Men and Women:
Equal Yet Different
by Alexander Strauch
who authored Biblical Eldership

Understanding The Controversy
Take Courage and Stand Strong In Your Faith
used by permission
A ISBN:0-936083-16-6  Price $6.99  http://www.lewisandroth.org 1.800.477.3239

Statement of Purpose: One of the most significant changes in human history has occurred during the past forty years. It is the gender revolution. In the words of historian William Manchester, “the erasure of distinctions between the sexes is not only the most striking issue of our time, it may be the most profound the race has ever confronted.”

 Like the rest of society, Christianity has been permanently affected by this change. According to a leading Time magazine article entitled “The Second Reformation,” religious feminists “believe they are caught up in one of Christendom's great and historic transformations.” In reality, the gender transformation taking place within the worldwide Christian community is not a sign of a “second reformation” (the first being Martin Luther's back-to-the Bible, sixteenth-century reformation) but of a radical departure from biblical, apostolic Christianity.

Among Bible-believing Christians, the gender revolution has spawned intense, emotional controversy over what the Bible says about the roles of men and women. There are two major viewpoints in this debate. One is the evangelical feminist view (or egalitarian view); the other is the complementarian view, which is the non-feminist view.

 The purpose of this book is to state and defend the complementarian viewpoint. Written in outline form, the book presents biblical evidence that Jesus Christ taught that men and women are equal yet different. It introduces the key terms, arguments, and most recent research related to the complementarian position. Thus it also provides an easy-to-read summary of all the key Scripture passages commonly used in the gender debate.

 Ninety percent of this book consists of Scripture exposition. I emphasize the Scriptures because the answer to this debate is found in God's Word, not in books on sociology or anthropology. Furthermore, “no factor is more influential in shaping a [Christian's] moral and social behavior than regular Bible reading.” Yet biblical illiteracy abounds in alarming proportions among Christians today, and one well-known authority predicts an even greater decline in Bible reading. As the voices of postmodern secular society grow louder and more appealing, it is essential that Christians hear clearly the voice of God through the Word of God in order to counteract secular society's pervasive influence.

 I sincerely pray that you will find the careful exposition of Holy Scripture to be the most rewarding part of this book. The study of God's Word should always be exciting for a Christian. Our Lord loved the Word of God and quoted it with full authority when He faced trials and controversy. As one biblical scholar aptly says of Jesus, our Lord, We can say with all reverence that Jesus Christ was practically saturated with the Scriptures…. One tenth of His words were taken from the Old Testament. In the Four Gospels 180 of 1,800 verses which report His discourses are either quotations of the written revelation or else direct allusions to it. If we are criticized for constantly quoting Scripture texts, what can be said of Christ, who had them constantly at the tip of His tongue?

This book is written for people who are unfamiliar with the biblical passages on gender and probably will not read a lengthy technical book on the subject (of which there are a bewildering number of choices). It is especially suitable for high school- and college-age young people. It is also an excellent resource for anyone who wants an overview of all the key biblical passages related to the gender debate from the complementarian position.



If we are criticized for constantly quoting Scripture texts, what can be said of Christ, who had them constantly at the tip of His tongue? Rene Pache


As to the spiritual identity of my readers, I take for granted that they accept the lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives and believe the Bible to be the written Word of God and the Christian's divine, unerring authority for doctrine and life. As the Bible says of itself,

All Scripture is inspired by God [literally, God-breathed] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).
 

Understanding the Controversy

Tom, a freshman at a well-known Christian college, stops me after church one Sunday and says, “I’m really confused about the roles of men and women in the church.”
 “Why?” I ask.
 “Some of my professors say that God made men and women as equals and that traditional gender roles are a myth, a simplistic interpretation of the Bible. Other professors insist that the Bible teaches both equality and gender role differences.”
 “Well,” I laugh, “you’ve been introduced to the gender debate. I got thoroughly involved in it during the early ’70s. Over the years, it has been a personal interest to follow this debate, especially its impact among Bible-believing churches. In fact, the heat keeps rising and the books and articles keep rolling off the presses. It’s a hot one!”
 “What should I do?” he asks.
 “How concerned are you?” I inquire.
 “A lot,” he insists.
 “Why?”
“Because I want to know what God wants me to do. I want to know what the Bible says.”
“Good, Tom! I’m glad to hear that you want to know what the Bible, God’s Word, teaches. Let’s get together and study it. I’ll show you why I have come to believe that the Bible teaches that God made men and women as equal yet different.”

* * * *

 The gender debate is not an abstract, impersonal, doctrinal controversy. It touches directly on our humanness, our sexual identity, our ministry opportunities, the marriage relationship, family life, and life in the local church. It raises fundamental issues regarding fairness and justice, the influence of secular culture on Christian thinking, the correct methods for interpreting God’s Word, the leadership of our churches, and our faith in God’s Word. It is an emotionally charged controversy that divides churches and denominations worldwide.

As my young friend discovered, no one can hide from this issue. Nor should one try to avoid it. It’s too important. The gender debate challenges our thinking and our fundamental beliefs, which is good. Such controversial issues drive serious-minded believers to think more accurately and to study God’s Word more diligently.

When I was 18 years old, for example, two Jehovah’s Witnesses shook my faith down to bedrock. They challenged my beliefs regarding the deity of Christ. They threw questions at me that I couldn’t answer, nor could anyone else I knew. Through prayer, by reading all I could on the subject, and by diligent, conscientious study of Scripture, I finally could answer their questions from the Bible. Their challenge resulted in the strengthening of my faith and the development of my ability to search the Scriptures.
 Although the gender debate is not on the same level of doctrinal centrality as is a challenge to the deity of Christ, it is nevertheless a significant issue. It, too, forces us to examine our closely held beliefs and discover what the Bible actually says.

Bible-believing Christians generally hold one of two positions regarding the gender debate. One position is the complementarian view (pronounced, Com ple men TAIR ee un), which is the non-feminist view. It is also called the traditional or hierarchical view. The other position is the evangelical feminist view or egalitarian view (pronounced, EE gal iTAIR ee un). It is also known as biblical feminism, biblical egalitarianism, or biblical equality. Most people who hold the complementarian viewpoint would rather refer to their viewpoint as the biblical one. But since adherents of both sides of the debate claim to hold the biblical view, I will employ the terms complementarian and evangelical feminist in order to distinguish the two major interpretations.

Complementarian View

The complementarian view teaches that God created men and women as equals with different gender-defined roles. Scholars chose the term complementarian in order to emphasize both the equality of the sexes and the complementary differences between men and women. According to this viewpoint, God created men and women equally in His divine image. Men and women are fully equal in personhood, dignity, and worth (Genesis 1:26-28). Furthermore, complementarians assert, all believers in Jesus Christ--whether male or female--are baptized, Spirit-gifted, believer-priests and are full members of the Body of Christ. Therefore, they should use their spiritual gifts to their fullest potential and grow in their faith to full spiritual maturity.

According to the complementarian viewpoint, it is equally true that God created men and women to be different and to fulfill distinct gender roles. God designed the man to be husband, father, provider, protector. He is to be head of the family and to lead the church family. God designed the woman to be wife, mother, nurturer. She is to actively help and submit to the man’s leadership. God designed these differences at creation. The Bible uses key terms like head, helper, and submission to describe these differences, which are our sovereign Creator’s wise design for His image-bearing creation.
To correctly represent the biblical teaching on gender, both truths--equality and role differences--need to be affirmed and held in balanced tension. When properly understood and practiced, these role differences promote godly manhood and womanhood and marvelously enrich family life as well as life in the local church. God is profoundly concerned that gender differences not be minimized or blurred. These differences are fundamental to our sexual identity as male and female and thus need to be better understood and developed according to Scripture.

Adherents of the complementarian view believe that it best represents the plain, literal, straightforward teaching of the Bible on gender. Furthermore, role differences are clearly and repeatedly taught and practiced by Jesus Christ and His apostles.


To correctly represent the biblical teaching on gender, both truths--equality and role differences--need to be affirmed and held in balanced tension.

This view also represents the historic interpretation followed by churches and Christian teachers over the past two thousand years, although at times it has been imperfectly understood and implemented.

Despite God’s design for harmonious male-female relationships, the fall of mankind into sin, recorded in Genesis 3, created the battle of the sexes. Sinful men and women have corrupted God’s plan for male-female relationships, and the consequences, particularly to women, have been detrimental. Even so, as believers in Jesus Christ, Christian men and women can rediscover, understand, and practice God’s design for the sexes.



A Major Organization Representing the Complementarian View
The complementarian position is represented by an organization called Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), founded in 1987. Its position paper is the Danvers Statement. CBMW also publishes the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. You can obtain more information about this organization and its publications by writing to CBMW, P.O. Box 7337, Libertyville, IL. 60048. Web site: www.cbmw.org

Evangelical Feminist View

Evangelical feminists teach that God created men and women equally to bear the divine image. Furthermore, they conclude that true equality requires equal ministry opportunities for both sexes. They believe that the submission of the woman in marriage and womanly restrictions in Christian ministry are inconsistent with the true picture of biblical equality. They consider the equal-yet-different doctrine taught by complementarians to be a contradiction in terms.

According to the evangelical feminist view, true biblical equality assures that both men and women are full and equal partners in life. The concept of mutual submission and responsibility determines the relationship between men and women in both marriage and the church. Women and men are free to exercise in the church any and all gifts they possess. Men hold no unique, leadership-authority role solely because of their gender. Leadership and teaching in the church is to be determined by spiritual gift and ability, not gender.

This viewpoint recognizes that men and women are not identical. Sexual and other differences between men and women are to be enjoyed, but not exaggerated out of proportion. One’s gender does not determine one’s status or role in life, nor does it limit spiritual giftedness and ministry opportunities. A woman who is gifted by God to teach and lead the church deserves to have equal opportunity to exercise her giftedness.

Adherents of this viewpoint consider the Bible’s statements on headship and submission to have been grossly misinterpreted by past generations of Christians. They believe that simplistic, literal, and traditional interpretations of the Scriptures misrepresent the Bible’s teaching on gender equality.


According to evangelical feminists, one’s gender
does not determine one’s status or role in life,
 nor does it limit spiritual giftedness and ministry opportunities.

As a result, women have been discriminated against and their gifts and services have been wasted.
Furthermore, they believe that male domination of women is the result of sin entering the world, as recorded in Genesis 3. In their view, Christ’s work on the cross restores the original equality of the sexes that is envisioned in Genesis 2 because in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28).



A Major Organization Representing the Evangelical Feminist View
The evangelical feminist position is represented best by an organization called Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). Its position paper is Men, Women & Biblical Equality. You can obtain more information about this organization by writing to CBE, 122 West Franklin Avenue, Suit 218, Minneapolis, MN, 55404. Web site: www.cbeinternational.org

Jesus Christ and Gender Discrimination

No one who truly loves people, is sensitive to the Word of God, and is keenly aware of the unspeakable dehumanization that women have suffered (and still suffer) would want to discriminate against women (see summary entitled “War Against Women” at the end of this chapter). To sin against women is to sin against God in whose image women are created.

Why, then, would any intelligent, thinking, sensitive, Bible-believing Christian dare argue for role distinctions between men and women? The answer is simple: Jesus Christ taught that men and women are equal yet different. Although He taught and practiced gender-based role distinctions, Jesus Christ treated all women, even those who were considered to be outcasts of society, with dignity (Luke 7:36-50). He communicated the gospel message to women with love and compassion. In turn, women followed Him and loved Him. They felt free to approach Him.

As Bible-believing Christians, we would never think of accusing Jesus Christ of sin against women or male chauvinism. He alone is absolutely perfect; we are imperfect. He is God in flesh, Truth incarnate. He is the supreme reference point, the final Word. Upon the cross, Jesus suffered for the sins committed by men against women, as well as women’s sins against men. He bore these sins in His body on the cross. Thus the gospel provides forgiveness and healing for the cruel injustices men and women have committed against one another.

Yet Jesus Christ practiced role distinctions between the sexes by designating male leadership for His Church. In our zeal to right the horrible wrongs that have been committed against women, we must be careful not to violate the truth of God’s Word and God’s design for the sexes. We must not forget that God created male-female role distinctions in order for the sexes to beautifully complement each other and to exercise different functions in society. His intention for distinct gender roles is good and fair.

Despite God’s good intent for gender distinctions, sin has corrupted such distinctions and made them a cause for discrimination and abuse. Secular society’s only solution to gender discrimination is to declare complete gender equality. For many in our society, gender equality is an unquestioned assumption--like gravity. Any alternative to equality is incomprehensible to the modern mind. But the teaching of Jesus Christ provides an alternative: God created men and women with equal dignity yet designed them to fulfill different roles. To a Bible-believing Christian, what Jesus Christ says determines what is right and wrong. He defines what is discrimination and what is proper order between the sexes. Secular society does not define these for us.

Jesus Christ has the solution to our gender-confused world. The evils perpetuated against women did not arise from Jesus’ teaching or practice. They are the result of sin in the human heart and are part of the larger picture of mankind’s sinful inhumanity to mankind. To paraphrase Jesus, evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, and gender abuse proceed out of the heart (Mark 7:23).
_________________________________________________________________________
In our zeal to right the horrible wrongs that have been committed against women, we must be careful not to violate the truth of God’s Word and God’s design for the sexes.
__________________________________________________________________________

A Plea

I want those who are undecided about the Bible’s teaching on gender to know that complementarians deeply desire that all women be treated justly and with dignity. We abhor male chauvinistic superiority and the abuse of women. We are aware that some Christian theologians, husbands, and churches have misused the Bible to say degrading things about and to commit crimes against women, for which we are ashamed. But as you will discover through this book, Christlike love adds a divine and mutually beneficial character to the role differences between Christian men and women.

I hope you will come to understand that although sinful men and women have misunderstood and abused the doctrine of headship and submission, the doctrine itself is rooted in God’s wisdom and love. When it is applied in love, it reflects God’s design for the sexes.



What Jesus Christ says determines what is right and wrong.
He defines what is discrimination and what is proper order between the sexes.
Secular society does not define these for us.

We complementarians do not hold this viewpoint because we want to maintain archaic, legalistic traditions or male supremacy. Rather, we uphold it because we believe that Jesus Christ taught both gender equality and gender-based role distinctions.

Human traditions can blind the minds of even the best people. Jesus Christ Himself was put to death by religious people who placed man-made, legalistic traditions above God’s Word. For complementarians, gender is an issue of “thus says the Lord.” We believe in role distinctions because the Bible teaches them, and the Bible is the Word of God.
 
 

War Against Women: 

Although in certain countries women have made enormous advancements, “much of the world is still waging war against women.”  The World Conference on Human Rights (1993) declares that there is a worldwide epidemic of violence against women.  When speaking to the General Assembly of the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “Violence against women has become the most pervasive human rights violation, respecting no distinction of geography, culture or wealth.”

According to the 1993 United Nation’s Human Development Report, “no country treats its women as well as it treats its men.”  Women throughout the world suffer a greater degree of poverty than men. Two thirds of the world’s illiterates are women.  In many parts of the world, women are denied basic human rights. They are forced into low-skilled jobs, are underpaid, are overworked, and are discriminated against. Even in modern, developed societies, divorce leaves women with the primary responsibility to care for the children and usually leaves them in a greater degree of poverty than their estranged husbands.

Sexual assault on young girls, rape, and wife beating are rampant worldwide and remain seriously underreported.  In the Philippines, Thailand, and India, the forced prostitution of young girls continues on almost unchecked; there is a growing transnational girl-child slave industry. In India (especially northern India) bride burning continues, and more than nine thousand brides a year are killed by husbands or in-laws who seek a second dowry.  In parts of Africa, young girls undergo forced genital mutilation (female circumcision), in part to curb future sexual desire. Furthermore, the worldwide explosion of hard-core pornography degrades all women because it vividly imprints on men’s minds that a woman’s value is primarily for sex.

In Afghanistan, the repression of women defies belief. Women are denied basic, humane medical care and education. They cannot even go out in public without a male family member and must be completely covered from head to foot. Islamic militants threaten death to any women who speak out against injustice. The situation is so extreme that it has been called “gender apartheid.”

 The ultimate violence and contempt for women, however, is the practice of female infanticide and sex-selection abortion. Modern technology provides parents in Third World countries such as China and India the ability to detect the sex of a fetus in order to dispose of unwanted baby girls. By choice, males are more numerous in these countries, creating a serious deficiency of wives for men. It is estimated that in South and East Asia, because of infanticide, high maternal mortality, and nutritional and health neglect, “some 100 million women are ‘missing.’ ”  Such statistics should cause us to weep. In the words of Time magazine, “there are precious few female-friendly spots on earth.”

 Whether we are egalitarians or complementarians, we can agree that we need to speak out against and work to eliminate such terrible injustices to women.

____________________________________________________________________
Questions for “Statement of Purpose”

1. What are your main questions or concerns regarding the gender debate?
2.  Identify the major theme of this book, which the author seeks to prove from Scripture.
3. What do each of the following Scripture texts teach about Jesus Christ’s attitude toward and belief in Holy Scripture? Matthew 4:1-11; 5:18; 15:3, 4, 6 Luke 18:31; 24: 25-27, 32, 44 John 10:34,35
4. What attitude does Acts 17:11 suggest a believer should have toward debatable issues and the use of Scriptures?
5. What evidence do you see that “biblical illiteracy abounds in alarming proportions among Christians today”?
6. If biblical illiteracy continues to increase, what may be the consequences to our churches?

Questions for “Understanding the Controversy”

1. Why is it vitally important for a Bible-believing Christian to thoroughly understand the controversy related to gender roles? In what ways does this debate affect you personally?
2. Where do you go first to find answers to questions concerning gender? Why?
3. What does male chauvinism mean? Use a dictionary to help you answer this question.
4. What does the word egalitarian mean? Use a dictionary to help you answer this question.
5. In one or two sentences summarize the complementarian position.
6. In one or two sentences summarize the evangelical feminist position.
7. Why has evangelical feminism become so popular today among Bible-believing Christians? What is its appeal?
8. Do complementarians sinfully discriminate against women because they believe in role differences between men and women? If not, why not?
9. In what ways did the information in the box entitled, “War Against Women,” influence your thinking on gender issues?
10. What new information did you learn from these two sections? How does this information help shape your thinking and actions?
 

Outline

Statement of Purpose
Understanding the Controversy

I. JESUS CHRIST APPEALED TO THE CREATION ACCOUNT

 A. Genesis 1: Created Equal in God’s Image
 B. Genesis 2: Created Equal and Different
 C. Genesis 3: The Fall and the Battle of the Sexes

II. JESUS CHRIST APPOINTED MALE LEADERSHIP FOR HIS CHURCH

 A. Jesus Had to Be a Man
 B. Jesus Appointed Twelve Male Apostles

III. THROUGH HIS APOSTLES, JESUS CHRIST GAVE INSTRUCTION ON MARRIAGE

 A. 1 Peter 3:1-7
 B. Ephesians 5:21-33
 C. Colossians 3:18, 19
 D. 1 Corinthians 7:1-40
 E. Titus 2:3-5
 F. 1 Timothy 3:4, 5, 12

IV. THROUGH HIS APOSTLES, JESUS CHRIST TAUGHT GENDER EQUALITY AND ROLE DIFFERENCES IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

 A. 1 Timothy 2:8-15
 B. 1 Corinthians 14:33b-40
 C. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
 D. Romans 16:1-16; Acts 16:14, 15; 18:24-26; Philippians 4:2,3; 1
  Timothy 3:11
 E. Galatians 3:28

V. JESUS CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES SPOKE PLAINLY

 A. We Allow Jesus to Speak and Act for Himself
 B. We Allow the Whole of Scripture to Speak for Itself
 C. We Allow the Plain Sense of Scripture to Speak for Itself
 D. We Allow the Core Passages to Speak for Themselves

VI. TAKE COURAGE AND STAND STRONG IN YOUR FAITH

Notes
Index
 

CHAPTER V.
            JESUS CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES SPOKE PLAINLY

Special Note: Each chapter begins with a short dialogue between a struggling college student, named Tom, and the author. The dialogue sets up the questions and issues to be addressed in the chapter.

“What you’ve taught me so far sounds right, but when I talk to my feminist friends at school, they’re constantly accusing me of interpreting the Bible too literally and simplistically.”

“You’ve hit on a highly crucial issue, Tom. I have far too much regard for the Bible to treat it simplistically. I also have too much regard for the Bible to force an interpretation on it or to explain away an obvious teaching by means of erroneous cultural arguments.”

“I know exactly what you’re saying,” Tom responds. “I’ve heard feminist interpretations that are totally forced interpretations. But what is the solution? How do we really know we have interpreted the Bible correctly?”

“Tom, all Bible-believing Christians claim the Bible to be God’s voice speaking to us, or as J. I. Packer puts it: ‘The Bible is God preaching.’ So in our studies together we have tried to allow God’s words to speak for themselves. We have allowed the plain, natural, straightforward meaning of Scripture to be heard. Furthermore, we have allowed the whole of God’s Word to speak to us and have been sensitive to the context and culture in which core passages appear. In short, we have used good, sound, time-proven principles of Bible interpretation.”

“Could you expand on these principles a bit more?” Tom asks.

“Of course. Here’s why I believe that we complementarians have allowed the Bible to speak for itself and why we can be confident that we have interpreted the Bible accurately.

***************



A. We Allow Jesus to Speak and Act for Himself

Jesus Christ prayerfully chose twelve male apostles in accordance with the will of God the Father. Jesus knew perfectly well the long-term consequences of His choice of an all-male apostolate. He did not give in to the spirit of His age when He appointed male apostles as the eternal foundation stones of His Church (Matt. 19:28; Eph. 3:20; Rev. 21:14). Jesus not only chose male apostles during His time on earth, but, after His resurrection when He was exalted in heaven at God’s right hand, He personally chose Matthias, Judas’ replacement, and Paul, “a preacher and an apostle…a teacher of the Gentiles” (1 Tim. 2:7).



Jesus knew perfectly well the long-term consequences of His choice of an all-male apostolate.

 Since feminists are not happy with Jesus’ choice of an all-male apostolate they feel compelled to provide an excuse for His choice. To justify such an embarrassing situation, they say the time wasn’t ripe for Jesus to appoint female apostles. They claim that Jesus had to accommodate His choices to the prevailing mood of the day or be rejected. But the Bible suggests no such situation. By making this assumption, feminists bring into question Jesus’ character and choices. They render Him irrelevant to the debate on gender. At least on this issue, they insult His courage and integrity.

B. We Allow the Whole of Scripture to Speak for Itself

The Bible, in its entirety, teaches both the equality of the sexes and gender role differences. There are texts that teach equality of the sexes as well as texts that teach specific, gender-based role differences. All of these texts must be allowed to speak with full authority and to be part of the interpretive process.

To eliminate even one text from the discussion on gender is to distort Scripture’s complete teaching. The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself, and if the whole of Scripture is allowed to speak for itself and interpret itself, we must conclude that Scripture teaches both gender equality and differences. Complementarians accept both truths as the whole truth.

Feminists and non-feminists agree that the Bible teaches that men and women are created equal in the image of God and thus are equal in dignity, worth, and personhood. But feminists and non-feminists divide over the texts that teach headship and submission or headship and helper in the relationship between the sexes. Therefore most of the debate revolves around the interpretation of these texts.



Feminists pit one group of texts on women’s submission against another group of verses on women’s equality and choose the latter to represent the whole truth, which distorts the truth. Complementarians on the other hand, accept both truths as the whole truth.

Feminists are concerned about gender equality only while God is concerned about both gender equality and gender differences. Because feminists reject biblical headship and submission, they advocate a half-truth. They pit one group of texts on women’s submission against another group of verses on women’s equality and choose the latter to represent the whole truth, which distorts the truth.

Feminists admit that there are some nagging, “obscure” verses that seem to teach headship and submission, but a comprehensive look at the Bible, they say, teaches equality and thus takes precedence over a few disagreeable verses. But their claims ring untrue. Seven specific didactic (teaching) texts teach headship and submission: First Peter 3:1-7; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18, 19; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; Titus 2:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 11:1-16; 14:34-38. These are not isolated texts. These are not obscure texts. They are foundational doctrinal texts that intentionally address male-female relationships and roles in the home and church. These texts strongly argue, from the Genesis 2 creation account and from the redemption story of Christ and His Church, that headship and submission are divinely planned by God.

When we look at the whole of the New Testament, we readily see the truth of these seven key passages being implemented in practical ways. Jesus chose twelve male apostles, for example. The prominent leaders and preachers of the Book of Acts are all men: Peter, John, Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, Paul, James the brother of John, James the brother of the Lord, Silas, Timothy, and Apollos. The five teachers and prophets in the church at Antioch named by Luke are men: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul (Acts 13:1). The great apostle to the Gentiles is Paul. All the authors of the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament, are men.

Despite these examples and direct commands related to headship and submission, one well-respected commentator and evangelical feminist says, “the Holy Spirit is ‘gender-blind.’ ”  Is it not the scholar himself who is blind?

 Feminists, in fact, place the Bible at war with itself. They create disharmony and confusion. If the whole Bible is allowed to speak for itself and interpret itself, it teaches both the equality of the sexes and specific, gender-based role distinctions.
 

C. We Allow the Plain Sense of Scripture to Speak for Itself

We affirm that the literal, plain-sense interpretation of Scripture leads to the conclusion that Jesus and His apostles taught the equality of the sexes and gender-based role differences. In the most natural, straightforward, plain-speech manner, the New Testament adamantly insists on the headship-submission relationship for Christian men and women. For example, the three key New Testament words we have studied--“head,” “submission,” and “exercise authority”--when allowed their natural meaning in context, affirm the headship-submission doctrine and utterly refute biblical feminism as false and deceitful.
Not only do the apostles Paul and Peter expressly state the headship-submission doctrine, they argue cogently and passionately for it, supporting the timeless universal application of their teaching from the original creation order and the order of redemption (Eph. 5:23-32; 1 Cor. 11:3). God could not have been more clear and direct in expressing His mind on this topic.

Protestants have always believed that ordinary believers can understand the general, plain sense of the Bible. The inspired biblical writers sought to be understood; they were not trying to be esoteric or to play word games with their readers. They wrote in intelligible language in order to communicate God’s words in a way that would be understood by ordinary people. One theologian has aptly said that the plain, literal interpretation of Scripture “is the basic way in which we let God be God and let God speak.”  Moreover, by the plain-sense (literal) interpretation of Scripture, we are able to test and expose false beliefs and subtle counterfeit doctrines that depend upon distorted methods of interpretation.

 Add to this the fact that the New Testament teaching on gender is a simple doctrine. It is not complex such as prophetic doctrine or the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It is basic, bread-and-butter, daily-life doctrine. All believers should be able to understand, at least in its most general form, what the Bible teaches on headship and submission. One should not have to be a Ph.D. or a specialist in hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) to understand headship and submission.

 Evangelical feminists, however, have created a confusing, interpretive nightmare regarding this topic. They employ various methods of interpretation and cannot agree among themselves on a single method of interpretation to explain away the headship-submission texts. The one point they wholeheartedly agree upon is that these texts cannot mean what they say.



The fundamental issue and danger of evangelical feminism lies in its methods of interpreting the Bible.

Feminist interpreters thereby demean the plain, straightforward meaning of Scripture and declare the literal interpretation of the headship-submission passages to be simplistic and traditionalistic. As a result, they rob the Bible of its ability to communicate to ordinary people.

The fundamental issue and danger of evangelical feminism lies in its methods of interpreting the Bible. These methods seriously undermine the credibility, integrity, and authority of God’s written Word. They make the Bible an utterly confusing book, an unsolvable puzzle. The next generation or two will reap the damage done to the Bible’s credibility as many other unacceptable doctrines are redefined by these clever, new methods of interpretation.

The Bible is not guilty of saying one thing and meaning another. It says what it means. When the plain sense of the Bible is violated, as feminists have done, we are left only with nonsense. Who can trust a Bible that says one thing but means another?
 

D. We Allow the Core Passages to Speak for Themselves

When constructing any doctrinal position, we should go first to the central, core passages and books of Scripture that present the doctrine in question. For example, the core texts related to the doctrine of salvation are in the books of Romans and Galatians. Complementarians build their doctrine on gender upon the core passages that systematically and directly address men and women in the home and church. There are seven, core didactic passages: 1 Corinthians 11 and 14; Ephesians 5; Colossians 3; 1 Timothy 2; Titus 2; and 1 Peter 3. These core passages of Scripture teach both the equality of the sexes and gender-based role differences.



When constructing any doctrinal position, we should go first to the central, core passages and books of Scripture that present the doctrine in question.

Evangelical feminists, in contrast, do all in their power to neutralize these texts. They contend that the seven specific passages on headship and submission are “obscure,” “isolated,” “problematic,” “painfully puzzling,” “culturally limited,” “not authentic” or should be interpreted “in light of Galatians 3:28,” which they consider to be the clearer, more theologically pertinent text. Feminist interpreters declare an all-out war on every word, phrase, sentence, or book that mentions headship and submission. They freely dispose of any text by waving their cultural magic wand and declaring the text to be “cultural,” “temporary,” or “a first-century custom,” which, they insist, makes it irrelevant for people today. Rebecca Groothuis, for example, insists that the texts that teach headship and subordination are “a temporary accommodation to certain functional differences between men and women in ancient patriarchal cultures.”

 The seven passages on submission and headship mentioned above, however, are not isolated, obscure texts, nor are they culturally conditioned. They are essential building blocks to a comprehensive doctrinal position on gender. They are the didactic, foundational passages on manhood and womanhood for the new covenant people of God.

What is so terribly unsettling to complementarians is that the New Testament is absolutely clear in its repeated, consistent declarations on headship and submission. Note again the key phrases used in the core passages:

· “wives, be submissive to your own husbands”

· “the holy women…used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands”

· “live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker” (1 Peter 3:1, 5, 7)

· “wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord”

· “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church”

· “as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything”

· “husbands, love your wives” (Eph. 5:22-25)

· “wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord”

· “husbands, love your wives” (Col. 3:18, 19)

· “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness”

· “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:11, 12)

· “encourage the young women…[to be] subject to their own husbands” (Titus 2:5)

· “the man is the head of a woman”

· “he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man” (1 Cor. 11:3, 7)

· “The women are to…subject themselves” (1 Cor. 14:34)

Furthermore, the apostles use the strongest conceivable arguments to prove headship and submission: (1) the creation laws of Genesis, (2) the universal practice of the churches, (3) the order within the Godhead, (4) the command of Jesus Christ, and (5) the Christ-Church relationship. Paul is adamant about headship and submission. In fact, he is much stronger about this matter than any of us would want to admit. Again, note the powerful arguments used to support the headship and submission doctrine:

· “the holy women also…being submissive to their own husbands”

· “just as Sarah obeyed Abraham” (1 Peter 3:5, 6)

· “be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord”

· “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church”

· “as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be to their husbands”

· “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church” (Eph. 5:22-25)

· “be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col. 3:18)

· “Adam who was first created, and then Eve”

· “it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13, 14)

· “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

· “he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”

· “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man”

· “man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake”

· “if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:3, 7-9, 16)

· “as in all the churches of the saints”

· “subject themselves, just as the Law also says”

· “the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment”

· “if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Cor. 14:33, 34, 37, 38)

Even so, some feminists talk as if this doctrine never existed among the apostles and that nearly all Christians since the time of the apostles have misinterpreted the apostles, except, of course, themselves. They explain away the obvious. They work frantically to reinterpret the core passages so that they can enhance gender neutrality. This is nothing but gender-bias interpretation. D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, expresses perfectly what many complementarians feel when he writes, “We are facing an ideology that is so certain of itself that in the hands of some, at least, the text is not allowed to speak for itself.”
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The apostles use the strongest conceivable arguments to prove headship and submission: (1) the creation laws of Genesis, (2) the universal practice of the churches, (3) the order within the Godhead, (4) the command of Jesus Christ, and (5) the Christ-Church relationship. Paul is adamant about headship and submission.
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Questions

1. What does the word hermeneutics mean? Use a dictionary to help you answer this question.
2. Why have the methods of interpretation become a major part of the gender debate?
3. What “magic wand” of interpretation do feminists wave over any verse of Scripture in order to eliminate its application for people today? Cite an example using one of the seven core passages.
4. Who do you believe has interpreted correctly the reasons for Jesus’ appointment of an all-male apostate--complementarians or feminists? Explain your answer.
5. Why is it necessary to consider the whole of Scripture in order to interpret any doctrine of Scripture accurately? List your reasons.
6. What is meant by the plain, literal sense of Scripture? When interpreting Scripture, why must you always seek the plain, literal, sense of the Scripture?
7. In what ways do the methods of interpretation used by feminists undermine the credibility, integrity, and authority of God’s written Word?
8. The author states: “The next generation or two will reap the damage done to the Bible’s credibility as many other unacceptable doctrines are redefined by these clever, new methods of interpretation.” List doctrines other than gender that you think might be redefined and reinterpreted in the future so that they may be more acceptable to secular society.
9. What does the author mean when he speaks of the “core passages” of a doctrine?
10. Of the seven, core New Testament passages on gender distinctions (headship/submission), which two do you find most convincing? Explain your choices.
11.  What evidence would you use to prove that Paul is adamant about the headship-submission doctrine?
12. After reading Chapter Five, do you believe that complementarians have interpreted the Scriptures too simplistically, as feminists claim? Explain your answer.
13. What new information did you learn that will help shape your thinking and actions?
 
 

Chapter VI:
     TAKE COURAGE AND STAND STRONG IN YOUR FAITH

Special Note: Each chapter begins with a short dialogue between a struggling college student, named Tom, and the author. The dialogue sets up the questions and issues to be addressed in the chapter.

“I’m sure glad we took the time to study the Scriptures together,” Tom comments. “I didn’t realize how much the Bible says about gender. I didn’t know how clear it is about this subject. That’s what has impressed me the most.”

“Tom, let me repeat what I’ve been saying all along. If the Bible is allowed to speak for itself, it plainly teaches that God created men and women equal in His divine image but different in their respective role functions. One has to twist the Scriptures to eliminate gender role differences from the Bible.”

“You’re right, but people believe in gender equality so strongly that they won’t accept role differences no matter who says it.”

“I know! We’re standing against a worldwide wave of opinion.”

“It’s tough to stand against the tide,” Tom says.

“True, but we’ve been called to be faithful to Jesus Christ and His Word, not to popular opinion.”

“Pray that I’ll have the courage to stand for what I believe.”

“I will. Here are some final thoughts to encourage and strengthen your faith.”

First, if you believe God created men and women as equal yet different, you stand firmly on sound, honest biblical scholarship. You are faithful to the biblical record. You allow God to speak for Himself and the Bible to say what it means. You protect the Bible’s credibility to speak plainly. You believe what God’s people have believed since the beginning of human history. You follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and His holy apostles. So be encouraged. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus said, “but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

Second, some top evangelical, Bible-believing scholars are boldly speaking out against the unsound interpretive methods and conclusions of feminist scholars. They are producing exciting new books and journal articles that challenge feminist strongholds and confirm the truth that the Bible teaches headship and submission. If you are open-minded and seek biblical truth on gender, vital, new research information is now at hand for you to study.  So “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15; italics added).

Third, in spite of the overwhelming cultural pressure to obliterate God-created, gender-defined role differences, millions of local churches and Christian leaders worldwide adamantly refuse to bow the knee to the false idol of egalitarianism. They refuse to accept feminist notions of equality--not because they are wooden-headed literalists, blind traditionalists, or because they fear women--but because God says something different. They also recognize this debate for what it really is--spiritual warfare over the Creator’s sovereign design for marriage, the family, the church family, and godly manhood and womanhood:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).

Take courage from the strength, faithfulness, and uncompromising courage of your brothers and sisters to follow the Word of the Lord, and to be truly counter-cultural.

Fourth, those who follow God’s blueprint for marriage will build happier, stronger marriages, and their children will benefit. Those who know God’s plan for marriage and the sexes can help protect their families from a secularized culture that is super-saturated with rebellion against God’s laws, with sexual promiscuity, with divorce, fatherlessness, lies, loneliness, and heartache. Furthermore, following God’s design for gender will help keep churches doctrinally strong and enable them to grow according to God’s plan. So, I say, as the Lord said to Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Josh 1:8).

 Fifth, complementarians will not give up appealing to our feminist brothers and sisters. Minds have been changed. Unlike secular and theologically liberal feminists, evangelical feminists believe God to be the author of Scripture, God’s book. This provides us substantial common ground on which to continue to communicate and persuade. Thus we want to appeal to our feminist brothers and sisters and warn you as friends. The best minds can be blinded by egalitarian philosophy that looks fair and just but contradicts the Creator’s decision to make people the way He has.

Sixth, those who follow God’s plan for the sexes, marriage, and the church family glorify God. By following His plan, they allow God to be sovereign Lord over His creation. This brings God pleasure, and nothing is more important to a child of God than that.

also a good book to have-Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch

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