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.
4 thoughts on “Why Christian Egalitarianism is not Biblical or Christian”
You should have quoted Deuteronomy 5:21
Moses practically says that the wife is the property of the husband. Adultery is a crime against the husband.
The egalitarians say that Christ was a feminist, but why did Christ not say anything against Moses having treated wives as property? In fact, he agreed with Moses when he said that if a man covets a married woman he commits adultery with her.
This, in my opinion, refutes feminist theology.
I have quoted elsewhere Exodus 20:17:
However, in my view, Deuteronomy 22:22 is the best verse in all the Bible to illustrate a husband’s ownership over his wife. However you have to look at the Hebrew to see it:
The Hebrew word “Baal” has the idea of mastership and ownership. So the Bible was literally saying if a man has sex with “a woman owned by an owner” then both her and that man who wrongfully took her were to be put to death. And you are absolutely right that adultery was a property crime against the husband.
In the Old Testament, marriage is presented as “taking” [Hebrew “Laqach”] or “owning”[Hebrew “Baal”] of a woman. In the passage below we can see both synonyms for marriage used together:
Laqach was not just a euphemism for a man marrying a woman, but also for him having sex with her which is what he did when he made her is his wife.
The point is that the Scriptures are very clear on this point that women were absolutely the property of men. They were given by their fathers in marriage and taken by their husbands in marriage.
Have you read the book “Biblical foundations for manhood and womanhood” by
Wayne Grudem? 🙂
In chapter 7 (The Myth of Mutual Submission as an Interpretation of Ephesians 5:21) he answers the egalitarians who use Ephesians 5:21 to teach mutual submission. I found his answer very good.
I have read many of Grudem’s books over the years and I think many moons ago I may have read his book.
He and John Piper both proclaim the their belief in Biblical male headship but they leave off so much regarding Biblical gender roles.
There are three main schools of Biblical interpretation in regard to gender roles today with Christianity:
Egalitarianism – Men and Women are totally equal in their roles, women can do anything in church, family or society that man can and marriage is equal partnership. No headship.
Complentarianism – Believe that God made men and women for different roles to compliment one another. They believe in male headship in the home and in the church but that male headship is not required outside the home or church in society in general.
Biblical Patriarchy – Believe that God made woman for man, not man for woman. That men are to be the heads of women in all areas including the home, the church and society at large. In other words, a man should never be under the authority of a woman in any area. Women are to be keepers at home and not have careers outside the home. The husband is the be the leader, provider and protector of the home. The children are under the authority of their father as long as they live under his home with his provision. Daughters must seek their father’s blessing for marriage and courtship is taught as the method for seeking marriage while dating is strongly condemned.
Complentarianism while being closer to the Biblical model of marriage than the Egalitarian model is still far off because it ignores the larger picture of Biblical gender roles which God designed. It’s greatest weakness is that is ignores why God made men the head of women in the first place which is clearly stated the Scripture passage below:
It is not just about male headship in the home and church – it is about the specific roles that God made men and women to fulfill.