Culture,  Theology/Bible

Ben Witherington: Piper Has Unbiblical View of God

Ben Witherington enters the theodicy discussion that began with John Piper and that continues in the comments section on this blog. Witherington contests John Piper’s understanding of God’s sovereignty over calamities, saying that Piper is

“just guilty of having an unBiblical view of God, that ironically is closer to the fatalistic one found in the Koran, than the Biblical one found in the New Testament.”

There are biblical and theological problems with nearly every paragraph of Witherington’s argument. He gives an unconvincing Arminian reading of the book of Job. After noting that God cannot tempt anyone, he fails to deal with Matthew 4:1. He even suggests that Piper (and all Calvinists for that matter!) might be guilty of attributing the work of God to Satan, something Jesus condemns in Mark 3.

I’m not going to respond to Witherington’s post point by point. I have addressed most of these issues in previous posts on this subject. For now I’ll just say that Witherington’s case is less than impressive. He doesn’t come anywhere close to undermining Piper’s exposition of the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereign rule over His fallen creation. But you can read it and judge for yourself.

“Religion in the News— God gets Sued!!” by Ben Witherington

(HT: Alex Chediak)


  • Andrew Walker

    Does everything in Reformed Theology revolve around defending John Piper? I know no one would ever ascribe to this theory, but it seems as though the reformed crowd sees Piper as inerrant.

  • Todd Pruitt


    John Piper is no more inerrant than you or me or anyone else. Protestants, thankfully, have no pope. That is why many of us who would identify ourselves as “Reformed” are dismayed when Arminians seem to have a preoccupation with attacking John Piper. He is a brother in Christ after all. For Witherington and Olson to say that the God we proclaim resembles Satan is not only reckless but slanderous. John Piper did not invent the God he proclaims. The God is utterly sovereign over all that he has made is not a late arriving novelty.



  • scott

    Witherington said:
    “Do these folks really have no clear sense of secondary causes which, while we can say God allows them to happen, we certainly would not want to say God causes or ordains them to happen?”

    If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and Creator of all, then what He allows, He ordains, it seems to me. Perhaps the distinction should be made between “ordaining” and “causing”.

    It seems to me the problem of evil is equally challenging for both Arminians and Calvinists. If one day we will live with God, in heaven, with no sin, then why didn’t God just create the world in that state initially, with no fall? Whether Calvinist or Arminian, you believe that before God created the world, He knew sin would require Calvary, and He knew that there would be a narrow path which leads to salvation.

    It seems the open-theist is the only one who is not troubled with the problem of evil — since God did not know what would happen in advance! Of course open-theists are faced with other troubles, most notably, the contradiction of their god with the God revealed in the scriptures.

  • jeremy z

    Denny let me just ask you this: Abandoning your doctrine do you even see a kernel of truth in Ben’s argumentation?

    I would argue that Ben is probably one of the freshes NT scholars today. The fact Ben would come after Piper should send the red flag to immediately go up.

    I have been observing your blog for over a couple of weeks now and whenever an issue comes your way that does not align to your tradition you freak out.

    Now do not get me wrong here, we (you and I) need to learn to live in tension. Yes you do not agree with me and I do not agree with you. But both of us need to move past the disagreements and move into an agreement that we are all working for the Kingdom here.

  • Kevin Jones


    All non-biblical teachings have a “kernel” of truth in them.

    In fact, all imperfect human teachings have at least a “kernel” of falsehood in them.

    None of us can claim to have complete and perfect knowledge of scripture. But, we must live with our convictions and be “open” to examining our convictions according to scripture.

  • Kevin Jones

    As far as Ben Witherington’s teachings go…

    Since when does God ask us to defend His “severe” side of wrath. In fact, we are commanded to “Behold” His goodness AND severity in Romans 11:22. I know this is in the context of salvation and not moral or natural evils. BUT, the fact is, God has revealed to us His LOVING and WRATHFUL nature. Never does He ask us to defend His loving side. In fact, He reveals that it is HIM who hands sinful human beings over to be MORE SINFUL through their own lusts…See Romans 1.

  • Denny Burk


    As Christians, we all have the privilege and responsibility to earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Pastors and teachers especially have the task “to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9).

    All of this means that we must give a faithful account of the Bible’s teaching and how it comes to bear on all of life (including our thinking about calamities and the problem of evil). I believe that Ben Witherington is in error, just as he believes that John Piper is in error.

    My concern with Witherington is not that he does not “align” with my “tradition.” My concern with Witherington is that his teaching on this point does not align with the Bible, which is the sole authority for faith and practice. I could not care any less whether anyone aligns with my tradition. All that matters is that we all conform to the Bible, which is the very word of God written.

    There are two kinds of tension that one might live with. One is the tension that results from questions to which God has not revealed the answers. Truly, we know that every question we have will not be answered this side of glory. Another tension is the kind that results from theological and doctrinal error brushing up against biblical truth. We all have to live with the former. It’s spiritually deadly to live with the latter.


  • Ben


    I believe your answer (#7) to Jeremy’s question (#4) was incomplete and unhelpful.

    You state weakly that pastors and teachers have a responsibility to contend for the faith. However, you do not seem to wrestle with the issue of who is authoritative in such a contention.

    My understanding is that both you and Ben have similar level of education and Christian service. Yet, you disagree. If given space, I’m sure both of you would come up with thoroughly scriptural positions to justify your intuition of the Biblical message. Who is right and who is wrong in such a dispute?

    Should we leave to a vote of the councils as to whom is interpreting scripture correctly? If I am allowing myself to be swayed one way or the other, how do I decide which interpretation of scripture (which you list as the ultimate authority) is correct?

    Doesn’t it seem that we (as the community of faith) are to test everything and hold on to the good (1 Thess. 5:21-22, Hebrews 5:15)? Indeed, the apostles encouraged others to judge for themselves (1 Corinthians 11:13, Acts 4:something). If, using your criteria, our only source of authority is the scripture, whose very interpretation is in question, on what basis do you condemn those who differ from your theological persuasion?

    You use words like “dangerous” and “not a faithful accounting” and “radical” to describe the other side of the debate, simply seems to fuel the rhetoric on who is “right” and who is “wrong”. Others, by the way, seem to generate similar rhetoric.

    In such a situation, what is the role of a teacher? Specifically, I wish to see you address whether or not the debate should be continue ad infinitum, or if the role of a teacher changes to find peace amidst the genuine theological commotion (this also seems to be a teaching from the saints).


  • Andrew Walker

    Not to be a hermeneutical skeptic, but your statement is self-refuting. The degree to which you defend your position is the exact same degree to which Armenians defend theirs. That line of reasoning will get you nowhere other than your own interpretation.

    Secondly, as much as I would like to believe that the Reformed reads the text for themselves, their segment is more dogmatically devoted to authors (Piper, Grudem) than it seems the Bible. Yes, you can reply that Reformed Theology is biblical (which it may be), but most often they will appeal to independent sources.

    What continues to amaze me is the fact that Christians claim an independent authority, that is, the Bible. Interestingly, two sides can claim the same authority and arise at a different conclusion. I know none of us would determine our interpretations to be infallible, but I believe the Reformed crowd, more than any other, needs a lesson in hermeneutic humility.

    The Bible isn’t as clear as we would like to think it is, is it?

  • Mike G.

    If God permitting something is different than him ordaining it, then did he simply ‘allow’ the death of Jesus; clearly the most evil event of history? If so, what about Acts 4:27-28 (among many others)?

    It says, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” (ESV)

    As I have struggled with this issue I keep coming back to this passage. Although their actions were evil the Bible clearly teaches that the death of Jesus was ordained and not just a random evil that God permitted.

    The Bible is also very clear, however, that God is not the author of sin. Therefore, I am left trying to be faithful to scripture on both matters. On that ground alone I am led to go with the reformed understanding, not because of John Piper or any other independent source, but solely because of Scripture.

    I apologize if my comment has been somewhat generic. I only scanned the articles in question and have done the same to comments here, so I didn’t feel qualified to refer to particular statements. However, I pray that I provided something useful to chew on.

    God bless!

  • jeremy z

    Amen to Ben and Andrew. Denny you dodged the question. I was not asking for scriptural reference, but asking for a warranted argument for what is the guideline for interpretation? Ben was on to something when he was explaining the tension that you and Dr. W have the same degree but a different perspective on a Biblical passage.

    Simply, there has to be room for interpretation. You argument that Dr. W teaching does not align with the Bible is irrelevant because his argument is straight from the Bible, however Dr. W has a different perspective than you. Perspective is the difference, not that is does not align to the teachings of the Bible.

    To be honest, I am sick and tired of reform theology saying this is what our doctrine says. How about what is the Holy Spirit saying to that particular context.

    I am sorry but Christianity is in danger. The rhetoric of the reformers is done. Bottom line it is not working anymore. Getting on the bullhorn and saying this is right and this is wrong is not welcoming, loving, and comforting. We live in a culture that needs to hear hope. They need to see love before they hear about love.

    You, the reformers, are buzz kills because you wear your holy hats and gather in your holy huddles tooting all of the same tunes and condemning anyone who even asks questions about your “doctrine”.

    We as followers should have flavor where ever we go. We should be the spice of the party, not the buzz kill wearing our holy hat telling people to stop swearing.

    We worship a God of love and He instructed us to love Him and love our neighbors; not love our doctrine and condemn everyone else who does not love our doctrine.

    okay I am getting down from my platform. It has been fun boys, but Denny you need a reality check.
    Please interpret this verse for me:
    NAU 1 Timothy 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

  • Bryan L

    Jeremy I disagree with your accusations against Denny (and the reformed community) which I didn’t think were very loving or appropriate and I think you owe him an apology.

    We are welcome to disagree on theology here and share our different views and perspectives, after all that’s what this blog is about. But it should never turn personal where we attack our brothers and sisters in Christ because they hold different beliefs than us or come from a different theological tradition than us.

    I appreciate your voice in this conversation and hope to see you stick around and continue contributing to the discussion and modeling the type of love that you would like to see.

    Bryan L

  • mlm


    Whew! I just finished reading your link for Jeremy re: 1 Timothy and men/women teaching. I read the multiple post and all the comments. And now I know the answer to a question I asked you in that Piper 110+ comment section…

    NO!!!! You DON’T pay any attention to my comments on this blog because you don’t believe a woman can teach a man.

    Perhaps you only meant “a woman can’t teach a man scriptural doctrine” and not that we women can’t teach men ANYTHING at all. (God have mercy on all those men working secular jobs for female supervisors or CEOs).

    But, in any case, even if you were limiting your view to women teaching doctrine, that still counts me out for meaningful dialogue on your site. Alas, I will be quiet now.

  • Denny Burk


    You’re a female? It’s hard to see that from your initials alone.

    The college friend that I was addressing in the post you read is a female. She is welcome, as you are, to take part in the dialogue here.

    The reason I haven’t responded to your comments (Are you sure I’ve never responded? I thought I had at least once) is because I’ve been very busy. You should know, however, that even when I’m not taking part in the commenting, I’m very thankful to have you as a reader. And I’m very thankful that you take time to contribute.


  • mlm


    Just to clarify, yes, you have responded, several times in fact and are always very gracious. Thank you…but now I’m forced to wonder if it was because you thought I was a man. :o)

    To clarify further, when I said that “you don’t pay attention to my comments,” I didn’t mean to say that you don’t read them or respond. I meant that the “teaching” in them probably means very little to you because you reject the source. Somewhere along the Piper trail, it dawned on me that my thoughts on doctrine might be hitting a brick wall, not because you are a Calvinist but because I am a woman. So to prevent myself from wasting what little time I have, I thought I’d ask that question (one that did happen to go unanswered) and see where you stood on the whole women- teaching-men thing. Now I know.

    And now you (and Kevin) know I’m a woman. :o)

  • Denny Burk


    I hope you don’t feel like you’re hitting a “brick wall.” Your being a woman doesn’t prevent your being welcome to comment here, nor will it prevent me from reading and responding when I can.


  • Sue

    I definitely feel like I am hitting a brick wall. With many years of classical Greek under my feminine belt, I have written about Denny’s book and ETS statement here and would like to engage in a discussion. I don’t know if Denny ignores me because I am a woman, or because I may have studied Greek longer than he has.

    Naturally, after Denny’s most recent post, I feel very grateful that my natural distrust of male authority has kept me from shaking a few male hands. 😉

  • jeremy z

    Well just to clarify I am a man.

    Bryan L. yes I agree I was out of line with taking it personal. I am sorry for my frustrated writings.

    The deal is: I would rather point fingers at individuals and their doctrine instead of condemn the entire woman population. I strongly believe that women can teach. To be honest, God speaks more through my wife than any buddy else. God poured His Spirit on all flesh. God so loved the world (noticed not the elect or just man) that He gave His only Son for everyone.

    Do you realize by saying that women cannot teach eliminates %50 of the population. That is pretty exclusive.

    Oh….by the way do you still have your wife wear head covering?
    According to this “clear” scripture this is what it says:
    NAU 1 Corinthians 11:15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.
    NAU 1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.

    Also, you better not be buying your wife expensive clothes and expensive necklaces or rings. According to this “clear” scripture this is what God is commanding us to do:
    1 Timothy 2:9-10 9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

    Sisters teach on! Brothers teach on!
    What I really think is funny is that Paul all over the New Testament has women as elders, missionaries, and teachers. Maybe these scriptures be a description of the context instead of a prescription for today’s context???

  • jeremy z

    Also women I want to take this time and apologize for the church for not acknowledging your appropriate gifts. You were not created to just fold bulletins, host the potlucks, head up the women’s ministry, and sit there and look cute.

    I am sorry! But keep fighting the good fight. I have a hard time believing that if the Spirit of God which is love, would say: Women, please be silent; you have nothing to say worthwhile. How is that love? How is that that warm? Jesus was a revolutionary because He treated women fairly for the first in that culture; and notice how they followed Him. He served, love, and blessed them.
    Lets be honest, each gender have different and unique sets of traits and gifts. Man has some and woman have some and in way they accent each other real nicely. I think both man and woman work together to better His body because we are each members of His body. We each have a role. In the garden God said it his creation was not good with only man, but right when Eve step on the scene God finally said His creation is good and completed.

    These are my thoughts. I just want my reformer friends just to see the other side and consider hey you know what…..their perspective does have some Biblical warrant and my perspective is not the only way.


  • Carlito

    I think the key word in the egalitarian/complementarian debate is humility. In our culture (especially America), we have been ingrained with the notion that we need to take pride in ourselves, be “on top”, succeed at whatever cost, and promote our image above all else. In many ways, I think the humility of Jesus has been lost in the context of this debate. The first shall be last, the last shall be first. Humility is neither prized nor celebrated by the world.

    The beauty of the complementarian perspective in marriage (as Paul said) is its reflection of the picture of Christ and the church. The man’s role of humbly dying to self and taking initiative in the God-designed role of “servant leader” has been abandoned by many in the church today. Because of this, the role of wives’ humbly and joyfully submitting to the headship of the husband has been abandoned as well – you can’t have one without the other. At my church, the pastors have taught extensively on the complementarian roles in marriage, and this has had a profound effect on the marriage relationships in the church. There have been numerous testimonies about restoration, healing and stronger unity. The women at my church have joyfully embraced their role, and the men have been exhorted to cultivate a lifestyle of Christ-like servant leadership. This has undoubtedly contributed to the health and vitality of the relationships and families within the church. I’m so grateful for God’s grace in this area, and I can only hope that pastors at other churches apply this teaching.

    As with the other familial and social ills plaguing the church at large, personal sin is at the root of the problem. Many men (me included) in the church have failed in the area of demonstrating Christ-exalting servant leadership; therefore, I think many women are fed up with the general status of the leadership role of men. See

    May God grant us the grace to repent of our neglect of applying His Word and cultivating humility in our hearts. My prayer is that the men in the church globally will humbly repent of our lack of true servant leadership and ask God to transform us into men who lead in humble, servant-minded love. May we all lean on Christ for grace and for His example.

  • mlm


    I have a couple questions for you if and when you have time to answer. Also, if others would like to answer in Denny’s stead, that’s fine, and Denny can just correct you if you don’t correctly speak for him. 🙂

    1. Does your complementarian perspective mean that women don’t understand the Bible or biblical doctrines as well as men do? That they don’t receive scriptural revelation like men do? Or that they just aren’t able to TEACH it the way men do?

    2. Is the complementarian perspective something that is preached from the pulpit of churches that embrace this doctrine? I’ve been to many churches that probably hold this view, but I’ve never heard it preached from the pulpit. Rather, the pastor preaches something more intune with the members’ everyday life.

    3. As a NT scholar, do you know why Paul wrote this admonition to Timothy? What was going on in that particular situation that warranted Paul’s response? Could it possible that this was a situational problem, since this admonition is not really given in other instances?

    4. A friend of mine received her masters from a famous Baptist seminary. As a single woman, she’s been a missioary and a nurse, but she told me she’s not allowed to get an M.Div. or teach classes on doctrine or Hebrew/Greek. She is however allowed to teach children and youth and classes on marriage, family, social issues, etc.

    This makes no sense to me. First, when does a teenage boy become an “adult male”? (Since you said women should not teach adulte males.) One day a male is taught by a female and the next day he’s not? SHe was gifted, trained, called, etc. the day before to instruct him, but lost all her endowments overnight? Strange. Second, the everyday lay person doesn’t care one iota about Greek or Hebrew, transubstantiation or complementarianism. They just want to know how to get through the day: how to love their spouse, raise their kids, and how to know God in an ungodly world. That’s what people care about and that’s what women are allowed to teach? But women can’t teach the other stuff that no one but scholars even care about? That seems so backward to me. Seems you would prefer to have the men teaching the stuff that everyone’s hearing instead of letting the women teach what matters.

    5. Have you ever pastored a church?

    6. If you have NOT pastored, then please just answer this question the best you can. What practical difference does this “Comp. vs. Ega.” thing make to a church member?

    I mean, if a woman teaches a sermon on Sunday morning, what spiritual ramifications is that going to have on Mr. Smith sitting on the front row?

    Is there divine retribution for this “sin”? Do you even consider it sin, or just deviation from the prescribed?) Does Mr. Smith get punished if he listens and heeds the message? Or should the message go unheeded because of the messenger? (Although, again, in most churches the average churchgoer doesn’t even know about this debate, so he wouldn’t even know he isn’t supposed to be taught by a woman. In this case, is the damage still done, and the people just aren’t aware of *why*?)

    I don’t know if I’ve correctly articulated what I’m trying to ask. This complementarian perspective isn’t new to me, but I really don’t understand the finer workings of it, especially in practical terms.

    I’m currently reading Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book LOVE AND RESPECT which certainly has a complementarian perspective in regard to marriage. And I don’t argue with this one bit. I see it clearly in Scripture, and while I don’t always understand it or succeed at carrying out my role in it, I do embrace it and strive toward it. However, I don’t see how this carries over into the churchworld, at least not as strictly as you have carried it.

    Thus the heartfelt questions that I hope someone will answer. Thank you.

  • Sue


    I just read your post on 1 Tim. 2:12. I appreciate the fact that you do not think a woman can teach a man Greek. However, I would still like to point out for the rest of the reading audience that authentew is in no way cognate with “authority” in English. It occurs once in the NT and has no relation to any other teaching on authority in the NT. Therefore, it is very unlikely that this statement of yours is accurate,

    The best I can tell, Paul teaches that women cannot be pastors/elders (a la “exercising authority”),

    There are only two examples of authentew contemporary with the NT. In one, a person compels another to do something “within the hour”. There is no question whatsoever of anyone having rightful authority. In the second, it is a fragment and has been reconstructed with the possible meaning of “powerful” or tyrannical rulers.

    This is the sum total of the evidence. I find your post of last year to be slim on lexical evidence.

    Remember that the KJV has “usurp” authority. Here is a quote from Lancelot Andrewes on what a “usurper” is.

    Lancelot Andrewes in Ninety Six Sermons, page 67, Aug. 5, 1610,

    An usurper may be deposed: so they all agree. And is it not in the power of Rome, to make an usurper when it will? If he have no right, he is an usurper: if he be lawfully deposed, his right is gone: if he but favour heretics; nay, though he favour them not, the Pope may depose him, Non hoc tempore, sed cum judicabit expedire: and that done, he hath no right, then is he an usurper, and ye may touch him, or do with him what ye will.

    Andrewes was the chief translator of the KJV. This is what he thought authentew meant. In the Vulgate it was translated as dominare. Now, with absolutely no additional evidence, this word has been retranslated by you and others as “exercise authority”. On what basis?

    I have grave concerns also about Christ, equal in power and unequal in authority, as a model for the functional subordination of women. The KJV uses power and authorty as synonyms. Complementarian theology cannot be taught from the KJV. I hope people realize what a peculiar and recent set of beliefs it really is.

  • Sue


    This is my concern. You wrote this,

    Baldwin found 82 occurences of authenteō in ancient Greek literature and found that there are no negative connotations attached to this word in its appearances in literature around the time of the New Testament. In literature contemporary to the New Testament, authenteō mean “to exercise authority,” not “to dominate,” “to usurp authority,” or “to kill.” Since his study, no other examples have been found in Greek literature to counter his conclusions (see Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, pp. 307-318).

    But you did not bother to quote from the footnotes in Grudem’s book. Only 2 occurences were contemporary. Grudem points out in the footnotes, page 680, that one means “compel”.

    The other is reconstructed from a fragment, it doesn’t actually exist, but in any case, Baldwin got it wrong. The phrase with authentew possibly in it, is the one translated “powerful rulers”, and not the one translated as “those in authority.” page 679.

    So Baldwin publishes faulty data, Grudem quotes him, you quote Grudem. A woman goes back to the original documents and finds out what is really there. The men still have “authority” because they are men.

    Do you really mean to say that maleness trumps truth?


    Do you have colleagues who also know Greek that you can toss ideas around with and encourage a closer reading of what is there?

  • mlm


    Although I find your comments to Denny fascinating, I must admit they are above my paygrade and I don’t understand them fully. But I think I understand the gist of what you’re saying, so I would like to ask YOU what YOU think the passage in Timothy *really* means. Thanks.

  • Denny Burk

    MLM and everyone else,

    I have answered MLM’s questions, and I will post them as a separate blog post on Monday morning. We can take up the discussion from there.

    Thanks so much for reading!

    Denny Burk

  • Sue

    Lexical evidence provides the following meanings for authentein. Rule, dominate, control, compel, domineer, influence, assume authority over something which is not your own, flout authority, instigate, etc. This word was used only once in the NT and twice elsewhere, in all literature at that time. Once it clearly means “compel” and the other time only part of the word is still visible, and one might guess that this word is used but, it is translated as “powerful.”

    Authentein was translated in the King James Bible by the word “usurp” which was a very serious accusation.

    Possibly women were teaching something wrong, but in any case, they were demanding something not given to them. So possibly, it means that women are not to take over from men, or demand from men. This does not mean that men are not supposed to treat women as equal.

    For example, there are 5 submissions historically, children to parents, wives to husbands, Christians to elders(i.e. bishops), citizens to monarchs and slaves to masters.

    1. Children are given autonomy when they become adults.

    2. Luther laid claim to equal authority for ALL Christians through baptism. Those who served in roles of authority, derived their authority from those they served. “A bishop acts on behalf of the entire congregation, all of whom have the same authority.” Luther. Appeal to the ruling class.

    3. The Puritans reduced the British monarchy to an institution that was responsible to the people. Cromwell executed the king, agonizing over verses that say to submit to the ruling powers. Puritans left England for America, and through the American revolution, fully democratic government, gov’t by the people and for the people, became the standard.

    4. Slavery was eventually abolished.

    All submissions that affected men were made mutual, gov’t serving responsibly in return for submission. We submit to the government, but it is responsible to us. Leaders are public servants and serve by the will of the people.

    5. Now that men have established democracy for themselves as Christians and citizens, they ought, by the command of Christ, “Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them” offer full rights in the kingdom to women.

    Instead, women are excluded from scholarship, and contribution, and some are kept in the home. A biblical scholar may be kept at home to serve her husband, as his hostess or secretary, to help him get his work done. He would never once in his life hear from the pulpit that he should allow his wife to develop her gifts in her own domain as a biblical scholar.

    Women are spiritually abused by being told that if they don’t follow their husbands in everything, they are to blame for marriage problems. Women are not permitted to teach the Biblical languages and instead have to suffer the abuse of hearing mistakes represented as truth.

    At least one in ten women married to a Christian suffers physical abuse. Many more suffer psychological abuse and blaming. How can men have “authority over women” when they are so utterly fallible – as women are also.

    However, true submission between men and women should be mutual, and the standard of reciprocity which Christ established is to be reflected also in marriage.

    Women have been preaching and teaching throughout the history of the church. Hilda of Whitby trained 5 bishops in the 8th century. Among the reformers and puritans, the Anabaptists, the Quakers, Methodists, and Salvation Army, women have preached. It is exactly the same people who believed in women preaching, that argued vehemently against slavery. But the Southern Baptist church had many in it who felt that abolition of slavery lead to the denial of the inerrancy of scripture.

    I hope this helps.

  • mlm


    Thanks for your help. I appreciate your time and your knowledge. You probably *already* know MANY times as much about biblical history and languages than I ever will in my entire lifetime. I can’t say that I completely understand your writings, because my frame of reference is very limited compared to that from which you write. Nevertheless, I’m fairly certain 🙂 I’ve reached the conclusion that you don’t agree with Denny’s interpretation of Timothy, complementarianism, and other “authority” issues.

    As far was your explanation goes, you listed 5 examples of submission/authority and then detailed each.

    Did you leave out “Church to Christ”? (I take it by your previous comments and your own blog that you don’t believe there is a “Christ the Son to God the Father” submission?)

    And I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your position on the “wives to husbands” submission. Are you saying there should be a shift simply based on all the other (cultural/historical) shifts? Or is there a biblical basis for the shift you want to see in marriages?

    Pardon my dullness; I’m trying very hard to keep up with you scholars!


  • Sue

    Each of the examples of submission is different in some way. Some of them were dominant at a certain period in history.

    For example, the teaching of the church as the body of Christ, meant that the reformers were told that they were outside the body of Christ because the church was one. However, this teaching was overturned by Luther who redefined the church as the “invisible” church. So the submission of the church to Christ used to mean that you were a heretic if you were outside the one catholic church.

    The teaching of the submission of the church to Christ entailed the submission of every Christian to the visible church. But when it became historically understood as an invisible church, then different denominations were allowed. This was the greatest paradigm shift in the church historically.

    So, the submission of the church to Christ has played out in an interesting way historically.

    The monarchy was also a tough one for Christians, and slavery. However, on the basis that humans are not benevolent, these institutions were eventually overturned by Christians. So also hierarchical marriages should be overturned. Why should men have more rights than women in a free and democratic country?

    What I am saying is that because of the teaching that we have authority through baptism, and that all are kings and priests, men, women, slaves, etc. equally, there has been a shift throughout church history towards equality and the equal and mutual exercise of authority. This is based on the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers.

    But it is confucing in the scritpures because, not only are there different submission relationships, there are also different descriptions of submission in the different epistles.

    In Ephesians, the submission is mutual. As Christ submits to becoming a human and dying, he submits to God. But in his submission, he sacrifices himself for the church. So his sacrifice is his submission. So, in Eph. the sacrifice – submission description of marriage is really mutual submission, based on an understanding of Christ’s actions.

    If it were not mutual submission, then in marriage, the husband would be held to a lesser model of spirituality than in his relations with his Christian brothers and sisters.

    However, in 1 Peter, the model of submission is one of submission to injustice. There the wife, the slave, the citizen, suffers or is persecuted and can’t get out. Sometimes women cannot leave abusive or extremely unhappy marriages and they have to submit unilaterally. Christ honours the action of the wife in her submission, but he does not condone the structure of unilateral submission in marraiage, any more than he wants slavery or absolute monarchy.

    The church ought to teach that marriage is mutual and a mutual help. It is not just for the husband and wife to have children together, and then for the wife to submit and help the husband with his career. (However, they might agree mutually that this is to the advantage of both and of themselves as a couple.)

    How many female biblical scholars have had to quit because their husbands would not allow them to keep studying? How many seminaries will not allow gifted women to teach? It is not the teaching per se, but the access to greater development and resources that would matter. Why should women be denied this kind of participation on par with men?

    And why should men remain in ignorance if the best biblical scholars are women?

    In the NT many women were single, and they hosted house churches, they were leaders in society, they were coworkers, they were patrons, prophets, possibly apostles. They worked in business and had their own financial resources.

    As far as wives go, I think Abraham and Sarah were more egalitarian than the teaching of the complementarians. In fact, I can’t think of any marriage in the Bible that focuses on, or even mentions, the submission of the wife. If it is important now, why wasn’t it then?

    I do believe that Christ submitted to becoming human and dying. But I do not believe that he had a separate will from the father. If he is equal to the father in power and glory eternally, then he is equal in authority. He died, not because he had to submit, but because he and the father have the same will.

    It is only recently that the Godhead, which is a trinity, has been compared in this way to marriage, which is a twosome.

    I am of the opinion that this is a reactionary movement. Consider the many women preachers of the early methodists and Quakers, who worked for abolition. I think it is only natural that we should understand that the scriptures teach an equitable treatment for women.

    I haven’t done such a great job of answering in an organized way, but I have tried to be true to the broader teaching in the scriptures, and the way this has played out in history.

    What really upsets me is that Denny influenced a female colleague against women being able to teach adult males, on the basis of a very flawed study done by a male.

  • scott

    it seems that several posters here have critiqued what they think is a complementarian view, but without really knowing fully what the complementarian view is, or why people believe it. as i have been studying this recently, i find the roots of authority/submission are rooted in the relationships of the Trinity (Father and Son).

    anyway, there are a few messages hosted at CBMW that i recently listened to which discuss some of the importance of the issue, and the related scriptures, and practical applications. if anyone is interested in debating either side of the issue, i imagine these would be useful to listen to…

    Manhood and Womanhood in Creation and Marriage: A Biblical Defense

    Feminist Revisions of the Doctrine of God

    Manhood, Womanhood and the Freedom to Minister

  • Sue


    I would read an article but not respond to an mp3. Sorry. However, just guessing,

    1. a) Adam names Eve – true but so what? Hagar names God.

    b) The human race is called Man. No actually the human race is called Adam, which means human, “from the earth”.

    2. Here is a more serious problem.

    In complementarianism, Christ has equal power to God, but less authority. The problem is that no translation before the 20th century distinguished between power and authority. The King James Bible did not distinguish. So where did the idea that Christ had less authority come from? It is fairly recent – that is obvious.

    3. King James Bible says “I do not permit a woman to teach and usurp authority…”. We know that usurp had a negative meaning for Lancelot Andrewes, chief translator of the KJB, because of the way he used the word elsewhere in his sermons.

    4. King James Bible said that women should have power on her head. 1 Cor. 11:10

    I am not a King James only person, but if one has to argue theology from English, which I don’t like, but it is what I see here, then I would be a lot more comfortable with the King James Bible than a wishy washy modern translation. Look at this for John 1:18,

    No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. ESV

    No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. KJV

    No one has ever seen God, but the one and only [Son], who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. TNIV

    Which is the most literal? Two different manuscript traditions but the TNIV and the KJV are more faithful translations. The ESV moves Christ from the father’s bosom to his side, to a possibly subordinate position – not good translating at all.

    A person has to be very careful not to water down the Word to suit the complementarian exegetical requirements the way some people do.

  • scott

    you won’t listen to an audio mp3 message? I don’t get it?

    But you are willing to predict what the audio message says, and then critique it, though you haven’t heard it? I don’t get it?

  • Suzanne


    I have read many articles by the same authors, and I have listened to some of the sermons. However, my kid is in the house, and the last time I listened to an mp3 it was the Mark Driscoll affair and my daughter heard the part about men having to have sex once every day. She shouldn’t have to listen to complementarians preach on sex.

    I did listen to Lig Duncan as well, and he went on about men and sexual temptation, that this was a gender difference and then he said that due to gender differences, men have authority. I just find that a teenage girl should be protected from listening to this stuff. So sometimes I listen to an mp3, if I can, but sometimes I don’t have the opportunity. I am sure you can understand that as a mother, I would never put an earphone in my ear and block out my daughter. Moms just don’t do that kind of thing.

    Don’t read anything rude into this. It is just life.

  • Costas E. Ioannou

    In Matthew 4: 1 it is clear that God led God Incarnate–the Lord Jesus–into the ring to fight and defeat the Devil. Evil and the EvilOne was and continues to be present in God’s universe and had to be confronted and won over by the Lord which He did!

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