Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Conservative Egalitarianism: The Middle Way Between Complementarianism and Feminism

Recently, I did a google search and found that a student in Michigan, named Chad Christian, wrote a paper in which he contrasted my view of egalitarianism with D.A. Carson's complementarianism. He concluded the paper by saying,

"While I do not firmly take a stance on either side of this debate, I believe that both Carson and Richardson exercise two extreme positions in this  debate" (

To respond to Chad, let me say that first, I do not have an extreme position. I wrote him a response at his site, stating that my view of women and their gifts in the church does not negate the headship of the male and his authority in the home. After all, the New Testament shows us time and time again where wives are to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22 being a good example). I am one who believes in teaching what the Bible I would not tell women to not submit to their husbands. This is the position of feminists, who I dub "extreme egalitarians." The Bible tells wives to submit; for those who refuse to acknowledge scriptural teaching on this are opposing Scripture, which is the exalted, inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God.

 Last but not least, he writes that I oppose 1 Peter 3:7 as referring to spiritual authority. But what Chad does not understand is that I am defining "spiritual authority" in a different sense than he. He sees 1 Peter 3:7 as referring to spiritual authority, since the issue involved is headship in the home, which is given by God. I am referring to spiritual authority as having to do with the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4 and the Spirit giftedness of 1 Corinthians 12. I am discussing ecclesiology when I discuss spiritual authority, which I deem to be distinct from God-given roles in the home. After all, Paul does the same when, in the same passage that he tells wives to submit to their husbands (5:22), he also tells the Ephesians that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). Christ and the church are the example for the home, not the other way around. Many complementarians confuse which example is the standard...and thus, end up stifling the female voice in churches today.

I am not denying that in some sense, male headship in the home is spiritual authority; what I am denying, however, is that male headship can be used as the paradigm by which men and women are to operate as believers in the church. I believe that a woman can submit to her husband in the home and yet, operate in her God-given role to preach the Word (even if he isn't called to do so) in the church of God. I see giftedness by the Spirit (preaching, teaching, pastoring, apostleship,  prophecy, etc.) as spiritual authority that is manifested apart from the gender of an individual and/or whether or not the individual is to submit or lead in the home. After all, there will be no marriage between man and woman in heaven (Matt. 22:30); if the church is to usher in the coming Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:10), and the coming Kingdom will have no marriage, then the church should be a divine institution where women are able to preach, teach, apostle, and pastor as God has given them ability. This does not undermine marriage; rather, if the wife is to be the glory of her husband (1 Cor. 11:8), and the wife is preaching and teaching as God has given her ability, then she does so "to the glory of her husband." The more the husband allows his wife to exercise her gifts, the more glorious for him she will be. Conversely, the more the husband forces his wife to sit on the sidelines while he does the work of God, the less glorious he will be for God and His Kingdom. What a shame that so many men have this mindset! I thank God for those who don't, and pray for those who do that one day, their hearts and minds will be changed.

Feel free to check out Chad's site if you so desire. Also, feel free to leave comments. God bless.


  1. Hi Deidre,

    just wanted to let you know I'm still around and always enjoy reading your opinions and studies. I am of a little different opinion about men and women in the marriage but I don't feel it is an extreme position as the writer you replied to believes it is. I believe that when both the husband and the wife are Christians, then they are to be in submission to each other or they are not in submission to Christ. If they are in submission to Christ's will, then they should be in submission to each other and that will occur naturally as Christians unless they are "taught" differently. Galations 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 12:13 are inclusive statements of men and women in the church and that also carries into the marriage.

    IMO, the complimentarian view that requires a one-way submission is one of the key reasons for the climbing divorce rate among Christians. It fosters the growth of many forms of sin against a wife because of the husband being the "head" of the wife. While men bring certain gifts to a marriage so as to be uniquely gifted by God, so do women bring different gifts as gifted by God. It is the combination of those gifts, through marriage, equally shared between the couple that makes the true Christian marriage one of equal status in unique ways. That is where complimentarians fail to understand the egalitarian concept, IMO. They see it as female leadership over the male, whether in the marriage or the church, instead of shared leadership and shared submsision in the marriage. Their views of the home are then transferred into the church and that can lead to unscriptural limitations on women in both the marriage and the church crop up.

    Maybe Christian egalitarianism is a hard concept to follow for some. My wife and I have never had a complimentarian marriage in the sense that I am her head and she is to be submissive to me and I am to make all decissions, yada yada yada. We have always shared the responsibilities and recognized the equality of each other and the mutual submission to the other. I don't tell her what to do and she doesn't tell me what to do. We approach everything with our own unique views but make the decissions equally regarding everything. I don't know where you would place us in your reply to the writer. We also trust each other to make decission on our own when necessary. I do know one thing: we are not feminists egalitarians (as in liberal sense of feminism in the church) and we are most definitly not complimentarians, with it one way submission, which is all we heard taught in our denomination for years (Church of Christ) and consider to be unscriptural teaching of a modern design! We prefer the description of our marriage as simply being a Christian "egalitarian" marriage. After 37.5 years, nothing has changed in the way we treat each other, make all decissions, raised our girls (and now help raise grandchildren) and approach our marriage. We just wish the "inclussion" of women in our churches at all levels of work and leadership would become a reality and that our fellowship would recognize that the truest form of Christian marriage is the egalitarian marriage. BTW, egalitarian practice("inclusivity" is the new catch word for this) is starting to show up in the churches of Christ. I hope and pray that the work you do will help start the same revival and push for positive change in your fellowship.

    Guess I got a little wordy :>) Keep the good studies coming!

    Grace to you and peace.


  2. Wiley,

    Thanks for responding. It's so nice to hear from those who follow my work and are still supporting me. Your responses here cheer me up often!!

    In regards to submission...I have a different idea in mind, too, than the complementarian mindset. I've had godly examples in my life, as my grandparents have been married for nearly 60 years now. In their marriage, my grandfather and grandmother have made their decisions together. It was never the complementarian type of marriage where my grandfather always told my grandmother what to do. They made their decisions together in everything, whether it was their children, their finances, etc. My grandparents have always been best friends and have always talked and deliberated together before making decisions.

    My twin sister, Danielle, married a former classmate of ours this past July 10th. This July will make their one-year anniversary, and she and my brother-in-law always talk about their decisions. I use submission and emphasize it as much as I do because I wanna make it clear to feminists, in particular, that wives are not supposed to rule their husbands. I think that, in a godly marriage, both husband and wife can put each other first, be servants to each other, and lead a godly marriage. So, in all honesty, I don't think you and I differ on the marriage thing.

    My mother was the breadwinner when she and my father were married. Dad worked, he wasn't a bum...but when it came to the greater finances, my mom won the day. My father was rather insecure about it, but my mother wasn't. She did not make the money a point of contention between she and my father. With my brother-in-law, he has been raised in more of a Southern Baptist culture...though he and his fam are not of the SBC denomination, they hold to many SBC values, the only exception being that he and his family believe that God can gift women to preach and teach in the church. They have female ministers in their family, one of whom recently presided over one of her nephew's weddings some time ago.

    I wrote all this not to take up space, but to say that one can hardly ever get a true look into the life of an individual. While I can say many things on the blog, I can never give a completely accurate picture of what Deidre's life from day-to-day is all about. Perhaps God may grace us one day in the future to meet in person, me to meet you and your wife. I thank God for your support, and I hope that face-to-face meeting comes to pass. Just know that the Scriptures emphasize submission on both sides, the wife for the husband, the husband for the wife (the husband is to sacrifice for the wife as Christ does for the church). The only way a truly godly marriage can work is that each individual puts the other before themselves. The only way godly churches will thrive is when each member puts the others above themselves (Philippians 2). By so doing, we are demonstrating that we have the mind of Christ.

    Hope to hear from you soon...

  3. Hi Diedre,

    I tried to bring this up in the past but you looked at the wrong verse. Look at Ephesians 5:24 (not 21).

    "Wives ARE SUBJECT to their husbands IN EVERYTHING"

    Are you going to SUBMIT to your husband IN EVERYTHING? If so and I was you, I'd stay single!

    The hupotasso verb in that verse (not verse 21, verse 24!) is PASSIVE INDICATIVE. Note that the verse is NOT a "command"/prescription addressed to women but a description of marriage addressed to the congregation in context of a rather lengthy discourse.

    The power a husband has over his wife emotionally is what Paul refers to when he explains that “wives are subject to their husbands in everything”. Paul proceeds to instruct husbands repeatedly on agape loving (using active and even imperative forms of agape). Every husband HAS “gravitational power”. Paul is teaching him to handle this in a way which lifts up rather than tears down

    (more here)

  4. Charis,

    You write:

    "The power a husband has over his wife emotionally is what Paul refers to when he explains that 'wives are subject to their husbands in everything.'"

    The question I have for you is this: where is the evidence that all Paul is talking about is "the emotional state"? I don't see it. Rather, if you read the end of the verse, Paul says that they are to be subject "in everything," and I think that there is more to marriage than just emotions.

    Whenever I've seen such statements in Scripture, I've never seen Paul say, "Wives, be subject to your husbands in certain things." I've always seen the Scriptures state that wives are to submit to husbands "in everything." I myself, have studied Greek for some five years now, and I know that the word "everything," "pasa," means "all things." That does not just cover the emotions. So you've got a lot of evidence to stack up to make the claim you're making.

    In the same way I cannot override Scriptures assertion that the Spirit gives giftedness despite gender, I cannot override Scripture's statements that the wife is to submit to her husband in "all things." The text is there. How that works out in each individual marriage may be somewhat similar and somewhat different...but I am compelled to affirm what the text says. God bless.

  5. I always wryly smile whenever folks hammer at Paul's comments in Ephesians about wives submitting to their husbands. Almost invariably they leave out what Paul says they should be submitting to, what their husbands' responsibilites are.

    "5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... 30... each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

    Oh, dread! Wives, submit yourselves to husbands who are commanded to love you as they do themselves, no! more: to love you as Christ loved the church and to give themselves for you!

    Oh, what a dreadful life! To submit to unconditional love and to respect one's husband for striving to model himself after Christ, to be self-sacrificing in service to you!


    And of course, such folks who dread such submission often manufacture a conflict with other Pauline statements about submitting to one another, as if such a conflict actually existed.

    No, the only place such conflicts exist is in the minds of those UNchristlike men who seek to dominate women, UNchristlike women who fear submission to love and radical faux-feminists who don't pretend any sort of Christian viewpoint.


    In most cases, I've found it best to simply point out the obvious, shake the dust from my feet and move on. None of the "Let's manufacture false arguments" people on any side want to be persuaded contra the preconceptions they bring to scripture and won't be.

    Rabbit trail: my grandfather who was a Southern Baptist pastor for over half a century had as his first, foremost and most trusted Bible teacher... my grandmother. And he saw no more conflicts with New Testament roles for women in that than do I. (His views on women's service in the church nver gained a lot of traction, even in the church where he spent half his ministry years, at least not in his lifetime, though the role of women in ministry has grown greatly as a result of the ground he plowed and planted and tended for more than a quarter of a century *heh*)


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