
            Now I’ m home I really ought not to scroll up through the comments.

      • Thanks, Andrew! My edition/version of RBMW doesn’t have anything like this on or near page 56.

        I get why Piper and Grudem cite 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14, but 1 Cor 11 is a stretch. The men and women in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 are doing exactly the same things, praying and prophecying. The only difference is what’s on top of their actual heads.

        Reply
          • For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.

            Paul expressly ties in the head covering to creational and patriarchal considerations. Man (not woman here) is the image and glory of God while the woman is the glory of the man. This is not reciprocal. It is a creational deduction. Paul bases it on the creational drama that the woman was made from and for the man.

            The covering and uncovering are a reflection of this creational reality.

            I read Marg’s paper on headship. It falls down on the basis of the number of verses I already cited in both OT and NT where kaphale is used for leader The OT Septuagint references seem to me to be fairly indisputable. Moreover, the NT references where head is used in the context of authority seem to me to be plain (Sorry Marg).

            Since the context as shown involves hierarchies I think the most likely use of ‘head’ in the tiered ascendancy verses is that of leader. As I’ve said elsewhere however source also implies authority. Perhaps that is why both ideas (source and leader) may be present.

          • Paul expressly ties in the head covering to creational and patriarchal considerations. Man (not woman here) is the image and glory of God while the woman is the glory of the man.

            Do you have any idea what head coverings have to do with glory?

            And does this mean men shouldn’t wear hats at all? Not even bowlers?

      • Andrew or Ian, I wonder if later in the book Piper or Grudem, or another author, uses “husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3) as a disqualifier.

        Something for me to look into when I have time, unless you already know that they don’t.

        Reply
        • Some of the contributors to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood do rely on 1 Tim 3:2, even though Piper and Grudem do not, and Moo’s chapter on 1 Timothy 2 steers clear of it.
          Schreiner in chapter 11 p225 fn13 refers to it incidentally in a discussion of deacons (though by 2010 he had changed his mind, as per the reference in endnote 26 of our article).
          Poythress in chapter 13 p242 says that “Paul assumes” that elders are to be men when he describes them as “husband of one wife” (see also pp237-8, 241). He further argues that this is an absolute requirement because elders are (as he sees it) like fathers not mothers. This is similar to Wilson’s reasoning.
          Knight in chapter 20 p359 says that Paul describes elders and deacons in masculine terms, ie, the husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2, 12), and Knight sees this as meaning that elders and deacons must be men.
          However, none of them ventures into any relevant discussion of how the Greek language actually works. On Knight’s reasoning, the many parts of Paul’s letters which are addressed to “brothers” (masculine) would be to men only.

          Reply
  24. More and more I’m becoming uneasy with the timing of this second part article, with the imbalance and intensity, vigor with which the case is being prosecuted against a blog article, written by Andrew Wilson, not recently either, and with Andrew Wilson not being in “court room” to respond, even if he wanted to. And to refer to a book length prosecution, (from 2019) against a blog article is far from even handed. An abuse of *court* and courtly, process I’d suggest. Justice is neither being done, nor seen to being done. Shabby, I’m sad to say is my conclusion.
    And if this is the way of scholarship, it is being brought into contempt, in my view and I glad I’m not and never have been part of it. It is even more adversarial than the law.

    Reply
    • Sorry Geoff—this comment is certainly outside the spirit of my comments policy—and I think it is a very odd accusation.

      This is hardly a new issue, and it is hardly expressed in a single article. This is a scholarly approach; I have never hard of someone delaying e.g. a journal article ‘because the conversation partner is on sabbatical’. There is a strange, almost paranoid, defensiveness here. I wonder why?

      There is no rush for Andrew Wilson to respond—if he even wants to. He might or might not feel the need to.

      A little less defensiveness please.

      Reply
      • Ditto Ian.
        I’m certainly not paranoid nor defensive, but speak as a former lawyer, not as a theologian, nor scholar. And in those terms if you think it out of bounds so be it.
        I may be drawing a wrong conclusion as I I’m on phone, not at home, but I don’t see the QC answering questions on his method of deducing the authorial intentions of the writers of scripture. I been in churches where women have preached/ taught and there is a distinct difference, not only in tone, but content.
        And as you know, male headship has not been the solely part of reformed but also Roman Catholicism and large parts of the Charismatic church, where present day prophecy, words of knowledge, are not confined to men, but they are weighed by the leadership, against doctrine.
        Thanks, for your patience with me. I appreciate your much needed work and stamina a stamina and vigor I don’t have, in the CoE but can not go along with female headship; yes, as co-workers with Christ; no in headship.And I’m bone weary with it.
        And while I always have been in favour of disestablishment, I see that the it retains a “cultural memory” in that many unbelievers, secularists, see that the CoE is what Christianity is; that and the RC church. Little wonder it seems to be targetted by outside influences, without shepherds (who were primarily male) to defend and protect, to lead at the head of the flock eg Moses, David, Jesus.
        But, enough, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s your blog, after all.

        Reply
        • Responding to: “I don’t see the QC answering questions on his method of deducing the authorial intentions of the writers of scripture.”
          In my book, Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts, I state (p12): “The methods we use to interpret Scripture determine the results that we obtain.”
          I therefore set out my methods in some detail in Appendix 1 (pages 359-367), titled “METHODS OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION”. This enables others to examine not only the substance of my reasoning but also the explicit methodological basis for my conclusions, to make it easier for them to criticise my methods if they believe them to be mistaken.
          In the Appendix, the topics which I discuss are: 1. Primacy of Scripture over tradition. 2. Paying appropriate attention to culture. 3. Going back to the source language in context. 4. Coherence. 5. A Christ-centred canonical approach. 6. Spiritual openness. 7. Practical wisdom.
          Without the appropriate methods we may prevent ourselves understanding Scripture accurately. All of them help us to adopt a position of appropriate humility before the text.
          For me, writing the book was a journey of discovery. Here is a comment which I included in the final chapter (p344):
          “For me, one of the greatest impacts of the writing of this book has been a fresh appreciation of biblical writers. I had not previously paid attention to the careful narrative structure of Genesis 2 – 3. While I already regarded Paul as a thoughtful writer, I had no more than an inkling of his rhetorical skills, the vividness of his allusions and word-plays, and the consistency of his logic. I had missed the careful flow of Peter’s argument in 1 Peter 2 – 3 and the brilliance of his illustration at 3:6. We give glory to the Holy Spirit who has spoken through these writers. The experience has sent me back to the biblical texts with raised expectations of finding more riches.”

          Reply
          • Thanks, Andrew.
            Above, if it is still there, I asked simply for succint futher and better particlars without reference to your book and specifically in relation to, for example, canons of statutory construction and then further in relation to the sweep of the full Biblical canon and the employment of the tools of Biblical theology
            I also mentioned my view of all of scripture (including the letters) being akin to * documents of public* as being uncorrectable.
            I even set out a response to Bruce Simmons, but it appears I haven’t correctly sent it by phone or it hasn’t been put up. It went on to draw on the determination of the testators intention in wills and testamentary dispositions, until recently, derived only from the words use, as you are more than aware.
            Stott in his first edition of Basic Christianity was familar with the canons of statutory construction, even whhen as you know like scripture, early legal documents had no punctuation.
            But as you know Biblical Theological understanding of scripture has come in apace through the likes of Carson, Beale, Richard B Hays (eg Reading Backwards) and others such as Leithard, Roberts. Wilson and Keller (who see himself as a Practitioner, not Theologian.)
            I think you are in error with your OT illustrations, as pointed out by Steven Robinson and John Tomson. I don’t see them as reliably supportive of your case.
            Neither Piper ( who does employ the Golden rule) nor Grudem nor Burke, nor Fee, are known for their Biblical theological approach, with its themes, shadows, types, anti-type, echoes, allusions. Certainly, Hays sees the Gospels being shot through with OT allusions.
            In short,within the confines of blog articles and comments I’m not persuaded to the point of conviction, either until I’m sure, nore on the balance of probabilities, more likely than not. So I’ll decline your invitation to read your book, thanks. No doubt it is a fine work of scholarship, but as a retired layman I’m not your target audience. Lay Jury members are often deaf to the overtures of advocates, even QC’s even while dispuutes over law and admissiblity are witheld from them.
            One last point. Jesus is head of his church: he is the groom, we his church are his Bride. (Was it Luther who emphasised the Divine exchange here? All our poverty, rags, his; his name, his riches, his inheritance ours.) We await consumation at the end of the age. But here I have probably misread your push back against Wilson on the point, having skim read it, when your article was first put up. Apologies if I’ve misread it.
            Yours in Christ,
            Geoff

          • Geoff, your illustration of ‘wills and testamentary dispositions’ being ‘uncorrectable’ will only work if you are dealing with many, many COPIES of a will, some of which say ‘you…’ and some of which say ‘we…’ and some of which leave out the whole clause ‘I leave my collection of stamps to Aunt Agatha’.
            And, please, Andrew does give a succinct summary of what interpretation involves in his comment above.

          • PS Geoff. We do not understand the meaning of a text from the ‘use’ of words but from the whole text AND its context.

          • We do not understand the meaning of a text from the ‘use’ of words but from the whole text AND its context.

            Technically we understand the meaning of a text by working out what its author (in the case of the Bible, its ultimate author being God) intended us to understand from it. cf the paper ‘Meaning’ by Paul Grice.

          • S, this isn’t different from what I said, but you might want to read stuff by Deidre Wilson & co rather than Grice alone.

          • Hello Bruce,
            (Re your rejoinder 26: 11.24 pm)
            To attempt to pull my points together, points that are simply basic in law that AB will understand if others don’t.
            If you look carefully I’ve not argued for text alone but only , methodlogy of deducing the intention of the author, firstly by referring to the canon of construction, such as mischief rule, eusjem generis, golden rule, ( which Stott also understood. And applied presumably) then I expanded that to wills and testamentary dispositions and particularly legal docs without punctuation. Then I expanded that to context and an even wider context of the whole canon of Biblical theology for scripture interpreting scripture, though it is not nuda scriptura.
            The point followed in from the intial point that scripture as ee have it, in all its genres is like, documents of public record, uncorrectable.
            I really don’t think Andrew Bartlett has given any succinct response to any oof that, certainly not without pointing to his book, which in the context of comments is no answer at all.

  25. Been out all day in Wallingford. Tried to engage for a moment but couldn’t.
    Love the reference to creation. Easy proceeding day a quantum leap from the day that went before…but dependent on it, rising from it. Then to Adam n Eve. Eve. A DNA or two more complex arising from man. More Than Man. BUT arising from him and dependent on him. A sublime mystery that is alluded to in the creation narrative.

    Reply
  26. In response to tradition.
    St.Paul was willing to limit himself and become restricted so as to win others for Christ. The church at that time blended in culturally so as not to cause offence. Even today women travelling to the middle east wear head coverings so as not to offend.
    At first the church explored it’s freedom in Christ by promoting women. Communion was enjoyed as a feast. Later on self-limiting controls were introduced, not to curb expressions of freedom but, I suggest, but to show restraint to win over detractors.
    1900 years later we celebrate our freedom in Christ more openly ….because we can. Let the limiting factor be our love for the traditionalist quavering behind his facade of propriety not out freedom in Christ to do whatever.
    Society goes round in circles. The liberal freedoms, won by two world wars could soon be history as New Puritanism takes hold. Christians will once again have to show restraint in behaviour and dress.
    We as Christians reflect cultural bounds, we move with the fashions as they change. We enjoy their freedoms and respect the prohibitions but only so as to win some. We advise young people how to be moderate and why. Not because “the Bible says so” but because Love is the key. And sometimes, to love someone, we don’t want to offend their reading of scripture and understanding of tradition.

    Reply
    • Steve – I strongly agree that the key point is getting people saved – and that everything else is subservient. With this in view, respecting traditions, in order not to cause offense is also important. A corollary, even if a woman is extremely well qualified, good at church leadership and good at proclaiming the gospel message, if her presence in that capacity is going to cause offence and make the reception of the gospel message more difficult, then she should seriously think twice.

      But, at the same time, I don’t think that Christians should be the ones who are at the forefront of reversing progress and taking society back to the stone age. My mother was from a Salvation Army / Faith Mission background – where women and men were treated equally – so it didn’t really occur to her that there were church situations where things were done differently. In 1958, she went to study at Aberdeen University – and started attending Gilcomston South, where William Still was the minister – because that was the place were people who were serious about the faith went – and she thought to herself, `what a bunch of Neanderthal Troglodytes!’ That was a situation where women seemed to be strictly excluded from the pulpit and from being church elders – and their negative attitude towards women really was off-putting for some people.

      That was 64 years ago – when the exclusion of women from certain roles seemed seriously troglodytic – and, in this context I’m amazed that we’re having this conversation now.

      Reply
      • Paul exports us to resist trampling those whose faith is weak. That covers it. We don’t flaunt our freedoms before people whose weakness impels them to do everything 100 years behind the curve and we don’t need to change our gender, get tattooed etc etc to mollify the avant- guard. This whole debate seems predicated on false assumptions. As if fixing doctrine in aspic is going to preserve the faith. I sometimes feel we are at a dinner party where we feel free to discuss the house rules ( shoes on/off etc) before the host and discuss him as if he’s not there, right in the room, at the same table.
        I love the party games at table: find the hidden symbolism, hunt the allusions, share the family stories. I hate listening to fellow guests bleating about the house rules. Especially when they want me to agree to a list of things that are not on my invitation. If He wants me to take my shoes off, wear a pointy paper hat, He’ll tell me.

        Reply
        • Steve – yep – I agree with all of that.

          On the subject of tattoos, I remember a conversation I had with my mother when I was 8 years old. I said that I wanted nice big tattoos of anchors on my forearms. She indicated in no uncertain terms that this was simply not on – and I pointed out that I just wanted to have the same tattoos that her father had. She replied that he got these tattoos *before* he was saved (he got them when he was serving in the navy during the first war) and, after being saved, he strongly regretted them. As a result of getting saved, he gave up smoking and drinking, but he couldn’t get the tattoos removed ……

          So, as an 8 year old, I very much wanted to get tattooed, but my mother wouldn’t let me.

          Reply
          • Perhaps doctrine is in itself a soft magisterium? BTW, I only vaguely know what ‘magisterium’ is , thanks to a popular TV fantasy series.

          • Any Jock your doctrine is what?
            Fixedly anti Calvin.?
            Fixedly anti church membership?
            Fixedly pro individualism, salvation?
            Anti discipleship?
            Anti – sanctification?
            Disciple of Torrance?
            Disciple of Barth.
            Follower of two tier, first and second class Christians in the Sally Army?
            Please be consistent to your pick and mix heritage ? Are you really attributing male headship at the inception of Methodism to Calvin? Maybe it could be traced back, but I’d need to be persuaded.

            And Steve, please say again why you left your last church? Was it because of the leader’s happy, frolick-
            of – his – own-
            fictitious -Neanderthal Man-adultery – deception party. It is amazing just where the fluid fantasy doctrines solidify? And sure this has been an affront to your weak or strong faith? Wonder why? Is this really the principle to be applied to the matter of headship in church? Is it of first order importance?
            As far as RC Magisterium is concerned, perhaps there is a need to find out before taking a cyclops view, as Jock did, in his opposition to Calvin attributing my view of heritage sole to him and my alledge inconsisteny in this matter.and Ian endorsed.
            I’m certainly no advacate for Calvin, but it us interesting the writers you say you’ve benefitted from, Keller, Murray D, Scrivener are oroducts of reformed teaching, as they all look at thee full sweep of the whole canon of scripture, while tethered, joined to Christ in its fulfilment and his glory. Maybe you’ll renounce their teachings, writings and the underpinning doctrines from which they flow.
            Yours in Christ,
            Geoff

          • Geoff – my `doctrine’ is – getting people saved. We all have `pick and mix’ heritages – some things work for some people and don’t work for other people.

            For the other things you raise:
            1) Calvin – no – not fixedly anti-Calvin – I read his `Institutes’ early on and much of it was useful for me.
            2) I have always had a problem with churches, even the `good’ ones – which probably says more about me than about the churches. I remember (for example) as a student, finding a good church, where I enjoyed the hymns, sermons, prayers – and then at the end lots of people trying to invite students for lunch after the service – and being very relieved to make my escape, get back to my student apartment and have a nice quiet lunch alone. Nothing wrong with the people who were trying to invite the students for lunch – I simply tend to like my own company.
            3) Salvation – isn’t this the key thing? Getting saved? Some people (you for example) like a church which has a male-only leadership and you feel comfortable there – and it is very good that you have found a fellowship that suits your spiritual needs. Other people are not like that. We need to communicate the gospel message – convicting people of their sins so that they turn to Christ, accept that the crucifixion was necessary for them and trust that, in the crucifixion and resurrection their sins have been dealt with and they have passed from death to life. We need to do everything we can to ensure that the only offense is the offense of the cross.

            The motivation is important here – the motivation is to bring people to saving faith; the motivation is not to keep people who want church leadership jobs happy.

            4) Strongly pro-discipleship

            5) Strongly pro-sanctification

            6) When I read `The Trinitarian Faith’ by Thomas Torrance, I felt I was treading on extremely holy ground. I’d strongly recommend this book to everybody. I think that when he is making up his own theology it is often suspect, but when he is explaining the theology of others (in the case of `The Trinitarian Faith’ he was explaining the thinking of the early councils – Nicaea – and what led to the early creeds.

            7) Barth – I don’t dismiss Barth. I have only read his commentary on Romans and his `Dogmatics in Outline’. I found some great insights in these books, but other things completely `off the wall’. From the Dogmatics in Outline, I’d say he doesn’t actually know what faith is. There are chapters which start `Faith is …..’, `Faith is ….’ – and these things seem to me to be corollaries of what faith is, but they aren’t the definition.

            8) People have been saved through the work of the Salvation Army. This is extremely important and you dismiss that at your peril, even if they don’t dot all the is and cross all the ts in the way that we might like.

            I’m convinced that pretty much everything that happened after Calvin is `post-Calvin’ in the sense that Calvin had an influence on it.

      • Jock

        Why do you think adultery is wrong? Or homosexuality? Why do you think marriage is right? Apply the same methodology to women’s role in marriage and the church? We can’t pick and choose our beliefs.

        Reply
        • John, Adultery is a condemned sin – do you believe women teaching in church is similarly, of the same order, a sin to be condemned?

          Reply
          • Hi Simon

            No, but you miss my point. I was suggesting the way we reach decisions on any important matter is by examining Scripture. Scripture gives us our cue as to belief and practice. We can’t be swayed by whim, cultural approval etc.

          • John – yes, here we defo agree – Scripture not culture
            But what happens when we disagree with eachother’s readings and the best of the exegetes land on opposite sides?
            I am a convinced egalitarian – I believe from Scripture
            you are a convinced complementarian – I believe from Scripture
            How do we know who is right if either? Neither of us believe Scripture gives a false steer, and both believe the Spirit leads us into all truth, yet look at us?

            You claim Ian et al are actually unwittingly inculcating modern culture and applying this as a template over our scripture reading – and
            I fear you have unwittingly inculcated your inherited patriarchal church culture.

          • Simon

            You may be right that I have been influenced by my patriarchal church background. In fact I am sure I have been. I have jettisoned various aspects (dispensationalism and high ecclesiology). I believe I have retained any emphasis on patriarchy because that is what I see in Scripture. Since I see intelligent men promoting positions that are very weak I have to ask where the motivation come from.

            It does none of us any harm to be challenged about our motivations and hidden drivers. Perhaps your position is an extreme reaction to your background.

      • Why do you think we are having it Jock? It is because there are certain Scriptures that seem to point unambiguously in the direction of women having a subordinate role in church. It is this that led many churches over the centuries to forbid women preaching and women elders.

        I agree this sits very uncomfortably in our culture and seems troglodytic but the verses still exist, they haven’t gone away.

        Reply
  27. Hunting.
    I observe my goldfish chasing each other. The male chases the female. Or… the female leads the male on a merry romp. I can’t decide which. Only when a heron ate the female did the male find nothing to do all day but sulk.

    Reply
  28. This an outstanding overview and critique of a very divisive issue. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful extrapolation… I’ve reposted. I always feel that Adam – human – contained the fullness of the image of God, both male and female – ‘human life’ and the process of division created male and female …

    Reply
  29. Are there any accounts in the writings of contemporary Roman historians concerning the leadership of the early church with regard to women? I seem to recall reading a letter somewhere written by ( I think) Pliny to Trajan about the activities of early christians and the Roman authorities persecution of them by seizing and torturing their female leaders.

    Reply
  30. I would make the observation that a more coherent reading of OT texts, not least those pertaining to marriage , might seriously raise questions about the assertion that Paul’s treatment in I Timothy2 : 9 – 15 merely addresses this specific issue and not the wider theological ramifications of the Apostolic teaching. Even a cursory glance at the first few chapters of Genesis would reveal not only (a) the rupture in the marriage relationship [3:16] but (b) the breakdown in family life (Cain’s anger/ depression [4:5] and Abel’s murder [4:8]) ; and(c)the “re-defining” of marriage [4:19] – Lamech the proto- polygamist presumably wanting “his bit on the side”! All of which leads is to a divinely-inspired hiatus:” The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of his heart was only evil all the time [6: 5].”
    Now as we have been continually reminded these are the values and ethics of the Old Testament. Nevertheless ( and perhaps I am alone here) the reality that exits today both within society in general (not to mention) large sections of the Church bear at least some resemblence to the Genesis portrait after the Fall. The late Rabbi Jonathan Sachs commenting on Abel and Cain’s offerings to God said this: ” There is no way to of telling the difference externally.—– but —- one is an act of self-effacement in the presence of the Creator. The other is *a Nietzchean will to power*.” Prior to this, Sach’s expresses the view that in the pagan world , sacrifices were attempts to placate or bribe the gods, “thereby coercing or manipulating them into *doing one’s will*.”
    The term *egalitarianism* has been mooted at least once in this post . I’m sorry to throw a spanner in the works, but over many years I have witnessed the desire for equality as a mask for “doing one’s will” .Or even cases where, as in Howard Spring’s “Fame is the Spur”, inlfuence and power overtake the desire for justice and equality.
    This discussion is not finished ——

    Reply
  31. Geoff,
    Greetings.
    I wasn’t very clear on my situation as it was off topic.
    I’m still attending but not involved. Church mtng Thursday to start the search for another pastor.
    Like you I have found his latest post a bit weird. As a non intellectual I find it v hard to get to grips with it. At first it seemed okay but odd, I could not put my finger on my misgivings. Th I found myself in agreement with , firstly SR then with JT. I felt no need to endorse their comments and wanted to see who else would contribute. You did, but in an uncharacteristic way. I weighed it up and decided there is something I could say. Jock is broadly in agreement I honk. We have freedom in Christ but not of course to do whatever we like. We live in the world. If for example in some cultures a woman may not travel without a male escort then Christians accept it and work with it. Christians don’t lobby to change culture from the outside unless it’s about an injustice. So it seems to me that Christians exist broadly in the culture they are in. Today many cultural norms have been changed and therefore Christians change their dress code to fit in. No women this morning were wearing hats in church that I could see. Most men are shaven. In biblical times that might have looked a bit too pagan for some. We don’t use our freedom in Christ to make others feel uncomfortable, we moderate our behaviour. And we do it because we want to be winsome. It should not be done because our church has a dress code. Ephesians 1 comes to mind.
    You seem very upset and out of sorts. I’m sorry if you feel confused. I’m not a very precise sort of mind, unlike you!
    Blessings
    Steve

    Reply
    • Steve,
      Thanks. I may be out of sorts but not confused. In what way do you think I’m confused? I am interested and will eeigh it carefully. Maybe I’ve been far too personally defensive. But I am trully appalled, as a former lawyer at the way this has been presented against Wilson blog from a good while ago particularly when this matter has been settled in the CoE for some while now. I ‘m really not sure what purpose it is serving in the CoE. Let alone the title is uncharacteristically provocative against Wilson, undermining his ministry. So far as I can see there seems to have been no consideration of Wilson Doctorate on 1 Corinthians.
      And if you see me as having been uncharacteristic, I see that in Ian in the way he has responded with far more comments than in other posts where he has been in opposition to commentators and at times patronising, though Steven above used a different word . I’ve seen that also in a short rejoinder to David Shepherd (above – one of the earliest comments). whose sane voice has been too long absent from the comments.
      There may be an answer that Andrew G touched on in a comment on an earlier post. And it goes against the grain of the CEEC as far as I can see.
      and New Wine.
      As I’m not part of the CoE I’d withdraw from comments, but I don’t presume any of my poorly written comments would carry any weight even if anyone read them. After all, it really is, as I’ve said before, beyond my pay grade, outside my circle of control, or circle of influence. I do stand to be corrected and look to receive the truth about myself, no matter how humbling and painful it might be. ( My wife of over 40 years might contest that last point, though also thinks I’m frquently too self critical.)
      But even as my beard grows greyer it has not automatically brought any increase in wisdom as this over -indulgence evidences.
      Sleep beckons, I hope. But our church life is encouraging as we worship, have fellowship and take communion together and have bible study and prayer together, a common profession of creedal faith, humble access and confession and today a
      a sermon on Joel 3. All tinged with joy and sorrow as the church sends our children’s and youth worker on mission abroad, with his young family.
      Yours in Christ,
      Geoff

      Reply
      • Geoff, Thanks.
        I fired off my reply late and had a fitful night’s sleep.
        I agree with Jock. I say that because I realise I can’t put into words how I really feel in a way that would not spin off further confusion. So, what Jock says…tick.

        Simon at 7:48 asks the right question.

        Obviously as boys we don’t want girls in our treehouse, spoiling our fun, filling our pirate lair with teddies and tea services. We have an image to project and protect.
        If, for argument sake, we commenters were shipwrecked on an island for a few years, what would happen?
        I think the girls would have a bold attempt at hunting wild pig for a couple of days and then retreat back to camp to boil clams and make cocoanut wine. JT and SR would order us about with passion and competence, a competence underlined every day at prayer with quotes from the Bible about authority invested in men. Our society would be stable, you Geoff, would administer firm but fair judgements. There would be no time or energy for egalitarianism as we would all be working flat out to survive. Women would wear head coverings as a sign that they wish to preserve their long hair from damage and to show who among them has the luxury of a surplus piece of fabric. Men would grow beards. It would seem effeminate to spend precious daylight hours in front of a mirror, and a waste of time.
        In times of extremis society reverts to the essentials. Men on the front-line, women on logistics.
        But we are not at this moment in extremis, so we can give time and effort to other things.
        Perhaps we should all live as if we are living in peril from day to day. I’ve never experienced a church so devoted.
        BTW The Gathering was at the wknd. Thousands of Christian men in tents, in Swindon, doing manly stuff. I went in 2016. It rained all the time. I hated it. I went unprepared, nearly got foot-rot. I’d be hopeless on an island marooned with Psephizos.
        Psephizos’ Island. Paradise?

        Reply
  32. May I ask those here promoting complementarianism whether they actually believe a woman teaching in church and exercising leadership ‘over’ (I prefer ‘among’) men, is a sin, a transgression, and an affront to God’s moral order, which inevitably invites judgment?
    Do complementarians here actually believe that a woman teaching men violates God’s design and God’s decree (let alone their understanding of actual Apostolic practise) which would be a blasphemy? The outworking of their theology demands that this can be no mere disputable matter but a clear disregard for God’s revealed will and a wilful disobedience. That is serious stuff. With serious consequences. Eternal ones. If they really believe it I can see why they argue vociferously here. But I am asking, do they really believe it? And do they leave the room if a woman speaks? Would they refuse to read a theology book by a woman?
    Just wondering how this actually works

    Reply
    • simon – that is a brilliant question – which I didn’t think of – and which hits the nail on the head. Further to it, I wonder what the `complimentarians’ think of those who have been saved through the ministry of women and their attitude towards the women whose ministry has been used to bring people to faith.

      Reply
    • I believe women taking an authoritative teaching role in church violates God’s moral order. I think in exceptional circumstances this may be necessary and have God’s approval. Motive of heart will play an important part.

      I believe the church is in a state of weakness and confusion and we must live with what is less than ideal.

      I believe the issue is not a gospel issue and so not primary truth. It is a secondary matter but a significant one.

      We must all live with procedural issues we believe to be wrong or misguided.

      I don’t pretend it is an easy one. I have personally lost sleep over these type of issues in my local church which is a good church with different views than I have. I tend to present my case graciously when necessary and leave it there seeking to be a positive influence.

      Reply
  33. Hello Simon,
    You more than well know that in some Charismatic circles, including Wilson’s women speak in prophetic ways.
    I think that you are making some extreme points, perhaps straw man arguements.
    Is it a moral issue?
    Is this a matter of first order importance is it a regulative principle such as in some circles the structure of worship is to be strictly regulated, according to scripture, such as only singing psalms?
    Is it a question of headship? A headship that may delegate, according to competence.
    Do I read books by women? Yes, Nancy Guthrie has some great stuff, as has Nancy Piercy – I ‘m specifically thinking of her, Total Truth. ( They have both sat at the feet of male teachers as it were). Others would include Orr -Ewing, McClaughlin. They have broadly apologetic ministries, I say; Guthrie a more teaching role.
    But, they are not in a headship position over more. I do not sit under their spiritual authority. There gave been times when I’ve wanted to walk out if talks, including a liberal male Bishop of my then home diocese, at an Easter service. And I didn’t stay long in the diocese afterwards.
    As Christians were are to come under authority, and I was going to come under his!
    Another, truly horror show, was when we stayed b& b in Glasgow and were taken to a Charismatic church which was all female led, little to no scripture, and I truly want to get up and leave, but stayed in deference to our hosts, and we didn’t know how to return to base! I truly wanted to scarper.
    Others may differ.
    And as QC Andrew knows the burden of proof is on those who who are making a claim and to overturn historical precedent and he rightly goes to the source, scripture, even as it is acknowledged that it is not a question of * nuda scriptura*.
    Anyway I’m pleased this article has got you back on board!

    Reply
    • For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Bible mentions headship (which it doesn’t) and that the term ‘head’ is a metaphor for ‘authority’ (which it isn’t).

      Are you saying that, when a book is written by a woman, you will evaluate the argument, since they are not exercising ‘headship’, but when a book is written by a man in authority, you will suspend your critical faculty and just accept that it is true? If not, what difference does it make that a man or woman write the book you are reading?

      Similarly suppose a man is ‘head’ of a church, and you disagree with his decisions—perhaps by ignoring scripture or going against scripture. How is your response different to him than it would be if the leader was a woman?

      Reply
      • Ian,
        Certainly, I’m not saying that, if you read my comment carefully ( though not too carefully due to the errors). I examine your blog as critically as I want to and am able.
        There are books I’ve read by men, that I would no longer recommend. And my theology has changed from charismatic, perhaps semi- arminian to non cessationist reformed. (For those who can’t exist with pigeon holes) I struggled for a number of years with the whole TULIP thing ( for an unhelpful acronynm)
        and, with critical faculties attuned, to the whole Process/Open theology thing, when the writers were mostly men and with * emerging church* with Chalke and his acolytes.
        With higher/ historical criticism, who were mostly men.
        And at my stage in life I’m not going to waste whatever time I have left on something that will not edify and build faith.
        Of course there is no such thing as headship or authority in the CoE now, it seems, if Lambeth and calls are anything to go by.

        I have come under the authority of men and women in the work place, some good and some bad, but where it has been bad, domineering, manipulative, controling, lying deceptive, I’ ve sought to move away. I’ve worked in mental health settings under homosexual women and greatly appreciated their commitment and dedication. But we were oceans appart on beliefs and I did not come under their spiritual authority, headship.

        Really, seriously, are you saying that there is no such thing as weighted, authority, headship, submission, assymetry in church. Or are you saying, yes there is, but it doesn’t apply in male/ female spiritual relationship, spiritual mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters in Christ Jesus.
        If there is no assymetry, why does there seem to be a paucity of comment from females in your blog? Serious question?

        And are we talking about, situational/task authority, leadership? Delegated, granted authority?
        The science of management? The difference between methologies of research as opposed to improvement in culture, in organisations.

        Now I am seriously confused. And I’m clearly not exercising any stroke affected critical thinking I have left to a male teacher, Dr. scholar, minister?
        and your writings?
        Give me a break.

        How about a movement to some serious research into Christian doxology? Even breaking free from lectionary, Gospels and Revelation only preaching/ teaching? The whole Counsel of God?
        ………..
        (Last point here, on point: as the bar in theory operates, or in the recent past did, a ‘cab rank’ policy when taking on cases what induced Andrew Bartlett to take on this brief, seemingly in adversarial opposition to Grudem Piper, et al. Why not return the brief? Or was the advocacy as being in favour of a ’cause’?)

        ………….
        But personal preference (above) would favour doxology
        But sorry, I’m only using my diminishing critical faculties.
        Your in Christ,
        Geoff

        Reply
        • Well, I needed to ask the question. So you are saying that you don’t treat the teaching you hear from women (in person or in writing) any differently from the teaching you receive from men? In which case, what difference does all this make at all?

          Why don’t women comment as much as men here? Because men and women are not the same! That is why I happily reposted the *first* half of Andrew Wilson’s article on my blog.

          Women are men are different, but scripture shows consistently that those differences do not lead to an absolute prohibition on women leading. Women may lead equally, even if they do not equally lead.

          Reply
          • Please sort your use of language out? Authority, leading, headship?
            You ask for consistency, yet you are all over the place.
            And your point about commentators points to the huge assymitry in theology and scriptural authority, I’d suggest.

  34. I like the idea of ‘head’ being the source, Ian.
    From the Rock springs the headwaters. The water teems with life= the Church.
    So we have Christ the Headwater and his bride, the river of Life.
    Adam and Eve. One flows from the other.
    So a woman can flow with authority from the Rock.
    A man can give himself like Christ our Rock and overflow.
    A lot to think about. Thanks

    Reply
    • Steve

      It sounds good but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. We need only look within Scripture itself yo see ‘head’ being regularly used as ‘leader’. I’ve put examples somewhere on this thread. Om I Cor 11 where hierarchical structures are involved by far the best reading for ‘head’ is ‘leader’.

      Hierarchical issues are expressed in the text ‘For man indeed ought not to have his head covered, being God’s image and glory; but woman is man’s glory.’ The word ‘authority’ is expressly used in 11:10.

      Ian disagrees of course.

      Reply
      • Well thanks for the insight. Like you I aim only to engage with scripture. I am often drawn to symbolic parallels. These things seem alive to me.
        Paul’s remarks seem to me to be an encouragement for the individuals to feel a part of the body. He was pointing out that they all are part of something big. A bit like a CEO giving a talk directly to the shop floor. The reality on the ground may have seemed chaotic. Pauls pastoral instinct is to get people to see that there is in fact hierarchy and they play their part in the vanguard of the new creation. It may not have seemed apparent to even the rich, let alone the slaves. He is not giving a recipe for a power structure, he is saying, in effect , ‘you may feel under appreciated in your daily lives but in reality you are prophets, teachers, healers etc’. It’s all a lot more fluid than you think. You are reading too much into a pastoral letter. Snatching tips from the staff to add to the cash flow. Overthinking. Like a grand art critic you reduce some beautiful expression by explaining it so much we no longer behold Paul’s friendly, pastoral exhortations we see it through the expert’s eyes.
        Well, that is how I perceive things. I somehow thought a theology blog would be up lifting but it always gets bogged down in attrition. I’m not up for this I’m afraid.

        Reply
  35. Simon

    What the discussion across the board does not seem to address is why Scripture instructs the way it does. Male authority is not an end in itself.

    In my view the issue affects three areas:

    (1a) Safeguarding what God has said and revealed in its completeness. In my experience men are more willing to ‘rock the boat’ than women, and Scripture frequently rocks the boat, in ways that are unsettling. The gospel itself is fundamentally of this nature. This is why Paul writes as he does in I Tim 2:8-14. The Church has become an effeminate institution, does not wish to unsettle people with those parts of Scripture that go against the grain, and has no authority and power; it is in terminal decline. In discussing this issue we need to have the intellectual flexibility to be able to recognise that Paul is guarding against the long-term consequences of shifting from the biblical position. In the imperfect situation we are in now, I would much rather listen to a godly woman in a dog collar teaching with conviction, one who knows the God revealed in the Scriptures and is more concerned to please God than man, than to a man who is no more than a lifeless instrument sounding indistinct notes.

    (1b) People outside the Church see an effeminate institution, and while they may pay lip-service to ‘equality’, they are not attracted to it. Men particularly are not attracted to it. This again is disastrous.

    (2a) The issue itself is a test of authority. Churchmen twist those parts of Scripture that go against the grain in matters of sexual relations in order to support their own sense of what is right and true. That is not an attractive sight, even if outsiders agree that Scripture needs correcting. Better to admit “I don’t think Scripture is inspired and authoritative in every part, or necessarily in any part, and I feel at liberty to modify it as I see fit.” That would be more consistent, and honest, than pretending that Scripture actually says what it is does not. Another area where this unedifying spectacle is manifest is Scripture’s testimony that God created the world in a finished state in the beginning. Why not simply say that Scripture is wrong rather than pretending that it is compatible with Darwinian ideas and timescales?

    (2b) The Genesis parallel is not accidental. The Church and the world rejected Scripture’s witness to God as Creator more than a century ago. What we are witnessing now is rebellion against the created order itself, after God has been ejected from it. That is the spiritual significance of the devaluation of marriage, the present questioning of ‘gender’ even in schools, and the campaigning for transgender rights. Society is reaping what it has sowed, and going beyond even the inexorable descent towards the wrath described in Romans 1:18ff. ‘Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.’ The mantra-like way in which Christians convinced that Darwinism can be married with the Bible declare that ‘man is made in the image of God’ (not ‘was’ made, note) is another illustration of the delusion.

    (3) The right understanding of marriage. Divorce is rife, both in the world and in the Church (where it is just as prevalent). Divorce is the end result of disharmony, putting oneself first and not being able to forgive, to admit one’s own failings, and to love in the spirit of I Cor 13. Paul says ‘let no one deceive you’ just before teaching about marriage. In its ideal, marriage between man and woman is a mirror of the marriage between Christ and his bride. Instead of sowing division and characterising the heart of the issue as one of patriarchy, abusive power, subordination and the like, those in authority should be teaching: “Husbands, love your wives as you own bodies. Model your love on Christ’s love for the Church. And wives, a quiet and gentle spirit is very precious in God’s sight. Fear your husbands (Eph 5:33, I Pet 3:2) since God has given them authority, and even if they are disobedient to God (not loving their wives as they ought), win them over by your patience and purity, just as Christ, when he suffered, did not threaten but committed himself to him who judges justly (I Pet 2:23).”

    The wrath of God is coming, make no mistake.

    Reply
    • Steven

      I was about to write a comment in defence of Geoff but you have said what I wanted to say and much better.

      Our beliefs are not born out of prejudice, fear or misogyny but out of a desire to be faithful to Christ and the desire to see a church faithful to Christ. Paul deemed the issues important enough to write about and by the Spirit instruct the church. His rooting them in creation (verses Ian has yet to explain) gave them universal significance.

      We must all live with less than what we believe to be ideal… but I’ve already said that.

      Reply
      • Dear Reformed complementarians- do you believe women are saved by having children and then, only conditionally, if they evidence good works? 1Tim2v15.

        I’m sure you dont!!! so why do you interpret this verse 15 with a different hermeneutic than the preceding 4 verses? You take them on absolute face value when it comes to prohibiting women from leadership over men because Eve was deceived first – yet you interpret v15 to mean something other than it states on face value

        Reply
        • Firstly Simon, to not believe what the text says reveals an attitude to Scripture.

          My understanding may be wrong but is based on it being the most natural out of those I have heard.

          For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

          The first thing to notice is that Paul is basing his prohibition on women taking an authoritative teaching role in the church on the creational order,

          Part of his argument against her taking a leading teaching role is that the first time she did so she got it wrong. She (not Adam) was deceived.

          This brought judgement – pain in childbearing but it need not bring death as it so often did if she lives a godly life. Those that did not live a godly life could not expect God’s providential care. Those that were godly (male or female) were the object of his care and concern. Here the tension between Proverbs and Job comes into play,

          This may be wrong but it is my present understanding. I think we have to be child-like in faith and belief. We believe what Scripture says and leave the doubts and questions to God. I dont mean we do not reflect on the difficulties but in the final analysis we believe the word.

          Reply
    • Steven – my sermon for today is from 1 John 2:27 `As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.’

      If (as you say) divorce is prevalent `within the church’ then what you describe as `the church’ isn’t `the church’ at all and what you are referring to is a bunch of heathen head bangers.

      The church is the collection of those who believe. The immediate corollary to this is that those who belong to the church have received an anointing. If this anointing means anything at all – and if the statement `you do not need anyone to teach you’ means anything at all, then it means that divorce is something that simply does not happen. It also implies an awful lot of other things.

      Moving on from this, I don’t really understand all this `authority’ business and `head’ business. As far as churches go – we go to church to hear the Word proclaimed (and not to hear somebody telling us what to do – anyone upfront delivering a sermon where he or she is telling people what to do shouldn’t actually be there). The preacher doesn’t tell people what to do; the Word does that all by itself if it is properly expounded. We go to sing the hymns we like and participate in corporate prayers where the person delivering the prayer is basically expressing things that are on our hearts.

      `Authority’ in church life isn’t really something I understand – someone who actually needs to be told what and what not to do isn’t a Christian and shouldn’t really be there.

      Also – within marriage – I fail to understand all this business of `head’, `authority’ etc …. it certainly isn’t my experience that such concepts are necessary or desirable within marriage. A Christian marriage really shouldn’t need them – reason found in 1 John 2:27

      Reply
      • Jock

        I agree with your comments on divorce, however, I think your comments about authority etc reveal an irresponsible evading of the issues. You have an able mind. Understanding these issues is not beyond you. We are all told to contend earnestly for the faith delivered once and for all to the saints. You can’t opt out with a claim that you don’t understand. If you read you will understand.

        How do we know the Christian position on divorce? Not merely by the promptings of the Spirit though I;m sure this is part of it. We know through the word. People have had to put in the hard work to find out what the Bible teaches, And that is God’s method for teaching and preserving his church. Overseers guard the flock from false teaching,

        Not everyone has the capacity to get a comprehensive grasp of Scripture. You have the ability but I’m not sure you are willing to do that work and take the responsibility.

        I hope I’m wrong. If I’m right, I hope you will step up to the abilities God has given you.

        Advice from a seriously flawed saint.

        Reply
      • Jock,
        Are you seriously saying you, all Christians, are unteachable, do not need teaching” in scripture, in the “whole counsel of God”?
        Your highly selective authorial references such as Torrance contradict John 2:27.
        Do you understand sanctification? Keller may be seen as someone who preaches/teaches that it flows from the deep riches of the gospel, not that you grasp it, but that. That is, imperatives, flow from, are a result of the splendour of Gospel indicatives. Look at Ephesians for how this works.

        Are you really saying that Christianity is nothing but a list of dos and don’ts.

        If I may say, you seem to be stuck, a little entrenched.

        And I’d ask a question Simon asked in a slightly different way. How much of your Christian Theology has come through women, setting aside blood family? Or was it all, solely, Spirit led understanding and reading of scripture, something that is sometimes claimed by scriptural revisionist, that it is what the spirit is saying to the church today. Is it? How do you know, discern, that it is not counterfeit spirits?

        I can remember Dr. RT Kendall saying that you call always tell an Oxford or Cambridge man, but you can’t tell him much. I never went there. How about you?

        Reply
        • Geoff – about Cambridge man – I remember an exchange between Bluebottle and Eccles (one of the Goon shows).

          Bluebottle: That’s nice; what is it?
          Eccles: It’s a Cambridge tie.
          Bluebottle: I didn’t know you went to Cambridge; what did you do there?
          Eccles: I bought a tie.

          I never went to Oxford or Cambridge – it didn’t really occur to me. I think I did OK at Edinburgh.

          But I get the impression that you’re deliberately mis-understanding what I wrote. Perhaps this is your lawyer training on how to win cases.

          It all depends on what you mean by `teaching’. I heard some very good sermons (and read some very good books) which shaped my thinking – but it always seemed to me that the books and sermons which did this, those which really struck home, were putting into plain English and expressing logically things that, in some sense, at some intuitive level, were already well embedded somewhere within me.

          So that’s what I think the anointing spoken about in 1 John 2:27 is all about. Once you have this, you really do have the `teaching’ embedded within you, in some intuitive sense, even though you might not have the language to express it. Teaching puts things in order, gives articulation and expression to the faith. At least that is more or less how I found it. Some sermons and some books were pure revelation, but they were only revealing to me that which, if I really thought about it, seemed to be already there.

          And – in this context – yes – I’d agree with you that what you refer to in Ephesians gives articulate expression to how sanctification works. Sanctification is the outworking of the `teaching’ and it sometimes takes a while for the `teaching’ to filter through.

          Actually, I’m the one on this blog who has been saying that Christianity is *not* a list of do’s and don’t’s; it is you and John Thomson who seem to be suggesting that it is – and who seem to be overlooking the people of faith from Scripture who violated the commandments in a big way – so I don’t understand where that came from.

          As I have indicated many times on this blog, the main source of my theology came from the sermons of James Philips at Holyrood Abbey. You’ll find them all on The Tron website – so if you’re really interested, look at the period 1985 – 89.
          That is the backbone – but (as I said) when I heard excellent sermons by him, he seemed to be revealing things that were in some sense already there (although I hadn’t been able to articulate them before that).

          There isn’t anything in this comment that I haven’t said, in response to you, several times and in the same way since I started contributing here – so I really don’t understand where your comment came from.

          As far as the Salvation Army goes – I’m very seriously considering joining it. Possibly the greatest evangelist that I ever encountered was a Salvation Army officer – and seeing how he worked and whom he worked with made a deep impression on me.

          Reply
          • Jock

            I think James Philips would be standing alongside me in this debate. There are of course dos and donts in the faith. These should be lived out in the context of enabling and forgiving grace.

            We are all failures but failure is never excused and should never be indulged. An Edinburgh graduate is well able to grasp the issues here from the bible and come to informed conclusions.

            You should be a teacher and not someone apparently still prepared to be unduly swayed by the views of others.

            Can I give yo an example of an incongruity. You seem to have been positively influenced by the theology of James Philip yet you are considering joining the Salvation Army which in some ways is theologically the polar opposite. I’m by no means saying you should not join the Salvation Army. I’m just pointing out the incongruity.

            My point is you need to have a coherent integrated personal theology that will give solidity to your faith and that will only come from a confidence in Scripture which will in turn shape your life.

  36. Following on from previous comments (including my own), I think it would be a useful exercise to compare how evangelical attitudes have changed over the years on this whole topic. How to achieve this is debatable. Nevertheless, I now take the liberty to refer to the works of two very prominent evenglical leaders, both of whom have been alluded to in this post : John Stott and Tom Wright.
    In a commentary referring to Ephesians 5:22 &23, Stott employs the following approach : First, he immediately directs our attention to two other NT passages: I Corinthians 11: 3-12 and 1 Timothy 2:11 – 13. The former, set in the context of worship draws our attention to the theme of *headship*; the second, of course, on the theme of the*role* of women in worship.
    Stott then proceeds to make the following doctrinal points:
    First, in collating these three passages he is asserting that the nature of the male/ female relationship is a continuum; in other words its very nature as expressed in marriage does not end there but embraces the whole of life (including worship).
    Secondly, Stott accepts that there are elements in the epistles relating to what might be called *cultural conditioning*. But he rejects these as even being a key to understanding Paul’s primary theological stance. On the contrary, he espouses the creation ordinance (Genesis 1 and 2) not only as the cornerstone of this issue, but also as the basis of his (Paul’s) own teaching.
    Finally, having based these thoughts on Eph. 5: 21&22, John Stott would have been fully aware of the significance of the word *submit* and its cognates, not only as in this context but in the wider sphere.
    Writing no more than 25 years after John Stott, Tom Wright’s approach is radically different (c.f.”Woman’s Service in the Church” 2004). He spends as much time and effort on exploring cultural considerations as he does on the theological . And it has to be said his overall conclusions are decidedly different from those of John Stott.

    Now if I have some difficulties with the conclusions of Stott, I have greater difficulties with those of Wright. And here I enumerate two:
    In the first place, his interptetation of *headship* ,to me, falls short of the biblical meaning. Headship as *source* only? Re 1Cor. 11: 3: ? He draws the conclusion that the term means *source” but not *sovereignty*. But if that is the case, what then does “the head of Christ is God” mean? In Philippians 2 we are told that “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death.” To whom did he become obedient -if not God the Father? He then proceeds to argue that here Paul is basing his argument on Genesis 2 and the maintains that this approach is different from the use of headship in Ephesians 5. Really?
    What he glides past at this point is the repeated use of the word *submit* : ” Wives, submit to your husbands as to your Lord. For the husband is head of of the church his body, —-. Now as the church *submits* to Christ, so also should wives*submit* to their husbands in everything [5:22 – 24].”

    Finally, I would draw two conclusions from this whole exercise. The first is that, we cannot accuse the complementarists of inconsistency if they affirm their point of view (applying their ideas to the church while denying its application to the state) while “we” are withholding key teaching on this topic; thereby restricting the truth in its wholeness. (Am I alone in assuming that this aspect i.e. *submission* has received little (if any) attention in this post)?
    And following on from this, if I were an egaliterian I would raise serious objections to an organization which spends much of its time reclining in a Procrustean bed!

    Reply
    • Great observations. I don’t always find Tom’s views completely persuasive—but on this I find John S much less so.

      I don’t think there is very much doubt from the evidence that ‘head’ does not imply any sense of sovereignty at all. We impose this from our own use. See Philip Payne on this, or https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/head-does-not-mean-leader-in-1-cor-11-3/

      ‘But if that is the case, what then does “the head of Christ is God” mean?’

      It means precisely that the Son is ‘begotten’ of the Father. Though the two persons of the godhead are equal in power and authority and will, they are not identical or interchangeable. The Son comes from the Father in all eternity in a way that the Father does not come from the Son.

      ‘In Philippians 2 we are told that “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death.” To whom did he become obedient -if not God the Father?’

      He did *become* obedient, which means that ‘obedience’ does not characterise the immanent trinity, but the incarnation. If Jesus ‘obeyed’ the Father from all time, he cannot have ‘become’ obedient to him. The idea that the Son is eternal subordinate (as John Stevens is repeatedly claiming in the FB discussion) is heresy, since it is anti-Trinitarian.

      ” Wives, submit to your husbands as to your Lord. For the husband is head of of the church his body, —-. Now as the church *submits* to Christ, so also should wives*submit* to their husbands in everything [5:22 – 24].”

      So here’s the question: why does Paul use the *same* word for wives as he uses for all ‘submit to one another’? And if the analogy was perfect, why does he avoid ‘obey’ of wives to husbands? That is real and significant. Husbands are not in fact ‘Christ’ to the wife’s ‘Church’ in the full sense, as some appear to claim—since a. husbands do not save their wives and b. this model is one example of mutual submission which applies to all, as Phil 2 makes clear.

      Reply
      • Though the two persons of the godhead are equal in power and authority and will, they are not identical or interchangeable.
        Jesus repeatedly says (chiefly in John’s gospel) that he is not equal in power and authority. See John 4:34, 5:19-36, 6:37f, 6:57, 8:28, 8:42, 8:54, 10:18, 10:29, 12:49f, 14:10, 14:16, 14:26-28, 15:15, 17:2f, 17:24, 20:17.

        The Son comes from the Father in all eternity in a way that the Father does not come from the Son.
        This statement has no meaning, it’s logical nonsense. How can anything come from anything else ‘in all eternity’? Where do you find such statements in Scripture?

        Heresy is not defined by whether it is anti-trinitarian but whether it is contrary to Scripture. To say it is is just piling one dogma on top of another. To make assertions without scriptural back-up is not a legitimate modus operandi for a theologian.

        Reply
        • ‘Jesus repeatedly says (chiefly in John’s gospel) that he is not equal in power and authority.’ Of course. This is part of his self-emptying in the incarnation. The repeated assertion of Scripture is that he now shares God’s throne. See all the language of the ascension, and the image of the lamb on the throne (whose throne??) in Revelation.

          ‘The Son comes from the Father in all eternity in a way that the Father does not come from the Son.
          This statement has no meaning, it’s logical nonsense. How can anything come from anything else ‘in all eternity’? Where do you find such statements in Scripture?’

          Er, try John 1?!

          ‘Heresy is not defined by whether it is anti-trinitarian but whether it is contrary to Scripture.’

          Indeed, and Scripture is Trinitarian. See particularly Paul’s incorporation of Jesus into the oneness of God in 1 Cor 8, ‘Jesus is Lord’ in Rom 10 (the ‘Lord’ who saves is of course Yahweh), the depiction of Jesus in the gospels (‘Who is this, whom even the wind and waves obey?’) and of course the imagery of all of Revelation.

          Reply
          • Where does it say in John 1 that Jesus comes from the Father in all eternity? ‘In the beginning’ does not mean ‘from all eternity’. Is that not basic? When Gen 1:1 says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, do you think it is saying he was eternally creating it? Ditto with ‘eternally begotten’ and all the other nonsense that goes with the Roman dogma of ‘three gods in one’.

            But you do not believe that God created man (homo) in the beginning, woman from man (vir), one pair from whom descends all humanity. You dismiss it as just a ‘foundation myth’, and therefore John 1 falls by the wayside too. That’s your idea of orthodoxy! No wonder you cannot cope with I Tim 2:13f.

            If anything is heretical, it is the undermining of the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God (I John 1:22) – the title itself indicating that ‘God’ and ‘the Son’ are distinct. Clearly Jesus was not his son if he was co-eternal with God. We are again dealing with contradictions.

            No wonder that, lumbered with such credal mumbo-jumbo, the Church is withering. We don’t believe that God created the world, we don’t believe that Jesus was his son, and we think that the Holy Spirit is some eternally existing third god. We don’t know what heresy is when it stares us in the face. We have nothing coherent or prophetic to say to the world, we are little different from the world, and except for oases here and there the Spirit has departed.

          • Ian and Steven

            Look guys – I recently re-read `The Trinitarian Faith’ by TF Torrance and I’d like to give a quote from Hilary (page 27 of Torrance’s book)

            We are compelled by the error of heretics and blasphemers to do what is unlawful, to scale heights, to express things that are unutterable, to encroach on forbidden matters. And when we ought to fulfil the commandments through faith alone, adoring the Father, worshipping the Son together with him, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit, we are forced to stretch the feeble capacity of our language to give expression to indescribable realities. We are constrained by the error of others to err ourselves in the dangerous attempts to set forth in human speech what ought to be kept in the religious awe of our minds ….. Their infidelity drags us into the dubious and dangerous position of having to make a definite statement beyond what heaven has prescribed about matters so sublime and so deeply hidden.

            This was the motivation for the council of Nicaea of 325 – where Anasthasius et. al. set for the doctrine of the Trinity.

            I think we have to be very careful going into these matters.

          • Jock, I don’t think it is good enough to retreat to mysticism when dealing with these fundamental questions. Those who have gone back to Roman concepts of the godhead and away from Scripture have reduced the gospel to incoherency. “Since Jesus is the eternal God, Jesus is the son of himself.” How can this mean anything to anyone outside the Church? The Church protects itself from critical questioning by appealing to late Roman dogma, a sense of taboo, accusations of ‘heresy’, ‘blasphemy’ and ‘infidelity’, a belief that open discussion of such matters is ‘to encroach on forbidden matters’. This is positively medieval, by which I mean Roman Catholic medieval, the spirit that silenced dissenters such as Jan Hus by burning them at the stake.

            Hopefully, things will become clearer when you get round to reading my commentary, particularly pp 67-72 and 272-274. Part of the gospel is that in Christ we will be, and in embryo already are, sons of God, and will share the throne of God with him (Rev 3:21). If we don’t have a coherent understanding of sonship, we don’t really understand what God has purposed in and through the creation. It is nothing less than the parturition of the sons of God (Rom 8:18-23). It is in this hope that we were saved, and Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf. These are mysteries, certainly, but those who have the Spirit and seek his wisdom are given a measure of understanding.

            I cannot emphasise too strongly that, as this age draws to a close and gets thrown into turmoil, we shall need to understand these things, both for our own hope and comfort and in order to give coherent testimony to the world.

      • Ian

        I find some of your assertions breathtaking.

        ‘I don’t think there is very much doubt from the evidence that ‘head’ does not imply any sense of sovereignty at all.’

        We need only look at some use of the word head in Scripture to see the idea of sovereignty

        udges 10:18: “And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, ‘Who is the man that will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’”23
        (5) Judges 11:8: “And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, ‘That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight with the Ammonites, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.’”24
        (6) Judges 11:9: “Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, ‘If you bring me home again to fight with the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.’”
        (7) Judges 11:11: “So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and all the people made him head and leader over them.”
        salm 17:43 [Psalm 18:43]: David says to God, “You will make me head of the Gentiles:
        a people whom I knew not served me.”
        (11–12) Isaiah 7:8: “For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of
        Damascus is Rezin” (in both cases “head” means “ruler”: Damascus is the city that rules over Syria, and Rezin is the king who rules over Damascus).

        Ephesians 1:22: “He has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church
        Colossians 2:10: “And you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority
        Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. (Note the context here is one of authority and submission)

        1 Cor 11

        But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

        To read source for head is an awkward reading. Authority hierarchy is not. Its almost amusing that someone who does not believe in biblical hierarchies is a member of a very hierarchical church.

        Head of Christ is God. Christ is a messianic title and as the messianic Son Christ is subject to God and will be eternally (1 Cor 15).

        Regarding the obedience of wives as I have written above submission implies obedience and Peter expressly uses the word obedience in the context of wives,

        (ESV) Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your 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. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

        Note v 6.

        Submission is a Christian virtue. Christ was subject to God. We are to be subject to each other.

        Its really time you explained the difficult texts for you Ian. 1) Paul’s appeal to Adam being created first and Eve made from him and for him as reasons for female submission 2) the persistent use o the word submit in husband and wife context 3) the clear use of head as an authority word.

        Reply
        • If you read the article I linked (which you don’t appear to have done—I am not sure why?) you will see that in Hebrew rosh is indeed a metaphor for leader—but it is almost never translated by kephale.

          The context of Eph 5 isn’t merely ‘authority’; Paul avoids all language of ‘rule’ of husbands over wives, which would both be natural and fit with culture. The context is also of Jesus being ‘saviour’, i.e. giving life to his people.

          Submission is a Christian virtue. Christ came not to be serve, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom. Paul is calling husbands to do the same—that is the main content of his message—116 words of it!

          And you need to be aware that the idea of the ‘eternal subordination of the son’ is a non-Nicean heresy. See the work of Kevin Giles on this.

          Reply
          • I have not read your article Ian but according to Grudem these OT texts are all using kephale in the Septuagint. I will read your blog.

            Eph 5 is about authority. Unusually the wives are mentioned first and the command is that they submit to their husbands as the church does to Christ. By anyone’s book that is about authority. If you were to stand up in a secular audience, read this text and then say it had nothing to do with authority you would be mocked. The authority however is to be used fir service which in Scripture is how all authority is urged to be used. It is to throw sand in the face to argue husbands have to submit too. Of course mutual submission is taught. We are to submit to one another whatever the relationship. However, Paul is speaking of submission because the specific dynamics of the relationship call for it. The wife is to submit to her husband because he is her husband. The converse is not true.

            As you are undoubtedly aware there are in Eph 5/6 three sets of relationships which have an authority/submit structure. In each the submission role comes first wives/husbands…. Slaves/masters… children/parent. The parallels further substantiate the authority/submission dynamic. In each case submission is enjoined because of the responsibilities of the relationship.

            Did Abraham call Sarah ‘My lady’?

            I actually do hold to the eternal functional subordination of the Son though I didn’t mention the Son simply as a divine person. I mentioned the word used by Paul ‘Christ’. He is the messianic Son. The reason I hold to some form of eternal subordination is because the Son is eternally ‘Son’ and the Father is eternally ‘Father’. I don’t see how a Father/Son relationship can exist without the dynamics of that this relationship implies being active.

            Ive read a little of Giles on line. I must confess I wasn’t convinced. he was a little strident where I don’t think it was required. I suspect he had a bit of an axe to grind about the relationship between Subordination in the trinity and in human relationships. But I may well be doing him an injustice.

            I’m still waiting for feedback on Adam created first etc.

          • I had written a answer to this then somehow lost it. As I mentioned before, I read M Bird’s book at one point. I’ll occasionally read online articles from an egalitarian perspective. I find writers in articles are forced to be more precise and avoid hiding behind verbiage. I Dion;t buy books much these days. Unless its heavily discounted or free on logos I dismiss it – I’m a pensioner.

            I look to understand you from what you have written and I’m sorry to say your arguments in the post don’t inspire me with confidence or make me want to spend money to read your views on this further.

            You list some women who have taken a leadership role but you fail to admit that these are the exception ad not the rule. You point o OT and NT women prophets but this is not a point of contention. The point of Acts 2 is not that some women are prophets but that all are now prophets. The Spirit is not resting on a few but upon all. The text has nothing to do with leadership in the church.

            You give to Gals 3:28 a weight it cannot carry. A text which is simply stating equal access to a relationship with Christ is marshalled in the cause of leadership on the church.

            You argue ‘the husband of one wife’ is an idiom that can be transferred to a female elder… she must be monogamous or the like. To my mind that is just wishful thinking. I’d need to see a widespread agreement before giving such a view the time of day. A similar conclusion must be made about Junia (if in fact the name is female). I find it incredible the freight that this text is asked to carry,

            Then of course there is your inability to see patriarchy in Gen 1-3. And your reluctance to comment on Adam ws created first etc.

            Cumulatively, I find your reasoning doesn’t inspire confidence on this matter. I really find the arguments weak and wonder that you don’t see them as weak.

            I really don’t intend these comments to be harsh. Envisage a beseeching tone and maybe a gently incredulous expression.

            Of course, I’m a pensioner, who has lived happily within a conservative evangelical milieu for most of his life. My convictions have even framed through writers like ML Jones, Stott, Lucas, Jackman, John Murray, D Moo, Grudem, Piper, Carson etc. I am unlikely to change now unless really solid arguments from Scripture were forthcoming and on this topic tha doesn’t seem possible.

            You have the tide on your side, however, Ian and Ive no doubt many younger evangelicals will be more attracted to a view that makes life in their world easier.

      • OK, Ian.
        How about loving your wife sacrificially as Christ loves the church, His bride and in all the ways he does that which includes what? Is that any easier? It’s not for me. Are my wife and I more Christ- like over years of marriage Certainly since we were both converted in our mid/late 40’s?
        Now who has the more difficult role? Assymitry in action?
        Sure it has nothing to do with salvation , but everything to do with mutual sanctification process in human marriage?
        Are we not all like an unsubmissive bride, to Christ, a bride who bridles at anything which cuts across sovereign individualism and rebellious stubborness such as in Psalm 32?

        Reply
      • Christ is saviour of the body. The body, his body, is the church of which we are members. Christ loved (and loves) the church as described in 5:25-27. The husband and wife are one flesh. Husbands are exhorted to love their wives as also Christ loved the church and to love their wives as their own bodies. In loving his wife the husband loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it as also Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. Again, the analogy is there. Christ loved (loves), gave himself for, cherishes and nourishes the church, his body, to present the church to himself glorious, holy and unblemished. Husbands are exhorted to model themselves on Christ in how they behave towards their wives: loving them as their own flesh, their own bodies, cherishing them, nourishing them, and (usually metaphorically) dying for them – all for their wives physical, moral and spiritual well-being (the equivalent of ‘saviour of the wife’). What a challenge and rebuke to some husbands, including me. Note the analogical language: ‘as also’ (5:23), ‘so also’ (5:24), ‘as also’ (5:25), ‘so…also’ (5:28), ‘as also’ (5:29), ‘also…so’ (5:33). The whole analogy seems closely coupled to me.
        Paul uses the same word ‘being subject’, ‘is subject’ for both the Christ-church and the husband –wife relationships. I point out in my essay that
        ‘In the New Testament there are 34 instances (various tenses etc.) of the verb ‘hupotasso’ which is the word translated ‘is subject’ in Ephesians 5:24. One is Ephesians 5:21, of which more later. 4 are about wives being subject to their husbands (the correct understanding of which is at the heart of the disagreement), 1 is about women learning ‘in all subjection’ and the context of the other 28 makes clear that ‘being subject’ involves the notion of authority and/or obeying or disobeying that authority’.
        ‘For so then indeed the holy women hoping in God adorned themselves, submitting (same word as in Ephesians) themselves to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord….’ (1 Peter 3:5-6)
        ‘Obey’ and ‘be subject to’ are not so far apart in conveying the idea of authority.
        Phil Almond

        Reply
        • Philip,
          Well expanded, thanks. Here’s me thinking it rather obvious. It seems obvious is not in the scholars, vocabulary; is anathema.
          I’ve just seen this, scrolling up on the computer.

          Reply
    • Excellent. Stott’s movement on the women’s role and eternal punishment was regrettable, Wright, I enjoy with reservations. From that period and before the dominance of patriarchy in the evangelical world must have been near 100%. This is why it is arrogant and unwise to be dismissive of it.

      Reply
  37. Nowhere do I get the impression that the article by Ian Paul and Andrew Bartlett is starting from the current secular obsession with equality. They are not ‘twisting the scriptures’ to fit the present cultural zeitgeist. I hope we can all agree about that.

    To my mind they simply setting out the cases for the role of women in church order in an objective way and examining the accepted orthodoxy in this matter in the context of much reformed thinking. One may not agree with them of course, but bending to the ‘spirit of the world’ they are not. There is genuine theological discourse to be had here. As to whether this is a disputable matter is debatable, but I would hardly have thought it is a salvific one.

    In the Baptist Union, which admits of women ministers I once asked a male Baptist minister of some standing what he thought about the issue. He replied that he wouldn’t attend a Baptist church that had a woman minister or elder, so in some sense, among churches it is inevitable that some degree of self-selection takes place according to what you believe about the role of women in church. The CofE I beleive have institutionlised this in the appointment of female vicars.

    Having been a christian now for nearly 50 years and been to many different type of churches, and sat under many different type of leadership, as well as being in leadership myself, I have formed the view (rightly or wrongly), that the only thing that you can really say for sure about church leadership is that it will have leadership of some kind – and that if the leadership is of God – then if will be suited to the particular needs of that church.

    It will also generate growth and fruit in the members.

    When I am sitting in a congregation and a leader in front of me starts to minister then the question that always crosses my mind is not whether that are male of female, but whether they are any good. I expect others to make the same judgement about me when I lead or teach. I have seen so many examples of poor leadership in churches, that I am a loss to explain how some leaders manage to reach these positions or what they may have been taught at theological college or indeed if they have been taught anything of value at all.

    Reply
    • They are not ‘twisting the scriptures’ to fit the present cultural zeitgeist. I hope we can all agree about that. I appreciate the desire to mollify, and agree that there is no conscious desire to accommodate the present zeitgeist, but scriptures are repeatedly misrepresented.

      To go over some of the ground again, the authors give the following as examples of women ‘guarding and protecting the people of God’:

      1) Miriam, citing Exodus 15:20-21; Numbers 12:1-2; Micah 6:4.
      Ex 15:20f refers to Miriam leading other women. In Num 12:1f Miriam foolishly opposes Moses. Micah 6:4 apparently refers to Ex 15:20f and says nothing about guarding and protecting.

      2) The prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:11–23:3). This passage shows her pronouncing disaster on Jerusalem, not ‘guarding and protecting’. Would that there were more like Huldah today, speaking counter-culturally and prophetically.

      3) Priscilla (Acts 18:18-28), said to have protected the nascent Ephesian church from inadequate teaching. She and her husband had a private word with Apollos, following which the brothers (sic) encouraged his ministry thus corrected. But it was actually Paul who, after Apollos had left, put the nascent church on the right path.

      4) Junia, who the authors categorically say was an apostle (Romans 16:7). This is debatable and, as I discussed above, unlikely. The categorical assertion is misleading.

      The authors go on to say:

      5) In biblical usage, the word for “helper” (‘ēzer), which is applied to the Woman, seems to carry a connotation of “protector” or “deliverer”. This is incorrect; as per the dictionary, the word means ‘help(er)’ pure and simple. It is especially incorrect ad loc., Gen 2:20. Eve was not created in order to be Adam’s “protector” or “deliverer”.

      6) Women were commanded by God to co-rule with men (Genesis 1:28). This is also incorrect. The biblical text refers to ruling/having dominion over the animals, not other human beings.

      7) Gal 3:28. For the reasons indicated, this cannot be taken as a proof text for egalitarianism.

      8) I Tim 2:12, interpreted as ‘prohibiting right teaching by women rather than as prohibiting false teaching by women’. As is evident from the surrounding verses, this is not what the text says, and is ironic in view of the false teaching the authors are promoting.

      In view of the above I don’t see how we can truthfully agree that ‘they are simply setting out the cases for the role of women in an objective way’.

      Reply
      • On Junia, I posted above. It is the scholarly consensus that she was an apostle.

        I want to interrogate your claims about 1 Tim 2:12 and Priscilla.

        On 1 Timothy 2:12—I think all comments merely scratch the surface—and the article does not deal with it, neither does Wilson’s article. I think Ian has spoken on this elsewhere. But what I will say is that, most But I struggle to resist saying something, so here goes:

        We need only read 1 Tim 2:12 in light of all the verses preceding it. After an initial greeting, Paul dives into his letter by charging Timothy: “Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1:3–4). These “certain people” then remain in view throughout the rest of the letter as Paul writes that “some have departed” from “a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” and have “turned to meaningless talk” (1:5–6). Men like “Hymenaeus and Alexander” have “suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.” So far gone are these men, that Paul has handed them “over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1:19–20).

        Following immediately on from this description of false teachers, Paul says, “I urge you, therefore …” (2:1) and then gives instructions about prayerfully reclaiming a sense of mission as a church (2:1–7); men refraining from anger and disputes (2:8); women avoiding an ostentatious and seductive appearance (2:9–10); and a woman (singular) learning submissively (2:11), and not teaching or assuming authority over a man” (2:12).

        When it comes to interpreting Paul’s letters, we must remember that we are listening to only one side of the phone call, in which Paul is speaking to someone else, not to us. At times we have to speculate, using evidence in the letter itself, how each of the instructions in 1 Timothy 2 will restore the church and deal with the effects of the false teachers. As we do so, for example, we realize that since a church torn apart by false teaching may lose a sense of mission, we can make sense of the instruction about prayerfully reclaiming it. Heresy and division may have led to angry outbursts between some men, hence Paul’s instruction about men lifting up holy hands in prayer “without anger or disputing.” Likewise, the heresy may somehow have encouraged ostentatious, proud, unteachable, and independent attitudes and behaviour in some women, towards men in particular, hence the instructions for women to learn submissively from God’s word, and interact more honourably with the men. The point I make is that Paul is giving directives that deal with a specific difficult situation about which he knows more than we do, though there is some evidence in the letter as to what it may be. Why else would only men be encouraged to pray? And why else would only women be told to learn?

        At this point, it’s clear from 1 Timothy 1 that some men are behaving badly, but, outside of 2:9–15, how sure can we be that women are out of line? 1 Timothy 5 provides an answer: some women have abandoned their “dedication to Christ” because of their “sensual desires” (v11). Many of them are “idle and go about from house to house” as “busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to” (v13). They give the enemy “opportunity for slander” (v14). “Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan” (v15)—a reference to surrendering to heresy. Paul’s final words in his letter show that false teaching is the root issue: “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith” (6:20-21). We do not know exactly how the false teaching resulted in the poor behaviour of some women, but there is a definite link, most evident in the way Paul compares these Ephesian women with Eve who herself “was deceived” by Satan.

        What is striking, then, is how you do not acknowledge the effect of false teaching as the pressing concern of Paul’s entire letter, including this passage. One complementarian, for example, quotes Paul’s words, “I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household,” and concludes, “the entire letter … can be seen as a church planting manual—how to set up a church … according to the principles of God’s household.” Yet she does not notice a clause—“if I am delayed”—which reveals, along with other indicators in every major section of the letter, Paul’s urgent efforts to restore a church pillaged by false teachers. Köstenberger and Grudem, though admitting that Paul writes the letter to combat heresy and its effects, strangely treat this passage as a digression from this priority —as if Paul pauses from his main burden and his prior train of thought and now confronts some women who, in the midst of the false teaching, have been trying to teach truth to men.

        Now Priscilla…

        I am struck by the way you shrink her ministry: “She and her husband had a private word with Apollos, following which the brothers (sic) encouraged his ministry thus corrected. But it was actually Paul who, after Apollos had left, put the nascent church on the right path.”

        None of that is right. I recently worked through Acts 18 using the two best Acts commentaries I know of: Ben Witherington’s “The Acts of the Apostles” (the top-rated commentary on Acts according to http://www.bestcommentaries.com) and Craig Keener’s magnum opus, “Acts: An Exegetical Commentary,” (at 4640 pages, it is the largest and most thoroughly documented Acts commentary ever written). Here’s what I learnt…

        1. Priscilla did not merely have a private word with Apollos. They “proselabonto”d him—welcomed him in like the islanders in Acts 28 “welcomed” Paul and the rest of the shipwrecked crew on Patmos. That’s why the NIV says that they “invited him into their home”—and Keener says that the word here means, “to welcome into one’s home and circle.”

        2. She did not merely “have a word” with Apollos. Luke’s authorial intent in including the Acts 18 story is to demonstrate that Apollos received his induction and training into being an itinerant teacher to church through Priscilla and Aquila, who were Paul’s own disciples.

        3. “The brothers” (Acts 18:27) (correction: “brothers and sisters”) refers to the Ephesian church, and especially to Priscilla and Aquila. Evidently Paul had left the couple to plant the church in Ephesus, initially populated with Paul’s converts from his brief synagogue visit.

        4. Priscilla cared for these “brothers and sisters”—indeed many or all of them would become the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:18). So Priscilla not only taught the teachers, but cared/shepherded for the future carers/shepherded.

        5. There is nothing at all in the text to suggest that when Paul returned to the church 6 to 9 months later he needed to set the nascent church “on the right path”—in fact, the sparse evidence we have is that the fledgling community is doing quite well. This small gathering of believers are acting like a church should: 1) They have welcomed someone in—Paul tells believers to “welcome one another as Christ welcomes you.” (Rom 15:7). Interestingly the word for welcome is a cognate of the “proselabonto” in which Priscilla and Aquila first “took in” Apollos.) 2) They are encouraging Apollos. The writer to the Hebrews commands, “Let us not give up meeting together, … but let us encourage one another.” (Heb 10:25)) 3) Spiritual gifts are being recognised, as per Romans 12: “If your gift is teaching, then teach”. 4) People are being mobilized for mission—these Jewish believers maintain relationship with the Jewish synagogue, and they commend Apollos to the church in Corinth.

        The point to be noticed is that Priscilla and Aquila have gathered new believers—Paul’s converts and perhaps some of their own—and have evidently discipled them to function like a church: there’s welcoming, mutual encouragement, ministry gifts at play, and the mobilizing of people for mission.

        I was a complementarian for 20 years. But I was bothered by: 1) the way the contribution of many gifted women in my church was being overlooked or diminished and 2) the way complementarian scholars kept diminishing the biblical women. Your comments on Priscilla are a case in point.

        Reply
        • #1. The NIV is not a very literal translation overall. proselambano etymologically means ‘take toward’ oneself, in the sense of bringing a person closer to one, e.g. for a private discussion. The three other NT instances are Matt 16:22, Mark 8:32, Acts 17:5. It’s quite possible they welcomed him into their home. It’s not an issue.
          #2. That is all your interpretation. The text simply says the couple interpreted the way of God to him more accurately.
          #3. a) No need to correct me on ‘brothers’. You seem to be unaware that the NIV’s ‘and sisters’ is interpretative and not in the text. The NT use of ‘brothers’ reflects its patriarchal framework, to use the shorthand. Here it refers (as you say) to the Ephesian church, but not ‘especially to Priscilla and Aquila’, which is purely your interpretation.
          b) We are not told what the couple did in Paul’s absence apart from their conversation with Apollos. Evidently they did not ‘plant’ the church if it was already populated with Paul’s converts from his brief synagogue visit. That they were active in speaking about their faith seems very likely. A good thing – why do I imply I would think otherwise?
          #4. Priscilla cared for these “brothers and sisters”—indeed many or all of them would become the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:18). So Priscilla not only taught the teachers, but cared/shepherded for the future carers/ shepherded. Where does it say that, sorry?
          #5. There is nothing at all in the text to suggest… – an interesting phrase when you reconstruct between the lines as much as you do (giving rise to the comment that everyone’s comments but yours are just scratching the surface). The evidence to the point is not ‘sparse’. Paul comes/returns to Ephesus and finds that, despite Aquila and Priscilla’s ministry (or perhaps they have returned to Corinth), there are disciples who still have not heard of the Holy Spirit. He therefore decides to spend two whole years there building up the nascent church.

          I really don’t think we should be reading with such sex-tinted spectacles. Note too, for those who do, how Luke first introduces the couple (Luke 18:2). The personal details are all given in relation to Aquila, then he adds ‘and Priscilla his wife’. As above, I think it is better to think of them as a pair, a married couple acting as one, rather than focusing on Priscilla in pursuit of some egalitarian emphasis.

          Regarding I Timothy, I would draw your attention to the phrase (I Tim 2:8) ‘in every place’. Paul seems to be moving beyond the particulars of whatever occasion prompted him to write to give a general instruction. The preceding verses (1-7) are also general in character.

          Your closing remark about my diminishing the role of biblical women, with Priscilla a case in point, was unnecessary and unwarranted. Let the reader decide who is being truer to the texts before us.

          Reply
          • Correction received about my closing remark being unwarranted. I apologise. For the record, I never said anything about other people’s comments merely scratching the surface relative to mine.

            As for my reconstruction of Priscilla’s and Aquila’s ministry—I recently wrote a post on my website about it, in which I try to support the comments I made briefly in my previous comment: https://terranwilliams.com/was-priscilla-a-pastor/

            Brief response to your points … #1 My point is that they did more than merely have a private conversation with him. They “took him in.”

            #2. As for authorial intent, that’s Craig Keener’s interpretation. I agree with it—we must ask why Luke would take so much space on this meeting with Apollos.

            #3. It’s Ben Witherington’s interpretation. I agree with it—the couple are the ones who are able to write a letter of recommendation to the very church in Achaia they just came from.

            #4. If Paul converted many people in his first visit to the synagogue and left them in the care of Priscilla and Aquila, then later (in Acts 20:18) says that indeed many of these first converts are the elders, then for that duration, the couple shepherded the future shepherds.

            5. The couple stayed in Corinth—1 Cor 16:19. The 12 men were on their way into Ephesus not out of it. Surely, Priscilla could have taught these men too as she did Apollos who had similar error in his theology.

  38. Chris, if by equality in the sexes you mean sameness then no, neither Andrew nor Ian are arguing for this. However, if equality means an absence of hierarchy then they are arguing for this. Both of these buy into the contemporary zeitgeist. By championing the latter they are echoing the present culture. Had they lived a hundred years ago I doubt they would have been championing their current views; these are views that grow in the soil of an egalitarian culture. I think this is simply a matter of fact. None of us is exempt from this tendency. All of us live with the tension of the virtues of our culture sitting in tension with the virtues of the Bible.

    I live on an island where it is impossible to simply choose the church that best suits my convictions. I have to live with different from what I would choose. I am thankful to belong to a small baptist church with godly people as members. But it is Baptist and not Brethren. There are what are to my mind irregularities. A retired female Cof S minister is part of our small congregation. I am part of a small house group where a close friend is a lay reader in the C of S. She sees herself as a missionary and I believe she is.

    I was a preacher in Brethren circles for many years and have always tried to make allowance for the limitations in preachers only too aware of my own.

    Real life is messy. Maintaining the unity of the Spirit is important while seeking to play a part in moving us all towards the unity of the faith.

    I will argue forthrightly here for the dynamics allow that. I will try to remain respectful even if I push the other. In local church forbearance is hopefully greater.

    Reply
    • ‘Both of these buy into the contemporary zeitgeist. By championing the latter they are echoing the present culture.’

      I think that is a completely bizarre accusation given the arguments offered above.

      Reply
        • John – Is every stance culture takes wrong? (and of course there are many competing cultures). here in the West almost universally culture is protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Is culture wrong to protest? Whether culture takes. a position on something is neither here nor there – our eyes are on the Lord, his Word and his kingdom, as you well know.

          My family were several generations Exclusive Brethren – well known Plymouth Brethren evangelists, teachers and brothers. They came out in the 1960’s when the writing was on the wall and sickness set in – but they remained a closed exclusive Brethren family in worship, leading a community of ex-exclusives.
          My dad married into it, was a strict and particular Baptist pastor. I was weaned on egalitarianism in church, but from a young age was very aware who wore the trousers at home – the mis-reading and mis-weighting of texts led to a church where women sat separate n silent, and a house where men were quiet. It was reading the Bible for myself prayerfully and openly that I began to see the straw man arguments I had inculcated. Praying and fasting and seeking God I came to a very different reading – complementarian. The Scriptures got me there and held me there – not some current cultural anti-patriarchical zeitgeist

          Reply
          • correction – “Praying and fasting and seeking God I came to a very different reading –NOT complementarian.”

          • Simon

            I understand your background a little. My background was Open Brethren of a stricter sort but I had relatives in the Exclusive Brethren. There are aspects of my background I have jettisoned and aspects I have retained. I like to think that I have come to my own convictions though of course we are all shaped by our influences.

            I’m not sure what you mean by complementarian. For some years now it has been a title for a form of patriarchy. Ian is attempting to redefine it to describe his brand of egalitarianism. He doesn’t like the word egalitarian but to my mind this carries the meaning of equality between the sexes without patriarchy. I suspect that is the main secular usage.

            I don’t think everything in the culture is wrong. I believe in conscience and common grace. Having said that, as the culture moves increasingly away from its Christian moorings it increasingly adopts values that are deeply opposed to Christianity. There seems to be a race to destruction at the moment, I think the more we can be distinctive in a biblical way the brighter our light will be. I have been part of a generation that has not been distinctive enough.

            I am always conscious that it was usually current and favoured cultural philosophies that invaded the church and corrupted it.

            However, I often have at the back of my mind the warning of Exclusive Brethren and even aspects of Open Brethren. Yet clearly Anglicanism is not the answer is largely apostate. I think the mis-weighing now lies on Ian’s side of the fence in these issues. I have given a summary of why above.

    • To be fair to Ian I dont think he’s doing that at all. If he was being genuinely influenced by the current zeitgeist, he would also be arguing for gay sexual relationships, which he does not. I think he and Andrew Bartlett are simply trying to clarify what Paul meant specifically and the Bible generally.

      Peter
      PS – do you live on one of the Scottish isles? I used to know some people from there when I studied at Uni – often called Murdo!

      Reply
      • Yes, but not the Hebrides (where Murdo’s flourish). I live on Arran. A beautiful island.

        But Peter, Ian’s position is an egalitarianism that is hostile to patriarchy. In that it very much reflects the mainstream of present culture. I think that’s simply an undeniable fact.

        I have no wish to offend Ian or Andrew. I would hope that should we meet there would be much to unite us. But Ian is robust. He is quite happy to make robust criticisms of Andrew Wilson and others. Some truths call for sharper discussion than others when more is at stake.

        I happen to think the feminisation of the church is a bad thing (Women in teaching and leadership positions feeds this). That is why I push back with some determination.

        Reply
        • His position might reflect the mainstream of present culture, but that does not mean such a position does not reflect Scripture. You seem to be assuming the two cannot agree, and that Ian’s motivational factor is current culture, when it seems to me it is Scripture.

          Reply
        • “I live on Arran. A beautiful island.”

          I didn’t realise you lived there.

          It is gorgeous, though I only know it as a visitor, not a resident. My residence in Scotland has been St Andrews, Edinburgh, and Mid-Argyll (though my family roots are in Aberdeenshire).

          Have you ever tried the A’Chir ridge? It’s a fantastic scramble.

          I do think that living in the Highlands and Islands helps one feel a sense of God’s grandeur and beauty… and the beauty that awaits us in heaven.

          “Your eyes will see the King in his beauty, and behold a land that stretches afar.”

          Reply
  39. “Had they lived a hundred years ago I doubt they would have been championing their current views;”

    They would need to answer but I think they would John.

    “Real life is messy. Maintaining the unity of the Spirit is important while seeking to play a part in moving us all towards the unity of the faith.”

    So are churches. Agree completely.

    Reply
  40. Eh?
    Where did that come from, Ian?
    God divided and woman, *in* creation?
    (re your comment 27: 12.11 pm)
    No he didn’t.
    Woman was drawn from Adam.
    Even with a sanctificed imagination can’t you just hear the joy and delight of Adam’s, “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. There was a oneness of flesh, yet separation into two different, distinct people.
    Hiding from God’s fellowship, curses followed disobedience, but joined with the proto -evangel there was a promised seed and woman was then first named Eve.

    Reply
    • God divided and woman, *in* creation?
      […]
      No he didn’t.
      […]
      There was a oneness of flesh, yet separation into two different, distinct people.

      Um you seem to have contradicted yourself? Separation into different, distinct people is division, is it not? When a cell becomes two distinct cells, that’s cell division, isn’t it?

      Reply
      • No I haven’t. It is the sequence of what is written in scripture, uncorrectable, no matter how you might seek to understand it biologically.

        Reply
        • No I haven’t.

          In that case I’m very confused. you write that God didn’t divide man and woman; but then you say that God did separate man and woman, making two distinct individuals here there had previously been one.

          How is that not dividing man and woman? So how can you say that God didn’t divide man and woman, and then say that He did just that?

          Reply
  41. No I haven’t. It is the sequence of what is written in scripture, uncorrectable, no matter how you might seek to understand it biologically.

    Reply
  42. I can’t find any reference in the above, at all, to the restriction, in antiquity (and many other cultural contexts) of women’s roles in public space, as opposed to private space. I find this strange, perhaps indicating that the authors need to attend more to the social issues of the ancient as well as modern contexts. Considerations of modesty are clearly relevant to the discussion in view of the honour/shame language of 1 Cor 14:33b–36. Addressing issues of cultural difference is generally accepted as important for the interpretation and application of the biblical texts. Brian J. Capper argued that as Christian assemblies moved from the domestic setting of house churches to public settings, women’s leadership roles became restricted. This would seem highly relevant. I note that Bartlett cites Capper’s work, and even personal contact, in his book, and do not understand why this public/private space question is not drawn into the discussion here. Might it not aid in assessing the ambiguity of the New Testament evidence, or the appropriate application in different cultural contexts? See:

    ‘Apôtres, Maîtres de Maison et Domestiques : Les Origines du Ministère Tripartite,’ Etudes Théologiques et Religieuses 81.3 (2006), pp. 395–428.

    ‘To Keep Silent, Ask Husbands at Home, and Not to Have Authority Over Men. (1 Corinthian 14:33-36 and I Timothy 2:11–12): The Transition from Gathering in Private to Meeting in Public Space in Second Generation Christianity and the Exclusion of Women from Leadership of the Public Assembly’, Theologische Zeitschrift 61 (2005): Part I: pp. 113–131; Part II: pp. 301–309.

    ‘Public Body, Private Women. The Ideology of Gender and Space and the Exclusion of Women from Public Leadership in the Late First–Century Church,’ in Robert Hannaford and J’annine Jobling, eds., Theology and the Body, (Leominster: Gracewing, 1999), pp. 123–151.

    Reply
      • I thought that these statements begged the question I posed, especially the second and third, which are rather sweeping:

        “Many are indeed jumping out of complementarianism. Women are finding their full freedom in Christ. Men are seeing women with fresh eyes, as their true co-equals.”

        Reply
    • I agree on the importance of historical context. Having read Andrew Bartlett’s book, he does engage with it.

      Capper argues, rightly I believe, that Lydia, Nympha and Priscilla were indeed elders/overseers—which is precisely the point Bartlett and Paul make in their response to Wilson. Indeed Capper solves one of the great mysteries of the New Testament—”If every church had local leaders, and over 100 prominent believers are mentioned, then why is not one named as a pastor/elder, and why instead are we given the names of so many house church leaders?” His answer solves the riddle: the house church leaders ARE the elders! My one pushback on Capper’s work is that Priscilla at least exercised a leadership that was evidently public enough, not merely private, to warrant life-threatening persecution and also fame in the Pauline churches far beyond the local churches she served in. (Romans 16:3–4). Capper also does not believe 1 Cor 14 is original. And if Capper is right about the Pastoral epistles (I am not sure he is) then they reflect a generation of ecclesial practice that postdates the apostolic era.

      Reply
      • Terran,
        Is it the case that in the early NT house churches -was there always a single overseer (either male of female) over them -or was it a plurality?

        If the latter, would the women you mention be first among equals in the oversight of the local churches bearing in mind it is only their names that are mentioned in the text?

        Reply
          • Jock,
            Oversees things I suppose!
            In the NT context. I would guess that it is an individual of some spiritual maturity appointed by an apostle who organises or acts as a focal point for the coming together of believers in their house and ensures that individual ministries within the church can come forward and be nurtured for the benefit of all.

            I think they also have a role in protecting the flock although they may not necessarily be teachers. I don’t see them as being the man (or woman) ‘in charge’ whose word is law.

            I would say that our present day structures of church government are a long way away from how the NT Christians understood them and abuses of this role (or something like it) in our modern context abound as you have indicated.

        • Capper posits that a church in a city would consist of one or more house churches, and concludes that: “from the ‘cellular’ structure of the Pauline congregations … emerges the reason for the plurality of local leaders. Each sub-group met within the house of a leader in the Christian community; each such leader is an elder/overseer, of which there were a plurality in each city. … We can be certain that in the ancient world the householder was vouchsafed ultimate control of any hosted gathering. This was custom and common manners. Since early Christian householders who entertained church meetings in their houses were always older in the faith and the local sponsors of the gospel, they became the commanding figures of the congregation at the local level. Social status, maturity, generosity, charisma and apostolic commission combined to give these local sponsors of the Gospel authority. … For the elder, the church was quite simply an extension of their own household, for they hosted the church in their own home.”

          In the first century culture widowed materfamilias were already in charge of homes—1 Timothy 5 even tells them to “oikodespote” (household despot). Being the householder developed seamlessly into being the house church leader if one’s household became one of the epicentres of the church in a city.

          Reply