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Short Answers to Tough Questions

Many Christians, certainly most egalitarians, are familiar with Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV). But as well-known as this passage is, it’s still common to wonder what mutual submission actually looks like in practice. Here’s my take on it: Isaac and Me A friend of mine, Isaac, and I recently went out for a meal together. Neither of us had an agenda. We ate our burgers and chatted for a while. Then we each paid for our own food and left. Isaac is the worship minister where I attend church and play in the band. At Wednesday evening rehearsals and on Sunday mornings, he’s my leader. His authority over me, of course, isn’t absolute. It also isn’t eternal. As a good leader, he has my best interests in min... Read more
Most evangelical egalitarians know that the Bible has words that mean “man/men” and words that mean “person/people, human(s).” Many egalitarians also know that some Bible translations use “man/men” to translate words which aren’t limited to men. This is especially common, for example, in the King James Version and the pre-2011 editions of the New International Version. But recognition of the distinction between “man” and “human” is growing. It has influenced modern translations such as the English Standard Version (Crossway, 2001) and the Christian Standard Bible (Holman, 2017). Though the translators of these Bibles tend to be strongly complementarian, and though I don't believe they’ve gone far enough to accurat... Read more
Not long ago, I served on an advisory board for a Christian organization. After a morning of listening to departmental reviews from operational staff, I shared my opinion on the notable differences in the last two presentations with a male fellow board member. Sally, I’ll call her, gave a warm interpersonal overview of her journey into her new role and department yet did not provide us with much vision for where she planned to take the department. On the other hand, George, a young male director, provided clear vision for where he wanted to take the department and gave his perspective on what the CEO and founding chair needed to do differently. The two presentations were starkly different. I wondered: Was it gender? Was it an issue of the confidence? Was it a style difference? Was... Read more
This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! A massive amount of ink has been spilled in analyzing the decline in male participation in the American church. Even as the number of women leaving the church rises, you can find countless articles pointing to a variety of root causes for the dearth of men. Many blame the “feminization” of the church. Some fault the church for not engaging men’s sense of adventure enough; others suggest that men in our culture have developed a lazy streak. The hypotheses are many, but usually boil down to one of two culprits: women, or some defect in men. The offered remedy is typically the same: the church needs to become more “masculine.” Various churches have tried to do this—and still, the nu... Read more
Paul makes a few statements that seem to limit women. Did he intend for these to apply to all women, or only to women among the original recipients? Some interpreters argue that Paul considered his words directly applicable, not only to the women of Corinth (in the case of 1 Corinthians) and Ephesus (in the case of 1 Timothy), but to all Christian women in his era (in Philippi, Antioch, Jerusalem, etc.). Such an argument often proceeds as follows: Since Paul himself intended broad ancient application, the next sensible step is to apply his words directly to all Christian women of subsequent generations. One key text for accomplishing this move to universal application is 1 Corinthians 11:16, which has often been used to show that Paul himself applied his restrictions on women beyond a par... Read more
Why can’t Christians just agree? Or, when they must disagree, why can’t they disagree quietly? Many people, both inside and outside the church, feel impatient and frustrated with in-fighting and dissent in the body of Christ—even over critical issues like racial and gender justice or domestic violence. See the recent response to Australian journalist Julia Baird’s coverage of domestic abuse in the Christian church. Many of the initial responses accused Baird of undercutting the church in highlighting the issue. Essentially, because we, the church, are meant to be one body—united in faith and newness in Christ—disagreement is sometimes seen as a threat and a liability. And certainly, unity is the ideal for Christian community. But does striving for uni... Read more
Gricel Medina
Does egalitarian theology have anything to say to people of color? It’s a simple question with a complicated answer. The myth that egalitarian theology has nothing to say to people of color is reinforced by the movement’s tendency to centralize white people. Many women of color have accused the woman's rights movement as a whole of being a white movement. Indeed, the feminist movement has often demonstrated a disregard for the needs of women of color. Although feminism and egalitarianism are distinct ideologies in many ways, both have struggled to affirm, include, and empower people of color. In an article called “Race and Feminism: Women's March Recalls the Touchy History,” Karen Grigsby writes: “The fact that the feminist movement was so white for... Read more
Complementarian/egalitarian discussions and debates can be complex. Some involve arguments from the finer points of Greek and Hebrew. Others may require an understanding of theological themes that span the entire Bible. Still others require solid grounding in the social sciences. Because of such complexities, I find it refreshing when someone asks a question that is easily answered. The question that forms the title to this blog entry is just such a question. Essentially all readers of Arise have heard the claim that egalitarians are following culture. This claim is typically intended to point out that egalitarians are being seduced by feminism. And the feminism in question is usually a reference to the movement called second-wave feminism, which began in the 1960s and lasted for twenty-p... Read more
Below is a very brief glimpse of the inconsistency with which we elevate certain doctrinal issues and specifically, the issue of women as pastors, as things we absolutely must agree on, and ignore other doctrinal differences. But what's at the root of that inconsistency? Two stories. Each about someone in my family. One from more than fifty years ago. One from 2017. Let's start with the old story. A relative in my grandparents' generation once left a congregation because a woman was teaching. He had been at the congregation quite a while and was content to stay—except for this new development that a woman was allowed to teach. Here's what makes this otherwise-unsurprising story odd: He not only switched congregations, but also denominations. That is to say, he was... Read more
We all know about schoolyard bullies—kids who rely on physical strength to dominate others and rule the playground. The strict gender dichotomy some Christians argue for similarly elevates physical strength, furthering the myth that men's physical strength uniquely qualifies them for the role of protector. In this flawed gender dichotomy, men are the protectors of and providers for women. This role is supposedly paramount to their manhood. Women are thus in need of men’s protection and provision, and they passively receive it. Women are not, then, co-agents who help to create a safer and more secure world. Yet, God clearly commands the man and woman in Genesis to rule over and care for the earth together. While there are many examples of men protecting women in... Read more

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