Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Egalitarianism and the functional authority of scripture

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, has a lengthy blog post expressing her disagreement with Candace Cameron Bure. Last week, Bure was in the news for defending a complementarian view of gender roles. Bessey argues that Bure’s decision to submit to her husband is both unbiblical and harmful to women. Bessey’s remarks are pretty standard egalitarian fare. There’s nothing really new at all in her critique of complementarianism.

Nevertheless, there was one line in her post that jumped off of the page at me. It stood out not because it is new, but because it is “Exhibit A” of what is wrong with egalitarian exegesis. Here’s the sentence:

The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.

The unblushing error of this statement is breathtaking. It is a stark denial of the straightforward teaching of scripture. That is why Bessey spends the better part of her post trying to prove that Bible verses contradicting this statement don’t really mean what they appear to mean. Here are just a couple of texts that she brushes aside with a waving of the hermeneutical wand:

1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9 “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ… For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”

Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

Bessey denies that headship is a concept rooted in scripture, yet here are verses from scripture that teach about headship. She further denies that headship is rooted in the order of creation. Yet here are verses that appeal specifically to the original creation of man and woman in Genesis 1-2.

How does she set aside these texts? She doesn’t even cite the text from 1 Corinthians. She claims that the text from Ephesians is merely Pauline cooperation with first century error about gender roles and patriarchy (the so-called Haustafeln), and we now know better than Paul did. She also argues for a “redemptive movement” hermeneutic that treats the Bible’s ethic as inferior to a modern egalitarian point of view. In short, it’s the same old egalitarian arguments that have been roundly refuted for decades now. But you wouldn’t know that from her post because she writes as if egalitarian exegesis is the only exegesis that there is. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m not going to rehearse all the old arguments against her reading of the relevant texts. The literature is voluminous and abundantly available for anyone willing to read. I simply want to point out that egalitarian hermeneutics are not benign. They cater to the egalitarian spirit of the age by suppressing what the Bible actually teaches. I am reminded of Ligon Duncan’s remarks in this regard:

The gymnastics required to get from “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” in the Bible, to “I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” in the actual practice of the local church, are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God.

By the way, this is one reason why I think we just don’t see many strongly inerrantist-egalitarians… in the younger generation of evangelicalism. Many if not most evangelical egalitarians today have significant qualms about inerrancy, and are embracing things like trajectory hermeneutics, etc., to justify their positions. Inerrancy or egalitarianism, one or the other, eventually wins out.

We are not playing games here. The hermeneutics of egalitarianism are serious error and are harmful. That much is on full display in Bessey’s article.


  • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

    Of course ‘head’ has to do with creation order because it is all about where things come from. Where things come from is mentioned five times in 1 Cor. 11:3-16 (vs. 8 & 12) And let’s not forget Paul’s overarching statement of summary for these verses, “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent from man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” (vs.11-12) Yes, woman came from man at creation, but that is a reason for their oneness, not an authoritarian relationship. Just as Adam said, ““This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
    she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.’” (Gen.2:23)

    • Jared A. Hozey

      We must not forget that that the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit are one; yet, there headship within God. For our God is a God of order. Just because we are not independent of one another and their is a oneness between us it does not eradicate the headship arrangement for man and woman, because if oneness erases headship than there could be no headship or order in God and thus in our finite reasoning make God no longer God. Furthermore, if we follow through with this egalitarian worldview you are presenting than we would have to say that Jesus has no headship over us, his church, because we are als one with him.
      In love,

      • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

        I am sorry, Jared, but subordination within the Trinity is a recent concoction of the complementarian movement to validate all Christian relationships as hierarchical.

        The Bible does not say that Jesus is “head over” the church. The biblical phrasing is “head of the church which is his body.” It is a head/body metaphore. Jesus is “head over” all things. The two ideas come together in Eph.1:22-23, “And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (NASB)

        “Of” and “over” do not mean the same thing. Christ’s relationship to all things is not the same as his relationship to the church.

    • Alastair Roberts

      It is probably worth recognizing that the narratives of Genesis 1-3, which Paul alludes to have direct relevance to the question of authority structures in the church. A few things to notice:

      1. As Beale and several others have observed Eden is a prototypical sanctuary/temple.
      2. The man is created before the Garden and probably witnesses its creation. God places him within the Garden in order to ‘guard and to keep it’, guarding and keeping being the task of the priests and Levites relative to the tabernacle/temple.
      3. God gives the man the command concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
      4. God brings all of the animals to the man in order for him to name them and to look for a helper.
      5. God then creates the woman as a helper for the man from his side and brings her to him, at which point the man names her.

      It is important to recognize the situation that now pertains in the Garden between the man and the woman, prior to the Fall. The man has been placed in the Garden with a vocation to guard and to keep it. The woman and the man were not commissioned together. Rather, the woman comes under the commission given to the man. She is created as his helper in a priestly commission entrusted to him in particular, not his counterpart in a priestly commission entrusted to them both together. The man alone stands for the whole human race before God (we are ‘Adamic’ in the final analysis, not ‘Adamic and Evean’). The man has the primary authority and the primary accountability, which is how he is addressed by God. It is in the man that the human race fell.

      Furthermore, and this is important to notice, the woman is never given the commandment concerning the Tree, although she does come under it. Whenever the commandment is spoken of it is spoken of as a command given to the man alone (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:11, 17), although both man and woman were subject to it. The woman could be deceived precisely because she only knew the commandment secondhand and the man allowed her to be deceived while he stood by.

      In short, the situation before the Fall is far from that which egalitarians like to present it as. The man is functioning as the priest of the Garden, the one finally responsible for the commission to guard and to keep it. The man is also responsible to uphold and to teach the law concerning the tree, a law which the woman only knows from him, as God has not told her directly. As she is the helper of one commanded concerning the tree, she comes under the command too.

      Whether we want to translate kephale as ‘head’, ‘source’, or something different entirely, the original, prototypical and archetypal situation in the Garden, prior to the coming of Sin, is still one in which the man has a priestly authority and responsibility that the woman does not. When Paul alludes to Genesis he expects us to know this and to recognize that Adam’s ‘firstness’ is not just an arbitrary detail, but is a key framing factor in that narrative.

      This is not to argue for a unilateral priority of the man over the woman, but for an asymmetry of callings. Man and woman relate to their shared human vocation differently, each taking priority in different respects and areas. However, in the area of priestly authority, it is the man who takes the priority.

      • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

        The man and woman were most certainly commissioned together to subdue and rule the earth, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen.1:27-28 NASB)

        So when “head” is shown not to mean “authority over” then the argument is that the meaning of head is inconsequential? I’m sorry, Alastair, but I do not find this helpful or honest.

        “priestly authority”! …so many assumptions. What has happened to the priesthood of all believers?

        • Alastair Roberts

          Man and woman certainly share the general calling/blessing of Genesis 1:27-28. However, in Genesis 2 and 3 it is very clear that the man has a specific calling and responsibility that the woman does not.

          My point about the meaning of head is that, irrespective of how we translate that term (or terms like ‘helper’, for that matter), the order presented by narrative of Genesis (which, as is usual in these conversations, you haven’t addressed), an order to which Paul refers on various occasions, still stands. It would be disingenuous to suggest that we could shrug this off with a different definition of kephale.

          Whatever term you want to call it, ‘priestly authority’ or not, the man has an authority and responsibility in Genesis that the woman does not. He has to teach her the law, he has to guard her and the Garden, and he has the primary calling, from which hers is derived. As for the ‘priesthood of all believers’, all Christians participate in the priesthood of Christ in the body of Christ. However, this priesthood, like that of Genesis, is not one that everyone exercises in the same manner. Rather, it is ‘membered’ according to the gifting of the Spirit, whereby the one common Gift of the Spirit is distributed and ministered through differentiated membered vocations. Consequently, some exercise a particular authority which, though a re-presentation of the authority that is the common property of all, is not exercised by each.

          So, once again, what are we to make of the fact that, before the Fall, the woman was under the teaching and calling of the man?

          • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

            I most definitely did address the meaning of the creation order, as does the Bible itself. Woman came from, “was taken out of” man making man and woman one, “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”.

            I am sure you feel, Alastair, that you are not shrugging off my replies just because you hold a different point of view. Nor am I.

            I respect your comments and am only trying to point out differences in our interpretations for the consideration of all.

            Both complementarians and egalitarians have a bottom line. For complementarians it is 1 Tim.2:12, as Denny mentions. For egalitarians it is the good news gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. 3:22-24) We’ll see how this plays out in this conversation.

            • Alastair Roberts

              You have yet to address the fact that Adam was commissioned concerning the Garden before and apart from the woman and that he was given the law personally, while the woman was not, making him her teacher. You have yet to address the fact that Adam represents the whole human race, male and female, while the woman only represents womankind.

              Man and woman are made one (just as we are made one with Christ). However, this does not mean that man and woman have exactly the same vocation (just as the Church and Christ are identified in many regards but distinct in many others).

              I really don’t think that much hinges upon 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul isn’t saying anything there that shouldn’t already be clear to the attentive reader of Scripture. This isn’t a game of competing prooftexts (especially when unsupported conclusions are extrapolated from non-specific texts like Romans 3:22-24 in order to dismiss the meaning of others). The case for a particular form of male authority and of differing gendered vocations can be made from Genesis to Revelation. It can be seen in narratives such as that of Genesis 2-3, but can also be seen in the broader narrative patterns of the text. It can be seen in such things as the gendered symbolic of the sacrificial system, from the pattern of the gospel, from the explicit teaching of the epistles, from the symbolic matrixes of the text, etc.

        • David Powell

          However you want to parse out the meaning of “head,” the principle of “headship” in Creation among husband/wife, amongst the Trinity, and Christ/Church are crystal clear in the Bible. Whether you want to accept “head” as “authority over,” it is clear that Adam was the one culpable for the Fall in the Garden (Genesis 3, Romans 5). No, headship is not all about authority, but it certainly is not exclusive of it. As Alastair points out in his comment, the order of Creation and the roles outlined to Adam and Eve are massively important.

          For the record, Galatians 3 is a beautiful text. With regard to inheritance and our place in the Kingdom, absolutely men and women are equally regarded as “sons” (heirs); gender factors no more into our eternal inheritance than does race or class. This does not erase the clear teachings regarding Biblical manhood and womanhood found throughout the Scriptures, however.

        • Laura Rogowski Lackner

          You are exactly right,kathryn. There is no Scripture sanctioning males as high priest of the home. None. If Paul meant to say that, he would have used the Greek words arche (meaning first in rank and power) or archiereus (which means high priest). Paul did not even use archepoimano (meaning chief shepherd). All believers are indeed, “a royal priesthood”. But, I think you already know all of this 🙂

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    There are three witnesses to our immanent God: the Bible, nature and history.

    History: Baptist women in the 1800’s had their own women led missions, became doctors, pioneered new territory, founded hospitals and trained native women to become doctors. They had initiative and made sacrifices. They did not function as auxiliaries to men.

    Creation: women were created with the same impulse to initiate, lead, found, sacrifice, provide and protect as men were. Do we need examples? Doesn’t Proverbs 31 show that women provide, and Rahab shows that women protect. Moses was protected by women. Have women ever needed men to go first onto the mission field? Aren’t women, like Christ, those sent into the world?

    The Bible: Jerome, who was at least close in time to the original, wrote that authentew meant to dominate, which pastors must not do. See 1 Peter 5:3. Chrysostom wrote that a man must never authentew, or tyrannize, his wife. Mental gymnastics came up with “exercise authority.” Look at the Geneva Bible or the King James Version to see how this was usually translated.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    About marriage: history teaches us that women were not well served in patriarchy. Many women are beaten.

    Creation shows that women fully bear Adam’s consequences to sin. Women till the ground, statistically more than men historically and globally. Women return to dust along side men. Women are fully included in Adam. Fully.

    The Bible shows that woman was created second in order to teach that men needed an ezer, a protector. She also filled the role which the entire Bible says a woman must, because a sekel wife is from the Lord. Proverbs 19:14. The Lord gives a wife who desires understanding.

    And she becomes the master of the home, the oikodespotew, she must direct the house. The Bible is clear that the woman is head of the household.

    • Alastair Roberts

      And yet men are not included in the judgment upon the woman. If anything this shows that the man is the one who can represent all in a way that the woman cannot. It is Adam who bears the final responsibility, not Adam and Eve alike. The judgment upon him comes to all: the judgment upon the woman only comes to women. Women are fully included in Adam, but they cannot represent Adam in the way that he represents them before God.

      And, yes, the Bible does present the woman as the one chiefly responsible for the direction of the internal affairs of the house in some regards, the one who is the heart of the household. However, it is the man who is presented as the one who represents all of the persons of the household to the world and to God and as the one who bears the primary responsibility in this regard.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        Yes, men bear the sorrow of women. There were two things, the pain of pregnancy, which was truly the high risk of death, a suffering to the husband; and the high infant mortality rate, which equally sorrows the father.

        And where do you get the notion that the mother and father are treated as differently responsible, rather than equally responsible? It would certainly be illegal today for a woman to plead diminished responsibility toward her own children. How sad. I can’t bear the thought that I would ever treat my children in such a way.

  • Don Johnson

    I will response to Denny, as Denny’s interpretation is an example of adding to the text, which we are not to do, by doing so, he diminishes the functional authority of Scripture.

    What Sarah Bessey claimed is that the idea of a husband being the head (that is, ruler or master) of the household is pagan, and is not taught in the Bible. This is true, Scripture even teaches that it is pagan in Esther.

    Est 1:21 This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed.
    Est 1:22 He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people.

    Just because it is pagan, does not necessarily mean it is not also taught by God, but one can search high and low in Scripture and one will not find it, that is, that God endorses that a husband is the head (meaning ruler/master/leader) of the household.

    So let us examine the 2 verses that Denny reviews to see what actually IS taught in Scripture.

    In 1 Cor 11:3 the man/husband is called the head of the woman/wife. As can be seen this phrase is somewhat ambiguous, it is not clear whether man/woman or husband/wife is being used, this is because the same word is used in Greek for both and immediate context is supposed to determine which is appropriate. In any case, the key question is what does head/kephale mean in this verse? Kephale has a primary meaning of one’s physical head, as in the thing that sits on top of one’s neck when standing up. But we can easily see that this meaning cannot be what it meant, so that means it is being used as a METAPHOR. So we need to look at possible metaphorical meanings for head/kephale. Now I will grant that there are a few rare instances of kephale being used for a leader in the Septuagint, my take is this is where the translators used a wooden translation for Hebrew rosh. But in Greek thinking the head was seen as the source of life for the body, as the head is where one ate, also Aphrodite was said to have sprung fully formed from Zeus’ head/kephale, which is certainly not the way people are born. So these are clues that we are trying our best to figure out the meaning of words in a different culture than ours, we cannot just teleport the 21st century metaphorical meaning of head being leader into a 1st century text, we need to try to discern what it meant in the 1st century.

    There are some clues that Paul has given us to decide between these alternatives.
    1) The order of the phrases is NOT given in hierarchical order. Paul was a scholar and he certainly knew how to present things in a hierarchy, but here the order of the phrases are not in the supposed hierarchy that comps teach.
    2) In Greek, the word man/aner has the Greek article, this REQUIRES that the noun be definite. So Paul is referring to a specific man, what specific man could he be referring to?
    3) As pointed out by Ken Bailey in his recent award winning book on 1 Cor, the teaching unit of 1 Cor 11:3-16 is in the form of a chiasm with 6 levels, where 1 Cor 11:3 is an intro. But in the teaching unit itself is discussion of “as the woman is from the man”. In this case it is obvious that Gen 2 is being referenced and Bailey also says that this is the case in 1 Cor 11:3. That is, a head is being used as a metaphor for that which is the source of something. That is, Paul starts off with the basis for his argument and then uses it inside the teaching.

    The first thing for Denny is to see that egalitarians do have reasonable reasons for their interpretations on 1 Cor 11.

    On Eph 5:22-24, again I claim Denny is wrong in his interpretation. It does not say that the husband is head of the household, it says the husband is the head of his wife where head is being used as a metaphor. And the question again is what is the metaphor? In this case, there is more to the metaphor, it is a head/body metaphor, so somehow a husband and wife is like a head and body and Paul then makes a mapping to Christ and the church. Again, if one just automatically teleports the 21st century metaphorical meaning of head as leader into the 1st century text, one is doing a magic trick on oneself, and not asking what it meant in the 1st century. This is why the idea of a “plain reading” of some text in the Bible is a trap for the unwary, as metaphors can change and idioms have meanings unlike anything in one’s current culture.

    Now the husband is somehow mapped to Christ, this is true. But this is a case where we really need to be careful and not go beyond the text, this can easily be a dangerous mapping when taken too far. The question is how far is too far. My claim is that Denny takes it too far. We seen a handful of examples in the NT where Christ is called “the head of the church” and in NONE of these examples is Christ seen as leading the church. Here and in other places, Christ is seen as serving the church, as sacrificially loving the church, as laying down his life for the church. Going beyond this limited mapping is an error. Furthermore, as a husband is to love-agape his wife, we see in 1 Cor 13 that love-agape does not insist on its own way, so the comp interpretation contradicts 1 Cor 13, the famous love chapter, in terms of how love operates.

    • Alastair Roberts

      Let’s put to one side the question of what kephale means. Instead of focusing upon this contentious issue, let’s first pay attention to the fact that throughout Scripture men and women are assigned different vocations and identities. Whatever it means to be a ‘head’, the man is it to the woman but the woman isn’t it to the man. Whatever it means for one to be created for the other, the woman is created in such a manner for the man, but the man is not created in such a manner for the woman (1 Corinthians 11:9). Whatever it means to be ‘mapped to Christ’ in his relationship to the Church in marriage, this is something that is true of the man in a way that is not true of the woman.

      What egalitarians simply don’t pay enough attention to is how consistently gendered the biblical teaching on such matters is and how consistently the Bible presents us with gendered asymmetries. The Bible doesn’t address ‘marriage partners’ or ‘spouses’, but husbands and wives and gives distinct instruction to each. Throughout the Bible gender is given great symbolic import, from the established pattern of God’s husband to wife relationship with his people right down to the stipulation of the gender of sacrifices. While egalitarians might want to escape unwelcome interpretations of gender, what they really need to address is why gender has such a huge profile in biblical teaching and symbolism, why so many seemingly arbitrary things are gendered, and why God so often addresses people according to their gender.

  • Don Johnson

    Alastair’s fundamental mistake is that he is reading a creation/origins text but not respecting it as a creation/origins text. One of the fundamental rules for reading such a text is one cannot make assumptions that the way things are working now is what to assume when reading the text, this is because (ta da) things are being created and so the text is describing how they came to be the way they are now.

    When one removes the traditions that surround the Gen 2 text, one can see that the man and woman are formed in the 2nd stage of a 2 stage process. In the first stage, there is no human to irrigate the land, God solves that by creating a human, there is no gender assigned to this human as this state, recall this is a creation/origins text. Only after God “splits the Adam” is there a gender given for the male part and the female part.

    Furthermore, one can see for Gen 5:2 that the God-given name of both the man and the woman is Adam, which means human and is a word play on adamah, which means ground.

    • Alastair Roberts

      God ‘splits the Adam’?!

      What absolute poppycock.

      This is precisely the sort of strained reading that results when texts are twisted in order to support egalitarian conclusions.

      God takes an (of itself) inanimate part of a living human being and forms a living female from it. The living human being that pre-existed this operation continues to exist and its personhood is not divided between the two beings. The woman, however, only comes into existence as a person at this point. The creation of the woman isn’t simultaneously and symmetrically a creation of the man. The man is the source of the woman and the woman is created to be a helper for the being, the man, who pre-exists her. The man and the woman are not ‘parts’ of the original being. There is not one whit of support for this within the text itself.

      There is personal continuity between the being originally created and the male, Adam. By contrast, there is not the same continuity between the woman and the being originally created. When God speaks to Adam, for instance, he refers back to the period before the woman’s creation, addressing him as a person who is continuous as a subject (unlike his wife) with the first created human (e.g. 3:11, 17). By contrast, the woman could be deceived concerning the commandment of God because, unlike the man, she was not there to hear it.

      The name of the human race is ‘Adam’, but this fact is inseparable from the fact that the human race finds its source and head in a particular person called Adam. Genesis 5:2 is directly connected to Genesis 5:3. And this one man, Adam, passes on his image to his descendants in turn. The Church can also be called ‘Christ’ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 12:12). However, this is only because we are in the one man Christ. Adam is not just one individual instantiation of the species called Adam. He is its head and source. Eve is not.

      • Don Johnson


        On my wordplay of “splitting the Adam” if you do not like wordplay, do not read Scripture, as it is full of wordplay. Furthermore, if you miss the wordplay in Scripture, you will be missing a part of what Scripture is teaching. Your choice. I agree my wordplay is not a part of Scripture, but it is not poppycock.

        The adam simply means the human, no more and no less in the early parts of Genesis. Adam is the Hebrew word for human. The woman is formed from a side of the human and what remains after the side is taken out is the first time he is called a male man. You are failing to read a creation text as a creation text, this is your mistake. Your choice.

        It is true that the male man Adam is held responsible for the Fall, this is because he was the greater sinner of the 2 humans. If one reads the text closely, one will see that nothing happened at first when the woman ate the fruit, she was deceived, but the man was not deceived, he sinned with a high hand, deliberately, and once he did that, the consequences started. Both sinned, but the man had the greater sin.

        There is continuity between both the man and the woman with the human, The man declares this “you are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”. You can fail to see this. Your choice.

        • Alastair Roberts

          I have a great appreciation for wordplay. That is why it annoys me to see it being used in a clumsy fashion in support of a patent misreading of the biblical text.

          Contrary to your interpretation, the original human being is not split into two ‘parts’. Rather, a part is taken from a whole personal being, a being that pre-exists the woman and is physically and existentially continuous with the man Adam.

          Was the man a male before the creation of the woman? Yes. Obviously, what it meant for him to be a male became much richer and fuller when a woman came on the scene. However, what it means to be a man is not entirely conditioned upon the existence of a gender difference. A man is already a particular, male/masculine, mode of human being, even before the woman is created, and the characteristics of this distinct mode of human being (if not its distinctness) would have been constitutive of and perhaps also partially present within the horizon of the man’s awareness.

          Besides, there is no reference whatsoever in the text to God’s recreation of Adam as a gendered being at the time of the woman’s creation. This is pure speculation, in service of a theory that is directly contradicted in other respects by the text. Obviously, Adam’s understanding of himself would have undergone a revolution as he learnt to understand himself over against another human person, and not just another generic person as an instantiation of humanity, but another mode of human being and personhood. In this respect, we might speak of gender being established through the woman’s creation as an existential dimension for the man’s self-consciousness. But this is not the same thing as positing the existence of an androgyne prior to the creation of the woman.

          The man is only called a male after the creation of the woman, as you say. Also, the meaning of adam isn’t one that defines the man over against the woman, as our term ‘man’ can. It defines the man by relationship to the earth—adamah—from which he was formed. The woman, by contrast, is defined and named (ishshah) by her relationship to the man (ish), from whom she was formed (Genesis 2:23). While the term ‘adam’ is one for the human being in general, it is one that is applied to the male Adam in particular. He has a relationship to the earth that the woman does not. When the judgments are given after the Fall, the woman’s relationship to her husband and source is frustrated as her judgment (Genesis 3:16) and the man’s relationship to the earth as his source is frustrated as his judgment (Genesis 3:17-19). Even after the creation of the woman, the man continues to be spoken of as the ‘earthling’ in a way that she is not, while she is named for her relationship to him as her source.

          Adam is not blamed just because he had the greater sin of the two. Paul teaches Adam’s sin as something definitive, not just greater by proportion. Sin and death entered the world through Adam’s sin, not just because it was rather more serious than the woman’s. It wasn’t just a greater sin by measure: it was qualitatively different.

          Why was the woman deceived and the man not? The text gives us the key when we realize that the man alone received the commandment directly from God, but the woman received it through the teaching of the man. If the woman had received the commandment directly from God she wouldn’t have been deceived. She would just have chosen—as the man did—to take the word of the serpent over the word of God, a high-handed sin.

          There is indeed continuity between the man and the woman. The woman is formed out of the side of the man, so is related to him (much as there is flesh and blood continuity between a father and his child). There is no androgynous ‘the human’ as distinct from the man and male, Adam. The fact that you seem to have to resort to wild speculations and ridiculous theories, directly contradicted by the text, in order to support your egalitarianism is very telling. I would be interested to see whether the other egalitarians in this conversation are prepared to distance themselves from your reading here.

          • Suzanne McCarthy


            Adam’s spouse was Eve, the giver of life. He is from the ground and she gives life. There is no difference in dominance between the two. In fact. Woman has the identical relationship to the earth as the man, she also works the ground, and eats of it, and feeds her children and returns to the earth.

            Ish and ishshah are two unrelated words meaning man and woman. They do not mean that women is defined by man. You can’t insert ishshah in place of Eve. Its Adam and Eve, and ish and ishshah. Adam was not ish until ishshah came. They are on the same plane, not earthling and underling.

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              Alastair! Oh no! I misspelled your name again. I apologize. Alistair MacLeod is a really great Canadian author. His book is beside my bed. It’s actually a compliment.m

            • Alastair Roberts

              Woman does not have the same relationship to the earth. Adam was formed from the earth; Eve was built from Adam’s side.

              I haven’t framed things in terms of ‘dominance’, because I believe that such a category is distorting and misleading.

              I am well aware that the words are etymologically unrelated. However, they are related in their form and it is very clear that the text is punning with them. Etymology and semantics are not the only ways in which words can be related.

              The woman is defined by the man in two different ways. First, the man names her according to her nature (although she does not name him). He also later gives her her personal name, Eve (Genesis 3:20). Second, the name ‘woman’—ishshah—is given on account of the fact that ‘she was taken out of ish‘ (Genesis 2:23), defining her relative to her source in the man.

              I believe that the man’s identity is conditioned by the existence of the woman, but not in a symmetrical fashion. Adam’s very pronouncement in Genesis 2:23 presupposes a certain priority to the man’s identity as ish, logically, but probably temporally also. Furthermore, the claim that Adam was not male until the female came along only ‘works’ in Hebrew (and it doesn’t even do that). The Greek is happy to refer to the male both before and after the creation of the female.

              I haven’t argued that the man and the woman are ‘earthling’ and ‘underling’. My argument is that they are defined differently and that they have different sources of symbolic identity and areas of relative priority. The man so happens to be the one who exercises primary representative authority and who is primarily responsible for upholding the moral order, but the woman is presented as the source of life, communion, the future, glorification, and the like, doing and representing realities and divine operations that men cannot. The point is not that one is unilaterally and universally ‘over’ or ‘better’ than the other. Rather, they are asymmetrically interdependent and mutually defining.

              While complementarian readings, though rightly recognizing the non-egalitarian order of creation, tend to diminish the vocation of the woman, egalitarian readings do violence to the text by flattening out the differentiated order of creation.

              • Don Johnson

                Where does God say that the man has the authority to name his wife in Gen 3? Nowhere! It is an usurpation by the man to do this.

                In Gen 2, woman is not a name, it is a recognition that she is the female version of him. Everyone knows it is not a name, no one thinks a obstetrician is naming a baby when they say “It’s a girl!”

                • Alastair Roberts

                  ‘Where does God say that the man has the authority to name his wife in Gen 3? Nowhere! It is an usurpation by the man to do this.’

                  The divinely inspired text calls the woman ‘Eve’ from that point onwards. If Adam’s naming were some violent usurpation over the woman, it would seem strange that the text underwrites it.

                  ‘In Gen 2, woman is not a name, it is a recognition that she is the female version of him.’

                  Woman is not a personal name. However, Adam is naming the sort of being that the woman is. He isn’t just saying something akin to ‘it’s a girl!’ Rather, he is doing something more akin to saying that this sort of being should from now on be called ‘girl’, which is a profound expression of linguistic authority. This act of naming—’she shall be called…’—is continuous with what God called the man to do with the animals, which directly leads into the creation of the woman, and parallels God’s great acts of naming on the first three days of the creation.

                  • Suzanne McCarthy


                    You keep switching tracks. First Ishshah, and now Eve. He called her Eve because that is who she was, the mother of all living. He called her ishshah because she was just like him, only female.

                  • Don Johnson

                    The Hebrew naming formula uses “call” and “name” when someone is named, like when Eve is Gen 3:20 or when both the man and woman are named Adam in Gen 5:2. This is NOT done when Adam calls her woman in Gen 2:23, which is a clue that it is not a name. Another clue is that in the previous verse Gen 2:22 God has already used the term woman to refer to her.

                    The name Eve is used 3 times later in Scripture to refer to the woman paired with the man in the garden, this is true. But the question still remains, where does God explicitly authorize this naming? The answer is God never did. This is relatively easy to see, there are only 3 chapters to search to try to find the authorization. A Berean should notice this types of things. I do not think that you want to claim that all names found in Scripture are endorsed by God.

                    In other words, Alastair, you are not being a careful interpreter.

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      You are reaching here, Don. There is no mention of ‘name’ in Genesis 1:5, 8, 10, but there is clearly an authoritative naming taking place. On what basis do you claim that a naming must follow your exact formula?

                      God doesn’t use the term ‘woman’ to refer to the woman in direct speech within the text, but in the inspiration of the text, which was written long after the supposed time of the events recorded within it. What else was the text supposed to refer to her as? God doesn’t introduce the woman to Adam as ‘woman’. Rather, Adam names her and God, when he inspires the text, uses the term that Adam chose.

                      God brought every living creature to Adam to see what he would name them and, whatever Adam called them, that was their name (Genesis 2:19). This is the granting of divine authority to name. Three verses later, God brings the woman to the man—just as he brought every other living creature to the man—and the man names her. When he later gives her the personal name, ‘Eve’, he is merely continuing to act with the naming authority that God gave to him prior to the woman’s creation.

                    • Don Johnson

                      The name of a person follows the formula using the word call and name as I wrote, I gave you 2 examples, but there are lots more.

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      ‘God … brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name…. And the Lord God … made … a woman, and he brought her to the man. … “She shall be called Woman…”‘

                      It is all a continuous narrative. The woman is brought to the man, just like all other living creatures, and the man calls her ‘woman’. And that was her name.

                  • Don Johnson

                    I think you read the text out of order. Gen 2:22 where God refers to her as woman comes BEFORE Gen 2:23 where you claim Adam names her woman.

                    Needless to say, I think you are very confused. Confused on how to read a Creation account and confused about the conclusion to be made from it.

                    So you really think calling the light day is somehow naming it, like calling a lion a lion?
                    I think this notion of yours makes no sense at all. The key thing you keep missing is that the term shem/name is not used in these cases and the objects that you claim are being named are not personal. Adam is a personal name, Eve is a personal name, day and lion are not personal names and if you cannot tell the difference here on this, I am afraid I cannot help you in this forum.

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      God doesn’t directly refer to her as ‘woman’. The text refers to her as ‘woman’. And the text was written after the man had named her. The term ‘woman’ originates in 2:23.

                      Yes, calling the light ‘Day’ or the gathering together of the waters ‘Seas’ is naming them. The naming of these things are spoken of as distinct creative actions on God’s part. Sure, these items are not personal, and there are differences when it comes to naming persons as persons. However, contrary to your claim, both ‘call’ and ‘name’ are referred to in Genesis 2:19, which, as I have pointed out, leads into 2:23, where the man names the woman.There is not some great division that can be drawn between naming such as God’s naming of the Seas and naming such as God’s naming of Abraham.

                      The woman is not named ‘woman’ as an individual person, but as the prototype of her sex. The man’s naming of her is related to his naming of the animals, which wasn’t a personal naming, but a naming by species or type. In Genesis 2:23, he names a different type of human being from himself when God brings her to him, as God had been bringing all of the other living creatures to him. There isn’t some clear division between Genesis 2:19-20 and the verses that follow. All are part of a narrative in which God is getting the man to identify a helper suited for him and in which God brings living beings to the man for him to name. The woman just happens to be the last of these, who God brings to the man just like the others.

              • Suzanne McCarthy

                In some Christian eras, women were the moral guardians of society. The difference between men and women has always been culturally influenced.

                The Hebrew Bible clearly assigns Torah teaching to men and women. We all know this. Do I need to cite verses?

                You comment that the claim that Adam was not male until the female came only “works” in Hebrew. That was the original language.

                And anthropos is not a word of masculine gender, but a word of common gender. It means “human” and not an animal and not a god. When it has a feminine article it refers to a female human, and when it has a masculine article, it refers either to a male human being, or to a human as an example of the human race. Jesus said, how much more is an anthropos worth than a sheep, and some translations seem to think Jesus is talking about a man and not a woman. Doesn’t seem quite right.

                And in German, Mensch is used. I recently read something in German that talked about a woman, referring to her as a Mensch.

                These words, Adam, anthropos, Mensch, refer to human beings. Women are human beings.

                  • Alastair Roberts

                    Egalitarians diminish the calling of women by failing to do justice to the way that women’s calling is one deeply conditioned by their womanhood and within which their womanhood is given the distinction of being a unique mode of symbolizing and representing God’s creative rule within his world. Egalitarians diminish the calling of women by flattening out the calling of God as it relates to the genders, presuming that, if God didn’t call woman in the same way as men, he must be treating them as inferior, rather than having a calling no less important and worthy of respect particularly for them.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      You use words like distinct, unique, different, etc. But women operated within women only missions for a hundred years, founding and staffing hospitals as single women. They did this because back at home some men wouldn’t let women do manly things like being doctors.

                      Women are tossed about by being told to do the culturally influenced things, rather than being open to God’s call, as egal women can be.

                      Sometimes women are told “you can’t do that” and other times they are told “you can only do this.” Christian restrictions on women are fickle.

                      And I don’t think men have done better than women at moral foundations of society. Not non-Christian men, nor Christian. They are all fallible human beings whose many sins should not be mentioned in public. We are all human and equally subject to human frailty. Men just take longer to figure that out.

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      You don’t need to tell me any of this: I come from three generations of women missionaries. Where have I ever denied that women are called to do such things? However, the fact that women are called in such ways does not mean that they are called in exactly the same ways as men, or vice versa.

                      Any theological position will involve lots of variation. Such variation is amply evident among egalitarians too. Some egalitarians have a very strong teaching on women’s submission in marriage (see N.T. Wright on Ephesians 5 in his For Everyone commentary, for instance), but hold that women should be priests and bishops. Other egalitarians hold that men and women should occupy all positions of Church authority in relatively equal proportion, others that they should just be open to both. Some argue for equality in marriage, but aren’t entirely convinced when it comes to women in ministry. I have encountered many different readings of Genesis and many others of the Pauline passages among egalitarians. One could accuse egalitarians of being fickle. However, as with complementarians, it is often just because a wide range of positions from across other theological and ecclesiastical spectra have been arbitrarily categorized under a single name.

                      I don’t identify with most complementarian positions or denominations. I am an Anglican, living in the UK and I have strong disagreements with the sort of complementarianism that comes out of places such as CBMW. I don’t usually call myself a ‘complementarian’, because my fundamental position is not some particular developed theological stance on men and women, marriage and gendered ministries in the Church, but just the standard historical line of the Christian tradition that restricted certain Church offices to men and which operated in terms of the biblical conviction that men and women and their callings were not interchangeable. I have more in common with Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy than with the Southern Baptist Church.

                      The problem is that, when men abandon their particular calling, it isn’t something that women can easily perform. One of the issues that we face today, and one of the issues that is at the root of the movement towards female priesthood, is the fact that our understanding of priesthood itself has changed. This is akin to the way that same-sex marriage has followed hot on the heels of the redefinition of marriage between men and women. In Scripture, the priest or the shepherd are men of violence and conflict, defined by their ability to resist the pull of empathy when necessary and to uphold the holiness of God’s people and God’s word at all cost and against all opposition. They are men who must be prepared to face tremendous direct assault and to lay down their lives for those delivered to their charge. They are men who must have a gravitas and weighty authority to them, who must symbolize God’s fatherly rule in his Church. They are men who can maintain the moral boundaries of the congregation’s life, establishing them with sure and authoritative teaching and maintaining them with effective discipline.

                      By contrast, the modern vision of the pastor or priest tends to be focused on academic training, therapeutic insight, personableness of character, preaching ability, and the like. Great as these things may be, this is not what makes a priest or pastor in Scripture.

                      Most of the women ‘priests’ that I know are genuinely gifted and spiritual people. However, what they are doing is not priesthood as the Bible speaks about it. Where the biblical form of priesthood or pastoral leadership is rejected, the result is what can be seen in many quarters today: a Church with weak doctrinal and moral walls and foundations and which carries little weight in the life of society and increasingly even in those of its own members.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy


                      I missed this earlier but let me recite my first memorized Bible verse.

                      “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.”

                      Shepherds are the prime symbol of empathy.

                      We are reading two different Bibles, us two.

                      And yes, egalitarians are fickle too. We have no right to impose on others our half backed ideas, all of us, but just let people know there are alternative ways to live beyond prescriptive, and restricted roles.

                      Anyway, all the egal women I know are intensely feminine. I was a teacher of special needs children and often had strong men under my authority as support workers. Gender matters in some ways, and doesn’t in other ways, but a life of experience will adjust the way we see that.

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      ‘Shepherds are the prime symbol of empathy’

                      Our image of the shepherd is powerfully shaped by arcadian visions of peaceful harmony with nature, by the eclogues and pastoral poetry of such as Wordsworth or the paintings of Constable or some other English Romantic painter, poetry and art that stands within a tradition of celebrations of rustic idylls that stretches back to Virgil and beyond. The vision of the shepherd that we encounter in the scriptures is, however, one far removed from such bucolic ideals. The biblical shepherd is a brave and strong fighting man, a fact that readily confronts anyone with their eyes open to it.

                      The biblical image of the shepherd is of a man surrounded by many threats from which he must protect the flock within his charge. He works within a harsh and unforgiving terrain, a place with much barren wilderness, rocky areas, and dangerous mountain valleys and passes, within which he must find water and secure and good pasturage. He faces the threat of bandits, robbers, and thieves, who might kill or steal his flock (John 10:1-4, 8, 10), and of ravenous wild beasts who will prey on the sheep (Ezekiel 34:5, 8; John 10:11-15). Protecting the flock may cost him his life: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sake of the sheep.

                      Our images of the shepherd focus upon themes of tenderness, compassion, provision, and deep personal care for the sheep. These are undoubtedly prominent biblical images in such places as Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34, and John 10. However, what is generally forgotten or neglected is that each of these images of tenderness is counterbalanced by images of violent struggle, might, or judgment. The God who carries the lambs in his bosom in Isaiah 40:11 is the same God who has just come with a strong hand and a ruling arm in the previous verse. The God who leads his flock by still waters in Psalm 23:2 is the same God who powerfully protects his sheep in the midst of their enemies, and who has a rod to serve as a weapon by which to protect them.

                      The theme of the shepherding of Israel is associated with the Exodus, where God shepherds his people by the hand of his servant Moses (Isaiah 63:11). As the shepherd of his people, God strikes those who would steal or destroy them with his might and drives out all of their enemies before them (Psalm 78:52-55, 70-72), finally planting his people in the safe mountain pasturage of Zion (Exodus 15:13, 17).

                      The theme of the shepherd’s rod as a weapon is important in the book of Exodus. It is with the shepherd’s rod of Moses that God strikes the Egyptians (Exodus 4:20, 7–10) with many blows, until they finally let his flock go. It is with the shepherd’s rod that the sea is parted and later drowns Pharaoh and his warriors.

                      Far from fitting our common image of the gentle country shepherd boy, the young David was a man who had killed lions and bears as part of his day job (1 Samuel 17:34-36). David is marked out as the new shepherd of Israel by using his shepherd’s sling and bag to crush the head of the great enemy of Israel, much as Moses defeated Pharaoh with his shepherd’s staff. The legend of the former shepherd St Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland with his rod is a further example of the shepherd fulfilling his basic calling in expelling evil by force!

                      Our forgetfulness of this most prominent dimension of the biblical picture of the shepherd has had a significant effect on our conception of ‘pastoral’ ministry. For us, the pastorate, the role of the Christian leader or shepherd, has been largely reduced to one of gentle care and provision for the flock, a primarily therapeutic and supportive role in relation to the congregation.

                      However, if the biblical image is correct, not only is a crucial part of the picture missing, but it is on this missing piece that the primary accent of the biblical teaching frequently falls. The biblical shepherd is a mighty and courageous figure, who puts his life on the line for the sheep that he loves and has the strength and pitiless determination to drive off their enemies. The shepherd is a fighter and is marked out for his role by powerfully striking those who would seek to harm the flock. The Christian shepherd’s charge is to be attentive and heedful, guarding against, destroying, or fighting off wolves and other wild beasts, while giving authoritative guidance to and providing sustenance for the Chief Shepherd’s sheep (cf. 1 Peter 5:2-4).

                      In stark contrast to this biblical vision of pastoral ministry, the prevailing conception within much of the contemporary church is of a rather effete, weak, and non-confrontational pastorate, tolerant, inclusive, and inoffensive, whose role involves little more than playing an almost exclusively nurturing, affirming, and supportive role in relation to a spiritually democratic congregation. The image of the shepherd is purged of any notion of authority, might, leadership, conflict, or violent opposition.

                      Unsurprisingly, many of the church leaders that we have exhibit precisely the profound weakness, inability to engage in forceful and uncompromising confrontation, and failure to give authoritative direction and leadership that represents the antithesis of the biblical image of the shepherd. The biblical vision of the shepherd loses force, not merely on account of the cultural migration of the image, but also on account of a resistance to the notion of conflict between the Church and the world, of strong leadership, of authoritative dogma, and of the need for especially adversarial skills in our pastors. The image of the Christian shepherd wielding the rod of God as a weapon of judgment against the enemies of Christ’s flock offends many, who are appalled at the presence of imprecatory psalms and prayers in both the Old and New Testaments.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      What can I do but applaud this performance. Then I think of Rachel and her sheep. This is really an opinion piece again.

                • Alastair Roberts

                  Women obviously have a role in upholding society’s morals. However, the nature of this role differs from that primarily entrusted to men, even when it participates in their calling in a helping capacity.

                  The teaching of the Torah was not exercised by men and women in an indiscriminate or equivalent manner. I am quite happy to acknowledge that men and women both lead, minister, teach, and instruct. I have never denied this. However, they are not called to do so in the same way. The existence of overlaps or similarities don’t negate the existence of difference and those differences are the point at issue in these debates.

                  My point about the language refers to such things as the use of ???? in such places as 1 Corinthians 11:9, which alludes to Genesis 2:18, and is a word referring to the male in particular.

                  • Tim Keene

                    There has been much tooing and froing about the naming or otherwise in Gen 2:23. Certainly the claim that the verses CLEARLY contains a naming must be doubtful and vice versa as we disagree so much. The Hebrew scholars that I have read are inclined to reject the idea that there is a naming in this verse. But doubtless one could find others on the other side of the debate. One thing that inclines me towards seeing a naming as NOT be in this verse is its context. There may or may not be hierarchy between men and women and there is the rest of the Bible to consult on the issue but this particular passage is intended to teach the oneness of man and woman (whether egalitarian or hierarchical) and not hierarchy. Of course it is easier to easier to understand oneness and egalitarian together and so egalitarians will embrace this emphasis upon oneness more readily than the hierarchialists but I conceded that the Bible can combine ideas in creative ways that I find hard to follow.

          • Don Johnson

            I think my wordplay is clever. To each their own.

            But the point I am making is one that you keep studiously missing.

            Adam is never called male before the woman is taken from the human; go back to the text and see for yourself. Only after that surgery is male and female declared and this by God, so it cannot be missed unless you decline to remove the glasses of tradition that keep you for recognizing it. So what is obvious to me is that you keep adding to the text, why is that?

            Since this is a creation text we CANNOT assume things are as they are now, that is the whole point of a creation text. There is no text about Adam the man being recreated as a man as Adam was simply a human before the surgery. It is you who are reading into the text.

            Ish and ishshah are a verbal wordplay, the wordplay does not work unless the words are heard, not read, but the Torah is intended to be read out loud and therefore heard.

            I did not say the human was androgynous, the adam is not declared with any gender at all, this is a creation text and that is a way these texts work (not like things today, as things are being created) and one is supposed to notice that, but you add to the text so you do not.

            • Alastair Roberts

              The fact that Adam is not called male before the creation of the woman really doesn’t support your claims. In fact, the logic of Genesis 2:23 would seem to suggest that Adam is already ish, but that the word just hasn’t been used yet. Adam doesn’t call the woman ishshah and then call himself ish: he calls the woman ishshah because she was taken from ish. Now, this doesn’t mean that nothing has changed. His gender is doubtless appearing on his conceptual horizon in a way that it has not done previously. However, he hasn’t become a different sort of being physically or suddenly acquired a gender from nothing.

              The woman is defined relative to and over against a being that pre-existed her. The male, as one of the two sexual poles, doesn’t spring into existence when the woman is created. The woman is created for the male pole and from the male pole, and the male pole was created before her. All of these points are also made by Paul, who relates it to male and female relations more generally. The woman was created to be the man’s helper and counterpart. Even if we believe that Adam was a genderless being prior to her creation, this fact isn’t going to go away. All that we will have done is engage in some semantic gymnastics in regard to the definition of gender. Even if we were to grant the point, it would be a point akin to one that insisted that my mother couldn’t be prior to me because it was only through my birth that she came to be defined as a ‘mother’. This may be true enough, but it is fairly trivial and seems wilfully to miss the larger picture.

              The continuity between Adam before and after the creation of the woman is everywhere presumed and implied by the relevant scriptural texts in both OT and NT. Adam is always a personal being and never a neuter entity. Besides, he doesn’t suddenly stop being referred to as ‘the human’ after Genesis 2:23. Apart from Genesis 3:6, 16, where he is being spoken of directly relative to the woman, as her husband, he is always spoken of as ‘the human’. Adam is a single and continuous being from Genesis 2:7 onwards. He is brought into new relationships (as the woman is created and later as he becomes a father) and is referred to by different terms (adam becomes a personal name and the word ish is used of him), but he is the same physical and personal being throughout. He doesn’t suddenly acquire a gender somewhere along the way. The creation of gender difference is the creation of a new person who is different from but related to him, not a recreation of himself along with her creation, or a recreation of a neuter human as two sexed beings.

              • Suzanne McCarthy

                Helper, as ezer refers to God, and as boethos refers to Christ. I just don’t see how connecting women to ezer and boethos demonstrates male priority in the moral order.

                • Alastair Roberts

                  I have criticized your grossly simplistic word study approach to terms such as ezer and boethos in the past and have no interest in doing so again here.

                  I never claimed that men have ‘priority in the moral order’, just that they have a particular responsibility to uphold it. Obviously, women are not without responsibility here and a particular calling, but there is particular importance given to the unique form of moral authority established and upheld by men. The upholding of this moral order is a matter of guarding and keeping, authoritatively teaching the law, enforcing the ‘thou shalt nots’, punishing infractions, firmly opposing and driving out false teachers, and symbolizing God’s paternal authority in his Church.

                  • Don Johnson

                    A human was given the charge to work and guard the garden, not a man, repeat, not a man, that is Alastair reading his ideas INTO the text, a classic case of eisegesis.

                    Jewish rabbinic scholars who knew Hebrew well figured this out a long time ago. Why cannot Alastair admit he is wrong in this? Why cannot he stop adding to the text?

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      OK, let’s grant you your point for argument’s sake.

                      We still have God determining to create a woman as a helper for ‘the human’.

                      The human, the being created first, is explicitly identified as a man at the point of the creation of the woman. Adam is continually afterwards spoken of as personally continuous with the pre-existing human, while the woman is not.

                      In the New Testament we are told that the personal being, Adam—who just happens to be male—was created before the woman, and that the woman was created for the man, and these points are used to teach about the relationship between men and women in the Church.

                      I don’t see how your point actually addresses any of these problems.

                  • Suzanne McCarthy

                    No, no, don’t repeat yourself on this topic, though we are all of us repeating ourselves here. You just keep repeating “helper, helper” and I protest, no, no, the words mean champion and defender or so they are used when referring to anyone but a woman.

                    Women get special treatment in English, the man is valorous and the woman virtuous, but we are all the same in Hebrew. Translators have surely betrayed women.

                    And now you say men are not the primary upholders of moral authority but have a unique form of authority that women do not have. One wishes men would display that. I have not noticed anything unique in a good way about specifically male authority. It seems to be running amok these days.

                    It seems the role of male leaders these days is more one of brotherhood solidarity, rather than cleaning out the temple.

                    Men should not marginalize women with this language. It only holds men themselves up for examination in ways that they cannot meet.

                    I know the attackers of the NIV. I know enough men in real life. You can’t fool me with all this unique authority business. I love my male friends who have come alongside as friends. They are such a blessing in my life, as friends, but not as authorities.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      I regret that your language of “unique authority” has tempted me to be intemperate, but it struck me wrong. What you really saying is that somehow men have something that women don’t. But I don’t see how that makes men uniquely moral.

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      I didn’t say that men were uniquely moral. I don’t hold such a position at all. My position is that men are particularly entrusted with a unique mode (not the only mode) of moral authority, and that this mode of moral authority has a fundamental character in the establishing of the order of society. Other forms of authority can be no less important once society has been established, but this form of authority is foundational.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        Eve is not only a separate person, but a separate human being. Humans have initiative, creativity and ability by being human, not by being male. Humans are responsible to God by virtue of being human, not male. You make women sound like a different creature than a human. You deny that woman is also Adam.

      • Kristin Richardson

        Alastair, interesting reply. I first heard the wordplay of “splitting the Adam” in context of an argument against gay marriage. The concept was tied with Genesis 2:24, arguing that marriage between man and woman is a reuniting of the two who were originally one. Would you disagree with this idea?

        Likewise you also seem to be suggesting that the original human was a man as we currently understand a man to be. Yet, woman was taken out of man. Where, then, did the elements unique to woman come from? Is it not a clear reading of the text to assume all the elements of “woman” were included in the part removed from Adam?

        Thanks for your elaboration

        • Alastair Roberts

          Thanks for the questions, Kristin. I will try to give you a thorough answer.

          Yes and no. The woman is taken from the man, so there is an original bond or union there. It is the nature of that union that is the issue here. I am denying that this original union is an androgynous union that will be split into two sexed persons, both of whom are equally continuous with the human being that preceded them. Rather, I am arguing that the union is one in which a particular individual person—the man (and male) Adam—has a part taken from him, out of which a new person, the woman, is formed. The man and the woman aren’t created simultaneously in some act of ‘splitting’ an androgynous being, but, as Paul is at pains to point out, the man was created first and the woman was created from him.

          There is a sort of personal split that does occur here. However, it is different from the sort of split that Don suggests. The split can be seen in the fact that Adam is at once a particular human being and the representative and source of all human beings. Before the creation of the woman, these two dimensions of Adam’s identity more exactly coincide—as he is the only human being. After the woman’s creation there is a split in the personal union of ‘Adam’. Adam becomes both one and many—it remains one in the sense of humanity’s union in its source, the man Adam, but is now many in the individuals Adam and Eve.

          Through the creation of the woman, part of Adam is placed outside of him. Adam’s form of identity shifts as a result. Part of himself is given for the formation of another. Consequently, he is related to this other person from the outset, as she is to him (albeit asymmetrically—his relationship is to another who bears part of himself; her relationship is to another who is part of her and from whom she is formed). The union that exists between the man and the woman here is a unique one, distinct from the sort of relationship that can exist between two men or two women. There is an asymmetry between the way that men and women relate to it and it is only through and on account of this asymmetry that the profundity of their mysterious union can be realized. We can see something of this in the way that part of men—something intimately connected to them—can be formed into an ‘other’ outside of them. Women, by contrast, can bear something that is part of their husband within them for many months.

          More generally, women are the ones in whom human bonds and unions are forged and intimately borne. Men do not bear or forge these bonds within themselves as women do, but they know that part of themselves is within them. Such facts are psychologically and otherwise constitutive of men and women in their distinctness. The directionality of the statement ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife’ in Genesis 2:24 is not accidental at all. The union is something that is found, not so much in some neutral ‘between’ the man and his wife, but within the wife and the world that she forms around herself.

          In light of all of this, I think that Genesis 2:23-24 is a very strong biblical argument against same-sex marriage. However, I think that the strength of this argument may require a little more joining of the dots than some might suppose. Also, the point isn’t so much the original union in the wholeness of the man’s body, but the way that the forming of an other through part of the man’s body creates mutually but asymmetrically defining and related identities for both sexes. The union of marriage is far more glorious than any ‘union’ that existed in Adam’s body before the woman’s creation. It is the creative act of ‘charged’ division that precedes it that is the important thing to notice here. The fact that she is formed from part of Adam creates the meaningful ‘charge’, but the point is not to return to the sort of union that existed before, but to enter into an immensely more glorious union with the newly created woman, who bears this meaningful ‘charge’.

          Was the original human a man as we currently understand a man to be? Once again, yes and no. The text would suggest that he was a male, with male parts. Creating the woman was not some divine Plan B, so we have every reason to believe that the man was originally created with the necessary ‘plumbing’: he just didn’t fully know what it existed for yet.

          Strictly speaking, the woman wasn’t ‘taken out of man’. Rather, the woman was ‘built’ from the flesh and bone taken from the man’s side. The woman doesn’t arise from some sort of divinely catalysed cell division of the original human, nor is the woman an emanation of the pre-existing man. The woman is built in a distinct and direct act of divine creation, using part of the man as material (we can presume that, having built the woman, God then breathed into her the breath of life, much as he did with the man). Just as all of the elements of man can be found in the earth, so all of the elements of the woman can be found in the man. However, in both cases, the formation of the new being occurs through a separate act of creation, producing structures that were not present in the material by which they were created.

  • Adam Omelianchuk

    “If anything this shows that the man is the one who can represent all in a way that the woman cannot. It is Adam who bears the final responsibility, not Adam and Eve alike. The judgment upon him comes to all: the judgment upon the woman only comes to women. Women are fully included in Adam, but they cannot represent Adam in the way that he represents them before God.”

    Hi Alastair,

    Let’s suppose you are right about this. It seems, then, that we are NOT speaking of mere roles that the man and the woman fulfill as if they were simple functions meant to fulfill a task. Rather, there is an ontological priority the man has over the woman since he has the property of “being able to represent humanity before God” and the woman does not. This seems to undermine the teaching of Scripture that men and women are both made equally in the image of God, which I take to mean that each bear represent God and his authority to all creation. On your reading of Genesis the man simply has more authority by virtue of his maleness (why else would you say “the man is the one who can represent all in a way that the woman cannot”? If God could command otherwise, then your statement is false). Femaleness is defective with respect to being able to represent human beings before God. Thus, you face a dilemma: significantly revise your teaching on the image of God so as to do away with their shared equality in humanness, or give up your reading of Genesis. I say take the latter.

    • Alastair Roberts

      I don’t share your assumptions about what these facts imply, sorry.

      The fact that Adam represents all in a way that the woman does not is not only clear in Genesis, but in the teaching of Paul about Adamic human nature and original sin (see Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15). We all die in the one man Adam, not Adam and Eve. As Paul says, we all have borne the image of the man Adam.

      And there are asymmetrical ways in which men and women are the image and glory of God, as Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 11:7.

      • Adam Omelianchuk

        I see. So you don’t hold to this triad:

        1. The man is the one who can represent all in a way that the woman cannot.
        2. The man and women share equality in their humanity.
        3. Part of what it means to bear the image of God is represent his authority to all creation.

        Which one do you deny?

        And I don’t think the texts you cite support the conclusion that we do not die in Adam and Eve. Consider this scenario. Adam does not eat the fruit offered to him and refrains from sinning. Yet, he takes seriously to fulfill the mandate to be fruitful and multiply and has kids with Eve. Do you think if Adam had not sinned, but had children with Eve, the human race would not be sinful?

        • Alastair Roberts

          First of all, hypothetical scenarios such as the one that you suggest are not the most helpful. Perhaps God would have removed Eve and given Adam another woman in her place. Perhaps Adam would have had children with a fallen Eve. In such a case, while sin would be in the world, the judgment of death would not have operated in the same manner and Adam would not have been exiled from the Garden. The human race would be represented to God by a sinless human being who wasn’t going to die and so, while individual human beings might come under judgment, the human race as a whole would be blessed and would have access to God.

          The Bible is very clear that we die in Adam in particular and that Eve’s part is secondary. As Paul says in Romans 5:12, it was ‘through one man’ that sin entered the world, paralleling Adam’s representative role to that of Christ. Likewise, it is in the judgment upon Adam that the judgment of death common to the human race is mentioned. When speaking about the Fall, the original entrance of sin into the world, and the identifying source of the human race, Paul consistently mentions Adam alone, rather than Adam and Eve together.

          As for the triad, I hold all of these statements. Our difference lies in what we believe to be the implications of the word ‘equality’ in the second.

          • Adam Omelianchuk

            I like hypotheticals because they help isolate assumptions. Suppose Eve is replaced. Then it seems that sinfulness is transmitted via sperm. If Adam has fallen children with Eve, but is able to represent them before God, why couldn’t Eve represent them if the situation was reversed? What is it that she lacks? If Eve is able to represent God’s authority to all creation, including male human beings, why couldn’t she represent human beings before God? Nor do I see why death would spread in a different way if Adam didn’t fall. Thus we need an explanation for these differences, if you are right, and it seems the only one would be that male ontology has certain spiritual capacities that the female lacks essentially. Male authority and female subordination are therefore essential to their natures, which goes against the spirit of complementarianism as I understand it.

            • Alastair Roberts

              ‘Then it seems that sinfulness is transmitted via sperm.’

              This is a rather strange conclusion. What does sperm have to do with it? Also, we should distinguish between the spread of Sin and the spread of the condemnation upon sin, which is a different matter and what is really at issue here. It is possible for people to be personally sinful, yet not exiled from God and under his condemnation. We enjoy such a status in Christ. The underlying logic has to do with representation and headship, not sperm.

              Men and women don’t relate to the image and glory of God in the same way. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:7, ‘For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.’ Men and women are both symbols of God’s creative rule, equal in their dignity and personhood. However, they don’t symbolize this creative rule in the same way.

              This, I believe, is related in part to the divine economy, which takes the character of forming (the first three days of creation) and filling (the second three days). The ministry of establishing the form is particularly associated with ‘imaging’ and the ministry of filling is particularly associated with ‘glorifying’. The Son is the Image of God, the one who establishes the form. The Spirit is the Glory of God, the one who fills and brings to completion. The ministry of the Spirit operates in terms of the ministry of Christ, which precedes it. The Spirit is not the Image of God in the same way as the Son is, yet the Son could not image God apart from the Spirit.

              One of the problems with egalitarians is that they presume that any denial of the equality of men and women in the forming dimensions of the human vocation must entail a wholesale relegation of women to ontological inferiority. Rather, Genesis and Paul teach structurally differentiated vocations and identities. Men and women don’t act as the image and glory of God in interchangeable ways, because our very maleness and femaleness are implicated in what it means to do this. Women aren’t less than men just because they can’t act in certain capacities: they can’t act in those capacities because they have been called to represent God in others.

              Women are associated with the ministry of the Spirit in a way that men are not, with (re)generation, communion, love, fellowship, the future, etc. Egalitarians tend to look for a sort of sameness, but the Scripture teaches that men and women have unique forms of dignity and vocation in their common and mutually dependent humanity. This isn’t a static and flat ‘hierarchy’, but asymmetrical forms of priority in mutual service. With their flat and unilateral view of society in terms of the presence or absence of hierarchies, egalitarians risk missing the multifaceted vision of Scripture, which can’t be boiled down to univocal and uni-directional power structures, presenting us with differentiated but constantly related and interdependent forms of power and authority in mutual service..

              • Adam Omelianchuk

                I don’t follow you here. Why should we assume that an unfallen representative of fallen people, by virtue of his unfalleness, is sufficient for indemnifying those he represents from condemnation? If that is the case, then Jesus did not have to die. But Jesus did have to die so that we might enjoy the status you describe. Thus, we should not make such an assumption.

                Nor does the verse you cite from 1 Corinthians undermine my larger argument. The operating assumption I make is this: one can represent the authority of God to all creation only if one is accountable to God before all creation. Women can represent the authority of God to men (e.g. see Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Mary, Pricilla); therefore, women are accountable to God before men. The same is true of men. Why is this? Because both bear the image of God. We can agree that both of the sexes symbolize their creative rule in different ways. Where we disagree is that I do not think this entails that a woman could not represent the human race before God in a world where Adam fell, but not Eve—such a thing is possible.

                Nor do I think egalitarians are unreasonable for thinking that “structurally differentiated vocations,”—hierarchically differentiated vocations, that is—BASED ON ONE’S SEX are indicative of ontological inferiority. That is to say, it is not unreasonable to assume that “ontological equality,” however it is defined, would at least mean that X is not subordinate to Y by virtue of X’s being. Now if we are saying women can’t exercise their essential human capacities for teaching and exercising authority, because God told them not to, that’s one thing. It’s quite another to say that they can’t because they have some sort of metaphysical limitation as human beings, that is another. I know you will not agree, but I think the sort of argument that concludes that women are unable to represent God, by virtue of their womanhood, seriously devalues womanhood.

              • Suzanne McCarthy

                Its always the same, women are not inferior, they just have male interpreted “restrictions.” That’s all. No biggie!

        • David Powell

          ^ You have no clue what you’re saying in #1, Adam. Do you even understand what the Virgin Birth of Christ is about? Why is it important that Jesus’ Father was not earthly? By the same token, how can he maintain an earthly mother (and be free of the inherited sin nature)?

            • David Powell

              It has everything to do with the Virgin Birth. The question is how the sin nature is passed. It is the sins of the fathers that are passed down through the generations. But Jesus had no earthly father. He had an earthly mother, but His Father reigns in Heaven; therefore, though He comes into the world in the flesh of man, He does not enter the world as sinful man, but as the Second Adam.

              On my courtesy…sorry. My tone was wrong. But this is not an issue to be toying with, however. There are serious theological consequences to our ideas.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Adam always has the understanding of the full human race. There were 30,000 girls who were called Adam in Numbers 31. Therefore Adam represents all of us. But the husband is the aner, the male, he is no the metaphorical Adam, but only himself.

    If we carry metaphors too far, a woman has no moral responsibility. To carry another metaphor too far, the husband must send the wife into the world to die on a cross. Or maybe the husband dies on a cross. But we all know that women sacrifice the most in marriage, as they gave their life routinely to bear children. There is no such equivalency as “the wife submits and the husband sacrifices.” No, Christians demand wrongly that the wife, who always sacrifices, must also submit. That is asymmetrical!!

  • Scott McCauley

    I think Wayne Grudem set the record straight that the Greek use of the word head in that time period was indeed meant for “authority over” almost universally in this:

    Wayne Grudem, Does Kefalh (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or “Authority Over” in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples,” Trinity Journal ns 6.1 (Spring 1985): 38-59.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Actually not. Grudem fudged a lot, saying Ptolemy 2 was head of the nation but the original text said that he was the most prominent in his lineage. He wasn’t even the head of his lineage.

    The only man ever called rosh in Hebrew narrative was Jephthah, for some reason. All other leaders were designated by the usual Greek words for leaders, which was never kephale. No one has ever found a native Greek text prior to the NT that used kephale as leader.

    • Suzanne McCarthy

      Grudem also wrote, in an Open Letter to Egalitarians:

      Specifically, we cannot find any text where person A is called the “head” of person or persons B, and is not in a position of authority over that person or persons.

      But we can – Ptolemy II was not in authority over his father but he was more prominent than his father. Also king David was not in authority over the “nations”.

      It is hard to find anyone but Jephthah, I have been on the lookout for years. Jephthah, an outcast and guerilla leader, called in to lead in a particular battle and sacrificed his own daughter. A passage the Jews would not even read in synagogue.

  • Esther O'Reilly

    I wouldn’t sign a statement of strict inerrancy myself, as I do believe there are some minor discrepancies. But I would never in a million years go to such lengths to twist the Bible to what I want it to say. The text is what it is. You can go back to Genesis and read all the groundwork there if you have hangups about Paul. Then if you’re honest you’ll admit Paul was reading those passages exactly right. Unreal.

    • Suzanne McCarthy

      The text has already been twisted.

      1 Timothy 2:12 is variously translated, dominari, be the lord of, usurp authority, and now recently “to exercise authority.” Only one of these can refer to leadership, a recent and novel discovery.

      In Gen. 3:16 woman returned to her husband, was subject to him, desired him, or more recently “woman desires to control her husband.”

      • Alastair Roberts

        As usual, Suzanne, you focus on isolated details, but don’t address the big picture presented by others. You presume that these controverted details are the load-bearers of the entire edifice. They are not. Not by a long shot. Almost invariably I find that the points that you focus upon, even when I may differ with you, are far from the crucial points in these debates. I could grant you almost all of the exegetical claims that you make, yet your conclusions still would not follow and a non-egalitarian case would still stand. Winning a few isolated skirmishes isn’t the same thing as fighting the key battles.

        • Don Johnson

          Finally Alastair says something correct. Isolated details do not address the big picture. The big picture of Scripture is one of equality and God working to restore equality. The gender hierarchicalists use special pleading and contorted readings of Scripture.

          • Alastair Roberts

            As I have already shown, and you have failed to address, in the Garden itself, the man, who received the command, is the teacher of the woman, who didn’t. There isn’t the sort of equality of which egalitarians speak.

            • Don Johnson

              Correction: It is the HUMAN who received the commands plural.

              The human was to work and guard the garden, but did you notice how the man FAILED to guard it?

              It is adding to the text to say the man taught the woman, do not do that. I agree it might be true, but the text does not say, so why do you feel the need to add to Scripture?

              • Alastair Roberts

                ‘The human’ is existentially continuous with the male, Adam: they are the same person. ‘The human’ is not existentially continuous with the woman: they are not the same person.

                Take a look at Genesis 3:17:

                And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you…

                Things to notice here:

                1. The particular male person Adam continues to be spoken of as the human, in distinction from the woman (from whom he is clearly distinguished in this verse, by the mention of his wife). It would be, at the very least, incredibly confusing if ‘the human’ of Genesis 2 was an androgyne, but ‘the human’ of Genesis 3 was the male in particular.

                2. If the man and the woman had both received the commandment directly, the woman’s would have been the more serious sin: not only did she eat, she also set up her voice in direct and knowing opposition to the voice of God.

                3. God refers back to the giving of the commandment, an event that occurred before the creation of the woman, in Genesis 2:16-17. This presupposes a personal continuity between the person commanded in those verses and the one held accountable in these verses (the ‘earthling’ in both instances).

                4. The commandment is spoken of (as elsewhere—Genesis 2:16-17; 3:11), as something that was giving to the male alone. Notice in the Hebrew that the ‘you’s in our English translation should be read as singular. The command was given to the man individually, not together with the woman and the prohibition was directed to him in the first instance (in part because the woman wasn’t created yet, but also because, when she was, she would come under his vocation and so be subject to it as his helper).

                5. The earth is cursed because of the sin of the earthling, who isn’t just a generic human being, but is the male individual, the first human and head of the race, Adam.

                The man failed to guard the Garden. Sin and death entered because the man failed to exercise his responsibility in the sanctuary and allowed the woman to teach and exercise authority. He is judged for listening to the voice of his wife in the realm where she should have been listening to his teaching of what the voice of God had declared.

                This is one reason why Paul refers to this in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The Fall represented a breakdown of the established relationship between men and women. The Gospel re-establishes and glorifies the created order. If women teaching and exercising authority over men and men abdicating their responsibility in their sanctuary led to the Fall, redemption will occur as men perform their vocation faithfully and lovingly and as women perform theirs.

                The fact that the man was to teach the woman the commandment concerning the tree is a fact that is close to the surface of the text, being derived from a number of clear details.

                1. The woman is deceived, while the man is not.

                2. The serpent can call the word of God into doubt with the woman.

                3. The man bears the final responsibility, even though the woman is the one who gives to him from the tree. After the Fall, Adam is the one that God summons to give account.

                4. The commandment is delivered before the creation of the woman.

                5. Wherever the commandment is spoken of by God, it is spoken of as something both delivered and addressed to the man in particular, not to the man and woman together.

                No addition to the text of Scripture is required. It is a fairly natural conclusion from the narrative itself. The idea that the woman also received the commandment personally from God rests upon speculation largely based upon silence and throws up more questions than it does answers.

                • Suzanne McCarthy

                  Clearly there is no indication in the rest of scripture that a man teaches his wife, or that God does not consider the woman as equally responsible. Adam and Eve are a one off. Think of Miriam protecting Moses, Huldah advising the kings men, and so on.

                  Women are not by nature or by God’s design, the inferior of men, and designed to be “helpers” and “followers” and creatures of diminished capacity and responsibility.

                  Instead we have a steady stream of commands for both parents to teach and be responsible for their family.

                  • Alastair Roberts

                    We are in absolute agreement that women are not designed as the inferiors of men. However, the Scriptures do not teach that they are interchangeable with men, especially when it comes to teaching and authority within the Church. The claim that Adam and Eve are a one-off misses the fact that Paul appeals to Adam and Eve in such places as 1 Timothy 2. It also misses the prototypical and archetypal significance of Genesis 2 to 3, which you are quite prepared to continue to appeal to, when you think that it supports your cause.

                    The fact that you bring forward cases such as Miriam and Huldah as if they contradicted my position suggests to me that you haven’t properly grasped it. My point has never been that women can’t or don’t minister to, guide, or instruct men in various ways, just that they are not called or equipped to do so in particular ways. Women are not less responsible or capable than men, just differently responsible and capable in other ways.

                    Egalitarians consistently employ words such as ministry, teaching, and leadership as if they were univocal and that any ways in which women lead, minister, or teach obviously disprove all contrary claims. But this is precisely to miss the point, which is that men and women are not called to exercise ministry, teaching, and leadership in the exact same way, but in differentiated ways.

                    Yes, both parents should be responsible for their families. However, the foci of this responsibility differ for men and women. Scripture doesn’t typically or only address ‘parents’ or ‘spouses’, but distinguishes between fathers and mothers and husbands and wives, addressing them particularly and differently. We don’t have verses such as ‘spouses, submit to and love each other’, but, rather, ‘wives, submit to your own husbands … husbands, love your wives.’ Important to notice.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy


                      When you now say “differently responsible” you are being a little precious. You formerly said “primarily responsible.”

                      And now you say women can instruct men, just not in particular ways. In what particular ways? In church? Or in morality? Do you mean in certain locals, or in certain domains of knowledge?

                      And the most relevant text for marriage is that a man sacrifices, and w woman submits. But women sacrifice in every way, by nature, in giving birth, and so a man should submit in every way by nature in acquiescing to his wife.

                      On the other hand, some of us are very happy with mutuality in marriage and not getting technical.

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      They are ‘differently’ responsible, but the form that their responsibility takes has a particular claim to being called ‘primary’ (and ‘primary responsibility’ doesn’t simplistically equate to more responsibility). The man has particular responsibility for symbolizing the authority of God that stands over against us and claims our obedience. The man does not ‘possess’ this authority, but must symbolize it in submission to God.

                      This form of authority involves establishing and guarding the boundaries and foundations. It is an authority that punishes infractions and drives out false teachers. It is an authority that clearly stands over against us. This authority represents the core strength of a moral culture to define itself and resist opposition. It is the authority of the cherubim with the flaming sword. It is the authority that the man should have exercised in driving out the serpent, protecting his wife from false teaching, and guarding the tree from any who would seek to take from it. It is the authority that establishes the basic contours of a society’s life.

                      This is definitely not the only form that moral ‘authority’ could take in a society. Some moral ‘authority’ operates by an attractive force of compelling example, for instance. Another mode of ‘authority’ is that which is associated with the moral claim that the intimate bonds of human society have upon us. This mode of authority, for instance, is one primarily exercised by women and which men are not equipped to exercise in the same way. However, the fundamental form of authority—the form of authority that establishes and secures the foundation—is a particularly male form and is associated with the exercise of pastoral ministry.

                      The biblical texts concern the fact that women are forbidden to exercise pastoral authority over men, a form of authority that is exercised principally within the corporate and sacramental meeting of the Church. Outside of this particular context and these particular roles, both within and without the life of the Church, while men and women differ in their gifts and callings, women are called to exercise many forms of teaching and leadership.

                      Yes, women sacrifice. However, the woman’s sacrifice is different in character from that of the man. The woman, for instance, chiefly sacrifices for her children. The man is called to sacrifice in a more direct manner for his wife. The woman’s self-gift and sacrifice is seen in pregnancy, birth, and nursing. The man’s self-sacrifice primarily takes the form of being prepared to suffer to the point of a bloody death for the sake of his wife and children, viewing himself as dispensable for their sake, giving his life for theirs. Men nurture society by shedding their blood and their sweat, on fields of work and fields of battle (whether physical, intellectual, or spiritual).

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      Next time I encounter a man who has suffered a bloody death for his wife,
                      I shall think on these words. Typically men fight for political reasons, and a fight on home turf arms women as well as men. Women also give birth all the time. But few men suffer death for their wives. The man is required to sacrifice in a more indirect way than his wife. But a wife knows that she will live a life of sacrifice.

                      Also read The Weaker Vessel by Antonia Fraser. Lots of women “manned” their castle and fought to get their husbands out of jail during the English civil war.

                      Women also toil and sweat, and sacrifice all kinds of things for their husband.

                      Let me also add that squeezing “pastoral authority” out of authentew is like squeezing apple pie out of lemons!

                    • Alastair Roberts

                      Few men are called to go to the point of a bloody death for the sake of their wives and children. In the same manner, few women die in childbirth nowadays. However, both men and women are called to adopt forms of self-giving in which such ultimate self-gift in death may be required of them. And women are hardly the only ones who live lives of sacrifice. Throughout history and into the present day, the burden and risks of labour have fallen chiefly on men’s shoulders. Under 700 women die in childbirth every year in the US. Well over 4,000 die in work every year, of which 93% are male. This is not to mention the burden of sacrifice that men must bear in war.

                      Yes, there are exceptional cases of woman who die in battle and women have always suffered risks in the workplace. However, men’s sacrifice has always taken priority in these areas.

                      My claims regarding pastoral authority really don’t hinge upon a single Greek word of disputed meaning. There is a far more general biblical case supporting this.

                    • Suzanne McCarthy

                      Yes, many men work in dangerous workplaces, and that ought to be rectified. Women’s physical survival has improved and we need to care now about the male work environment, like mining and logging, for example. I won’t argue with that.

                      You can’t really go about saying women are not permitted pastoral authority without a text.

                • Don Johnson

                  Alastair, you keep using terms sloppily. The human was FORMED, not CREATED and the woman was BUILT, not CREATED. In other words, you are mixing terms from Gen 1 with Gen 2, at least part of the solution is to not do that, do not be so sloppy in your interpretation.

                  On your points:

                  1) The woman was deceived, the man was not; this is clear from the Gen text and from Paul. One thing you miss is that being deceived to do a sin is a lesser sin that deliberate sin. Both were sinners, but God’s statements to both were different, God’s statement to the man is more like God’s statement to the serpent, in both cases the use of “Because you …” and “cursed …” are intended to show something is common between these 2 that is NOT common with what God says to the woman, the lesser sinner.

                  2) The man and the woman were together with the serpent, this is not clear at the start but it clear at the end of the discussion where it says he was “with her”. This is where the man fails to guard the garden, violating God’s charge.

                  3) The text in Gen 3 is in the form of a serpentine chiasm, so I think there is a literary reason why people show up when they do.

                  4) The woman was BUILT, not created. It is not stated how the woman got informed or misinformed. This acts like a ink blot test, as people see what they expect to see, they fill in the blanks, but the text is really blank in this area.

                  5) What you are doing is speculating, what I am doing is declining to speculate and point out that your speculation in adding to the text. There is a critical difference in our approaches, which is one reason you end up where you end up and I end up where I end up.

                  • Alastair Roberts

                    If Genesis 1 and Paul can say that the man and the woman were ‘created’, I fail to see why there is a problem. I am well aware of the different terms that are used (formed vs. built) and have made the distinction elsewhere. However, both are clearly acts of creation. You are nit-picking, Mr Johnson. I don’t think that the discussion hinges on this particular distinction at this point, so I saw no need to make it.

                    1. The question is, how could the woman be ‘deceived’ if she had heard the command of God directly? She could be deceived because she received the commandment secondhand, through the teaching of the man.

                    2. No disagreement there. Once again, this supports my point. The man was the chief sinner because he was the one with the primary responsibility to guard and to keep the Garden and he was the one who had been given the command concerning the Tree. By standing by, he failed to exercise his priestly calling, a calling that the woman had not been given in the same way. That is why he was primarily held responsible.

                    3. Claiming that it is about literary reasons doesn’t really address the fact that the man is the one addressed as the primary bearer of responsibility and consequences regarding the vocation to guard and serve the Garden, even before inquiry is made into the sin.

                    4. ‘Building’ is the mode of the woman’s creation: it is no less a creation. The fact that you are stooping to such nit-picking suggests to me that you are scraping the bottom of the barrel here, Don.

                    The text isn’t really silent about the giving of the commandment either. It speaks of the commandment being given prior to the creation of the woman. Then God refers back to the giving of the commandment twice in conversation with the man, both times referring to it as a commandment concerning and delivered to him as an individual apart from the woman (Genesis 3:11, 17). The woman is deceived concerning the commandment and the authority of God. The fact that the serpent targets her is significant too: she is the weak point, the one who can be deceived. She comes under the commandment given to the man, referring to it as something that involves them both, but the actual giving of the commandment is spoken of as something that occurred to the man by himself.

                    If we read Genesis 3 alongside Genesis 1:29, the woman’s confusion becomes more clear. In Genesis 1:29 we see that the man and the woman were both told that they could eat of every tree. However, the command concerning the forbidden tree was made to the man alone (Genesis 2:16-17), before the woman was created. She had heard the first permission that the serpent began by challenging firsthand. She had only heard the restriction, commanding them against eating of the Tree, secondhand. The serpent’s deception involves playing the word of God off against the word of the man, sowing confusion in the mind of the woman as a result. The suggestion is that the man is holding something back from her.

                    5. It isn’t speculative to point out that where the actual giving of the commandment is referred to, it is referred to as something that is given to the man alone, addressing him as an individual, before the creation of the woman. What exactly do you make of that fact? If the commandment were given again after the creation of the woman, why does God recount it as something delivered to the man alone and addressing him as an individual? Your reading is not really attentive and responsive to such details of the text.

        • Suzanne McCarthy

          The isolated details re Grudem, bear a great load. He has few other facts, hence my response.

          My larger focus is God’s immanence in history, in the Hebrew Bible. Children were usually conceived by the initiation of the woman, not the man. Hard to find a counter example.

          Women lead communities with God’s blessing, the wise woman of Tekoa, the wise woman of Abel and Deborah.

          In the family, the husband is not Adam. The mother and the father have equal responsibility to teach the law to their children, to care for them, to provide for them, to manage the home. These directives go to both men and women.

          If you feel you have load-bearing arguments could you summarize them a bit to make them more clear. Thanks.

    • Aaron Ginn

      Esther. For once you and I agree. Paul meant what he said and said what he meant (if you believe Paul actually wrote the Pastoral Epistles, that is). The Bible support patriarchy (I call a spade a spade, not a euphemism like ‘complementarianism’). One has to really stretch to read anything else into the text.

      • Esther O'Reilly

        Well, enjoy our agreement while it lasts, because I actually don’t support patriarchy. The actions and rhetoric I’ve seen in the patriarchalist camp are creepy, over-bearing, and tilt into downright misogyny. If you’ve ever heard of the manosphere,” that’s your look at what patriarchy really is.

  • Don Johnson

    One of the fundamental canards of those that believe in gender hierarchy as being endorsed by God is that if someone reads Scripture differently than they do, they do not “accept the authority of Scripture” This is a false accusation and Denny should repent from making it. It is spreading a false report and should stop.

    • Alastair Roberts

      I wouldn’t claim that egalitarians don’t accept the authority of Scripture. I just believe that they are inattentive, inconsistent, or otherwise unreliable readers of it. The authority of Scripture isn’t denied in theory, but it is highly dulled in its application.

      • Don Johnson

        We agree, except the roles are reversed. What a surprise. I think that those that read gender hierarchy into Scripture are harming the church and the witness of the church. Many walk away from Jesus on the gender hierarchy issue alone.

        • Alastair Roberts

          I think that both you and Suzanne tend to regard non-egalitarians in terms of the more extreme and abusive forms. I, for one, can quite understand why people would leave the Church on account of such abusive teachings and have no intention of defending such contexts and their practices. I am not making an apologetic for ‘complementarianism’, because I strongly oppose much that goes under that name.

          My position is not that of American evangelical complementarianism, the teaching of CBMW and other groups like that, or of the neo-patriarchalists. I am more within the garden variety non-egalitarianism of the wider Christian Church. This is not some modern novel teaching, but just the norm that the Church has held for a couple of millennia.

          When you choose extremists for your opponents, it is easy to characterize your own position as the natural and sensible alternative. However, what egalitarians tend to fail to recognize is that most non-egalitarians are not American evangelical complementarians, but hold more traditional forms of Christian teaching, forms of Christian teaching that don’t focus anywhere near as much on hierarchy, but which recognize differentiated callings for men and women, which celebrate the ministries of women within the Church in countless capacities of high responsibility and prominence, and which honour women’s unique contributions to the life of the Church, without subscribing to modern egalitarianism or modern feminism. Women in prominent roles within the life of the Church aren’t something that we just permit, but something we actively encourage. And, no, we don’t feel cognitive dissonance about it.

          When it comes to marriage, we also recognize that women are called to submit to their husbands in a way that their husbands are not called to submit to them, while fully recognizing that this is not about establishing some hierarchy. We just don’t have the hangups that either egalitarians or complementarians seem to have here and happily hold together elements of both. For instance, as Pope John Paul II suggested, the wife submits to the husband as the head of the house, the husband submits to the wife as the heart of the home, and both submit to Christ as their common Lord. Men and women thus submit to each other differently and the authority that each possesses has a different character. However, what we are left with is neither egalitarianism nor hierarchy.

          What American evangelical egalitarians also typically fail to realize, as do American evangelical complementarians, is that much of the keenness of their problems surrounding women in ministry arise from the historical distortions of the nature of Christian ministry in evangelical circles. These distortions have led to a flattening out of Christian ministry and a loss of the rich and variegated forms of ministry that exist in other quarters of the Church. It has led to more of an all-or-nothing approach to women in ministry, complementarians restricting women from all sorts of roles to which God calls them and egalitarians distorting other roles by including women within them. If you have a richer view of the Church and its ministries, many of the problems here diminish considerably in size and importance.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            Clearly I am responding to my own circumstances and those of others I know. I grew up in a happy traditional home, but the silence of women in the church was a little creepy. But as it happens, it meant that most interaction and exegesis happened in the home so it wasn’t too bad, but far from perfect. There was strong mutual respect, however, and a tendency to fall into an accepted cultural pattern. My mother was not preached at to take her place, that I know of.

            I thought from my background, that complementarianism was okay. However, it unmasked itself.

            My interest in defending feminism is that the conditions and laws brought about by feminists saved my life. I don’t remember the church doing much for me.

            Women need to be free of peculiar and demeaning restrictions and teaching thought up anew every generation or so. We now have men who call women empty receivers and invitational cavities for accepting and nurturing male energy, or as incubators of male creativity. Have they lost their minds? Do you want quotes? These are the middle guys who won,t declare themselves one thing or the other. But what nonsense! Women have their own full blown creativity. Let’s not send little Fanny Mendelssohn to play the piano in the drawing room, while an equally talented, but not more talented brother, has his career promoted! Let’s not deny women the reality of their own essence, their God-given essence, by petty stereotypes and restrictions.

  • Debbie Kaufman

    I like to cut to the chase. All the Bible wrangling in the world is not going to come close to supporting complemenatrians nor partricarchy. Both keep women down. Just as the early Baptists used wrangling of passages to keep whites and blacks separated, to condone slavery etc. They were wrong then, those who keep women out are wrong as well.

    I have passages that I believe support egalitarians. You know them Denny, so I’ll not give them here. Bottom line however is that any religiion(and yes this is using religion) that keeps women/humans beings down is wrong. It is not Christianity. Fortunately I have the freedom in Christ to be all that I am and then some. I have a husband who believes we are partners, not me being submissive. And it has been a good almost 30 years of marriage because of it, and I am fortunate to belong to a church who does not only practice inclusion of women and valuing us, but encourages it.

  • Debbie Kaufman

    I might add, I agree with Sarah Besseys well thought out piece. She has used scripture in the proper way, in my opinion. No matter how anyone tries to sugar coat it, patriarchy and complemtarians keep women from reaching their full potential and it is frustrating, it is abuse to be quite blunt. It is selling not freedom in Christ.

    If there are those women who wish to be submissive, that is fine. It is their choice. I won’t try and change their minds. But…if women like myself(and there are many) feel frustration and a banging to the head concerning this doctrine, which is an excuse not to let women be all they can be and then some, we are not sinning by re-examining it. It starts with reading what the Bible actually says and the actual meaning of the passages patriarchy uses, studying for ourselves as Suzanne McArthy and others have done. I won’t even fight the battle, it’s been fought for years and still the SBC and most churches are blind. I will simply tune out the “you are in sin if you “disobey”,and continue to live my life to it’s fullest as a talented, smart, woman who loves the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind.

    • Debbie Kaufman

      Destructive to who Michael? Patriarch men? Complimentarian men? Cause I have to tell you I feel pretty darn free and good. The opposite of destroyed that I felt when under the teaching of partiarchy. Now that was destructive to my Christian walk. My life. I would agree with Suzanne’s comment on freedom above.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        The main point is not only that I feel good, but that husbands are well served by the non-complementarian women I know. They have a certain contentment that comes from being loving cared by someone who doesn’t feel coerced by theology into this and that.

        • Debbie Kaufman

          I agree with you Suzanne and a very good point that I failed to think of. My husband says it is freeing to him because we both talk, pray and come up with a solution together, agreeing to agree on the solution. This takes a huge burden off of him.

  • Rich Barrie

    It seems that all the egalitarians commenting have made Denny and Ligon Duncan’s point by saying:
    When Eph 5 says, ‘wives submit to your husbands’, it doesn’t really mean ‘wives submit to your husbands’.
    Or when it says in Timothy “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority(kephale) over a man”, it doesn’t really mean that either.

    The gymnastic display has been stellar.

    • Debbie Kaufman

      Follow me here Rich. Let’s look at Ephesians 5. I know this has been pointed out again and again, but I don’t think it’s gymnastics to point out verse 21 and to remind you that in the original manuscripts there are no chapter divides and no subheadings. That came about through translations much, much later to organize and make the Bible easier to digest in smaller pieces. But verse 21 fits in with all of Ephesians 5 with no breaks. In fact it is before the passages you quote which sets the subject matter as we are all to submit to one another.

    • Suzanne McCarthy

      Egal women submit all the time. They like peace in the home. But the same for egal men.

      And 1 Timothy 2:12, in Greek, does not contain any known word for authority, not kephale and not exousia, or anything of the kind. It contains a word, authentew, elsewhere translated as tyrranize or defraud i.e. to usurp authority or control or coerce.

  • Debbie Kaufman

    I guess I was thinking more of me and my feelings in that it feels good to be free to make decisions and use my brain. For example: Do I want to work. Do I want to work full time or part time. Where do I want to work. I make those decisions for myself. I don’t have to ask my husband. He trusts me to make the right decision.

    Do I want to go back to school. I can go back to school. I discuss it with my husband, but I don’t have to ask him. I make that decision for myself.

    Do I want to write something and submit it. I can write it without permission. I feel like writing I write. I speak. I say what I want to say. No need to ask my husband for permission.

    If I don’t want to move or I like my job, I can say so.

    If I feel that God is moving me in a certain direction, I do it. No need to ask.

    It’s so very freeing to be all that I can be and use all of my talents without suppressing them or asking permission.

    Been there and done that and it was so binding that it was frustrating. Having men tell me what I can and can’t do was so frustrating when I wanted to do so much more for Christ than what men were allowing me to do. That was my thinking on the last comment I posted.

    • Suzanne McCarthy

      Agreed, but I also wanted to point to all the happy egalitarian men. I was at a conference with a mix of comp and egal male speakers. And only one wife was there, accompanying her husband, and watching for his health and welfare, one loving egal wife. One famous comp I know admits his wife disagrees with him and won’t go to church with him.

      Happy is as happy does, but you can’t say a happy egal marriage is not a good thing.

    • Scott Williamson

      Debbie, the concept of “complementarianism” doesn’t assume that a woman must ask her husband permission every time she has an impulse. That is a common misconception when discussing gender roles within a Biblical construct. Your post here makes it an all-or-nothing proposition, and I think that is a convenient way to vilify the complementarian position, thereby shutting down the discussion.

      That said, I am someone who isn’t entirely certain of my position on the egalitarian / complementarian continuum. So, the following observation is strictly academic, and may at some point inform whatever conclusion I finally reach. I’m not nearly the theologian that some here have demonstrated themselves to be. So, I’ll stay out of that realm.

      What troubles me about the egalitarian view is this: At the end of the day, we all want autonomy. Our tendency in all things is to rebel against authority, including God’s. Believers are not immune to this – only aware of it and, one hopes, daily restraining our urge to live on an island.

      “Christian feminism” seems to stem from that basic human impulse. Women are faced with the Biblical passages relating to gender roles and, immediately, the urge for autonomy rears it’s head. “Surely, those passages can’t mean THAT!” We all do this, at some level, whenever our pet issue is encroached upon. It is an assertion of self, rather than a submission to Christ.

      In and of itself, I fully admit the foregoing does not prove the complementarian position to be the correct one. However, whenever prideful impulses fuel actions, we are wise to question the purity of those actions. The same can be said of (some) men in their quest to have dominion over their wives.

      Maybe the egalitarian view is the correct one. But, we should reject views that aren’t reached in the full absence of prideful motives. And, that is nearly impossible, because our prideful impulses are deeply imbedded, and rarely acknowledged.

      • Suzanne McCarthy


        We have experienced complementarianism. It shuts down many normal avenues of life for women. One year the husband says you can’t go to the gym. The next year you have to lose weight or whatever. It can drive a woman crazy. The woman feels guilty all the time that she is not perfect, or coughs out of turn, that was one of my rebellions.

        Women want normal human agency, to do the things that provide for children, or to help others, or to be creative. We just want to be treated as human beings, that’s it.

        It wasn’t pride. I just didn’t want to spend one more day praying for God to take me before morning. I wanted to live. I know not all women go through what I did, but some do. It is a heart-breaking way to live. I still apologize to my children for not leaving sooner.

        Feminism created the laws that saved my life. When I first married there was still no law to protect women from rape in marriage and violence was rarely prosecuted. The church wasn’t stepping out on that one. Women have been subject too much indignity, and feminism has changed that.

        • Scott Williamson

          Suzanne, I assume you meant “Scott”, and not “Rich”, as some of your text implies that you were responding to mine.

          With great regret and compassion for the abuses you shouldered, I would nonetheless gently say that one ought not dismiss the complementarian view based solely on such abuses. Again, I think the extremes you cite are just that: Extremes. The fact that there are men who abuse their wives does not automatically nullify two millennia worth of Christian practice. Again, I’m not settled on a strict position in the egalitarian / complementarian debate. But, we can’t allow our theology to rise or fall based on extreme examples of Biblical misapplication.

  • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

    Thank you so much, egalitarians, for defending the faith here. Some very strange and nonbiblical ideas have been posted as comments and you have responded with patience, scholarship and good reasoning. Hallelujah for the good news gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! That says it all. It’s that simple. May grace abound.

    • Ellen Mandeville

      I’m brand new to this whole debate. I must say that many of the arguments made my Don Johnson and Suzanne McCarthy came across as ridiculous. I’m interested in the egalitarian argument, but they did it few favors.

        • Ellen Mandeville

          Examples of what struck me as ridiculous:

          1. The first human was genderless—Alastair did a good job refuting this statement

          2. Arguing that genderless does not mean androgynous—illogical

          3. Claiming that women were created second to show that men needed an ezer, a protector. Women were created as protectors of men???

          4. “The Bible is clear that the woman is the head of the household.”

          5. Interpreting 1 Cor 3 that head is a metaphor for source:
          5a. The source of every man is Christ—makes sense to me
          5b. The source of a wife is her husband—doesn’t make sense to me
          5c. The source of Christ is God—makes sense to me

          As I said, I’m brand new to any discussion of complimentarian and egalitarian interpretations of Scripture. I don’t fully know what each interpretation espouses. And I won’t be getting into nitty gritty discussions in this comment section. I don’t currently have time for it.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            4. “The Bible is clear that the woman is the head of the household.”

            This was mine. A literal translation of 1 Tim. 5:14 says quite clearly in Greek, that the woman is to be the master of the house. It is the normal expression for saying “head of the house” in Greek, because there was no expression in Greek involving “head/kephale” until later. It was oikodespotew, the house despot, or the householder, as it used in 1 Tim. 5:14. The noun is a common word in the Greek NT usually translated as the householder.

            This is the literal translation. Complementarians want to talk about literal translations, so I wouldn’t mind bringing up a few. Its not ridiculous, it is just literal.

            And there is some argument somewhere, here Cyril of Alexandria, 5th century.

            “Therefore of our race he become first head ?????? [kephale], which is the source ???? [arche], and was of the earth and earthy. Since Christ was named the second Adam, he has been placed as head, which is source, of those who through him have been formed anew unto him unto immortality through sanctification in the spirit. Therefore he himself our source, which is head, has appeared as a human being: indeed, he, being by nature God, has a head, the Father in heaven. For, being by nature God the Word, he has been begotten from Him. Because head means source, He established the truth for those who are wavering in their mind that man is the head of woman, for she was taken out of him. Therefore one Christ and Son and Lord, the one having as head the Father in heaven, being God by nature, became for us a “head” accordingly because of his kinship according to the flesh.”

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              The latter paragraph was in response to 5b. The source of a wife is her husband—doesn’t make sense to me.

              But it was not an argument which I made previously. It is a metaphor, and therefore difficult to be sure what it means.

            • Ellen Mandeville

              Thanks for your replies, Suzanne. Rightly interpreting scripture is obviously important. I’m currently reading _I Suffer Not A Woman_. Not far into it, but really enjoying it so far.

              From what I gather from this discussion, our marriage falls into the complimentary camp in that my husband and I recognize him as the leader of our family. I am blessed with an excellent man for a husband. In many respects I suppose our marriage reflects egalitarian views. But again, I don’t know the fullness of either of these views and refuse to label ourselves except for the label: followers of Jesus.

              I am so sorry for the abuse you suffered at the hands of your husband. Is there anything worse than twisting God’s Word to condone tyranny?

              • Suzanne McCarthy


                I wish we didn’t have all these labels. I told a friend once that I was labeled a feminist and she snorted on her coffee. I lead such a stereotypical feminine life.

            • Alastair Roberts

              Some remarks in response:

              1. The teaching that the woman/wife is the ruler of the home is fairly standard biblical teaching, and one which sits perfectly comfortably alongside the teaching that the husband is the head of the wife and that she is called to submit to him as her head in a very particular way. Other verses that teach much the same thing are texts such as Proverbs 31:27-29 and Titus 2:5. The point is that the woman is placed over the day-to-day running of the practical affairs of the home and that all must submit to her in this area. This is actually fairly bog standard complementarian teaching and practice in most complementarian circles that I know of personally (a couple of seconds Googling brings up this as an example of a fairly classic complementarian articulation of this point).

              This is related to the belief, founded in Scripture, that the realm of the home, the household and its economy, are a particular area of responsibility and moral authority of the wife. The home isn’t neutral space or purely shared space, but is a realm where she takes the lead in ordering matters for the sake of her family. The internal daily affairs of the household are her especial purview. It is in her prudent running of a loving, productive, prosperous, and peaceful household that the wife’s moral authority and competence will be seen and her honour established. And it is important to remember that, unlike in the contemporary world, most of the important affairs of life—welfare, education, production, etc.—were still intimately related to the internal life of the household.

              Her authority in this area relates to all within the household in some way or other. Her husband ought to recognize it too. She is not the head of the household, though, nor is she the head of her husband, even in this area. Rather, she is the one who is tasked with managing the household, under her husband’s headship.

              2. When it comes to the meaning of ‘head’, it is important to situate it within its wider range of semantic associations. Colossians 1:15-20 is a great exploration of some of these—image, firstborn, pre-eminent, beginning/source. Each of these terms is closely related and we ought not to focus on one dimension to the neglect of others, nor should we collapse the meaning of head into a single one of these. They all tend to imply each other in various ways. Michael Bird remarks, in the course of arguing for a broadly egalitarian position:

              ‘In line with a spate of recent commentaries [he quotes the big names of recent commentators—Thiselton, Hays, Keener, Witherington, Blomberg], I am convinced that here kephal? in 1 Corinthians 11: 3 means “head” with connotations of “authority,”“pre-eminence,” and “honor.”

              As the head of the human race, for instance, Adam was the source and beginning of the race. However, he also had pre-eminence, as he was the one who represented all and as the prototypical human. He was also the image of God in a way that others were not: he was the prototype and everyone else bore his image. He was the firstborn, the one who particularly represented God as his son. Related to all of these other facts, Adam also had a particular authority relative to other human beings, including Eve. They came under his representative leadership.

              The headship of the husband within the household also involves various senses of the word ‘head’. He has a particular pre-eminence as the chief ‘figurehead’ of the family. He has a particular imaging role: he is the chief representative of the household to the wider world and the household bears his image in a particular way (for instance, in our culture, when they all receive his surname). He is the chief source of the family’s identity and public status in the surrounding society, while his wife is the living heart of its life and the source of its communion. He has a particular authority and responsibility for the core identity and principles of his family, for the things that it primarily stands for.

    • Hannah Lewis

      I second this loudly, Kathryn. I have read these women defend the faith and push back the darkness on this board and I have wept. I can’t begin to express how proud I am to call them my sisters in Christ. You women are my heroes!
      “And in His name all oppression shall cease.”

              • Hannah Lewis

                “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” Haha, that’s a good one.
                That whole bit is very apropos to this conversation…

                “What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior.”
                “Well, I am king.”
                “Oh, king, eh? Very nice. And how’d you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.”

                Yes, quite apropos…

  • Rich Barrie

    I follow you Debbie…so verse 21 of Ephesians 5 means that verse 22 does not mean what verse 22 says?…got it.
    That’s not linguistics, that would be hermeneutical gymnastics. In fact, I would contend that this issue and text is not as unclear as egalitarians would like. The plain sense reading of scripture is not hard to follow. Wives are to submit to their husbands. That verse means what it says. There are many people who do not like what that says, but that is what it says. You can either follow scripture’s teaching, or placate your conscience by trying to manufacture some alternate meaning that you find more palatable(gymnastics) But, ultimately, the text says what the text says.

    • Suzanne McCarthy

      I never once in this conversation denied what it says. If you want my opinion on unilateral submission on all things, ask a slave. Ask a slave how godly it feels.

      • Debbie Kaufman

        Suzanne: Exactly.

        BTW I have read you for years and think you outstanding in your discussions. Had to slip that in. 🙂

    • Shaun DuFault

      Let us not forget that it is not the only place this idea is found in Scripture but also the Apostle Peter writes such in 1 Peter 3:4-7. I do find it interesting how this text is rarely ever mention in these types of threads.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        That is in the context of the pain of being a slave flogged in spite of being obedient. We should all imitate Christ in this respect, but few of us offer to do so voluntarily.

        • Shaun DuFault

          What? I have no idea where you get that idea. Please tell me where you find such context for that passage. (admit love the “quick” answer method) You will need to show the chapter and verse of the “pain of being a slave flogged…” in that 1 Peter passage.

          I think that you may have quickly thought I was referencing a different passage all together.

      • Debbie Kaufman

        I agree with Suzanne concerning 1 Peter 3. Read 1 Peter 2 as well. Remember there were no headings nor chapter breaks in the original writings. It is speaking of how we are all to live. Not just women. Read further down in 1 Peter 3 and he gives the same instructions to the man or husband. 1 Peter 3:4-7 is not just for the wife. And if a wife is treated the same way, as the Bible teaches, mutual submission, we would be happy, quiet etc.

        • Debbie Kaufman

          BTW: None of the Bible condones slavery, neither does it condone wives being submissive, husbands not. It is always mutual when read in proper context.

        • Shaun DuFault

          Wow, never said that it was only for the wife. I do find it humorous that the “lens hermeneutic” hoop is used in regard to Eph. 5:21. It MUST be used in all texts referring to husband/wife relationships. It is funny that we only see this “mutual submission” once in all the NT (debatable at best since there is no other example of the word ever used that way in the Bible) and yet we see wives are told to submit to their husbands, how many times?

          I am sorry to say Debbie but the husband is to honor his wife as the weaker vessel. If Peter refers to wives as the weaker vessel how does that express the “equality” you are trying to argue for? You may want to reread chapter 2 and 3 again.

  • Alastair Roberts

    Thanks for the discussion everyone: it has been stimulating! I’ll leave the rest of you to it now. I have some more pressing things that I need to be doing (watching the latest episode of Sherlock before bed). Take care! 🙂

  • Shaun DuFault

    I am surprised by Don’s aggressiveness and unwillingness to acknowledge Alastair’s point that the first human was Adam. Don demands a literal interpretation that Adam there must be just human and then rejects such an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12-14 being universal due to going back to the created order. Something does not seem to be adding up here,.

    What seems to me to be a bit amusing is the desperate need of egalitarians to reinterpret the whole account of the Genesis creation of Adam and Eve. It would seem that they are now getting the point that to ‘prove’ the non-egalitarians are in error regarding Paul’s statements; they must revise our 2,000 years of understanding the Historical Adam.

    Finally, I would like to point out that the egalitarian party has yet to come to grips that the hermeneutical hoops they demand every jump through are the exact same type of hoops that the homosexual agenda uses to defend their position that monogamous homosexual relationships are cool with God.

    By the way, how many hoops are there anymore. I started to count and stopped after about five different means of reading egalitarianism into the text. Please let me know.


    • Suzanne McCarthy

      There are also numerous ways of reading complementarianism into the text. We are all of us human interpreters of the word.

      • Shaun DuFault

        Sorry, but please share the many different hermeneutics used by the complimentarian camp in understanding these passages. What brand new arguments have they created to “collaborate” with these passages. Looking forward….

    • Debbie Kaufman

      Why is it that mutual submission keeps getting lumped into sinful pride and homosexuality. That is an insult, though I will hope unintended, although not convinced. The argument is straw man as one has nothing to do with the other and the arguments for mutual submission and homosexuality totally different. In fact, those who argue for homosexuality rarely use the Bible.

      Admittedly the hairs on my neck literally raise when I read such a argument which I have literally read hundreds of time. Come on can we get a little more original and text driven when we discuss? It would be refreshing and I think more would hear what those of us who are arguing for equality as women are actually saying.

  • Debbie Kaufman

    I would be interested to know what “hoops” are being given. I hear these arguments yet no proof is offered.

    I believe scripture to be the inerrant word of God. I believe every single word. I believe Genesis and Adam and Eve actually happened. I could easily sign the Baptist Faith and Message, with a few notes as to why I would have some disagreement. So what hoops are you seeing?

    • Shaun DuFault

      Let’s use the hotly debated text of Gal. 3:28. One egalitarian hermeneutic states that we must use this one verse as the lens in understanding that there are no longer different roles for male/females. The simple objection: context.

      Another hoop: the trajectory hermeneutic which simply stated believes that the Bible was progressively revealing “freedom” of women’s roles and we could see that the apostolic age trajectory is evangelical feminism. Objection: complex steps and ‘surprisingly’ only works for egalitarian positions (does not work on any other topic).

      Another hoop, writer is just a product of their culture. Paul just got it wrong when he wrote 1 Timothy. Or, it was specifically written only for that specific time in Ephesus when women were abusing the role – there is no evidence of this and Paul’s usage of creation seems to make such a point moot.

      You may believe that Adam and Eve happened exactly as Scripture states, but Don does not. He refuses to believe that Adam is the first human, though Alastair rightly articulates why this is erroneous. Hence hoop number 4.

      My favorite is the Ephesians 5 passage, the hoop of “mutual submission” though egalitarians were unwilling to take that to its logical conclusion. They seem to just stop at husband/wife, but if they claim to believe what they say then they must also see that Christ submits himself to the church. I raised this point with Don and the best he had is that absolutely Jesus the Son of God submits himself to the church.

      Please note the different types of hermeneutics used by one grouping of people. When they see the argument start to collapse someone rises to the occasion with a “new hermeneutic”.

      As hard as it may be to believe, I do agree that egalitarianism and homosexuality are different subject matters that is not what I am arguing. However, you take the “lens hermeneutic” or “trajectory hermeneutic” arguments and replace the “hard texts” of egalitarianism and put the “hard texts” for homosexual agenda – you will arrive at their arguments. In other words, take the proposed egalitarian hermeneutics and plug the “problematic passages” for other groups and bam you get their arguments. And yes, they do try to use the Bible to give themselves legitimacy.

      • Debbie Kaufman

        Shaun: Galatians 3:23 says exactly that there are no “roles” Those aren’t hoops. It is exactly what the text says. You can use the homosexual argument, but that would be my definition of a hoop. A large one. It would also be denying the fact that the Bible is full of women being in ministry. Defying their husbands, following Christ’s lead, who is our only authority.

        • Shaun DuFault

          Sorry, but the context of Galatians 3 has nothing to do with roles but with salvation of each group being equal of personhood. Please: context, context, context. Where do you see the term “roles” anywhere in chapter 3. According to the Bible to defy their husbands (outside of disobeying the biblical commands) is disobeying Christ. Don’t you find it interesting that one way a Christian woman could win her non-believing husband was to submit herself to him, and by such conduct win them over.

          So is there such a thing a parental authority? Or is the only authority for the young is Jesus?

  • Alastair Roberts

    One of the problems in these debates is that the egalitarians almost invariably present the authority that non-egalitarians speak of the man exercising as if it were a dominating authority, or an authority that drives the woman down. This is a straw man.

    Employed properly, the authority that I have been discussing is an authority that particularly belongs to the man to exercise, but is an authority that is to be used to support and to empower his wife. Authority isn’t a zero sum game. The authority of Christ, for instance, is a real authority that he alone truly possesses. However, with this authority he authorizes and empowers us.

    In the same way, the man has a potential to exercise forms of authority that the woman typically cannot. The man has a form of authority that carries especial weight and strength, greater public force, a form of authority that is more typically apt for confrontation, more equipped for looking outward, a form of authority that is better equipped to stand over against others, in distinction from a more suasive mode of authority, etc. The man cannot give this authority away, because it is something that he symbolizes and it is bound up with his person. However, the man is called to exercise this authority on behalf of his wife and family.

    The woman cannot typically symbolize the same sort of authority as a man, as she always symbolizes and represents a reality—that of the bonds of community—that is more intimate and vulnerable. If the man fails to exercise authority as he ought, the woman can’t really do it instead. The man, as unlike in the case of the woman his body is neither the source nor symbol of the bonds of community, can symbolize an authority that stands over against us (while still being related), a paternal authority, as distinct from a maternal authority (a good example of the significance of this difference can be seen in the way that people’s vision of God’s authority shifts when they start to identify him as ‘Mother’).

    The point of giving the man the particular task of headship and authority is not in order to weaken the wife, but to support and to underwrite her actions and words. When the man abdicates his authority, the result is a wife who lacks the same influence. The result in the Church when we reject robust male leadership is not empowered women, but a weakened Church, a Church that has less weight in society, and less power to resist attack. This benefits nobody.

    The answer to the lack of the ministry of women in many quarters of the Church is not to put women in pastoral ministry, but to get strong men to perform the role of pastoral ministry well, in a way that creates a secure Church in which the ministries of women can thrive and in which they are supported, encouraged, and empowered.

    • Debbie Kaufman

      “In the same way, the man has a potential to exercise forms of authority that the woman typically cannot. The man has a form of authority that carries especial weight and strength, greater public force, a form of authority that is more typically apt for confrontation, more equipped for looking outward, a form of authority that is better equipped to stand over against others, in distinction from a more suasive mode of authority, etc. The man cannot give this authority away, because it is something that he symbolizes and it is bound up with his person. However, the man is called to exercise this authority on behalf of his wife and family.

      The woman cannot typically symbolize the same sort of authority as a man, as she always symbolizes and represents a reality—that of the bonds of community—that is more intimate and vulnerable. If the man fails to exercise authority as he ought, the woman can’t really do it instead. The man, as unlike in the case of the woman his body is neither the source nor symbol of the bonds of community, can symbolize an authority that stands over against us (while still being related), a paternal authority, as distinct from a maternal authority (a good example of the significance of this difference can be seen in the way that people’s vision of God’s authority shifts when they start to identify him as ‘Mother’).”

      Sorry Alistair but I am smiling as I read this. This simply is not true. It may have been taught to you, I was taught the very same words. But it simply is not true. Start with reading about the role of women in Christ’s ministry and just keep reading through to Revelation. Women have a huge role if the church would just let them. It’s the church holding women back that is the bigger….I’ll use the word problem. Sin is not a word I can use here, although part of me wants to.

      Even in the OT women have taken the lead where men would or could not. What would have happened if Abigail would have been submissive to her husband. David would have been killed. Instead she became one of David’s wives. This is one of many examples in scripture.

      • Debbie Kaufman

        We are women Alistair. We are adults. We are Spirit filled just as you are. We are intelligent, we are not children. To go by what all of you are saying, we just take on the role of children who obey. That’s simply not what scripture teaches. All of scripture was written to Christian women as well as men. It is applicable to women as well as men. Go ye into all the world is not a man verse but a passage written to men and women. Pray in the Spirit is written to men and women. The Bible is not a man’s book. Christ sat and Martha listened to him one on one teaching her. He did not teach her to become a Proverbs 31 woman. He taught her solid teaching, meat. Not to sew, keep house etc. In fact what was his answer to Mary when she complained of Martha listening to Christ speak to her and not help with the household chores?

        • Shaun DuFault

          Sadly, you got the two names confused. Second, your handling of this portion of Scripture was done poorly. Going to this story in Luke 10, we see that Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. Martha is complaining about Mary not helping not because Jesus is teaching her one on one but there is a house full of guests, especially the Twelve.

          Anyone can easily confused the two ladies. However, you err on the idea that it was a private teaching by Jesus. For if it was so, Martha would have no need to complain.

          It is found in Luke 10:38-42 for reference sake.

          Again, you are misunderstanding Alastair’s well done argument. Please reread.

      • Shaun DuFault

        According to your logic: Jesus held women back because he did not appoint one to be a part of the Twelve. What exactly was different with the roles of women in Jesus day that was much more superior than what roles women have today? You argue that the church is holding them back, the same church we find in the book of Acts all the way to Revelation. You will need to spell it out better than that.

        You seem to have misunderstand what Alastair is arguing and you have to give him kudos for his unwavering consistency.

        • Debbie Kaufman

          Shaun: That would be false. Jesus didn’t hold women back and the twelve have nothing to do with it. He used them in his ministry without them being the “twelve” but they were disciples. He taught them, discipled them and used them to spread the gospel. They told men and women of what Christ did for them. They told men and women of his appearing to them. He appeared to women first, does that mean we should then hold men back?

          • Shaun DuFault

            Again, what roles did they have back then that women are refused to do today? That was the question. I agree that Jesus taught both men and women and likewise that should be done today. I agree that women should share the gospel and their testimony today.

            To be fair, all we know is that the women told the apostles as commanded by Jesus. What were the women doing at the tomb that early may answer your other statement.

            But, I cannot stress this enough, what exact roles did these women who were with Jesus had that women of today are prohibited from doing. So far, there has been nothing given by you, Debbie.

      • Alastair Roberts

        I don’t deny for one moment that women have a huge role to play, nor that they could play a much larger role if the Church would support them. In fact, I am strongly in support of this. The very fact that this debate constantly operates under the assumption that other people should ‘let’ women be authoritative suggests to me that we are working with a rather heavily diluted definition of ‘authoritative’ here. Truly authoritative people don’t usually depend so heavily upon other people letting them be authoritative.

        My point is not that women are less than men, nor that women should be denied active and extensive ministry within the Church. Quite the opposite. Rather, my argument is that men and women are created differently and that men can exercise more fundamental and immediate forms of authority than women can. This reality is blindingly obvious, for anyone who is prepared to see it. This is not a denial that women have special areas of gifting themselves, or a denial that they are equal to men in dignity of person and calling.

        • Debbie Kaufman

          Alistair: Women are not that different. People are different, genders are not the same and different from men. We are like snowflakes. I am 58 and still love sport, mud, dirt, machinery. I also love to cook, sew, can etc. I am not the stereotypical woman and never have been. I was bless with a dad, who although very patriarchal, independent Baptist, saw these differences and supported me.

            • Debbie Kaufman

              Then that would have you agreeing with me Alistair and I hardly think that the case. I understand your argument. But I am just not buying it. 🙂

        • Shaun DuFault


          I would like to commend you for your patience and ability to articulate your beliefs and arguments well. Thank you for that.

          You may be surprised as to how close you are to the “American” complimentary position. The problem with the American position is that there is a huge disagreement on the application of such texts not necessarily on the exegesis of these same texts.

          • Alastair Roberts

            Thank you very much, Shaun.

            My disagreements with typical American complementarian positions haven’t really been on display in this discussion. They would include such things as:

            1. A different shape of the biblical argument for the position.
            2. I would be far more resistant to a suggestion of a unilateral and static hierarchy.
            3. I believe that evangelicalism by its very nature exacerbates the problem of women’s ministry and that, if we had a richer theology of the Church and its ministries, there would be a very extensive range for the ministry of women, far, far more than any conservative evangelical that I have encountered is arguing for.
            4. In some of its popular forms, complementarianism all too often operates in terms of an idealization of the (anomalous) 50s household (much as egalitarianism tends to operate in terms of the contemporary household framed by two people with separate careers outside of the home and with few if any kids).
            5. Related to this, complementarianism is typically unattuned to the sociological, political, and economic dimensions of the issues in question.
            6. Complementarianism seldom really fills out the vocation of the woman in a positive and expansive manner, nor does it focus the vocation of the man. A common tendency is to define the ‘role’ of the woman by what she can’t do and to leave the calling of the man largely unclarified.
            7. Complementarian accounts of marriage all too easily convert the calling of the wife to submit into a claim that the man has over her. They are also usually too resistant to the idea of a form of (asymmetrical) mutual submission.
            8. I have serious issues with popular arguments from submission in the Trinity.

            There are more differences, but those are for starters.

    • Alastair Roberts

      And, on this point, while egalitarians frequently suggest that happy complementarian couples are egalitarians in practice, I would suggest that the charge can both be denied and thrown back to them.

      Let’s raise an issue that really isn’t considered enough. The Scripture speaks about women as the ‘weaker vessel’ (1 Peter 3:7). This fact is not something that is true on some theoretical level, but something which is powerfully incarnated in most of our relationships. When we say that men are physically stronger than women, this is close to being true as a generalization, not just something that is true on average. 99.9% of women fall below the male mean of muscular strength.

      Men have a natural tendency to possess a potential for physical dominance and human beings respond to this on a visceral level. When a man of 6’4″ with a muscular build walks into a room, people react to him extremely differently from the petite woman, whether or not he seems at all violent. He is naturally taken much more seriously and people naturally submit to him, while men may feel a natural urge to protect the woman. Men typically have deeper, more ‘authoritative’ voices. They have stronger and rougher features. By virtue of the nature of reproduction men are less directly bound up with others and are more autonomous. Men are typically more confrontational and agentic. All of these facts give men a sort of natural authority, power, and social dominance,

      There is a big difference between the sort of ‘authority’ that operates by virtue of the honour that people choose to give to a person, and an authority that can effectively assert itself, whether people want to submit to it or not. This is the difference between an authority that must constantly ask others to recognize it and allow it to operate and an authority that cannot but be recognized, whether people want to submit to it or not. Men are more likely to have this latter sort of authority, an authority backed up with power and force, an authority that you don’t dare mess with, an authority that can operate under its own power, and which doesn’t need your consent or respect in order to do so. This isn’t about the exercise of physical violence. The cues of physical dominance continue to have an effect even in settings where no actual violence would ever be employed. We are naturally built to react to such things.

      The constant rhetoric about ‘strong women’ in certain contexts is interesting in this regard, as strength is most spoken of where it is absent. I recall Margaret Thatcher’s remark: ‘Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.’ When women do exercise ‘authority’ in such quarters, what one often observes is that it is a distinct form of authority from that which we more usually speak of. It is either the sort of ‘authority’ that depends upon male abdication or absence, or one that is underwritten by the protection and support of men who are standing back. The sort of ‘authority’ that is typically surrounded by lots of ‘white knights’ is very different from the sort of truly robust authority that should establish the foundations and guard the boundaries of our churches. That sort of authority should be the sort of authority that doesn’t just have to ask the world nicely to recognize it, but that the world must recognize whether it wants to or not. All of this is a good illustration of the asymmetry between the sexes and of the fact that the most fundamental natural forms of public authority are typically male.

      So, in challenging egalitarians, I would ask them to look to their relationships and communities and to see whether, for instance, there isn’t an underlying ‘complementarianism’ of asymmetric modes of authority, with the more direct, fundamental, and confrontational authority of men quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) guarding and protecting the differing and more vulnerable ‘authority’ of women, one which operates on the basis of the honour that others accord it, but which cannot command authority in the same direct way as the modes of authority that are more common among men. While there is a lot said about equality, what is often seen is the same fundamental differences whereby Scripture associates authority primarily with the man.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        What I am interested in is why you advocate for restrictions on women for things they can clearly do? Why do men have the right to restrict women?

        And you disregard the financial and class system of the NT era. By race, by wealth and by class, several NT women had more power than the men. Joanna and Susanna, Lydia, Phoebe, perhaps more. They rescued, sheltered and succoured Jesus and the apostles. This democratic era of ours, is the first era without women of class based power.

        I understand and appreciate your argument, but life is much more complex. As people age, the strength differential diminishes and wealth, status, family and network come into play. Women are often the succourers of their family. I use this word which means to help from a position of superior strength.

        • Alastair Roberts

          Women do not have the capacity to act as priests. This isn’t a matter of permission or not. A woman can no more be a priest than a man can be a mother. Men and women aren’t interchangeable.

          Authority isn’t a univocal reality, but has different forms. What men and women do is coloured by the fact that they are men or women. A woman is a particular type of human being and person and a man is another. The meaning of their differences is found in the different modes of relationship that they sustain. The woman is one who is directly symbolic of social bonds, because those bonds are forged in her body. Her body is the site of union with her husband, the source of the life of her children, and the means by which her husband and the extended family structure is related to her children. It is in her that all of the social bonds tie together. Every woman, whether she has children or not or whether she is married or not, is coloured by this meaning, for this is what her womanhood chiefly resides in.

          The man, by contrast, is not symbolic of the union in the same way. Others bear a part of him within themselves (his wife when pregnant with his offspring and his children with their genetic relationship to him), but they are separate from him and they are not a part of him. He stands over against them and is not tied to them in the way that the mother is.

          These two modes of gendered personhood involve different modes of relationship. These modes of relationship are not chosen, nor do they depend upon certain skills or aptitudes. Rather, by our very gendered being, we are one type of relational being or another. We are either fatherers or motherers.

          And the authority of the father is more fundamental. The priest is the symbol of God’s authority within the Church. God’s authority is primarily a paternal authority, a fact that arises from the very character of creation. God was never pregnant with the universe, nor was there a primal union of being between God and his creation as there is between a mother and her child. Rather, God brought the creation into being as something that reflected his glory, but was always distinct from him. As Creator, God transcends the creation and this mode of authority is a paternal one.

          When people start to identify God as ‘Mother’, the notion of his authority is typically twisted as his relationship to his creation becomes a more intimate and interdependent one. God no longer is seen to stand over against his creation in the same manner. Similar problems result when the authority of God in the Church is symbolized by women. This leads to the authority of God being perceived as more maternal in character and God’s transcendence tends to be downplayed in exchange for his immanence.

          By the very fact that someone is a woman, then, no matter how gifted, strong, or intelligent they are, they are incapable of symbolizing God’s authority as father, because they are not the sort of being that can do so. They symbolize different modes of divine activity and authority, but not the form of authority that is at the heart of priesthood. This applies to every woman, across the board, not just the majority.

          My comments about different strength and natural authority are not one of the main reasons why women can’t exercise authority in the same way as men. The point of those comments was simply to observe that, as a general rule, men and women have very different natural forms of authority and that egalitarians seldom pay adequate attention to this. The sort of ‘authority’ that must constantly ask for permission to be exercised, which laments the fact that people don’t make space for it, and which must be guarded and protected by many men is really not a ‘frontline’ form of authority. Even putting my comments above to one side, when our churches are led by such people, God’s authority really isn’t powerfully symbolized to the Church and the world, is it?

          Physical strength is not the basis for leadership. However, it is not meaningless when it comes to leadership. We naturally react to different bodies and persons in different ways. We are not disembodied and genderless persons, but are either male or female embodied persons. Some bodies, among which women’s generally weaker bodies overwhelmingly predominate, naturally evoke honour and protection in those who come in contact with them. Other bodies, among which men’s generally stronger and larger, more muscular bodies predominate, naturally evoke respect and submission. Furthermore, as women symbolize intimate communal bonds in a way that differs from men’s capacity to stand over against others, they represent a level of vulnerability that naturally provokes men’s urge to protect, rather than the urge to submit. Egalitarians simply don’t reflect upon the deep roots of authority within the order that God has created.

          The NT definitely presents us with women of social influence and power. However, none of this negates any of what I have been saying. Relative to the men who were their counterparts in their class and to their husbands, such women wouldn’t have typically had more power at all.

          And, yes, women may have greater forms of power and strength on occasions, although the strength differential usually remains. However: 1. It remains the case that no woman can represent the fundamental form of paternal authority; 2. Such cases tends to be atypical; 3. When choosing a pastor of a church, for instance, you are selecting from a large pool and, even if women could symbolize God’s paternal authority in the same way as men, it is unlikely that the most equipped person would be a woman.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            The powerful women were usually rich widows and most church fathers had powerful women as their promoters and backup. Think of Jerome, Rufinus, Chrysostom and others. Where would they be without their wealthy feminine backup.

            What about little men, are they to undergo a height and physical strength test.

            I don’t doubt what you are saying, but it is a little too “might is right” sounding for me. Might can be violent and life denying. It is not so sweet and lovely as in your fantasies.

            Pick your paternal authority figures but put women into the biblical language classrooms, for goodness sake. Women are better at languages, so restrict men from ever teaching biblical languages. That would be a fair trade deal. But no, we get the babyfication of Christian women, fussing over their weight and housework, because that is what they are told to do.

      • Debbie Kaufman

        We are not the weaker vessel. It downs women to think of them in this way. In this case you cannot take first century language and apply it here. Women had no rights when Paul wrote this. Women were in fact considered property in the first century. Christ was the first to show how women should be treated all throughout his ministry which is my point.

        Do Suzanne, I, and others who have commented here seem weak to you? I agree with Suzanne in this is not about physical strength. Paul was not referring to physical strength. And there were many courageous women in the Bible. I refer to Abigail as one of many examples.

          • Alastair Roberts

            I think that we are referring to a rather different sort of ‘protection’ here. Hiding someone, playing out a deception, or winning over your husband to a cause is a very different sort of thing from defending someone from direct assault by standing against the assault yourself.

            Men typically protect women in a rather different manner.

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              Well one woman used a millstone, another a tent peg, but you know that I think leaders and “muscle” are usually two different individuals.

              • Alastair Roberts

                I am not arguing that ‘leaders’ and ‘muscle’ are the same individual. What I am arguing is that ‘leaders’ with a very demonstrative lack of muscle (as is the case with most women), will not function in the same way as leaders with muscle. A leader whose presence and identity noticeably triggers our protective instincts cannot exercise leadership in the same way as someone who is presumed to be capable to stick up for themselves.

                This is something that I repeatedly see in egalitarian circles, where women ‘leaders’ are surrounded by a lot of hyper-protective men. One of the chief reasons why there have historically been limits upon women’s participation in public debate, political leadership, warfare, etc. is because women trigger men’s protective mode in an unhelpful manner and women are seldom expected independently to stand up for themselves, to be subject to the same rough treatment as we can give to men, and to have no right to complain. This makes public dispute difficult, for instance, as a woman’s tears or complaints of unfair treatment lead to everything becoming personal very quickly and men (especially a husband) rushing to protect her, irrespective of the justice of her cause. In contrast, men are expected to stick up for themselves and to leave if they can’t take it.

                This dynamic can be seen in egalitarian circles, where criticism of the egalitarian position is constantly presented as a personal assault upon women, who act tearful and vulnerable. Then things become very personal and men rush in to protect them. This tends to make discourse that is genuinely attentive to and driven by Scripture difficult, to say the least. Everything starts to be driven by the desire to protect the psychologically vulnerable women from the ego wound of being told that they cannot exercise priestly ministry in the same way as men.

        • Alastair Roberts

          No one is denying that women can be courageous, determined, intelligent, etc., nor that they will often be more so than their male counterparts.

          However, the Scripture does teach that women are the ‘weaker vessel’ (1 Peter 3:7), and, frankly, this fact should be fairly obvious on many counts. Women are typically vulnerable and dependent in many ways that men are not, physically, socially, economically, politically, etc. Almost invariably they are much weaker physically. Women have been protected in practically every human society in ways that men have not been.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            Also gang raped beaten and mutilated. In some counties they never have a life free from violence. Who is protecting women, often other women.

          • Muff Potter

            When Ivan (the Red Army) pushed the Wehrmacht far enough West and the death camps in the East got liberated, the vast majority of survivors were women. I’ll grant you that men in general have an initial physical strength greater than women, but in harsh and corrosive environments, women will outlast men much in the same way that titanium will outlast the strongest steel alloys.

            Real world empirical observation will not support 1 Peter 3:7 unless the much broader meaning is the brutal cultural constraints placed on women in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

        • Shaun DuFault

          So are you now arguing that Scripture was wrong to call the female gender the weaker vessel? Are you suggesting that the Holy Spirit was arrested from actually saying what he wanted by the culture surrounding the day the letter was written? By the way, it was Peter and not Paul.

          The cultural hermeneutic being sadly on display.

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        To say Thatcher depended on the abdication of men, or on male background authority is silly. ALL politicians depend on police and civil authority. Politicians are not body builders. Plato posited the warrior class as the secondary class, not the leaders. The leaders are rulers by virtue of their ability to reason not by virtue of physical strength.

        • Alastair Roberts

          I never said that Thatcher depended on male abdication. However, she did depend upon a lot of male background authority and upon adapting herself to the form of male authority as much as possible. For instance, Thatcher took voice lessons to deepen her voice. Her form of leadership was highly agentic and confrontational. There is a good reason why feminists typically dislike Thatcher.

          And, once again, my point was not that leadership depends upon physical strength, but that the existence of large differentials in physical strength and size will have a natural effect upon the ways that the authority of men and women can operate and on how they will be perceived and experienced.

          My deeper point is that men alone can exercise paternal authority and that paternal authority is a far more fundamental and direct form of authority.

          Leadership and authority are not ultimately about the ability to reason at all. Authority is about one’s ability to sustain a particular relational position with other persons, especially against opposition. There are many exceptionally brilliant people who are not able to exercise authority effectively. Men, by virtue of their sex, can occupy a particular relational position that women cannot occupy, a position that involves the fundamental form of paternal authority.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            But you just admitted that Thatcher filled that role. I am sure men in politics depend on other men also, and some men do have to learn how to deepen their own voice. This is natural and cultural, but it does not say that women can’t do what they actually can do.

              • Suzanne McCarthy

                This is an opinion. We both have opinions. I argue that there were wise women and prophets as female leaders of communities in the Hebrew Bible, exceptions but not negatively perceived.

          • Bob Wilson


            I’m simply not seeing in 2014 how your view of male supremacy works. You say physical strength doesn’t matter, then immediately say it does.

            But as an unbeliever, as a practical matter, I just don’t see it.

            Suppose in a courtroom, the defendant is a 250 lb linebacker. Whether the judge is a 100 lb woman or a 75 year old frail old man is irrelevant. The old man has no advantage over the woman judge, physical or otherwise. Such a defendant will not be physically intimidated or even impressed by any judge. What will matter is how well the judge, man or woman, exercises her/his knowledge of the law and expresses his/her legal authority.

            If you listen to any of the oral arguments put up by SCOTUS, the women justices are no less challenging or intimidating than any of the male justices. Whatever “large differentials in physical strength and size” exist between them matter not at all.

          • Suzanne McCarthy

            “Leadership and authority are not about the ability to reason.” Then we ought to change that!

            You know most complementarians say women can’t rule because they don’t have as much analytic reasoning potential as men. So I am glad you have cleared that one off the slate! Whew.

            • Alastair Roberts

              I have no interest in your attempts to tar all non-egalitarians (most of the Christian Church and tradition) with the same extremist brush. Most non-egalitarians are not the sort of complementarians that you constantly focus upon.

              The ability to reason is a very different thing from authority and smart people are often highly ineffective in authority. Your highly impoverished understanding of the traits that make a good leader is a real issue. A good leader is often defined less by traits of intelligence than by emotional or psychological traits such as nerve, non-reactivity, self-definition, self-control, non-vulnerability, gravitas, independence, the ability to resist opposition, etc.

              • Brad Knight

                Alastair wrote:

                The ability to reason is a very different thing from authority and smart people are often highly ineffective in authority. Your highly impoverished understanding of the traits that make a good leader is a real issue. A good leader is often defined less by traits of intelligence than by emotional or psychological traits such as nerve, non-reactivity, self-definition, self-control, non-vulnerability, gravitas, independence, the ability to resist opposition, etc.

                But none of the traits you list here can be shown to be more often or uniformly present in males than females. That females can and often are as good or better at leadership than males is an observable fact. An argument that men are better equipped to be leaders because they possess [list of traits] in greater quantity or better quality than women is truly impoverished. And even if it were true that men, on average, possessed more/better trait X than women, it would still be a nonsensical argument to say that this indicates women should never lead. For even in this case, some women would possess more/better of it than most men. Similar arguments in regard to race have been made by some people for decades/centuries in order to try and prevent black people from doing certain things that white people did not want them to do. If the trait in question is merely moral authority granted by God, then that is what is being discussed here and saying that women do not have it while men do is begging the question.

                Btw, the physical size/strength discussion above tickled my funny bone. For some reason I got this image of a big, strong, athletic woman putting an MMA-style choke hold on Mark Driscoll and seizing control of his church. 🙂

      • Don Johnson

        What utter rubbish Alastair is speaking. What total nonsense. The Kingdom of God is different than the kingdoms of this earth and Alastair does not even know this basic fact from Scripture.

      • Bob Wilson


        I’m still curious about how you expect male supremacy to work in 2014. I’m an unbeliever so I’m looking at this from a purely practical perspective.

        Free market capitalism has given us an advanced society in which brains are far more important than muscle. (It is the free market, not feminism, that has made women equal to men.)

        I’m sure you know the score. Today, more countries than I can remember have women as prime ministers. In the US, more than half of medical schools and law schools graduates are women. Three SCOTUS justices are women as well as the Fed chairman. A woman is the CEO of General Motors. None of these women made it to the top because men deferred to them. but because these positions do not require physical prowess. Judges, CEOs, presidents and prime ministers do not personally beat people up if their authority is challenged. (FDR couldn’t have taken anyone down in a fight. Neither could the elderly Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush.)

        So how about in the church or home? Well, I have a hard time seeing how a women who knows her talents in the emergency room or the courtroom can shut that down at home or in church. Some might, but I suspect not many.

        Unless we experience a catastrophic collapse of society such that power comes only from the fasted draw of a gun, I can’t any return to male supremacy. I’d love to see a man stand before a women judge in a courtroom and challenge her authority over him. If any man wants to try it, I hope he lets us know how that works out for him.

        • Alastair Roberts

          Thanks for the question, Bob.

          A few brief remarks.

          1. I raised the issue of significant differentials of physical power, not to say that this is the ground of different modes of authority—it isn’t—but to point out that those who speak about equality of authority tend to turn a blind eye to the very physical forms that authority takes in many situations.

          2. Physical strength and size and the marks of power are realities that we react to on a visceral level. When a petite woman comes near us, we sense physical vulnerability and our protecting circuits are primed. When a more robust man approaches us, we can be more self-protective and submissive. These realities will shape the way that we perceive men and women more generally in their various functions within society.

          3. These realities remain operative, even in contexts where violence would never be used. A deep and strong voice naturally commands respect and a hearing in a way that a high and weak voice does not. Some voices are naturally ‘authoritative’. People’s ‘presence’ is an important component of their mode of leadership and authority. Tall people or strong people have a very different mode of presence and people react to them differently, for instance.

          4. Gender is constitutive of modes of authority, especially in contexts of close personal relation, such as the family and the Church (which is described as a sort of family). A man (irrespective of his size and strength) can exercise a paternal authority, while a woman (irrespective of her size and strength) exercises maternal authority. The former stands over against others in a way that the latter does not. The woman’s person and body represent the source and site of the bonds of the community and humanity. The man, by contrast, stands distinct from these bonds, with a person and body that stands over against us as it is not the source of communion in the same way.

          5. When men and women are in positions of cultural leadership they do not operate as neuter beings, but their mode of authority is coloured by the sort of person that they are and what they represent. Even the most powerful female Supreme Court Justice exercises her authority as a woman and her actions will be perceived in a particular way, because they are the actions of a woman.

          6. There are occasions and contexts when a more female mode of authority can be more effective than and should be preferred over the male form. My argument has never been that women can’t exercise authority, but that they can’t, by their very nature, exercise a particular kind of authority.

          7. I am not arguing that women must be restricted from exercising priestly authority, but that they can’t. This isn’t about talents, but about the differing symbolic realities of womanhood and manhood. Only men can symbolize the fundamental sort of authority that God has within the Church.

          • Bob Wilson

            Thank you for the reply. Most of what you say is religious, so I won’t engage on that. I’m really interested in how this debate spills over into the secular world.

            So you say:
            “Even the most powerful female Supreme Court Justice exercises her authority as a woman and her actions will be perceived in a particular way, because they are the actions of a woman.”

            I truly and sincerely don’t know what you mean by this. I really doubt a lawyer arguing before the court stays conscious of the sex of the justices, but let’s imagine that he does. Honestly, so what?

            Are you saying a question from Justice Ginsberg is weaker, less important or less intelligent than a question from Justice Scalia? (Ginsberg graduated first in her class at Columbia Law.) I’m sure you know that any lawyer arguing before the court had better have a good answer to a question from either justice or else his client will be very unhappy.

            I simply don’t understand how sex is relevant here.

  • Debbie Kaufman

    And your argument on women not being less is bogus. It does make women to be less. You could say till the moon turns blue it doesn’t but that is exactly what it does. As for your argument on authority, it cancels out your whole argument on authority. It ends up saying exactly what we have been saying through this entire thread. Interesting.

  • Paul Fekete

    If you can have a different interpretation around the roles of men and women inside marriage then can a professing Christian have a different interpretation on the practice of gay marriage? The professing Christians on the NALT website are using the exact same interpretation techniques to moralize gay marriage as you are using to deny roles inside Biblical marriage.

  • Paul Fekete

    You stated “My position is not that of American evangelical complementarianism, the teaching of CBMW and other groups like that” What is the major differences between your position and the positions stated by the CBMW? I have read many of your posts and the differences are not jumping out at me. Thanks.

    • Alastair Roberts

      I’ve already made some remarks in response to a similar question here. To that I might add:

      1. I have a lot of problems with the focus upon ‘biblical masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ in many quarters. I think that these things tend to be more culturally defined than arising from Scripture. I have a very different sort of account of gender.

      2. I don’t hold to the idea that the authority of the man is about the ‘deciding vote’ in situations of disagreement. Apart from anything else, the authority of the man is most clearly seen, not at points of disagreement, but in mutual service.

      3. I don’t apply the teaching in the same general way, as if leadership was a homogeneous sort of thing. There are many forms of ‘leadership’ and ‘teaching’ in society and the Church in which women should be actively involved and in which I have no problem honouring and submitting to their leadership.

      Several more things could be added, but these are the primary things that come to mind right now.

  • Chris Ryan

    Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

    Find me a man who is blameless, as sinless, as Christ & yeah a woman should submit to him. But until then this question is moot.

    • Shaun DuFault

      What a senseless argument. Peter argues that a woman should be submissive to an unbelieving husband in order that she can win him to obedience in Christ. In other words, a wife’s submissive response is not due to her husband’s blameless/sinful leadership, but her willingness to be obedient to Christ. Where in Scripture is there this “out” that you proclaim?

      • Debbie Kaufman

        Shaun: The question is does this just pertain to wives? No, husbands are also to be submissive to their wives. It is not a one way street. This is again found in verse 21 and later on in the passage of 1 Peter 3. It is found all over the Bible. You can’t just take one verse or two and make a doctrine out of it. That is how the wrangling and misinterpretations begin.

        Paul says for women to cover their heads and men not to shave. We are not to cut our hair according to Paul, but does this apply today? No.

        As anyone who studies scripture knows, some things are cultural, some things are allegorical and some things are literal. That is where the study part begins. To know which is which. Also notice that it is men who are dominating this thread telling women how we should behave despite passages that seem to differ with that thought. I am from the school of scripture interpreting scripture.

        Bob, for being an unbeliever had a good point.

        I’m still curious about how you expect male supremacy to work in 2014. I’m an unbeliever so I’m looking at this from a purely practical perspective.

        Free market capitalism has given us an advanced society in which brains are far more important than muscle. (It is the free market, not feminism, that has made women equal to men.)

        I’m sure you know the score. Today, more countries than I can remember have women as prime ministers. In the US, more than half of medical schools and law schools graduates are women. Three SCOTUS justices are women as well as the Fed chairman. A woman is the CEO of General Motors. None of these women made it to the top because men deferred to them. but because these positions do not require physical prowess. Judges, CEOs, presidents and prime ministers do not personally beat people up if their authority is challenged. (FDR couldn’t have taken anyone down in a fight. Neither could the elderly Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush.)

        So how about in the church or home? Well, I have a hard time seeing how a women who knows her talents in the emergency room or the courtroom can shut that down at home or in church. Some might, but I suspect not many.

        Unless we experience a catastrophic collapse of society such that power comes only from the fasted draw of a gun, I can’t any return to male supremacy. I’d love to see a man stand before a women judge in a courtroom and challenge her authority over him. If any man wants to try it, I hope he lets us know how that works out for him.

          • Shaun DuFault

            Please enlighten me as to what particular verse that Peter states that the husband is to submit to his wife. So far, you have never given any scriptural reference to support your “theory”.

            You state that this thread is male dominate – if so why do you care. Also, the person of this blog is a non-egalitarian so why are you here? Did you expect anything less than men and women who know their Scriptures and continually point out the weaknesses of your arguments?

            I find it a bit missive that many of the counter-arguments always goes to a “cultural” example like the commenter bellow responding with the “bully” idea. It is the constant side-step to what Scripture actually says and what feminists want it to say.

            By the way, answer me this: what do the head coverings of these women represent?

            • Suzanne McCarthy

              The bully argument is not about culture but about reality. That is what will truly happen if a wife submits to an abusive husband. Not nice.

              The only verses that say a husband should submit to his wife, are those which say that Christians should submit to each other, that Christians are known for mutual love, and putting others first.

              • Shaun DuFault

                So Christians cannot love one another unless they submit themselves to each other? If true (which has never been proven), then your argument would continue to state that parents do not love their children unless they submit to them. Now, if you disagree, then you make your own argument moot.

                Again, I asked specifically where in the context of 1 Peter where your friend, Debbie contends that Peter states emphatically that husbands must submit to their wives. If there is none, then Debbie’s and your arguments fall flat.

                • Suzanne McCarthy

                  I am not Debbie.

                  I agree that Peter said women should submit. But he also said slaves should submit to injustice and flogging and we just don’t agree with that these days. Show me a flogged slave, happy with his lot, and we can continue this conversation.

                  I am willing to fall flat as long as I don’t get beaten up. Thanks. 🙂

                  BTW I submit to my kids all the time. What parent doesn’t?

      • Suzanne McCarthy

        Submission to a bully reinforces the bully’s impulse to bully. A shout one day, a slap the next, bow your head and take it in the face and next time you will be knocked down and kicked. Try it out!

        • Johnny Mason

          why do you assume the worst about others in this conversation? It is tiresome and evidence of a weak argument. Make your defense using Scripture and let the chips fall where the may.

          Rather than engage on the passage in question, you attempt to end debate by implying that Shaun is supportive of or hinting at physical violence and spousal abuse.

          • Shaun DuFault

            Another misstep of trying to use an extreme example to nullify what Scripture states. So again, is Scripture wrong in verse one of chapter 3? Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake in allowing it in His Word?

            Feel free to offer extreme example after extreme example, but it does not progress the conversation and it does nothing to alleviate your issue with God’s Word.

        • Shaun DuFault

          Another misstep of trying to use the extreme example to nullify what Scripture states. So again, is Scripture wrong in verse one of chapter 3? Did the Holy Spirit make a mistake in allowing it in His Word?

          Feel free to offer extreme example after extreme example, but it does not progress the conversation and it does nothing to alleviate your issue with God’s Word.

      • Chris Ryan

        The scripture plainly says “as Christ”….The requirement for women to submit is concomitant with the requirement for men to be as Christ…So when a woman finds a husband who is “as Christ” then oh yeah she should submit.

        You recognize that Paul is speaking of an idealized state, don’t you? That’s indicated by his use of the word “ought”. Women *ought* to submit to their husbands just like their husbands *ought* to be as Christ. So without the one it makes no sense to have the other.

        You can’t hang your argument on the fact that men are the head of the house as Christ is the head of the church, but then say, “Oh, but men don’t have to be as Christ.” That would be separate sauce for the goose & the gander. You’ve got to take the whole scripture. Christ is the head of the church b/cs He is sinless. Ergo, for the husband to be head of the house he too must be sinless–ie, “as Christ”.

  • Brad Knight

    Alastair writes:

    The biblical shepherd is a brave and strong fighting man, a fact that readily confronts anyone with their eyes open to it.
    The biblical image of the shepherd is of a man surrounded by many threats from which he must protect the flock within his charge.

    But in Genesis 29:1-9 we read the following in the story of Jacob meeting Rachel for the first time:

    While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd.

    Here is one fairly prominent biblical image of a shepherd who is not male at all, but female. This seems contradictory.

  • Debbie Kaufman

    “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” Haha, that’s a good one.
    That whole bit is very apropos to this conversation…

    “What I object to is you automatically treat me like an inferior.”
    “Well, I am king.”
    “Oh, king, eh? Very nice. And how’d you get that, eh? By exploiting the workers. By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society.”

    Hannah: Your comment is very interesting as it seems that you are everything that the complementarians accuse Suzanne, myself and other women who do not embrace complemenarianism as Biblical. Yet, none of us have resorted to this bullying, changing the subject, and humorless humor meant to degrade as you have resorted to such tactics. In fact I find this happens more among women who believe in complementarianism than do not. They appear in their comments to be brash, bullying, almost male like in their tone. I just find it interesting that is all. Just an observation.

    I personally like conversation that despite differences, treats the other person with dignity and respect. But that may just be me. 🙂

      • Debbie Kaufman

        Hannah: I am sorry, I misread your quote. I need to drop out, comments are so many they are running together. I am sorry.

        • Hannah Lewis

          No worries. I could see how, if not understood it was a movie quote, or the context of the movie quote, how it could be seen as very mean.
          I’m not much good at theology, but Monty Python now…
          (I’m not a complementarian by the way, if there was confusion on that too.)
          I think you egals did great on the theology front, by the way. 🙂 I loved following the conversation. I learned a lot.

          • Debbie Kaufman

            Thank you Hannah. That comment was made from high emotion and I shouldn’t have made it even if you were complementarian. That was a low blow. Thank you for accepting my apology.

  • Anna Snyder

    I have two questions for complementarians:

    1.If a couple is in a happy and successful egalitarian marriage, would you advise them to change to a complementarian structure?

    2.If male headship means authority and the husband is accountable before God for the direction of the marriage, how can wifely submission be voluntary? Most articles I have read on Complementarianism state the the husband can’t force his wife to obey. But if he can’t, then he doesn’t really have authority. So, how could God hold him accountable? But, if he is permitted to enforce wifely obedience, does this mean the wife can/should be punished?


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