Sunday, March 2, 2008

Where Do Women Belong?

“Never make a principle out of your experience. Allow God to be as original with other people as He is with you.” -Oswald Chambers

March is Women's History Month. It's a perfect time to unleash my series on Women Biblical Issues. So buckle up and enjoy the ride.

The last few months I have been researching biblical equality as it pertains to the roles within marriage and roles within public church life. I absorbed so much information from both complementarian and egalitarian camps that my brain is starting to seep out of my ears. However, I have gained some imperative insight into the Bible's most bizarre and difficult verses to interpret from a consistent, holistic-scriptural-perspective, taking cultural and historical contexts, as well as original language into account. Since there is SO much information on the subject of women in church leadership and gender roles within a marriage (and society), I will be putting together a series of posts on various topics. So stay tuned!

As always input and opposing views are welcome, but let's keep in friendly, remembering that wherever one falls on these issues, both sides love the Lord and are trying to remain faithful to their understanding of scripture.

For now, I will leave you with a summary of the beliefs of both complementarianism and egalitarianism for clarity purposes.

Christian Egalitarianism:
Derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level, also known as biblical equality, is a recent adaptation of the historic moral doctrine of Egalitarianism which holds that people should be treated as equals. Ultimately, Egalitarianism holds that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth and moral status.

Christian Egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ. All have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God. God freely calls believers to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.
According to Christian Egalitarianism, gender equality in Christian church leadership (including pastors) and in Christian marriage is biblically sound. Its theological foundations are interpretations of the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and other New Testament principles. It refers to the biblically-based belief that gender, in and of itself, neither privileges nor curtails a believer’s gifting or calling to any ministry in the church or home. It does not imply that women and men are identical or undifferentiated. Christian Egalitarianism affirms that God designed men and women to complement and benefit one another.


Complementarianism is a term to describe a theological view held by some Christians that differing, non-overlapping roles between men and women, manifested in marriage, church leadership, and elsewhere, is biblically required. The term Complementarian was coined in recent years and largely replaces today what previously was known as the Traditionalist or Hierarchical view of gender relationships. It comes from the tenet that men and women are designed to complement one another. The opposing viewpoint is Christian egalitarianism which maintains that there are no biblically-required distinctions between men and women in marriage, church leadership, or elsewhere.Complementarianism holds that "God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church." Unlike the historic Christian Traditionalist or Hierarchical patriarchal perspective of gender relationships, complementarianism maintains that men and women are equal in the sense that they bear God’s image equally. But with respect to roles in the church and in marriage, gender-based differences determine or restrict the roles appropriate for each. Specifically, there are requirements of men, and restrictions on women.

The complementarian position has clear implications for the ordination of women as well as for Christian views of marriage. Men are expected to take spiritual responsibility, often called headship, for leadership in the home and in the church. Women are restricted from holding the teaching office of the church and from spiritual leadership in the home and in marriage.


Terry said...

As one who holds the complimentarian view, specifically in the marriage relationship (roles in minstry are not nearly so cut and dried as far as I read scripture), I never thought of it that way: "requirements of men, and restrictions on women". I have never felt restricted. I'll credit that to the fact that I married a secure, confident man who doesn't have to assert his authority in order to feel like one. In any case, I AM looking forward to this series. I'm certain it will be quite a read!

Marissa said...

I agree with Terry. I never looked at it as " Requirements of men, and restrictions on women." I also think that having an egalitarian view is ignoring a whole lot of scripture. If people truly understand what the Lord has called us to as men and women, they would understand that we are all equal in Christ but as husband and wife, we do have different roles.

Marissa said...

BTW, Dave and I have been listening to Ken Graves tape series on marriage. In the past, I always viewed him as being extremely chauvanistic but listening to this series made me realize I was wrong. He actually does a great job of explaining how men and women are different. Actually he spends most of his time talking about how men need to learn how to treat women because we are so precious in the Lord's sight. Anyway, if you want to listen to them, you can go to the Itunes store, search for Calvary Chapel Bangor Maine, subscribe to the podcast, and download the 4 part series, "Called to serve as one."

Tia Lynn said...

I understand what you are saying (mariss and terry), but I’ll have to respectfully disagree about the requirements/restrictions elements of complementarianism (now, i’m not saying that having requirements/restrictions is necessarily a bad thing, depending on one’s reading of scripture, but requirements/restrictions undeniably exist within that particular model). Men are required to be the sole leaders and primary providers (now good men in this model will heed their wives’ input, take her needs into consideration, but ultimately the man has the final say), thus the woman is restricted from living out the role of a leader/provider within in marriage. She does not have the final say, so she is limited or restricted in that capacity. I am not saying this necessarily problematic or evil or anything, but by definition, within this model there lies inherent requirements of the man and restrictions or limitations on the woman. For many this is neither burdensome nor oppressive in the least, but it doesn’t change the fact that one role requires something from the man and the other role restricts or limits the woman. Now when complementarianism vs. egalitarianism encompasses the public realm, there are even more requirements/restrictions upon the genders. In many complementarian models of church, women are not allowed to be pastors, preachers, bible teachers (to mixed crowds), or act in other leadership roles unless they are “covered” by a man. Sometimes in more fundamental circles, women are barred from being worship leaders. To women who have no desire to be a pastor, preacher, and so forth, this does not “feel” like a restriction, but to women who do, it does. Again, I’m not denouncing complementarians. I truly believe each side is trying to live faithfully to their understanding of the scriptures. One could argue in complete favor of the complementarian viewpoint and I get it and respect it, but the model still has inherent requirements/restrictions, based on gender.

Also, a little disclaimer on the egalitarian side, egalitarians do not advocate some sort of androgynous “men and women are exactly the same” mentality. There is total recognition that masculinity and femininity ARE different. I also find them to be motivated by adherence to scripture, not ignoring it. They are familiar with every verse that complementarians employ, but interpret them and apply them differently. Certainly one can disagree with their interpretations, but they definitely do not ignore the scriptures.

Yay! Good discussion already. I love Ken Graves, Riss. I can’t wait to listen.

Paul S. said...

Well Tia Lynn,
The thing is that Scripture is specific in what roles women are supposed to have in church. The Lord specifically stated through the apostle Paul that women should not be pastors and should be under the authority of her husband. That is not a restriction, it is a command. Just like husbands are told to love their wives and Christ loved the church and laid himself down for the church. That is a commandment as well. The Lord created both man and woman as equals, 2 sides of God. It is through sin that His design has been perverted and you have both men and women not following the Lords commands. But because the masses are moving in a direction or because "popular" christian leaders are saying something, does not make it ok to ignore God's word and choose what parts we like and what we don't. A women should submit herself to her husband unless he is asking her to do something immoral or against God's commands. Likewise a man should love his wife, and by following Christ's example lay himself down for the better interest of his wife.
Likewise in the Church, God having created women and having made them the more gentle more easily broken creature, put precepts in place to protect and "cover" the women. That does not make them inferior. The Lord created man as the tougher more calloused one, to lead by example.
Both equals yet both different sides of God. It is man and women both have distorted what God has said in attempts to become in their own eyes "greater" that they were made to be.

Paul S. said...

One more thing,
I have found that most people who start believing what you are putting out there normally read to many books or opinions about the Bible and not enough of the Bible itself. Man is prideful and wants to be lifted up so we make God in our own image the image we want Him to be. And most of the "popular" authors out there right now preach that. Specially those in the emerging church sect. They need to get back to God's word and let the Lord lead, enough of this misinterpretation of His word.

Tia Lynn said...

Hey Paul, welcome to the conversation!

As of right now, all I have “put out there” is the definitions of egalitarianism and complementarianism. I thought it would be a good foundation before beginning a series that would convey beliefs from both camps.

Are you saying that because God “commands” wives to submit and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church that restrictions are not in play? But what is the function of the command? The “command,” as most complementarians interpret it, places a restriction on women in marriage and limits the positions they can hold within the church, does it not? For instance, the bible commands that it’s sinful to commit adultery. Is it not a fair description to say that as a married woman, I am limited or restricted from having sex with anyone other than my husband? It is both a command and a restriction. But just because it is a restriction doesn’t make it bad. That’s good restriction! So, maybe the word is rubbing you the wrong way, but it is an apt description. If you say women cannot be pastors and should be under their husbands’ authority, then that is a limitation or restriction placed on a woman, but not on a man. Again, I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS INHERENTLY BAD OR WRONG AT THIS POINT, I am merely pointing out that the model of complementarianism does contain limitations based on gender, via command or whatever.

Also, I never implied that complementarians believe women to be inferior. Right in the definition I provided states that they believe men and women are equal in worth, being made in the image of God, but have different functions or roles. So I am not sure why you seem to think I stated otherwise or believe otherwise.

I agree that people should not pick and choose the parts of the bible that suit them or seem popular and disregard the rest. However, it’s an unfair assumption to accuse emergents of “picking and choosing” the parts of the bible they like and discarding the rest because they adhere to a different interpretation on the subject. Most emergents I know study the bible intensely and passionately, learning the original language of the scripture and studying the original histories and cultures of the time. When it comes to women issues, they site all the same passages complementarians do. They do not hide them or ignore them.

An important side note, egalitarians are NOT trying to negate submission. They believe in mutual submission and co-leadership, so even egalitarian wives are still called to esteem their husbands and demonstrate submission. I think it’s a misconception that egalitarians want to “turn the tables” and have the females be “in charge.” They believe in partnership, submitting to each other, sacrificing for each other, and ultimately submitting themselves to God. Most complementarian marriages function that way, though their theology differs. So, let’s not get into making broad generalizations against an entire group of christians, who hold a myriad of unique beliefs on the subject. Play nice. :)

musicmommy3 said...

OK first of all most of you know that I am a total complimentarian in the home. However, I lean way more egalitarian in the church. This is not because I am picking and choosing but because of the multiple scriptures in the NT that aren't gender specific in the church's roles. (I will elaborate if anyone wants them.)

I am looking forward to this study. Let me just say this. Read things with a mindset that you may learn something about the "other" camp. (depending which camp you are in) I used to think that all egalitarians thwarted Scripture to live out their beliefs. Now, I don't think this is always true. I have spent the last 6 months or so, researching some of the things in that camp and in other areas they are dead on. I think there are many sincere believers that just have a totally different viewpoint of Scripture than we do. Do I think that some of them may have an agenda- yes. Do I think it's all of them- no. Do I agree with their view- no; but I wouldn't think they are any less saved than I am and some of them appear to be even more sincere in their faith than me. :)

I also want to add this...I have MUCH more respect for an egalitarian couple who are beautifully living out what they think Scripture says than women who claim to be complementarian and then spend the rest of their marriages manipulating their husbands to get what they want and trying to "wear the pants in the family". (or complementarian men who are always telling their wives to submit but never laying down their lives for their wives.)

Anyway...I'm excited Tia! I will respectfully ask you this my dear...when we get into the discussions about our beliefs can you ask that people back up things with actual SCRIPTURE! I've seen too many people spouting religious tradition and having no idea where it is in the Bible. There's plenty of Biblical evidence (for lack of a better word) to go around. We don't need man's religious opinions.

catrina said...

Totally excited about this discussion. I must say that I LOVED what Paul S. said about people reading too much opinions of the Bible and not enough of the Bible. Since most of the Bibles and translations of the Bible come from the western countries, we are the source for most of the worlds Bibles and I find it hard to believe that when we send Bibles to the rest of the world we need to attach an interpretation manual along side of it so that people will "really know" what Jesus or Paul meant. If you translate the Bibles that we all use today into Burmese and give it to the people of Burma, they will read and believe what is plainly stated, not wonder about culture of the time and other people's interpertations and such. When they read Genesis they will believe that God created the earth in 6 days, when they read that it is unnatural for man to lay with a man, they will "get" it. When they read, "Wives submit to your own husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church and he is the savior of the body. Therefore just as the church is subject to Christ, so let wives be to their own husbands in everything." they will take this at face value. This will be my biggest problem with this discussion, the fact that history and culture and various "opinions" will be brought in to change or "reinterpret" what is really there in black and white. It comes down to a matter of trust. Do you believe that God's hand was involved in picking and choosing the scriptures that were canonized and that his message in the word remained pure? or do you find that you have to add to it so that it is relevant and works for today. Proverbs 30:5 "Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in him. "Do not add to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be found a liar." I am passionate about the actual words that are in my Bible, I don't believe that what is written there is somehow not what he really meant to say.

Nevertheless I am looking forward to clarity and understanding from the different "sides."

Tia Lynn said...

Good thoughts Angela and Catrina.

Catrina, I get where you are a coming from and I agree that the fundamentals of the faith are so interwoven throughout the whole of scripture that there is not need for clarification: Jesus’ death on the cross, His divinity, the terms of most sins, etc. etc. But when you have a handful of verses that seem to conflict with other verses or seem out of line with the message of the entire bible, you have to take context, intent, original language, and culture into consideration. Both camps (complementarians and egalitarians) will admit that there are things lost in translation. While I agree that if you hand a Burmese person a bible, they might not being thinking what culture it came from or the original language, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

Do you really take scripture just at face value? With no regards to context or original language? If so, the whole head covering argument comes back into play. Do you believe “women are saved through childbirth,” as Paul says? Or can’t speak in church? Or in stoning unbelievers? There are tons of scriptures I can think of that should precisely not be taken at face value alone.

It’s also a little odd to assume that if you give a bible to someone in another country they will automatically deduce the same “face value” interpretation that you have. People have been reading the same words for centuries at face value, and I don’t know of anyone who has come away with exact same conclusion, especially on less fundamental topics, such as women’s roles. To think that the interpretation we hold (on a myriad of issues) now has been the same since the time of Christ is to ignore 2,000 years of documented church history, where a variety of beliefs were held concerning the roles of women in the church and marriage.

Anyway people, I assure you, plenty of scripture will be used throughout this series. I’m starting from the beginning, with Genesis and then will work my way forward. So please do not hit me with verses from the N.T. as if I am ignoring them, I promise I will be addressing ALL of them. :) I’ve been studying this for months. It doesn’t mean I think I have all the answers, but I want to clarify some of the misconceptions and demonstrate how people of faith have arrived at alternate conclusions on these topics.

Terry said...

My mind is more open to your study than you might think, Tia Lynn. I am sort of like Tonya in that I believe when we begin to interpret scripture, we need to begin and end with scripture alone as our guide. In effect, I am an "err on the side of caution" type. One of the things that I notice is that, more often than not, we can see ample evidence that straying from the Biblical standard has done untold damage to our families and the culture as a whole. I was just thinking the other day of all of things that took place in my childhood home on my aprt, and on the part of my siblings simply by virtue of the fact that when we came home from school, no one was home. I know that your series is not about women working, and I respect that there are instances where it's necessary, but it wasn't necessary in our house, and my stepmom is very open about the choice she made and why. That's just an example that comes to mind.

And have you visited me lately? I really am interested in your thoughts on my most recent post. Of course, if you are still in the middle of exams, forget about me and ace those tests!

Tia Lynn said...

I've been reading your blog still but haven't commented! I'll get back on it because I really enjoy your blog. :)

catrina said...

Tia, I should have addressed the points you brought up caause I knew you would. lol You can find particular verses to apply to any situation. If I wanted to hate my mother and father I could quote that one verse that states so, but that would not be taking the Bible in context. If I wanted to wear clothes only made of one fabric I could site Leviticus. But as you said, beginning from Genesis this particular topic has a lot written about it and not just one verse that says "greet each other with a holy kiss," so I find it harder to nail down the egualitarian position using scripture alone.

Believe it or not I am not a die hard on this topic. I am open to understanding and knowledge as well. Yes, I really do take the scriptures at face value and if something seems to contradict I read more of the Bible to find the answer to my ?. And just in case you are wondering, I am still mystified by many portions of scripture, so I don't think that I alone or "my camp" has all the only right answers. I promise to not jump ahead of the topic on hand. (pinky swear)

Tia Lynn said...

Deal, Cat.

Like you, I want to know what THE BIBLE says that is why I am big on searching the original language, more so than history/culture factors (but I think they enhance scripture study). After digging into the language used in the original text, I am pretty convinced that a face value readings are not always completely accurate on the minor fronts. But we’ll see if I can convey that concept and do it justice..... :)

musicmommy3 said...

p.s. I was IN NO WAY implying that YOU don't use Scripture. I was referring more to us as commenters.

Derek said...

Hi Tia,

I've enjoyed reading through several of your recent posts on biblical feminism. The central principle that really stands out to me is that a person should not be restricted from developing who they are and who God is calling them to be because of their gender. Women should not have to pretend they are not great leaders, men should not have to pretend they are not great nurturers.

We also need to value qualities that are seen as "female" as well as qualities that are seen as "male" in BOTH men and women. For example having some sensitivity is a good quality that men and women should have, just as having some fight in you is a good quality that men and women should have. I'd say that if a certain fruit of the spirit does not come "naturally" to someone that this is an area which they need to develop in. I that sense I'm pro-androgyny. But above that I am pro-authenticity. If a girl likes pink dresses and a guy likes contact sports those are parts of ourselves we should also embrace.

Having been married now for 15 years, I've found that the "complimentary" part not only does not always fall along traditional lines (for example my wife does all the bills), but that it can fluctuate - one holds up the other for a time, then it switches and you are supported when you feel weak. So we interchange in supporting one another in a complimentary way by mutually filling up each others lacks. That idea of "complimentarian" relationship has been a huge part of our marriage, and I think has a lot to do with the idea of being "one flesh" in a similar way to 1st Corinthians 12. We have many roles, many parts as part of one marriage body, and the "head" is not me, the head is love, as chapter 13 says. What does that love look like? It looks like Jesus.

Tia Lynn said...

Derek, your wife is one lucky woman. I couldn’t agree more. I’m totally with you!

Even complementarians can’t seem to keep straight which qualities are “purely” feminine and which are "purely" masculine. I was on one site that said for men to “act like women” or women to “act like men,” is a sin. He then went on to list qualities of “feminine” behavior that included being “virtuous,” “wise” and “in touch with her emotions.” I did not realize that men were exempt from being virtuous, wise, and unaware of their emotions.

Thanks for weighing in and please come back and join some of the other conversations. I could use the help! :)