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Fighting Over the Pants, or the Crown of Thorns?

This post is an elongated response to Don Johnson’s comment, under my last post. It is part of a thread of comments on Gender Roles, which began with “From Cool Young Emergent to Boring Old Conservative,” and continued in “Leadership and Submission in the Home,” “Gone for the Hollidays,” “Follow-Up Post to ‘Leadership and Submission in the Home‘”, and “The Christian Gender Debate: Understanding the Four Perspectives.”

Although this post is addressed to Don, anybody is welcome to comment.

For your reading convenience, I have copied the portion of his comment which I found especially interesting here:

“Since I am egal, I believe that ANY movement in direction of egalism is good and any move away is not. So a kinder and gentler form of male hierarchy is better than a harsher form.
But it is still male hierarchy and there is the rub….”


Your response perfectly illustrates the “three-perspective-perspective” I was working against in my last post. By way of illustration, most complementarians, it would seem, are only really aware of two things: the rightness of their own views, and the evils of feminism. They are also vaguely aware that there are some people to the right of them who take complementarianism much too far, but they don’t spend much time on that. Also, they are vaguely aware of egalitarianism: however, they do not see them clearly. Rather than allowing egalitarians to stand on their own feet and present their own case, many complementarians see egalitarians as feminists in disguise, as compromising feminists,  as “white-washed feminists.” What do egalitarians believe? “They believe what feminists believe, only they try to hide it, compromise it, or adapt it to appear to fit within Biblical Christianity.” I am sure, Don, that such shallow and polemical thinking is troubling and discouraging to you!

Conversely, however, I see much egalitarian thought following a much similar course. Most egalitarians, it would seem, are only really aware of two things: the rightness of egalitarianism, and the evil of patriarchy. Egalitarians seem vaguely aware of the mistakes of feminism, but spend little to no time differentiating themselves from it. They are also vaguely aware that not all complementarians are the same, but because they are so fixated on the extremes of patriarchy, they tend to see all things in light of that. What to complementarians believe? “They believe what patriarchalists believe – only they are kinder, shyer, and, frankly, dishonest with their convictions in order to make their marriage philosophy fit with the Scriptures.”

This is not an accurate representation of complementarianism. Far from it.

In order to really understand what I am saying, Don, you will need to completely let go of your ideas of what we complementarians think. Better yet, you will need to flip them upside-down – for the difference between patriarchalism and complementarianism is not a difference of quantity, but of quality. There is, in fact, a far greater chasm of separation between myself and patriarchalist than between myself and you, Don.

Time is of the essence, and so I will draw my thoughts together under one helpful metaphor. The gender-debate is sometimes jokingly referred to as the “who wears the pants” argument. Arguing over who wears the pants makes sense if you are thinking in patriarchalist terms. After all, as “the man of the house,” a patriarchalist is fighting for his right to think of himself as ontologically, physically, spiritually, and in every other way “better,” and more deserving of respect, honor, benefits, etc. than his wife. He is the king, they are the vassals. Daddy has his special chair, which is the most comfortable one. Daddy has his special car, which is fastest and coolest one. Daddy has his special hobbies, which are expensive and selfish (alone or “with the guys”). Most of all, Daddy has his special “veto-power” – the right to have his way always, no questions asked. This is increasingly necessary as his self-centeredness becomes annoying, then abrasive, then repugnant to his wife and children. Things are tight – why should he spend so much money and time on himself? “Because I am the head of this home!!” He is clearly wrong – why won’t he admit it? “Because I am a man!” He is being selfish and destructive – why won’t he repent? “How dare you challenge my authority, woman!?”

The man has spoken – let the earth be silent before him.

“The pants” stands in as the status-symbol of patriarchalism – it is the scepter of those who wish to be lords in their own houses, to keep the other members of their home under control with force. As I said in my last post, however, this is not the mind-set of Jesus! There has been a thunderous and violent battle for the pants in these last decades – but I wonder, will anyone fight over the crown of thorns?

For what other status-symbol could there be for a person who truly seeks to follow in Christ’s example, to lay down his life for his wife (Eph. 5)? Will the women argue when they are treated with respect and honor, reverenced as sacred and delicate objects (1 Pet. 3:7)? Will they object to their man working hard with his own hands (1 Thess. 4:11), laboring hard to provide for his family (1 Tim. 5:8), and freeing his wife to spend more time nurture their young children at home (Titus 2:5)? Will she object when he humbly takes the initiative in family prayer, Bible-times, in family discipline and family activities?

As theologians, we can quibble all day over whether this is “fair.” As a pastor, I ache for the women and children who have to put up with so much less in their men.

No doubt the real issue, however, is the decision-making process. Naturally, some decisions will simply be delegated to the wife or husband. Most, however, will be made as a family or as a couple. We would agree on the concept, but not on the means. As I mentioned in “Headship and Submission in the Home,” I believe that egalitarian decision-making can be flawed – decisions are made best when the husband initiates by, 1) asking her and the kids to speak their minds on the decision, 2) thinking along with his wife and children, talking the decision over and praying about it, then, 3) choosing to make the decision which the family is leaning towards or which he believes is best. If there is a choice between himself and his family, he will always choose his family over himself.

But herein lies the rub, you will likely say. If he has the power, will he not abuse it?

In his sermon on this, Mark Driscoll says that in their 12+ years of marriage, there have only been a handful of times when he has pulled out the “I am the head of the home, I love you, please listen to me on this one,” card. One was when his wife needed new clothes, but refused to spend money on herself. Another was a time when his wife wanted to be the “super-home-schooling-mom,” and he knew that just wouldn’t work. Are you seeing a pattern here? A man who has Christ’s heart is simply not in the same category as a patriarchalist. Does he have the power to abuse his position? That is like asking me whether having a drawer full of kitchen knives empowers me to be a murderer. Yes, technically, a Christian man has the ability to use his authority for selfish rather than selfless purposes. But he does not. He cannot. This absolutely violates his DNA, his mandate, the example of Christ.

He does not wear the pants, Don, he wears the crown of thorns. He does not live for himself, but for others.

I will end this post where I ended the last one – with a challenge. I say that you still do not understand what I am saying, and here is the test: in my mind, I made a step of sacrifice when I “stepped up to the plate” of leadership in my home. I did not take something to myself, I laid it down. Are you able at least to think along with my mind (even if you don’t agree) to at least see how this makes sense to me?

Until you are able to see complementarianism as an act of service and sacrifice you will be admitting to me that when you say you are speaking of complementarianism, you are really only speaking of patriarchalism.


  1. I believe you when you claim you see yourself as making a step of sacrifice in stepping up to the plate of leadership in your home. This is how I saw myself when I was non-egal. (P.S. I also was lazier and more selfish that you seem to be.)

    I also totally agree with you about a husband being called to serve his wife, you are 100% correct in this aspect, and it is MUCH preferred over the alternative of the patriarch being served by his wife. This is a night and day difference, but see below why I do not stop there.

    When I first became a believer, all I was ever taught on the subject of home was the husband was to make the hopefully-benign final decision when he and his wife could not agree, that God would honor that, and that the wife in submitting would thereby be absolved from some of the responsibility of that decision by God, after all, she submitted to his decision. I was repeatedly taught this by many church leaders whom I respected, where I could see they were Godly, where they clearly knew a lot more of the Bible than I did, etc. And it seemed so blazingly obvious when I read the Bible for myself, it was all RIGHT THERE.

    Then I met someone who did not agree. I agreed to go to a Christian counselor whom I respected to discuss this. I was 100% sure I was correct, EVERY Christian teacher had taught this more or less consistently and the Bible as I read it taught it also. I simply could not conceive of any other option.

    The counselor suggested that there WAS another option. You could have knocked me over with a feather. He suggested I read a book discussing this other option. I asked myself, how possible is it that ALL my former teachers were wrong AND I was reading the Bible and misunderstanding it? I was fortunate in having previously had an experience where I had TOTALLY misinterpreted some verses from the Bible so I knew I could make mistakes by not knowing the 1st century cutural context, but all my former teachers also? So I agreed to read the book, with the intent of disproving it. I was also praying asking the Spirit for guidance a LOT.

    It was a very strange experience reading that book, it was like I entered with Alice into Wonderland. Most of the arguments I was able to dismiss, way over 66%, but there were a few that I had to put on the shelf, to handle later. And here is an important part, I did not dismiss the book after reading only parts of it and dismissing most of what I read. I finished the whole thing even tho it was dizzying and disorienting. And I ended up with a handful of things I had put on the shelf, as anomalies that needed some further work to be explained. But I had done my job, I had read and dismissed the vast majority of the book, I just needed to do some final cleanup.

    In math, one method to show something is right is to assume the opposite and arrive at a contradiction. So I was used to temporarily “wearing a hat” and seeing where it led. So I “put on the egal hat” to see what it felt like, intending to take it off and expecting to find more flaws this way. I was able to see that this resolved my anxiety about the anomalies on the shelf and that they were not anomalies, there were part of the reality. Furthermore, I was able to see that my beliefs in benign non-egalism WERE able to harm women, in making them a 2nd class of believer, a type less than a male, all the while as I thought I was doing it for their own good at God’s command, which made it that much harder to see, as it was cloaked so well.

    I was able to see it as sexism, which was akin to racism and I KNEW that slaveholders had justified their racism based on misreading the Bible as recently as 1865, so I could see how one might justify sexism based on misreading the Bible. And I also knew that just as there were field slaves and house slaves, where the field slaves were treated harshly and the house slaves were almost like family (except not), the fact that there were more benign forms of slavery did not justify slavery; so the more benign forms of sexism did not justify sexism.

    So I decided to study both sides in depth, which I continue to do. I learn from both sides, but my basic framework is now egal. Now I treat my wife as a FULL equal. I do not have to worry about making a wrong final decision. We find there are VERY few times when a decision MUST be made if we do not agree; but we tend to agree on a lot in the first place. And I am able to uncloak my laziness and selfishness and see it more clearly. And we can allocate family tasks according to whomever might be best at it and not try to conform to some suppossed roles, so our family is more effective than it otherwise would be. And I serve my wife, just as you do and on which we agree.

    It is just the lead part for which I can find no Scriptural warrant, even tho the culture assumed it, the laws enforced it, and pagans lived it.

    • I would classify your former position as a “confused patriarchalist” more than a complementarian. I hope to spend time writing a post on this topic in the future: however, in brief: a confused patriarchalist still thinks of headship in patriarchal terms (it’s all about who wears the pants, baby!) but he also feels embarassed/confused/disoriented about his position. He “knows” in the back of his mind that he should be king of the castle, but in the day to day, he waffles and gives in a lot. Usually, the strong patriarchalism only comes out when his patience is very short, and his love is very shallow.

      Confused patriarchalism is somewhere between patriarchy and egalitarianism on the spectrum, but it is still worlds away from true Christ-following complementarianism. A confused patriarchalist is still a patriarchalist, even if he does not have the guts to slam his fist down very often.

      It is good to hear that the model of marriage which you now espouse helps you be more service-oriented in your marriage. Practically speaking, I really believe that egalitarianism is a marked step up from patriarchy, and even from confused patriarchy. I really do think that egal and comp. marriages are very similar in actual function, and they are both pretty good ways of doing marriage.

      I still feel like you aren’t following my arguments, though (still thinking in Patriarchalist terms). You said, “Furthermore, I was able to see that my beliefs in benign non-egalism WERE able to harm women, in making them a 2nd class of believer, a type less than a male, all the while as I thought I was doing it for their own good at God’s command, which made it that much harder to see, as it was cloaked so well.”

      I agree with you if you are talking about patriarchy: however, I disagree if you are talking about complementarianism. As I said in my previous post, complementarianism, by definition, views women as equal, and sees the male role of leadership as a position of service. Also, if we see God as the creator and our roles as humans as various methods of worshipping Him, we should not be talking about what is most fair, but what glorifies Him most. It’s not about equality, but about obedience.

      • P.S. I agree it is about obedience to God, but assuming equality is a principle of the Kingdom, there is rarely conflict between the 2.

  2. A few basics, anyone can be a sinner, selfish, etc. The question is which model of marriage is God’s best, is there a symmetry of power or is there an asymmetry? You can see thru the patriarch’s claims as too selfish.

    If you look in the ONLY veres that talk about power explicitly among spouses in the NT, in 1 Cor 7, we see a symmetry of power in bed, as each has power over the other’s body, what a beautiful picture this paints for me of mutuality. One can even illustrate this in public via shaking hands, where I can give robot-like commands to my wife’s body and she does the same for my body. Unless we both agree, no handshake takes place.

    Also, the non-egal (patr. or hierarchical comp.) def. is equality is bogus, it is a non-equal equality, which makes no sense. One can see this if it is tranported into racial terms. Blacks are equal to whites, except whites always hold a trump card in making a final decision when there is a disagreement between them that is God given, but a Christ-following white will make the decision in the blacks best interest. I think you would agree this is not equality and that anyone that claimed it was just fooling themselves.

    • Would you please show me the verse which says that all power must be equal?

      Your illustration between blacks/whites is a weak one because it is based on a sinful/illogical division of black-white. If you moved your analogy to a position of god-ordained leadership (cf. Rom. 13), your illustration would make perfect sense, and clearly be in line with Biblical teaching.

      • Also – as to being a sinner – we cannot build a Christian understanding of marriage around non-Christian or sub-Christian, sinful distortions. Christianity has never worked well as a morality for non-Christians. We need to aim for the high ideal which Christ sets before us, “Be holy as I am holy.” I openly admit that my version of complementarianism will not work (it will slide into patriarchy) if someone has an unregenerate, sinful heart.

      • I am still a sinner. Are you?

        I still have blind spots? Do you?

        I can still be selfish? Can you?

        What being a believer means is that now I have choices, I can now choose to obey God or not; but it is my choice.

        A model of marriage that works when the husband is perfect means it will not apply to the real world. It is similar to the argument the Communists under Stalin used when it was pointed out that people were better off under the Czar, they claimed that real communism had yet to be achieved, they were still in transition, which is one reason Orwell wrote Animal Farm.

        FWIIW, I see egalism as a principle of the Kingdom, but it is not the highest principle, love is. If my wife had challenges it could become the case that I needed to make decisions for her (or vice versa), but this would be because she was incompentent to do them for herself and out of love I needed to do so. This aspect is what makes non-egalism strange, as it seems to say (to an egal) that the wife is deficient in some way to make decisions (in an ultimate sense at least), simply because she is female, which makes no sense.

      • So, just so I understand you, would you see a non-Christian model of marriage as being the same one that you would use for a Christian marriage?

      • Not sure if I understand.

        Marriage is a covenant established by God, but 2 non-believers can be married.
        by making a covenant, even if they do not call it that.

        I am talking about God’s ideal of marriage between 2 believers. Being believers both are in submission to God.

      • Yes, marriage is a covenant established by God, which non-Christians can also enjoy. As we have been discussing, there are many varieties of expression for this universal human relationship.
        My question is whether Christians are to do marriage differently than non-Christians or – to put it in other words – does reading our Bibles make us do marriage differently? …or is marriage exactly the same, whether you are a Christian or not.

      • God’s ideal of marriage is exactly the same for believers and unbelievers, but if one does not believe in God, then what God’s ideal is does not matter.

        And an unbeliever does not have the Spirit to comfort and guide her/him.

      • All power is not equal. I do not think that and the Bible does not teach that.

        In marriage, I claim the Bible teaches that spouses have equal power in the family, see 1 Cor 7 for a clear example, but I do not see Paul making a special case for the bed, he is simply following the egal principle of Kingdom life. (I can give more details on 1 Cor 7 if you do not see the equality taught there, some teachers do not teach this aspect, but I do.)

        Rom 13 is talking about the gov’t’s ability to tax, to make laws, etc. As a believer I pay my taxes, obey laws, etc.

      • Right. So just to clarify where we disagree: we both agree that a leader should be a servant-leader, and should use their power to look out for those under him/her. We disagree, however, on whether the man should automatically be the leader of his home, just because he is a man. Does that about sum it up?

      • EVERY believer is called to be a servant and have a ministry. This is basic and fundamental.

        Parents are called to lead their children, this is basic and fundamental.

        A husband is not endorsed in the Bible to lead/rule his wife except by a pagan king in Esther. Also God warns the woman in the garder that her husband will rule over her, this is not a command to the man or the woman, it is a warning about what to expect from being married to a deliberate sinner that tried to blame her for his choice to sin.

      • ….so that’s a yes? I’m remembering my own rules in my post: the point of discussions here is to understand where we disagree. Once we are clear about our differences, we will take a look at Scriptures in “Round Two,” to see whether they agree with my position or yours.
        (By the way – if you don’t want your comments to get thinner and thinner, you can respond to the thread one higher. That is what I have been doing this round.)

      • A husband is a leader in the home, but his wife is also a leader in the home. Only mentioning that a husband is a leader is a half truth and depending on how it is taught it might be a whole untruth.

        A wife is called to submit to her husband, this is a Biblical truth; but it is a half truth, depending on how it is taught it might be a whole untruth if it is not taught that a husband is to submit to his wife.

        The point is there are many things in Scripture that are true but if isolated from other teachings in the Bible and taught in unbalanced ways can result in injustice and justice is another principle of the Kingdom.

      • Can I get a simple yes or no from you? Yes, this is correct, no, it is not:

        1) We both agree that a leader (e.g. politician, pastor, etc.) should have authority, but should use that authority in a compassionate, service-oriented way. However, 2) we disagree whether God has called THE MAN to be a leader/authority in his home. Is this correct? (I’m not laying a trap, I’m just trying to wind this discussion down and make it end with some actual strides towards understanding each other)

      • On 1, every believer is to act in a compassionate and service oriented way, it is not a special quality of a leader.

        On 2, I think you may have worded it wrong from the non-egal camp. I agree what you wrote but point out it is a half truth, the husband is A (family) leader and the wife is A leader. If you had written THE leader, then I would disagree.

      • Right. I forgot that you guys draw a hard line of distinction between “leadership” and “authority.” Okay, let me rephrase:

        Do you agree that, 1) a person in a valid, God-ordained position of authority (such as those sanctioned in Romans 13) is a Biblical leader when the lead as Christ did, with selflessness and love? I believe that our disagreement, then, is not so much on the nature of authority itself, but on 2) whether all men are automatically called to be authority-figures in their homes. You don’t think that the word “authority” has any place at all in a marriage relationship, right?

        Just trying to understand you clearly, Don.

      • Authority comes from God and should conform to God’s way. A believer is to obey God rather than a human if the 2 differ.

      • Okay, I’m going to leave that as a “yes” and give up on the whole “I think what you are saying is this…is this correct?” approach. This doesn’t seem to be working. 🙂

      • My point is that no one has authority in and of itself. They have authority inasmuch as they conform to the truth and to the Truth. Once they step outside of the truth and/or the Truth, they have abdicated their authority.

        For example, a pastor might teach something but simple be wrong about some aspect, misunderstanding the Bible. The pastor does not have any authority for FORCE people to believe as he/she does. He/she can explain and in the case of sin, take it to the whole congregation.

      • I think we can both agree, Don, that no person should have the right to make truth-claims based on their position of authority. “I am the boss, therefore, you will believe ‘x’!” Also, a person’s authority is only valid so far as they stand within their God-ordained role, and so long as they are under the other Biblical authorities over them (e.g. a man should be under his pastors/elders, under the law, etc.)

      • You are adding in the word “role” when I do not see the usefulness of it. A permanent role is constricting, while life in Christ is liberating. What you claim is that a women cannot do something a man can do, besides the obvious physical things dealing with babies. I disagree strongly.

    • You said “the non-egal…def. of equality is bogus, it is a non-equal equality, which makes no sense…”

      You seem to be holding up “equality” as the virtue which non-egals are not able to rise up to. I am just wondering which verse in the Bible you use to set equality up on such a high pedestal? I am not assuming you have no verses – just wondering how you reason your way to this conclusion, that equality is the most important thing to keep in mind when approaching the marriage relationship.

      • I do not think equality is the most important thing in a marriage, I think love is the most important thing in a marriage, and is THE sign of being a believer and is the most important principle in the Kingdom. If you do everything else right and do not have love, you have failed.

        It is possible to put equality ahead of love and that is wrong. Love is always primary. If you are deciding whether to do the equal thing or the loving thing and they are different, always choose love.

        My claim that the non-egal def. of equality is bogus is because they say women are equal to men in one way but not in another way, which is a non-equal eguality, in other words is Orwell’s doublespeak. For example, non-egals say women are equal to men in their essence, but not in their functions beyond the physical constraints of being male and female and that this is true for as long as they live.

        The principle of equality is discussed explicity in regards to wealth in the Bible. A richer person is not to be treated differently than a poorer person and the reason is to NOT show favoritism. It is implicit with regards to Jews/gentiles and males/females but it is there when the verses are understood in 1st century context.

        And there are a few verses that seem to say otherwise, but just a few and they can be figured out sufficiently (if perhaps not completely) to not contradict egalism.

      • Can you give me a definition of what you mean when you say “love”?

        …so your foundation for making “equality” a key, central doctrine within your system (you are part of the “equality forum,” after all, not the “love forum”!) is the social justice verses in the OT? This seems a little weak to me just because 1) Scriptures don’t make this link, and 2) Scriptures provide a model of “differing roles with equality before God” in the church (1 Cor. 12). Are there other verses which force this concept to figure so prominently in your system? I suppose Gal. 3:28 is pretty important…?

        I just really want to know why “equality” is such a big deal to you, proven from Scriptures. When I hear you coming back to it over and over, I can’t help but think that you are using a 20th century, humanist/enlightenment view of man and reading that back into the Scriptures. But if you can find verses which support the essential importance of “equality” (as defined as all members having access to the same roles), then I will stand corrected.

      • Equality is a big deal to me because I see Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. as egals in 1st century culture. NO ONE wrote anything like Gal 3:28 except Paul, no Greek philosopher was even close. NO RABBI at the time of Jesus treated women like Jesus did, as disciples; this was scandalous.

        There are many verses that promote equality, since that is a principle of the Kingdom. What can happen is that traditions of men can weaken the full force of what was being said in the cultural context it was said, that is, things can be explained away or diminished.

        Christianity believes in unity in diversity, as in 1 Cor 12. In the verses that mention spiritual gifts, there is no hint that they are allocated by gender. One needs to see what the Bible says and also what it does not say. For example, when setting up the Mosaic priesthood, the requirements were listed right at that time (Aaronic, unblemished, male, etc.) but in the new covenant, all believers are priests.

        The idea of roles was an invention to describe what the players in a play do.

        Love is described in 1 Cor 13. “It does not insist on its own way;” yet non-egals deny this when they claim that a husband can trump his wife and that this is what God wants. It takes a lot of courage for a wife in some circles to oppose that non-egal claim and I am amazed by all who do.

      • …so you are saying that an overview reading of the New Testament – especially in view of Galatians 3:28, and taking note of the equal distribution of gifts – is what prompts you towards equality? Is there anything else you would add?

        Again, not laying a trap – I just want to see your Scriptural basis so that I can study it for myself.

      • My study of all Scripture, (66 books in the prot canon) leads me to believe equality is a principle of the Kingdom. I also believe in progressive revelation in Scripture and that God works with individuals and with peoples where they are at, taking them step by step into the Kingdom as they let God guide them.

      • Just to clarify, for example in the Torah of Moses there are regulations mitigating the worst excesses of polygamy; but this does not mean polygamy was God’s ideal, monogamy (or celibacy for some) is God’s ideal. But God worked in a polygamous culture and brought them step by step to be more in the Kingdom.

      • So how does that illustration relate or what does it clarify…I think I know, but maybe you should just tell me.

      • God works in sinful cultures to get them to be less sinful, this is because sinful cultures are all there are.

        One aspect of this sin is manifested where some think others are “less than” in some way. Until recently, it was just accepted as obvious that women were inferior to men in most cultures, for example. They could not think as well, so it was not possible a woman could be a Doctor of Math, for example, until a woman showed she could do it. This idea of female inferiority has been discredited in Western society. So people no longer read the Bible in such societies with that assumption as part of their worldview. This in turn resulted in the so-called comp/egal debate.

      • Yes, I’m with you on the “woman’s suffrage” movement. In cultures and sub-cultures which genuinely degredate woman, I would be right there with you. I see this very much at work in the patriarchal movement, which believes that women are ontologically inferior to men, are under men, etc.

        There is a reason that complementarians have chosen their name: it is not a smoke-screen! We genuinely believe that men and women were created “male and female” from the beginning, and that these roles – while equal – “complement” one another, like a lock and key, like a violin and bow.

        To me, one of the major hang-ups of the egal. position is that it functionally places men and women into an androdgenous role. They are simply to love one another, and work out in their marriage how that works on a case-by-case basis. Well, if God designed male and female, don’t you think He would have given us some pointers on how marriage was to be structured? Indeed, I believe that He has.

        However, please try very hard not to read patriarchy into my views. Maybe go back and read “four views”. Really, honestly, patriarchy is just as repugnant to me as it is to you: please don’t hear me saying that I think women are less than men!!

      • I believe the genders complement each other (like a lock and key, etc), and I do not believe in androgyny. I just do not believe that God’s ideal is a hierarchy between the genders.

        I am a non-hierarchical complementarian and you are a hierarchical complementarian. Our differences are in whether we see hierarchy or equality as God’s ideal.

        Since we both believe that the genders complement each other, I disagree that one group gets to claim that term. Also, that term does NOT distinguish the differences between egals and non-egals, it obscures it.

      • This is an interesting comment. Some good things to think about.
        As much as hierarchy seems like a mute point to me (we make decisions together, not by my “orders”) perhaps I am being evasive in my thinking. I will think more clearly on this and write a clear statement in the future. Promise!
        I think that if I flushed hierarchy out of my position, I would still believe something radically different from you. Do you really believe that women are feminine and men are masculine, and that God has revealed certain roles which men and women normally participate in marriage, based on the gender which He gave them? From what I have read, it seems as though you think that every couple must decide for themselves such questions as: who stays at home with the kids, who makes money, who represents the family to the world, whose name comes first in the phone book, etc.
        Functionally, you are androdgynous, since you fit men and women into a one-size-fits-all category “Christian.” You don’t seem to treat women at all differently than men (this makes sense, since that wouldn’t be “fair”….or “equal”?). This is androdgyny. By contrast, I think God created them “male and female” and that this created distinction would lead to different roles, whether hierarchy was necessary/important or not.

      • I believe that women are feminine and men are masculine. But more than that, both are HUMAN and share many things as humans, yet there are differences.

        I do not care who comes first in the phone book. It can be alphabetical.

        It is often the case that the mother stays home with kids, but this is NOT REQUIRED; it is fine if the husband stays home. It is often the case that the husband works outside the home, but this is NOT REQUIRED, it is fine if the wife works. It does not emasculate the man or make him less of a man ASSUMING this is the agreement of the spouses.

        I do treat women different than men, when I go to the gym I am willing to change clothes with other men around, but would not do so if there were women around; this is just modesty. I recognize that women as a group are generally smaller than men as a group. I recently told my son not to play with girls in the same way he plays with boys, in the sense of being less rough.

        If you wish to use the word “role” I would say that ONLY a woman can play the role of carrying a baby to gestation and nursing a baby with mother’s milk and only a man can play the role of inseminating a woman. And that many things may develop from these basic physical truths, but they are not REQUIRED to develop that way, there is freedom in Christ to structure one’s own marriage as the spouses see fit. It is NOT the case that somewhere is the defined role models and you only get 1 exception to a part or you are out of line with God’s ideal, you get to define the model for your own marriage, accepting the physical constraints.

      • So what you are saying is: 1) the plumbing is different, 2) some differences may exist in general ways, but 3) there is no such thing as a “masculine” and “feminine” role in society which we should encourage our children and those under our preaching ministry to emulate?

      • I think a man IS masculine and a woman IS feminine. And CULTURE says there are many things that are associated with being masculine or feminine, but these are cultural. A believer is not constrained by cultural norms, but should strive to meet them in Godly ways to make the gospel more appealing.

      • Aside from “plumbing”/child-bearing, how would you define masculinity vs. femininity, in a trans-cultural way?

      • There are LOTS of things that are linked with being male. The default body plan is female and it takes testosterone in the womb to make a male. When that hits, there are 2 main effects, the gonads drop down towards the feet and a LOT of connections in the brain die off, so the 2 hemispheres are less connected in a male than in a female. So this death of cells is a part of God’s plan for a male. It seems quite possible to me that this leads to the ability of women to see the big picture better while the male is able to focus on the details better, but maybe this is wrong and there are other effects; but there are physical differences which plausibly lead to other differences.
        But a man is not sure in the same way and this can lead to MANY cultural differences, such as the wife assuming the husband’s last name, so any children are ASSUMED to be his. (This is not a bad assumption, but is not always true.) And the law recognizes this, it takes action by the man to DISPROVE paternity, as paternity is assumed in law when married.

        And other things.
        Since the female bears the baby, she knows 100% that a baby that comes from her womb is hers, unless she did some fancy recent stuff.

    • Somewhere in here, (below) I lost my train of thought. My only point is this: the egalitarian position seems to be a defensive position: it is protecting women from “those men.” You know who I am talking about. The jerks. The idiots. The control freaks, the ego-centric boneheads, the stubborn, the hard-hearted. The last thing you want to do with a man like this is to tell him “you are in charge – people are supposed to listen to you!” Give ’em an inch and they will take a mile! Woe to that poor woman who is married to such a loser as this!

      I am totally with you on wanting to protect women from spiritual/emotional abuse like this. Trust me – I am very close to some abuse victims of men like this.

      However, there is the danger of over-reaction. We wash our hands to avoid infections: we do not wear bubble-suits. In my reading of the Bible, God seems to give SCANDALOUS amounts of trust in people. (He left the spiritual state of the entire world in the hands of 11 men, who had all betrayed him only a month ago!!). The answer is not to remove a possibility for sin, but to change the heart.

      You need to have God’s heart to be a true, complementarian. True, some non-Christians really nail it – but this is usually only the case in Christianized societies (e.g. “the perfect gentleman”)

      Do you understand my drift? No, the absolute perfect ideal is never reached – but many, many couples have and continue to enjoy a solid, stable and growing relationship as a true complementarian couple, with God continually renovating both of their hearts.

      You don’t need to throw out authority – just throw out the old heart!

      • I do not throw out authority, I simply dispute the claim that the Bible says the husband has authority over his wife in a way that is not symmetrical ala 1 Cor 7.

        For example, if one just extracted the husband power verses and ignore the wife power verses in 1 Cor 7, then one could make an argument that the husband has a power the wife does not. But 1 Cor 7 in toto denies that claim by the very way it is written, so do not ignore the wife power parts.

        Luk 18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

        Another thing to see is that we are all sinners. It is not Biblical to look at some sinner and claim “I am not like them.” as that is what the Pharisee said in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18. What you are saying is that you are not like that abuser of a woman. What I am saying the Bible asks us is “How am I LIKE that abuser?” and what can I do to mitigate it. One way to mitigate it is to not claim power over another adult in marriage, rather let it be a partnership of equals. Adam claimed this power and the pagan king in Esther claimed this power, but believers can reject this claim, they can decline to be like Adam and pagans.

      • I don’t know how I can catch my bearings without comparing my marriage to the marriages of others. I don’t think that Jesus’ parable was a teaching against learning from the examples of others, but about comparing ourselves AS A MEASURE OF PERSONAL HOLINESS. I don’t think I am better than anybody, because I only compare my sins to Christ. HOWEVER, I can look at an abusive marriage and say, “Hm…that doesn’t seem to work. I don’t think I’ll do things like that.” If you read my previous post closely, you will see that I am working very hard and carefully to exclude any abusive tendencies from my view of headship.

        Power, power…it’s always about the power with you, Don! Tell me, does the image of me kneeling before my wife, washing her feet strike you as an image of power? It’s not about the pants for me, Don – it really, REALLY isn’t! For me, being the head is all about studying my wife, learning her, learning to read her, learning the ways I can protect her, provide for her, cherish her, lift burdens from her. As I have walked in this direction, she has blossomed, and also learned to respect me more and follow my lead, and love and serve me. As she shows her love to me, I overflow with more loving service for her….okay, so maybe I should add in here that we still have good days and bad days?…the point is that inside my mind, there is not one thread of controlling, manipulating, or “king-of-the-castleing.” Just today I exercised my rights as “head of the home.” I came home and my wife looked exhausted. We were having company soon, and there were a million things to do. Being the selfless, sweet woman that she is, I knew I could not convince her to take care of herself: I caught her gently and said, “honey, do you trust me?” she said she did, “honey, go take a nap. When you wake up, this will all be clean.”

        Tell me, Don, does this sound like abuse to you?

      • I can tell my wife to take a break when she is pooped also, but it does not need to be in the form of a command that must be obeyed else people she respects will tell her she is outside of God’s will.

        I commend you for trying to exclude abusive tendencies, I also saw myself in the same way, and you sound better at it than I was.

        If you lived in 1850 and saw a believer who was a slaveholder who treated his slaves like family but declined to set them free would you congratulate him for not being a bad slaveholder or would you encourage him to free his slaves and think he was missing an important part of Scripture if he did not?

        The thing to see is this is analogous to how egals see non-egal marriages. Even in the best of non-egal marriages, things could be even better with equality. But the husband needs to let go of his claim to a trump card.

      • You think that I would use the disapproval of people in my congregation as a shaming tactic to domineer my wife into submission? Wow – you really are not following me. Don’t you see that this is something a patriarchalist would do, but I am insulating myself from that camp? This trump card language has always been your terminology – it has no bearing in the complementarian marriage, where the husband and wife are united, and where the headship is a mechanism for making better decisions TOGETHER. I think I need to write another post on this to make myself clear: but my original post (especially the discussions of the president with his advisors) should be helpful in explaining where I am coming from.

        Again, I say that the racist argument does not apply to gender because it is based on a non-destinction (skin-colour) vs. a real distinction (gender). It was wrong to use different bathrooms for blacks and whites: it is right to use different bathrooms for men and women! Also, as I read them, Scriptures really mandate differing roles for men and women. But we will be getting to that.

        Again, however, the difference is not about “better” and “worse,” “underling” and “master,” “slave” and “free,” but about complementary roles. Like a lock and key, violin and bow. Men and women are equal, but with distinct roles to play.

        It is only our shallow, competitive nature which turns these different roles into a compettion, in the same way that people in the Church sometimes make a competition out of the gifts they have been given (1 Cor. 12). “…but if we were all an ear, where would the sense of sight be?” likewise, “if we were all functionally male, where would the function of female be?”

      • ” “…but if we were all an ear, where would the sense of sight be?” likewise, “if we were all functionally male, where would the function of female be?””

        Josiah, a few times you’ve made a comparison to the different manifestations of the Holy Spirit with roles in marriage. I do not see this as a valid comparison. In the Body of Christ all manifestations and all ministries are given to whomsoever; IOW not limited or restricted by gender. But you want to limit and restrict women in marriage, giving men more freedoms, decsion making responsibilties, etc. in the mantle of ‘leadership/headship”. How does this encourage ‘the two becoming as one’ .

      • In the body of Christ, one person does this, another person does that. Varying roles, working together in harmony. In marriage, God has called women to do this, men to do that. It’s the same – complementary roles, working together in equality and mutuality.

        Do you think it is less important to support than to lead, less dignified to raise children than to make money? The only reason this is an issue is that our culture deifies all of the men’s roles: therefore, the only way we can conceive of “equality” is by allowing women to do everything that God has called men to do. Strangely, we don’t see the men clamouring for the rights to raise children, to support and nurture, etc.

      • Josiah wrote: “This trump card language has always been your terminology – it has no bearing in the complementarian marriage, where the husband and wife are united, and where the headship is a mechanism for making better decisions TOGETHER.”

        This is where you get confusing, EVERY hierarchical comp I have read claims that the HUSBAND and not the wife gets to make the FINAL decision where there is a disagreement. The wife is supposed to graciously defer to the husband; this is the CRUX of our differences and masking this difference does not make it go away. Hence I use the trump card analogy, but you can call it whatever you want.

        The HUSBAND gets to TRUMP his wife in hierarchical thinking. EVEN if he NEVER does it, it can still influence the decision making process (and distort it from an egal point of view).

        So how do YOU word it so that this difference between us is not obscured?

      • Well, I can see I can’t refer to it briefly. I will need to rework some of the things I have written before, to make a new post very clearly drawing lines between myself and patriarchy. It is clear that you did not at all grasp what I said…but I’ll just take the blame for that, assuming that I did not communicate clearly enough.

        To answer your question briefly: does the fact that one person chairs the meeting mean that that person always gets his/her way? To the contrary, such a person should always move in favour of the best interests of others, and in the direction of the best information.

        …well, I can see already this won’t work. Might as well just wait for my post on the topic.

      • I am awaiting your new post.

        I called it a trump card, but I have seen MANY terms in non-egal literature.

        So what do YOU call it?

      • I think we would make progress, Don, if you understood my view of “headship” in terms of “prime-leader.” By “leader,” I am (I think) using your definition: that is, someone who takes responsibility for themselves, who acts responsibly, who takes initiative, who is self-sacrificing, who is giving. Because of how they ACT, they naturally, garner followers.

        I believe that both men and women are to be “leaders” in a sense: however, I believe that men are to be ESPECIALLY called to be leaders in their homes. They are to work hard to provide for their families, to be the primary spiritual gate-keepers, etc., as I mentioned above.

        I am not talking about the man who sits on the couch all day watching TV, then, out of nowhere says, “I think we should do x, and you have to obey me because I am the man.”

      • I think BOTH the husband and wife are to be spiritual gate-keepers for the family. The wife does not get a pass just because she is a wife, she is to be a fully functioning adult.

        I think BOTH the husband and wife are to work hard to provide for their family. And that this can be in different ways and is fine, as long as the system works.

      • Yes, that is your perspective. My perspective is that men, as “the head of the home” are called to be MORE responsible than women.

        That’s what I believe, but it is probably pointless to discuss this here, since my reasons for supporting this are in Scriptures, which we will touch on later.

        I think you were wanting to understand how I view headship though, right? So this is most of it right here – added responsibility, with no added prestige, rights or priveleges, as I said in my post.

      • Josiah wrote: “I think you were wanting to understand how I view headship though, right? So this is most of it right here – added responsibility, with no added prestige, rights or priveleges, as I said in my post.”

        1. I would appreciate it if Scriptural terms were used, such as head/kephale and not headship, as use of such terms pre-judges the meaning of the head metaphor.

        2. That is a new twist, what I have seen before is that the additional responsibility is discussed second. Here you are trying to discuss it ONLY. Unfortunately for your claim, in Scripture rights/power and responsibilities are tightly coupled.

        So it is true that IF a husband has more power in a marriage, then it follows he has more reponsibility and vice versa; but the quesiton is whether he actually DOES have more power/responsibility according to Scripture.

      • I do not think shame comes into it, much more likely what happens is that alternatives are not even known and so never even considered. If the women’s group does a study on how to submit to your husband’s leadership, that is all it will take. Any time there is a disagreement, the wife has been taught to defer and believes this is God’s will. If you read stories of women coming out of (hierarchical) compism, you would understand better.

      • I am married to a woman coming out of that environment. Don’t try to trump me by experience. I have lived it.

        THERE IS A DIFFERENCE in how we do marriage! I ABSOLUTELY do not do the same things that smother, suppress, humiliate and otherwise ignore the gifting and beauty of womanhood in my marriage. You do not understand me, which is understandable, but just so you know, I know exactly what you are talking about, and I AM NOT LIKE THAT.

        Perhaps if you saw some positive examples of TRUE complementarianism (granted, there aren’t many examples out there…) it would help for you not to simply read my opinions as patriarchy in desguise.

      • From an egal point of view, there is at least one thing that trumps egalism and that is love. If my wife was permanently incapacited in some way, I would try to make up for that so my family would “work” as best it could. And it might look non-egal, but it would be loving and so honoring God, at least in my intent.

        But this is best reason I can see to be non-egal in practise but I do not think you believe your wife is permantly incapacitated in some way by being female. So I am curious.

      • We both love our wives. Why you keep coming back to love, as though that answers everything puzzles me. There are patriarchalists, feminists, complementarians and egalitarians of all shapes and sizes who love each other. Then there are some who do not. What does this have to do with anything? I thought we were talking about roles and social structures within the institution of marriage…?

        I work hard and sacrifice much to give my wife the gift of staying home with our young child. Working is a curse, just like child-bearing. We have a deal: I don’t get pregnant, and she doesn’t have to work outside the home. Sounds fair to me! 😉

        (in answer to your question: if she really wanted to, or if we absolutely had to, I suppose we would consider her working, however, we don’t think this is God’s ideal based on Titus 2:5, and her own desires)

      • Neither working nor childbearing are curses, according to the Bible. Yes they are AFFECTED by the curses, but they are NOT curses, they were part of God’s plan for humans from the start.

        I am glad you and your spouse have the ability to choose for you to work outside the home and choose for your wife to stay at home. If this works for your family, I am all for those choices for your family. All I ask is to not knock those who make other choices as being less than God’s ideal. And some who have no choice but for both to work, sometimes they feel condemned at church, which should never be.

      • I would never condemn a person with no choice, nor would I condemn a person who made a different choice than me on this, since it is not a sin/salvation issue.

        My point here is to find God’s ideal on gender. As a teacher who will spend many years teaching college-age kids, I want to know how to teach what is “normal” and “best.” As I read Scriptures, it assigns different roles as the normal functions of male/female – although you can read between the lines and guess that there can be exceptions, since these things are never commanded, only prescribed.

      • Yes, one should seek God’s ideal for oneself and part of one’s self is one’s gender. A man should not try to be a woman or a woman try to be a man.

        And there ARE some diffs in how men and women are treated in Scripture (surprised?) but these turn out to be based on cultural realities, when understood in context. However, this is obscured by many translations.

      • There is an ambiguity in what you just said: are men and women trans-culturally different, or are they only different in certain cultures?

        In a perfect world, would there be gender? Aside from physiology, what roles would men vs. women play in this perfect world?

        (Note: I asked you basically the same thing elsewhere: you can answer only one thread if that is more practical)

      • Men and women are different, starting with the physical and these physical diffs can result in some behavioral diffs, at least commonly.

        I do not care for the word “roles” as by the way it is conceived, it is confining, as in, do not cross this line that marks out your role. It is like playing a part (a role) in a play, which is fine to do when actually IN a play, but can get frustrating when done all the time.

        So I accept physical constraints of genders as God-given and good. The rest is mostly up to the participants, that is, there is a basic freedom in Christ, except not to sin. And we are to promote the gospel, so we might choose to limit our freedom in order to promote the gospel.

  3. Great discussion going on here. I would like to just ask a question an likely will not have much opportunity to participate.

    Josiah wrote: “As I said in my previous post, complementarianism, by definition, views women as equal, and sees the male role of leadership as a position of service.”

    Where is the equality in an eternal leadership to which the wife’s response is an eternal ‘followership’. Is there some place where you view the wife as having a role of leadership towards the husband?

    • 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

      14For the body is not one member, but many.

      15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.

      16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.

      17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

      18But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.

      19If they were all one member, where would the body be?

      20But now there are many members, but one body.

      21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

      22On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary;

      23and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable,

      24whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked,

      25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

      26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

      27Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

      As members of Christ’s body, we have equality within distinction of roles. The same is true in marriage.

      • However, male and female are both within all of those different body parts. They are equally available to all. So how does that relate to the concept of gender restrictive ‘roles’ in marriage.

        Perhaps, Don can speak to that issue better.

      • In Christ, there are some who are gifted to speak in toungues, some who can prophecy, some who “only have the lowly gift of acts of service.” However, they are all equal because they are all “in Christ” – they are all integral parts of the Body of Christ. They are equal because Biblical equality is not based on comparison with one another, but dignity and value before God. In marriage, likewise, God has “created them male and female” and assigned different roles for each to play in marriage – but this in now way diminishes their equality, since they both are integral parts of the marriage, and because the marriage exists to worship God, not for the self-actualization of the members.

      • I agree that not all believers have a specific gift like speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc. But in the places where such gifts are discussed, including leadership ministry gifts, there is no indication that they are allocated by gender, race, wealth, or any other thing than the Spirit deciding how to do it for each as individuals. And yes there are some accomodations to the current realities, but no indication that these accomodations are forever.

      • The point of this thread, Don, is to question the concept of “equality,” and “fairness.” If God can be so “unfair” as to give one person the gift of tongues, and another person the gift of preaching, then have the audacity to say that THE FACT THAT THESE PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT ROLES IN THE KINGDOM DOES NOT MAKE THEM LESS EQUAL IN THE SIGHT OF GOD (sorry, not mad, just no way to bold/italics in this format), then is it possible to transfer that principle to gender? Is it really unfair to say God has called men to be men, and women to be women, and that this includes different roles in the home?

        We can debate later about whether God has actually said this: but IF HE DID, would it be wrong? It wouldn’t be “fair,” but is that a problem? God, after all, has the right to decide what to do with His creation (cf. Romans 9).

      • I do not see believers as having different roles, they have different gifts and every gift is to be used to build up the church.

        But if someone claimed only males can prophesy, I would disagree.

      • This comment is frustratingly off topic. The point of this thread, as I said, was to determine whether it is unfair for God to give one gift to one person, and another gift to another. If God doesn’t have a problem giving a gift (being called His holy people) to an entire race of people (the Jews), then maybe it’s okay that God has assigned different roles to men and women.

        Is it fair? No. But here is the question: (please ONLY answer this question in this thread!) is God always fair? He is just, yes – but is this the same as being “fair” and “equal”?

        Maybe I need to dedicate a post to this so I can make myself more clear. This seems to cut to the heart of it, because at the heart of the egalitarian system seems to be this law: 1) Any system in which boys can’t do what girls can do (and vice versa), is not fair. 2) Any system that is not fair is bad. 3) Therefore, anything but egalitarianism is bad.

      • Fairness sometimes opposes justice and mercy. God is just and merciful, but God does not need to be fair. Fairness does not come into the equation.

        In a general sense, I do not understand the Bible to say that men and women are to be treated differently, this is an exegetical issue, not a fairness issue. Yes, there are acknowledgements about physical differences and yes there is some accomodation to cultural differences in the 1st century; but the basic principle is that both are human, equal in being the image of God and equal in the ability to reveal God’s glory.

      • Josiah, text only conversation can be frustrating, but try not to let it. ☺

        It appears to me that Don did answer your question.

        When God called out a people to be His own, He did not forever restrict others from entering in. In fact, their purpose as God’s people was to bring God to all people. Instead they hoarded God’s Words for themselves along with God’s blessings and failed. Thus when Christ came, He brought the presence and healing, deliverance, salvation, etc. of God to all people. Now it’s up to all whether to accept or reject God’s gifts. It is not restricted from them.

        To me, what you are suggesting is a restriction for women that is for all of life. That is not God’s Way. God desires that all of us draw fully into His presence and do all the works that He did and more.

      • Okay, you said “fairness does not come into the equation.” Would you say the same about “equality”? The two seem to be synonyms.

      • To TL and Don:

        Sorry if I came across as frustrated. It was because I was – but with a smile on my face. 😀

        You both are pushing the analogy too far. The point is that GOD IS NOT FAIR. He chose to bless all people ‘by setting one people apart.’ How is this fair, to say that I, just because of how I was born, must approach God like a dog licking scraps from under the table (mark 7:27-28), or like a wild olive branch grafted illigitimately into a domesicated olive tree (Romans 11)? This is not equal, but it is Good. God chooses certain people for certain tasks. The point is not that each person has all of the opportunities that the other guy has, but that each person glorifies God with what they have been given, in the ways in which they were instructed (cf. the parable of the talents).

        Don, I know you want to push on to the exegetical: we will get there. However, I think this is an important conversation. In the past, it has seemed like we would just start getting somewhere, then somebody would pull out the “hey, that’s not equal/fair” card, and then we would be back at square one. It’s time to deal with this one. Is God fair or not? Is equality a golden standard of Christianity? Or is justice and equality/fairness two different things?

  4. “We both agree that a leader (e.g. politician, pastor, etc.) should have authority, but should use that authority in a compassionate, service-oriented way.”

    It is my belief that godly love IS the authority for Christian leadership of any kind. IOW the compassion and service oriented mindset is the power of the leadership. It is different from the world. Note Matt. 20:26+

    • First of all, what does IOW mean?

      Hm…it seems that our differences may run deeper than I thought. I thought at least we could agree on what an authority figure was, even if we could not agree that God has called men to be the authority in the home. Now, from the way you are talking, it does not seem that you believe in authority at all…?

      Or (re-reading your comment) are you saying that true love is the motivation and content of real authority? As in a true leader will be so filled with love for those that he leads that, 1) his decisions will always be for the betterment of others, 2) others will see his compassionate heart and WANT to follow, whether he (or she!) is officially in a leadership position or not? In this case, you would be totally on the same page as me…but I have a feeling I am just reading my thoughts into yours here…

      A little clarity here: do you think there are ever valid roles of authority? If so, what does that look like?

      • ”As in a true leader will be so filled with love for those that he leads that, 1) his decisions will always be for the betterment of others, 2) others will see his compassionate heart and WANT to follow, whether he (or she!) is officially in a leadership position or not?”

        That is a good way to put it. Also, such a person does not demand position but may desire recognition or appreciation. Those are normal tendencies. Such a person does not think so much in terms of leadership but in terms of service as Christ said that He did not come to be served but to serve and give His life.

        In the body of Christ those in ministries of service to the people are considered leaders. Basically a leader is like a guide who has gone before and guides others in the right direction. The guide/leader does this by word, deed and example. In my opinion (IMO) it is unfortunate that the modern churches have taken on corporate like descriptions of the servants of the Lord. Paul loved to call himself a bondservant, doulos. This defined his apostleship.

        However, in a marriage we have two becoming as one. IMO there is no ‘leadership’ but each serving the other for the benefit of their union as one. One could say that they each lead and follow the other at different times and in different ways. The children are their fruit of which both are responsible to feed (lead) with their lives.

    • IOW = In other words.

      Speaking for me, yes there are valid roles of authority, for example, parents are in authority over their kids while they are not adults. And the goal is to have the kids grow up to be fully functioning adults, so a parent is working themselves out of a job. At the start, they take full care of a baby, at the end, the adult is free to decide for themselves.

      An employer can decide what an employess is to do during the hours of work, as long as it is not illegal or immoral.

      • So hard to get a simple answer. Am I wrong in wanting this? Do you agree with my basic idea of authority EXCEPT that you don’t think it should be based on gender?

      • ”But here is the question: (please ONLY answer this question in this thread!) is God always fair? He is just, yes – but is this the same as being “fair” and “equal”?”

        Personally, I believe that God is fair and just. He always has reasonable reasons why he does or does not do things, and reasonable reasons why He allows us to do the things He allows.

        ”because at the heart of the egalitarian system seems to be this law: 1) Any system in which boys can’t do what girls can do (and vice versa), is not fair. 2) Any system that is not fair is bad. 3) Therefore, anything but egalitarianism is bad.”

        That wouldn’t be my thinking. And IMO it is far more complicated. God is Love. Within God’s Love is purity, holiness, true authority/power/ability, justice, fairness, mercy, conviction, wisdom, judgment, etc.
        God doesn’t have favorites. He loves us all with the same love. It is God’s H.S. that sets us free and empowers us, not the Laws given to Moses. The New Covenant is a new way. It is by the H.S. given within us. No one can please God obeying religious laws. God rescued us from the Law’s curse. He freed us to live by faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit. According to Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, the Law controlled us (Jew’s) and kept us under it’s power until Jesus who would give us (humanity) faith. There was a time an era for God’s people to live by the Law until it was fulfilled in Jesus, until God gave us faith, until we learned to live by faith. Living by faith is a higher more difficult Law because it required us all to go directly to God through Jesus and requires us all to mature into the maturity of the man Christ Jesus and strive to do the works that He did. There are no more mediary’s and we are all on the same level ground at the foot of the cross learning to live by God’s Love.

        Women as adults are freed by the H.S. to grow and mature into the likeness of Christ Jesus. The H.S. is able to use them as He chooses to do any of the works that Christ did, just as the H.S. is able to use men.

      • You said “personally, I believe that God is fair and just.” well, I can find about a million verses that say that God is just, but is this the same as being fair? I don’t think you can roll the two into one ball of wax.

        I think we all agree on everything else you said, since that is all gospel and basic freedom in Christ doctrine.

      • I am not sure if I agree with your basic idea of authority, as I do not recall you stating what it is and giving examples.

        The authority I have as a parent over my baby is near absolute, over a 17-year old is very different, as they are almost 18 and their own person. A main part of any authority is setting an example. The authority of an elder in any church I attend is that I am to be willing to listen to their reasons for believing as they do and see if it convinces me and of course following Mat 18 for serious things. If they say ‘Drink Kool-Aid’ in Jonestown I can disagree. All authority derives from God and God’s ways are revealed in the Bible, so anything that contradicts God’s ways is to be rejected.

      • “I am not sure if I agree with your basic idea of authority, as I do not recall you stating what it is and giving examples.”

        I would suggest reading the posts I linked to at the beginning of this post (especially “understanding the 4 positions).

  5. Equality is about potential, fairness is about outcome.

    I do not pre-judge a woman or a man in terms of being suitable for a task in the home or church based on their gender, except for the obvious physical constraints. Yes, many women may TEND to be like X and many men may TEND to be like Y, but these are just tendencies, not rigid boundaries, except in the case of the physical realities.

    Fairness is more about outcomes and there are methods devised to help ensure fair outcomes, such as dividing up a pie.

    • Yes, but isn’t your division between these words somewhat arbitrary? COuldn’t you just as easily said that you don’t pre-judge a woman or man to be assigned to one role or the other because that wouldn’t be “fair”…and you would also cut the pie into “equal” parts, so that everyone present would feel that they were being equally valued?

    • Words can mean what we want them to mean.

      During a polar expedition, the group was running out of food. The leader rigidly carved up the remaining food and gave out equal portions to all, but the largest men knew this was a death sentence, as they needed more calories to survive. What is fair is debateable, perhaps calories should have been allocated by needs.

      Equality as a life principle is not as debatable, it is treating others as yourself. As a human, I am not more than nor less than another in God’s sight and all humans are in God’s image. As a believer, I am a child of God, joined with other children of God, again neither more important nor less important.

      The hierarchical comps claim that a husband’s decision is worth more than a wife’s decision and I disagree with that. ALL the serving stuff I agree with, the disagreement is over the non-equal part of what you believe. I think you are a believer, but you are missing all the God would have for you; JUST AS the slaveholders were believers but were missing all that God would have had for them. And the analogy exists because both groups believe in control over another adult in some way.

    • Words can mean many things: that is why precise definitions are very important in such debates as this…wait – didn’t you say that very thing to me, in a comment under “Gone for the Hollidays”?

      I appreciate your concern. Naturally, I feel the same for you – I think you are missing out on a lot, and maybe in a future post I will be able to explain all the amazing benefits which have come to my marriage in only a few months of being firmly complementarian.

      You keep rephrasing it, Don, but all I am hearing is, “If the guy wears the pants, that’s not fair.” All I can say is, 1) it’s not about wearing the pants. it’s about laying down one’s life. 2) it’s not about being fair, its about a) being Biblical, and b) worshiping God. You also flatly refuse to believe me, that I can really live in 1 Pet. 3:7 – honouring my wife as a “weaker vessel,” (that is, living in a different role than me) and also honoring her as a “fellow-heir of the grace of life.”

      As you have so eloquently said, fairness is a weak and fragile concept: no matter what you have said, I still think that the folly of “fairness” is the bedrock foundation of your position, and it is precisely this which makes it seem unworkable to me. Equality as you use it is just “fairness” applied to larger groups of people.

    • I see equality as taught in the Bible, and am a member of CBE, whose very name claims that.

      Again, all your claims of serving your wife I agree with, and you may be better at it than I am. It is only the perhaps additional claims BEYOND serving your wife that I disagree with, or perhaps you do not make those anymore. Please speak clearly on this.

      Most of the verses are about humans, a few are about males and females, husbands and wives. It is NOT androgyny to claim all the human verses for oneself. Unfortunately, some translations use “man” in both exclusive and inclusive senses, causing confusion. I MUCH prefer translations where the Greek word for human is translated as human or similar and not “man”.

    • Yes, I am also in favor of gender-correct translations such as the TNIV. You’re off topic again.

      Yes, I know that you have a strong committment to the word “equality” – this has been my point. I still think there is no significant difference in your usage between equality and fairness. “Equality is about potential, fairness is about outcomes”…but outcomes are based upon one’s perception of potentialities. Likewise, potentialities lead towards outcomes. The two are linked.

      The argument I have been hearing over and over is, “If men can do x, and women cannot, this is not FAIR.” What I am saying is that this is a weak argument because fairness is a weak and fragile concept.

      To me, the weakness and shallow Scriptural basis for the word “equality” is a major flaw in your system. I believe this is a concept imported from culture, not learned in Scriptures.

    • I do not recall having used the word “fair” except in response to you. I do not see my equality understanding as having anything to do with fairness, it has everything to do with what Scripture teaches.

      And equality is just a shorthard, but to be true equality is needs to be pervasive. Recall that the slaveholders claimed that their slaves were equal to them as believers, but not as slaves, so their claims were bogus.

  6. Don and TL: I am sorry for leaving your comments unanswered for a few days. I have other things which are pressing in on my schedule and am also feeling like this discussion has almost run its course. It has given me much to think about, and subsequent posts will be needed to peruse this further. I will try to satisfactorily answer questions and clarify my thoughts, in an effort to bring the threads to a conclusion relatively soon.

    I won’t answer questions with questions if you wont…deal? 😉

  7. Josiah,
    ”I think that if I flushed hierarchy out of my position, I would still believe something radically different from you.”

    I’m not so sure about that. Perhaps in a few things, like thinking women shouldn’t have careers or work. Though while a child is young it’s best but children aren’t young forever. I’m not sure if you think that a woman should have as many children as her body will let her or not, but I definitely think not.

    ”Do you really believe that women are feminine and men are masculine,”

    I’m always amazed at the obtuseness of this question. Of course we do. It would be nice if hierarchalists would stop being nasty with statements like that as well as the androgynous and same-as charges which are hugely false.

    ”and that God has revealed certain roles which men and women normally participate in marriage, based on the gender which He gave them?

    It is quite evident that throughout the world different cultures have different ways that people in general think marriages should operate between the genders. Other than the fact that women bear the children and men contribute sperm to that effort, there is variety for the rest even while there are general inclinations that men (the major protectors) do whatever they think necessary to protect and provide for their family. I consider it best that child rearing should be a co-partnership of husband and wife, for the benefit of the child. Money can be made in many ways and differently in many cultures. It used to be made by a joint effort of the whole family. Corporate America has changed that.

    Men are the stronger gender. Women are more flexible. These things tend men and women to do different things that make use of these differences. But all men are different and all women are different as well. We cannot stick women in boxes as if they were all alike. Well, we can and try to. But many women who don’t fit our organization really are wounded by the effort and many more are just plain sick of it. Interestingly, the boxes we try to fit men into are bigger and more versatile than the boxes we try to fit women into.

    • I am not meaning to be obtuse or mean with my words. I am just being honest with how I see it. This point may be too obscure to really argue: however, this is at the core of why I disagree with egalitarianism.

      The turning point came when listening to Bruxy Cavey (an egalitarian) speak on and on about all of the various biological/phisiological ways in which men and women are so completely different…then at the end of his series he said, in effect, “Men may look like forks and knives, they may talk like forks and knives, they may even THINK like forks and knives. ‘Forkness’ and ‘knifeness’ may be deep in the DNA of each. However, there are small amounts of exceptions to the rules. Also, there are some times when the forks can cut, and sometimes you can use a knife to eat with. Since there are some exceptions, we shouldn’t talk about the normal function of ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness,’ but should just let each couple figure it out for themselves.”

      If you believe this, that is fine. I am not especially arguing with you here. All I am saying is that this doesn’t seem like the BEST way to approach life, or to think about the genders.

      The equality of the genders before God does not wipe out the differing functions GOd made them for. Also, the exceptions should not confuse us too much because there will always be exceptions, and the percentages are smaller than we make them out to be. The question is whether there is a “normal” here, an ideal that God intended. I believe there IS a normal, and this is reflected in part in Scriptural teaching on the subject, reflected in part in God’s design.

    • A few points:

      1. God does NOT have any exceptions to his perfect will. If God chooses someone to do something outside of some supposed rule, it is not an exception to a supposed rule, it is that the supposed rule needs to be amended. Another way of seeing this is the WHOLE counsel of God.

      2. Yes, there are a few different functions between the genders, but that does not mean one should make MORE of them than they are.

      • I think this thread has reached the “agree to disagree” stage. We’ll pick it up, no doubt, under a later post.

    • On your Bruxy, I do not know him and I do not understand what you say he was saying about forks and knives.

      In any case, I DISAGREE with some things other egals say. I own my own faith and am responsible for it and I find I disagree on some points with almost anyone, if I find a book I agree with 80% that is wonderful. My point is just because I find something that some egal (or non-egal) wrote that I disagree with it not a reason to toss out egalism or non-egalism. Rather, it is which side makes the most sense overall and seems more in line with less debateable things.

      For example, “God does not show favoritism.” so when I see a verse that seems to show favoritism, I suspect I am not understanding that verse correctly, rather than thinking the Bible is inconsistent.

      • The comment you are referring to may have been too autobiographical to be used in this context. This thought was more the straw that broke the camel’s back in my mind. “If men and women are so different, why wouldn’t their maker tell us how to use them differently, to their full potential.”

        Egalitarianism still seems to me like a position which treats men and women only as HUMANS, and only male/female if they feel like acting in those roles. In a society which deifies the male role, women are consistently pressured to be like men. This doesn’t make sense to me.

        But this isn’t so much a debating point as me letting you into my mind, to see which are the real core issues which I just cannot grasp in egalitarianism.

      • Well, I do not treat a woman exactly like a man, but I treat both as human. So the question is what things go into the human category as common and what things go into the male and female categories as unique, acccording to God’s ideal. The vast majority of things go into the common human category, as I see it and as I hope you do also. There are only a few things in the male only or female only categories. And we can discuss what they might be using Scripture.

  8. I am sorry to do this, but I have just run out of time for discussions on this post. I need to focus on other things. It has been really good, thank you – much food for thought!

    I will pick up the discussion again in a later post.

    God bless!

      • Yes, Josiah, thanks for taking the time to think openly on a difficult topic and being willing to hear from others.

        Blessings IN Christ,

      • I think there was a comment that you posted and I replied to you and you didn’t have a chance to respond to (Don took up your argument for you, but you didn’t get to respond yourself.) Please feel free, TL, to at least finish your thought there if you feel that is unfinished.

        It’s been good. We will do it again!

      • My recollection is that Don covered it well. Doubt I could find it now anyway.

        And yes, let’s continue this at your convenience.

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