Saturday, January 6, 2007

Questions and Answers on Biblical Equality


Does the Bible affirm the equality of women? I rarely hear Evangelicals answer in the negative. Those who take a more liberal view of Scripture often do so, insisting that the both Jesus and the Apostle Paul, for example, were men of their times and they did not even contemplate the equality of women.

The vast majority of Evangelicals, on the other hand, argue that the Bible, from the first chapters of Genesis, affirms the equality of male and female. But there are two quite disctinct camps. On the one side are those who say the Bible affirms the equality of women--a straightforward affirmation that allows women to serve alongside men in the home as well as in the workplace and ministry.

In the other camp are those who say they affirm the equality of women but it is a spiritual or ontological "equality" that does not offer women equal roles in the family or church. Most in this camp would affirm a woman's right to vote and own property and to generally enjoy civil liberties alongside her male counterparts.

There is a problem, however, with that position. In no other circumstances is the word equality used apart from the understanding of equality of opportunity.

Imagine trying to argue that the Bible affirms equality for African-Americans, while at the same time insisting that they do not enjoy equality of opportunity--as in equality to serve in ordained minisstry in the church. Imagine saying that people of color have a spiritual or ontological equality but they are not permitted to teach or hold office.


I posted the folloing on 11-12-07. Here is the site.

Michael, you have opened up some very important and difficult issues in these last 2 posts. Thank you a thousand times over. We all write in light of our own situations, and I am writing as a woman who was terrorized and physically abused for most of 2 decades (as I spoke of in response to your last post).

I would strongly challenge your statement: “I applaud those who are able to endure the tortures of some marriages. While I realize that some torture is self-inflicted, I also realize that there are those who are on the death rack with no hope of getting off and it is not their fault. To those who are predisposed to endure suffering, I believe that it honors God for you to stay in such a situation.”

PLEASE reconsider your words, my dear friend. You may not realize the potential harm they may cause. In my book “Women in the Maze: Questions and Answers on Biblical Equality,” I write the following:

“This issue of wife abuse was addressed by Elisabeth Elliot a few years ago when she was speaking before a large gathering of seminary wives at a well-known evangelical seminary. It would have been naive to assume that there were no battered wives in that audience. Yet in response to the question ‘Should a wife remain in a home where she is being physically abused by her husband?’ Elliot pointed the women to 1 Peter 2, which speaks of slaves who were ‘beaten’ and ‘endured’ even when they had done no wrong. Elliot then quoted 1 Peter 3: ‘In the same way, you women must accept the authority of your husbands.’ In her spontaneous commentary on these verses, she said, ‘I don’t think that requires a woman necessarily to stay in a home where she is literally being physically beaten to death. But on the other hand, it might.’”

“What a relief it must have been—I say with tongue in cheek— for those women to hear that headship does not necessarily mean that they must remain where they are literally being physically beaten to death. But Elliot left enough nagging doubts for any battered woman in that audience whose self-esteem may have already been so low that she was unable to seek help. That woman may have heard only the words ‘But on the other hand, it might.’ What a tragedy.”


Sheri Klouda surprised at fallout from her "removal" at Southwestern
By Hannah Elliott

Published January 25, 2007

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) -- Sheri Klouda, a former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said she lost her job teaching Hebrew in the seminary's school of theology because she is a woman.

But she wasn't prepared for the fallout that followed.

News of her story first broke on a Jan. 17 blog post by Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson. In the entry, Burleson said Klouda, who had received numerous grants and awards throughout her collegiate and seminary years, was dismissed by President Paige Patterson because of her gender.

The school didn't want women teaching men in the theology department, Burleson asserted.

Public outcry at the dismissal, chronicled in reports in the Dallas Morning News and Religion News Service, has given the issue unexpected prominence.

"It just kind of ballooned," Klouda said, adding that the situation "got bigger" than expected. "The Southern Baptist Convention and Southwestern are all so big, and I'm so little. I'm just one person." See article.

Male/Female Equality: A Plea for Honesty

Below is my post on Parchment and Pen

Tonight I was perusing Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. It’s a 500+ page volume, and my copy is personally signed by Wayne, “To Ruth, with appreciation for your friendship.”

I have debated the issues of biblical equality with Wayne and many others for most of two decades. It’s often a matter of going at each other with our swords—our biblical proof-texts. That is not my purpose here.

Here I am focusing on the words equal and equality.

In the Preface of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper writes:

We hope that thousands of Christian women who read this book. . . will feel fully equal to men in status before God, and in importance to the family and the church. We pray that, at the same time, this vision of equality and complementarity will enable Christian women to give wholehearted affirmation to Biblically balanced male leadership in the home and in the church.

Similarly, we desire that every Christian man who reads this book will come away feeling in his heart that women are indeed fully equal to men in personhood, in importance, and in status before God. . . . (p. xiv)

That women are equal in dignity and personhood is, in a nutshell, what is called the Complementarian view of women—a position held by many Evangelicals who restrict women in roles in the church and home. Women may not be ordained ministers or elders or teach men, and they must defer to their husbands if they are married.

The opposing view is referred to as the Egalitarian position, which is most clearly enunciated by CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality). I quote the following from the CBE website,

What is biblical equality? It is the belief that all people are equal before God and in Christ. All have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God. God freely calls believers to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race. We believe this because the Bible and Jesus Christ teach it to us. That is biblical equality.

That statement is straightforward. There is no discrimination regarding class, gender, or race. The use of the term equality is easily understood—that of equal opportunity. It is a standard definition that is universally accepted in everyday life.

As a member of CBE, I hold an egalitarian position, but as stated above, I’m not seeking to defend that side on this post—whether or not the husband is the “head” of the home or whether or not women can be ordained for ministry. There are many web sites that focus specifically on that debate.

My topic here is the definition of the word equality and how that word is used by those who call themselves Complementarians.

To argue that women are “fully equal to men in status before God, and in importance to the family and the church,” as Piper does, is to hijack a perfectly straightforward term and infuse it with its opposite meaning.

Equality by no definition means sameness. Equality, for example, does not mean equal intelligence or equal strength or equal appearance. The common usage understood in western culture is equality of opportunity. Thus, a man in a wheelchair and a woman track star have equal opportunity to seek a university coaching position. An African-American janitor and an Anglo-American corporate CEO have equal opportunity to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

To tell a black man that he is fully equal to a white man before God and in importance in the church but he cannot serve as an elder simply doesn’t wash. The word is not equality, rather discrimination or inequality.

I have heard many times the Complementarian differentiation between race and gender on this topic and that’s not what this post is about. It is about using the term equality.

Why must Complementarians bow to political correctness? Yes, of course it would be politically incorrect to say that they do not affirm the equality of women. But that would be truthful.

If you’re a Complementarian, I am pleading for honesty. Stand up like a man, and say it: The Bible does not teach that men and women are equal.


Questions and Answers on Biblical Equality

THE BIBLE AND EQUALITY Does the Bible affirm the equality of women? I rarely hear Evangelicals answer in the negative. Those who take a...