Egalitarians reject the historic and literal reading of the Word of God where it shows distinct roles and purposes for which God made man and woman. Those who embrace the historical Christian view of the roles of men and women are in modern times called Complementarians.
What do Complementarians believe?
Complementarians believe that God designed man and woman to “complement each other”, like two opposites that when they come together form a whole, thus the term “Complementarian”. These are Christians who believe that the traditional gender roles that men and women have had throughout history are not only “traditional”, but also by the design of God as seen in the Scriptures. Complementarians believe that men and women are equal in their souls, their humanity and their worth to God, but this is where their equality ends and their differences begin.
For instance, Complementarians do not believe that men and women have equal responsibility (opportunity or right) to exercise leadership in the home and the church. They believe God gave clear direction that men are to exercise authority over women in the home and in the church, and that women are called to graciously submit to the authority of the men over them, as well as accept the boundaries that God has place them within.
What is the difference between “two part” Complentarians and “full” Complentarians?
Complementarians generally believe in a hierarchal view of marriage, sometimes called Patriarchy (male lead marriage and family). While there are many variations between Complementarians, the biggest difference that Complementarians have amongst themselves is on the role of women outside the home and church. “Two part Complementarians” are those who believe that man’s authority over woman is limited to the Home and the Church. “Full Complementarians” believe that in all three areas of life – in the Home, the Church as well as society in general, women are to be under the authority of men.
An example of this would be, full Complementarians (also called Patriarchalists) would believe it is unbiblical for a woman to be President of the United States, whereas most two part Complementarians would believe it would be ok for a woman to be President.
I am a full Complementarian.
What do Christian Egalitarians believe?
Probably one the best representations of Christian Egalitarianism is found at http://www.cbeinternational.org/content/cbes-mission. Here are few excerpts from their mission statement:
Believers are called to mutual submission, love, and service.
God distributes spiritual gifts without regard to gender, ethnicity, or class.
Believers must develop and exercise their God-given gifts in church, home, and world.
Believers have equal authority and equal responsibility to exercise their gifts without regard to gender, ethnicity, or class and without the limits of culturally-defined roles.
Restricting believers from exercising their gifts—on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, or class—resists the work of the Spirit of God and is unjust.
Believers must promote righteousness and oppose injustice in all its forms.
How do Christian Egalitarians use the Scriptures to support their beliefs?
Christian Egalitarianism starts first and foremost with an idea, that there are no boundaries upon people based upon their gender, and that God did not design specific roles for men and women. In the Egalitarian view, aside from their reproductive differences, men and women are equal in every way and both men and women can fulfill any role in the home, the church or society at large interchangeably. Marriage is partnership of equals, with no earthly head, but only Christ as it’s leader.
It is with these ideals in mind that Christian Egalitarians chose to reinterpret the Scriptures. These are the three primary Biblical sources through which Egalitarians reinterpret all the Bible:
- The “help meet” of Genesis chapter 2 is not Adam’s subordinate because the Greek word “Ezer” is usually used of God’s help toward man in the Old Testament and God is not man’s subordinate. In the Egalitarian view, Eve was no more Adam’s helper, than Adam was Eve’s helper, they were in fact equals made for each other. Egalitarians see Adam’s rule over Eve as part of the curse of sin, not the original design of God.
- They believe that the phrase “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” in Galatians 3:28 means that God abolished all gender roles and boundaries for Christian believers. If man ever was the head of woman, this no longer exists in the Christian world.
- Whenever the Bible speaks of man being the head of woman (I Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5) it does not mean “authority” in their view, but instead means “source”. “Head” in these passages is simply referring to the fact that God created woman from man when he took the rib from Adam’s side.
Egalitarians sacrifice the Scriptural teachings of Biblical inerrancy in their allegiance to their Egalitarian views and they write off whole passages of Scripture as being “scribal additions” where they cannot explain away the phrasing. Some of these passages include Ephesians 5:22, Ephesians 5:24 and I Peter 3:6.
In my next post in this series on Christian Egalitarianism, we will explore the “help meet” of Genesis chapter 2 and differing beliefs between Christian Egalitarians and Complementarians.