Home » Biblical Interpretation » Is Egalitarianism on a Slippery Slope?

Is Egalitarianism on a Slippery Slope?

MountainI don’t know about you, but I have evangelical friends with all kinds of different views on gender. Come to think of it, I have evangelical friends with all kinds of different views on a whole host of topics: child baptism or believers baptism, just war or pacifism, Arminianism or Calvinism, and, yes, even egalitarianism or some form of gender hierarchism (often called, somewhat misleadingly, “complementarianism”). Since evangelicalism has no official magisterium, such diversity is inevitable. And, while I’m as committed to the egalitarian cause as the next person, I’ve come to view this diversity as a good thing: It means that instead of relying on the coercion of some official leaders or evangelical “gatekeepers,” we egalitarians are left to rely on the persuasion of our arguments and the example of our lives. And, while we might try to convince others that our interpretation of Scripture is better than hierarchal interpretations, we nevertheless acknowledge that those with different interpretations might be just as honest and well-intentioned as we try to be.

However, I have noticed a growing trend among some within the male hierarchist camp to go beyond making biblical arguments for their view to instead playing the self-appointed role of evangelical “gatekeepers.” Instead of simply debating various interpretations of Scripture, they insist that egalitarian interpretations are dangerous and therefore should not be tolerated within the evangelical camp. The argument—that, for lack of a better term, we’ll call the “slippery slope argument” (or SSA for short)—goes something like this:

(SSA)     Egalitarianism (or “feminism”) is the first step onto the slippery slope that leads directly to dangerous and unacceptable “liberalism.” After all, look at all the liberal churches out there; they all support women in ministry! Many of them used to be within the evangelical fold, but they have all strayed away. You start with an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture and, next thing you know, you’re denying the authority of Scripture and straying from the evangelical faith.

If you’ve spent any time among evangelicals and raised the issue of gender, I suspect you’ve heard something like SSA. I also suspect that this argument has convinced a number of evangelicals to steer clear of egalitarian interpretations of Scripture altogether. And, to be honest, at face value SSA has some plausibility. After all, we probably all have friends who jumped on the bandwagon for some social cause or another and ended up riding the bandwagon straight out of the church.

Still, if we step back from anecdotal evidence for a moment—after all, people leave the church for all kinds of reasons—and subject SSA to a bit of logical scrutiny, I think we’ll find that it is not as persuasive as it may at first appear. As I see it, there are at least three (and probably more) problems with SSA.

First, SSA focuses only on the evidence that supports its conclusion and downplays all contrary evidence. So, while it points to liberal churches that support women in ministry, it downplays the ample evidence of all of the evangelical churches that also support women in ministry. The divide between churches who do and churches who don’t support women in ministry does not cut between “evangelical” and “liberal.” There are a number of evangelical traditions that have long supported women in ministry, including (but not limited to) many churches within the Wesleyan-holiness and Pentecostal streams as well as a number of traditional black churches. If such churches were allowed to count as evidence alongside so-called liberal churches, the argument would be significantly weakened.

Second, SSA assumes that, because liberal churches also support women in ministry, egalitarianism must have been the cause of their liberalism. But this certainly doesn’t follow. A lot of times, two things might be related to each other without one being the cause of the other. For example, I recall learning in a college sociology class about a study that demonstrated that in New York City the consumption of ice cream directly correlates to the city’s murder rate. When ice cream sales go up, so does the murder rate. When ice cream sales go down, the murder rate does too. But, even given these findings, one would be hard pressed to convince anyone that ice cream consumption is a cause of homicide! Rather, there is a “lurking variable”—presumably, the temperature—that serves as an underlying factor for both. In hot summer months, people consume more ice cream, but more people are also out of the confines of their homes and on the city streets, where murders may take place. So, though there is no causal connection between eating ice cream and the tendency to murder, there is a strong correlation.

Finally, SSA assumes, well, that there is a slippery slope! But as we all learned in beginner logic courses, the slippery slope is an informal logical fallacy, not a valid form of reasoning. In other words, unless there is some kind of necessary link between view A and view B, it is a fallacy to argue that A “inevitably” leads to B. But, since we’ve already seen that there are a number of evangelical egalitarians who haven’t become “liberal,” we must conclude that there is no necessary connection between these two views. Sure, some egalitarians leave evangelicalism for mainline churches, just as some hierarchists leave evangelicalism for, say, Catholicism. But these contingencies say nothing about the relative value of egalitarian or hierarchist views. In short, the slope from egalitarianism to liberalism is not as slippery as the argument assumes.

Once we account for the numerous flaws in the reasoning behind SSA, it seems to me that the argument crumbles apart. This, of course, doesn’t mean that egalitarianism is automatically true. It just means that we evangelicals from all sides of the gender debates can get back to doing what we do best: opening up our Bibles and reasoning together.

This essay is adapted from the article, “Assessing Hierarchist Logic: Is Egalitarianism Really on a Slippery Slope?,” Priscilla Papers 27.2 (2013): 5-9. You can read the full article here and purchase your copy of the entire issue here!



  1. Wendy Herrmann Smith
    Comment #104544 posted May 8, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for your clear thinking. I am disappointed in my ESV Bible which gives only the negative view of women’s ordination in its commentary on I Timothy 2. The NIV Study Bible (at least the one I’ve had for twenty years) lists several possible interpretations held by different groups. On the other hand, the ESV is somewhat better at gender inclusive language than the old NIV I use. Maybe NIV has an updated version.

    • Comment #104545 posted May 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Hi Wendy. If you can get hold of a copy of the TNIV, I think you will find it better. Due to pressure from hierarchalists, it has been withdrawn and a revision is being worked on -don’t know when it will be released.

      • Comment #104550 posted May 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

        it scares me that hierarchalists have that much power

        • James Steer
          Comment #104563 posted May 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm

          Please can I make a couple of comments, first with the specific issue in hand and then a slightly broader one.

          1) The new NIV (NIV 2011) is now out (it has been for two years). You can read it at http://www.biblegateway.com. The Bible translation committee of the NIV is made up of a group of evangelical scholars (some complementarian and some egalitarian) (actually, I think this is also the case for the ESV). The reason the TNIV was withdraw is not due to pressure from “the hierarchalists,” (the original NIV has also been withdrawn) but simply that the publisher wants everyone to use the new NIV version because of its updated scholarship.

          2) I hope that EVERY Christian is a hierarchalist in some sense of the word. I trust that every Christian recognises that God is God, the King OVER us – that is hierarchy. Also in Scripture (e.g. Romans 13) we see that God sets governments over us, that too is hierarchy. Also, God establishes church leaders who have a responsibility over the flock that they pastor (see e.g. Hebrews 13:17 :”obey your leaders), therefore having church leaders is also a form of hierarchy (regardless of whether that leader is male or female). Therefore, it seems to me that to use the term “hierarchalists” for those who see a distinction in gender roles within Scripture is deeply flawed and wrong. It’s not just complementarians who are hierarchalists, it’s every Christian, I trust.

          I also find the use of this term (hierarchalists) describing my view pejorative, and offensive, Why can you not please use the term I choose (complementarian) to describe my position?

          I hope that’s a few helpful clarifications.

          In Christ,


          • Comment #104564 posted May 14, 2013 at 6:12 am

            James. It seems I owe you an apology about the reason the TNIV was withdrawn. I was obviously given incorrect information and just assumed it was as I was told.

            More importantly, I apologise for using the term hierarchalists instead of complementarians. I have had occasion to encourage others to use the preferred word and here I broke my own rule! It is a reminder to use terms with which people are comfortable and words which are not offensive.

          • James Steer
            Comment #104565 posted May 14, 2013 at 6:52 am

            Dear Liz,

            Thank you for your apology on both accounts. They are wholeheartedly accepted. Thank you for your gracious response.

            In Christ,


    • Comment #104546 posted May 8, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      You can read the 2011 NIV at http://www.cbt-niv.org. It is available as a study Bible as well.

  2. DeeDee Kay
    Comment #104547 posted May 9, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Haven’t checked on this subject much. Has anyone talked about why the slippery slope argument is used? When one can’t prove a stance wrong in and of itself, the only thing possible is to attack it by association. e.g. I am a vegetarian. Hitler was a vegetarian. Slippery Slope: Vegetarianism leads to genocide.

    • David
      Comment #104548 posted May 9, 2013 at 7:41 am


      That’s actually a related fallacy (guilt by association), though I think your intuitions are right about why it is used. The slippery slope fallacy usually takes a moderate position to its most extreme conclusions (e.g., if you support legalizing the “morning after” or “Plan B” contraceptive, next thing you know, infanticide will be legalized–or, alternately, if you criminalize third trimester, partial birth abortion, next thing you know women won’t be allowed to purchase contraceptives).

  3. Comment #104552 posted May 9, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Of course the fact is that many Christians don’t argue from logic so much as emotion and what they understand as the ‘plain reading of Scripture’, so when we attempt to reason something through it is seen as trying to make Scripture fit our own ideas.

    SSA is emotive and has been used by evangelicals for a long time about many activities.
    Sometimes it could be correct if a person is indulging in things which will not help their spiritual life and could lead to more damaging practices, but it doesn’t necessarily have to follow that A leads to B in every case.

  4. James Steer
    Comment #104555 posted May 12, 2013 at 2:35 am

    I’m a complementarian, and I’ve never once heard this kind of argument. As far as I’m aware this article is simply erecting a straw man.

    It is true that it has been suggested that egaliterianism does lead to liberalism – I won’t deny that. Indeed, Wayne Grudem has published a book (Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism) showing evidence that points in this direction, but this is far from the slippery slope argument given in this article.

    • David
      Comment #104556 posted May 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm

      Thanks for your comment, James. I admit that the blog above is a bit simplistic (as is almost unavoidable in 1000 words or less!), but if you follow the link at the bottom to “read the full article,” you will find that it is, indeed, based directly on Grudem’s book. The fuller article is well documented and includes a number of direct quotes.

    • Rachel Heston-Davis
      Comment #104557 posted May 13, 2013 at 9:25 am


      You said, “It is true that it has been suggested that egalitarianism does lead to liberalism–I won’t deny that.”

      Isn’t that what they defined as being “the slippery slope” argument? Not trying to be argumentative, I’m just not sure what you believe the “slippery slope” argument to be if it’s NOT the suggestion that egalitarianism may lead to liberalism.

      • James Steer
        Comment #104562 posted May 13, 2013 at 11:30 pm

        The slippery slope principle is that we shouldn’t do X because it might lead to Y (especially when people in group Y are already doing X). This is a totally fallacious method of argumentation – there is NO logic behind it whatsoever.

        However, Wayne Grudem in his book (Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism), does make substantive arguments and give examples of how egalitarianism has lead to liberalism. For example, he documents that if one generation of a church is egalitarian in theology, it is more likely that the next generation will begin to compromise on other aspects of the gospel.

        Now there could be various factors for this, but Grudem is suggesting that one of those factors is that because egalitarians have had to “distort” (my words) the meaning of Scripture to be able to explain their position, that subsequent generations are more likely to “distort” other parts of Scripture too. For example 1 Tim 2:12-14 says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” The plain meaning of the text seems to be quite clear: Paul doesn’t permit a woman to teach BECAUSE Adam was formed first. Notice too that Paul gives a historic (pre-Fall) reason for this prohibition, and not a cultural one. Therefore, if we can read this in an egalitarian way (which to me seems to go against the plain meaning of the verses), then why can’t we do the same for other parts of Scripture – this is what Grudem is suggesting.

        Grudem is by no means saying that every egalitarian is a liberal; rather he’s warning that egalitarianism seems to set a direction or trajectory towards liberalism.

        • Comment #104567 posted May 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

          The “plain meaning” of any set of words most often is only “plain” because one has pulled a certain set of words out of the context and made them to mean whatever seems reasonable to the person reading that set of words. Frankly, anyone can take any set of words and make them say many other things contrary to what the original author meant.

          In the case of 1 Timothy the first part of the context is on the first chapter addressing false teaching by those who wanted to be teachers but didn’t understand basic principles. Some of them were women. Paul’s response to Timothy on how to handle the women teaching false doctrine came in 2:11 where Paul strongly urges Timothy to ‘Let the women learn’. While learning they are not to teach nor to wrest authority from the man (likely the teacher), and they are to learn quietly in a submissive demeanor. The rest is all subject to that primary statement. Just like Eve was deceived by the serpent these women were likely deceived. But they will be brought through if they live godly lives.

          I personally have little regard for Grudem’s poor methods of Scripture handling on these issues.

          I don’t think that egalitarianism has led to liberalism. Liberal (lawless) ideas have always been around. Some just use this to suggest that the ideas of true equal value, equal opportunities among all, freedoms for all, etc. are too free. To those who desire special privileges above certain classes of people, equal honor is dangerous to their goals.

          • James Steer
            Comment #104577 posted May 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

            Thanks for your comments TL. By “plain meaning of the text,” my aim is certainly not to do what you say, but rather be trying to get at the author’s intention for writing. To that extent I’d say that “plain meaning of the text” and “author’s intent” are parallel terms. I’d therefore agree, it is vitally important to consider context when studying any passage, since the context helps us to understand what any given verse says. As you say anyone can take a few verse out of context and make them say what they like (and sadly, lots of people do).

            Regarding your comments on 1 Tim: in 1:3 Paul tells Timothy not to allow certain people to teach any different doctrine. Nowhere in this chapter does it say that women are doing this, some of these people maybe women but were not expressly told that. If you want to suggest that some of these people were women you need to make an argument for it, not simply assert it.

            And, if you’re reading is right, why do we need 1 Tim 2:11-14 at all; in 1:3 Paul has already told Timothy to command them not to teach, so why does Paul need to emphasise that to the women only in 2:11-14?

            Additionally, I don’t think 2:13 agrees with your analysis either. The verse begins with “for,” which serves to explain what has already been said. I.e. 2:13 if the reason why Paul forbids women to teach and have authority in 2:11-12. V 13 gives the reason that Adam was formed first and then Eve – in other words at this point Paul is arguing from the order in which God created man and women. Since this is an unchangeable (and I would say indisputable fact), the logic flows that a women is not to teach/have authority over a man since this goes against God’s created order.

  5. Rachel Heston-Davis
    Comment #104558 posted May 13, 2013 at 9:31 am

    The slippery slope argument has one fatal flaw, and it’s this: if an action or conclusion to a problem is right, just and truthful, it would be morally wrong to avoid it just because of OTHER actions that it MIGHT lead to.

    For example, I firmly believe in the equality of all races. Let’s say that someone came up to me and made a convincing argument that racial equality would predisposition people to have a liberal mindset (I realize this is kind of a dumb example, but hang with me!). Should I then DENY the racial equality, which I already know to be true and right, just because of what it MIGHT produce in the future? Is God going to say “Oh, you knew all races are equal and you denied it anyway…but that’s okay…you were making predictions about what race equality might do to people’s thinking on other issues, so I guess that justifies your sin of treating different races unequally.”

    Of course God would not say that! It’s ridiculous!

    We have to decide on every individual issue based on its own merits. To do anything else risks closing down our openness to God’s leading.

  6. Mim
    Comment #104560 posted May 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    A slight side note, but the name ‘Evangelical’ has been hijacked of late. On joining an Evangelical Christian group at uni, I was stoked to be getting involved in a group that was keen to focus on evangelism. Little did I know that simmering under the surface of evangelicalism was an un-biblical movement to silence women in the church. Luckily, the particular group I’m involved in allows people to have different opinions on this issue, but it still makes me sad that such an exciting and promising word such as ‘evangelical’ has become all but synonymous with clinging-to-’comfortable’-traditions-and-adding-rules-to-the-gospel-ism

    • Wendy Herrmann Smith
      Comment #104561 posted May 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm

      Evangelical means so many different things that it’s becoming a useless moniker. The National Association of Evangelicals (which I just found in a google search) statement of faith focuses on a belief in the authority of scripture and the importance of personal conversion, among other tenets. My impression is that the media tends to use evangelical to mean, people whose Christian faith informs their voting and who usually are politically conservative (as opposed to Christians who are not politically conservative). I have heard the term used in the last few years to mean non-mainline denominations. According to some of these non-mainline churches, the mainline ones should not be called evangelical because They do things like ordaining women, which, in these folks’ minds, means they have a low view of Scripture. These are just my impressions, but, as I said, impressions may be all we have because the definition of evangelical is fluid.

  7. briantromburg
    Comment #104566 posted May 14, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Are there any cases where Egalitarianism and liberalism don’t share a strong correlation? Also, I wonder if the term “women in ministry” is being used a bit hastily. I’m a Complementarian and I fully support women being involved in ministry. I think the church misses out if women are not involved in ministry.

    • Comment #104568 posted May 14, 2013 at 11:49 am

      Likely a lot Brian (to your first question). Is it too much freedom to expect that all human beings be treated fairly, to be given the opportunities to learn, to seek God for His direction in their lives, to be given opportunities to exercise and fine tune their specific skills in the Lord. I agree that the church misses out if women are not involved. But we likely mean different things. By involvement I mean everything from physical helping in various needs, to public prayers, to public teaching and preaching, to pastoral and prophetic callings. God made the human race male and female. Both voices are needed for the health of humanity in general.

      • briantromburg
        Comment #104569 posted May 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm

        Likely a lot? Do you have examples? Stories?

        • Comment #104570 posted May 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm

          Are you serious? Hundreds of thousands of people believe and live the concept of Christian equality, mutuality and equal value in Christ. These concepts have been around since Jesus. Equally, there has always been differing forms of male dominance belief systems. I doubt that either will ever disappear.

          • briantromburg
            Comment #104571 posted May 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm

            Sorry, I don’t mean to invoke hostility (that’s the last thing this conversation needs). I am trying to learn and contribute to the conversation. And yes I am serious.

            I am looking for specific answers, not broad answers like “hundreds of thousands…”, because I really want to know what is out there. My original question was: Are there examples or cases of Egalitarianism and liberalism not sharing a strong correlation? Are there examples of Egalitarianism not leading to liberal theology over generations as Grudem observes?

          • Wendy
            Comment #104576 posted May 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm

            A place where egalitarianism and liberalism do not share a strong connection: churches which do not ordain women but which do allow women to vote. Ordination has not followed in those churches although the decision to let women vote in the church was once considered liberal. I wonder if there were men in Congress (and in churches) who voted against women’s suffrage in the early twentieth century who would say to us today: “See? We gave women the right to vote, and now they want to be pastors.” I venture to say most complementarians would respond, “Giving women the right to vote was proper even if it did ‘lead’ to ordaining them.” Thank you for weighing in, Brian. “When everyone thinks alike, no one thinks very much.” (attributed to Walter Lippmann, writer, and to Benjamin Franklin, among others)

        • Michelle
          Comment #104572 posted May 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm

          In the article by David in the Pricilla Papers, he lists the following as groups that are gender egalitarian and not liberal:
          Assemblies of God
          Willow Creek Association

          I don’t know the specific flavors of each of the groups above (the Southern Baptist Convention, for example, is not egalitarian and has become so authoritarian in recent years that a church risks being kicked out of the SBC for calling a female pastor: Other Baptist groups are liberal, and there are other that are not liberal, yet are gender egalitarians).

          Some Holiness churches used to require women wear skirts and have long hair, etc.: I believe women now preach.

          The Salvation Army does not limit women (it is my understanding), but is not accepting of homosexuality (usually the litmus test for “liberalism”, IMO).

          The Foursquare Church, described by wikipedia as evangelical and pentecostal also ordains women and believes homosexual acts are sinful.

          • Comment #104573 posted May 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

            Yes, Michelle. Also, some of the 1800′s Quakers, and similar. Not sure about the Amish and Mennonites. Not sure which of those types were egalitarian or not.

            And Brian, there was no hostility in my reply, only shock that you were not aware of this.

  8. Michelle
    Comment #104574 posted May 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    When I was in the PCA, we never talked about the history of women in ministry. It was never stated, but pretty much any tradition that ordains women was presumed (by laypeople, at least, IMO) to be liberal by definition. The New Testament church *obviously* did not have any leaders who were women, as it was not permitted. Any leaders in the OT and the NT who were female were explained away (“no suitable man could be found, so God had to use a woman”) or not recognized for who they were and what they did (Phoebe, Junia).

    So it’s not surprising to me that a person might not know of a Christian tradition of women leaders. ;-)

    Some Mennonites are gender egalitarians. I don’t know about Amish, and the Quakers…the ones I know don’t have a pastor role as such. But there is probably a variety of practice.

  9. Comment #104575 posted May 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    As already stated re the word ‘evangelical’, ‘liberal’ is another word which means different things to different people/groups. It usually relates to how people view the bible and even then, it can be hard to pin down exactly what is meant.

    Agree with Michelle that if we are in a church or group of churches and don’t have occasion to mix with other Christians of different persuasions, or read other literature, we may not be aware of how others think and believe. Often people are taught what ‘others’ believe but have never met someone who is supposed to believe certain things.

    We (as in my husband and I) try to not quote things which are presumed to come from a particular individual or group but write to the person or group to get a personal response. And in denominations, churches usually vary from place to place unless they are strictly regimented and can only do what the ruling body dictates.

    It takes time to get to know people and how they believe but it is certainly preferred over just repeating what we’ve been told or read about an issue.

    • Michelle
      Comment #104579 posted May 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

      I would go further, and suggest that we ought to be active, and seek out different opinions, on our own. We should do research into what the opposing voices are saying *whenever* we are taught/learn that a particular group in the church should be limited. It is a serious claim to make about people, after all, that God does not want them to do/be “x”.

      Also, intellectual honesty requires it. My former church prided itself on being intellectual but I would bet money that very, very few people read any egalitarian material that was not quoted or provided to them in the context of, “See what’s wrong with gender egalitarian beliefs…”. If you don’t read the original sources for the opposing view, but only quotations of egalitarian materials supplied in a book or article (for example) Grudem or Piper, or what the Wellspring Group has provided to you in order to tear the (opposing) view down…that doesn’t strike me as being intellectually sound.

      • Michelle
        Comment #104605 posted May 21, 2013 at 4:07 pm

        It just seems off to me that the teaching of gender hierarchy could be accepted by (some) christians without truly studying views held by other christians. That played a large part in my seeking out gender egalitarian writing.

        The complementarian theology I was exposed to (in a study group, in church, on retreat) seemed to have the theology so sewn up, yet I could not reconcile these ideas with the gospel; I wanted to see whether the argument for equality of the sexes in *practice* made more sense to me.

        So I sought out gender egalitarian resources to read them for myself.

        • Comment #104606 posted May 22, 2013 at 2:05 am

          It depends how gender hierarchy is presented to people as to whether they look at alternatives. If they are told this is what the word of God says and that some people try to make the bible say something else, or that some Christians are influenced by the world to hold other views, then it can cause some to be afraid of looking into other views in case they disobey God.

          • Michelle
            Comment #104607 posted May 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm

            Ah, yes, thank you–that is a good reminder.

            It was presented that way to me, too. I was told in a class a few years ago that the NIV (the new version at the time) was “dangerous”. Yes, dangerous!

            My reaction then was to declare (to myself) that I would not be afraid of ideas. But I entered the church later in life, and who I was before I entered church probably played into that reaction.

            If God is for us, who can be against us? Does God truly not forgive mistaken theology? If not, we’re all in trouble, since no theology is perfect. It brings shame to our faith that some are taught to fear ideas.

  10. Comment #104578 posted May 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    James, comment #104577, thank you for taking the time to give a thoughtful answer.

    ”If you want to suggest that some of these people were women you need to make an argument for it,”

    Whenever, a writer deliberately uses an inclusive term instead of specifying the gender, we can safely conclude that both genders are included. The word used was a form of tis, meaning anyone. If the word for only men were used, we could possibly conclude that no women were included depending upon the context. But when a form of anyone/some is used we cannot escape the fact that women were involved also. Then when Paul specifically addresses women telling Timothy to “let them learn”, it strongly IMO suggests that since the subject thus far has been about false teaching, then they were likely teaching false doctrine along with the men.

    ”And, if you’re reading is right, why do we need 1 Tim 2:11-14 at all”

    Because in some of the local cultures women were not encouraged to learn. Some of the common teaching of the time (thru Plato, Aristotle, etc.) was that women were inferior to men fit only for bearing children, and managing households, needing men to lead them. This is why it was so astonishing for Jesus to tell Mary and Martha that it was right for Mary to choose to sit at Jesus’ feet as a pupil and learn. In some of the local cultures it was unheard of.

    ” if the reason why Paul forbids women to teach and have authority in 2:11-12. V 13 gives the reason that Adam was formed first and then Eve –“

    Granted, taken by itself, it can sound like that. But such an idea has never been said, hinted at or implied throughout the OT. Most importantly, God doesn’t say that the reason the first human created was male in order to put forth an order of any sort. Rather, God explains and shows that the reason God created one before the other was to teach the man his need of an ‘other’ and to show that this other, the woman, was a fit partner to allay his aloneness. Therefore, Paul must be saying what he said for some other reason. My best guess is that what is being said after the “for” is correcting some false teachings. It was known that there were gnostic teachings that taught that the woman was created first and that it was the man not the woman that was deceived. Verse 15 is more difficult to ascertain. However, there was a gnostic teaching that a woman could not be spiritual if she bore children because it was a work of the flesh, or some such.

    I don’t expect you to be convinced by this small discussion. But those are a few of the things that convinced me. And I’m a pretty analytical and logical person. :)

  11. Comment #104584 posted May 16, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    Must we frame “Evangelical” as something over against “liberal”? Both words have seen better days and used to mean something fairly easily defined. Now, not so much. The hierarchalists who use “liberal” as the bogey we must all avoid are simply not paying attention to what is happening all around us. America will soon be a majority non-white nation. White Evangelicals have become — face it folks — synonymous with white Mormons in the popular imagination. And why not? We seem more concerned with focusing on the 1950s-era “nuclear family” than we do on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As someone who is a Feminist and a political liberal, especially concerning poverty and other urban issues, I both applaud CBE and urge all of us to refuse to engage any longer with those who insist on a culture wars vocabulary. The Culture Wars have been unbelievably destructive to Evangelicalism, so much so that many believers who theologically would be considered part of that movement are staying away from Evangelicalism’s institutions in droves. We need not defend egalitarianism from the charge that it leads to liberalism because — in some important ways — it *should* lead to liberalism, and vice-versa. We will not abandon the Scriptures. We will and must abandon the modernist constructs that have made Christianity into a parched wilderness for women and minorities.

    • Don
      Comment #104585 posted May 17, 2013 at 5:40 am


    • Comment #104586 posted May 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Excellent thoughts Jon Trott. I also enjoyed perusing your blog and the article on ‘confronting the fundamentalist within’. It got me to thinking about the Christian tendency of using words by misusing them or changing their meaning to something else. It is an interesting trick that seems more American. We take other language’s words that we like and recreate them into something just a little different. Charismatic is from charisma in Greek which originally meant something to do with a grace effect in one’s life. In English now it means a person with compelling charm that draws others to follow them; a sign of a leader. We’ve taken gay from a word everyone used to express joy and happiness and made it a synonym for homosexual. Evangelical now has been expanded to include other meanings than the original meaning of spreading God’s good news. CBMW took the word complementary and changed it to mean loving hierarchy. It is possible that the Christian community may end up speaking a different language than the rest of the world even more than it used to.

      • Comment #104587 posted May 17, 2013 at 11:22 am

        Thanks for that. The ‘friend’ in question that taught me the lesson “Confronting the Fundamentalist Within” discusses… was none other than CBE’s Mimi Haddad!

        One of my sadder thoughts re our community of JPUSA no longer doing Cornerstone Festival is that we don’t have that yearly wonderful opportunity to get together with CBE folks such as Mimi. The “CBE Tent” at Cornerstone was born out of discussions Mimi and I had about getting the Mutuality Message out there…

        I guess from now on we’ll have to get together either at CBE Conventions or / and when and if we’re able to get Mimi and friends to come down to our soon-to-open “Wilson Abbey” building right here in Uptown.

        And re language… that’s the post-modern critique, isn’t it? The words we use are highly manipulable (for good or for ill) by those of us using them. “The definitions belong to the victors.” As someone who likely could and would never vote Republican again after the wholesale takeover of that party by the extremist Right in this century, I can’t call myself Evangelical any more. Evangelical too often equals Republican… white… ‘States Rights’ (racist)…

        It was such a beautiful word once.

        • Comment #104588 posted May 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm

          Thank you for the reply, Jon. Nice to hear that about Mimi. For several years now I have been aching to get to one of CBE’s conventions and meet her as well as other egal believers. :(

          Is your Wilson Abbey building a commercial or Christian endeavor. We have had a few Christian gathering places here in Hawaii, but they’ve never quite taken off into something community ‘shattering’. I used to run a Christian Rehab home, which was amazing. And then was involved in an army base recreation center that fully supported all kinds of Christian activity, which was also amazing. I think the new ideas right now are Christian “Coffee” houses.

          I’m often somewhat distressed about how Christians use and redefine words. I find myself often trying to reroute thinking when teaching. There are way more words that are misused, tweaked incorrectly, or downright mistranslated in Scripture than I am comfortable with. Often those things center around our ideas about the Holy Spirit and our concepts of gender related issues.

          Nice chatting with you, brother. :)

          • Michelle
            Comment #104590 posted May 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm

            +1 re: your feelings on the redefinition of words.
            To be fair we’ve played with (though not redefined the root word) the definition of “egalitarian” as well.
            When I remember to do so, I use “gender egalitarian” and “gender hierarchist”, as these seem more accurate to me.

          • Comment #104591 posted May 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

            yes, I use gender hierarchalist a lot also. It’s a bit of work to accurately portray what our mind is envisioning. :)

          • Comment #104592 posted May 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm

            TL, not wanting to hijack the thread, but you asked “Is your Wilson Abbey building a commercial or Christian endeavor?”

            It is hopefully both. We will, if all goes well, be moving into it and opening it this summer. It will serve as a neighborhood hub, complete w/ state of the art theatre, coffee shop, class rooms, art centers, and community center (just to name a very very few functions). Along with both ministries and businesses Jesus People USA will run, we’re also renting space to various neighborhood and Chicago-area groups. Our old 920 Wilson Building has been gut rehabbed inside and out. We’re so eager to move in and get things rolling!

          • Comment #104593 posted May 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm

            And you wrote,

            “I’m often somewhat distressed about how Christians use and redefine words. I find myself often trying to reroute thinking when teaching. There are way more words that are misused, tweaked incorrectly, or downright mistranslated in Scripture than I am comfortable with. Often those things center around our ideas about the Holy Spirit and our concepts of gender related issues.”

            All we can do as far as I can tell is to be aware that we often unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) tilt and twist words to get them to mean what we want them to mean. For instance, the pro-choice and pro-life movements call one another pro-abortion and anti-woman, respectively. That’s not accurate but it works in this world of polarization and bloated radio shriekers.

            It is very hard for me personally to remember to “play fair” when it comes to those who are my ideological opponents. For instance, should I say “complementarian” instead of “hierarchalist” in describing those who believe women are to unilaterally submit to men in marriage and in the churches? No, I cannot use complementarian… it is not an accurate term to describe a position in which one gender is placed over the other. Rather, and this is ironic to me, it is a term which coulda-shoulda been one used by Christian egalitarians. The mutual submission model would be far better described as “complementarian” than would a unilateral “female submission” model.

            Hierarchalist precisely describes a historic stream of thought rooted in Greek thought, one which hugely affected (for instance) the Victorian era. Mary Stewart Van Leuwen’s book, “Sword Between the Sexes,” is a great primer on that topic…

            So am I being a hypocrite, saying “Let’s not call pro-choice folk ‘pro-abortion’” yet insisting we do call those who want to keep women out of the pews and under the directives of their husbands hierarchalists rather than their own pet name “complementarians”? I don’t think so, but all the whys would take me quite a while to unpack. I have a list. ;-)

    • Michelle
      Comment #104589 posted May 17, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      Sorry: I forgot the quotation marks around “liberal”, as actually I was quoting others in the church I attended at the time. I don’t find “liberal” or “feminist” to be bad words and never have.

  12. Comment #104594 posted May 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Just chiming in on your valuable comments Jon. Interesting that you pick up on this word ‘complementarity’ in respect to the position of hierarchists. The whole thrust of the book, ‘Discovering Biblical Equality’, is to put the position of complementarity without hierarchy. Ronald Pierce, one of the general editors of that book, describes himself in that way, ie. as a true complementarian. Now that the word has been hijacked, so to speak, it is no longer available to us to explore and expand on its meaning for us.

    • Comment #104596 posted May 17, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      “Discovering Biblical Equality” — a great resource, Trevor. I have it on the shelf, but now you’re giving me the yen to read it again.

      Re the hierarchalist / complementarian discussion, I simply cannot use the word “complementarian” to describe a theological position which clearly is dishonoring to women. The word is a good word and I insist on hierarchalist instead as a more accurate description.

      Look, I’ll put myself out there all the way on this issue. I would not be a part of a fellowship which taught hierarchalism. I would pray with hierarchalists, but I would not sit under their teachings nor would I want anyone I know to do so. This isn’t a small issue — it is central to who we are as the Church. So no, I can’t make my hierarchalist friends feel better by calling them complementarians. They are not; the word is nonsensical applied to their belief system.

      And why are Mimi and Co so much nicer than I am in discussing this stuff? Hehehe.

  13. Comment #104595 posted May 17, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Ah…the dust of words! So useful yet they can get in the way of genuine conversations.
    One thing we are encouraged to do on this blog is address people by their title of choice and we know this by how they describe themselves. Even if we don’t consider the way they talk about themselves to be accurate, it is courtesy to use their terms.

    Having said that…agree with you Jon in that so many words we can’t use now because of the changed or variable meanings.

    BTW, in Australia, the word ‘egalitarian’ is used quite bit to describe our country and it usually means that we are known to give everyone a ‘fair go’. Of course this does not match reality but the word gets quoted often. It is not so much used in church circles and usually we have to explain ourselves if we use the term. The homosexual lobby here uses the word egalitarian frequently too which makes for more confusion.

    • Comment #104597 posted May 17, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      Liz, I just posted comments which might seem as if I’d read your post and was disagreeing somewhat w/ you. I hadn’t read your post yet. ;-)

      • Comment #104599 posted May 18, 2013 at 7:57 pm

        That’s OK Jon. I agree with you re the terms and when talking about a group of people I might use one word, and another when talking directly to an individual when that person has asked for that courtesy.

        • Comment #104600 posted May 18, 2013 at 8:24 pm

          Liz, that’s a very thoughtful and useful distinction to make. In public, with a number of people “listening in,” it might be important to respectfully but firmly stick with “hierarchalist” as a descriptor of anti-womanist teachings. But in private, one on one, there’s not a good reason to insist on one’s own terminology being the rule. Thanks for that.

  14. Don Johnson
    Comment #104601 posted May 19, 2013 at 6:36 am

    If someone makes a specific request about terminology to use for their own self-description, I think it is an example of (mutual) submission to go along with it if at all possible. Each of us has our lens (paradigms) thru which we view everything else and it means each of us will see things and NOT see things from others using other paradigms.

    For example, just as comps may see an authority hierarchy when it is not there, then egals may NOT see an authority hierarchy when it IS (supposed to be) there. But first you need to admit in the possibility of having a blind spot and then it becomes possible for another (even one that you disagree with strongly) to help you see it, ala the log versus the speck in one’s eye.

    • Comment #104602 posted May 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Don, if you are speaking about using another person’s terminology one on one, I see your point. But allow me one more rant on this which I admit from the get-go may not apply as much to what you were addressing as to the overall conundrum we face here.

      It is highly problematic (at least as I see it) to in public discourse use the misleading terminology of oppression simply to be “Christian” or “loving.” I suggest it may well be neither. Language (again the pomo critique) tends to fall into the hands of the powerful and be used against the less powerful, the marginalized, the disenfranchised. So — even while admitting that yes, no human or group of humans is going to get things 100% right (my group included!) — I can’t see how a linguistic capitulation to those already in control of the narrative is going to help women disempowered by such language. Maybe I’ve read too much Andrea Dworkin. But, seasoned with gentleness and humility, I cannot see using an out and out misnomer (“complementarianism”) to describe a system of theological, conceptual, and actualized oppression.

      Evangelicals (esp. those of us white and male) tend to fall regularly into what I’ll call “the error of ‘Fair’s Fair.’” For instance, a black politician or someone close to him complains that the opposition is being racist. Why then, say the “Fair’s Fair” people, can’t a white politician complain about his opposition being racist? (This by the way is a complaint heard regularly on a few well-known “news channels” and radio talk shows). Well, it is a manifestly bad argument. The institutionalized racism in this country has a history of great specificity, one which is focused squarely on the enslavement of blacks, “manifest destiny” destruction of native Americans, serfdom of the Chinese (building America’s rail system) and so on.

      We cannot allow those oppressing women to define the terms.

  15. Sue D.
    Comment #104604 posted May 20, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    To continue with the “racist” analogy, should Christians have been comfortable using the term “complementarian” to describe the master/slave relationship because some wanted to describe themselves in that way? Didn’t some Christians claim at the time that black people were ontologically equal to white people, but functionally subordinate to white people? In other words, equal but different roles: complementarians! Should abolitionist Christians have used a pretty term like “complementarian” to describe that oppressive arrangement?

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