What is the biblical case for equality between men and women?

I publish here a review by Prof Dorothy Lee of a recent book by Kevin Giles, What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women. It is reproduced with permission from The Melbourne Anglican, February 2020. 

This book by Kevin Giles is a biblically based and systematically argued exposure of the theological inadequacies of the so-called “complementarian” position on male headship in the home and the Christian community. In particular, the author singles out as representative of this view the 2014 volume by Andreas J. and Margaret E. Köstenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey, which argues in an uncompromising way for the submission of wives in marriage and women in the church. 

Dr Giles argues his position from his perspective as an Anglican priest in the evangelical tradition, a well-published New Testament scholar, a theologian who has long endorsed the Cappadocian view of the equality of Persons within the Trinity and a happily married man in a fully egalitarian relationship with his wife. He allows these perspectives to intermingle in his writing, although his emphasis throughout in the book is on Scripture. 

The first three chapters deal directly with complementarianism in its modern guise, outlining its basic presuppositions and the subsequent crisis among evangelicals because of their divergent readings of Scripture on gender issues. Giles’ view, though sharing a similarly high view of Scripture as the complementarians, sees egalitarianism as grounded in the biblical vision of gender relations. 

The rise of complementarianism represents a move away from an older view of women’s inferiority to men and is focussed on differences of “roles” between men and women, as supposedly ordained by God. Giles points out that the word “role” is used in this discourse in an inflexible and unbiblical way that obscures the real agenda, which is the refusal of those with power (men) to surrender it in order to empower others (women): 

The complementarian use of the word ‘role’ is a disingenuous and deliberately obfuscating way of saying men and women are differentiated on the basis that men rule, women obey. (p. 119). 

Giles’ biblical position is carefully argued. Beginning with creation, he demonstrates that the subordination of women to men is a direct consequence of the Fall and not part of God’s intrinsic design for women and men; the story “is descriptive of life in a fallen world; not prescriptive” (p. 65). It is, in other words, a manifestation of sin and thus displeasing to God. This view stands in stark contrast to that of the Köstenbergers, who explicitly condone and sacralise the patriarchal rule of men over women. 

Turning to the New Testament, Giles articulates the remarkable attitude of Jesus towards women, as attested to in the Gospels. Jesus had women as disciples, including Mary Magdalene as “the apostle of the apostles”, treating them as equal to men, and never regarding men as having special privileges within marriage. Again and again, Giles reminds the reader that leadership, according to Jesus himself, is about humility and costly, self-giving service, not about domination and subjection. 

From Jesus to Paul is but a small step for Giles: he sees Paul following Jesus on gender as on all other questions. Far from being a misogynist, Paul was “revolutionary in his teaching and practice” (p. 64) in relation to women and their ministry. In the list of 10 women named in Romans chapter 16, Paul demonstrates that he has no problems working alongside women in leadership for the sake of the gospel. He names and commends women who are house church leaders, deacons, patrons of churches, apostles and missionaries. 

In discussing Paul, Giles also addresses some of the problem texts from the Pauline corpus, arguing, for example, that the Greek word kephalê in 1 Corinthians 11:16 means “source” rather than “head”, and showing that women possess a God-given authority to prophecy and preach in the Christian assembly. In the light of the contradiction between this text and 1 Corinthians 14:33b-34, which seeks to silence women’s voice in the assembly, Giles accepts the view that these verses are a later interpolation that do not belong within Paul’s argument. 

Discussing another problematical text, 1 Timothy 2:12, Giles argues that the difficult Greek verb, authentein, refers to usurped rather than divinely-sanctioned authority. 

What is being criticised here is the behaviour of certain women in the community, in a context of heretical ideas, attempting to dominate men with their [false] teaching. This does not reflect a denial of women’s capacity to lead and teach, which is affirmed elsewhere in the Pauline writings. 

One of the best sections of the book is the extended discussion of Ephesians 5:21-33 (pp. 154-168). Appealing to the social context of the biblical world in which “husbands had rights, privileges, and freedoms denied to wives” (p. 156), Giles argues that this passage reflects in one sense its ancient context where women were poorly educated, entirely dependent on the men of their families and fitted for life within the home; thus lacking in the training needed for leadership. Egalitarian marriage is inconceivable in such a context. 

At the same time, Giles argues that the same text provides the resources for undermining patriarchal marriage, particularly in confirming mutual submission at the beginning of the passage (verse 21) and challenging Greco-Roman understandings of power. Here the aim of the text is to “ask the husband, the leader, to become a servant to his wife” (p. 158). This does not, for Giles, authorise male leadership in the home, but it does reflect an attitude that ultimately leads towards an egalitarian perspective on marriage in which submission is mutual and headship can be seen as unnecessary and irrelevant. 

A useful parallel is drawn between women’s submission and the endorsement of slavery. Giles points out that there were evangelicals who supported slavery in the 19th Century (as well as female subordination) and evangelicals who vigorously opposed slavery and worked hard to overcome it. The same was true of apartheid in South Africa, where some Christians argued for it on biblical grounds (mainly quoting odd verses) while others vehemently opposed it as being inimical to the core message of the gospel itself. 

Finally, Giles underscores the truly appalling figures around the abuse of women across the contemporary world. From the abortion of female foetuses to female genital mutilation, the enforcement of marriage on young girls, the frequent and widespread occurrences of rape and violence against women in the home, including among Christians, Giles argues that complementarianism, while not responsible for these social ills, creates an environment in which abuse can thrive. In his conclusion, Giles assures his readers that complementarianism – which, for him, is full of “euphemistic and obfuscating language” (p. 179) – remains a minority Christian view, even among evangelicals, and confirms that “women’s liberation is good news for men and women”. (p. 230). 

This book is written with lucidity and reason by someone who knows and loves the Bible, and who believes in the liberating impulse of the gospel, as grounded in the teaching and example of Jesus himself. It is a pleasure to read such coherent and cogent prose, and to perceive the power of biblical teaching when it is rightly understood and clearly expounded. We owe Kevin Giles a great debt of gratitude for this eloquent book and its exposure of the theological anomalies and incongruities of complementarianism. 

The Revd Professor Dorothy A. Lee FAHA is Stewart Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity College Theological  School, University of Divinity.

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132 thoughts on “What is the biblical case for equality between men and women?”

  1. An off-topic note: Something in your website’s config is deleting ligatures like `fl` and `ffi` rather than replacing them. e.g. “This does not re ect a denial of women’s capacity to lead and teach, which is a rmed elsewhere in the Pauline writings.”

    • Thanks for picking this up. It is a function of copying from a PDF, where ligatures (like the combinations you cite) are created as different characters and so have a different ASCII code which is not recognised by the blog software (WordPress).

      I thought I had picked them all up, but clearly missed these. Let me know if you spot any others…!

    • There is also a reference to ‘prophecy’ midway through the article which should, I think, be ‘prophesy’.

  2. If anyone treats ‘equality’ tout court as a self-explanatory concept, that falls into the category of Trojan Horse concepts that are as (nonsensically) brief as possible for the purpose of smuggling in contraband together with the unexceptionable surface appearance.

    Always ask ‘equal in what way’, and secondly ask ‘define equal’. Equal in average height? We see how many 1000s of ways there are to be potentially equal or unequal. The result will be different for every one of those 1000s. Therefore to use ‘equal’ without further qualification raises one’s suspicions.

    By the way this is exactly the cunning plan of the architects of the Equality Act, and their political ancestors. Nothing is as it seems. Some are more equal than others (identity politics equals racism and sexism by another name). One has first to accept LGBT as an essence (no equality at all for those who even question that let alone deny it), then orient all talk of ‘equality’ to LGBT (just as Pride, celebrating diversity, is oriented to one form of diversity alone, and then not an essential one), with disability cleverly thrown in as a means of categorising LGBT together with those whom everyone feels compassion for.

      • Complementarian:

        Everyone in the world (who’s honest) supports the complementarian position since not to do so is to deny 2 of the main things of all: biology and romance. And what an odd imaginary world it would be that did not have those.

        However, in Christian circles, ‘the complementarian position’ has been known to mean not that men and women are different and interdependent (”duh”, as they naughtily say) but rather a belief in male leadership. This is to go over old ground, and is one of the occasions when I can’t believe people actually forget what has been said in the n-squared previous discussions. But of course we will forget a lot of it, even if we have the best intentions. There are certain principles that look nonnegotiable:

        (1) If anyone has a gift, they should use it and develop it.

        (2) It takes a diversity of trainings and pedagogies to suss out what gifts and potentials people may have in the first place.

        (3) Sometimes presuppositions can be selffulfilling.

        (4) The idea (based on what?) that men and women are essentially the same has been absolutely disastrous.

        (5) Most of us will have found that people who do not deny their biology and brain-types but work in accord with them are happier.

        (6) Women appreciate strength and vision in a man.

        (7) Sometimes feminists seem to have no clear idea what men are really for. That is a nonstarter of a theory, it is backward and thoughtless. There have been thousands of years working out what men are for and are good at.

        (8) We all know (and want to avoid) the Ahab and wife set-up – mutually unhealthy.

        (9) The Bible therefore looks well-thought-out when it says that husbands should love their wives and wives should respect their husbands. Not only does this recognise the difference, but it also correctly identifies the right buttons to press in each case.

        (10) The idea of a sex war is quite awful. And unnecessary. And untrue. This places very much in the spotlight the whole minority-feminist philosophy that gave birth to it. Are its proponents ever actually *happy*?

        (11) The idea that men and women are essentially the same means that whereas before people would understand that a man could be slightly more distant (and last port of discipline etc) within the family set up, and that dads disproportionately impart discipline and mums love, now there is a more chaotic all-arms-and-legs scenario as people wonder who is to do what. What a backward step.

        (12) Likewise with decision making. If mum and dad are equal in all areas of life, then there is no casting vote. That is madness, but a very common and extremely time consuming madness. Why can’t they have their own areas of authority? And if there is an agreed idea of what a man is and what a woman is (it isn’t as though we have not had 1000s of years to work that out) then we can avoid timewasting about which areas those might be.

        (13) There are loads of women who enjoy and want to spend time on trad female family pursuits but (being conformist) are afraid to say so. You see how this philosophy breeds fear. See Jennifer Roback Morse etc..

        (14) The NT is not very authoritarian or pyramidal always in church leadership; charismatic leadership is according to gifting and quite right too.

        (15) Family roles do give a clue to church roles, since they are bound both to be based on what it is to be a man and a women – the essences and the differences.

        That is enough for now.

          • Christopher
            1) no one believed in biblical complementarianism until about 1980 when it was invented by JPII
            2) though of course patriarchal societies have subjugated and exploited women for millennia
            3) according to scripture, inequality between the sexes is a result of the Fall (or whatever you call the expulsion from Eden)
            4) so, the struggle for equality, like the struggle to abolish slavery, has been not only a secular enterprise, but a search for the authentic voice of scripture, articulated, albeit inconsistently, by St Paul
            5) sex roles in marriage, or any other relationships are social constructs (indeed sex is itself a social construct), they are not eternal verities
            6) not all men and women are mums and dads
            7) some men and women enjoy traditional roles (I love cooking), but some do not; I can’t sew and my husband chooses all out fabrics and colour schemes
            8) I do respect my husband, but that asymmetrical injunction owes more to an urban 1st C context than contemporary western marriage
            9)there are some differences between the sexes, though these are often greatly exaggerated: men are, as Ian observed ‘stronger’ than women; but only in certain senses – if we were to be abandoned in a sterile desert I would most likely live longer than you because of the greater proportion of fat in my body. Upper body strength only counts if you have a mammoth to slay
            10) men are for what women are for: delight, creativity, sex, companionship, love.

          • sex is itself a social construct

            How are such things as male and female cats, then? Do cats have social constructs?

          • Penelope, for some reason people are using ‘complementarian’ to mean male headship. As I said above, the word refers to things like the mutuality of different parts in one body. Different typical male and female aptitudes and roles spring directly from the initial difference of men and women which needs first to be quantified and defined. However, that is only an aspect of the complementarianism which is something far broader.

          • Penelope, also your idea that transient culture somehow runs deeper than more elemental layers like biology, anthropology and sociobiology would need justifying.

          • Christopher
            I take your point about complementarianism not necessarily equating to male headship, but that is the sense in which many Christians use it. JPII, for example. In this ideology the argument that the woman has a separate (often lesser) role is very similar to the ideology undergirding apartheid. It also leads to the notion that women are more emotional, weaker in sense and understanding etc. etc. Ironically, the most emotional and impressionable person in a leadership role is Donald Trump.
            I didn’t know I believed that transient culture runs deeper than biology. Was this my comment about sex roles being social constructs? If so, I believe they are. There are two human types, which we call male and female. Without medical intervention they each have a distinct role in reproduction. Beyond this, the roles and responsibilities of the sexes are social constructs.

          • So the human brain is the most multiply-connected phenomenon in the universe and you are saying that male and female different biology and reproductive roles (and the hormones and cycles that are to do with this) are in no way connected to any other part of who they are? They do not have knock on effects or ramifications?

            The truth is that the most notable shared features of human life-cycle are all to do with male-female reproductive differences. Testosterone and oestrogen. Puberty. Menarche. Periods. Menopause. Hysterectomy.

            Then there is the fact that many cultures divide the whole world into male and female things.

            Are you sure you are not influenced by transient prevailing culture?You seem very often to be influenced by it at other times, after all.

        • Well said. We do need sane, forthright voices on this side of the fence – men who are still man enough not to creep timorously unter dem Pantoffel. There are not many.

        • Chris. Some of this feels like another planet to be honest. Let me just say that you in no way, shape or form describe my relating with the many friends and colleagues who happen to be women. Still less my joyfully mutual marriage partnership with my wife (who, for the record, has successively been my parish priest, Archdeacon and now Bishop). Yes, that is enough for now.
          Why don’t we all come back when we have actually read this book?

          • Naughtily I note that the cliché count is impressive. IN your first 2 lines we have:
            ‘another planet’
            ‘to be honest’
            ‘in no way, shape or form’.

            I heard of a sales company who issued bingo cards for all this kind of stuff to make management meetings less tedious. ‘Going forward’ – check. ‘I hear what you’re saying’ – check. ‘No offence, but’ – check. ‘At the end of the day’ – Bingo!

  3. Wow, never thought I’d see the old “interpolation” argument cited approvingly above-the-line! 😉

    This of course doesn’t deal with Ephesians, which is explained away with the extremely dubious claim that egalitarianism’s impractical for the uneducated, a saving throw that has disturbing implications for other spheres of life (can anyone say “poll tax” and “literacy test”?).

    Far simpler to say that, due to his cultural conditioning, Paul was struck by a revelation whose radical implications he wasn’t fully able to apply.

    • But the interpolation arguments for and against are *textual* first and last. You cite ideology, which is irrelevant, albeit a perennial Screwtapian distraction.

      • There’s no neat line between exegesis and ideology: even if the interpreter is scrupulously impartial, bias will be claimed depending on whether their conclusions help or hinder a particular cause.

          • We are not talking exegesis at all.

            Secondly, I never mentioned exegesis.

            So where did it spring from?

            The topic is textual criticism. If, for example, someone applies the rule lectio difficilior potior they are just applying the science. So in this case if they treat passages that jump around the text as more suspicious than those that don’t, they have no alternative. I have not made my mind up on this one, but if I or anyone else ever did, gender would not play any part in that, only the logic of textual history.

          • That may be the case Christopher but there is still an ideology in this approach: an assumption that the biblical texts have a final authority that is definitive for Christians thousands of years later. Even if the texts supported such an ideology, which is questionable in itself, it would be self referential.

          • I wasn’t talking about any of that. I was talking about the topic of what the text said in the first place. It could still say it and have no authority should what it said be incorrect.

          • Ok. So what is your basis for deciding which bits of the biblical texts are incorrect Christopher?

          • there is still an ideology in this approach: an assumption that the biblical texts have a final authority that is definitive for Christians thousands of years later

            But of course if you think this is false, then you have no reason to be a Christian at all, as the biblical texts are the only evidence we have for the truth of Christianity so if they are unreliable, the whole thing is unfounded.

          • It will therefore be interesting to see Christopher’s answer, and find out if he agrees with you about this point S. I suspect be will avoid answering.

          • This is not a new point, it is the only perspective I have ever given on the matter. Everything that is true in the Bible was already true before it was written down – I can’t see how that can be disputed. Nor can it be disputed that it follows from that that the truth of no assertion depends on its having been written down. Therefore, like with any book, the Bible assertions’ truth depend in each instance on their correctly representing reality (with due and prior allowance for genre). That all seems obvious to me. You have to go through piecemeal. There may be several assertions in a single verse. Festus succeeded Felix – accurate. Saul was (1 Sam 13.1) one year old when he began to reign – likely inaccurate, though this is a bad example because there is a MS issue. Theudas preceded Judas the Galilean – inaccurate.

          • And how do you deal with a verse like 1 Timothy 2:12 Christopher? Is that a direction for all time? Or is it more correct to say that the author was just speaking to a particular situation? And how do you decide in that kind of case?

          • In biblical studies there are no limits to the angles that can be brought to bear. There are far more options than that:

            (Introductory A) We have to work out what the correct text is.

            (Introductory B) We have to get the likeliest possible translation. That involves multidisciplinary thought.

            (1) It could be a general/eternal statement and untrue.

            (2) It could be a general/eternal statement and true.

            (3) It could be a situation-specific statement and untrue.

            (4) It could be a situation-specific statement and true.

            Or even something more nuanced: somewhat true; true in some circumstances etc..

            As mentioned, we choose between these possibilities, sometimes decisively and at other times provisionally, on the basis of the maximum amount of relevant evidence. Bits of evidence we had not seen before are always being noticed. Everything is interconnected, which means that study never ends – but there are short circuits as it were which mean that there are some things we can be sure of. The particular context you mentioned still has elements of opacity, together with some elements that are more clear.

          • Thank you Christopher. That’s very helpful. And it answers S very helpfully as well.
            So which of your various categories do you judge that verse from 1 Tim to belong to? Was the author just speaking to a Specific situation, and we are free to disregard his direction?

          • I have said it 1000 times, that one of the characteristics of liberals is that rather than go through the argument and the thinking they are interested only in a conclusion. A conclusion is something that by definition has to come *after* argument and thinking, and both argument and thinking are extremely multidimensional, as mentioned.

            This fixation on conclusions is tribalism, is politics, is ideology.

            All of which we reject in favour of scholarship, truth, honesty, research and nuance.

            So all I can say is where I am at now provisionally, not speaking as a Pastorals specialist. I look at the verse and its vocabulary and its train of thought are on the simple side. The author is giving his own opinion based on experience and practice; but on the other hand that opinion is taken to have weight, because of that experience and practice and some intrinsic authority (cf. 1 Cor 7.40, 12.16). In context, the writer seems (as elsewhere in this letter) to be giving distilled principles based on experience and lessons learnt which have given rise to a certain code of best practice. In the immediately subsequent verses he tries to put this in a broader context (always a good move, since any position that does not fit into a larger coherent systematic picture will fail), but has been criticised because this particular logical connection between Ephesus mid-60s AD and Eden needs more precise justification.

          • Christopher: how very peculiar. You have said (in your comment above) that there are a number of options, and you go on to list some of them. I agree with you both about there being quite a number of options, and I agree with the possibilities you offer. As this thread is about a particular subject I ask where one of the related verses fits in to your scheme – your categories. You then accuse me of being a liberal – without any definition of what that might mean. You seem to say you can’t give this verse one of the categories you have just named. You give an answer that is just like a politicians: “One the one hand this; on the other hand that; this is only provisional; I might have changed my mind by monday; I’m not really an expert in this field; I can’t think why you want to know anyway…” etc etc.
            Sounds very….umm..liberal to me….
            But thanks anyway (I think!)

  4. I think the complementarian case is made very persuasively and foundationally in Genesis 1-3. This, it seems to me, is supported by Jesus choosing only men as apostles, in pauline teaching on church order and in pauline and petrine teaching on marriage, rooted as it is in Jesus’ own understanding of Genesis 1-2. I have yet to read an egalitarian reading of the above that is close to being convincing – or even intellectually honest.

    The question is how in detail such a clear biblical steer is worked out in the church and home in our society. It does not have to be a return to the 1950s but the ideological erasing of all sexual difference is a folly from which we are now beginning to reap a horror show of confusions and misery.

    • Yes, I agree, the Bible reflects the gender roles of its time: even its radicalism stays within parameters that modern society has comprehensive rejected. So either that rejection is reversed, and male power is restored*: or we accept that, on gender as on so much else, the Bible is of its time, and not binding on us today.

      * And if that’s gonna happen, it won’t be a “complementarian” halfway house, where women are equal in the public square and in their careers but “under headship” domestically. Once these forces are unleashed, they’re no so neatly fenced off.

      • James. ‘even its radicalism stays within parameters that modern society has comprehensive rejected’. Very well put. Part of its radicalism is found in what it anticipates. Christian faith is forward looking – not tethered to some supposed unchangeable world in the past.

    • James and David, it’s not about power or inequality.

      What complementarians advocate is a male acceptance of responsibility to love and give sacrificially, and a corresponding female willingness to graciously affirm and yield to that.

      Some egalitarians caricature the complementarian position as a patriarchal power game that enforces oppression. Actually, it’s more like a dance where the male and female roles delightfully correspond and become, to participants and spectators alike, a thing of beauty quite distinct from a solo dance or one of identical partners.

      This, I believe, is the biblical vision and I don’t accept that it is culturally redundant.

      • My wife and I are both followers of Christ, albeit imperfect. Therefore, I consider that we both should:
        – submit to one another (Eph 5.21)
        – love one another as Christ has loved us (John 13.34)

        So, what is required of wives n Eph 5.22 is required of husbands such as myself towards my wife, and what is required of husbands towards in Eph 5.25 is required of wives to their husbands.

        So, to use your words, both husbands and wives have the responsibility to love and give sacrifically, and also to have the graciousness to affirm and yield to that.

        The clue is in the “one another”.

      • I’m not suggesting that you seek to turn husbands into domestic tyrants, John. You are, I take it, advocating that men exercise servant leadership within a marriage? “Yield” appears to point in that direction; but if I have it wrong, I’ll welcome correction.

        If I haven’t, how does this work outside the home? If there’s defined gender roles, tied to something intrinsic in the two sexes, then how can women properly take a lead in politics and business?

        • There is not ‘something intrinsic’ in the 2 sexes, there are plenty of things intrinsic. Who is suggesting that there are not?

    • Greetings John. I appreciate this needs to be part of a more extended discussion around the texts, but I am puzzled at your claim that Gen 1-3 makes a persuasive and foundational case for the complementation view. In those ancient poetic dramas the first creation account simply records the creation of man and woman together and in the image of God – to tend and fill the earth. There is no discussion at all about their actual relationship or roles in life and partnership. In the second creation account the creation of woman is told entirely from the point of view of the man’s needs. The woman has no voice, initiative or choice in the creation process. God and Adam sort this together. He names her, as he has named creation. But when he first sees her is it likeness not difference that is stressed – ‘flesh of my flesh’. Again there is no discussion of roles or tasks at all. The only point at which roles are described is after the Fall. If my wife and I were to simply seek to base the outworking of our day to day relationship on the basis of these stories we would have very little to go on – unless I, as the man, should assume, as history has so often done, that my wife’s initiatives may need checking extra carefully as the woman was tempted first?
      So I do not find a’ clear Biblical steer’ here at all. What do think I am missing? And nor, in passing, has the biblical case for the egalitarian view got anything to do with ‘erasing of all sexual difference’. I am not sure where that idea comes into this discussion at all?

      • What you are missing, David, is the fact that Genesis 1, 2 and 3 are factually true. You are clearly seeking to throw doubt on that, and thus, with most of the Church, to throw out the testimony that the world came into existence by creation (as opposed to the world ‘creating’ itself and God being restricted to an optional pantheistic role, guiding the process) – hence your terms ‘first creation account’, ‘second creation account’ and ‘stories’. Pantheism used to be regarded a heretical; not in our age, alas.

        Genesis 2 obviously tells us things that are not in Genesis 1, and in that sense the one is different from the other, in the same way as any two consecutive chapters in the Bible are. But they describe the same sequence of events. It is often argued on the basis of Gen 2:19 (where the EV incorrectly translates ‘formed’ as ‘had formed’) that the two chapters are mutually incompatible, but that is not necessarily so. If God formed Adam on the third day, everything in Gen 2:5-19 falls into place. The statement ‘God created man in his own image, male and female he created them’ at Gen 1:27 reflects the fact that ‘man’ generically was not man until the woman came into existence, and that took place on day six.

        The historical reality of Genesis 1-2 and the scriptural authority of these chapters as the Word of God were affirmed by no less an authority than Jesus himself (as you will be aware, Matt 19:4), being himself the Word of God (John 1:1) and having been there, actively involved. It was, after all, he who breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and instructed him about what was in the garden.

        It is important that we make some effort to see how Gen 1-2 hang together before discarding the testimony of him who is the faithful witness, the beginning and the end, whose words are trustworthy and true.

        • Greetings Steven. I nowhere say I do not believe the Genesis testimony to a creator God. I most emphatically do. I have not discarded anything – my questions to John were an attempt to understand his views better.
          Now if you mean by ‘factually true’ actual 24 hr/7 days, a literal garden, God literally breathing into nostrils, a talking snake and conversation between God/ Adam and Eve recorded verbatim as actually spoken – well no. Like many bible-centred evangelicals I understand these accounts as truth being taught through an ancient form of dramatic poetry or even parable. But no less God’s word.
          I actually asked John where he found precise teaching in the Genesis accounts on which to base his understanding of complimentary roles between and women. You do not respond that that at all. Would you like to?

          • Greetings. It’s not clear to me on what basis you believe in God the Creator if you think Genesis 1-2/3 comprise two separate and inconsistent creation accounts/stories and are ‘dramatic poetry’. That leaves the Creation without any attestation as a historical event, seeing that all such attestations (in 16 of the 36 books of the OT, including Ex 20:11) refer back to Genesis 1. There is no indication that the OT authors took Genesis 1 to be anything other than history, and I see nothing in the text to suggest they got it wrong (while recognising that the prose is elevated, as well it might be considering the subject).

            I sense a certain amount of scorn at yokels who take Genesis literally, but to address your points:
            > I’ve got a literal garden at the back of my house if you’d like to see one.
            > God literally breathing into nostrils is similar to what God (sensu John 1:1) did at John 20:22. The mention of nostrils in Genesis is because they connect with the lungs, and the account is referring to the physical breath/spirit that animates the body: no breath, no life.
            > I’m not convinced there is a fundamental difference between a talking snake and, say, Legion speaking through the body of a human being.
            > Whether Adam and Eve’s words are recorded verbatim is a question of authorship. I take early Genesis to be based on oral tradition (https://www.earthhistory.org.uk/before-the-cataclysm/the-tradition-in-sumer) but refreshed and purified by God, e.g. on Mount Sinai.

            Regarding your challenge to John:
            – Genesis 1:28 has God telling both the man and the woman what he expected them to do (raise a family and work the land), though Genesis 3 suggests that woman’s primary role would be childbearing (cf. I Tim 2:15) and man’s, toiling in the field
            – Genesis 2:20 characterises the woman as a helper opposite him; she complemented him and was purposely made for him (I Cor 11:9)
            – Genesis 2:22 records that woman was not formed separately from the dust of the earth but from the flesh of the man, indicating (per I Cor 11:3 and 11:12) that the head of a wife is her husband and in a Christian marriage (I Cor 11:11) neither of them should see themselves as independent
            – Genesis 2:24 affirms that in marriage the man and woman are one, so that (Eph 5:28-33) the husband should love his wife as himself (cf. Mark 12:31), the wife reciprocating primarily by recognising his spiritual authority (fearing him, Eph 5:33)
            – Genesis 2:16 shows that God explained about the two trees only to the man, leaving him to explain the command to his wife (cf. I Cor 14:45)
            – Genesis 3:1 indicates that Satan waited until he could have a quiet word with the woman away from the man, i.e. she was more susceptible to suggestion and deception than he was (I Tim 2:14)
            – But, Genesis 3:6, Adam followed her lead without apparent reservation, i.e. failed to exercise the spiritual authority implied at 2:17
            – In Genesis 3:16 God says that the consequence for the woman is (a) childbirth will be painful, (b) she will feel some dependency in her relationship with the man, and (c) he will rule her (no approval or disapproval implied)
            – Genesis 3:17 confirms that spiritual authority had been at issue, the consequence for the man, the chief bread-winner, being that his work will be painful and toilsome.

            In Christ, the second Adam, we are all sons of God, whether male or female (Gal 3:26-28), and in the life to come there will be no anatomical distinction (Matt 22:30).

            In conclusion, I would say there is a ‘clear biblical steer’ in the passage. Paul’s theology rests almost entirely on Genesis, but I doubt there is much discussion of Genesis in the book. I might be wrong.

          • “I sense a certain amount of scorn at yokels who take Genesis literally…”

            Odd that. I sense a certain amount of scorn at those who take Genesis more figuratively and poetically.

            But lets’s just take the first reference you present. Genesis 1:28

            If we take it literally, God is simply speaking to Adam and Eve. God might be saying quite different things thousands of years later, now that men and women have been fruitful.

            Take it more figuratively, and then Adam and Eve are archetypes. God is speaking not just to Adam and Eve but to all men and women after them. If you adopt this more figurative meaning your case immediately becomes stronger.

            Likewise 2: 20 refers only to Adam. Other men might be in a very different situation.

            Literal readings don’t quite get the sense – for me, anyway. Please don’t be scornful of that.

          • “I sense a certain amount of scorn at yokels who take Genesis literally…”

            Odd that. I sense a certain amount of scorn at those who take Genesis more figuratively and poetically.

            But lets’s just take the first reference you present. Genesis 1:28

            If we take it literally, God is simply speaking to Adam and Eve. God might be saying quite different things thousands of years later, now that men and women have been fruitful.

            Take it more figuratively, and then Adam and Eve are archetypes. God is speaking not just to Adam and Eve but to all men and women after them. If you adopt this more figurative meaning your case immediately becomes stronger.

            Likewise 2: 20 refers only to Adam. Other men might be in a very different situation.

            Literal readings don’t quite get the sense – for me, anyway. Please don’t be scornful of that.

  5. For some extended balance,(the titles are self explanatory) here is a recent article from Dr Alastair Roberts and a series of 8 talks from a couple of years ago in with contributions from men and women including Dr Roberts ant Dr Andrew Wilson ( I don’t know about the women):
    1 https://www.9marks.org/article/man-and-woman-in-creation-genesis-1-and-2/
    2 https://alastairadversaria.com/2018/09/06/videos-from-the-think-conference-on-the-future-of-complementarity/

    • Superbly argued piece: as the link says, the distinctions drawn by complementarians between domestic, religious and civil realms is arbitrary, rooted not in any consistent theology, but in reaction to social changes. Theirs is a defensive action, trying to carve out a safe space for Christians within an egalitarian culture, instead of challenging the social revolution head-on.

      Complementarianism’s self-defeating: either men and women are, as the article puts it, androgynous, in which case defining separate roles within churches and homes but not politics and business is arbitrary and wrong; or the two sexes are fundamentally different, a claim that has sweeping implications for the civil realm, and can’t be quarantined within religious spheres.

      One thing for the other, but not both.

      • The two sexes are fundamentally different?

        You could be on the verge of a scientific breakthrough here?

        If so, please tell the children at our local primary. They have been labouring under the delusion that men and women are different for several years. They will be delighted to know that the adults have caught up with them.

        • I’m not referring to plumbing, but to the kind of class differences that’d justify a patriarchal order.

          You have, however, helpfully illustrated why these are so hard to define. Are the differences behavioral? If so, what of the many outloers, in both sexes? Are they something more philosophical? In which case, what’s their basis? The article’s repeated reference to “telos” points in this direction: strongly argued as its case against complementarianism is, I doubt it’d be so easy to justify patriarchy’s own first principles.

  6. Odd is this. While I appreciate this is Ian’s blog, twice I’ve sought to link two resources, from Doctors Roberts and Wilson, to provide a more extended balance, but they appear to be excluded by moderation.

  7. The word feminisation (of the culture, of the church) is often used, so what are its aspects?

    (1) A new emphasis on hospitality and inclusivity. God suddenly becomes centrally generous and hospitable (God was always that, but comes to be seen as centrally that).

    (2) Doctrine is less important. Left brain is less important.

    (3) Connected thinking is less important, grand narratives are less important, situation ethics more so. Hence postmodernism. But whatever is piecemeal and does not cohere may be inaccurate.

    (4) The contingencies of history (recent history) are imposed on the cosmos. Liberation becomes central, and liberation of acquired states jumps on the bandwagon of liberation of intrinsic states. Women having themselves received various emancipations feel it would be callous and ungrateful to deny other equalities be they what they may. The narrative becomes civil rights rather than the kingdom of God.

    (5) Women being less inclined to avoid conformism, the church and the world become more indistinguishable. Much is said about how the church has to learn from the world (e.g. latest Ozanne foundation report is teleological in assuming -not arguing- that there can only be one correct direction of travel when it says the church is lagging behind the world).

  8. Did anyone else notice that the review proceeded on the basis that equality and complementarity (2 concepts that require unpacking if ever I heard any) were mutually exclusive?

  9. Ian – really interesting review by Professor Lee. Thank you. I look forward to reading the book. Out of sheer curiosity, not mischief, is this the first time you have posted an article by a woman on your site?

  10. I point out once more that the meaning of ‘kephale’ used by Paul with reference to the husband-wife relationship in Ephesians 5 and with reference to the man-woman relationship in 1 Corinthians 11 is determined by the context of its use in Ephesians 5:23-24:
    ‘But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their husbands in everything’. Ephesians 5:21 cannot possibly be understood in this context to mean mutual husband-wife subjection because in this context that would imply mutual Christ-church subjection. Attempts by Ian and especially by Alan Padgett (‘As Christ submits to the Church’) to show that in some sense Christ does submit to the Church don’t work.

    See post Phil Almond August 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm #at:

    Ian Paul challenged my view on a thread and I replied to that challenge. The ball is in his court.

    Phil Almond

  11. It would be very interesting to ask all those who write, review and comment on this issue questions such as
    1 marital status
    2 male or female
    3 career job status of spouse
    4 view of Bible
    5 complementation /egalitarian
    6 which came first chicken or egg
    7 view of other cultures
    Apologies for examples of
    1 Ian Paul and his wife
    2 David Runcorn and his wife
    I’m sure specialists in qualitative social analysis would be able to do far better with the questions , which should be open, not closed, tick box categories.
    Could start with a category of Anglican Clergy around the world.

    • Perhaps on the least shall be first principle I’ll start…

      I am a man (2). I married (1) for the first time nearly five years ago. When I announced that I was to be married to my very surprised (and delighted) colleagues at work, one asked what my wife-to-be did (3). I replied that she works as a manager in a charity involved with befriending older people. A friend (perhaps this should be ‘friend’) said, “takes her work seriously, doesn’t she!”

      (4) is a complex questions, but the bottom line is that the Bible is the God-given supreme means for us to access the ultimate revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.

      As for (5), I would not describe myself as either, partly because the two viewpoints both have significant problems. For what it is worth, I am somewhat more on the egalitarian side than my wife (based on my reading of the Bible).

      (6): there were eggs before chickens (even in a young earth creation scenario: fish have eggs).

      (7): more pertinent might be one’s view on the contemporary culture around us in the West, which I see as having some terminal sicknesses. Was is Ghandi who responded when asked what he thought of Western Civilization said that he thought it would be a good idea?

      • Thanks David,
        Of course, I’m excluded from my questions as I’m not Anglican clergy!
        But married to the same woman for 40 years, married as unbelievers both, but faithfulness tested and tried in the furnace.
        For me to be like Jesus in our marriage, to love and serve as he sacrificially loved and loves and serves the Church is…..humbling?.. and?…to be as the last Adam, rather than the first and all that embraces.
        She was secretary and admin. both in private and public sector. Completely changed after conversion, to carer in the community for the women and Muslim child, with profound learning disability requiring 24/7 care who, a generation ago, would have been hospitalised out of town.
        Chickens and eggs: I had Genesis1&2 in mind: forming and filling. Alastair Roberts has written at some little length about this in the linked article.
        Your 7th point carries much weight.
        It would be interesting to follow the trajectory, up to the present time, of this whole discussion in relation to Judaism, orthodox and reformed.

      • I am 100% egalitarian and 100% complementarian, & also regard both positions as no brainers. It is just I don’t use ‘complementarian’ in the puzzling (though now common in Christian circles) sense that it is used by the reviewer.

  12. Dear Christopher Shell, by the judgement with which you judge you will be judged. You did a cliché count on someone’s use of idiomatic speech. The bible is chock a block with it. So let those who have ears to hear walk in the lord on the straight and narrow and the hard saying shall come to pass if you’re not hard hearted and stiff necked but with burning anger taste and see when you break the bond and with your new (circumcised) heart, you’ll number your days with the oil of gladness on your hard forehead.

    • The bible is chock a block with it.

      And that Shakespeare was so unoriginal, wasn’t he? Just strung together a load of well-known clichés.

      (PS you mistyped ‘Bible’)

    • Liz,
      I am somewhat baffled as to the judgement you are making yourself on Christopher Shell. Are you judging him as stiff-necked and hard -hearted for his comment?

      Could you explain more what you mean please?

      • I was just attempting to be ironic, in that Christopher had knocked someone simply for his use of cliché in expressing himself rather than on valid theological grounds, when the Bible is full of idiomatic speech.

        • The valid grounds I mentioned above were that I came ‘from another planet’ when I had not even gone so far as to argue for male leadership (something which seems quite evident from lots of the Bible, by contrast) but had just enunciated the least negotiable principles as a starting point for further thought.

          Thought was also the reason that the cliche issue should be regarded as non trivial. If I or anyone falls into cliches it could be because they are not thinking but just pursuing well worn furrows of verbal behaviour.

          That perspective (dominance of conformism and the well-worn) would be confirmed by David R’s saying that his having not encountered anything so extreme was an actual argument against it, as opposed to a fashion indicator.

          • I think it’s a bit rich criticising someone for using clichés in the way they express themselves. The point of the argument is the point, not the way it’s expressed. Plenty of the idioms in the bible would have been common speech patterns of that people group in that day, and thus to use your cliché would already be well worn furrows. I’m not a theologian and find such tactics, coming from their jargon filled world, to be a tactic to intimidate rather than to encourage thoughtful exchange.

          • But honest people do not use ‘tactics’: they are transparent.

            One could use cliches and still be using fresh thought. Just, that becomes less likely the more cliches appear. This is because a cliche by definition is a non-original thought, in fact the least original available.

          • Christopher Greetings. I wonder why you think tactics are dis-honest? Is sport a dishonest pursuit then? Or does transparency mean that before every game players should explain to the opposing team exactly how they intend to play? And doesn’t effective leader require good tactics? I mean the practical wisdom that knows that different people and groups may need approaching in different ways about the same idea – and knows how to do that. This is because character, experience and convictions will vary. We don’t all hear and understand the same thing the same way. So I want to argue for an understanding of tactics, at their best, as ‘applied honesty’. I wonder how that sounds to you?

  13. Liz,
    Maybe you need to re – read what David Runcorn wrote in seeking to dismiss Christopher, which brought Christopher’s response.
    Over the time I’ve visited this site and read Christopher’s comments he impresses as committed, certainly not hard hearted.
    If I remember correctly his marriage ceremony included, “Here is love vast as the Ocean” . If David Runcorn ridicules him for being on another planet, maybe it does indeed backfire. We are, after all, aliens and strangers. This is not our home.

    • And When I Survey with its last verse. I am not going to parade that as a credential. ‘Guy has hymns about love at wedding ceremony’ ranks with ‘Pope is a Catholic’. Great hymn, though – in the 4 verse version.

      • Agree with not parading hyms as credentials, but come on Christopher, who in their right minds chooses those two, full versions to boot.

          • Father, hear the prayer we offer – as follows:

            ‘Not for ever in green pastures Do we ask our way to be, But the steep and rugged pathway May we tread rejoicingly.’

    • I was just attempting to be ironic, in that Christopher had knocked someone simply for his use of cliché in expressing himself rather than on valid theological grounds, when the Bible is full of idiomatic speech.

  14. Authority and responsibility are linked in every sphere of life. Without authority you cannot have responsibility. Authority and submission are not the same as equality/inequality. I was in a post when my boss’s boss was the Prime Minister, but when I went to the parents’ evening at school a pupil had authority to tell me where to park.

    If a husband has no authority, ultimately, he cannot take responsibility for his wife. Although every marriage is different I think many women still want a husband who will ‘husband’ them? I think it is God’s way in taught in Scripture and widely revealed in the many different cultures we see in his world.

    • Colin

      I do not know any women who want to be husbanded. We are not cattle, nor fields. Nor do I know any who want their husband to take responsibility for them.
      Perhaps this is because they see that patriarchy is not God’s good creation, but a result of the Fall (Gen. 3.16).

      • Well I never, whatever next?
        1 Husbanded? What a knee -jerk misuse and abuse and categorisation of Colin’s comment. It is deeply scholarly:not.
        2 Penelope espousing the Fall as long as it suits the purpose espoused, from one purpose to the next.
        3 Is LGBT etc the result of the Fall? Anybody? Are we seeking to return to pre-Fall, before LGBT etc?

      • Well I never, whatever next?
        1 Husbanded? What a knee -jerk misuse and abuse and categorisation of Colin’s comment. It is deeply scholarly:not.
        2 Penelope espousing the Fall as long as it suits the purpose espoused, from one purpose to the next.
        3 Is LGBT etc the result of the Fall? Anybody? Are we seeking to return to pre-Fall, before LGBT etc?

        • Geoff

          How do you know my use of husbanding misuses and abuses Colin’s?
          Do you think Gen. 3 is not describing the post lapsarian state?
          Where do you find evidence in Genesis that being LGBT is a result of the Fall?
          Could you refrain from personal invective?

        • The other day, I was having lunch in Exeter Cathedral cafe where I often go (highly recommended BTW), when I let a woman behind me who was taking her elderly friend out for lunch go in front of the queue. She turned round and said to me how glad she was that chivalry was not yet dead. This incident did a lot to restore my faith in women in these troubled times of gender relations.

          I think what really matters is to treat others with kindness and how you yourself would like to be treated. It’s not very hard is it?

          • Chris, exactly. It’s the kindness that says what sort of tree we are, not whether we’re right on a certain point or not. Though I wouldn’t want to under estimate the importance of truth, but it’s not enough of a game changer in isolation.

            I’ve wondered if that’s why the word truth appears to be often paired with another word, though I haven’t done a detailed check, but like in spirit and in truth, speaking the truth in love etc because just being right is phariseeism, a mechanism that will seize up if not lubricated adequately and regularly. I think that about the word of God being a state of the art very sharp double sided cutting implement – handle with care, it’s not for attacking each other with.

          • just being right is phariseeism

            Umm surely not? The Pharasees weren’t right; and their eponymous sin was over-concern about the mores in the eyes of others combined with a blindness to the brand in their own, rather than anything to do with ‘just being right’.

          • mores in the eyes of others

            Obviously ‘motes’, sorry, still getting used to having to triple-check everything that comes out of this new device.

        • Ian

          After my interaction with Geoff and the kind replies from Chris and David, I am trying to be eirinic. This does not help. Firstly, I have already read it (I do read widely), 2) it’s meh, 3) it’s hardly an academic paper.
          Appealing to you for wise arbitration and then receiving this is a little like a kick in the teeth.

          • I have to agree with Penny here. The paper is really pretty awful and hardly an academic one. However I think it detracts from your case rather than supporting it so…….
            I also want to support Penny’s presence here. It is measured, thoughtful, thought provoking, and backed up by research – which I know is taken very seriously indeed by her.

            As I have said before, I value your hard work, Ian, in allowing a range of voices here. I am grateful for your light touch moderation. I do wish, however, that you would back up the point about not using anonymous and often full names. That practice simply allows people to make more unpleasant comments.

          • Andrew wrote:
            “I do wish, however, that you would back up the point about not using anonymous and often full names. That practice simply allows people to make more unpleasant comments.”

            I could not agree more with that statement.

    • Goodness, Geoff, you are tiresome.

      I don’t know what you think you have proved. And I don’t think I care. But be a love and shut up. I’d rather talk to people who have some understanding of conversation.

      • Do calm down dear.
        Again you go on to provide further evidence, if more were needed.
        You’re more than welcome to indulge your Twitter like “conversation” with others, if that what you crave. It would be more than a relief.
        A bit of self reflection and understanding wouldn’t come amiss, pet : the great projectionist, Penelope. Zzzz
        Once again, goodbye.
        Blessings of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, to you.

  15. Above, I commented that I think that both complementarianism and the equality agenda. I’ll start with the former and I thank Kevin for his link above which in turn linked to some interesting things, including The Danvers Statement (https://cbmw.org/about/danvers-statement/).

    The major issue I have is that it does not seem to use the word ‘complementary’ in any realistic sense. The word implies to me that if two are complementary then each makes up for a lack in the other. It is interesting that the Danvers Statement starts with this:

    The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;

    I find it interesting that it does not refer to male and female, or men and women, but terms which most would say are culturally determined. This is evident in other parts, e.g.

    the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women;

    This, to me, reeks of post-WW2 America. Perhaps this is not surprising if the declaration was drawn up by Boomers remembering their childhood. Historically, most women worked. In the pre-industrial societies, apart from the rich, everyone worked. Some of the work was in the home, and this was probably done by women more than men (although consider the male crofters in the Outer Hebrides running their looms making Harris Tweed). But the whole of the village would be involved in harvest, for instance. (Remember Ruth gleaning with the other young women). When industrialisation arrived, women (and children) were working in the factories as much as men.

    The core thought is clear: that it is about who is in charge. The answer is men:

    The loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives

    I’m not sure how single people fit into this. If it is a true complementarian position, then is a man incomplete without a wife? I also note that ‘leadership’ is not itself a well-developed idea in Scripture.

    This is all reinforced by the appeal to Scripture:

    the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts

    This privileges their hermeneutic, and fails to engage with the real issues in interpretation with the crucial texts and the fact that these texts have historically been read in a context which assumes patriarchy. I would add on this point that it seems that their own confidence in their interpretation is weakening, which is leading to some excursions into dangerous territory in the area of the doctrine of the Trinity.

    It is also the case that they do not follow ‘the plain meaning’ in many cases. For instance, in 1 Tim 2.12 Paul states that he “does not permit a woman to teach…” – “a man” [note singular] is only the (indirect) object of authenteō. But the application seems to allow women to teach children and other women.

    If one takes the ‘plain’ view of Eph 5.21-33, then that should extend into chapter 6, where Paul instructs: “children, obey your parents”. The word is teknon, i.e. child in relation to parent, not child rather than adult. It applies to adult children, which is clear from the reference to the commandment concerning honouring father and mother. It is interesting that Paul extends patriarchy to matriarchy. (One should remember that Roman patriarchy was not rule by men, but rule by the pater familias and that this included significant power over adult children.)

  16. I’m sorry, Ian, but if you want intelligent (if ‘controversial’) comments on here you have to either let commenters respond to juvenile and insulting tosh, or moderate more directly.
    Mostly I respect your light touch. But I do not care to be told that my comments breach your policy when I have been at the receiving end of sub Christian nonsense.
    I am fairly robust, as my continued presence on here shows. I enjoy the barbs of commenters like David Shepherd and others, but this is simply juvenile name calling.
    I notice that, on the whole, fewer and fewer ‘liberals’ like Jonathan Tallon and James Byron comment on this blog. That is a pity. And it means that your work, which I respect, even if I do not often agree with you, will end up in a little echo chamber populated by ignorant sneering and posturing. Good night, for now.

    • Penelope, I have some sympathy with your sentiments but the use of the words ‘be a love and shut up ‘ as a riposte unfortunately simply invites more of the same. It is better to stay silent than descend to the same level and in your arguments, you are much better than that. I think most people appreciate you coming here as to what must be an alien environment to your particular liberal tradition ( I certainly do), as you provide an opposing viewpoint to conservatives and make then justify their own suppositions. As for your last paragraph, then I think Ian’s blog is generally a more courteous place than most. ‘ Thinking Anglicans’ for example which I look at occasionally has always seemed to me to take ignorant sneering and posturing to a whole new level.

      • Thank you Chris. I agree with you. I was frustrated by Geoff’s lack of real engagement and responded in kind. I should not have done that.

      • Chris. I am glad you affirm the contribution of Penelope on this site. ‘I think most people appreciate you coming here’. But if that is the case this needs to heard more often and more openly. The more dominant voices here are generally much less respectful. Even Ian recently sent her away telling her ‘you need to read more widely and do more research’. This to someone currently completing a doctorate in hermeneutics! Lord who can stand?
        Like her I am grateful for and respectful of Ian’s labour of love in hosting and resourcing this site, even when I too disagree. But like her I am increasingly frustrated by the stalling of discussion by obstructive responses to genuine questions and am missing the thoughtful engagement, theological exploring and respectful testing of diverse views that I, for one, come here seeking.

          • Hi Philip. That article and discussion thread from Fulcrum in 2014 offers readers here, a very full and informed discussion this issue. You will understand if I am not inclined to reinvent the wheel. I have not changed my view on this and neither have you. We respectfully disagree.

        • Hello David,
          Thank you for your response. I think the main difficulty is that individuals so often attach arguments to people personally rather than objectively. One should criticize an argument rather than the person making it. It requires discipline to do this and maintain objectivity, but unfortunately it so often descends to the latter.
          Like you, I mainly come here to get other takes on views I hold not only to test their own robustness but also to see if there is anything I may have overlooked in my own understanding of a particular issue and maybe learn something new. This is why I value contributions from Penelope, you and Jonathan (Tallon) and though I suspect we would differ sharply on quite a lot of issues, you have my respect nonetheless, and I am sure Ian has as well.

          The problem you describe is an endemic one and is not unique to Ian’s blog although compared to many other Christian blogs I have visited I would have thought it is much less so here.

          • Chris. Penelope contributes on these threads as a critical friend from ‘outside’. For me she models informed, courteous, robust challenge and engagement. And when, on occasion, her contribution has crossed a line (as we all do) she is quick to put her hand up – as she had done here. So I don’t actually think she needs advice from any of us on the courtesies of public debate. What I am actually wondering is why you addressed your comments to her at all rather than challenge the discourteous tone and words of those engaging with her? And there is a certain irony here – given the topic of this thread – in finding a woman being told to remain silent in the presence of strongly opinionated men.

          • For me she models informed, courteous, robust challenge and engagement.

            Still waiting for that ethical analysis of the principles used to decide which one-night stands are moral and which aren’t though.

          • Chris
            My email address is on the Diocese of Exeter website, if you would like to meet for coffee or lunch.

        • David, the reason I addressed my comments to Penelope was that her understandable exasperation in using the words she did, simply provoked more of the same and escalated the exchange. It has nothing to do with the fact she is a woman. I would have written the same words if it had been a man. If you see this otherwise then it was not my intention.

          In fact I am sure she knows that and does not need me to tell her that the use of personal adjectives, is not a good idea as it rarely gets you anywhere with people who do not know how to conduct civil discourse. But then we all get pushed to our limits. My sympathies are entirely with her and I am really making a general point here.

          I abhor this kind yah-boo type of discourse. It generates lots of heat and little light. Indeed. I have found myself so annoyed with some of the comments displayed by contributors on this blog sometimes, that on more than one occasion I have nearly done the same thing. It is always better to remain silent I think, than rather post something that is not in exasperation. It rarely ends well.

          This is a very strange medium in which to conduct reasoned debate. I wonder how many of us would express the same things they write on this blog to the person if they met them face to face? For me that is a question I always try to ask myself if I write anything on this or any other blog.

          • Ian

            As a contribution to respectful engagement might you re consider your comment that I need to read more widely and do more research.
            Perhaps I am being over sensitive, but it appeared a tad condescending to me.

          • Perhaps I am being over sensitive, but it appeared a tad condescending to me.

            I see things have reached the stage where all the glass-house dwellers need to consider very carefully the trajectory of those rocks they’re lobbing.

  17. It is a disappointing premise on which to ground his arguments:
    “ the refusal of those with power (men) to surrender it in order to empower others (women)”
    Does he attempt to prove in any way that it is true; or is it an assumption? Taken as read it is insulting to those who live in and work with respecting mutual relationships whilst recognising that there is a need for authority and decision-making structures.
    Does he see any difference between the exercise of spiritual authority in the context of the Kingdom of God (which will include the church) and the running of human societies where spiritual authority is not required?
    How is the ‘revised’ understanding of words (kephale) any different to revising the meaning of words to justify changing sexual morals?
    For the record I’m pragmatarian recognising spiritual authority in gifts.

  18. I realise that I’m a very late arrival at this particular ball. But I have waited until I have read both Kevin Giles’ book and the one by Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger (which Dr Giles targets as the primary account of the complementarian position).

    I must say that I found the way that Kevin Giles set out his opposition to the Kostenbergers (and, quite frequently, to complementarians generally) quite disturbing.

    Giles repeatedly attacks their integrity: accusing them of dishonesty, deliberate obfuscation, ignoring counter evidence and opinion, gross misrepresentation, and committing the same hermeneutical errors they ascribe to others.

    In addition, he makes exaggerated claims for his own case. For example, his assertion that 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36 is ‘almost certainly’ not from the pen of Paul is surely overstated.

    In the comments he makes about scholars with whom he disagrees, he is very ready to dismiss their comments as ‘very uncharitable, unfair and nasty’. But this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, if ever there was one, and unbecoming of a Christian writer.

    I’m all for vigorous debate. But this is something else.

  19. It’s amazing how our culture is so sure egalitarianism is right when every other culture for the whole of known history seems to have been patriarchal.

    Of course the change is not down to enlightenment but to the contraceptive pill and female sanitary ware.

    It remains to be seen what the brave new world of egalitarianism will produce. Unfortunately in the church it is producing those who cannot see patriarchy in Gen 1-3 despite Paul building on it.


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