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The Fear Factor

Recently I read on another blog that the writer had not read anything about helping people face the fear of moving from a complementarian position to that of an egalitarian. Maybe this is true for many of our readers so we would like to give opportunity for folks to write here of their struggle and fear while considering what would happen should they embrace a new way of looking at how God loves us all equally and shows no partiality for people of  particular gender, race or class.

There is the major fear of going against what is perceived and taught as God’s plan for women and men. God-fearing women and men don’t want to cross the line into ‘liberalism’ which entails ignoring what are seen as obvious commands and ideals for how we should live in the home and church community.

There is also the fear of being ostracised by people which in some circles can mean not only loneliness but a cutting off from all forms of support – monetary, emotional, social and family ties. To embark on a journey into a belief in what can be termed ‘heresy’ is a great step of faith and takes enormous courage.

For those of you who have made the step across this ‘great divide’, you might have some encouragement of how it was for you and some suggestions about how it can be less fearful.

For those who are still weighing up whether equality is really biblical and/or whether you are ready to count the cost of ‘changing your mind’, please feel welcome to share your doubts, questions and hesitations.

31 Comments

  1. Sue
    Comment #96204 posted April 23, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Kamilla –

    “which will surely condemn those who hold them sincerely and knowingly” –
    I can deal with your conclusions and bless you for following as honestly as you can, but do you truly believe that those who don’t hold what you believe about gender will be *condemned* for it, by God? Really? Then what Christ did on the cross suffices for sin – except for being wrong about God’s view on men and women?

  2. Liz Liz
    Comment #96206 posted April 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Hi Kamilla and thanks for sharing your journey. I’m sad that you no longer have friends in the egalitarian ‘camp’ since it is expected of all Christ-followers that we love one another sincerely. I for one am happy to be called your friend, even if you believe that I have heretical views of some parts of scripture.

    A true friend loves at all times as the scripture says and that includes the times when we disagree.

  3. Comment #96209 posted April 24, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Like Donald Guffey I don’t consciously remember, in my transition to egalitarian beliefs, having situations that created fearful reactions. I certainly experienced ostracism and harsh treatment from some of my more dogmatic, conservative theological colleagues but I didn’t fear their rejection. Having an evangelically conservative background myself I could appreciate where they were coming from and understand the conscience issues that governed their actions.

    Perhaps it was the fact that very early in my Christian experience I encountered the Martyr Church. At the time very little was known, in the West, about Christians suffering for their faith in either despotic regimes or at the hand of religious extremists. I was employed as a State representative of the Mission, now known as Voice of the Martyrs. Part of my brief was to speak in Churches and organisations that had invited me about what Christians in these countries were experiencing. It wasn’t always received well, but I knew it to be true. I got to appreciate being a voice for those who were unjustly silenced.

    In some measure being enlightened about Biblical equality had the same impact upon me in that, as I knew it to be true, and that others had suffered because of speaking and acting openly about it, I could be unafraid in doing so too. In that sense I could be a voice for those who had been silenced by gender hierarchy and the limitations imposed on women (and men) because of that interpretive system. So I took courage from those who had gone before.

    As I think about it now I guess that my awareness of the price that others had paid for their egalitarian stance, prior to my own enlightenment, my own fears seemed trifling. Also, the fact that my wife shared these beliefs and we could console one another and go to God together with the awareness that others were being unkind or unduly critical. Again, it seemed a small price to pay when it had cost others their reputations and livelihood. Having said all of that I am conscious of the fact that it could be a fearful thing for most people to ‘come out’ so to speak and declare themselves to believe differently to those who were previously their esteemed friends, christian support networks and ministerial colleagues. May you find courage and comfort in our shared stories.

  4. Don Johnson
    Comment #96211 posted April 24, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Just to clarify, I am non-creedal altho at times I have recited an early creed as part of a community of believers as part of a worship service. I do not see it as the case that the early creeds say something that I disagree with as being taught in Scripture, rather, I disagree with the idea that saying a creed is a good way to distinguish between a believer and a non-believer, which is why they were created.

    Having faith in Jesus is a lot more than giving mental assent to anything, be it creed or Bible or even God, as it is active.

  5. Liz Trevor
    Comment #96213 posted April 24, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Don, my background here in Australia, is Church of Christ, which probably equates in the States to Disciples of Christ. Anyhow, we grew up with the statement, “No Creed but Christ, No Book but the Bible.” I guess that it was a reaction to the conformity of the liturgical church structure. Because of my early training I too was suspicious of Creedal statements, especially when they were used divisively, as in ‘reformed’ doctrinal statements. Churches of Christ, back then, prided themselves in being ‘restorationist’ as in, restoring a NT pattern of worship order to church life, so we believed that we had the Statement of Faith Creeds covered.

    More recently I’ve appreciated the work of Kevin Giles in highlighting the value of the Athanasian Creedal statements that refute this modern doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son. I guess what I’m saying is that I see these statements through different eyes now even though I still do not belong to a liturgical church community. Mind you, sometimes, when taking part in an Anglican service, I am amazed (in a good way) at the positive content of some of the affirmation statements. I know that when they are said by rote they could lose their inherent significance but they are usually quite profound.

    Perhaps, in non-conformist churches we are making these statements of faith in our hymns or modern songs rather than things like the Apostles Creed. Anyway, I can understand, in some measure, why you may have some objections to an adherence to Creedal statements defining one as a follower of Christ and how this has come to the attention of Kamilla.

  6. Don Johnson
    Comment #96217 posted April 25, 2012 at 7:28 am

    The Bible itself refutes the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Word. What happens is that the ESS proponents teach a partial truth which is why going to the full counsel of Scripture is so important. (Teaching a partial truth is very prevalent in comp doctrine, many of the things they teach are not so much wrong as incomplete and therefore unbalanced.)

  7. Comment #96225 posted April 26, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Whether one loses friends or not over a belief system has nothing to do with the veracity of the beliefs. However, it does make changing belief systems more difficult. And it happens to everyone at some points in their lives, sometime more to some than others. As well, how we color the situation depends upon our view. The first to present a matter sounds right until the next comes to tell their side of the story. Sometimes our stories are too complicated to sort who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for the individuals. Perhaps, God allows us our differing beliefs for lessons in our lives just like God made the first man wait for his companion while he learned his first lesson in life.

    Kamilla, you are to be commended that your primary desire is to serve God no matter what you believe is being said. God is to be first in our lives. This is also the cry of those who have come to believe in Biblical mutuality. Certainly, you can gain friends within all Christian denominations with that goal in mind.
    It is interesting that two people can view the same Scriptures and come away with different understandings. Sometimes that is from not reading enough of the context.

    ”Adam was created first. The woman Eve was made from the man, for the man and presented by God to the man.”

    Gender hierarchalists come away with this information with an idea that men are primary and add all manner of beliefs onto this not stated in Scripture. Christians who believe in Biblical equality and mutuality within all areas of work, ministry and service in the church tend to look deeper within Scripture for answers to their questions. Why was the man created first? I believe because men needed to learn of their need for companionship (alone is not good) and that they were not sufficient in themselves. Why was the woman made from the man? I believe because the man needed to know that she was like him, she was equal (kenegdo) in substance to him. Why did God present the woman to the man? I believe that when God presented the woman to the man, that God explained these things to the man. This is why the man knew that the woman was reformed from part of his own flesh and bone.

    So, we have different views and live our lives differently because of that. I’m OK with that. It’s good to hear that you are also.

  8. EricW
    Comment #96227 posted April 26, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Patriarchal Hierarchicalism and gender- restrictionism may have been part and parcel of God’s working out of His plan for Israel and the fallen Adams, and may provide some pictures of how the male-and-female members of the Bride of Christ, the Church, relate to the Bridegroom. but that old Human was crucified and buried in and with Christ’s fleshly body, and the New Human came forth from the grave to head the New Creation – a creation both beginning to be realized and awaiting fulfillment. In the New Human, there is one head, Christ, and Christ’s body is a “neither Jew nor Gentile” and a “not male and female” group of Spirit-regenerated and Spirit-filled and Spirit-gifted and Spirit-enabled persons who minister and lead and serve as the poured-out-on-all-flesh Spirit wills and empowers, with all the members of the One Body serving and edifying each other and growing up into the One Head, who is their common Lord.

    In other words, Patriarchal Hierarchicalism is a remnant of the Old and Fallen Creation, and the Old Covenant(s), which is one reason why it’s so common in so many societies and religions, Christian and non-Christian – i.e., it’s the way Adam does things.

    Which may also be why leaving what “everyone believes and does” can be a fearful thing for some. It’s like entering a new and unknown Kingdom where different rules and laws operate.

  9. Comment #96233 posted April 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Laurie..your comment reminded me of a statement in the ‘What we Believe’ section of a bible college brochure.

    Maybe God has left some things in scripture a bit vague (liable to be translated in different ways) to see what we love more…our opinions or our sisters and brothers in Christ.

    It was worded better than I remember, but this is the essence. I have always thought it was a good way to look at ‘debatable’ passages.

  10. Liana
    Comment #96238 posted April 27, 2012 at 12:05 am

    I was certainly fearful as I was coming out of my complimentary theology. It was mostly fearing of how my family and friends will see me. And also, I had many doubts.. of how can I say I’m right when there are so many people around me telling me it’s not? I certainly didn’t wanted to go against pastors and teachers who I looked up to.

    My whole life.. I was told women couldn’t lead at church… and certainly, finding a community that was more egalitarian was impossible even I was in a state that was considered to be more “liberal”. Frankly, I found a more moderate community where we could talk about these issues.. the real issues in the church and still evangelical.. but it took a long time… and it was really hard to change my mind set that had stronghold in me so long. I still caught myself thinking I want to.. but I’m a woman so I can’t. Gradually process.. and certainly was fearful because I felt like if someone find out my perspectives changing.. then people will accuse me of believing in heresies…

  11. EricW
    Comment #96242 posted April 27, 2012 at 8:02 am

    I also think the “male pastor” thing is a remnant of the Catholic (including Orthodox) Church.

    ISTM that Evangelical Protestantism basically eliminated baptism and communion as being “sacraments” as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches view them when it eliminated the priesthood/priest function, but retained or elevated the reading of the Scripture as the “sacrament” in the sense of being the thing by which grace and change are imparted to the recipients (the hearers of the Word).

    In the RC Church and the EO Church, the priest (i.e., the one who administers the sacraments and thereby brings God’s grace via them to the congregation) is a male because he represents Christ to the people (and when praying for the congregation, he represents the people to God); since Christ was a male, the priest also has to be male, so they argue (in fact, the RCC says the priest stands in persona Christi).

    I think Evangelical Protestantism visibly retains this idea when it insists on having a male pastor and/or male elders be the only ones who can administer the Word (i.e., the “sacrament”) to the congregation.

    Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, an Orthodox priest, has said that the Orthodox Church could theoretically allow women to be priests if its understanding of the incarnation became more focused on the fact that Christ became HUMAN, rather than became a MALE human.

    That is something I think Complementarian Evangelical Protestantism has to deal with. By restricting their version of the “priesthood” (i.e., the one who represents Christ to the people and represents the people to God) – even though they call it the pastorate or eldership, not the priesthood – to males, they are buying into the RCC and EOC concept that Christ’s maleness was at least as important as his humanness.

    This to me raises all kinds of questions about the difference between men’s sin nature and women’s sin nature and how Christ saved men versus how He saved women.

    BUT THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.

    Which is why restricting the priesthood or the pastorate to males creates real problems in my mind for the doctrine of the Incarnation.

  12. Sue
    Comment #96243 posted April 27, 2012 at 10:24 am

    EricW – that is a very thoughtful critique, and I thank you for it – I will be chewing on it.

  13. Comment #96245 posted April 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

    “Which is why restricting the priesthood or the pastorate to males creates real problems in my mind for the doctrine of the Incarnation”

    yes, otherwise we have the Messiah coming to save only males and not all humans, male and female.

  14. Comment #96249 posted April 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Liana..thanks for the reminder that it can be a gradual process of change. Thanks for sharing your story.

  15. Frank
    Comment #96274 posted May 4, 2012 at 12:43 am

    This was a very important discussion, and insightful too. My own journey was essentially from uncritical accpetance of the “Scriptural” views of the fundamentalist Baptist church I was saved in; to gradual acceptance of the soft-complementarianism that was taught and modeled, or as I so perceived it, while a student missionary at PBI; and to a convinced egalitarian when, years later, I was involved in Christian study center ministry with a egalitarian couple who challenged me to thoroughly examine the presuppositions underlying each position and judge them by the totality of Scripture. Consequently, I have no desire to go back to positions on male and female relations that are rationally inconsistent and incoherent, leading to spiritual bondage for both men and women

    And I really appreciated Eric W’s comments about the contrast between the Old and New Adam, the Old and New Creation. I felt this revealed a real grasp of and understanding of what Paul actually teaches on this subject in Galatians and 2 Corinthians. I think he really hit the nail on the head when he said:

    “In other words, Patriarchal Hierarchilism is a remnant of the Old and Fallen Creation, and the Old Covenant(s), which is one reason why it’s so common in so many societies and religions, Christian and non-Christian – i.e., it’s the way Adam does things.

    Which may also be why leaving what “everyone believes and does” can be a fearful thing for some. It’s like entering a new and unknown Kingdom where different rules and laws and natures operate.”

    Kamilla’s commentary brought to mind some passages in James B. Torrance’s WORSHIP,COMMUNITY & THE TRIUNE OF GRACE that might be of interest to everyone:

    “The Nicene debate seems to me to be of fundamental importance today, in the light of accusations that talk of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is sexist, with male images projected onto God by a male-dominated, sexist culture. The contention, therefore, is that we need new images of God, for example, female images. This was the basic theme of the 1994 Minneapolis Conference on “Re-Imagining God, Community and the Church,”…Behind this contemporary demand by many feminists for new images of God, there is a very genuine legitimate protest and a cry for justice. There is the fact that for centuries–from the very beginning?–the church has been largely male-dominated, patriarchal, hierarchical. Women have been excluded from the ordained ministry and from holding certain offices. The false argument has been used that only a man can represent a male Jesus. But this portrays an inadequate understanding of the Incarnation. The Son of God, in assuming our humanity, became a man, not to sanctify maleness, but our common humanity so that, be we men or women, we can see the dignity and beauty of our humanity sanctified in him” (pp.101-102).

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