Do Female Theology Bloggers Prove Egalitarianism is Right?

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I was paying a visit to Adrian Warnock’s excellent blog today and read a post called “Theology is for Women Too.” Adrian is a complementarian in his views on women in ministry which, in part, means that women are not allowed to teach men. Therefore, I raised an eyebrow at Adrian’s post on the new book by blogger Wendy Alsup called Practical Theology for Women. In his post, he shares the following,

“I just recently discovered Wendy Alsup’s blog. I was so impressed with the blog, I decided to issue her an instant Warnie award, the second so far this week. I must be feeling generous as I haven’t issued many Warnie’s lately! From now on her headlines can be found in my sidebar, along with many other top Christian blogs.”

For those not in the know, a Warnie is his award for blogs. Kind of like a Dundie for those of you who watch The Office.

So here’s my question… Did Adrian just violate his own rule that women should not teach men by reading a female theology blog?

I’m not trying to be critical or to be a smart guy. I’m just asking an honest question. If you believe women should not teach men the Bible, why make exceptions for a blog?

In my humble little opinion, I think this goes to prove that egalitarianism is the way to go.

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20 thoughts on “Do Female Theology Bloggers Prove Egalitarianism is Right?

  1. jovial_cynic

    Adrian is a complementarian in his views on women in ministry which, in part, means that women are only allowed to teach men.

    I think you meant “that women are not allowed to teach men.”

  2. ed Post author

    Ha! Thanks for catching that. I was running late this morning, but wanted to wrap this post up. I gave it a quick proof read for misspelling, but as I hit “post”, I thought to myself, “I hope I didn’t make any mistakes…”

  3. Steve

    As a Wesleyan theologian I would agree that egalitarianism is both biblical, and a practical reality. The same pastors and theologians who hold a complementarian view of women in ministry don’t seem to mind that most Sunday school classes are taught by women. The same Holy Spirit that empowers men to preach and teach is the same Spirit that empowers women to do likewise.

  4. Victoria Davidson

    Okay, so that’s the dignified word for it now: complemetarianism. I’ve been so busy tending to the sick, preaching, teaching, and generally pastoring that I haven’t had time to read the latest from the men who are afraid of competition from women. Gee whiz. I’m so out of it.

  5. Joe

    I can’t call myself a distinguished theologian, but in my study of the biblical texts that seem to concern this issue, it appears that to some level, a woman’s authority over a man is divinely limited. I arrived at this conclusion after a study on 1 Timothy 2:12. In my research in this passage as well as other related ones, I found that, generally speaking, Egalitarians identify these as being culturally bound – much like the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 which speaks of shaved heads and head coverings. I disagree with this because Paul in the next verse points back to creation making this a argument from the created order and thus, not culturally dependent but rather universal. Obviously this has some profound implications in our ecclesiology which some find unpalatable. There are many things in scripture that are unpalatable – suffering for the cause of Christ, giving up worldly pleasures, etc… but the fact that it’s difficult doesn’t make it any less binding.

    In regards to this specific post, the fact that Adrian learned something from Wendy doesn’t necessarily make him inconsistent – there are many different ideas on how the complementarian view is fleshed out. But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that it does make Adrian inconsistent; does that make the complementarian view wrong? No more than the fact that worldly Christians existing makes Christianity wrong. The fact that some complementarian somewhere, somehow is inconsistent doesn’t negate the validity of the belief.

    Having said this I can consistently affirm that I have a profound respect and love for women – the church would not function properly without them because God created women (and men) to perform roles within the body of Christ (as he does elsewhere in life). As with other difficult commands in scripture I simply trust that we will be most blessed and happy when we operate within our created specifications.

    As Christians we are called to live lives set apart for Christ. Part of this is investigating scriptures with all diligence. I believe that in regards to this issue I have done that but I accept the possibility of being wrong. If someone can show me biblically that I have a fallacious view than I would be grateful – better to be corrected than to persist in foolishness. Until that point I must struggle with and strive for what scripture calls me to be and how to live as I understand it regardless of what popular trends hold sway.

  6. ed Post author

    Thanks Joe for your respectful and thoughtful response.

    Regarding the head and hair thing, Paul actually uses very strong language that is similar to his reference back to creation and the created order. Check this out:
    “13Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

    So it seems in the case of head coverings, he’s doing a very similar thing to his commands concerning women. He sounds pretty strong and certain here. It’s not just one church he’s regulating, but all of them. I understand your hesitancy regarding women holding authority over men or teaching them because of certain verses. The Bible seems to make a clear command about it. But in one instance Paul says women shouldn’t speak in church, and in another he has regulations for how men and women prophesy in church. In addition, we have a Biblical precedent for female prophets, not to mention that the heralds of the Resurrection were women. The latter isn’t exactly teaching, but in a culture where the testimony of a woman was not valid in court, Jesus is making a strong statement.

    NT Wright has a convincing discussion of the context of Paul’s restrictions on women here: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm. For more on a complementarian who became egalitarian see: http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-13-No-2/Editorial-A-High-Profile-Conversion-to-Egalitarianism.

    Regarding Warnock. I’m not saying that he invalidates complementarianism as a theological view because he basically violated its principles. I’m saying that he’s proven egalitarianism to be correct since he has unwittingly recognized that women have something to teach him.

    I appreciate your generosity and humility here. We need that in this discussion. It’s not something to divide over. However, I do believe we are dealing with a matter of injustice toward women, even if complementarian Christians are trying to simply obey scripture. I’ve been there myself, but now on the other side of this issue and hearing from women, I’ve seen just how much damage has been done to marginalize women. If we place women below men, instead of in their God-given position of equality as image bearers of God with men (Genesis 1:27), we are degrading them. It is often not intentional or mean-spirited, but our words unfortunately fall flat if we make women less than men. I don’t state that out of anger toward anyone, but as a voice for the women who I’ve seen struggle through this. It’s a tough spot to be. Thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion.

  7. Athena

    The main issue in this kind of a debate is whether women hold authority over men not the issue of whether a man can learn anything from a woman. Another issue is the part of God’s image that women bear is not the part that would be appropriate in most leadership positions. But the part of God’s image that men bear does…Yes we are both equal in God’s eyes and we both bear his image but as a simple glance at nature and history will show, those aspects of God’s image are not reflected identically in both men and women.

  8. ed Post author

    Athena, thanks for weighing in here.
    According to 1 Timothy 2:11-12 women are not allowed to teach men or to have authority. So teaching and authority seem to be tied together. I grew up complementarian, and it always seemed to have the two tied together. What kind of authority can a woman have in the church without some kind of empowerment to instruct others in what is and isn’t biblical?

    I see your point about the image of God, but if I can tease it out a little… You find that women have the image of God, but they are somehow inferior to what men have? I’m not choosing the words you would choose, but I’m trying to dig into the implications. “Different” or “not identical” quickly becomes “inferior.” Women and men have their differences sociologically and biologically, but I don’t see how we can make judgments over who bears what part of God’s image and who gets to have the superior end of God’s image. It strikes me as too far a leap.

    In addition, if we’re boiling this down to authority over men and go with complementarianism, then God clearly violated this with Deborah as the judge and Huldah the prophetess whom the king sought out for direction. Scripture presents a complex picture here, but it just seems far more likely that Paul was regulating something in the Ephesian church that we’ll never quite understand on this side of heaven, while the broader picture in scripture presents the ideal of women on an equal footing with men, even though the culture of the Bible was predominantly patriarchal.

    Of course, thanks to Paul we’ll be writing, blogging, and commenting on this until the end of time. :)

  9. Joe

    Ed,
    Thanks for your gracious response!

    I appreciate your insights into the 1 Corinthians 11 passage, though a quick 2nd read of that chapter seems to do more to convince me of my original position. The whole point in the passage as it relates to the physical practice of head-coverings stems on a statement in verse 6 – “But since it is disgraceful for a woman [or wife; depending on the translation] to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head.” And then in verse 10 “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head…” I apologize for posting snipits of text as the context is important but I just want to bring out a couple of things in this passage – first, that per created order, women are under the authority of men and, second, that symbol of authority in that day was the head covering. The passage goes on to say that men and women are interdependent on each other (woman was made from man and now man is born of woman). Here’s the important distinction from the 1 timothy passage that I was thinking of in my last post – we have an important cultural tie here – shaved or uncovered heads were disgraceful (namely because of the temple prostitutes). So in today’s context the uncovered or shaved head isn’t necessarily disgraceful. The principle of authority (as in 1 Timothy) is there, but will look different based on the cultural context.

    Basically what I’m saying is that in that context we have an example of a warranted appeal to culture as to why women don’t necessarily have to cover their heads today. This appeal doesn’t seem applicable in the 1 timothy passage. As to the other passages regarding women prophesying along with men I believe that the consistency there is issue of authority – I haven’t done a comprehensive study but from the passages that I have, it seems that in most, if not all, of those cases, the authority structure remains consistent, just fleshed out in various ways.

    I haven’t been able to check out those articles that you posted yet but I will certainly look into them! We certainly agree on the equality of men and women as both bearers of God’s image. Marginalization and injustice towards women has been a historic problem with the church and is absolutely unacceptable – especially in light of such radically pro-women instruction in scripture! It seems that our point of disagreement is whether distinct roles (as opposed to value) in church governance constitute such injustice. It would seem to me that historically the injustice that women have experienced is largely due to an unbiblical view of the value of women rather than the role. I really don’t think the two can be equated. Are not the father and mother in a parenting relationship equally important and valuable? Yet they certainly have distinct roles physically (which we really can’t change – unless the movie Junior comes true). If God designed it this way physically, is it really any kind of a stretch to believe that it is that way spiritually? I honestly don’t think so.

    I am encouraged, however, that we can dialogue amiably about such a heated issue. I’ll take a look at those articles – who knows, perhaps it will prove more biblically sound.

  10. Joe

    Looks we were posting simultaneously – that’s an interesting point that you bring out with Deborah the judge – I’ve heard other complementarians connect the male authority figure with Barak, but I haven’t studied that passage. I’ll take a look at that!

  11. Joe

    Quick unrelated note:

    My sister clued me onto your blog – I really appreciate what you’re doing with it! I honestly think it has eternal value in the kingdom of God.

  12. Athena

    I fail to see how “different” aspects of God’s image all of a sudden become “inferior” or “superior.” I believe that it comes down to what humanity and society consider inferior or superior roles. Christ both taught and served, so if he gave one task to one sex and the other task to the other sex, then who are we to call one greater or lesser than the other.
    I do appreciate your comments on the horrible atrocities that have been done to women in the name of Biblical texts and that is something that as a woman I am hoping to avoid. Personally this was a very difficult issue for me to grasp, being called into full-time ministry. And it is still a challenge.
    I am running out of time and must conclude this post. It is refreshing to hear how the view is from the other side of the table and I am glad we can challenge each other on this issue.

  13. ed Post author

    Thanks Joe and Athena for following up. I do look forward to hearing what you think of those two articles I referenced. I won’t rewrite why I disagree with your takes on Timothy and Corinthians, but I will say that if you are right and women are not allowed to have authority over men, then we need to talk about why God would appoint a female judge, female prophets, and (at the end of Romans) a female apostle named Junia.

    If Paul is in line with God’s desire to keep women away from authority positions over men, then it’s hard to make sense of these other points in OT revelation. I admit that either way we slice these passages, we have to make some pretty tough interpretive calls, but I simply can’t get past Deborah, Huldah, and Junia.

  14. Christie

    Thank you for the insightful blog and comments. I also appreciate the way in which most people are discussing these controversial topics with civility and humility.

    The way I understand it, the injunction that women are not permitted to teach men is in the context of roles of authority amidst the gathered Body of Christ. This means that a woman cannot preach in an official role/capacity to a crowd of men and women. This does not mean that a man can never learn from a woman or that a woman cannot author books or blogs. It does not mean that a woman can’t have informal conversations and share her theological insights with men. It doesn’t mean that women can’t be theologians (I believe in the priesthood of all believers). It doesn’t mean that women can never give their testimonies. Scripture does not say that women cannot teach children, so I have no problem with women teaching children’s Sunday school classes. Complementarians are not saying that women have nothing to teach men. They are just saying that there are divinely appointed contexts in which men and women are allowed to teach. That is not commentary on the inherent worth and value of men and women. So when Warnock says he learned a lot from a female author, that does not necessarily prove egalitarianism to be correct.

    In response to your point about Biblical precedents for female prophets, I want to first make a point about the difference between the prescriptive and the descriptive. Just because there is a descriptive precedent in the Word, does not mean that we can extrapolate principles of obedience for ourselves. For instance, just because King David had multiple wives does not make a precedent for polygamy. So just because Deborah was a leader (albeit a reluctant one) does not mean that women can become pastors. By contrast, “I do not permit a woman to teach” is an example of a prescriptive command. As modern day Christians, we need to concern ourselves more with prescriptive injunctions and not base our theology on mere descriptive examples. Also, NT injunctions are priorities for us as believers living under the new covenant and no longer the old, Abrahamic covenant and Levitical law.

    Now, in addressing prophecy: I believe prophecy is vey different from teaching. It does not involve the same authority. So yes, I believe women can prophesy. Prophecy can be thought of as two kinds: 1) fore-telling, and 2) forth-telling. The Psalms were prophetic in both ways. Not many of us can predict the future these days, so most of the prophecy today is probably the second kind, most often seen in the context of worship. I don’t see anything wrong with women “forth-telling” truths about God in exhortation and worship. But this is very different from exercising authority over the body to instruct on doctrine and rebuke disobedience.

    Yes, in the past I admit that there have been complementarians that have probably blown things out of proportion and abused the principle for their own patriarchal self-serving needs. However, just because people have made mistakes, does not mean we throw out the principles without really asking ourselves what might be God’s higher plan behind it all. Above all else, we need to look to Scripture and not allow precedence, past track record of adherents, or prevailing culture dictate our theology.

    Secular culture dictates that “same” means “equal” and “different” means “inferior.” The homosexual and feminist agendas are pushing for same treatment as evidence of equality. How is this Biblical? All we know from Scripture is that our inherent worth comes from God, and from knowing that we are His children for whom He died. Our worth is not dictated by society, jobs, titles, or power. To subscribe to that is to allow the world’s standards to seep into the church. What we are seeing here is a pandering to our culture, allowing our theology to be shaped by culture as opposed to our culture being shaped by our theology. Theology has always been counter-cultural.

    I personally think it is more sexist to somehow say that ministry only to women is somehow second-class to ministry to men and women. Why do women feel like they are only validated in their calling and ministry if they preach to men (like somehow they’ve arrived in the big leagues)? That is more of a sexist knock on women and on Sunday school teachers than anything else! I am a woman heavily involved in ministry and theological discussions, but who has chosen not to pursue the pastorate. Do I feel oppressed? Do I lack for ministry? Absolutely not! I feel it is a privilege to minister to women, to children, and to my husband. I do not feel inferior at all. I think that it is indeed a higher calling to follow in the path of Jesus Himself, who chose to pursue an obedient and submissive life to the Father. That is true strength and power. Instead of grasping for equality, He chose to submit (Phil 2), which in no way makes Jesus inferior to the Father. In the same way, I think it demonstrates greater strength on the woman’s part if she volitionally chooses to be submissive, both in the church and in the family, in a day and age that pushes her to grasp her own equality.

    Rev. Ron Jones writes about the order in marriage and also in the church:
    “God divides up the primary relationships in society and the church into two primary roles to create order so that people can be properly cared for. God chooses one person or group to focus his or their energy on loving and caring for the other person or group and gives them authority to do so. God then gives the other the responsibility to submit and follow as the one in authority exercises that authority in loving and caring for the other. The reason God does this is to make certain that someone is responsible for making sure the family is taken care of. If both husband and wife shared the exact same leadership responsibility, then both could either abdicate the responsibility and blame the other or both could polarize over priorities and other issues. A good example of what can happen when everyone is given the same leadership responsibility is the popular TV show “Survivor.” Among the group of survivors in every show, because no clear leader is designated or elected, chaos, bickering, and laziness quickly arise. In God’s way of doing things, God always appoints someone or a group to take responsibility for the care of others. There are four essential authority-submission relationships in the Scriptures that affect adults, i.e. government/citizens, Christ/church, elders/congregation, and husband/wife The reason God gives authority to a person or group is so that people might fulfill the responsibility of caring for others which God has given to them.” (http://titusinstitute.com/premaritalinstruction/differentrolesmarriage.php)

    So even though egalitarians would like to paint a patriarchal, discriminatory picture of godly headship and submission in both the family and in church, the true principle is that this divinely ordained order is given to us by God for our ultimate care and shepherding, as well as for clear accountability and responsibility.

  15. Bonnie Gray | FaithBarista

    Hi Ed, I just stumbled on here .. and thought this post was just AWESOME. What a thought on women Christian bloggers (ahem). I also loved Steve’s comment..

    “Complementarian” .. sure doesn’t sound so complimentary.

    As for the theological doctrine of women in leadership or teaching ministries.. I will have to save that for a one on one convo. LOL. ;)

  16. ed Post author

    Thanks Bonnie.

    Christie, I don’t think I can debate you point by point without rewriting a lot of stuff, so I’ll just kind of boil it down to where I think this is most important.

    God made men and women in his image, not just men. There is an equality built into our creation. Now, we can talk all we want about different roles not meaning inferiority, but when we move past the theory of that assertion into practice, saying someone can’t do something based on race or gender makes them less.

    I just can’t see how we can draw a line between a woman being allowed to prophesy to kings but not being allowed to teach a room of common folk from scripture. Why can women be president, prime minister, CEO’s, even a prophet and judge, and any other kind of leader, but not a pastor? It smells rotten to me.

    I know you disagree and I can live with that. Thanks for sharing your views here.

  17. Pingback: We Need Women to Lead | :: in.a.mirror.dimly ::

  18. Tamara Out Loud

    Hey, friend. This really cuts straight to something that’s been on my heart. I’m looking forward to writing about it, and I’m grateful for brothers like you who I know will graciously hear me.

    1. ed Post author

      Thanks Tamara. I’m glad you don’t let the possibility of teaching men something keep you from blogging… ;)

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