Christianity,  News

Complementarian changes at Cedarville University

Christianity Today has a report on changes taking place at Cedarville University. The new president, Thomas White, has shifted the school into a decidedly Complementarian direction. According to the report,

In his March 10 chapel talk, Thomas White discussed the concept of headship based on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. “We operate with the presupposition of inerrancy. So what I tell you today is not something that I wrote, I made up, or I started,” he said. “I’m just going to preach to you what the text says.”

Cedarville, which recently weathered a turbulent year of disagreements and resignations, has also restricted classes in the women’s ministry program—functionally, every Bible class in the fall schedule taught by a woman—to only female students, according to alumni and a university representative…

The school’s complementarian theological emphasis could be codified as early as this summer, according to the Ventriloquist, an independent student publication at Cedarville.

For some, this report will be anything but good tidings. For me, it is a sign of great things happening at Cedarville. I am grateful for Thomas White and his leadership. Read the rest of the report here.


  • Ray

    Very sad. It is taking a very narrow view, one that think has a great deal of biblical and theological issues with it. Of course it is their right and in keeping with a the very narrow reformed position, but still sad in a place of higher learning.

  • Paul Reed

    Sounds like Thomas White has a Biblical understanding of gender. Anyone want to wager he’s not also pro-life? You know, like maybe he’s pro-choice, so let’s try and make some novel, clever argument to convince him that abortion should be illegal?

    Without doing any research, I’d bet you my car that Thomas White is pro-life. When you start with the Bible, you’re likely to get a proper understanding of the world.

  • Chris Ryan

    I really don’t see how this is based on scripture. Seems to me it goes well beyond anything in the Bible on gender roles. Even if some man takes Paul’s statement that he allows no woman to have authority over him to apply to them–which seems a pretty arrogant assumption to me–I don’t see how that means women can only teach women about the Bible. Flesh being flesh, people have a tendency to read into the Bible things they want to see there. If you can’t take the entirety of a chapter seriously, don’t harp on one verse you like. This seems like plain sexism to me.

  • brian darby

    Dr. Burk I do hope you and your family are having a nice weekend. I read your blog quite a bit, I disagree with almost everything you write about but refrain from commenting because I am an emotional person and might say something that offends. I find being rude, even to people I disagree with to be wrong so I refrain from commenting. On this issue I strongly disagree on several levels. I could list them but wanted to first feel out the land so to speak. For example I consider this your house and I would not come into your house and speak against something without first asking permission if that makes any sense. I hope you have a wonderful Lord’s day.

  • Curt Day

    I agree with Chris here. I was just scanning the faculty of WTS where I went to school. They have one full-time OT lecturer and around 4 part-time practical theology faculty who are female and we can assume that at least one of them is teaching a class with males. And WTS is a good example of this because of its commitment to inerrancy.

    Because of the rub between present culture, the past where women were subjugated, and the Scriptures, I believe we that we need to explore where we can use the talents and knowledge of women in the Church without violating the scriptures. Without that spirit of exploration, I’m afraid that we will, at various level, continue the past subjugation of women.

    In addition, we need through the past and present to see the women who have contributed so greatly to all of us because of their courage, wisdom, and skills. We need to do that for our own learning and benefit and we need to do that to show women in the Church what they can do.

  • Johnny Mason

    Curt and Chris’ lack of Scriptural support for their positions, other than tired appeals to culture or ad hominem attacks (sexism, arrogance, etc) is telling.

    • Virgil T. Morant

      It is worth noting that Dr. White himself, in the homily quoted above (if you go to the Christianity Today article, you can find a link to it), makes an appeal to culture. He speaks several times about “cultural applications” and distinguishes between cultural meaning and gospel meaning. By this he reads the I Corinthians passage such that it does not actually command women, for example, to cover their heads: he takes this to be cultural. What is odd is that he claims he is only going to preach the text, but no distinction of cultural (and thus not eternal) applications is made in the text he is discussing. Indeed this is a problem in a few ways in his sermon. He disagrees with interpreting head to mean source, and one of his three means of supporting his argument is to say that the Father cannot be the source of the Son, since that would mean that there was a time when the Father existed and the Son did not. That is not in Biblical text either, and it is also a woefully mundane understanding of source, as though the Father as source must be understood in temporal terms as we know them in this world. There is plenty in historic Trinitarian understanding that sees the Father as eternally the source, in no way meaning that the Son is not also eternal.

      I should add, while I think limiting Bible classes taught by women only to female students is a foolish policy without real basis in Scripture, I have no truck with those who push for (or who have) women in the pastoral office. I find, however, his claim to pure-text reading false, even if in some of his conclusions I may more or less agree, and I see nothing in Holy Scripture that forbids female professors from teaching classes on the Bible to male students. It is also interesting that, although Christianity Today puts that commentary of Dr. White’s into the discussion of the policies at Cedarville University, he does not actually discuss whether women should teach men in college classrooms in that speech. The go-to verses about whether women should teach men (like I Timothy 2:12) are not discussed in that homily above, and, again, he does not say anything about whether women should teach Bible classes attended by male students in that address.

    • Chris Ryan

      Actually, I’m a literalist. I simply don’t see scriptural support for this kind of segregation. There’s certainly no rational case for saying that we must obey 1 Cor 11:2 but we must ignore 1 Cor 11:3-4. To escape the ‘sexism’ charge one must honor ALL of 1 Cor 11. Otherwise its just men’s musings obscuring scripture…The other thing to remember is that Paul didn’t really care about life here on earth. He was solely concerned with spiritual salvation. That’s the reason he ignored slavery. But just because Paul ignored slavery doesn’t mean that we should. Neither should we ignore sexism. So, if you want 1 Cor 11:2 you have to follow everything else in 1 Cor 11 as well.

  • Beth

    I think the question is where is the boundary in applying the “women should not have authority over men” scriptural direction. Does this mean spiritual authority, such as pastoral, or is it extended to all realms of life, such as women teaching men English or a female bank manager with male employees, or is it somewhere in the middle depending on interpretation and situation?

    • Bob Wilson


      Yes exactly. I’ve asked this question as well from a secular standpoint. I’m secular but I support the right of wedding vendors to refuse to serve same sex wedding, because I don’t believe a customer should be able to force a vendor to change who she is and what she believes.

      In this case, for the same reason, I would not support any religious exceptions in the public realm that would allow a man to refuse to appear before a female judge or be pulled over by a female police officer. Those who believe in male supremacy cannot require the rest of us to violate our belief in equality between men and women.

  • Paul Reed

    Curt Day, you really don’t need to do much exploring to find out what the Bible says on this. Instead of arguing among ourselves with this and that, let’s see what the Bible actually says on this.

    A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 1 Timothy 2

    Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited. Titus 2

    The Bible gives a submissive role to women. If you disagree, you’re going to wince every time you read those verses.

    As an aside, complementarian is a bad way of describing the Biblical position, and more of a marketing word to a egalitarian world. Roles that are complimentary would be something like a hardware engineer and software engineer…neither is in charge or submissive to the other. They merely have different roles. A better word to describe the Biblical relationship between men and women would be hierarchical or patriarchal.

    Anyway, let’s hope the rest of the conversation goes by what the Bible says instead of what people wish it said.

  • Paul Reed

    The Bible gives a submissive role to women. If you disagree, you’re going to wince every time you read those verses.

    As an aside, complementarian is a bad way of describing the Biblical position, and more of a marketing word to a egalitarian world. Roles that are complimentary would be something like a hardware engineer and software engineer…neither is in charge or submissive to the other. They merely have different roles. A better word to describe the Biblical relationship between men and women would be hierarchical or patriarchal.

    Anyway, let’s hope the rest of the conversation goes by what the Bible says instead of what people wish it said.

  • Don Johnson

    What “the Bible actually says” is in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, it certainly is not in English. Also, it needs to be understood as an original hearer/reader would understand it, not by teleporting 21st century ideas back into a 1st century or older text.

    • Shaun DuFault

      So you are letting go of your 21st century egalitarian ways, Don! Now that is exciting news.

      When Peter writes to his readers that a wife is to submit to her husband, what exactly did the 1st century couple think?

      By the way, instead of side-stepping questions, please feel free to give a simple definition of the word submit from the 1st century and how that differs with or similar to the egalitarian definition (whatever that may be) of the 21st century.


      • Don Johnson

        Yes, I let go of any 21st century ideas as best I can when I read a 1st century text. I am not an egalitarian because I live in the 21st century, I am egal. because I think that is what Scripture teaches when read in context.

        In asking what the word submit means, you really want to ask what hupotasso means, that is what counts. The first thing to see about any word, in Scripture or not, is that it gets it meaning from how it is used. Lexicons and dictionaries are only ways to see how the word has been used previously. The second thing to see is that Scripture gets to be its own dictionary and get to refine or even define the words it uses. If you agree with this 2 points, we can continue the discussion.

        • Shaun DuFault

          You know that egalitarianism is a 20th century idea rooted in the 60’s feminist movement. Really, I just want you to give the egalitarian definition of “submit”. I have a good clear understanding of what the classical Greek and koine Greek actually mean when they use the term. We have been down this path before when you tried to claim that Jesus submits himself to the church, as you would have to surmise from your interpretation of Ephesians 5:22ff.

          Yet, when asked how He submits himself, you claim that He submitted to the church when He died for her or when He washed the disciples feet, which makes no sense. So, I want some clarity as to what you mean when you state, Jesus submits Himself to the church. I want to know what you mean when you say a husband must submit to his wife. I want to know what you mean when egalitarians argue that parents must submit to their children.

          Just come out with it. Hiding behind conditions you place seem lofty and maybe of some interest but your unwillingness to clarify what you mean is quite telling. And the sad reality is you refuse to abide by your own “conditions”.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            Here is Calvin on the subject,

            “God has bound us so strongly to each other, that no man ought to endeavor to avoid subjection; and where love reigns, mutual services will be rendered. I do not except even kings and governors, whose very authority is held for the service of the community. It is highly proper that all should be exhorted to be subject to each other in their turn.”

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              Here is a good example of this,

              2 Macc 13.23,

              ”[King Antiochus Eupator] got word that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had revolted in Antioch; he was dismayed, called in the Jews, yielded (???????) and swore to observe all their rights, settled with them and offered sacrifice, honored the sanctuary and showed generosity to the holy place.”

              This king submitted by observing their rights, settling, offering sacrifices, honouring their sanctuary and showing generosity.

          • Don Johnson

            In Eph 5:22-6:9 Paul gives 6 examples of submission, in a 1st century household context. We can figure this out as they are all subordinate clauses to Eph 5:21 in the Greek, so all six are examples of how Paul wants members of the household to submit to one another. This becomes obvious when compared and contrasted with Aristotle’s household codes, where the paterfamilias rules over his wife, kids, and slaves. Paul put limits on this.

        • Randall Seale

          I think the statement “any word . . . gets it meaning from how it is used” needs to be clarified. Authors choose words because they already have meaning – they’re typically not assigning meaning real-time as they write. One word is chosen instead of another because it best conveys the author’s intended meaning.

          • Don Johnson

            Right, people, including authors, typically use words in ways they have heard/seen them used before.

            But sometimes they invent a new meaning or modify/refine the meaning. For example, nomos means law in Greek, but in the NT it often means Torah, (whether of Moses, Written or Oral of the Pharisees) as that was the closest Greek word to the Hebrew idea. Hades was used for Sheol in the NT as that was the closest Greek word, but the use of Hades does not mean that the full Greek meaning of Hades was intended, rather the idea of Sheol was intended. The point is that a living language is not totally static, it changes as it is used and is just mostly static. It is exactly because some words are rarely used that the meaning of them is debated.

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              I do agree that words have meaning, and context can never make a word have a meaning that it doesn’t already have. This is important because ezer is used for God to help humans and Christ helps the church, without subordination, so ezer does not suddenly have the meaning of subordination just because it applies to a woman.

              However, sometimes context does help us to understand the range of the meaning of a word. For example, in the Hebrew, the words adam and isn both are used at least once for a group of people that are all women. This helps us to understand that these two different words for people do not have the core meaning of maleness and often apply to mixed gender groups. So any translation that follows a guideline that suggests that these words “ought to” be translated as “man” are problematic right off.

              In one case, adam is used for all the humans in contrast to the animals, but all the humans in the passage are young girls. Numbers 31. In 1 Sam 30:2, the word ish is used for all the individuals concerned, every one, and the group was all female again.

              Ish is also used in Holocaust memorials for every one, every individual, man, woman and child. So context, really knowing the context of a word, often helps to understand the established range of meaning that the word has. But it doesn’t give it a new meaning, that is speculative. It has to be firmly established as it is in the cases I mention for adam, and ish. Anyone who just says, “this word ish means man” that shows they don’t know Hebrew as a language. Ish can mean “man” and it can mean “a person.”

              There is a difference between a context which really demonstrates something clearly, and one that can be manipulated to suggest something possible but not definite.

              • Randall Seale

                I agree with much of the explanation of your 1st paragraph above but find your examples unconvincing (I assume the Num. 31 reference was to vss. 11 and 26. Note also that vss. 35, 40 use “nephesh adam” when referring to a group that is exclusively female. Sounds like a BH idiom?).

                As you note, adam is juxtaposed with behemah. The point Moses is making is that both people and animals were taken as plunder. Apparently, there were boys among the group taken (vs. 17) so it seems inaccurate to say all the humans in the passage are young girls. That the word adam is used to refer to a group exclusively female (vss 35, 40) may underscore the primacy of males in the Pentateuch. Are there counter-examples, i.e., where the feminine counterpart to adam (whatever that would be in BH) is used to refer to a group that is exclusively male?

                In the 1 Sam. 30 example you give, that no one was killed is stated via the negated qatal clause. The action described is fast paced. Hence the flurry of wayyiqtol clauses. I don’t think BH negates wayyiqtol clauses (if so, it is rare). So IMO, the narrator is giving the reader the simple fact that although everyone was captured, no one was killed. Was there a more succinct way to state this in BH narrative? So that ish was used in a context that was mostly female may strengthen the view that males held primacy in the OT culture. And for the record, there were boys among the group (vss. 3, 6).

                • Suzanne McCarthy


                  My response was rather long and has been moderated. If you want to read it, ask Denny to allow it. I have tried to be balanced and even in my response.

                  • Suzanne McCarthy

                    A small piece of my answer has passed moderation, but the rest is hidden. I don’t know if Denny will allow it or not. I try to show what it is like to really read and understand a foreign language.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      Ish, as well in any modern Hebrew dictionary has the meanings of person, man, adult, husband, spouse, etc.

                      There is just a basic misunderstanding in certain Bibles about the fact that women are human, and they are people.

                • Suzanne McCarthy

                  “That the word adam is used to refer to a group exclusively female (vss 35, 40) may underscore the primacy of males in the Pentateuch.”

                  As you say they are all female in verse 35. I don’t see how you get to the primacy of the male from that. Adam usually means “human being” and is translated into Greek by the word anthropos, which is a noun of common gender, male and female both. It is translated into English in the KJV by the word “person.” The NASB has “human beings.” I think that is the most literal, and does not speak to the primacy of the male.

                  “Are there counter-examples, i.e., where the feminine counterpart to adam (whatever that would be in BH) is used to refer to a group that is exclusively male?”

                  There is no feminine counter part to Adam, just as there is no feminine counter part to the word “person” or to the word “human,” because women are in fact, persons, and we are already human. We don’t need another word to say that women are human, because that is what we are. In Hebrew, women are adam – human. Women have been human from day one.

                • Suzanne McCarthy

                  “So that ish was used in a context that was mostly female may strengthen the view that males held primacy in the OT culture. And for the record, there were boys among the group (vss. 3, 6).”

                  There may have been boys, but the issue was mostly about the women, and then the sons and daughters. It seems that ish has two meanings, (just like fellow in English,) one that is male, and one that refers to every participant or individual.

                  Here are more examples,

                  Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one (kol ish) on whom is the mark. Ez. 9.

                  “So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone(kol ish). he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” Num. 21:9

                  “Both men and women, as many as were free hearted, came and brought taches and earrings, and rings, and bracelets, all were jewels of gold: and every one(ish) that offered an offering of gold unto the Lord:” Ex. 35:22

                • Suzanne McCarthy

                  Okay, Denny has wiped out my answer to this question, but I will try to be super brief.

                  “Are there counter-examples, i.e., where the feminine counterpart to adam (whatever that would be in BH) is used to refer to a group that is exclusively male?”

                  There is no feminine counter part to adam. You will have to guess why not, because Denny has deleted my response.

  • Hannah Lewis

    It’s sad that the young men who go to Cedarville are being descriminated against by not being allowed to attend any classes taught by women simply because they’re male. Not only are they being refused the excellent teaching that these female professors surely can offer, but they are being told that, as men, they are not good enough for it, again, simply based on their gender.

    • Paul Reed

      Ha! Interesting take. Liberals will claim that whenever you forcibly separate different groups of people, they will never be equal. In other words, “separate but equal” is merely a guise, and it’s always the case that one group is considered superior and the other inferior.

      I always laugh this off. When I was getting my driver’s license, people with last names of N-Z were instructed to wait in a different line. I guess people with last names starting with A-M must be superior!

      • Bob Wilson

        When treating people unequally, a reason for doing so must be given. So in your example, the answer is, first of all there is no unequal treatment: both lines are given the same service, and secondly, that this is done for efficiency and not because there is a caste distinction based on name.

        But when men and women are treated very, very differently and we are told the reason is that a divine being says that one group must always be subordinate to the other, there can be no surprise that many of us will dissent.

        There is no harm done here as long as all men and women can choose freely to submit to this notion or reject it. No one is forced to attend this school, after all.

  • Suzanne McCarthy


    I having a last name beginning with M, am in the first group and we may decide that everyone in the second group can only drive a car in town. If they want to go out of town, they must go with someone in the first group. They also can only buy smaller cars, no SUV’s for the second group. They must abide by restrictions set by the first group, which the first group have found by reinterpreting the transportation bylaws. The first group has published a dictionary and commentary of the bylaws, without any input from the second group, and in this way, they have discovered, established, and consider it their duty to impose this interpretation. If anyone in the second group protests, they will be deemed rebellious and will be fined and have their license removed for a month. So, as a member of the second group, you may comment on this inequity, but nobody will listen or consider it an inequity. It is purely a functional difference. The second group may only drive small cars, in town, and gas up on days that the first group allot to them.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Here is the problem. An influential male Bible scholar wrote,

    “Greek scholars for hundreds of years have known that aner means ‘man’ and not ‘person.'”

    Here is an example of the use of aner in classical Greek. There are dozens of places where aner refers to both males and females. Here it means “citizen” male or female, not as he says “man.” No Greek scholar agrees with with the statement above.

    “… in which a member of our community–
    be he of the male or female sex, young or old,–
    may become a good citizen,(aner) possessed of the excellence of soul
    which belongs to man(anthropos.)” Plato’s Laws 6. 770d.

    There’s the problem. Hire people who have studied classical and Hellenistic Greek, don’t limit yourself to hiring males.

  • Shaun DuFault

    Sadly, once again, the simple question for egalitarians is sidetracked, making a mountain out of a molehill. They would rather quote people than answer the question directly. I will pose the question again and wait for an answer, “When egalitarians use the word, “submit” what do you mean, for example, one egalitarian claims that Jesus submits Himself to the church?”

    What does the egalitarian mean by this? What does the word ‘submit’ mean when they use the term? Their silence and sidetracking should make one wonder if they even know what they mean when they use such terminology. If that is true, then why argue with people who cannot define the most basic term of their whole argument?

    • Suzanne McCarthy

      Well, its not the most basic term in my whole argument. You can’t just treat all egalitarians as the same. My whole argument is based on the fact that comps and egals don’t share a common Bible because one set of translators doesn’t actually refer to lexicons as much as they might. That’s my schtick and I have blogged on this issue for years.

      So here is a dictionary meaning for “submit.” BDAG says, “voluntarily yielding in love.” Unlike many complementarians, I believe that it is possible to submit to one another, and it does not mean “some submit to others.” I mean, why bother with Christianity when Aristotle preaches the gospel of some submitting to others already.

      I have already given examples of theologians who argue that masters, kings and governors should submit, and I don’t see much point in a marriage where the husband cannot voluntarily yield in love.

    • Don Johnson


      If one thinks that submit always implies hierarchy, then submission is something that is impossible by definition for a leader. This is why it is important to see that words get their meaning by the way they are used, because the Greek word often translated as submit (hupotasso) is used at times to apply to those that were seen or actually were/are on the top of a hierarchy.

      So hupotasso has a range of possible meanings, sometimes it means obey, sometimes submit, sometimes defer, sometimes support. The idea that a word in one language can always map to one word in another language is simply false. For hupotasso, the English word in the middle of the cluster of ideas is submit, so that is how it is usually translated.

  • Anna Snyder

    The Bible does say: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.
    But, carefully notice the first verse. A woman should learn…….
    This is implying the woman in question here did not know what she was talking about. And she then tried to take authority from a man who did. First century women were not educated.
    But what if a woman is already learned? What if she has already studied and successfully completed all seminary requirements in the 21st century? If she is now learned, why wouldn’t she be allowed to teach and have authority over a man who may now be unlearned. How could she learn in quietness and full submission if she has already learned?
    I also feel there is a difference between usurping authority and earning authority.

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