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When the curtain on male headship is pulled back, it shrinks from the light of logic and truth. Consider the most recent defense of male headship by John Piper. He offers three reasons why he believes it will endure, but in pulling the curtain back, we find each deeply flawed.

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There are two main groups within evangelicalism debating the issues of subordination (lesser authority) among the members of the Trinity and subordination among male-female relationships. Complementarians believe, among other things, that women should be under the authority of male leaders in their churches, and wives should be under the authority of male leaders (their husbands) in their marriages.

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Embracing a fully egalitarian perspective was a long twelve-year process. When all was said and done, there was one final hurdle to overcome. By the time I began pastoring in 2008, I already understood that God gifted both women and men with “speech” gifts such as prophecy. I also believed women were allowed to teach and preach, even with men present.

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I remember how embarrassed I was the day I walked into work with a black eye. I dreaded the questions, knowing I would have to reveal my lost battle with lawn equipment, and worrying that someone might wrongly suspect my husband of abuse. I turned on the office lights, sat down at my desk, and interacted with people all day.

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On a macro scale, the complementarian approach to abuse is incomplete. If our mission is to end the abuse and oppression of women, it becomes clear that we can’t just saw off individual branches of oppression, leaving the tree rooted in the sin of patriarchy.

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Whether through sermons or wedding vows or Christian books, we have been conditioned to see different primary roles for husbands and wives. Many churches teach that a wife’s role is one-way submission to her husband. Sometimes we are vague about what submission means, but feel strongly that there is hierarchy in marriage and that it is of utmost importance. The apostle Paul’s letters are often the basis of these teachings. Yet, is Paul advocating hierarchy in marriage, or is he encouraging mutuality?

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John C. Nugent argues that "Peter was not, in fact, affirming that women are weaker. Rather, he was asking men to lay aside their cultural advantage and to win over their unbelieving wives in the same Christlike manner that slaves, women, and the wider community were called to non-coercively welcome Gentiles into the chorus of believers who will 'glorify' God when he comes to judge.”

 
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Egalitarian theologians have been able to find many weaknesses within complementarian theology. It is important to understand how complementarians think, what biblical arguments they stand on, and why they continue to hold to their founding principles.

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“Delighted” would accurately describe my reaction to discovering Christians for Biblical Equality. I’m a man who knows something about marginalization and alienation — two themes central to CBE’s concerns.

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"For the husband is the head of the wife, is that not what the Bible says?" my friend asked in all earnestness.

"No," I replied, "that is not what the Bible says. Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. How is Christ the head of the church?"

"I guess," he responded, "he is the Holy Spirit."

On the way home from church, my preoccupation with our conversation puzzled me. Why is it, I thought, that someone like my friend had spent so much time serving as pastor and yet had not grasped this basic truth of which Paul spoke? A lifetime of sermons and I had rarely, if ever, heard about how Christ is the head of the church. The essential exposition is not the husband as head of the wife. The critical question is, "How is Christ the head of the church?"

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