Tag Archives: feminism

Red Letter Christians Interview with Dr. Mimi Haddad

The following are excerpts from an interview that Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, of Red Letter Christians, did with Dr. Mimi Haddad, the president of Christians for Biblical Equality. It was so good, I had to transcribe* it for you. You can listen to the full interview here. Enjoy!

Shane: How does the work for equality of women intersect with other humanitarian and justice issues?

Mimi:  When you consider that the face of poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition is largely female, and abuse and the demand for sex slaves around the world is driven by the porn industry, this explains why 200 million females are missing from the planet, as Dr. Amartya Sen has shown from Harvard. It also explains why humanitarian organizations demonstrate that when you invest in the education, health and businesses of females, these are the communities that thrive economically. Research from Goldman Sachs shows that investing in females drives economic growth, and it lowers unethical practices. This is referred to as The Girl Effect or the Virtuous Cycle. And the World Bank says undermining patriarchy is smart economics, it’s good for families, communities, and whole countries. And that’s what CBE seeks to do, because it is almost impossible to leverage humanitarian objectives like gender equality without the support of communities and a correct reading of Scripture.

Tony:  Where has the Church hindered biblical equality for women, and where has the Church helped biblical equality for women?

Mimi:  They are intricately connected. When the Church has had a high view of the cross and has read Scripture through the atonement rather than through gender roles, you see social justice advanced across-the-board. Consider the world of early Evangelicals, of the 1800’s. This is when the word Evangelical had more noble connotations. They were advocates of racial and gender justice, because they were strong advocates of the cross. They truly believed that Calvary changed everything, and they preached on Galatians 2:28 more than any other group in history. For example, A. J. Gordon, after whom Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Seminary are named, he was the strongest advocate of Women’s Emancipation and Abolition.

Tony: The feminist movement, which in many cases is seen as a secular movement, began with Evangelical roots. Charles Finney, who Billy Graham considered the father of modern Evangelical preaching, if you became a Christian, he wanted to know if you were committed to the Anti-Slave movement and the Feminist Movement. Feminists had their first meetings in Wesleyan churches up in north western New York state, called The Niagara Movement. Maybe you can comment more on the history of the movement.

Mimi:  The Wesleyans have been leaders in Abolition and Women’s Suffrage, and in fact, Methodist women like Catherine Booth, who was driven by Wesleyan thought, and Katharine Bushnell, who was really one of the most popular women of her day. She was an anti-trafficker, a silence-breaker of the highest order.  I published recently an article on her legacy.  She exposed prostituted girls and women chained to beds in the Wisconsin lumber mills and the iron lines of Michigan.  It is only as Evangelicals have backed away from the high view of the cross, the high view of atonement, the idea that Jesus changes everything, that we have Evangelicals like John Piper, one of the most popular Evangelicals today, arguing not that Christianity has a Jesus-feeling to it but a masculine feel. And this has really regressed our advocacy for social justice. It is viewed now as a feminist and secular agenda.

Shane: What is it that keeps this patriarchy entrenched? Are you hopeful?

Tony: And I would like you to comment more on John Piper, one of the gurus of our time. How do you think he’s effected your movement?

Mimi:  I am hopeful, because millennials have been very strong in their courage and in giving voice so we no longer normalize the silence of victims. We are seeing it as part of our moral duty to expose perpetrators, and to create systems and structures, licensing and practices that make predators less prominent in culture and in churches. Patriarchy is deeply rooted in human culture. You can misread all religious texts, as Jimmy Carter has said in his wonderful book, “A Call to Action.” We normalize patriarchy because the “he will rule over you” sin will remain present until Christ returns. But it’s Christians that have to shine through that, as these early Methodists did, and point to a higher path and point to the cross.

I think that the tragedy that because it’s so normal, people like John Eldridge in “Wild at Heart,” instead of going to a Genesis to Revelation reading of the Bible, goes to art museums and points to the glorification of the female body, which of course, humans are made in God’s image and are beautifully and wonderfully made. Instead, we tend to make masculine and gender roles more about biblical ideals than about newness of life in Christ and leaders living by the fruit of the Spirit.

Shane: I was just speaking at an event with Lauren Winner, who’s a wonderful writer, and she said even the images we have of God tend to be very masculine. For example, the metaphors in Scripture that have become prominent are like all the churches we have called “The Good Shepherd,” and she asked if we’d ever seen “The Church of the Mother Hen.” Pull some things out of Scripture for us, where you see these roots, so you can correct our patriarchal theology.

Mimi: We have masculinized our reading of the Bible. When Jesus prayed, “Our Father,” this language hardened into modern concepts of ‘father.’ When Jesus prayed to Father, it was fathers in the ancient world who gave their children identity and inheritance. So instead of walking into the gender, masculine/maleness of that, Jesus was pointing to the bequeathing of identity, gifts, inheritance, protection. We’re missing the point when we impose gender on that instead of, “What is the larger moral principle?” It’s not maleness, it’s God’s love, protection.

Similarly, when we translate the Bible, we haven’t always done a great job.  We mistranslated words. For example, in Genesis, when gender is elaborated extensively in the first three chapters.  The only bad thing about a perfect world is Adam’s aloneness, so God creates an ezer kenegdo, which should be translated “strong rescue,” as David Freedman has demonstrated. We translate it as “help,” which in English connotes a subordination or an inferior. So translation committees need to work a little harder. And as Lauren Winner has said, we need to pull out these metaphors of God as mother. Metaphors have points of contact and points of no contact. If you’re on the patriarchal spectrum of Bible translation, you harden the masculine aspect of that instead of the moral aspect.

Tony: Also recognize, when you go to the original Greek, and to the Holy Spirit, there is every indication that the word pneuma in the Scriptures, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, suggest a femininity, that the Holy Spirit is the feminine aspect of God, that God is both masculine and feminine.

Shane: Tell us what the average person can be doing to get on board with the movement for biblical equality.

Mimi: The first thing we need to do is to work at an educational level. We need to understand and be aware of the deepest, largest study of marriage in the world is “Prepare and Enrich.”  They consistently show that dominance in marriage is a key factor in predicting abuse.  We also need to address pornography.  Have you ever heard a sermon preached on pornography?

Tony: I preached a sermon on pornography. We look at it as “what it is doing to men?”, when in reality, we ought to be asking, “what is it doing to women?” How is it reducing the status of women and how is it making women into things to be used rather than partners to be appreciated and loved.

Mimi: Right. The use of porn between Christian and non-Christian men is exactly the same. Porn of course reinforces male-dominance, female submission, and the eroticism used to be pictures of women on magazines and has moved to men inflicting pain on women and silencing their abuse. So strict gender-roles need to be explored biblically and and socially. One of four primary characteristics of abusers is adherence to strict gender roles. We need to hear sermons on strict gender roles that are enforced by groups like Boko Haram, Isis and the Taliban that tyrannize girls and enslave thousands around the world.

Shane: Yeah, I’m noticing how deeply entrenched this gets.  I’m writing a book on guns and gun violence right now.  Overwhelmingly, the predictor of women getting killed starts with domestic abuse, and women are often killed by a person who holds a key to their house, usually an intimate partner.  Looking at studies around the environment, say that when we begin to desecrate the lives of women, it leads to all sorts of other things.  But this is often the beginning sign.

Mimi: Yeah, and when governments use power and abuse, in enforcing law and even the death sentence, we see the rates of homicide rises, as Jimmy Carter has shown. That’s an important critique. We need to preach about domestic violence and abuse from the pulpit. I asked my pastor to do that last year, and he had preached for 65 years and never preached on abuse.

Tony: The thing is, we need to go to the Bible. In Galatians, as you pointed out, “In Christ, there is no longer Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, Scythian or Barbarian, male or female, all are all one in Christ Jesus.” And when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church in the second chapter of Acts, both the men and the women end up preaching, end up prophesying. So pushing women out of the role of the pulpit preacher is unbiblical, because when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church, women are given the same rights as men to be proclaimers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m awed and upset that certain denominations, like the Southern Baptists, have said that women cannot be preachers in the Church when men are in the congregation

Shane: When some of the first evangelists were women! The actual paradox of all this, is that women can be Sunday School teachers and missionaries, but cannot be entrusted with the pulpit. We give them some of the most precious work in the Church while still saying they’re not equal.

Tony: Our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters say they’re against the ordination of women. And their greatest missionary ever produced was a woman! Lottie Moon! I think the word that I have is, I’m against the ordination of women, I’m against the ordination of men, because all Christians are ordained for ministry.

Shane: I was talking to some of my friends about some of the things I love about Catholicism, and one of them pushed back, saying, “What have Catholics ever done for women?” And on the one hand I said, many of the great women we love from history, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Sienna, Mother Theresa, St. Clair of Assisi, have been iconized. What would you say to our Catholic brothers and sisters as we’re thinking about this? Will women priests ever happen?

Mimi: It looks like the Pope is taking seriously the role of women as deacons, which in many traditions is an ordained office, because certainly it is hard to disprove that Phoebe was a deacon, and she was  the only woman in the New Testament that held an official office in a church. And once you start these committees to do research, it’s very hard not to fall into the deep tradition of the priesthood of all believers. When very few women serve in top leadership, there’s a lot of abuse and unethical practice. Adding women, regardless of your denomination, will help with these ethical problems. The Catholic church like all churches, education is key.

Tony: In the 16th chapter of Romans, Junia is referred to by the Apostle Paul as a fellow apostle, the highest role of leadership in the church. What’s weird is that the first edition of the NIV, they changed the name to Junias to hide that a woman held the highest office in the church!  

*transcription errors and emphases are mine, all mine.  


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On Being Pro-Life and Pro-March

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This past Saturday, nearly three million women in the United States and millions more around the world participated in the Women’s March on Washington to protest the misogyny, racism, xenophobia and more of Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, in the hopes of tempering his policies now that he is president.

In this video, the founders of the Women’s March explain why they organized this event:

Sadly, this “inclusive movement” chose to exclude pro-life sponsors.  Early on, Planned Parenthood became one of two premier sponsors, and in the weeks leading up to the march, the organizers removed the sponsorship of several pro-life groups, essentialy uninviting around 40% of women–those who believe human rights begin in the womb.  A growing number of people want restrictions on abortion, as this poll shows, and these videos demonstrate:

For many, participating in the Women’s March on Washington was no longer an option after they excluded pro-life sponsors and because of the prominence of Planned Parenthood in the event.  And for many conservative Christians looking on, it was mystifying why any Christian would participate.  I have been doing my best to read and listen to different voices explaining their choice to either march or not.  One post in particular got my wheels turning a few days before the march.  Laura Martin questions the effectiveness of Planned Parenthood, reflecting on her experience as a nurse for 18 years and examining their website, asking,

Why do so many defenders of Planned Parenthood portray them as providing services that they do NOT actually offer?

Why not just honestly proclaim that Planned Parenthood’s focus is on birth control, STDs, and abortion?

Why did Planned Parenthood change their website to give the appearance that they offer prenatal care?

As a pro-life Christian, I believe that all life, beginning in the womb, is sacred and deserving of dignity, care and equal rights.  But I also believe that making abortion illegal in all circumstances is not the answer.  The legality of abortion does not change the number of abortions that occur, but the safety of women is impacted by criminalizing abortion.  After eight years of democratic policies providing easier access to birth control and better sex education, our nation’s abortion rate has hit an all-time low since the passing of Roe v. Wade.  The language Donald Trump used while campaigning to describe late -term abortion shows his ignorance at the painful dilemma parents face when forced to choose a medically-necessary late-term abortion.  For instance, this mother’s account is a must read.

Although staunchly pro-life, I am also pro-dialogue, and I am very much pro-woman.  I don’t think abortion is an issue that will go away without working together with people from different ideologies and priorities.  As on all difficult issues, I believe that, “With an abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 15:22).  The more we are polarized, the longer it will take to heal our nation.  By considering diverse perspectives, we better see the nuances of each issue and thus come to better solutions.

I have seen some lump all protesters together as “vulgar, baby-killing feminists.”  I don’t think it is fair to vilify the entire Women’s March on Washington because of disagreements on abortion or because of the actions/words/costumes of the far-left factions participating.  There were dozens and dozens of reasons why women, men, girls and boys from around the world were protesting.  Here are some posts from Christians who participated expressing their reasons for marching.

For some, being pro-life means being pro-social justice:

In a Facebook post, Father Martin said further,

These Sisters are pro life. And so am I. That’s why they were marching for social justice. I salute all the women religious, and all women and men, who were trying to advocate for life and justice this weekend in their own way.

Were all 1,000,000 people who marched across the country on the same page about life issues? No. Clearly not. But these Sisters, and many who marched, knew exactly what they were praying and advocating for: justice, peace and life. If we waited until everyone agrees with us before we set out to help, we’ll never leave our homes. Would you join in a march against the death penalty with people who disagreed with you on abortion? I would. Would you join in a march against abortion with people who disagreed with you on the death penalty? I would.

Part of advocacy is being part of the mix and being willing to mix it up with people you disagree with, even strongly. That’s how conversations start. That’s how bridges are built. That’s how conversion starts.

Even if some people misunderstand you.

So yes, I’m pro life, pro social justice…and pro Sister.

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For others, being pro-life means supporting the BLM movement and speaking up against racism, blocking refugees, etc.:

For some, marching was important because of the disenfranchisement of women through patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, rape culture, etc.:

And for the pro-life protesters who showed up to march, they were there because unborn girls matter too:

Here are some of my favorite posts I’ve come across in the days since the march:

This open letter from a pro-life, Republican, SAHM, Renee Contreras De Loach, was really powerful.

I am a married, Pro-Life, Republican, mother of two, and I marched. I wrote this in light of how many women are attempting to shout down women who marched. The myopia of those belittling our efforts is befuddling. I suppose this is where we have arrived – us vs. them until bruised and bloodied we all fail. To all the women who believe they have plenty of rights and they are plenty equal… how do you think you got those rights? The short sightedness and historical amnesia at play here is dangerous. It was barely 100 years ago that women were being beaten and jailed for trying to VOTE.

In A Christian’s Place is in the Resistance, Luke Edwards says,

If one more person quotes Romans 13:1-6 to prove that Christians should blindly submit to authority, I’m going to cry.

When you quote this verse, you are quoting a man who stood up against authorities over and over again. He spent at least 5 years of his ministry in prison for deliberately breaking laws that were in conflict with the kingdom of God.

Sojourners has been publishing the #WhyIMarch stories of Christians on this page.  For example, Elena Ampeire says,

My husband and I left our four young children and took two overnight busses to march in D.C. because we believe that “Love Trumps Hate.” Our faith teaches us to love and support those who are marginalized by those in power. In our society, we believe this to be women (particularly women who have been sexually assaulted), immigrants, refugees, Muslims, people who are LGBT, people with disabilities, and people of color.

Sarah Bessey captured the tension Christian feminists feel, caught in the middle of conservatism and liberalism, seeking justice and mercy while feeling ostracized by the very groups we identify as:

I identify as part of a group of people who receive their fair share of criticism.

And to be honest I think a lot of the criticism has a grounding in truth.

There are things Christians do that I find wrong and embarrassing and unholy and counter to the Gospel.

There are things feminists do that I find wrong and embarrassing and unholy and counter to the cause.

But here I am. I’m a Christian. And I’m a feminist. 

I’m not fully represented by what those labels mean. They’re imperfect. And I know that the stereotypes of those labels cannot sum up the vast majority of the people I know who live within them.

Beth Allison Barr wrote a cool piece about a fifteenth century writer who challenged the misogyny of her day, encouraging us to carry on by her example.

Christine de Pizan used her voice to speak for other women. She didn’t convey much concern about who those women were or what they believed; her focus was on making a better world for all women.

As a Christian woman, I can’t help but think Christine was right. She realized that misogyny hurts all of us, whether we recognize it or not, and it especially hurts those already marginalized by economics, education, race, even religion. Christine de Pizan used what she had to fight against that misogyny; to love those who God loves; to help make the lives of women better, even the life of that “poor woman who pays too high a price”. I would like to think that her fifteenth-century vision is one that all of us–regardless of political affiliation–can still embrace.

So, I share all of this to say: if you see posts about the Women’s March on Washington, do not assume that your friend is pro-choice.  Many pro-life activists participated and many pro-life Christians support the march from home because they believe in the power of protest to effect change in the world, and there is much that needs to be changed.  Let us all continue to pray for President Trump and his cabinet, let us pray for our country, and let us continue to resist, speak truth to power, and show up and stand with the vulnerable.


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The Liturgists Podcast: Ep. 40 “Woman”

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The Liturgists made an outstanding podcast episode about sexism in the context of church and culture.  It is a must listen!  Check it out HERE.

Featuring Austin Channing Brown, Caroline Lee, Christine Chester, Emily Capshaw, Lisa Gungor, and Rev. Sarah Heath.

And while we’re listening to Gungor and friends, you will also be blown away by this new track from their album One Wild Life: Body.  “Tree” is about body image and it’s powerfully good!

“Did the tree of life divorce the body?  Seek to save the soul but hate the bark?  Long for freedom from it’s branches?  Despise the roots that plumb the dark?  Are trees ashamed of needing sunlight?  Feeling guilt for being what they are?”

Best of Summer Link-Up

We have a lot of catching up to do, Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  Once again, it has been a busy summer here in Vacationland.  Thank you for being patient and sticking with Becky and me even when our lives are overflowing with non-blog-related activity.  Every day, we post great links on our Facebook page, and I have just scrolled through to share my favorites here from July and August.  But first, feast your eyes on the scenery around my home in Maine.  Then you’ll understand why it’s such a popular destination!

~  On Biblical interpretation  ~
6 reasons 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as it seems
“A broad principle we might derive from 1 Timothy 2:12 is “bad or bossy teaching is not permitted.”

Indispensible: Women Who Plant Churches “It’s hard to imagine a stronger affirmation of women as indispensable church planters than Paul gives the women of Philippi. Church planting efforts multiplied because he broke with tradition to partner with his sisters in Christ.  The mission Jesus entrusted to his church is demanding, so demanding that it requires a Blessed Alliance of men and women working together. In this challenging post-Christian world, we are learning afresh of God’s desire for the partnered ministry of women and men in seeing the gospel embodied and advanced through the planting of new churches. We must reclaim the biblical and apostolic conviction of the indispensability of women in church planting!

~  On how patriarchy hurts men and women  ~
How the Christian ‘masculinity’ movement is ruining men
“The Christian Bible paints for us a view of manhood that is much more complex than these simple stereotypes allow. For every biblical reference to warriors like Samson or Saul, we read of characters like young David, a harpist, who through no power of his own defeated a giant. We meet Simeon, known for patiently waiting decades to see God’s promise revealed. Jesus himself notably refused to fight back, even giving up his life and physical body in a history-making display of spiritual strength.  A closer reading suggests that the Bible’s heroes aren’t meant to be models of outward toughness but exemplars of inner fortitude. So why have so many Christians accepted secular standards of masculinity as the basis for biblical manhood?”

No, Focus on the Family, I do not want to civilize a barbarian
“I think our problem is a society that encourages men to be violent, not that women should be whatever-definition-Glenn-T.-Stanton-has-for-feminine so they can motivate men out of being a malignant cancer. If appreciating a woman’s opinion is life-changing, let men and boys, single and married, respect women and their opinions in every sphere of society – including in politics, in church, in the home, at work and in social settings.”

Why Donald Trump is Good for Evangelicals
“Kinder-gentler versions of manhood and calls for men to ‘man-up!’ and take charge that thunder from evangelical pulpits and appear in books addressing men merely situate evangelicals on the cultural manhood continuum. Such definitions are woefully inadequate and run the risk that men, like Trump, will take things too far. Worse still, they fail to offer men and boys the indestructible identity, dignity, meaning, and purpose that their Creator intended when he bestowed the imago dei on all his sons and daughters.”

Its Not OK, and We’re Not Alright
“Just because not everyone experiences the fallout of an oppressive system in the same way does not mean that the oppressive system does not exist. When someone reduces all the harm, damage, and trauma of purity culture down to something “weird” or calls our responses “melodramatic,” they are erasing us and dismissing our legitimate grievances. This happens because they have had the privilege of living in an oppressive system and not being significantly harmed by it.”

~  On abuse and protecting your children  ~
The Courage Conference – Lynchburg, VA   October 28-29
“Did you know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience abuse in their lifetime, including those in church? And, for the last five years, child sexual abuse has been the number one reason Churches or Religious Organizations have ended up in court.  The Church is often the first place victims of abuse go to seek help and healing. If we are not educated and equipped to properly serve these hurting individuals, we can unintentionally neglect or even re-victimize them. This is why we created The Courage Conference. 

Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife –  A Review “Reading this book also requires a willingness to reconsider one’s view of marriage. This is no simple task because her story raises questions regarding deeply held beliefs about marriage roles, male headship, and female submission that many evangelical Christians consider sacred and nonnegotiable. Yet the “silent epidemic” of domestic abuse that concerns Tucker is so dangerous and life-threatening within Christian circles, and so easily concealed, we cannot afford to brush her off and refuse to listen.”

5 Phrases That Can Help Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse
“That’s your vulva.”
“Stop.”
“No secrets.”
“Did you feel safe?”
“High five, wave, or hug?”

5 everyday ways to teach your kids about consent.
1. Ask for their consent often.
2. Teach them that their “no” matters.
3. Model to your child that “yes” can become “no” at any time.
4. Seek to understand.
5. Keep “regard” at the forefront of your mind.

~  On the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate  ~
Someone mansplain complementarianism to me (ormen, what is wrong with us?)
“Because ironically, the greatest argument against this elevated religious view of men—is men. We’ve created a historical body of work reprehensible enough to make Complementarianism laughable. If the abhorrent behavior of men is trying to make an argument for moral superiority, we ain’t looking’ that good, fellas. I think we need to make room at the table and the pulpit and the office, and realize that it’s been a long time coming and it’s a really good thing.” 

5 False Assumptions about Egalitarians
1. Egalitarians don’t respect Scripture.
2. Egalitarians are wishful thinkers when it comes to the Bible.
3. Egalitarians don’t understand complementarianism.
4. Egalitarians deny that men and women are different.
5. Egalitarians undermine the church.

History of Complementarianism – Part 1 and Part 2
TWW Commenters Weigh In On Complementarianism
A FUN read full of gems like this John Piper spin-off:

“If a complementarian man finds himself being taught by, or under the authority of a woman, I think he should endure it for a season.”

Mary Kassian Compares Women Who Teach Men in Church to Fornicators
“Kassian’s boundaries are difficult to follow since it appears that she finds loopholes for just about anything so long as she is doing it.”

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~  On sexism  ~
Are U.S. Millenial Men Just as Sexist as Their Dads?
“Taken together, this body of research should dispel any notion that Millennial men ‘see women as equals.'”

9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women
Let’s finish this link-up with a bit of humor.  It’s funny because it’s true. 🙂

An egalitarian and a complementarian walk into a blog…

I noticed that our post, “The Theology of Empowering Women: Part 1,” which is a transcription of a Kris Vallotton sermon, gets a fair amount of traffic, so I was scrolling down taking a fresh look at it this morning and saw in the comments section this interaction I had with a complementarian.  I want to share it in its own post because it seems to cover a broad spectrum of differences of perspective between the two ideologies, and also the misconceptions that complementarians have of egalitarians.

Your commentary is flawed in several areas.

  • Thank you for your comment, Jed. Can you show us how? This is a transcription, not my own commentary. I welcome yours.:)

    • The first and most obvious is that the author seems to distinguish between the extent of inspiration of Paul’s writings and the writings recorded about Christ.

    • He never says anything about inspiration. He talks about context. Paul was writing letters to specific congregations with unique cultural contexts. He is not suggesting that Paul’s words were uninspired. His words were just what those churches needed to hear – the intended audience for his letters was narrow, not larger like the Old Testament books of law, etc.

    • To generally make Paul’s writings only temporary and cultural has the same effect as destroying their authority which is gained from their inspiration. If one can dismiss Paul’s teaching about headship as only cultural and because of male dominance then the impact of the headship teaching is destroyed.

    • Yes, absolutely. But I wouldn’t say that Paul’s teaching is destroyed…only an incorrect interpretation of his meaning. Which is a good thing, if you’re misunderstanding someone’s meaning, to come to a right understanding.

    • Of course, there is the rub. What did Paul actually mean? Did he mean what thousands of people, hundreds of commentators over centuries have taught, or did he mean what some recent reinterpretation, in my opinion, diminution, of his teaching is now propounded. Modern reinterpretation is not necessarily better, indeed it could be argued to be worse, than is traditional teaching. If women should now be elders, in spite of hundreds of years of other teaching, then inherent to that teaching is the assumption that all of those commentators and all of those men and women over the centuries have been wrong. That seems to me to be a bit bordering on, if not outright, egotistical. “We now know better than did all those poor uneducated, culturally enslaved, predecessors of ours.”

    • I believe that highly educated people can be predisposed to see something from a culturally socialized perspective. we have deeply ingrained beliefs that stem from our environment and what has been modeled/taught to us. I’m learning that to see an issue from another perspective takes humility, not pride. Here is an excellent explanation of how this happens:https://thebeautifulkingdomwarriors.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/bob-edwards-fascinating-discussion-on-the-origins-of-male-authority-in-the-church/

    • While I don’t have the time now to respond in detail, what I do see is that the question Pilate asked, “What is truth?’ is still very much with us. If when Eve was created God did not intend for her to be a “helpmate” (older English) to her husband, why did the author of Genesis write it that way. If the Holy Spirit inspires God’s word through human authors, then He knows the future and the cultures of the future. He gave a trans-cultural principle in the creation of Eve. She was a helper to her husband. That in itself does not define male dominance, but it does speak to the Christian husband/wife relationship. Sorry, don’t have time right now for more. I do see a very dangerous slippery slope away from truth and inspiration to re-definition from a modern cultural perspective.

    • JN, I really appreciate you taking time to interact with me. I understand your concern. I come from a complementarian background myself, interpreting the Bible through that lens for nearly 30 years, as well as through my seminary years. I have only been studying this issue for the past four years after I was baffled by a call from God to co-pastor with my husband. Here is an egalitarian explanation of our understanding of “helpmate” that I found to be very ‘helpful’:). Again, thank you so much for your comments. I am enjoying our conversation!http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/a-suitable-helper/

    • The following Stott commentary gives a deep sense of the Biblical intention of the husband/wife relationship. The stereotypical condemnation of those of us who see equal value but differing roles is unfair and consequently without merit. One needs only to look at the human body to see the differences. If biologically we are different then emotionally, sociologically and spiritually we are different. Why to women want to be men or women want men to become women, as seems to be the case with some feminists and even some Christian feminists? For husbands to fulfill their God-given responsibilities they must be different than their wives. This by definition is complementarian. I know the Stott comment is long but I believe it will be helpful to keep this discussion Biblical not so strongly cultural. There is much more to be said, but this is already too long.

      THE MESSAGE OF EPHESIANS. A Commentary by John Stott.
      Ephesians 5:21-33 Summary.

      Taking the husband first, what Paul stresses is not his authority over his wife, but his love for her. Rather, his authority is defined in terms of loving responsibility. To our minds the word ‘authority’ suggests power, dominion and even oppression. We picture the ‘authoritative’ husband as a domineering figure who makes all the decisions himself, issues commands and expects obedience, inhibits and suppresses his wife, and so prevents her from growing into a mature or fulfilled person. But this is not at all the kind of ‘headship’ which the apostle is describing, whose model is Jesus Christ. Certainly, ‘headship’ implies a degree of leadership and initiative, as when Christ came to woo and to win his bride. But more specifically it implies sacrifice, self-giving for the sake of the beloved, as when Christ gave himself for his bride. If ‘headship’ means ‘power’ in any sense, then it is power to care not to crush, power to serve not to dominate, power to facilitate self-fulfilment, not to frustrate and destroy it. And in all this the standard of the husband’s love is to be the cross of Christ, on which he surrendered himself even to death in his selfless love for his bride. Dr. Lloyd-Jones has a striking way of enforcing this truth, ‘How many of us’, he asks, ‘have realized that we are always to think of the married state in terms of the doctrine of the atonement? Is that our customary way of thinking of marriage?… Where do we find what the books have to say about marriage? Under which section? Under ethics. But it does not belong there. We must consider marriage in terms of the doctrine of the atonement.’
      As for the wife’s duty in the marriage relationship, it surprises me how unpopular this passage is among many women. When it is read at a wedding and it provokes a feminine outcry, I find myself wondering how carefully it has been read and in particular whether it has been read in its total context. Let me spell out five points which will, I hope, demonstrate that it is not the blueprint for oppression which many think, but rather a charter of genuine liberty.

      a). The requirement of submission is a particular example of a general Christian duty.
      That is, the injunction ‘wives submit’ (verse 22) is preceded by the requirement that we are to ‘submit to one another’ (verse 21). If, therefore, it is the wife’s duty as wife to submit to her husband, it is also the husband’s duty as a member of God’s new society to submit to his wife. Submissiveness is a universal Christian obligation. Throughout the Christian church, including every Christian home, submissiveness is to be mutual. For Jesus Christ himself is the paragon of humility. He emptied himself of his status and his rights, and humbled himself to serve. So in the new order which he had founded he calls all his followers to follow in his footsteps. ‘Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another.’ (1 Pet.5:5). Should not the wife even rejoice that she has the privilege of giving a particular demonstration in her attitude to her husband of the beauty of humility which is to characterize all members of God’s new society?
      This is specially so when it is seen that her self-humbling is not coerced but free. It must have been very obvious in the ancient world. The wife had no status and few rights, as we have seen. Yet the apostle addresses her as a free moral agent and calls upon her not to acquiesce in a fate she cannot escape, but to make a responsible decision before God. It is this which ‘begins the revolutionary innovation in the early Christian style of ethical thinking.’ Voluntary Christian self-submission is still very significant today. ‘Jesus Christ demonstrates rather than loses his dignity by his subordination to the Father. When a person is voluntarily amenable to another, gives way to him, and places himself at his service, he shows greater dignity and freedom than an individual who cannot bear to be a helper and partner to anyone but himself. Ephesians 5 supports anything but blind obedience or the breaking of the wife’s will. Rather, this chapter shows that in the realm of the crucified Servant-Messiah, the subjects respect an order of freedom and equality in which one person assists another – seemingly by renouncing rights possessed, actually in exercising the right to imitate the Messiah himself…A greater, wiser, and more positive description of marriage has not yet been found in Christian literature.’
      ________________________________________
      The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.

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    • I think it is important to note that the earliest copies of Ephesians do not repeat the word “submit” in verse 22. Paul wrote in vs. 21 to all Christians to submit to one another, and goes on to describe what that would look like in marriage. There were also no verse numbers or titles when Paul wrote his letters, so vs. 21 and following were more clearly connected thoughts. The injunction, “wives submit” was edited later on and does not come from Paul. I agree with Stott’s commentary about mutual submission, which I think this passage in Ephesians is fleshing out.

      I would also like to say that I do not condemn complementarians. I respect your viewpoints and I understand your heart in the matter – you love Jesus! You love God’s Word! You are here talking with me because you care about truth. It would be unjust of me to think poorly of you and not give you the benefit of the doubt.

      And I don’t think the idea is to make men women and make women men. Feminism is about equality between men and women. Egalitarianism is a worldview that believes God’s heart on the matter of gender roles is that there is no more male or female, we are all one in Christ. Not that biologically we are not different, but spiritually God gives gifts and callings regardless of gender, and leadership in the Church is open to women.

    • No male nor female clearly is not a statement of redefinition of cultural roles or Paul would be denying himself. The matter of value is the issue. Men never were more valuable spiritually before the Lord, but you cannot read Scripture and not distinguish role differentiations. You have not Biblical basis to say that all Scripture was tainted by culture and is therefore invalid when the culture changes.

    • I never said Scripture was “tainted” by culture, or that it is invalid when the culture changes. I said you have to consider culture when you are interpreting the meaning of a particular passage. We all read Scripture through a cultural lens, interpreting according to our deeply ingrained cultural associations.

      What would Paul be denying himself of? I don’t think Paul’s spiritual authority came from his maleness. It came from God.

    • Paul cannot both say there is not difference in everything in one place and there is a difference in other aspects in another place.

    • There is the question that first bothered me as a complementarian. If male-only authority is the rule, then why are there so many exceptions to that rule throughout the Bible?

    • What exceptions? If you are referring to the female judge, she herself was reluctant to exert that authority. Almost every principle has a few exceptions. Is there ever a time to lie? The pretend beggars with worn clothes and dried bread lied. The mothers of Egypt lied when they hid their male babies. So, obviously there are exceptions to good principles.

      The clear historical teaching of Scripture is the male headship of the home. The male eldership in Israel. The male eldership in the church. Why does the modern feminist movement believe it has the right to contradict the Bible. Male leadership is not male dominance nor female subservience at its core, it is order. The human body has a head. The visible church in the world has a head (the group of male elders). Why does anyone think that what God prescribed in the Old Testament and described in the New Testament is less acceptable now because we have feminism demanding “equality.” There is no such thing as equality in function. Equal value, yes, but never equal function.

    • Here are some more exceptions: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-propriety-of-women-with-authority/. This article talks more about N.T. female church leaders:http://godswordtowomen.org/pastors.htm. And this is an excellent post about women’s leadership in the early church:http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/1988/issue17/1706.html.

      I would highly recommend reading this article by Dr. Walk Kaiser, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, on the Biblical teaching on women:http://www.cbeinternational.org/files/u1/resources/14-kaiser-pdf.pdf.

      And here is an article on Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5:21-33: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-main-point-in-eph-5_22-33/.

      Also, this article on “Kephale and Male Headship in Paul’s Letters.: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/

      I strongly disagree with you that Egalitarians (this is not a feminist movement) believe they have a right to contradict the Bible. People have had different views on many issues since the beginning of Christianity. Egalitarians are not demanding “equality” because of a new cultural viewpoint on the Bible, they are demanding equality because they strongly believe God’s design is not hierarchical, that hierarchy is a result of the fall. They are trying to work with God towards reconciling the world, abolishing the effects of sin. I am sharing these articles to demonstrate the Egalitarian perspective. It doesn’t come from an agenda but from an interpretation of Scripture. Both complementarians and egalitarians have a high view of Scripture. In fact, we have a whole lot in common. Just not the idea of male-only authority.

    • Dr. Walt Kaiser is a fine scholar. I however do not agree with his interpretation of the Genesis passage. Without that interpretation his extended arguments are much weaker, if indeed they can be maintained at all. The fact still remains that all the elders of the OT and the NT were men. All the description of responsibilities in the NT are for men. Paul does not say the elderess should be the wife of but one husband. He does say the elder should be the husband of one wife (technically, a one-woman man and not a one-man woman).

    • As you said, it comes down to interpretation. We can continue to go back and forth, but we are coming from very different perspectives and it is unlikely that either one of us is going to change our mind today. I was hoping more than anything to demonstrate that egalitarians are sincere followers of Jesus and that this is not a matter of rebellion towards God and His design. Jesus prayed that we would have a spirit of unity, and I believe that you and I can still affirm each other as brother and sister in Christ and go on with genuine love for each other despite our differences. I appreciate your interaction here on the blog and hope you continue to be a reader.

    • I have no problem with fellowship as open doors make such possible.

      What I do have a problem with is that there seems to be a willingness on the part of egalitarians to assume that we complementarians have a low regard for women. I don’t think that is fair nor do I think that women who are complementarians are in any way, for that reason, limiting themselves.

      The matter of headship is not only a Biblically correct thing, it is a freeing thing. As Christ is the head of the church, we are freed to respect his responsibilities toward us. As the husband is the head of the wife, she is freed to allow him his role. If his role is filled with love, it is not an onerous thing. It does bring order to the home as the head brings order to the body and as Christ being head brings order to the church body. If she “reverences” her husband, he will be strengthen and able to lead in a humble godly way as he should.

      But as you say, we will not likely persuade each other. Minds that are made up are hard to change.

    • I wholeheartedly agree that we shouldn’t assume negative things about other people. Egalitarians should not assume complementarians have a low view of women, and complementarians should not assume egalitarians have a low view of Scripture. Because you know what happens when you assume something? You make an “ass out of you and me.”:)

      Thanks again and God bless.

    • URW


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      Also, I had to Google “URW” – in case you are also unsure what that means, it is “You’re welcome.”  I appreciated having this very civil conversation with JN!

The Beauty of Womanhood

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Desiring God has a new post on their blog today written by Abigail Dodds on “The Beauty of Womanhood” (I am curious to know what percentage of their blog posts are on “biblical manhood and womanhood”?).  Dodds’ writing is lovely but her description of ideal womanhood is a one-dimensional picture of privilege that diminishes the beauty of women who do not fit the complementarian mold, and is also disparaging of men who practice gender equity.  Rather than celebrating the multi-faceted, diverse beauty that exists in global expressions of womankind, Dodds places middle- to upper-class 1950’s-esque Westerners on a pedestal of “blinding beauty.”  I am certain that her intent was not to be unkind or dehumanising to others, but that is essentially what occurs when fundamentalists create firm boundaries around what a woman or man may or may not do.  Those who do not conform are less-than, or in Dodds’ words, “grotesque.”

Dodds describes a woman’s influence as “found primarily in the soil of the home,” and glorious feminine beauty as being found in a woman “who presides over her domain with strong arms and resourcefulness (Proverbs 31); daughters that are corner pillars, whose strong support could only be matched by their exquisiteness (Psalm 144:12).”  Dodds suggests that it is our culture (liberalism!  feminism!  egads!) that draws women away from the home to run on a treadmill of expectations in pursuit of rewards “that don’t require diapering.”  Let’s not mention the treadmill of expectations that come with complementarianism!

 

And what does it offer in return? Women who strive against themselves, at war with the seeming redundancy of two X chromosomes, in a competition we were never made for, and in our hearts, don’t really want to win. For when a woman sets herself up alongside a man — as made for the same things and without distinction — the result is not uniformity, but rather, a reverse order. Indeed, in order for her to become like a man, he becomes less and less like one. And that’s something that most women, even the most ardent feminists, recoil at in their heart. Not because femininity is detestable, but because on a man, it is grotesque.

But wait, there is more!  Dodds says that women who “forsake our feminine glory in pursuit of the uniqueness that belongs to men…become usurpers, persistently insisting that our uterus and biology are equal to nothing, irrelevant.”  Women are meant to “make good men great.”  We mimic our Savior by submitting to another’s will (many complementarians believe in the heretical doctrine of Eternal Subordination of the Son.  I don’t know if that is what Dodds is referring to here, but I wonder if women are to mimic our Savior by submitting, what are men to do?).

God’s design outlined in the Scriptures is a vision for womanhood that is not just right and to be obeyed, it is experientially better than all the world has to offer. And it doesn’t just apply those who are married or mothers. Single women of any age are meant for full godly womanhood. To be a mother in the deepest sense — that is, spiritually — nurturing and growing all God’s given her.

Complementarians will often say that living a patriarchal life is the most wonderful way to live, without truly listening to non-complmentarians about their life experiences or to complementarian women who suffer in their subjugation (read this! and this!).  It is a black and white issue for them and anyone who believes differently has been influenced by “the world” and could not possibly have acceptable reverence for God’s Word which clearly subordinates women.  I do not know Abigail Dodds personally, but methinks she may not have any direct experience living outside of a complementarian context.  I would guess that she was raised in a patriarchal culture and socialized to see the world through a patriarchal lens.  It makes sense to her, she has a great marriage and a lovely faith community (with male leadership, of course), and she wants others to live as well as she does.  Staying home is financially possible for her family and she does not recognize that this is not the case for most families, that this is privilege and not biblical womanhood.  Her motivation for writing a piece like this is commendable and her heart is pure, but frankly, complementarianism’s rigid gender roles limit both men and women from exercising their full humanity and spirituality and from mutual flourishing.

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I myself fit Dodds’ description of “blinding beauty” for most of my life.  Complementarianism is all that I ever knew and I believed it 100%.   Six years ago, while I was still complementarian, God spoke to me clear as day, calling me to pastoral ministry.  I was blown away.  I knew without a doubt that I had heard directly from God but his call directly contradicted my patriarchal world-view.  That day, the chapel dean from my college days posted a link to “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Ministry” on Facebook, so I ordered it and began my journey to egalitarianism.  For six years, I have been reading on a nearly daily basis from scholarly works defending egalitarianism (e.g. this one or this one) and articles depicting the plight of women living in patriarchal cultures (like this one).  I post what I am reading to The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors FB page. Listening, listening, listening.  Learning to pay attention to the least of these, who have no privilege and power, describe the consequences of patriarchy in their life.  An article like Dodds’ seems benign until you consider it in the larger context of the suffering of women and girls around the world.  President Jimmy Carter’s book, “A Call to Action,” is an excellent place to begin acknowledging the plight of disenfranchised and powerless women.  In my review of his book, I said,

President Carter’s book is a “call to action” to reverse the widespread gender violence that is a result of patriarchal systems that devalue women, an epidemic touching every nation.  He makes a case that denying women equal rights has a devastating effect on economic prosperity and causes unconscionable human suffering that affects us all.

The world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls is the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights…Women are deprived of equal opportunity in wealthier nations and “owned” by men in others, forced to suffer servitude, child marriage, and genital cutting.  The most vulnerable, along with their children, are trapped in war and violence…A Call to Action addresses the suffering inflicted upon women by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare.  Key verses are often omitted or quoted out of context by male religious leaders to exalt the status of men and exclude women.  And in nations that accept or even glorify violence, this perceived inequality becomes the basis for abuse. [dust-jacket description]

So what do I believe is beautiful about women?  The Imago Dei in them.  By that alone they are astoundingly, blindingly beautiful.  Is it grotesque when my husband diapers the children or supports my work and ministry life?  Not at all.  His love for me and our family is astoundingly, blindingly beautiful.  Our mutual love and submission to each other is what I would wish for other marriages.

You know what I think is grotesque?  Pharisaical, prescribed gender roles.


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Egalitarians on Twitter using #CBMW16

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood just wrapped up their T4G (Together 4 the Gospel) conference yesterday.  The conference was headlined by prominent Evangelical pastors and there was a separate women’s conference headlined by prominent complementarian women.  The theme was “The Beauty of Complementarity” and sessions included “God’s Design for Women,” “Bound for Life: Following Your Husband Through Life’s Challenges,” “Raising Godly Sons,” “Fitted for Flourishing: How the Bible Creates a Happy Home,” “Workers at Home: The Temptation to be ‘Mom Plus,'” etc.  According to CBMW, their hashtag #CBMW16 was used 2.4 million times throughout the conference, as attendees live-tweeted quotes and reflections…

…and as egalitarians responded with challenges to complementarian theology.  I am sure it was frustrating to the CBMW that they could not control the Twitter-sphere the way they could control the mic at their patriarchal conference.  Here are some of my favorite egalitarian tweets:

 


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