Complementarianism at T4G: Piper, Duncan, Moore, and Gilbert

Some of the panel discussions from T4G are now beginning to show up on the T4G website. I haven’t heard all of the panels yet, but I did listen to the one on complementarianism. I thought this one was particularly helpful, and you can listen to it below or download it here. As you can tell from the very Brady picture at right, panelists include Lig Duncan, John Piper, Russell Moore, and Greg Gilbert.



  • Suzanne Mccarthy

    What was the negative impact of the Bible women of China? I didn’t quite follow John Piper’s reasoning when he mentioned that.

  • Daryl Little


    I think he was just saying that he was aware of those women and others. As if to say “all that nothwithstanding..”

    At least that’s how I took it.

    Which, if I’m right, is a good thing. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of all kinds of things, but our commitment must be to the text of Scripture.

    • Suzanne Mccarthy

      British Columbia was also evangelized by women preachers, and the first woman ordained in the Anglican Church was in China, then the next in Hong Kong, and this was a huge influence on Canada as the ordained woman from China, Florence Li Tim Oi came to Canada. There is a direct historical line from the strong and influential women in China to the general ordination of women in the Anglican church I just don’t see how men can turn their backs on this history which, from its fruits, should be judged to be an outflowing of the Spirit.

      After John Piper spoke, many of the others gave the impression that the ordained ministry of women could bear no fruits of the spirit and might be Satanic. Didn’t that come up in this audio? I just feel that leaving poverty stricken pioneers – women dying in childbirth without medical help – and heathens without preachers and ministers can hardly be a good thing.

  • Daryl Little


    I would only ask, given the witness of Scripture, can we say then, that we ought to encourage the leadership women have taken in those areas, or should we get after the men for not leading where they should have?

    I think that Piper was specifically not running those women down, but I do think it is right to ask about what kinds of things are influencing those who ignore plain Scripture.

    One other thing, I think that one can very easily make the connection from the evidence you offer (which I primarily read as a massive failing of the church to obey Scripture which God used for the good of the elect who were living in those heathen lands) to say that a short term gain has brought about long term failure of the Anglican church.

    I don’t think there is anything to be gained by a pragmatic argument. God is sovereign over all things. Even sin.

    Otherwise might we not talk about the rightness of Joseph’s brothers in selling him into slavery? After all, look at all the good it brought about.

  • Suzanne Mccarthy

    Piper was not running those women down, but speakers later in the audio did imply that the participation of women in leadership was essentially negative.

    This has to be viewed in much the same way as women being raised to provide for a family. Ideally all women are married and all men provide and live as long as their wives. But in reality today half of women are married, and this is the same as in Victorian times, although I think that only a third of women were married in the 19th century, and only about half of women in the NT appear to have been married.

    So, in view of the fact that half of women have to provide for themselves and family, can’t we say that God has surely designed women to provide and women ought to be trained and equipped to provide. And in the same way, half of the world would not have been evangelized without the leadership of women, so is this not within the foresight and design of God.

    In addition, in spite of Owen Stachan’s reading of Proverbs 31, women are the biblical providers, oddly, as I do believe that men ought to provide. But I think women ought to be prepared to provide as well.

    In the same way, women are designed for, and must provide leadership, for the fulness of the church, and for the ministry to women who are in need. Without women in leadership the needs of women cannot be met.

  • Daryl Little


    As long as by “leadership” we mean pastors and elders, then yes, it would be negative to have women in those roles. Not because there is something wrong with women, but because God has clearly told us in Scripture that those roles are for qualified men.

    Should women who must provide, provide? Of course, no one is arguing that. But for a man to step back because “women can too” is sin I believe.

    To say that half the world would not be evangelized without women is hyperbole at best. Besides, where is anyone (or Scripture) claiming that only men may proclaim the gospel to the unsaved? Unless that role is reserved for pastors and elders, I don’t see that claim being made.

    At the end of the day, all the pragmatic arguments in the world can’t (or shouldn’t) override the biblical teaching that men are to be the head of their homes and that men only are to be pastors/elders.

    I once heard a story of how missionary ought to work. A woman (I forget her name now) was working in a remote village for some time. witnessing and teaching new believers. At a certain point a man, one of the first converts, came to her, saying that, if he understood Scripture right, needed to take over the role of teaching and “eldering” and that she needed to step aside.
    Her response? Something along the lines of “I’ve been waiting for this day” and she gladly stepped aside.

    All that to say, of course there is a role for women in the church. Many many roles, but not all roles. Just as not all roles are open to every man.

  • Suzanne Mccarthy

    “Should women who must provide, provide? Of course, no one is arguing that. But for a man to step back because “women can too” is sin I believe.”

    Of course, men have equal obligation to provide. They must not step back. I would be horrified at such a thing, as any woman would be. But then we must say that this is not a “complementary” role, but one that men and women are both designed for, and both must fulfill at some point in their life according to their circumstance and not according to their sex.

    And, as far as leadership in churches of another culture, a male missionary must also look forward to the day when he steps aside. These are not examples of complemnetary gender that you are offering In neither case, providing or church leadership, of those that you provided, is gender part of the equation. Men and women work, men and women evangelize, according to their equal God-given design.

  • Suzanne Mccarthy

    “men are to be the head of their homes”

    Curiously, there is no Bible verse to this effect. There was a Greek term for what we mean by “head of the home” and it works well with the one the government uses for the primary provider. However, it was a term that could be used for men or women. In 1 Tim 5:14, this term is used of women. As an example, Lydia was head of her home, because she was in charge of her slaves. Some women in the NT, widows, seem to be in charge of their own homes and financial resources, so they are in our terms “head of the home.” This is a financial situation, and usually but not necessarily, are men the head of the home. There is no physical necessity to be male to be head of the home, either in ancient culture, today or in the church. It is a reality that happens to people, whether they like it or not, and happens often enough to women. So we know that God has designed women for this.

  • Daryl Little


    I’m not sure how it would be possible for the man to be the head of his wife and not simultaneously be head of the home.

    Using a widow as an examples of a situation to explain why men have no different role than women is not particularly helpful.

    Also, you mention a male missionary stepping aside. He may need to he may not, but the point is that there is no biblical mandate for him to step aside and to not assume an elder role in that church. There is nothing particularly biblical about having a church made up of only one culture.

  • Don Johnson

    It is simply not the case that Scripture is “plain” in the comp/egal debate on church and home, hence the debate. From where I sit as an egal, it is simply obvious that comps see Scripture under a comp distortion field; and I can surmise they think similar about what I see. All of us bring our preconceptions with us when we read Scripture.

    • Daryl Little


      You’re assuming that my and others complementarians preconceptions are towards male leadership.

      Bad assumption.

      • Don Johnson

        Once you adopt the comp paradigm one sees Scripture thru “blue” lenses, as an egal I claim this distorts Scripture by giving it is “blue” tint that is not really there. The solution is to take off the blue lenses, but this involves a paradigm change which can be very challenging to do.

        Of course, comps can say the exact parallel is the case for egals, that they see Scripture thru egal lenses and so distort Scripture.

        This is one reason why the debate can be so challenging, as it is very easy to talk past each other because of the different ways we understand the gender verses. To a comp reading the verses in a comp way is “plain” and “obvious” while to an egal it is simply not that way at all and vice versa.

    • Don Johnson

      In English it is not possible for a woman to be a husband of one wife and this is how some translations choose to translate the Greek. However, the NT we have is in Greek, not English, which is just a translation and can contain mistakes, being a human effort.

      There are at least 2 ways to see this from an egal perspective:

      The question is how to understand Greek “mias gunaikos andra”

      1) The conditions are written so that they only apply if the person is in that group. Not all pastors are married or have kids, so this is how OTHER aspects of the items in the list are handled, so why not this one also? That is, one should strive to use a consistent hermeneutic. If one has no kids, then the “kids in order” qualification simply cannot apply, therefore it automatically satisfied (that is, the qualification should be understood to say “if one has kids, they should be in order”). Or to phrase it another way, in the 1st century it was not possible for a woman to be married and NOT have only one husband, so she always qualifies, only a husband was possible to have more than 1 wife (polygamy).

      2) The way I prefer is based on inscriptions from tombs at Ephesus, where the term found in 1 Tim and Titus was also used to describe both husband and wife, that is, it should be (better) translated as “faithful spouse”. I prefer this as I think this is what Paul meant, the term means faithfulness just like today, that is, if a person had only 1 wife but was flirtatious, that would disqualify them.

      The other aspect is that the qualification is also for a deacon, yet Phoebe was a deacon. That is, Phoebe being a deacon at the church at Cencharae is obvious in the Greek unless one assumes this is not possible or uses a translation (like the ESV) that assumes this cannot be the case and so CHOOSES to use the word servant.

      • Don Johnson

        In the NT, there is no office of bishop, pastor, elder or overseer. It is only with the institutional church that the office was formed. Previous to that it is a leadership ministry and all ministries are given as gifts from the Holy Spirit.

        The point about deacon is that the same term is used as that for an overseer, so since Phoebe is a deacon and a woman this implies that that Greek term, whatever it might mean, cannot exclude women. This is so easy to see some translations choose to translate diakonos as servant so mask this.

        On church history, Luther said the institutional church was wrong and any prot today agrees with him, else they would be either Catholic or Orthodox. The question then becomes how wrong was the institutional church and when did it start. I think it started all the way back to the 2nd century with the gentilization of the church, as then they misunderstood Scripture written by Jews. But in the first century there is a lot of evidence in the Bible for women leaders.

  • Suzanne Mccarthy


    My point is simply that there is no necessity to be male to be head of the home. There is no natural need for the main provider to be male. This does not appear in the Bible in any way, shape or form that I can see. Personally, I do think that during the childbearing years, men should be the major providers, but the working career of a couple, in my view, should be balanced out in an appropriate fashion. I don’t think men should work 2 and 3 jobs at once while studying for a third degree and the wife only care for children. That is, in my view, a distortion. Many women benefit from studying for a further degree or from having a career. There should not be an agenda that all women have to function in a certain way that is complementary to men. That is, women should not have to be disallowed from doing things that men do, ie work outside the home. That is the meaning of complementary, that is, non-overlapping, if men do something, then women cannot do it. I just don’t see it that way.

    And regarding foreign missions, I don’t want to argue that one here, the racial issues just seem too inflammatory. I don’t see the point in a foreign or racially different elder being leader of a flock of another race. Just don’t see it myself.

  • Suzanne Mccarthy

    “it is impossible for a woman to be a husband of one wife”

    Paul was not the husband of one wife. Clearly that is not a universal requirement.

  • Suzanne Mccarthy

    This is why it would help so much to start from the Greek where it is fairly clear that Phoebe was a deacon and Junia an apostle. Translations are always hiding something or other.

    One has to ask why, whenever deacons and bishops are mentioned, the Greek has tis which is gender inclusive and does not ever mention that these roles have to be filled by a male. The Hebrew is clear in talking about priests, but the Greek does not specify regarding gender.

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