When It Costs To Be Complementarian

World magazine has a report about Daniel Harman, the leader of the University of Louisville chapter of Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade). The long and short of it is this. Cru recently relieved Daniel of his duties because of his complementarian approach to campus ministry. He has been with Cru for 11 years, 8 of which were on the mission field in Eastern Europe. Since 2009, he’s been directing the ministry on UofL’s campus. His complementarian views were no problem overseas, but they became more of an issue since he returned to America. It all came to a head recently when the leadership of Cru learned that he was not allowing female leaders to teach men in Cru weekly meetings. World reports:

This fall, however, one of Louisville’s female Cru staff members asked Harman for clarification about whether women could teach the Bible in mixed-gender Cru meetings, and Harman said they could not. The exchange came to the attention of regional Cru officials, who met with Harman and reiterated Cru’s policy of “men and women leading together.” They gave Harman three weeks to reconsider his position, and said that if he remained “dogmatic” about the issue, he could no longer serve as Missional Team Leader. Harman decided that he would not change the practice, and Cru demoted him.

As campus director at Louisville, Harman has permitted female staff to speak in front of mixed-gender audiences on a number of ministry-related topics, and to assume numerous leadership roles relative to both female and male students. But Harman contends that Scripture prohibits women teaching the Bible to adult men (including those of college age), based on passages such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12, in which Paul says, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

I commend Daniel for standing upon the truth of God even at great personal cost. This conflict threatens not just his ministry but his livelihood. This is not the kind of disruption that a man with a young family needs. I’m sure it would have been easier simply to let it go and revise his personal beliefs in order protect his position. He didn’t do that, and I am grateful for the stand he has taken.

A Cru spokesman told World that this incident amounted to a disagreement over policy not over theology. That is nonsense. Cru’s policy represents an egalitarian view of ministry roles, and that stance is irreducibly theological. Daniel was demoted because of theological conviction, not because of an arcane dispute about Cru’s bureaucracy. Certainly Cru has the right to set their own policies. I hope their constituency knows that it excludes consistent complementarians.

From time to time, I will hear people argue that complementarianism only applies to the church and should not be applied to parachurch groups. This has never been a compelling argument to me. It is true that parachurch groups are not the church. They cannot baptize or administer the Lord’s supper. There is a worthwhile discussion to be had about the existence and role of parachurch organizations in relation to local churches. At the very least, I think everyone should agree that parachurch orgs should never adopt ministry practices which would undermine the teaching and discipline of actual churches. For that reason, the complementarian/egalitarian issue cannot be skirted by groups like Cru.

I’m grateful for the great work that Cru has done over the decades. I have had many friends who have been deeply involved in this ministry. But this latest story is a sad one. I hope they reconsider their views on this. Daniel Harman is a good man and a faithful brother. Cru could use more like him, not less.


  • Dan Phillips

    Then I wish you would have weighed in (or would still weigh in) over here. If you oppose women leading in parachurch organizations, it sounds as if you would also oppose women seminary and BIble college profs, commentators, theologians… the very issues we’ve been trying to work out. Sounds as if you disagree with just about everyone there; I wish you’d spoken earlier, I really want to hear this fleshed out.

    • Denny Burk

      Yes, complementarian principles should be applied to parachurch groups, and that applies especially at seminaries in my view. Seminaries do not serve the church if they undermine the church’s teaching and discipline in the way that they train ministers.

        • Denny Burk

          I think it’s great for them to speak at conferences. However, they should only choose to do so in settings that do not violate 1 Timothy 2:12. In other words, they should seek opportunities that do not have them teaching Christian doctrine to adult men.

      • Jon Krombein

        I think you have a good argument for prohibiting women teaching men in a seminary (after all, by extension, seminaries teach churches–by informing the men who will lead them). Thought, I don’t think that means women shouldn’t be writing theology books. After all, one of the best commentaries on Esther is by a woman. However, a parachurch organization seems like a different thing. Cru is a not a church. There is no “eldership” or “membership”. There is no church discipline. I’m not sure a sufficient case can be made that a the same rules should apply.

        • dr. james willingham

          Sad to think, that unchecked complementarianism will do harm to the Church’s cause. It is never good, when we get the teachings of Scripture wrong. Look at the results throughout church history, especially with reference to the Inquisition. It will make a person sick. I know it gave me nightmares as did the pcitures of the holocaust and the racism of the Old South.

      • Sam Snodgrass

        I will not speak at length, but I must commend you, Daniel and Denny, for standing for what Scripture tells us concerning this matter. No one, whether man nor woman, should be offended by the Lord’s instruction concerning the role of women in the church. While men and women have equal standing in Christ, the have different roles in life and in the church.

    • A. Amos Love

      Dan – I went to your site as you requested for Denny.
      I posted this comment today – But it was removed in 15 min.
      I posted a second time – And that comment was removed also.
      When I checked again – The comments were closed.
      Maybe you could answer these questios here? Thanks…



      I agree when you start this post about – a female pastor…
      “Scripture is clear: there is no such thing as a female pastor under Christ’s Lordship.”

      Was wondering…
      Can you show – clearly – from the scriptures…
      Such a thing as “a Male pastor?” As we see them today?

      And – Can you show – clearly – from the scriptures…
      How many of His Disciples?
      Were “Called” – “Pastor/Leader/Reverend?”
      “Called” themself – “Pastor/Leader/Reverend?”
      Had the “Title” – “Pastor/Leader/Reverend?”
      Were “Hired – Or Fired” as a – “Pastor/Leader/Reverend?”

      The only one I can find with the “Title” Shepherd – is Jesus.

      And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
      them also I must bring, and they shall **hear My voice;**
      and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
      John 10:16

      One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

      {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}


  • Scott Lencke

    Denny –

    This is, no doubt, a difficult one, at least in the mix of para-church organisations. What do we do in places like DTS where women are professors and will obviously teach adult men? And where is the age limit – 18, 21, etc? It’s not so simple with these issues.

    It’s possible Cru has overstepped their boundaries. I’m not sure we know all the in’s and out’s.

    Though I am egalitarian, I want to have respectful conversations with complementarian brothers & sisters. So I am not sure we can argue unequivocally that women cannot teach men. Paul allowed for prophecy to come from women, and in some sense, prophecy can be instructive in regards to the ways of the Lord. I can only imagine that Priscilla had a teaching role, at least involved in instructing Apollos, who became something like an apostle (at least in the Corinthian context, if we read Paul’s words in the early chs. of 1 Cor & how he states they have a very similar ministry role in that church). We can argue on the nature of Phoebe or Deborah or Junia, but I suspect they would have been involved in some kind of teaching at some point with adult men involved. Not to mention others in the Scripture text.

    To teach in a campus setting where most attendees are 18-25, I think very difficult to make a hard line statement that women cannot instruct at all. Again, it’s possible Cru overstepped the boundaries. We don’t know the in’s and out’s. But this isn’t so black & white as to say who is approaching things best for the ministry of Cru – Harmon or Cru itself.

    Just some things to ponder.

  • Greg Monette

    It’s interesting that you would post this article on your wall when you work at a school that would fire any professor for holding egalitarian views on church leadership. How about this: CRU will hire back Daniel Harman if SBTS allows egalitarians to teach? Would you be ok with this? If not, I smell a double-standard.

    • Denny Burk

      It’s no double-standard. I believe that the Bible teaches complementarianism. That view, therefore, should be reflected in all Christian ministries. That’s the standard at SBTS, and I wish it were also the standard at CRU.

      • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

        I’m sure CRU feels that is their standard also.

        If there were a biblical interpretation and position for the full equality of women in the Christian church and in Christian marriage that is based entirely and only on the Bible, using orthodox & reformed principles for interpreting the Bible, and fully in harmony with the Bible’s central message of the Gospel, while treating each individual scripture portion with integrity and respect, would you embrace it?

  • Clark Dunlap

    While I applaud Harman, and am definitely complementarian in the church, I’m not so convinced it applies to para-church org’s including seminaries. It seems to me if women are teaching under the watchful eye of those who would protect orthodoxy and orthopraxy, there is no harm no foul. In the church, I prefer to err (if it is an error) on the side of complementary pov.

  • Dwight McKissic


    I am so thankful & proud of Cru for representing biblical fidelity & consistency. As an earlier commentator noted, there are many examples of men teaching women in Scripture, including Paul’s writings. The sexism that u & others advocate, under the banner of com

    • Mark Donaldson

      How you understand Paul’s words truly depends upon your view of the authority of scripture. Did Paul really mean what he said or was he only expressing a cultural norm? Paul said that he did not allow women to teach men. I don’t see much of a gray area from him. Yes, there are examples of women taking a leadership role in scripture, but my question is why? Why did Deborah step up to lead the army? The answer is because Barak was afraid. I see our dilema of this issue not being so much women teaching, but the men who are called by God to teach and lead within the church yet are afraid or lazy to actually step up. I see it in my church and many other church around me. This is perhaps a sad commentary on the state of the church in America today.

      The question is not so much “Can women teach?” but “Should women teach”? Paul means what he says. He’s not one to beat around the bush or candy coat a topic. As a professor at my seminary once said, “The simplest and most obvious answer is usually the right answer.” Why is it so difficult to take Paul at his word?

      • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

        The question is: What is Paul’s word? I am totally committed to the authority of the Scriptures. But I think complementarians do not understand what exactly it is that Paul said.

        Here is the central question to me: Which position, the complementarian or the egalitarian, is “sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of our blessed God”? (1 Tim.1:10-11)

      • Pam B

        Oh, so women are the not-so-good fallback plan if we’re absolutely necessary. Makes me feel special.

        Wait, no it doesn’t. It’s insulting and demeaning.

        • akash charles

          if you feel inferior because God does not want you to do something you need to recheck your relationship with God and get your mind sorted out

    • Denny Burk

      Dear Pastor McKissic,

      I know that we disagree on this issue and that we are unlikely to resolve that disagreement here. But I do think it is worth clarifying that complementarians are not advocating sexism.

      Sexism holds that one sex is superior to the other. That is not what the Bible teaches, and that is not our view. The Bible teaches that men and women are both equally created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and that they are fellow heirs of the grace of life(1 Pet. 3:7). Men and women are equal in value and worth, and they share equally in the benefits of salvation (Gal. 3:28).

      The Bible also teaches that God assigns different roles to persons based on gender. Husbands are called to lead, protect, and provide for their wives (Eph. 5:21-33), and wives are called to follow their husband’s leadership (1 Pet. 3:1). The office of pastor is limited to qualified men (1 Tim. 2:12), and women are to respect that role (1 Cor. 14:28). This doesn’t make women inferior. It simply means that God has given them a different assignment, and everything God does is wise, right and good.

      So we reject sexism and embrace the Bible. That is our view.

      Thank you for reading.


      • Dwight McKissic


        Sexism also prohibits women from functioning in roles (based on their sex) where the Bible does not restrict them. That is what I believe you and Hardman are doing, and that’s why I used the term sexism. Thanks for the feedback. I want ladies who read this blog to know that all conservative/evangelicals don’t view the women in ministry matter, or women teaching men the same way.

        • akash charles

          yup, just like saved men who are not able to manage their families well are denied certain positions- since when did salvation mean disobeying God’s laws??

          • Katherine Zylstra

            Men who fail to work hard and conduct themselves properly are making poor choices. Are you saying women should not be treated equally because they are failures in some aspect of their life, specifically the gender God created them to be?

      • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

        Much confusion has arisen from complementarian’s undefined use of the phrase “role distinctions.” What does “role” mean? Any dictionary will do. It means “the part one plays.” Distinctions means differences. From this I assume that role distinctions means the different parts we play, the different work we do, the different responsibilities we have. This is simple division of labor. It makes sense to divide up the work. Some are given one task and some another.

        I believe in role distinctions. I believe they are biblical. The gifts of the Spirit are one example of role distinctions. Role distinctions in the church should emerge through mutual decision and consent on the basis of spiritual and physical gifts, temperament, education, skills, and interests.

        Those who are stronger should lift the heavier loads. Those who know should teach those who don’t. Those with patience should care for the children. Those with strong voices should lead the singing. Those with a head for numbers and a sense of proportion should handle the money. Those with a love for growing things should do the gardening.

        But this is not how complementarians use the phrase. What they usually mean is rank distinctions.

        Rank has several different meanings, but when referring to people, it usually means placing them in order in a hierarchical structure, such as rank in the military. A rank distinction may be one specific role distinction among many.
        According to Romans 12:6–8, we have different roles. But that does not mean different ranks. The difference between role and rank is easily seen in any group where all members are of equal rank. Yet still the members will all be different from one another, carrying out different roles. And no one will thus assume that they must be different in rank also. Their equality is innate to their being a member of the group, transcending their differences, their roles.

        The Danvers Statement uses the term roles a number of times. For example, “Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.”

        I could agree if they really meant “role distinctions.” But they don’t. It is clear that what is meant by these “role distinctions” is really the subordination of women to men, that women are under the authority of men. The Statement goes on to say that “sin . . . inclines women to resist limitations on their roles,” but through Christ’s redemption “wives should forsake resistance to their husbands’ authority”.

        (Since 1988 the Danvers Statement has been further amended to eliminate the word “authority” completely. The Danvers Statement now reads: “sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.” But the true meaning, the authority of men over women, is still implied, apparent and obvious.)

        • Kyle Mullaney

          The problem is that in our culture we say that the person on the podium is inherently Better than the cook making lunch. That is the son of pride. It is like a supply demand equation. As the is only one needed for this role, at a time, that person is clearly more valuable. This distinction will drop as we move to plural eldership. Indeed we view pastoral ministry as preaching and it is much more than that. In my church in Taiwan women occasionally preach. I have come to respect it as they are under the leadership of the pastor and they are asked to speak because they can provide a point of view on a topic that the pastor is unable to. He is embracing his role of pastoral oversight by ensuring that the needs if the church are met. I know this is not full complimentarianism but it works and it has been of great value to me. Plus in Taiwan you cannot get away from it.

        • Katherine Zylstra

          Kathryn, thank you for making the role distinctions vs. rank distinctions analogy. I see Complementarians doing this so often–bending over backwards to try to explain how just as Jesus submitted to his Father, women are to submit to their husbands *but they’re both equal*!

          But even Jesus didn’t believe in equality with the Father while he was on earth did he? In John 14:28 Jesus says, “the Father is greater than I”.

          This is why I don’t believe in the eternal subordination of the Son. Hebrews 2:9 said that Jesus *for a little while* made himself lower than the angels. At that point, he was submitting to the Father, but that was only for “a little while”. Now, I believe, the Trinity is mutually submitting to each other just as we’re told to do (Ephesians 5:21). There is no more hierarchy.

        • Lynda Gravier

          Kathryn, I believe you have captured it exactly. Readers of scripture will be hard pressed to find any reference to gender in the various passages describing the various gifts of the Spirit in which we are to operate.

      • Don Johnson

        Each person should make their decisions in faith as they understand things. But it is not a virtue to not understand something, esp. complex passages of Scripture; so one should also be diligent in studying all sides in a debated passage, like 1 Tim 2.

  • Don Johnson

    I do not know why Denny thinks baptism or communion can ONLY be done in a church setting, I have never even heard that claim expressed before this. The first communion was in a home setting because the first Passover was celebrated in a home setting. I agree that baptism should be in a public setting if at all possible, but if not doing it in a private setting would not invalidate it. In both cases, they are acts of faith in any case. So I am perplexed why Denny would limit these acts to church.

    It is true that the decision on leadership ministries is a theological discussion based on one’s interpretation of Scripture, however, both sides claim to be following God’s will.

    • Keith Giles

      It’s not location that is in question, rather authority. Communion and baptism are Church ordinances; not individual but corporate, given by command of the Lord to the Apostles and passed on to the Church. Thus church leaders must oversee them.

    • Stephen Beck

      I think the typical argument is that communion or baptism should only be administered, or at least supervised, by elders or at the least those approved by elders. Baptism for example is fairly synonymous with church membership and it is typically true that when one is baptized as an adult they also become members at the church. It’s not that baptism should or should not be done in public, but they should be done in the context of a church body, not just random people.

      One of the campus ministries at my undergrad regularly baptized attenders of their ministry at a popular fountain on campus – I do not know all the specifics though I am pretty sure they did not practice spontaneous baptism (i.e., they were very familiar with everyone they baptized before the event ever happened) so they might have performed the baptisms with permission/oversight from the church the student was a member of, but I doubt it.

  • Dwight McKissic


    I accidentally hit the “submit’ button before I completed or reviewed my earlier comment. Here is intended comment.

    I am so thankful and proud of Cru for representing biblical fidelity and consistency regarding this subject matter. As an earlier commentator noted, there are many examples of women teaching men in Scripture, including Paul’s writings. The inadvertent, but very real sexism that you, Hardman and others advocate in the name of complementarianism is analogous to the racism that was and is sometimes advocated by conservatives in the name of Fundamentalism. Both were based on perhaps, sincere, but erroneous interpretations of Scripture. I believe that it is very unhealthy for women to function under the model of ministry that will not permit women and men to partner together to teach God’s people.

    If your position represents biblical truth, is DTS wrong to allow women to teach men? Is SWBTS wrong to allow women to teach men in the School of Christian Education? Beeson, Truett, Golden Gate, and other evangelical schools have or do allow this as well. Are they wrong? Certainly the female professors articulate a biblical basis and rationale for the subjects that they teach while men are present. Are they wrong? If your position is correct, why doesn’t the BF&M reflect this view?

  • Cameron Shaffer

    Dr. Burk,

    Could clarify how a parachurch organization could undermine the practice and discipline of the church by not practicing something that is supposed to be specifically evident in a church setting? In other words, how does Cru allowing women to teach men in a parachurch setting undermine the church holding a complimentarian position if the complimentarian theology that requires that only men teach and possess authority in the church is, by definition, limited to the church? It seems like you’re taking an ecclesiological doctrine and applying it out of its biblical context.

    Thanks for any thoughts you have.


    • Denny Burk

      Cameron, some of this goes the larger question of how parachurch groups relate to the church. There are many who would oppose any ministry taking to itself prerogatives that Jesus specifically commissioned to the church (baptism, Lord’s supper, preaching, etc.). That’s another discussion perhaps for another time.

      Having said that, it is my view that parachurch organizations ought to be serving churches not undermining them. In other words, they ought to be conduits to help people be better church members and leaders. These orgs cease to be helpful when they undermine the very order that they propose to be “helping” and “coming alongside of.”

      If a person joins my church from an egalitarian parachurch ministry, they are going to have some issues. They are going to find that what they found to be normal in the parachurch (i.e., women leading and teaching men) is not allowed in a real church. This is inevitably going to create personal and pastoral issues–especially if the member is a woman who is accustomed to leading and teaching men. She will either have to change her views or pursue ministry in a place where the biblical norm is disregarded. If parachurch orgs care about real churches, they shouldn’t mislead people and set up these kinds of conflicts. They should obey scripture. that’s what true discipleship is.

      • joerigney


        With respect to parachurch ministries, I’ve often said that if the Church is the Bride of Christ, then parachurch ministries are the bridesmaids. Their job is to participate in the beautification of the Bride, not usurp her place at the altar. Thus, reinforcing obedience to God’s sanctifying commands would be at the top of the list of any parachurch bridesmaid.

        I’m curious how you’d deal with Priscilla and Aquila as a model for educating men training for the ministry (Apollos). Priscilla assisted in instructing him outside of a formal church setting. Would that analogy extend to some teaching in seminary? to teaching Bible and theology at the undergraduate level? teaching non-biblical subjects at a college or seminary? teaching in parachurch ministries like Cru?

        • Denny Burk

          I don’t think you can build an egalitarian case on the example of Priscilla and Aquila. We really know very little about what that whole exchange looked like. Was Priscilla really taking the lead here? Are we to assume that she was teaching in such a way as to violate 1 Timothy 2:12? Egalitarians speak as if she did, yet there really isn’t much there in the text to establish the point. Description is not prescription, but we don’t even have the full description in Priscilla’s case.

          My wife and I have done premarital counseling before. In those situations, there are times when she speaks. I wouldn’t say, however, that she’s ever violated 1 Timothy 2:12 even though she’s participating the instruction that I am giving. For instance, she never exhorts the man as I do in those sessions. She is participating, but her role is different than mine. Given that those kinds of situations are easy to imagine, I wonder if some folks are not reading too much into the example of Priscilla and Aquila.

          • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

            Whatever Priscilla did, she did not “remain quiet” or “be silent” as 1 Tim.2:12 says. All of your qualifications and parameters for women speaking suggests that you do not accept the plain meaning of the words. Perhaps the plain meaning is more about how all Christians are to learn in humility. 1 Tim.2:11-12 … This plain meaning certainly conforms to the gospel. 1 Pet.5:5-6

      • Pam B

        The use of the term ‘real church’ is incredibly telling. So basically any church that doesn’t follow the rules of Mr Denny Burk to the letter is not a ‘real church’ in your eyes? Personally, I think God’s the one who can judge that, not you.

        • Dan Phillips

          “Personally, I think God’s the one who can judge that, not you.”

          Yeah. Wouldn’t it have been great if God had, like, inspired a book revealing what His judgment was on issues like this? Then we could read it, believe it, embrace it, and focus on practicing it rather than trying to find ingenious and God-hating-world-friendly ways around it.

          Yeah, that’s be great.

          Oh, wait….

          • Scott Terrell

            I think a lot of folks would be more appreciative of your blog and books if you weren’t so abrasive with your sarcasm. I get what you’re saying, even if I disagree. And I’m not trying to be the “tone police” that you rage against.

            Just a suggestion.

          • Pam B

            I wrote a response to this about four days ago – apparently it was deleted (that’s unethical, Denny).

            Sincere Christians disagree on many things. Many secondary issues – including the role of women and the age of the earth – are debated. It is everyone’s prerogative to have their view on these (and other) issues. It is a vastly different kettle of fish to intimate something bad about another’s faith or church because of differences on these secondary issues.

            • Denny Burk

              Pam, I don’t remember your comment, but it was probably filtered because you didn’t use your first and last name. I’m letting this one through so that you’ll be able to use both from now on. Thanks for reading.

        • Julius Henry

          Phillips’ Axioms come to mind after reading through comments on this blog, particulary #3 and #23. #3 Don’t be the last to know you are wrong. #23 Anyone can be taught — except the dead, the unwilling, and those who know everything already.

  • Don Johnson

    On complementarian doctrine, it is sexist, but it is a more sophisticated form of sexism, one that cloaks itself so that the holders of it are deceived. One can see this by transcribing the arguments to the race category as this was actually done before the Civil War and one can read their arugments if one chooses to do so.

    Blacks and whites are equal, but they have different roles given by God. Some blacks are called to be slaves and this is for their own good. Some whites are called to be slaveowners and exert a benign leadership for their slaves. That some slaveowners fail in this task and are abusive to their slaves just shows misuse of their God-given responsibilities. But being a slaveowner does not in and of itself prohibit someone from being a faithful member of a Baptist church.

    • Adam Cavalier

      Let’s say you believe the admonition from Paul in 1 Timothy 2:12 was NOT rooted in creation and was limited solely to the church in Ephesus (and similarly with regards other places in the NT where male headship is taken, Titus, etc.). Would you have supported this limiting of women’s roles for the church in Ephesus?

      To put it another way, if you are egalitarian NOW (I assume you are), would you have been complimentarian had you lived in 1st century Ephesus?

      I’ve always wondered this from the egalitarian position.

      Another point – do you believe that there are ZERO differences? Surely there are – even staunch egalitarians agree with this. Although men and women share equal value before God, there are surely differences. At the very minimal, physically they are created different, Most egalitarians would even say that there are differences spiritually and emotionally.

      So, why do you believe complementarians to be wrong when they say the way these differences are to be acknowledged in the way church roles are administered? It’s not to limit happiness or effectiveness – it’s intended to maximize joy and effectiveness by playing off what God has naturally gifted men and women in – specifically.

      On a related note – wouldn’t it be weird if your church’s women’s minister was male (assuming your church has one)? LOL. Try applying for that job!

      BTW- The comparison of complimentarian’s logic to that of slave owners shows a lack of respect to brothers and sisters. It’s also an misunderstanding of the issue with the intent of blurring clear biblical lines and vilifying your opponent. Com’n man!

      • A W Sanderson

        Adam, what specific differences (beyond physical) between male and female are being acknowledged by hierarchical-complementarians in the way they administer church roles and hierarchy in marriage? What is the exclusive essential essence (the intellectual, psychological, and spiritual constitution) of males in contradistinction to females that specifically predispositions males for authority and ranking above women in marriage and church life that results in maximizing joy and effectiveness by playing off how God has gifted males differently than women?

  • Geoff Brown

    Denny, as a Lead Pastor at an evangelical church, I thank you for standing with the Scriptures. I am well aware that there are ‘gray areas’ of Scripture, yet the Bible is unambiguously clear on the roles of men and women in the church. An 18-25 year old collegiate male was considered “a man” by the Hellenistic and Jewish culture at the writings of the apostle and since 1 Tim. 2:12 makes it clear that women are not to teach men, then it applies to this situation. If the “para-church” seeks to support the church it must not contradict the Scriptures! Mr. Harman bravely lost his position due to answering the simple question, “What does the Bible say?” I find that we live in perilous times in Christianity when the answer to that question is not enough.

  • Don Johnson

    1 Tim 2:13 is anything but clear. My suggestion is to read some good books on both sides of this debate in order to begin to appreciate just how unclear it really is.

        • Adam Cavalier

          Not sure what you’re trying to do by relating headship to plants and animals. I think your purpose was to point out the absurdity in the post you replied to, but I think it’s proving to have unintended consequences. It’s confirming my belief that the egalitarian defenders are becoming increasingly weak in their argumentation – by trying to tear down the complementarian position (not trying to support their argument from Scripture).

          If plants and animals were created in God’s image, we might have something to talk about, but they weren’t so … no. Obviously, we don’t submit to them (esp. considering Moses tells us to exercise dominion over them).

  • Don Johnson

    I meant 1 Tim 2:12. in any case 1 Tim 2:12 is not some kind of atomic truth statement, it needs to be read as part of the teaching unit that contains it.

  • dr. james willingham

    Well, let’s just hear the other side of the coin. I was teaching seminary extension, and the Education Commission of our denomination wanted another signed statement from me, one that would affirm the complementarian side of the coin…even though I could affirm verbal inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility and a host of other biblical doctrines held by southern Baptists, including, all five points of Sovereign Grace. Fortunately, the Commission could not get at me as they already had one approval of my earlier signed statement. Now, however, they would go after me. Why? all because I won’t buy unchecked complementarianism. In fact, I say it is functional and insist on checks and balances. Even one of the Arminian leaders of the Conservative Resurgence has a son who has not bought all of the requirements and, because he is a son of one of that nature, he has been allowed to serve undisturbed.. Besides egalitarianism is very much a part of the Reformed tradition as the Congregationalism of the Pilgrims, Puritans, and Baptists clearly proves. And if you won’t a proof that unchecked complementarianism can lead to disaster just study Germany.

  • dr. james willingham

    Let me add, that before many of the Conservatives that led in the effort to return the SBC to its biblical roots even begin to try and change its course, I was active in the effort. Even the adoption of the 1963 Confession of Faith was meant to return us to a more confident view of God’s word. As one fellow pastor said, his church had sent him to the convention to save Southern Baptists from heresy. That was in ’63 and I was present and voting in many of the Conventions of the 80s, including Dallas in ’85 and Atlanta in ’86. There are biblical reasons for some disagreements, and the fact that the Bible clearly states something in one place still has to be balanced by what it says about the same subject in another place. As one pastor who had on a minimum of biblical training said to me some 12 years ago, “Don’t you believe the Bible? Have you not read where God told a man to do what the woman said? ” He pointed to Abraham being told by God to do what Sarah said about Hagar. Hardly a possibility, if complementarianism is demanded unchecked and unbalanced. Where do you think the idea of checks and balances came from? Some heretical bit of literature? Try the Bible and Isaiah…And the same goes for prophecy. Jonah’s prophecy did not come to pass, and the rule for that is stoning. God’s word does not mean what we say or think or our little rules make it to mean; it means what He wills for it to mean. And UNCONDITIONAL STATEMENT OF GLOOM AND DOOM WAS MEANT TO BRING THE NINEVITES TO REPENTANCE WHICH IT DID. The same could be said for other prophecies in some cases. Otherwise, I Chron.16:15 would represent God was wasting his breath, something He is not noted to do.

    • dr. james willingham

      Hey, Dr. Burk: don’t you have any remarks regarding those egalitarians who supported the conservative movement in the Resurgence. After all, there had been egalitarian conservatives since the days of the Baptists and Congregationalists in England, and even the Black folks realized that there was something in a church where they were recorded as brothers and sisters. One Baptist church, the one that sent out the first missionary of Southern Baptists to China, excommunicated a member in 1860 or 61, just before the war started for stirring up a fuss about treating Blacks as equals in the membership of the church. You all ready to kick out the egals. as secondary members not worthy of fellowship or a place in the work?

  • Adam Cavalier

    Dr. Burk you said, “[women in the church] should seek opportunities that do not have them teaching Christian doctrine to adult men.”

    The word I have question with here is “doctrine”. 1 Timothy 2:12 reads, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”

    The obvious question is – teach what? and in what context?

    It seems you have asserted that the “what” [content] is Christian doctrine and the context is church AND parachurch ministries.

    What do you think classifies as teaching doctrine? For example, DTS has a woman (Dr. Dorian Cover-Cox) teaching OT (mainly Hebrew language classes). Would you have avoided her classes while at DTS? If so, would you have avoided DTS altogether knowing that they have violated (according to your conviction) 1 Timothy 2:12? Also, they have women in the Christian Education department teaching philosophy of ministry classes.

    I’d be interested in hearing your response. I believe someone has alluded to this very same thing above in reference to Southern.

  • Adam Cavalier

    Dr. Burk,

    You also said, “complementarian principles should be applied to parachurch groups, and that applies especially at seminaries in my view. Seminaries do not serve the church if they undermine the church’s teaching and discipline in the way that they train ministers.”

    I’m failing to understand how a parachurch ministry would undermine the church’s teaching and disciple (1 Timothy 2:12) in the way that they train ministers if they believe that the command is only for the local church setting – and not parachurch ministries.

    They would be violating it if they trained women to teach Christian doctrine in the church setting. But I’m not sure how they would be undermining it if they allow a woman to teach Christian doctrine elsewhere (not in a local church setting).

    The only way I could figure is that if you interpret the 1 Timothy 2:12 command to mean the church universally (all believers everywhere) AND the local church. Then that would make more sense. Am I on target? If that’s the case, the line between local church and parachurch gets a little blurred. Please help me understand. I would love to know your response as a fellow complementarian brother and one who appreciates your work greatly.

    P.S. It’s interesting that this seems to always be a problem in Western settings (namely, America) and not in other parts of the world. It is no problem for the brothers and sisters here where I currently minister.

      • Adam Cavalier

        Thanks for asking. I live in a closed country in the 10/40 window (so, I can’t really say on a public site like this). If you really want to know, you can visit my blog and my email address is there (It’s under the “Together” tab) – and I can personally email you there under a secure connection.

        As I think about it more, the reason the principle can apply to church AND parachurch ministries is that the very next verse 1 Timothy 2:13 relates the authority roles back to Creation. Then, it wouldn’t just be church and parachurch… it would be home, government, business, etc (pretty much every area of life, not just Christian doctrine). For example, Isaiah 3:12 says that one of the signs of judgement upon a nation is that women are ruling over them – which is against the natural order of creation.

        But I’m still confused on how this exactly plays out. Should women not teach in serminaries (when it is over men) – regardless of the content? Even greater, should women not teach mathematics/politics/ social science classes in a university? Should women not write commentaries on Scripture?

        I think a helpful clip on YouTube would be John Piper’s “Ask Pastor John” when they asked him about women’s teaching (it was a question about Beth Moore or something like that). He said something to the effect of when the woman begins to take a shepherding role (spiritual guide) over men, that’s when it begins to violate the biblical principle.

  • Adam Cavalier

    We should – if they were created in God’s image. But they weren’t – so we shouldn’t (are you trying to be witty by pointing out the “flaws” in others’ arguments?? It’s a bit self-defeating).

    • Adam Cavalier

      I wish we could go back and delete posts… (maybe there is a way and I haven’t figured it out.) This was not intended to be an original post; it was meant to be a reply to a post above.

  • Tim Shepherd

    The original post really highlighted the problem of working within an organisation in whch members have different views.
    Carl Trueman asked why the TGC made such a thing of complementarianism. There seemed to him to be much more major issues that provoked a much less sharp division. Someone, I forget who, responded, pointing out that this was not simply a doctrinal matter, nor a matter of practice where people could go their own way, but a practice that almost inevitably involved dissenters of the official or majority position either to conform or leave. Thus the practice has a remarkable capacity to divide Christians. Hernce its importance to TGC.
    In this particular case, Cru seem to have had a policy or value with which Daniel Harman disagreed. Leaving aside whether Cru or Daniel was right about this policy, it does seem more reasonable for Daniel to conform with the values of the organisation. Certainly there may be scope for seeking a way in which Daniel and Cru could work alongside each other through giving him tasks in which the issue did not come to the surface. Cru could scarcely expect him to work in conflict with his conscience, i.e. ‘not by faith’. But neither could Daniel expect Cru to so work. So if there was no compromise that was available, it seems the logical thing that that Cru and Daniel part company.
    Now in all this, I have not appealed to the issue.
    And the responses to the post and perhaps even the original post, seem to line up on the issue in dispute. If you think the Cru practice right, their response was right, if you agree with Daniel’s position on complementarianism, Cru is out of line.
    I would argue that given the Cru policy and Daniel’s views it is difficult to see how they could stay together. Thus a parting, however sad, was the right thing. It is not a matter that Cru was right and Daniel wrong, or vice versa; it is a matter that two could not wealk together because of disagreement over practice.
    I would therefore be rather surprised if Daniel regarded this as an example of religious persecution. Does Denny so regard it?

    • Akash Charles

      I do not think it would be religious persecution, after all he is still allowed to proclaim Jesus,etc

      yes if it was cru policy he should not be working there

      except, cru seems to change its policy based on people complaining

      no one had an issue with his position for 8 years

      and now suddenly they fire him

      also if an honourable man had given up his life in the states and gone to work as a missionary for your organisation, even if you disagree with his stance (after saying nothing for more than 8 years), you should have some respect for him, it seems like the cru officials are more interested in managing than respect for others.

      There are s many other issue many cru staff will disagree on and do not employ,but do they fire them/demote them .clearly not.

      It is quite sad actually.

      As for small groups, what if all the christians in the college were women, in order to get men to become christians surely it would involve women teaching them.

      It is not like the woman is making decisions for the man/guiding him, he should obviosly go to a man for that but if it is just learning/reading the bible how is it different from Priscilla??

  • Akash Charles

    just thinking

    at the moment various organisations like CRU will be anti complementarian etc

    and there will be conflict

    but 30-40 perhaps 20 years from now it is highly likely that such organisations will embrace homosexuality and the bigger debates will be homosexuality vs those who disagree that it is permitted rather than the current egalitarian vs complementarian.

    BTW I though cru embraced the complementarian position , or is that only in the family??

    it would not be surprising if more and more people are fired and perhaps not allowed to provide for their family because of their support and respect of the bible

  • dr. james willingham

    Across 50 years of being an ordained minister, I have never seen anything but grief come out of the lording it over others in the complementarian position, that is the unchecked complementarian position. I repeat that the thing is functional,; it comes in the Bible with checks and balances, and without them, it is an open sesame for pathologies of the worst sort.

  • Erik Eckhardt

    While with you on the teaching issue, I must address something else.

    There is only one church. It is the body of Christ. All this talk of parachurch vs. actual church, and some kind of authorization needed to baptize or “administer” the Lord’s Supper is wrong-headed and not pleasing to God. Make no mistake that human political organizations neither grant nor deny “permission” to baptize. Is one person of Cru church and another of Zeus and another of Apollos and another of Paul? Who gives differently-named church fragments rights that other fragments. do not have?

  • Scott Lachut

    When women are in authority over men, it’s the men who leave. It’s not the weakness of women that is the issue here. It’s the weakness of men who step aside and leave religious matters to women.

    This command in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is to ensure that men stay engaged in the ministry. When women lead the pulpit, fewer husbands and fathers attend the church.

  • Don Johnson

    Adam Calier asked on Dec 2: (1) “To put it another way, if you are egalitarian NOW (I assume you are), would you have been complimentarian had you lived in 1st century Ephesus?”

    (2) “Another point – do you believe that there are ZERO differences? Surely there are – even staunch egalitarians agree with this. Although men and women share equal value before God, there are surely differences. At the very minimal, physically they are created different, Most egalitarians would even say that there are differences spiritually and emotionally.

    So, why do you believe complementarians to be wrong when they say the way these differences are to be acknowledged in the way church roles are administered? It’s not to limit happiness or effectiveness – it’s intended to maximize joy and effectiveness by playing off what God has naturally gifted men and women in – specifically.”

    My response:
    1) I am egal now as I see Jesus and Paul, etc. being egal in the 1st century, when understood in cultural context. In 1 Tim 2, I see Paul restricting some women at Ephesus from teaching for a time while they are being taught the truth.

    2) Of course there are physical diffs between men and women. Only a man can impregate a woman and only a woman can bear a baby and nurse it from her body. And from these differences there could easily be others that are true, science seems to show that the 2 halves of the male brain are less connected than the female brain and I could see how this might mean a man could concentrate on one thing better while a woman could see connections between things better. The advantages of a division of labor can mean that one gender often does different things than the other. Viva la difference’. Being egal in family just means that one is not forced to fit into boxes that might not fit your family, rather the spouses in each family can decide for themselves how best to carve up the responsibilities. In terms of church ministry, when spiritual gifts are mentioned, including leadership ministry gifts in Eph 4:11, there is no mention of any restriction by gender or anything else.

  • Paul Addington

    As a complementarian who has been involved with Cru for over four years, this blog post really disappointed me. I think there is something very legitimate to be said regarding the argument that parachurch organizations are very different from a local church body. Parachurch organizations should in no way be required to make sure that they are in line with every allegedly biblically-founded doctrine taught by every church, especially when there are those denominations across evangelical Christianity that hold to an egalitarian view and there are those which hold to a complementarian view. They are conflicting perspectives. How is it at all reasonable to expect parachurch organizations to satisfy both points of view? You will always satisfy one to the exclusion of the other. It is wrong to expect that all staff and students adhere to either complementarianism or egalitarianism, just as it would be wrong to expect all staff and students to confess Calvinist doctrine or Arminian doctrine in order to participate. It is the wrong hill to die on, and I believe that Mr. Harman, as a representative of an interdenominational organization, was wrong to enforce a particular position of an open-handed viewpoint upon his staff, especially without any initial clarification of his reasoning behind it. Doing what he did put his staff in an incredibly compromising position. It is wrong to portray him as a man victimized by a bunch of higher-ups who don’t like the complementarian viewpoint. That is not the case whatsoever. The proper measures were taken to address a situation where a campus ministry director was enforcing an open-handed theological viewpoint where it was not appropriate to do so. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the regional staff who demoted him actually hold to the complementarian view. The issue here is that the organization itself does not adhere specifically to either a complementarian OR egalitarian view and it’s wrong to say that it is necessary for Cru to take a particular stance on that issue.

    • Denny Burk

      Paul, we agree that CRU has the right to set and enforce their own policies. I said so in my original post. One of the things that you will note in the WORLD article is that those policies are inconsistently carried out–especially overseas where Daniel spent the majority of his employment with CRU.

      Having said that, the idea that there is neutral ground on the gender issue is a fantasy. An org will either obey 1 Timothy 2:12 or they will not. CRU’s “neutral” policy allows women to teach and exercise authority over men. Most people can see that that is not a neutral position. It’s a functionally egalitarian position, even though CRU doesn’t want to acknowledge it as such.

      • Ryan Sather


        With this view on women in a context outside the local church I take it you will now be aiming your criticism at:
        *Passion (Beth Moore among other women will be special speakers teaching men at their conference)
        *Desiring God (Joni Eareckson Tada speaking/teaching men at conference)
        *The Gospel Coalition (2011 Nat Conf–Paige Benton Brown and Nancy Guthrie speaking/teaching men)

        I could go on and on with both church based and para-church ministries that have had women speak/teach in settings outside of the special/unique place God has called men to fill–the pulpits of our local churches.

        Let me know your thoughts…

      • Steve Dawson

        Actually,CRU is not being inconsistent in its policies. If Daniel was working in Eastern Europe, he could have been working in a country or an area that was majority Muslim. Muslim societies tend to be patriarchal, hence a woman teaching men would not be socially acceptable. In other words, CRU was taking its cue from the local societal norms. What may seem to be inconsistencies may be adapting ministry to the culture.

        • akash charles

          since when does the bible change because of culture?? it does not and should not

          for ex no where does it say that people can lie in one culture and not the other.

          if cru holds an egal viewpoint and they can’t tell him when he started at cru it is called inconsistency.

          going by culture does this mean gays should be preachers in sweden etc that are extremely liberal after all you will offend these liberal countries if you denied gays to speak-which is a societal norm in Scandinavian countries

          • Steve Dawson

            I am not suggesting that we change the message of the Bible. WI am suggesting that we change *how* it is presented to different people. Muslim culture is very patriarchal. Hence, a woman presenting the Gospel would tend to be ignored. While on a college campus in the U.S. , most students wouldn’t care whether a man or a woman was presenting the gospel. It’s a difference of culture.

            I suspect that there was some miscommunication between CRU and Daniel. Since we don’t have all of the facts, it would be hard to tell who was at fault.

              • dr. james willingham

                Ms, Stegall: I read with appreciation your work, Nasrin’s Story. I hope Dr. Burk reads it, for it provides a healthy insight into the reality of the detrimental nature of complementarianism with reference to the bible and the Gospel in particular. That approach denies the depth of the word of God written; it is a rule of hierarchialism with all the miseries that particular approach has spelled for the Christian Faith through out Christian nature. Having taken notes on all 2000 years of Church History with reference to those persecuted, I can that that I deeply appreciate what you have written from the environs of a patriarchical society. wish Carl F.H. Henry had known some of both your experience and my research; it might have helped him to appreciate out of the box understanding which the Bible sometimes demands…as in Jonah 3 and the old King of Nineveh’s question: Who can Tell? But then the closed mind only thinks when it runs into a dead end, when it crashes into a wall to which its blindness directed it.

            • Akash Charles

              wait a minute

              if the bible says women can teach , women should teach- bible rules should not change with culture.

              are you saying men should not teach in a matriarchal culture-they exist in certain regions of the world???

              God’s rules should be followed by all regardless of culture, as I said would a culture that embraces lying mean that the gospel should be presented and affirming of lying?

              God’s rules stay regardless of culture other wise he would have given us different bibles for different cultures!!!- which makes no sense, God does not create confusion he has a definite right and wrong.

              If women are supposed to teach and in a muslim country the women asks if she can teach and you say no, she will see the hypocrisy-you cannot tell her,”oh in your culture you cannot teach so you can’t”-this basically puts God below culture and not above it-where he should be

              For this reason Cru should have a distinct yes or no, and not hire employees that disagreed with their views and then fire them leaving them on the roadside pretty much after years, it is nothing but irresponsible management-and Christians are supposed to be an example of responsible management.

              • Steve Dawson

                Paul in I Cor 9:22 states “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”

                In other words, Paul is willing to talk to those he is speaking to on their level. He speaks to non-Jews in terms that they will understand the Gospel and to Jews in their terms.

                I believe that most evangelistic organizations understand that they must be aware of cultural differences. It’s useless to go into an area if those who you are trying to evangelize can’t get past your initial presentation. That means that in a patriarchal society, men take the lead. Consequently, in a matriarchal society women would take the lead.

                If he was demoted, it was because he refused to follow what he was told to do. He was told to let a woman lead a Bible study and he felt he couldn’t follow that directive. Aside from wherever you fall on the discussion, he didn’t follow instructions. In any employment situation, that will get you demoted or fired.

                • Akash Charles

                  firstly there is a big difference between going to their level and accepting their cultural rules as biblical- if the bible did not change culture , what is the difference in being christian??

                  also what will you tell the muslim women in a radical country that wants to perhaps teach???

                  If you say NO! because of the culture you cannot-she will come to see that according to you God has no power!!

                  you have to say yes-which would contradict your whole complementarianism should be applied to patriarchal cultures thing, which brings us back to

                  CRU cannot fire a man if they have kept him on with those beliefs-knowing this for 8 years- and if they did want to keep different beliefs they should have said to him that if he wants to come back to america he must change his beliefs or leave or choose another field to work in.Not leave him for 3 years and then throw him out- this is all part of being professional and not slack!!

  • Paul Addington

    I think it is an overreaction to say that not adhering to a certain theological viewpoint is undermining the ministry and mission of a local church. I would argue first of all that involvement in Cru prepares equips college students to eventually be better church members and leaders because they gain experience in evangelism, discipleship, submitting to authority, etc. Even in its neutral stance, Cru comes alongside of and helps church ministry by producing church-goers.
    Also, I would just point out that I don’t think students involved with Cru would have much issue with joining your church. For one, Cru doesn’t profess an explicit egalitarian viewpoint, it’s just that the egalitarian view is much closer to the neutral stance that Cru holds on the issue than the complementarian view is. Secondly and more importantly, though, is that the majority of students, both male and female, that I have come to know through Cru actually hold a complementarian view. This indicates two things: 1) Cru as a ministry is distinct from the local church, so they give priority to both. Cru never serves as a replacement for the local church in their view. 2) Cru’s approach to ministry really doesn’t violate the complementarian view as much as you think it does. Female staff do not speak at every weekly gathering–it’s a mix of men and women. But aside from that, men disciple and lead men in the movement while women disciple and lead women. It is in the context of the large group meetings (and sometimes small groups) that men and women come together. The point here is that the men are so regularly led and discipled by other men that a 20-minute talk by a female staff member is in no way leading them and it is not even necessarily teaching them.
    The last thing I’ll say is this: Cru’s mission is to turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers, not to turn them into Calvinist, complementarian, Christ-centered laborers. As a parachurch organization, it does its best to remain neutral on issues that are open-handed and are interpreted differently across evangelical Christianity. Through its ministry to students, faithful members are added to the congregations of churches surrounding the campus and it is in those churches that students can be more specifically taught about their local churches’ stance on those open-handed issues. Let the local church take the responsibility of teaching and defending complementarianism, don’t place that burden on Cru, an interdenominational organization.

  • Jay Rider

    Clark, Great points. I tend to agree with you here. If a woman is teaching under the watchful eyes of male leadership — for orthodoxy and orthopraxy, I don’t see this as something that should be a no, never situation. I also don’t believe it should be normative, but clearly there are viable situations that exist where women could teach under strong leadership. I’ve been involved with a few reformed campus ministries and the truth of the matter is that young woman mature much more quickly than young men. It is extremely difficult to find young American men who take their faith and theology serious enough. Sometimes, the young women will facilitate a study in which oversight is provided by the ministers. Sometimes a young woman will address both young men and women in a larger setting where teaching is involved. But the campus ministers are always present.

    The truth of the matter is that colleges are not churches. There is a reason why paraministry exists and it should be to point people toward church membership. But participation in a paraministry is not church membership. Period. In such a setting, there doesn’t seem to be a legitimate reason why a qualified woman who belongs to a biblical church and who is under elder-leadership cannot teach biblically to a mixed audience that includes young men.

  • Jay Rider

    “unambiguously clear on the roles of men and women in the church.” But college ministry is not the church. Therefore, I don’t see this nearly as cut and dry as you are seeing it.

  • dr. james willingham

    Clear statements of Scripture, unless they are like Jonah’s message of gloom and doom to Nineveh, always have a counter balancing pole set forth in Scripture. Evidently, complementarianism does not read the Book very closely that it professes to be following. The fact that the Congregationalists and Baptists are congregationalists in churh government suggestes that there is more to the church than the government of elders and the elders, for example, are balanced by the church. And, if there were not counter balances of women teaching and performing ministry, then the argument that men only would be valid. Also the idea that woman must keep silence in church would be absolute and her husband, father, etc., would have to speak for her in all cases…but even Gill would not allow for that. Ignorance of Baptist history is only bliss until problems begin to arise and arise they will.

  • Samantha Jones

    In my undergrad I attended weekly lectures that were part of a parachurch organization. Several of the lecturers were women, and half the audience was male. I am complementarian. I never had a problem with this, simply because there is an obvious difference between these lecturers and the pastor of my church. In the case of guest lectures, the people they bring in are diverse. Some of them have a firm understanding of scripture and have things to say that really spur me on to worship the Lord with my mind. On the other hand, some of those lecturers are morons with very little of anything helpful to communicate. I didn’t regard these people as having spiritual authority over me– they were just random people spouting off their own theology, and if it didn’t align with scripture I didn’t have to take it seriously. In the case of my pastor– he has spiritual authority over our church. I joined the church because I trust him to be faithful to scripture and teach what is right.

    It seems that the Timothy verse is really pointing to particular kind of authoritative teaching. If women in general, and in all situations were commanded not to ever teach scripture to men and be silent, there would be a lot of problems. How could she share the gospel to non-believing males? How could she even have a real conversation with other men about scripture? Bring up concerns or other viewpoints in a small group setting? Would she be banned from writing commentaries that men might read? Could she direct a children’s church play that mothers and fathers would watch?

  • Margaret Hall

    This is a parachurch organization, not a church. That does allow this to be a “policy issue” as Cru averred. Campus Crusade, as I understood it when I was a member, was a group that promoted spiritual growth. It did not have the “power structure” (for want of a better term) that a church has, including church discipline, etc. Active members of Crusade at our school came from many different Protestant denominations and even included Catholic students. I believe that all of us who were church members were subject to our own church’s doctrinal views of gender appropriate ministry. In my view, Campus Crusade’s policies are ones that promote the unity of the students worshipping and ministering together. It is a Bible based organization that provides a challenge to students to pursue a deep relationship with God. The author of this article seems to believe that Cru will in some way undermine the local churches by allowing women to speak at weekly functions attended by students of both genders, but I disagree with his assessment. To me, that would be like saying that a male listening to Elisabeth Eliot or Beth Moore on the radio will somehow be convinced that women should be pastors. The venues and functions of each ministry (campus ministry, radio ministry) are totally divergent from church.

  • James Erwin Batul Estoque

    WOW!!! I’ve never heard of egalitarian and complementarian words before until I read this blog…

    It is so sad to see brothers and sisters in Christ argue back and forth when we don’t see eye to eye with Scriptures…

    I don’t think it matters in the eyes of God the roles and distinctions we play in His kingdom, what matters to Him I believe is SOULS being saved and added to His kingdom…

    Granted that all of us will not agree with our own beliefs and doctrines we create or follow, so what if Harman is let go – it’s just like the President I voted didn’t get elected but life moves on until the day He returns.

    Can we all just agree to disagree, some are Baptist, some are Protestants, but Apostle Paul instructed us in 1 Corinthians 9:22 to become all things to men (and women) by all possible to might save some.

    I’m neither egalitarian nor complementarian, I’m a believer and follower of Christ and striving to live according to His will.

    Oh Lord, Help Us!

  • Kristin Richardson

    You are right that Cru is a parachurch organization that is meant to support the church. The thing is Cru staff workers consider themselves to be missionaries to college students (usually on secular campuses), and as missionaries they naturally use the Bible to minister to students.

    I would think that to claim that women can’t “teach” the Bible in such a context to men that one would also need to reconsider the limits of women in mission work in general. At what point does “using the Bible to minister” to someone cross the line into authoritative teaching?

    • Samantha Jones

      Excellent point Kristin, this is exactly what I was thinking. Just the other day, a male coworker friend heard me refer to Jesus as “God.” He is from India (we are in the US) and I am one of a very few number of Christians that he knows. He was confused about my statement and thought this was antithetical to the idea of Christianity being monotheistic. This led to a long discussion of the trinity. I used a lot of scripture to explain. I’m wondering what I was supposed to have done in that situation? Said, “Oops, I can’t answer your questions about the Bible. Let me go get a random male Christian who is a stranger to you so that you can talk to him.” I guarantee that would have freaked him out and would not have gone well…

      • Steve Dawson

        I grew up in an independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church. The vast number of foreign missionaries that came to present their work were single women. They were presenting the Gospel in areas that would probably be judged by some as “unfit for a woman”. It was those single women who kept the Gospel going and help found a good many churches. Somewhere along the way, we have lost sight of what is really important and what are secondary issues.

        • Jay Rider

          Yes, this is an excellent point. We have had a number of Godly Christian women in our church who have gone to seminary and then out to the mission field in other countries. Since America is slowly becoming the biggest mission field of our age, we are going to seriously need to rethink how women can engage the culture outside of the church. They should be church members, under male eldership, but free to share the good news and even teach the scriptures outside of the church. Anyone who will deny this is not taking a biblical approach.

      • Henry Bish


        I think you miss the point. Answering questions and explaining things in informal personal conversation with people, like Priscilla with Apollos, or Abigail and David, does not mean you have taken on a public position of leadership / authority over men. Which is what Paul is getting at. I encourage you to read Calvin’s excellent commentary on 1Tim2:11ff.

        • Samantha Jones

          Hi Henry,

          I think you and I simply draw a different line. My first post (that starts with “in my undergrad…”) explains my thoughts on this a little more clearly. But, essentially there is a spectrum of complementarians, and I am part of it. There are any manner of positions but three of the main ones are as follows:

          1.) Women should not teach scripture to men ever and under any circumstances and this would include evangelism. This is of course, absurd. I was pointing out the absurdity of this position.

          2.) Women should not teach scripture in any public venue to men. This would allow for evangelism but exclude seminary, or pretty much anything other than one-on-one conversations. I think it would exclude women writing commentaries. I think this is your position? One problem with this position is how arbitrary it is. At what point are you teaching in a formal venue versus an informal venue?

          3.) Women should not teach scripture when she carries church-ordained elder-like authority. This is relevant in the setting of a church. A man should never regard a woman as his pastor. This is my position because I contend this is what Paul was speaking of.

          My argument is simply that can not forbid what the Bible does not forbid. Paul is speaking of authority, not lectures, talks, discussions or missionary work. #1 is crazy. #2 I understand somewhat but ultimately disagree with.

            • Henry Bish


              My argument is simply that can not forbid what the Bible does not forbid. Paul is speaking of authority, not lectures, talks, discussions or missionary work.

              Except Paul explicitly forbids ‘teaching’ in 1Tim2, not just authority, because he sees public teaching as an expression of authority, unlike us 🙂

              #1 – if by this you mean a woman can’t ever talk about scripture with men, and in the course of doing so then teach him something, then yes, this is bizarre. But I don’t even know why you are putting it on the table – who is saying it?

              #2 – I would be closest to this position out of your 3. It is actually the least arbitrary position because it takes seriously the fact that Paul’s command is rooted in creation and so can’t be artificially compartmentalized into certain church settings. It also takes seriously the numerous examples of private instruction of men by women we see in scripture. Thus Calvin’s excellent distinction between private and public teaching. One communicates that woman is the head of man, the other does not. Scripture makes this distinction, it is not arbitrary. As for boundaries, there are no black and white rules for applying most of biblical truth, this does not mean we can’t do it.

              Ultimately I think we don’t really understand that Paul’s teaching actually affects the very nature of what is fitting for men and women in all of life. We strangely lose sight of the underlying principle and are left with an arbitrary command about women not having a very specific kind of ‘elder authority’ over a man yet it is absolutely fine for her to teach 10,000 men on any day except Sunday church service. Eh? How can we expect anyone to make sense of that?

              • Samantha Jones

                Hi Henry,

                As a quick reply to #1– I brought it up because, for one reason, I have actually heard “hard-core” complementarians claim that women should only evangelize to other women. I have no idea how many complementarians actually believe that when you get down to it, perhaps its very rare. No one here explicitly said that, however Kristin made the point that Cru sees itself a missionary type organization and made the point, “I would think that to claim that women can’t “teach” the Bible in such a context to men that one would also need to reconsider the limits of women in mission work in general.” I was playing off of that. I *hate* straw-man arguments, and I promise it was not my intention to make one.

                You make the distinction of public versus private. I make the distinction of church authority versus church independent. I think Priscilla taught rightly because she wasn’t functioning as a pastor. You think Priscilla taught rightly because she wasn’t talking to a large number of men. I just don’t see it in scripture. It honestly looks to be a question of authority.

                I do think it would be okay for a woman, in a Beth Moore-like to way, to teach a large audience that included men, provided she was not in a position of authoritative teaching.

                I have one last question for you, regarding the two sentences, “One communicates that woman is the head of man, the other does not. Scripture makes this distinction, it is not arbitrary.” Are you suggesting that man is the head of women? If so, that is definitely not scriptural. The husband is head of the wife. Are you suggesting that all men have authority over all women? This is not scriptural. A wife is to be submissive to the authority of her husband. Both genders are to submit to spiritual authority, governing authority, parents, God. Women [in general] are never called to submit to men [in general].

                • Henry Bish

                  Hi Samantha,

                  thanks for your reply and I appreciate that you are not a straw-man mongerer.

                  A few quick point:

                  You make the distinction of public versus private. I make the distinction of church authority versus church independent.

                  The context of both 1Tim2 and 1Cor14 show that Paul was addressing public situations, not private. This combined with the many examples of private conversations on spiritual things between men and women in scripture makes a pretty solid case for the public vs private distinction. In contrast, I think it is highly implausible to argue that Paul was limiting “authority” to a specific kind of “church authority”. As I have pointed out, that Paul roots it in creation militates against this – he is applying a creation principle to the specific situations at Corinth and Ephesus. That it is a creation principle means it applies everywhere else also.

                  I think Priscilla taught rightly because she wasn’t functioning as a pastor. You think Priscilla taught rightly because she wasn’t talking to a large number of men. I just don’t see it in scripture.

                  Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside after hearing him in the synagogue. Everything suggests this was a private affair. Apollos was the only audience member:) In contrast to your suggestion, Paul nowhere forbids a woman from being a pastor or an elder. He realises that the issue is not so much in the title held but in the function performed. If a woman is publicly teaching the men of the church then she is violating the principles he lays out. Which is why he says not to ‘teach’ rather than not to be a ‘pastor’. That a woman teaching men publicly happens to be doing the job of an elder is incidental – and a point Paul does not make. Paul works with the underlying principles of submission and authority instead. Paul says for women to 1) not teach men; 2) not exercise authority over men 3) be in “submission”. The context is public not private.

                  I do think it would be okay for a woman, in a Beth Moore-like to way, to teach a large audience that included men

                  This idea will always keep bumping up against the awkward fact that (as RHE loves to point out) Paul said a woman should not teach men, but should remain “quiet” and “in submission”. He roots in in creation rather than rooting it in the fact that it is Sunday morning. I know that sounds offensive to our modern ears, but that’s what it says and the problem lies with us not Paul, as previous generations testify.

                  Are you suggesting that man is the head of women? If so, that is definitely not scriptural.

                  “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Cor 11:3 (NIV).

                  There are a number of reasons why it is quite implausible for a minority of translations to try the novel idea of changing ‘woman’ to ‘wife’ and ‘man’ to ‘husband’. But I will not rehash that here.

                  Let me not be misunderstood, there is a husband-wife submission that is a different class than the general ‘deference’, if you like, which Paul appeals in the way women relate to men. It is only to husbands that Paul adds the phrase ‘in everything’ – a woman is not in the same way bound to men generally. So in a sense you are right, women should only submit to their husbands with wife-husband submission.

                  Yet if you argue that no general deference or submission exists, you strip Paul of his sense. For on the one hand he is saying women (but not men) should be “in submission” and not “teach” or “exercise authority” over all other men. Even though he is also saying (according to you) that women should not be ‘in submission” to any other men than their husband. That does not quite add up does it? It strips Paul of the very reason you give for why a woman should not be the elder of a man who is not her husband.

                  • juliejames

                    this issue of general submission has come up before in conversations in my life and i just thought i’d point out that the New Bible Commentary (edited by Wenham, Motyer, Carson and France) puts 1 Cor 11:3 in a husband and wife context.

                    i think the idea of general submission is very dangerous. you are expecting women to ‘submit’ to men they do not have a loving relationship with and who are not called to love them as Christ loved the church. this can also lead to expecting that women step down from opportunities in the secular workplace where they would supervise men, meaning they lose positions of influence and higher pay in society. it can easily become oppressive.

                    • Henry Bish


                      I would recommend you take your concerns to the bible translation committee’s – lets see if we can get the translations changed, hopefully that will sort this undesirable situation out (tongue in cheek).

                      But seriously, please show that you have noticed my deliberate distinction between the husband wife relationship and men and women in general. Then I can believe that you are engaging in good faith.

                      For complementarians who desire to receive God’s word as authoritative for their life and thinking, the question for those who deny any kind of subordination between men and women who are not husband and wife will always be:

                      On what basis can a woman not be a pastor over men who are not their husbands?

                      This was actually the whole point of complementarianism!

                      Its not just about roles in the home but about roles in the church. Roles based on gender. I’m amazed how so many seem to not realise this and yet still think they are complementarians.

                      If roles in the church are not based on authority / submission principles between men and women (which are actually the reasons Paul gives), then what the heck are they based on? What is stopping you from having a female pastor?

                      You see, this approach actually cuts off the branch you are sitting on.

                      I say this gently, realising we all need time to think on these things and wrestle with them before God. But the logic of Paul should at least get as moving…

                    • Samantha Jones

                      Hi Henry, I don’t think we are ever going to agree here.

                      You said: “If roles in the church are not based on authority / submission principles between men and women (which are actually the reasons Paul gives), then what the heck are they based on? What is stopping you from having a female pastor?”

                      Scriptures do place men in the role of elders. That is what I and others have contended that the I Timothy verse is talking about. A few lines down the qualifications of elders are clearly laid out. “Husband of one wife…” The creation order is sandwiched in between these.

                      If a woman is to “remain quiet” always, outside of church and everywhere, we have bigger problems than those associated with Cru.

                      Do you have a problem (or perhaps I should say, do you believe scriptures have a problem) with a woman in a position of teaching non-scriptural subjects, such as a female professor at a university teaching astrophysics?

                    • Akash Charles

                      wow since when was leaving supposed positions of authority lead to oppression-this says a lot about your trust in God-what if God calls you to leave such positions-I suppose for you feminism comes first.

                      and women who have not been in supposed positions of authority have had a much larger influence on the world than the current women you worship

                    • Samantha Jones

                      Hi Julie,

                      I just read Akash Charles reply and it made me pretty sick. I just wanted to voice my support. The idea of general submission *is* very dangerous. If Akash or Henry had young daughters, I am certain they would not want them to submit to (or even have a level of reverence for) non-Christian men. It is repugnant and not biblical in the least.

                      Our position is the standard among complementarians. Tim Challies, Russell Moore, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll are among a few I can think of who have condemned the notion of general female submission to males in general. (I do not know what their thoughts would be on the Cru thing, maybe they’d agree with this original article, or Henry on many of his points regarding women and teaching. But I know they don’t believe in general submission, nor do most mainstream folks.)

                    • juliejames

                      i was simply using an example of a well-respected commentary to point out that it is plausible to view that 1 Cor 11:3 deals with the husband and wife relationship and not relationships between men and women in general. i have no problem submitting to my husband or elders, but do not see how i am to submit to my friend’s husband or the random guy in my workplace. and i merely mentioned an example of how it can go wrong. my intention was not to antagonize anyone.

                      henry, as samantha said below, i disagree with your perspective on gender roles applying beyond the home and church. and perhaps you should rethink what a gentle response entails since you began your remark making fun of me (even if it was joke).

                      akash, your comment was just hateful but taking your other remarks on this post into consideration that seems to be your usual tone. i am disappointed that Dr. Burk continues to post your comments. i do not worship feminisim but any perspective taken to the extreme can hurt people. of course, there are women who are not in authority positions who make a difference but that doesn’t mean that women cannot hold authority in certain positions in society. i rarely get angry by what i read on these things but your comment went too far. it is not glorifying to God to insult people and you should be ashamed of what you’ve written on this site.

                    • juliejames

                      Thank you for the kind words. I go to a Reformed Baptist church and think you are right. I also have a young daughter so this issue is important to me.

                    • Akash Charles

                      I just want to point out that feminism makes me sick, just like men who have no respect for women, their talents, goals etc and are bent on controlling women for their own benefit-makes me sick too!

                      and I get quite angry when women are abused!

                    • juliejames

                      akash, i am certain you do not support oppressing women and apologize if that is what i implied. i do not find general submission to be biblical and do think it can have harmful effects, but unfortunately, much of the blame for all the problems regarding gender issues is placed on egalitarians and feminists and there is little discussion on the oppression that can result from extreme views and applications. that is why i wanted to point it out.

                      i would also urge you to think about how you respond to people. it is not the heart of a complementarian to insult women on a public forum. i do not mind if you disagree but you were very rude and made some pretty sensational and ridiculous remarks.

                      and thanks to dr. willingham for what you said above.

  • connie reagan

    I am not a theologian or a daughter of a theologian….but I do have a question. We know, because Jesus taught it, that every little word is inspired Scripture (because of the argument He gave for the resurrection-God IS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The word “is” being the point.) Okay, now when Paul says “I do not allow a woman to teach” he is saying that he, Paul, does not allow a woman to teach. He did NOT say that Jesus does not allow a woman to teach.

    I don’t really have a dog in this fight seeing as I am not and do not desire to be a teacher-of the Bible or anything else, really, not my gifting-and I do NOT wish to be a leader either. But I am simply asking, that as the authoritative word of God, maybe God was simply saying that leaders would be in the best position to determine whether or not allowing women to teach in a particular venue is or is not a good idea? I do believe that men hold the responsibility of church governance, but I wonder if that would extend to the Lord giving the leaders the authority to decide who does and does not teach?

    • Henry Bish

      Dear Connie,

      Notice that at the tail end of a similar set of instructions in 1Cor14:33-40, Paul goes on to say that “anyone who thinks he is a prophet or spiritual should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command“.

      If Paul is an apostle sent by Christ, and we willfully obfuscate what he says, then this says something about how we are receiving Christ himself. Remember what Jesus said to the the first apostles:

      “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me”. Luke 10:16.

      • Don Johnson

        Henry, The pericope containing 1 Cor 14:33 is 1 Cor 14:26-40. If you do not get that right, you risk taking text out of context, in this case the immediate context.

        When one sees the pericope, one can then see that the teaching is in the form of a chiasm, where the most important part is in the center. In this case, the center is 1 Cor 14:33b-38 and it is essential to get this correct. As you note, Paul even tells us so.

        Unfortunately, many people fail to see that Paul is rejecting claims of legalists to silence the women in a congregation. He does this by using a single letter eta twice, which in this case means “PFFFFFFFFFFFT!” in English but many people do not know that term so another one is “Utter Rubbish!” or “Garbage!” and this term is used many times in 1 Cor, as it is very conversational in tone.

        • Henry Bish

          Don, we’ve been down this road before. When most egalitarians don’t even believe in the chiasm explanation how can you expect me to?

          • Don Johnson

            I think many are not even aware of the possibility of a chiasm. David Joel Hamilton is the first to have pointed it out as far as I know.

            In any case, the point is that there is a faithful interpretation that results in NO women being silenced, so to claim they MUST be is not true, it is a choice in interpretation about some text that is not clear. This is my claim, that comps make choices to read the gender texts as they do.

          • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

            “Unfortunately, many people fail to see that Paul is rejecting claims of legalists to silence the women in a congregation. He does this by using a single letter eta twice, which in this case means “PFFFFFFFFFFFT!” in English but many people do not know that term so another one is “Utter Rubbish!” or “Garbage!” and this term is used many times in 1 Cor, as it is very conversational in tone.”

            This is the paragraph I totally agree with.

            • Kathryn Elliott Stegall

              If there were a biblical interpretation and position for the full equality of women in the Christian church and in Christian marriage that is based entirely and only on the Bible, using orthodox & reformed principles for interpreting the Bible, and fully in harmony with the Bible’s central message of the Gospel, while treating each individual scripture portion with integrity and respect, why wouldn’t all Bible believing Christians embrace it?

              Yes, choices are being made.

              • Don Johnson

                Hi Kathryn,

                A chiasm is a data structure much used in the Bible, it is also called inverted parallelism or chiasmus. Lines are paired off, for example, A B C then C’ B’ A’ for a 6 line chiasm with C C’ in the center. A matches with A’ and can help in translation or understanding what is going one, etc. I sent you a file on your FB email showing the 1 Cor 14 chiasm.

  • Hannah Anderson

    I’m a complementarian, but I’ve been very disturbed by this whole situation. It seems to me that neither Cru nor Daniel Harman has the ability to determine whether this situation would constitute an abuse of male headship via II Timothy because they are trying to define “authority” outside of a church-based/elder/pastoral context, i.e. apart from where the authority is invested which is in the leadership of the local church.

    Even among complementarians, there are shades of difference in whether or not this situation would constitute usurping authority. For example, John Frame has worked through a similar challenge for the PCA in respect to whether or not women could potentially teach mixed adult SS classes and do so in a way that doesn’t undermine male headship. ( ) So much of the question rests on how authority is expressed through the church and not simply through the act of teaching. In the church, you have offices, you have definitions of authority, you have ordination, etc. that give you a framework in which to weigh whether or not a situation undermines male eldership. Apart from it, you have no base line other than your own private feeling.

    I mean, without an established male eldership, without a clearly defined authority in the first place, whose authority would these women be usurping? If you say men in general, then the conversation devolves into all kinds of weirdness about whether women can teach boys, at what age they must stop, whether women can teach anything at all at to a mixed group at the collegiate level or whether they can even evangelize men, etc.

    Anyway…. the point is that para-church organizations, like Cru, have no way to determine what constitutes “exercising authority” because they are divorced from the context of local church leadership. Similarly though, Daniel Harman alone doesn’t have the capacity to determine that this constitutes an infringement of II Timothy either.

    This from an unabashed comp woman.

    • Henry Bish

      Paul also forbids teaching in addition to exercising authority. That at the very least includes teaching doctrine to men, which is what Harman stood against.

      In addition to this, its only in our gender-deceived culture that what constitutes ‘authority’ and what constitutes ‘submission’ suddenly becomes unclear. For all their rebellions at least egalitarians understand very well that a woman publicly teaching men is not a position of ‘submission’ in any meaningful sense of the word – which is why it is exactly what they are after. We could all understand this quite easily if we wanted to.

      Neither does Paul narrow it down to ‘elder’ authority as you suggest – to the contrary he roots the principles in creation which shows they should not be limited to ‘elder’ authority but are part of what it means to be male and female. As for the ‘all kinds of weirdness’ you perceive this to be – remember the great cloud of witnesses from past generations who you are summarily dismissing in saying this. They never saw male and female in such an artificially compartmentalized way as complementarians do today. Your position is the one that actually looks odd when you take a step back. We only find this difficult to grasp because we want it to be 🙂

  • Sarah Costa

    Here’s my comment again, sorry I forgot to include first and last name last time…

    Anyways, THANK YOU for posting this. This exact same thing happened to my husband 3 years ago. We moved from Ohio to California for him to lead a Campus Crusade ministry team. Three months later we had to leave staff because of our complimentarian views.

    It was a hard and sad time in many ways, to leave a ministry we loved. But it strengthened our marriage in many ways to stand together in the midst of persecution for our beliefs, and I am so thankful to have a husband who stands strong on the word of God without fear.

    There is NOT a distinction between women teaching in the parachurch and the church. This is a false dichotomy that the Bible does not make. What happens in the parachurch bleeds over to the church and vice versa. Both must follow biblical commandments.

    Thank you for shedding light on this. I hope that this time real change will happen.

  • Daniel Curran (@CurranEvents)

    Mission organizations are of God. No such thing as “para-church”. Para-church is a nice evangelical theory. Historic Biblical mainstream Christianity has two expressions: Apostolic (Missionary & Preacher) and Congregational (Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher). God raises up Apostolic/Missionary expressions of the church in cultures where the church has not, or cannot exist in mature Congregational/Pastorate form. Congregational expressions of church form over time under the care of missionaries and preachers. As they mature, they send out their own missionaries and preachers to surrounding unreached cultures, and congregations thrive “locally” under the stable care of evangelists, pastors and theologians. Apostolic and Congregational forms of Church are Christ’s primary expressions of the Missio Dei. The Prophetic impulse is a rare third expression that is somewhat autonomous but committed to seeing both of the other expressions thrive (the Prophetic expression of Church organizes and speaks up when the Apostolic & Congregational impulses head-butt and go haywire or heretical). We see expressions of all three of these Holy Spiritual impulses throughout the OT, NT, and much of Church history. Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers taking authority over Apostles & Preachers is a bad idea (so is visa-versa). All 5 are co-equal coworkers (Ephesians 4). My quick take on the matter is: let’s all take our lead (or at lease our sense of humor) from the Southern Baptists who deal with this issue by contending for the existence of 3 Biblical genders: 1) Male, 2) Female, and, 3) Missionary 😉 < Yours Very Truly, Daniel Curran – servant of Jesus Christ | missionary | set apart for the Gospel of God to the peoples of The University of California | in the spirit of Romans 1:1

  • Paul Addington

    Denny, first of all, thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my reply. I can agree that functionally, Cru is pretty much egalitarian in the way that it functions, but like I said before, that’s only because the egalitarian position is much closer to neutral than the complementarian position is.

    But even aside from that, I think the biggest difference in our opinions is that I do not believe that 1 Timothy 2:12 applies to every gathering of believers. As a friend of mine said to me, that must mean that we can’t let Grandma give the devotion at our next holiday gathering. But more seriously, as an interdenominational organization, there are naturally going to be differing opinions on whether or not the organization is “obeying Scripture” by letting women teach or preventing them from doing so. This is why seeking neutrality is so important. But off of that issue, I don’t think you can go so far as to say that the organization is undermining the ministry of the local church. If the organization is winning college students to Christ that are going to eventually become active church members, I would argue that it is actually contributing to the ministry of the church. Out of that point, then, I would argue that it’s mistaken to expect for an interdenominational parachurch organization that is not being specifically supported by any particular denomination to teach and practice particular open-handed doctrines that are only taught and practiced by a portion of all evangelical denominations. At that point, the organization is no longer interdenominational. That’s why I say that instead of expecting the parachurch to teach and profess open-handed doctrines like complementarianism, leave that to the local church body.

  • Jay Rider

    Henry, I appreciate your take on this, and especially how well you’ve explained it. I myself am I complementarian, and think that 1 Timothy, given the context, actually is pretty clear about the issues of authority, but not in the same way that you’ve taken it. Paul tells the whole church to submit to kings and governing authorities in the beginning of Chapter 2. Then he goes on to explain that all people are under the authority of the Lord God and Jesus Christ. While there are some who believe that 1 Tim 2:11 is saying that women should not teach or exercise authority over a man, the bulk of historical exegesis actually points that phrase as meaning “over her husband.”
    Yet, even so (and I know we’ll not agree on that prior statement), the word for used in 1 Tim 2:11 is ???????? . This Greek verb means “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to” (cf. JB “tell a man what to do”).
    I don’t think or see evidence that this is what was happening at Cru. Instead, I think what Cru has done is more along the lines of Acts 18:26, with Priscilla instructing Apollos. The word used by Luke is the verb ejktivqhmi, basically meaning “lay out,” or “expose” and is used in contexts collocated with the idea of information being passed on and it tends to be restricted to explanation, rather than exhortation. Paul didn’t have any trouble with Priscilla in this role, in fact, she was merely passing along what he had delivered to her.

    In the book edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991), this passage is mentioned more than half a dozen times (on pp. 68-9, 82, 212, 218, 222, 256). On p. 69 Piper and Grudem say, “Nothing in our understanding of Scripture says that when a husband and wife visit an unbeliever (or a confused believer—or anyone else) the wife must be silent.” On p. 82 they say that because of Paul’s influence, “Priscilla knew Scripture well enough to help instruct Apollos (Acts 18:26).” On p. 256, Paige Patterson notes that “no legitimate question exists with reference to either the adequacy or the acceptability of a woman serving in some teaching roles. Apollos profited not only from the instruction of Aquila but also from that of Priscilla (Acts 18:26).”

    Probably more could be said, but what do you think so far?

    • Hannah Anderson

      Thanks for flushing this out Jay. This is precisely my concern–we must apply the full scope of apostolic teaching to determine whether or not this situation would be constitute a woman having authority over a man, not simply that it involves the possibility that a woman would be “teaching.” It seems that there is an overly simplified version of complementarianism that effectively believes that gender trumps everything; the “creation principle” has been divorced from its context and reduced to male on top rather than a highly nuanced expression of how male eldership functions within the church body. Again, I believe strongly in the Biblical teaching of headship and authority–I just don’t think this is as cut and dry as some perceive it to be.

    • Henry Bish

      not simply that it involves the possibility that a woman would be “teaching.”

      ? Really Hannah, when are we talking about ‘possibilities’ that a woman was teaching men? Refusal to allow this was the very reason Harman got fired, was it not?


      I don’t think the ‘teach husband’ thing works, which is why translation teams have fairly consistently not favored this. Much ink has already been spilled on that question though so I won’t rehash here.

      The context at Cru was not personal and private conversations between a man and a wife/husband pair, like Priscilla & Apollos. Rather, it was public teaching of men by a woman. The two are strikingly dissimilar.

      I generally agree with your last 2 paragraphs and think personal conversation between men and women on the things of God is quite biblical, like the Samaritan woman, the women who were first witnesses to the resurrection, Priscilla, Abigail and many more. The line seems to be crossed in scripture when we begin talking about formal public instruction of men by a woman, rather than spontaneous private conversations.

      All I can say right now is read Calvin’s commentary on the relevant verses, he catches the sense of them so well.

      • Hannah Anderson

        I’m sorry that I was not clear. When I referenced “teaching” in quotes, I was not implying that these situations did not involve a form of instruction, but that it was open for debate as to whether or not they constituted the form of authoritative teaching referenced in the context of II Timothy. There are lots of situations where women instruct men that would be well within the purview of a conservative reading of Scripture and I’m simply arguing that this is not a cut and dry case, especially as it is divorced from an ecclesiastical setting. Certainly,Harman must follow his own conscience before God (as must the leadership of Cru) but that is a very different thing from determining that Harman is being faithful to Scripture while Cru is not. It is a complicated situation about which even comps could (and do) legitimately disagree.

  • Jay Rider

    Sorry, I was trying to reply to Henry Bish, but my comment got bumped down here. Also, the greek word that came out as ??? can also be refered to as authente?.

  • Morris Brooks

    For the result of “unchecked” egalitarianism, look no further than the Episcopal and Methodist churches.

    Additionally, Daniel was right to stand for what he believed the Scripture spoke to, for whatever is not of faith is sin; and for him to capitulate and violate his conscience would have been wrong.

  • dr. james willingham

    The truly sad thing about this whole debate is that it seems that the Reformed party have made patriarchy and complementarianism a part of the triage of doctrines that require absolute commitments and which allow for no differences. How sad. If it is a matter of clarity, all one has to do is look at Jonah for a clear statement that did not come to pass, an unconditional statement of judgment which even the prophetic speaker did not believe would be fulfilled but that it was intended to bring the people of Nineveh to repentance. Do we take it that the Reformed party now wishes to boot out the egalitarians who fought for the biblical doctrine of verbal inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility and who are also holders of Sovereign Grace, while keeping the more Arminian types? How sad. How immensely sad!

    • Akash Charles

      what is immensely sad and the point of the article is that a man who served the organization for a long period of time with his beliefs is suddenly booted from his position without telling him their position on these issues on cru

            • Akash Charles

              well I do not know what the southern baptists have done to you, but from what you have described it is not the same thing as what CRU has done

              • dr. james willingham

                Son, I am a Southern Baptist whose roots go back to the very beginning. The idea that someone’s interpretation of the Bible should come into power and that they should crush every one who opposes their understanding is enough to make any Baptist stand up and spit in the eye of power mad people.

                • Akash Charles

                  do not worry I do not know exactly what the southern baptists did to you and I am not defending them!

                  I just do not see how it is similar-you see it as similar that is all.

                  The southern baptists may have been nasty, as all of us are (at least I am) at some point of time


                  • dr. james willingham

                    In addition to being a minister, I am also a counselor. Being concerned about biblical hermeneutics, I seek exactitude in exegesis and interpretation. The complementarity I find in scripture is of a functional nature; it is one with checks and balances. Otherwise, pathologies masquerade under complementarity as a means to express their malignancies, and express them they will. Our problems with complementarity will continue and increase in severity, if we continue to fail to recognized the truth about checks and balances that is a fact of scriptural teachings on any authority in Scripture. Man’s depravity, even after conversion, is still present to corrupt and to cause deviancy in conduct and exercise of control over others. The Bible is the Book of balance, flexibility, creativity, constancy, and magnetism. Every doctrine is two-sided and apparently contradictory, two poles that are not mean to be reconciled but to produce a tension in the mind of the believer holding the truth involving two poles. The intellectualism of Holy Scripture is like unto its source, Omniscience, and or problem with the subtlety of scripture is that, in the words of a puritan whose name I cannot recall now, of perspicuity or clarity. We think, because the Scriptures are so clear that we therefore understand them. Not so. Our problem is that we lack depth perception like my friend who nearly drowned in a mountain stream that he thought was only2-3 feet deep. After all, as he said, I could see the grains of sand rolling along the bottom. He had not made allowances for the magnifying properties of water, another medium, and the depth was 18-20 feet deep. Thus, he nearly drowned. In any case, I maintain that Drs. Burk, Mohler, and Carl F.H. Henry had thought they surely understood the Bible’s teaching on complementarity, but the truth is that they failed to perceive its depth, its checks and balances. Wake up folks. The Book is far deeper than any of us suspect or can even imagine; it will lead to the healing of the nations. Just consider the fact that a generation of even 20 years suggests that I Chrons.16:15 paints a time picture of an earth span of 20,000 years and, if man returns to longevity getting close to that of Methusaleh, then we have the possibility of 900,000+ years and the spread of the same to the stars. All of this to fulfill God’s humorous remark in Rev. 7:9.

  • Henry Bish


    (space above ran out)

    I don’t think you have actually answered my question:

    If there is no type of deference / submission from women to men generally then why cannot a woman be an elder? If you reject the reasons Paul gives (authority / submission between men and women) you are left with just an arbitrary rule. Why does God not think it appropriate for women to be elders? Do you honestly think that Paul gives us no reasons for his prohibition? What is all the talk about “authority” and feminine “submission” about?

    If a woman is to “remain quiet” always, outside of church and everywhere, we have bigger problems than those associated with Cru.

    The principles rooted in creation are authority / submission, not silence. The application of the principles will vary from setting to setting. In a public setting like the Christian gatherings envisioned in 1Cor14 and 1Tim2 Paul applies the principles by enjoining “quietness” and to keep questions to be “asked of husbands at home”. These are just particular applications of the underlying principles of authority and submission. If we consider other situations bearing the principles in mind we can quite easily begin to make wise judgements about where the creation principle is being dishonored. Hint: I agree with John Piper and Denny Burk and the Reformers that a woman as president is not a good thing. I would say that it is unbecoming to the female sex and cuts against the flourishing of biblical femininity.

    (do you believe scriptures have a problem) with a woman in a position of teaching non-scriptural subjects, such as a female professor at a university teaching astrophysics?

    I think there is a lot of thinking to be done by Christian leaders on the question of broader application of the creation principles Paul enjoins upon us. In the booklet ‘What’s the Difference?’ Piper gives one approach to applying the principles more broadly with the whole personal – impersonal / directive – non-directive spectrum. I encourage you to check that out.

    I think a main issue separate from the whole authority / submission thing that bears on these questions is that marriage and childbearing are more often and not being sacrificed on the altar of what the world says is ‘success’.

    But from the authority / submission perspective, presently I’m persuaded that it is inconsistent with creation principles for a woman to hold most types of professorships as they usually involve public instruction and authority over adult men. The man on the street (rightly) sees this as no different than a woman being a pastor in terms of authority. I could be wrong on my broader applications and think this is a conversation the church needs to have in more depth in due course. I appreciate the emotional revulsion some would feel given the values they have been accustomed to for so long. But I think we must allow God’s word to cut as deep as He wills, and not only in the places that are ‘safe’. Ultimately His ways are best for the human soul by a million miles, but we need to pray for more grace to receive them.

    Anyway, its been nice talking with you folk, I’ve got some exams to revise for so better get back to it….

    God Bless,

  • Carolyn Farley

    Henry: “If you reject the reasons Paul gives (authority / submission between men and women) you are left with just an arbitrary rule.”

    Henry, where does Paul give authority to men in general and submission to women? (Though I do think it is a logical end to complementatrian thought and interpretation. In other words, if all complemetarians would be consistent, then all comps would believe that men in general have authority over women while women are to submit to men in general)

    • Henry Bish


      When you can show that you have read, understood and appreciated the deliberate distinction I have made between husband-wife submission and the more general feminine deference, I will answer your question. I do not believe it is possible for a woman to submit to other men as though they were her husband at the same time as submitting to her actual husband. It would be a conflict of roles.

      However, this does not mean that it is fitting for a woman to rule over man as long as he is not her husband.

  • Jonathan Lewis

    I’m one of tese troublesome evangelical egalitarians.

    I object to the way that 1 Tim 2:12 is being used as a proof-text against women teaching. The general view in my camp is that such an approach is an incorrect interpretation of the Bible.

    For example, check out this piece by Jon Zens, a reformed baptist pastor:

    He argues (convincingly IMO) that 1 Tim 2 is not an all-time prohibition on women teaching or having authority, based on exegesis of the text.

    I’m not expecting complementarians to change their views overnight, but what I would like them to accept that evangelical egalitarians believe what they do because of our understanding of the Bible, not because we disregard a bit of the Bible that we don’t like.

  • Pam B

    Denny, can I ask why my three responses have not been published? I made a few comments that are here, others responded to my comments (one is quite snarky), and then I replied to those responses. None of my replies have been published. I realise this is your blog and it’s your prerogative whether you even allow comments, but how is it fair to specifically deny responses from me (or anyone else, for that matter) when I’m asked a question?

  • Laurie Davidson

    Denny, what you should be focusing on is what it costs to follow Jesus Christ. Not what it costs to follow some idea. It would be an amazing thing for YOU to lay down your little causes for the cause of Christ. That means loving God and loving others, even though you desperately love your ideas, one being the thought that you, as a male, are higher than a female.

    Why don’t you see Jesus’ ways more? It’s offensive to Jesus followers as well as to those who don’t know Him yet that you would put Paul’s words above Jesus’…Jesus never said anything like Paul did about women, and I know you know that. Please spare us your slams on Red Letter Christians and your historical explanations about church history blah blah blah. Jesus clearly debunked “church” historical traditions. Clearly we are supposed to resist against the tendencies Paul expressed. We are supposed to recognize that even Paul struggled and missed the point half of the time. Don’t be a pharisee. You should be focusing on the love of God and caring for the oppressed. But, you are too busy oppressing…

    • Akash Charles

      I love how following God’s word is now know more part of following Jesus Christ

      nice to know God’s word is just a bunch of fluffy ideas!

    • Don Johnson

      There is no need to put Jesus’s words about Paul’s, all of Scripture is inspired. But what is needed is to correctly interpret Paul, who even Peter points out is hard to understand in the 1st century, how much more in the 21st century. When Paul is understood in cultural context, he shows himself to be egalitarian like Jesus.

        • Don Johnson

          No, altho there are some cultures that are matriarchal and should move to be more egalitarian as people in them become believers.

        • dr. james willingham

          Matriarchal? Baloney! Egalitarianism no more approves of that than it does patriarchalism. Checks and balances. Checks and balances. Checks and balances! Or do you ever read the Bible with both eyes open for depth and detail, for general and particular, for broad bush and specifics?

          • Akash Charles

            No,it is just funny, how -perhaps not you but by other egals, matriarchy is accepted and by some even looked too,

            I do not dismiss whole biblical passages, I f anything I look with more depth and detail

            • dr. james willingham

              Well, I am glad you look in depth and detail. I am reminded of a Sovereign Grace woman minister whom I knew many years ago. She founded a church, and when she retired gave it to Southern Baptists who told her she could never claim to be the founder of that church and that the church would never admit to her being the founder. I mean who would have thought of a woman who believed the bible, preached the Gospel of Sovereign Grace, and probably di9d more personal soul winning than virtually all of the readers of this blog. When I knew her, she had already knocked on 10,000 doors or spoken with 10,000 people about salvation in St. Louis….and that was about 1959-60. She came to Sovereign Grace in the 70s and went on to found the church in another city…The last time I had account of her she was in a convalescent centre suffering from Alzheimers. I spoke with one independent Sovereign Grace preacher who preached a revival for her. She ranks with the top 2-3 Christians in my life. And I would not have counted her so until God opened my eyes to the justification for “eldresses” among the Sandy Creek Baptists back in the 1700s.

              • Akash Charles

                I know of a woman, of without her work my mum would not have had the life she had and we would not have been christians.

                She started an orphanage and home for Girls and women, she even founded the church, she however ensured the preacher was a man, in spite of her superior knowledge(translated the whole bible from Hebrew and Greek into the local language).

                She new that the bible’s instructions were clear and timeless, and she was a pioneer of women’s rights and women were really treated badly in India

                • dr. james willingham

                  I know of a fellow who challenged once, saying, “Show me where the Bible speaks of a woman as a leader once, and I will eat the words.” I cited Micah 6:4, I sent before thee, Moses, Aaron and Miriam.” Even so he refused to eat the words. God is His own interpreter. If He wants a woman as a leader, she will become one. Woe betide the opposition. Refusing to hear a word, because it comes from a supposedly second class, derivative female, is a refusal to hear God, and the resister’s problem becomes terribly magnified and manifested. I repeat: Complementarianism is functional. The woman can function as the man, if need be. Even Piper tells of his mother sounding forth, in the absence of his father, as sternly masculine and authoritative as if she and been a man….And yet she gladly gave it up, when John’s father came home. Functional. Functional. Functional. Not superior, inferior, not first class, second class, not big I, little you, not patriarchal nor matriarchal. Yes, even the foolish, weak, base, despised, and non-existent serve God’s purposes, taking their due place at the appointed time…just as my friend’s mother did and then stepped aside when her pilgrimage was completed, letting Southern Baptist brag that the church she had given them was not founded by her.

  • bryce palmer

    I know other Cru groups at schools who hold to the same Complementarian views that Daniel does. I wonder if Cru plans to fire the leaders of those ministries as well. I hope they don’t. The men that lead them are some of the best fellas I know.

    • Hannah Anderson

      It seems to me that the problem wasn’t Harmon’s comp views per se, but the application of those views to a context outside a local church–that’s what makes this whole conversation so sticky. Even comps are divided as to whether or not Scripture demanded that Harmon enforce his views in a para-church context so I’m not sure that it’s a question of a comp witch hunt on Cru’s part, but a question of whether or not an individual leader can enforce a specific application of his comp views. Again, Harmon must abide by his conscience before God, but that’s a very different issue than whether or not Cru fired him simply for being comp.

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