Egalitarianism versus Complementarianism B.C. Paper 1

Dr. Stackhouse, author of Partners in Christ, holds to an Egalitarian view. He states that the “very arguments used to support female clergy are now used to support homosexuals in the pulpit as well.” [1] He argues that a Bible believing Christian can be a feminist. Going on, Stack house defines feminism or egalitarianism as “someone who champions the the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance to those of men.” Stackhouse believes that there are arbitrary, ungrounded distinctions between men and women. What is at stake? Some people argue that genuine Christians can not be feminists. The stakes couldn’t be higher. God’s glory is at stake because when we obey correctly, God is glorified. Historically, Israel experienced curses for disobeying God. Today, we may experience chastisement from a loving Father if we indeed are his children. The inerrancy and infallibility of scripture is at stake. Some egalitarians hold the view that people can’t dogmatically tell others what the Bible says. Some would say we can also rely on scholarship, spiritual experience, and Christian tradition to inform our thinking and actions. They are just expressing their own personal opinion. However, scripture is clear on what God’s Word says on this topic. In the following paragraphs, I will talk about the egalitarian view and the complementarian views of the Bible.

            How does one get to an Egalitarian view of the Bible? Essentially, this view comes from a false hermeneutic of the Bible that doesn’t rely on Scripture as authoritative, inerrant, and infallible. The Egalitarian relies on many other sources besides the Bible to inform their view including God’s inner leading, tradition, and spiritual experience. Generally speaking, Egalitarians and Complementarians interpret the Bible and get their convictions from very different sources. In the book Partners for Christ, Stackhouse exclaims that he uses spiritual experience, tradition, scholarship, Christian art, and scripture to make a final decision on matters of importance. On the contrary, Graham Beyon exclaims the exact opposite. In his book embracing complementarianism, Graham exclaims that “any other authority we have-such as human reason, traditions or our experience- needs to be secondary to what God says in the Bible.”[2] For Stackhouse, it’s not enough to say the Bible says it so and that’s the end of the matter. In his view, “it is deficient theology to say the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.”[3] Apparently, Stackhouse doesn’t believe in 2 Timothy 3:16 which says “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

            If Egalitarians have a false hermeneutic, it makes sense that they would come to different conclusions about the Bible. Egalitarians view Patriarchy as part of sin that resulted from the fall. Questions arise such as- “Why would God limit authority if women are perfectly capable of leading?” The idea is that Patriarchy was only for a temporary time but feminism was always the trajectory of the Bible. Egalitarians will use Galatians 3:28 which says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Egalitarians will interpret this verse not in the context of salvation but in the context of all of life. They will say that male and female are equal in roles and responsibilities because of this verse. They say that men and women are equal in co-creating (Genesis 1:26-27). In addition, we see a co-partnership in (Genesis 2:18-25). We see that spiritual gifts and church functions are for both sexes (Romans 12:6-8). Lastly, we see women leading in the church as deacons (Romans 16:1-12). The overall perspective is that complementarians are living in the past of the sin of patriarchy and the fall in the midst of a changing culture that was always destined for feminism. Patriarchy was just temporary. God originally intended men and women to be coequal partners with no subordination. In addition, we should be living in light of eternity and glorification. The last days have arrived (Acts:20) In glorification, all barriers are removed. There is no more suffering and fellowship is perfect. Going on, Paul mentions that Christians have freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:13-14). We have liberty and freedom from gender discrimination and oppression-Christ is the reason for this victory.

            The complementarian view has a high view of scripture. Complementarians primarily go to 1 Timothy 2:11-12 “A woman must learn in quietness, in all submission. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” In addition, Paul adds in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35- “The women are to keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. But if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.” Women can teach other women but the authority for public preaching belongs to the men. Some churches will invariably say that a woman may teach if they are under the authority of the elders. However, by this very action, the elders are saying that it’s okay for women to function as an elder or overseers in their teaching roles. Men and women are different and have different roles that God assigned. Submission does exist and is part of God’s plan for his purposes and His glory.

            How are men and women different? This may seem like a ridiculous question. But the culture today is blurring the lines between men and women to the point that men can identify as women anytime they want and vice versa. We sure do live in a Romans:1 culture! Good is being called evil and evil good. The culture thinks we can essentially become our own Gods by declaring what we are instead of acknowledging what the real God created us to be. The culture is trying to take control and dismiss the foundational truth of people’s lives- I am a man or I am a woman. If the foundational truth of their own existence is denied and people can be their own Gods by declaring whatever they want, then there is no truth. Man declares what is true instead of God. This is the path of the culture- there is no absolute truth but only subjective relativism exists. If anyone tries to be dogmatic about anything, they are labeled as arrogant. What is my point? Truth does exist, men and women are different, and it is declared by God’s Word. In scripture, we see how women are to be submissive to men in Ephesians:5. Even Christ is submissive to the Father in the great trinity of the Godhead. Men are to honor women as the weaker vessel in 1 Peter 3:7. The weaker vessel in this verse is talking about being physically weaker. It’s interesting to note that even this is being denied in our culture. We see transgender women who are actually men competing in women’s sports and achieving world records. Foundational, obvious, rational, and basic truths are being denied in the culture.

            In conclusion, I do acknowledge that women have been historically oppressed in certain areas including pay and compensation. However, oppression doesn’t mean we change what the Bible actually says. Patriarchy is not a sin and is not a result of the fall. Egalitarianism wasn’t always part of God’s good design and patriarchy wasn’t temporary. God’s Word is enough. I don’t need to go to my own spiritual experience, traditions, or Christian art to make a determination of what the Bible says. I don’t believe that the Bible changes based on the current state of the culture. Stackhouse clearly said by his own admission that homosexuals are in the pulpit because of the same hermeneutics egalitarians use. It is possible to be dogmatic about what the Bible says if it is clearly expressed in scripture. Scripture clearly states in 1 Timothy that there is a separation of authority. Teaching is reserved for men and women are to remain quiet. Scripture is a blessing and is integral to the life of a Christian. We are to meditate on God’s Word day and night so that we can conform to Christ, be sanctified, and live out God’s plan for us on Earth. What is at stake? God’s Glory, the authority of Scripture, sin, and the Gospel. The Christian culture is on a slippery slope- Once we start deviating from what scripture says, scripture becomes irrelevant. God starts to become irrelevant. We start conforming more to ourselves, what we want, and sin rather than Christ and Him crucified. This debate isn’t just about Egalitarianism versus Complementarianism. This debate is about preserving the Gospel message. The foundations of human life have been dismissed. Men deny they are women and women deny they are men. The foundations of the Gospel message will be denied next.  Because once one part of the Bible is dismissed, the rest follows including the foundational Gospel message. Stay faithful.

[1] Stackhouse Jr., J. G. (2015, November 8). Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism. IVP Academic.

[2] Beynon, G., & Tooher, J. (2022, October 1). Embracing Complementarianism: Turning Biblical Convictions into Positive Church Culture.

[3] Stackhouse Jr., J. G. (2015, November 8). Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism. IVP Academic.