January 17, 2021

Complementarian Gymnastics

By Chaplain Mike

UPDATE: This was posted via scheduling before it was finished, and I have more to say. I will be editing and adding over the next hour or so, and then it will be complete.

UPDATE 2: Editing and updating now complete.

UPDATE 3: Further editing to make point 4 of my comments on 1Tim 2 clearer.

Comments are closed.

• • •

I normally do not take a combative approach with this issue. I have my position; I recognize many Christians do not hold that position; I am happy to discuss my position; I think the church has been and is changing with regard to this issue; I am generally content not to make it a battleground.

However, I found John Piper’s recent post on this to be so silly, that I thought I might answer a bit more forcefully. A person wrote Dr. Piper a question…

Question: Is it wrong for men to listen to female speakers?

And I respond…

My Question: Why is this question even considered relevant or appropriate today?

I work for an organization that has a female CEO, a female clinical director over our entire agency, and a female director over our particular division. My team leader is a woman. When our patients are assigned to a team, the leader of that team is a nurse-case manager. Without exception at this time, that means a woman.

My greatest hero in life is my late grandmother, who demonstrated her faith through a life of good works toward her family and neighbors.

My wife is a professional who runs her own business.

I read books by women all the time and benefit from them. From my earliest days as a Christian, I found their teaching and perspective helpful. Women like Edith Schaeffer, Elisabeth Elliot, Ruth Tucker, Amy Carmichael, Hannah Whitehall Smith, Flannery O’Connor, Ruth Graham, Gail MacDonald, Jan Johnson, Mother Teresa, Marva Dawn, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Barbara Brown Taylor, Rebecca Pippert, Madeline L’Engle, Phyllis Tickle, and many others have benefited my life through their example, writings, and teachings.

I have worked with women ministers, listened to them preach, and worked with them in pastoral care settings. Long, long ago, I came to appreciate the contributions of women missionaries around the world, many of whom gave up dreams of having husbands and families in order to devote their lives to fulfilling the Great Commission. I sat and heard the story of one of them several years ago in the city of Mysore in southern India as she was about to be honored for fifty years of service. The queen of England was invited to the service. Countless people were helped by her compassion and through her sharing the Gospel over five decades.

The example and yes, even the “authoritative teaching” of women has greatly blessed my life.

Is it wrong for a man to listen to a woman speaker? If anyone has to ask that question, I wonder whether he or she really understands the Gospel, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, or the nature of the Body of Christ.

Apparently, there are many in Christ’s church who still do not get it when it comes to this issue. Last week, The Christian Post published the aforementioned piece by John Piper in which he answered the question, “Is it wrong for men to listen to female speakers?”

Piper’s response is a prime example of the mental gymnastics some “complementarians” must go through in order to hold their position.

John Piper answered this question by saying:

No. Unless you begin to become dependent on her as your shepherd-your pastor.

…This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from a woman, or that she is incompetent and can’t think. It means that there is a certain dynamic between maleness and femaleness that when a woman begins to assume an authoritative teaching role in your life the manhood of a man and the womanhood of a woman is compromised.

…want to learn from my wife and I am happy to learn from Beth Moore. But I don’t want to get into a relationship of listening or attending a church where a woman is becoming my pastor, my shepherd or my authority. I think that would be an unhealthy thing for a man to do. I could give reasons for that biblically, experientially and psychologically, but I have given the gist of it.

So the answer is, no it is not wrong for you to listen to Beth Moore, but it could become wrong.


I’m fully aware of Piper’s argument. In fact, I used to hold something quite close to it. Now, to be frank, I find the position ludicrous — “biblically, experientially, and psychologically.”

At least the Roman Catholic position is simple, clear, and consistent:

  • Jesus was a man.
  • Jesus chose male apostles.
  • We believe in apostolic succession.
  • Therefore, priests and bishops should be men.

Now I disagree with that position, but I can understand it and follow it easily. The position outlined above, however, is anything but clear, simple to understand or apply.

It is not wrong for a man to listen to a woman preach or teach . . . but not too much?

It is not wrong for a man to listen to a woman preach or teach . . . as long as you make sure you listen to men more?

It is not wrong for a man to listen to a woman preach or teach . . . as long I don’t “become dependent on her as my shepherd”? Frankly, I don’t get this. Is any believer called to become “dependent” on another believer as his or her shepherd, male or female? Not even the Catholic or conservative Lutheran position holds that, as far as I know. They say that the ordained minister stands in the place of Christ as he offers the Word and Sacraments and therefore, as the official representative of Christ, should be a man, as Christ was. I get that (though I differ). But I don’t recall hearing my RC and Lutheran brethren calling me to become “dependent” on anyone as my “shepherd” or my “authority” other than Christ.

It is not wrong for a man to listen to a woman preach or teach . . . as long as that woman knows her place and knows she can’t speak with “authority” to men?

What is this “authority” Piper is talking about? I thought he believed in “Sola Scriptura.” I thought Scripture is our sole authority. Is he saying that, ultimately, men are the only authorized interpreters and proclaimers of Scripture? Where is the pastoral role thus defined in Scripture?

In my opinion, this views puts all its eggs in the 1Timothy 2 basket, and interprets that passage, in my opinion, in questionable fashion.

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (verses 11-15, ESV)

Piper and others interpret this as saying that the NT forbids the authoritative teaching office of the church (pastor) to women for then and for all time. There are many problems with this view. I summarized my position on this passage in an earlier post:

In 1Tim 2, where some say Paul forbade “teaching and exercising authority over men,” the restriction is not stated as a command, but as a statement of Paul’s policy. The imperative for women in the passage is that they should “learn,” which in the ancient world would have been controversial and a huge step forward for women. Paul was restricting their participation at that point because they were not ready, and there was a problem with false doctrine that was attracting women in Ephesus. On the other hand, where women are well taught, hold sound doctrine, and are capable of teaching, they should be allowed to do so, and welcomed by the church as gifts from God.

There are other aspects of this text that should be considered with respect to the complementarian view.

  • First, the phrase “exercising authority over men” is much debated. As the KJV has it, women are not allowed to “usurp authority” over men — to seize authority unlawfully, to grasp for authority, to contend for authority. If that is the correct significance of those words, what about women who are recognized for their teaching gifts and ordained by the church to exercise them?
  • Second, those who interpret this passage as restricting women to authoritative teaching positions — in their mind this means the office of pastor or elder — fail to recognize that the passage does not define any “office” or role in the church. It just says Paul was not allowing women to teach or seize authority. So, logically, wouldn’t this passage restrict any and all authoritative teaching by women? Why limit it to the pastoral role? Doesn’t any believer who teaches the Word of God do so “with authority,” since authority inheres in the Word itself and not in the one presenting it?
  • Third, in fact, the passage says that, instead of teaching, women are to be silent. It doesn’t say they are not to be pastors. It doesn’t say they are to restrict their audience to children or other women. It says they are to keep quiet. I do not know of many complementarians who hold or enforce that.
  • Fourth, this passage does not define the audience or setting for this “authoritative teaching” that is being restricted. Complementarians define this by saying it means women can’t be pastors. But why should it be restricted to that? The text says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” If this is a universal command based on maleness and femaleness, should it not include every possible setting in which women teach that may have an influence on men?  Should women be professors and teach the Bible if men are students in the classroom? Should women write books if men will read them? Should women be conference speakers if men will hear them?

The “complementarian” position on women “teaching authoritatively” is a mess. It relies on a series of complex interpretive gymnastics that I find unconvincing.

Paul with Priscilla and Aquila

Rather than take a text like 1Tim 2, wrench it out of its context, and apply it universally to the church, why not take a passage like Acts 2:17-18“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” — and make it the foundation of our interpretation? Sounds to me like the “authoritative Word” is to be sounded forth by the whole church — young and old, male and female, servants and free persons.

Why not take the gifts passages in Romans and 1Corinthians, which say nothing about gender in the distribution and exercise of the gifts, but speak of everyone who is in Christ as a member of the Body of Christ doing his or her part?

Why not take Galatians 3:28“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” as our starting point? And before anyone tries to restrict this passage to “salvation,” think about the other contrasts in the text besides “male and female.” The church has certainly recognized that there are ecclesiastical and social outworkings of the Gospel that should be practiced in the church with regard to Jew/Greek and slave/free. Let’s be consistent when it comes to male and female also.

Question: Is it wrong for men to listen to female speakers?

And I respond…

It is right for anyone and everyone to listen to the Word of God whenever it is taught faithfully, no matter who is teaching it.


  1. It is sad to think about the number of women who have been called by God to authority but then had men do everything in their power to resist and compromise that authority based on male-centered interpretation of scripture.

    Imagine how much closer the Kingdom might be if God-fearing men did not actively resist God’s plans for women.

  2. I haven’t noticed my husband becoming less manly since we joined a church with a woman pastor.

  3. I think that one severely puts limits on the Word when one believes that someone’s gender will inhibit that Word from going forth and accomplishing His will.

    This is a prime example of biblicism as a result of a distorted doctrine of the Word.

    My opinion.

  4. Chaplain Mike,

    Sorry, but some form of complementarianism is not a ludicrous position for orthodox Christians given the last two millennia of church tradition [remember that?] plus the added combination of a reasonably high view of Scripture with 1 Tim 2:12. And besides, egalitarian theology is clearly driven by the comparatively recent anxieties of late modern Western society, which are almost never a good guide for Christ’s church; moreover, liberal Protestantism has been at pains to accommodate these anxieties and it doesn’t seem to be doing our mainline Protestant heritage much good (e.g. the endless self-destructive “debate” over gay pastors/priests in those circles).

    “Is it wrong for a man to listen to a woman speaker? If anyone has to ask that question, I wonder whether he or she really understands the Gospel, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, or the nature of the Body of Christ.”

    Agreed. But we shouldn’t let our theology develop as a reaction to the neuroses of conservative evangelicalism.

    • I am not self-aware enough to be able to distinguish how much my view depends on “the comparatively recent anxieties of late modern Western society.” I do know, however, that when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost, Peter said it was time for women as well as everyone else to speak up. I know that Paul said there is no male or female in Christ, and that the gifts passages nowhere restrict the exercise of any gift to males only. I also know from the context that 1Tim 2 was written to a church beset by false doctrine, much of it spread by women teachers, and that in Corinth, where women were at one point instructed to “keep silent,” there was a problem of order in the congregations. Furthermore, I know that Genesis 1 links the “image of God” — which I take as representing God on earth as his rulers and priests — with humanity, male and female in partnership together.

      As for church tradition, I think the Catholic view is simple and consistent and makes sense within the tradition. Other than that, just as it took a period of time for people to work out the implications of the Gospel with regard to Jew and Gentile, and slave and free, so with male and female.

      • “Just took a period of time for people to work out the implications of the Gospel with regard to Jew and Gentile…”

        ? it took a few years for a statement of finality to be issued by the church regarding Jew and Gentile, and you think the church stumbles along for oh about 1950 years before it figured out the male/female thing?

        • Austin, if Acts 15 is a “statement of finality,” why does the rest of the NT continue to deal with problems between Jews and Gentiles? Historically, that issue never really was resolved, only made mute by the destruction of Jerusalem. We’ve been working out problems related to anti-Semitism — much of it from the church (see Luther, for example) — ever since.

          • Where is such a statement as in Acts 15 about women given by the Aposltes or the early church Fathers, i’m not saying that it didn’t take individuals in the church time to conform to the Acts 15 statement, but where is such a statement regarding women in ministry,

          • For Protestants, priests are not needed to administer the sacraments, so whole concept of “in ministry” is kind of a non-starter. We are all “in ministry” whether we know it or not.

          • Austin, is it just possible that certain issues were front and center in the apostolic and post-apostolic church, and others were not? I don’t think the apostles received the Gospel and then immediately thought, “OK, now how does this apply to every aspect of society and to every relationship in the church?” Many have noted that both Jesus and Paul elevated the status of women by their words and actions and this included having women deacons (Phoebe) and apostles (Junia), that in passages about “prominent women” in Acts and in the epistles we see women hosting churches in their homes and sponsoring Paul’s ministry and serving as co-workers in ways far beyond what the dominant culture approved. Nevertheless, with regard to most areas of drastic social change, the NT takes the approach of “planting seeds” rather than of uprooting societal standards in a revolutionary way. The Jew/Greek issue was not a social issue as much as a direct theological issue raised by Christ and the giving of the Gospel. Does it belong to the Jews only, or is it for the whole world? That, to me, is on a different level of significance than social issues or matters regarding ministry in the church. That was a turning point in salvation history. The other matters are ecclesiastical and social implications of the Gospel, which took time to address.

          • Phil…In Anglican, Methodist, and other sacramental traditions, a priest or ordained pastor is required to consecrate the elements. I’m not as familiar with Lutheran and Presbyterian…maybe CM can give us some help there.

            This is a most difficult topic. I spoke a while back with a staff member of an Episcopal body, who stated that his particular church had taken no stance on the ordination of women and homosexuals, but that they did believe that the power of the Holy Spirit to anoint people to preach was limited by gender and human sexuality.

            Many feel that when the Anglican Church began ordaining women, Pandora’s box was opened, and that the current Anglican troubles can be traced back to that decision. Others feel that there is defining line between ordaining someone of a particular gender, and ordaining someone who is openly involved in sin.

            It’s a conundrum, for sure. I don’t believe we should ordain those who are living in open sin. I am ordained, though, and have plenty of sin that is hidden from the eyes of men. The matter of my own sin is settled between myself and Christ, though, and not in any public forum. I don’t feel I need to make a public stand for those who have lustful thoughts, cuss occasionally, and sometimes enjoy rated “R” movies and toilet humor, you know?

            Is it possible that us men have dropped the ball, and as a result, God has raised up Phyllis Tickle, Sister Joan Chittister, and Mother Theresas to redirect us? I don’t know…just playing devil’s advocate, I suppose…

          • Rethinking my own thoughts, I suppose I am making a stand for those of us who have sin in our lives, by preaching the Gospel message. What I’m not doing is playing a game of moral relativity, saying that my sin is okay in the eyes of a holy God.

          • Earlier I mistakenly stated….”that they did believe that the power of the Holy Spirit to anoint people to preach was limited by gender and human sexuality.” I should have stated…”that they did NOT believe that the power of the Holy Spirit to anoint people to preach was limited by gender and human sexuality.”

      • CM,

        While I am perfectly willing to entertain the possibility of egalitarianism, methinks you’re going too far when you suggest that all forms of complementarianism are “ludicrous” [for Protestants]. Regardless, the question of whether egalitarianism is right/wrong and the question of whether complementarianism is “ludicrous” [for Protestants] should be kept separate even if they are related.

        Now for some responses to the issues you raised:

        – The question of whether you share the anxieties of liberal Protestantism is immaterial to the fact that those anxieties are the main drivers of theological egalitarianism in the post-WWII era. In which case it becomes relevant to ask how much we should let those concerns influence our ecclesiastical heritage and our reading of Scripture.

        – The problem with the suggested argument from Acts 2:17-18 in the updated entry is that the passage concerns the manifestation of the Spirit in the “last days”, which almost certainly came to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (cf. Deut 4:30; Jer 23:19-20; Jer 30:23-24; Dan 10:14 and 12:1, 7). Granted, this isn’t obvious to most in the church as eschatology is a rather difficult and complicated subject, so I’ll confine myself to this much for now.

        – The big problem for egalitarianism, and the main reason why complementarianism is not “ludicrous” for any part of Christ’s church at any time, is that 1 Cor 14:33-35 and 1 Tim 2:11-12 clearly suggest that Paul limited the role of women in ways that are contrary to theological egalitarianism in the churches that he founded. Now, it is possible that Paul’s understanding of the role of women in the church was his own teaching and not a matter of divine revelation (cf. 1 Cor 7:12), but in any event it certainly can’t be dismissed as “ludicrous” from an orthodox perspective as it’s found in the NT!

        – Lastly, it bears remembering that Christ is on his throne and ruling over his church right now, and if he intended for women to occupy certain leadership roles in his church on the earth, as a normative principle of church governance, then we are left wondering why he would wait almost two millennia before getting around to steering the church in this direction.

        • Complementarianism per se is not ludicrous. This particular argument of Piper which many prominent complementarians hold, is.

          And by the way, I don’t agree that “the last days” ended in 70AD. Nor do I know many who do.

          • CM,

            “Complementarianism per se is not ludicrous. This particular argument of Piper which many prominent complementarians hold, is.”

            Fair enough.

            “And by the way, I don’t agree that ‘the last days’ ended in 70AD. Nor do I know many who do.”

            I know. On the other hand, aside from the bare fact that the Lord Jesus will come to the earth at the end of history, which I also affirm, the church has been very confused on matters of eschatology, so being in the minority doesn’t mean much in this case.

        • “…why would he wait two millenia before steering the church in this direction?” I don’t have an answer to that per se but I would remind you that He seems to have taken a good long time to introduce Himself in different lights at different times in history. That may have some connection to humanity’s ability to hear and to see. Also, what’s the difference between two thousand years and two minutes in eternity? They are part of the wave of a hand or the scratch of a cheek. Just sayin’!

    • Protestants want to have it both ways when it comes to church history. People like Piper are fine ignoring church history when it comes to things like the Eucharist, church governance, and all sort of other things, but for this issue says “but what about church history!”.

      Also, the idea of having women elders and pastors isn’t simply a “liberal Protestant” thing. If anything the liberals were late to the party. Look at the history at many conservative Pentecostal denominations, and you’ll see plenty of women filling these roles.

      • Phil,

        I mentioned the argument from church history because I know CM values it, not that I think such considerations should control our theology.

        It is true that Pentecostalism got there before liberal Protestantism; however, that doesn’t change the fact that egalitarianism, as a theological phenomenon, is mainly driven by the response of liberal Protestantism to the [Western] cultural anxieties of the post-WWII era in the same way that demythologization, as a theological phenomenon, is mainly driven by the response of liberal Protestantism to certain [Western] modernist anxieties that grew out of the Enlightenment.

        • Damn hippy Liberals!!!!

          • briank,

            FWIW, I am not exactly a knee-jerk conservative reactionary as I hold to universal reconciliation and reject both penal substitutionary atonement and CSBI inerrancy.

          • NW-

            Now you have me confused. The Universalists that I am familiar with (well, one guy and his family but they are good friends of mine) who hold your positions on scripture and theology are on the egalitarian side of this issue as I would expect that you would be. Also, on what do you base universal reconciliation if you reject penal substitutionary atonement. And what was the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross. I know, I know, this is totally off the subject but I would love to hear where you are coming from.

          • Ugh, whoever runs this site might as well delete my last response to Dan as well.

          • Seriously, is there a principle that explains why my longish off topic response to Dan got deleted when various inane comments are left unscathed?

          • CM,

            Thank you for the response, I’m in the process of getting my views published so it’s probably for the best anyway.

        • Or, perhaps, it is the fulfillment of time. Both biblical history and church history reveal that the Spirit acts according to his timetable and not ours. Maybe, the time has come? If you are only going to believe in a God of the past who only acted “back then”, then history and our study of history is all that matters. If you dare to believe in a living God who is not limited to the past, then perhaps this change is not because of “modernist anxieties that grew out of the Enlightenment” but because it’s time has come. Or, then again, perhaps this living God is using “modernist anxieties that grew out of the Enlightenment” to accomplish his purposes? And then again, perhaps the Enlightment, which gave us many good gifts, such as scientific inquiry and modern critical biblical and historical study, is now giving the church another good giftf?

    • I think you have to take the whole letter to Timothy into account here, and the context where St. Paul is speaking seems to be one where Timothy has landed into a situation where the local church is cantering off on its own course, going astray, and he’s trying to rein them in, and St. Paul is giving him guidelines as to how to get them back on the right path.

      So I believe the context in which he is talking about not letting women have authority is the relatively narrow one of standing up in the assembly and declaring their own interpretation of the teachings, or any ‘new’ revelations of the Spirit, which are contrary to the teachings they have already received. St. Paul goes on to describe the requirements for bishops, deacons, and widows as well – and here we seem to get into “What is the best translation?”, because the Douay-Rheims says “But if any widow have children, or grandchildren, let her learn first to govern her own house, and to make a return of duty to her parents: for this is acceptable before God”, where this would seem to permit women to run their own household and indeed have authority over their male children (the ESV gives it as “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God” where it seems less clear who the “them” is – the children, or the widows? – and the King James renders it as “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God” – anyway, he is not denying that women do have their proper sphere of authority: in 2 Timothy he goes on to talk about “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also”, so it’s pretty clear that Timothy learned his faith from the women in his family 🙂

      So it seems to me that he was addressing a situation something similar to what would crop up again in the 2nd century, when Montanus, Prisca and Maximillia were going around as prophets, declaring that the Holy Spirit spoke directly through them (particularly the women) and that they alone had the right teachings.

  5. In the Saturday ramblings comment section I wrote more about this, but I just want to reiterate my incredulity at the claimed psychological damage that can be done when a man is led by a woman. Does Piper believe this is how gay men come about? Or clinical depression? Or does this work with the idea in Romans about stumbling blocks? Because there are some men out there who would be so unmanned if they were forced to face a woman in authority, all Christians should reject such authority for fear of harming those who would be damaged?

    I shudder to even think about the “experientially” part of Piper’s thoughts.

    I chalk this up to an expert stepping outside his field in order to attempt to lend his argument more weight. Which, in the end, almost always ends up hurting the argument instead.

    • Or does this work with the idea in Romans about stumbling blocks?

      He couldn’t have been referring to Romans, since Romans was delivered to the Roman church by a woman (Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae) and is therefore invalid. 😉

  6. CM,

    I think you have constructed a straw man, or at best are refuting the most inept applications of complimentarianism.. The Scriptures most commonly referred to apply narrowly to the office of pastor.in the church.

  7. The debate is not about intelligence or the talent of women. We all know women of great talent in all areas of life. No one doubts that women have equal if not superior capabilities of men. The source of theological debate is not our private experience. My bosses at work are women, but I do not think this is relevant from a theological point of view. The problem is theological and discussion should be theological, not about our life experiences with women. And I also think we need a little ‘safety first to label as ridiculous certain positions that have strong roots in the tradition of the church. If the biblical data on this subject and its theological formulation was so obvious, why we have discovered it only in the twentieth century?

    • Why did it take worldwide abolition movements, a civil war in the 19th century, and a century of reconstruction culminating in the civil rights movement to overturn centuries of “biblical” teaching about slaves and masters?

      • oh boy, the old “slavery made me do it” argument, it’s funny how it never takes more than a few minutes for race/slavery to be brought up in this issue, it really sounds a lot like another issue I hear so much about these days

        and I know that is snarky, but its just so frustrating to hear folks hijack past movts to suit their own agendas

        • Austin, I did not bring this up as a “hijack.” I brought it up because it is in the same passage of Scripture.

        • Austin,
          you may want to check out the Neo-Confederate Doug Wilson who tries to defend Slavery so he can hold to Complementarianism. It is not the “liberals” who only bring up slavery, it’s the literalist as well.

          • I know of Doug Wilson, and he does not try so much to defend the barbarity of human slavery but does make some fairly reasonalbe argumenents that slavery itself as an institution may have not been the automatic evil we think it to be, now i know that is an inflamatory statement just by typing it, but we are all now wage slaves, if you dont’ think so try not paying your taxes and let me know how that works for you

          • I do receive a benefit from paying taxes. Police, fire, S.S., etc… I may not like everything it pays for but I do get something. Slaves in the South got nothing but pain.
            They planted but did not eat
            They built but did not inhabit
            Comparing Taxes to Slavery is Stupity! A New South is rising, you should join us.

          • Wow, I meant STUPIDITY

          • briank-

            Comparing your relationship to your government to slavery isn’t stupidity. Down through history most all societies recognized the responsibilities of a slave owner to their slave. In some societies it was even codified into law (though not always followed). So, yes, the slave did receive something from their toil. The thing that made it slavery was that it was not “at will.” The slave had no choice in the arrangement, just as you have lost the choice in the arrangement with your government. The difference is one of degree, not one of kind. Austin is correct.

      • The USA did not have a problem with slavery: It had a problem with racism. Slavery was used as an expression of racial subjugation, wich is an injustice of the highest degree. Slavery can exist in many forms outside the US where it is not race-based. Take OT Israel: Slaves were voluntarily committed, from with the Hebrew people, and for an agreed on period of time. There is nothing wrong with giving those who so choose the “economic out” of working as a slave. We did not overturn the biblical teaching on slavery, we upheld the biblical teaching on the dignity of man in all peoples.

        • I disagree, Miguel. The US had a slavery problem, because its entire economy was built on the institution. So was Rome’s for that matter. Both also had racial components. In Israel, some of the regulations on slavery had to do with providing economic outs for one’s neighbors and that is different. But make no mistake about it, Paul was speaking revolutionary words in Roman society when he said, “In Christ there is no slave or free.”

          • David Cornwell says

            “The US had a slavery problem, because its entire economy was built on the institution.”

            One of the reasons the founders did nothing about it. Even if they had a conscience about it, they shoved t aside, and this is one of the reasons. With this kind of labor, and with stolen land, building the country was far easier. They certainly were not listening to Paul.

          • Yet Paul encourages slaves to be subject to their masters. I believe that verse is equally mis-interpreted when it comes to slavery and gender roles. I am in Christ, and I am still a free male. Both of those are a part of my identity, but in Christ, I can lay these things down for a greater identity. It does not negate their existence and function in the physical realm.

          • I have to say, as a descendant of CSA veterans on both sides of my family; as someone who is about as “Deep South” and as rural as can be; that slavery, as an institution, is racist, and it is evil. I am no novice when it comes to history, and have to say that any argument that slavery was somehow Biblicaly endorsed because Levitical law dictated rules re: the treatment of slaves, is an ignorant argument in and of itself. It was an institution that literally ripped our country apart. It was, and is, evil.

            As far as individuals voluntarily committing themselves to slavery in the OT…Let’s not pretend that they were signing up for summer camp. They did so to survive. They did not do so because they thought it was a better career than selling Amway or Advocare.

            It amazes me how some will jump back to OT law in regard to some subjects that are near and dear to their hearts, then forget the other million laws that were in effect during that point in history.

            Yet another reason why I am a post-Evangelical.

          • very good, Lee

        • Miguel,

          Very well said.

        • Slavery can exist in many forms outside the US where it is not race-based. Take OT Israel: Slaves were voluntarily committed, from with the Hebrew people, and for an agreed on period of time. There is nothing wrong with giving those who so choose the “economic out” of working as a slave.

          Just because it’s not race-based doesn’t mean it’s not evil. And what you often find in other countries is that people take the “economic out” of slavery or the indentured servitude because there are no other choices in a situation of desperate poverty. They are exploited, plain and simple. I know. I have seen this. Children working in brick kilns in Pakistan, with the whole family in debt to the company forever because that’s the way they structure it. Small children working 12 hours per day making carpets in sunless rooms, squatting on the floor. They are preferred because their fingers are small and they can tie the knots.

          I know this is off topic for this post but to portray slavery and similar situations in themodern world as some kind of economic escape or betterment is simply a lie. There is everything wrong with it.

          • +1

          • Slavery nearly always goes hand in hand with exploitation, which is always an injustice and therefore evil. Which is why God gave such stringent requirements for the treatment of slaves in the Levitical law. Should a slavery practice actually measure up to those standards, the slave himself wouldn’t be complaining. There is nothing wrong with that. But in most situations around the world, slaver is usually exploitation, and race is used as a justification, to make the slave seem like property instead of human.

      • CM: “Why did it take worldwide abolition movements, a civil war in the 19th century, and a century of reconstruction culminating in the civil rights movement to overturn centuries of “biblical” teaching about slaves and masters?”

        If the fight against social aberrations (such as slavery) should be the parameter to determine the proper ecclesiology (in this case, the position of women in the church), then the promise of Jesus that the gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church were false.
        The position of women in the church is a theological problem, not sociopolitical.

        • Of course it is theological. What I meant was that all the social implications of the Gospel were not dealt with at once by the apostles or early church.

          • Right! And it is precisely for this reason that slavery is not a good parallelism with the position of women in the church!

      • Of course because the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures were used by both sides. Clearest evidence available that holy books are inadequate to answering big questions.

    • Luis, he seems to be saying that the exact same teaching – from a man and from a woman – can only be acceptable to a man if it’s from a man.

      If he’s saying that women’s teaching will be affected by being “feminine” in some fashion, and therefore unsuitable to men, that’s one thing. What it could be, I don’t know, because I’m not going to imagine the man means that women are all peace and love and a real manly man should only consider “What caliber ammo would Jesus buy?” But it’s a very nebulous concept as he has expressed it there, and if he gives a clearer explanation of what the theology is and what the harm is, I’d like to read it.

      Yes, I know all about the man is the head of the woman and she should receive from him as the Church receives from Christ. To me, the misuse of that leads to Milton’s foolish poetic declaration about Adam and Eve in Eden, “He for God only, she for God in him” because he makes it contingent on “For contemplation he and valor formed,/ For softness she and sweet attractive grace”, that is, Adam is made for God but Eve is made for Adam and with the best will in the world, if you start putting one person in the place of God, you’re setting yourself up to go astray.

      So you can get the notion that a man’s bad teaching is preferable to a woman’s rebuke of that bad teaching, because otherwise he’ll start wearing aprons and baking pies or some foolishness.

      • Martha, I understand your comments. Neither do I agree with some grotesque consequences of Pipper’s statements. The issue should be resolved through rigorous exegesis of the texts, and not through a accommodation of the texts to our mentality. At the end, we have biblical data that is culturally offensive to us. What do we do? Finding ways to reduce the biblical data to silence and simultaneously have a clear conscience?
        In our post-Christian society, the Bible will become increasingly politically incorrect and there will be more and more biblical studies to justify the views of the dominant cultural thought. There will come a time (in Europe is certainly not far away), in which the Bible will be considered as the Greek and Latin classics, and believe in the God of Abraham will be like to believe in Zeus. Begin to silence or neutralize certain passages because culturally offensive is the beginning of the road.

  8. As an anthropologist, I have always seen this issue to be less about whether women are capable of leadership and more about the way ‘the church’ operates within culture and interacts with the surrounding culture. This of course means the need for ‘culturaly acceptable’ representation – similar to passing of crowns and titles along the male lines. You can even look at the current way female politicians are regarded and treated to see that often it has little to do with the person’s abilities or experience and more to do with the reaction to their gender (Both Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin being examples).

    On the other hand, when you look at the basic ideas of equality under the cross and the roles women played in the life of Christ, you would think the Church would have matured beyond those reactions by now. It also requires us to ignore the role of women in the Jewish home and their unique religious contributions as Jesus would have lived it – there is no passover celebration without a woman to say the prayers, for example.

    As for Piper – I got screamed at by him via a video at church yesterday morning for about two minutes – the amount of time it took to loose patience and get out of the room – so he has no credibility in my eyes anyway.

    • i used to drink and read a lot of his teachings. Though I’ve been out of the chruch for almost 3 years now I still had his material. I was planning on disposing it when a freind asked for it. So I gave it to him.

    • Are you familiar with the Minangkabau in Indonesia? I rant across an article about them a week or two ago. It was on the Daily Beast, dated 9/4/11. I wish the article had described whether the Islamic worship of this society had adapted to the matrilineal culture.

  9. Do you have biblical support for you position Chaplain Mike? or are you basing your position off of trajectory hermeneutics and sheer personal experience?

    • Go back and read the fully updated post, Ryan. Sorry it came out before I was finished.

    • Ryan, there is Biblical support for women being in various leadership roles. Priscilla (note whose name is listed first) and Aquila taught and corrected Apollos. The pastoring role involves caring for individuals and their needs, which we can certainly say Tabitha did…she even appears to have built a congregation who were reliant on her care. There are clear examples of women who prophesied in Acts…and prophesying can be interpreted as preaching, exhorting, etc. Finally, there is the example of the various women Chaplain Mike mentions.
      Women’s subjection to men was part of the curse in Genesis, as was death. Why would the church continue to enforce the consequences of sin?
      Are all women who have children saved if they are saved through childbirth?
      I am always curious. Although I am very willing to be submissive to my husband, where in the scriptures does it say that a woman has to be submissive to every man? I have also continued to be submissive to my father, as should any child.
      Women in many cultures have different spheres of influence. Many women in other cultures prefer to be in their circle of influence and not enter the men’s circle. But in the US, the circles of influence are pretty much mixed together now.
      The Holy Spirit does the gifting and yet somehow, once in awhile, the Spirit gets confused and gives prophecy to women or shepherding or leadership? My own giftings in ministry were not recognized by me, but by the men in my life. Should I be disobedient in using them?

      • “Are all women who have children saved if they are saved through childbirth?”

        And single women/women who never had any children? That means we’re not saved at all? 🙂

  10. I find the situation to be laughable. Women in authority? I would have loved to seen John Piper under the leadership of Queen Esther. NOW there was a Biblical woman with authoirty. Does the ludircious nature of the reformed and neo-reformed occur “for such a time like this?” I wonder…..

    I could never understand why some fundgelicals treat women the way that they do. Its devoid of respect. I’ve had bosses that are female and that has helped settle the argument. But as the Bible can show there are cases of female authority there as well. And darn…isn’t it convienant for many fundegelicals to ignore that to make their case? It’s kind of like the Southern Baptist Convention…they’ll drive a woman from the pulpit but leave a child molester in place. If that’s not a major WTF…I don’t know what is….

    • Reminds me of John Knox and his “First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women”, where he proved that women should not have authority or be monarchs.

      This was great, as long as Mary Tudor (the Catholic daughter of King Henry VIII) was on the throne, but got a bit sticky when she was succeeded by her (Protestant) sister Elizabeth, and he had to row back on “Obviously, when I said women can’t rule, I didn’t mean *you*” 🙂

  11. Patrick, Louis and Ryan have said it all, so I’ll just say Amen.

  12. You know that I am RC, so I can’t speak with any authority (pun intended) about the reasons evangeglicals feel the need to keep women in their place. I have a few ideas, most of which are based on the Happy-Clappy ideal submissive wife and perfect children and a “head of the house” who is never, EVER, wrong about anything. (We don’t even give this credit to the Pope…that “infallialbe” thing has a bunch of regulations around it!).

    I can live with the concept of apostolic lines of priests from a male Christ and male Peter. Don’t love it, but there is more respect for woman and other positions of power that you would guess from the other side. Let’s just say if “I” don’t feel opressed, can’t imagine it bothering anyone else very much (I have NOW chapter presidency on my life’s resume, but I don’t trot it out anymore…..I think I have grown away from the idea of total 100% equality, as we women still have the wombs and breasts, but that is another post..)

    I’ll get flack for this, but I see an analogy to deeply seated racism in poor southern whites. They might be poor, uneducated, sick, and on the margins of society but darnnit, they IS better than them colored! Likewise, the only boast some males can make is possession of a Y chromosome and penis…whoppee to both groups if THAT is your “accomplisment”……epidermal color or chromsomes. Lot to brag on there!

    • I think you’re onto something, Pattie. I still meet many evangelicals, even younger ones, who are yearning for some sort of middle class suburbanite ideal and holding it up as the “biblical” standard. I’ve seen too many evangelical women discouraged to really pursue much in the way of education simply because they think the highest goal they can attain and life is to be a perfect wife and mother. It’s not that I have anything against a woman being that – it’s just that I don’t think that should be a woman’s primary identity.

      From a practical level, I always wondered what would happen to these women if their husband passed away or worse yet, divorced them. So a woman is left with no marketable skills, kids to care for, and she’s really in a bad situation. When I did campus ministry, there were a few women who would talk to my wife and I about these things. I remember more than once women telling me that they planned to stay home, so they really didn’t think they needed to worry that much about finishing their degrees. My wife and I did everything we could to correct this type of thinking.

      • Thanks to you and your wife for guiding these young women.

        No woman is guarenteed that her husband will live to be 80 AND will be healthy and fully employed the entire time. Death and disability occur, even to “good” men who remain faithful and dedicated.

        In fact, we limited our family to 2 children NOT because we didn’t want more, but because as soldier and then a soldier’s wife, we had to look at the possiblilty of single parenting due to death.

    • When I was RC it didn’t bother me much either, because, as you said, it was limited simply to priests, and the 2 young women I knew who had a vocation, simply entered other denominations that allowed them to pursue that. So there was an escape hatch for those who had a different path.

  13. I’m almost 58 yrs. old. Until ~ 15 yrs. ago I was a dyed-in-the-wool Complementarian who had never heard of Piper. I can’t hold to the Comp. view at this point in my life because of the biblical irrelevancies that must be accepted as applicable verities this side of the cross.

    Two passages in the NT constitute the total evidence for “silence” of women. Both passages have been greatly affected by age-long translational bias, especially 1 Cor. 14:34-35. The Pastoral Epistles are extremely low context documents and when proof-texting is applied a false understanding is guaranteed. It would seem to me at this point in my understanding that 1 Tim. represents a remedial situation where Paul is advising extreme measures because of an extreme situation in the church in Ephesus. 1 Tim. 2:11 actually conflicts with Titus 2:3, at least if you apply the same hermeneutical leveling as does Piper et al.

    As PM has pointed out, if the two “siago” passages are proof-texted as limitations upon those who lack definitive male plumbing, then a contradiction is created with all the other action oriented “brethren” passages starting in Acts 2.


    • True….it is ike ltaking a “memo” written for one specific department that was having internal struggles and low productivity and then mistakenly forwarding it not ONLY to the main office but to every international branch of the company as a new policy!

      • Yes, and there are denominations who heavily invest in the “memo.” Take some of the conservative Lutheran synods. In the Wisconsin synod, for example, women are not permitted even to vote in congregational matters because a woman who votes is perceived as usurping authority over a man. So, if the congregation votes to, say, spend funds to hire a plumber to replace the church toilets, the votes will be cast only by men. Yet once the new toilets are installed, the women who had no say in their installation are perfectly free to volunteer to clean them.

        • Your toilet analogy reminds me of an incident several years ago in my church. We are a pretty conservative evangelical American Baptist Church (no, that’s not an oxymoron) and somebody had caused a commotion about the deaconesses serving communion. (Our diaconate usually consists of four men and four women, but for some oddball reason the women need to be called “deaconesses”. It’s considered important.).

          So, for a while, because somebody had complained, the women were not allowed to serve the Welch’s grape juice and the crumbled Maneschevitz matzo. BUT, they were allowed to prepare it all beforehand in the kitchen (and, needless to say, they were not only allowed but welcomed to prepare fellowship meals). And they were allowed to pick up the plastic thimbles and the crumbs after communion, I believe.

          We got this foolishness sorted out after a while, thank God.

          Phoebe? Wasn’t she a “servant”? Not a “deacon”? Funny how “diakonos” gets translated selectively.

  14. Thank you, Chaplain Mike!

  15. great stuff! thank you for posting this.

  16. Maybe its my fundagelical upbringing, maybe its my close mindedness, but I have never seen an exegetical case for egalitarianism presented strictly from the text of scripture. I’ve seen the complimentarian position stated exegetically, but with usually questionable hermeneutics. This post is as close as I’ve seen to a Biblical case for Biblical egalitarianism, and I find it quite convincing, but too reactionary.

    Chaplain Mike, you hit on some profound truths and attempt to anchor your argument in gospel truth, but like all egalitarians, the foundation of your case is ultimately knocking over straw men, or legitimately exposing shaky hermeneutics. Egalitarians never argue their case without depicting chauvinistic and misogynistic abuses of complementarian teaching.

    Its not bassed strictly on the verse from 1 Timothy 2. While I agree with your discrediting of how some use that passage, I think more needs to be said about what it truly means, in detail, to convince me. I am not satisfied with any understanding of this verse I’ve ever encountered, and I’d love to see an egalitarian expound on it in detail (without the straw men). The case you presented does seem to draw too much implication from speculation.

    But what about Jesus and the 12 apostles? Does one absolutely have to hold to apostolic succession in order for that argument to hold any weight whatsoever? I don’t think so.

    What about passages that say that an elder should be a [one-woman] man? I need to know, in order to be convinced, exactly what those verses mean specifically, if not what they seem to state clearly.

    And what is done with the verse about Eve being deceived, and Adam ruling over her? What am I to do with them?

    Until then, I believe men and woman are equal in all regards, but different. The office of elder is not a right, but a calling, and it just seems to me that the Bible clearly restricts that to men alone. But let me be clear, I don’t see scripture restricting anything else whatsoever. Women can and do teach, they can lead, and they can hold [non-ecclesiastical] authority. But I’m going to err on the side of believing what the text seems to say: Woman can teach and do it well, but to be an elder [presbyter, bishop, etc…] is not their calling, just as bearing children is not the calling of men. Their differences in role, though not clearly delineated in scripture with as much detail as Piper would give, is interwoven into the fabric of creation.

    • See “Why I am an Egalitarian” for a broader overview of the case in the Bible as a whole.

      • I read that essay when you first posted it. I was enough to drive me away from the Piper camp and convince me that women were called to teach and be equal with men in all regard, except for one: The office of elder, specifically. I can understand patriarchy as being possibly a result of the fall, but there’s a case for gender based societal roles from before the fall as well. It would seem that after the fall God seems to endorse some more just and fair forms of patriarchy from both the Levitical law, the life of Jesus, and the teaching of the apostles. Your essay makes a strong case for equality of men and women in the work of God, but I don’t think imago dei = presbyter. Lay people have the image of God as well. For me, the issue of ordination centers around whether phrase “one-woman-man” really means a faithful dude, or simply a monogamous person. I am egalitarian on all issues save one, and the jury is still out for me. Full partnership, yes. Identical roles? I’m not so sure…

        • I’m sympathetic to your stance, Miguel. I think it’s good to separate sacerdotal roles from all other forms of authority and to insist on equality, not sameness. (I teach grown men all the time in my job, but I don’t covet ordination.)

        • As I said in the post, it is easier for me to accept the Catholic position than this convoluted neo-reformed one.

          • The neo-reformed one is indeed convoluted, and a testimony to the drawbacks of “sola scripture” as well. These guys are convinced they are exegeting the text of Scripture perfectly, yet they are so blatantly inserting their opinions and implications as dogma. But Catholic and neo-reformed are not the only choices. They are two poles, with shades of grey in-between.

      • Chaplin Mike…I don’t get some of this…I mean there are stories in the Bible of women who led or were in authority based positions. What about Esther? What about (is it Rebekah who hid the spies…?)?

        This issue of how women are treated about them not being in authority reminds me of the story where Jesus touched the women who was hemorrgaing going aginst Jewsih law. The Pharises went though the roof that he touched an unclean women.

        That’s what this reminds me of. I could see who have a complimentarian view doing the same thing.

        • You could see? I think we do see this often enough. However, consider that this may not be such a black and white issue. Maybe there’s room for some moderate positions between the extremes. It is possible to be neither egalitarian or a misogynistic hypocrite.

    • The passage about Eve being deceived makes perfect sense when you look at the context in which Paul was writing. If women in Ephesus were speaking without having learned, and assuming they possessed some sort of spiritual wisdom that they didn’t have, Paul was giving them a history lesson. There’s good evidence to suggest that within the Dionysis cult in Ephesus, women filled the roles of priestesses or oracles, speaking for their pagan deities. So in a sense, they were operating out of this narrative that placed women above men. Paul is reminding them that women were actually deceived first (also, remember, Adam was deceived as well), and therefore, they can’t claim any type of innate spiritual superiority over men. It’s a similar type of argument that Paul makes with Jews and Gentiles in the book of Romans. No group is better off than any other.

      Given these things, I think it make perfect sense to look at the passage in 1 Timothy as a corrective, not a general rule. Anyway, if it were a rule, the rule would be “she must be quiet”, thus negating the point Piper is trying to make about Beth Moore here.

      • “also, remember, Adam was deceived as well”

        I know this may be opening a can of worms, but I don’t think the Scriptures say anywhere that Adam was deceived. He rebelled, he sinned, but I haven’t found anything that directly says he was deceived as Eve was. On the other hand I have heard people make a fair case for assuming he was deceived.

        • What comes to mind immediately is Romans 7, particularly verse 11.

          For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

          A lot of commentators point out that Paul is probably engaging in rhetorical impersonation in this passage, speaking in the voice of Adam. Which makes perfect sense to me if you consider the context of the surrounding voices. There are a lot of rabbinical commentaries that say that Adam’s first sin was coveting. So that explains why Paul chose to use coveting as the example. Adam was given the one commandment not to partake of the fruit of the tree (not to covet it), yet he was deceived and did so.

      • +1, or 2, er, something like that…


    • I found this to be a helpful essay by NT Wright on the subject, and it goes into detail about the 1Tim2 passage as well as others.


    • But what about Jesus and the 12 apostles? Does one absolutely have to hold to apostolic succession in order for that argument to hold any weight whatsoever? I don’t think so.

      What about the fact that every one of the disciples was a Jew? If Jesus wanted to he could have chosen a Samaritan, or a Roman as a disciple. Oh, you say, there were cultural reasons that made that impossible. So there were cultural reasons that made the choosing of a woman impossible, as well.

      • Good thought. But it seems to me that the “cultural reason” may not be the best explanation here. It may be assuming more than the text says. Jesus wasn’t necessarily the type to bow to every cultural trend. Consider the 12 apostles were symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel. Consider that the kindgom had not yet been declared in its fullness to the Gentiles. Or possibly God wanted an eternal witness that the Jews are still his people, even though the Gentiles are now also included in His kingdom. I don’t think he choose strictly Jews for cultural reasons.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “Its not bassed strictly on the verse from 1 Timothy 2. While I agree with your discrediting of how some use that passage, I think more needs to be said about what it truly means, in detail, to convince me”

      This is one of the few examples where I think a complete understanding of the verse is not necessary. Paul presents us with a dilemma. In this verse he seems to be banning women from leadership positions. Yet in other verses he seems to praise women in leadership positions (Phoebe and Junia being the most obvious examples). How are we to reconcile these verses?

      One way is to argue that he wasn’t actually praising women in leadership positions: that “diakonos” referring to Phoebe actually means “servant” even though in other verses he uses it to mean “deacon,” and that “Andronicus and Junia,… who are of note among the apostles” doesn’t mean that Andronicus and Junia are themselves apostles, but that this means that they are known to the apostles. (This is a particularly strained reading, in my opinion. Substitute “Peter and John” and no one would think to go through linguistic gymnastics. For that matter no one does who writes the name “Junias”.)

      The alternative, which I favor, it to understand that apparent contradictions often are matters of a general and a specific case. Indeed, recognizing the difference is often vital to understanding scripture. It doesn’t make sense that women were generally banned from leadership positions, but Phoebe and Junia were exceptions. It is much more straightforward to take it that Paul in 1 Timothy was addressing some specific circumstance and banning women in that specific case from leadership. We certainly would like to know more about what led to this, but it is not necessary to answering the question at hand.

      What I take away from this is that women in leadership positions are not mandated. If a church would find a woman pastor a distraction or otherwise detrimental, then they need not call a female pastor. This is also why I as a Lutheran have no difficulty with Luther’s position against female clergy. In the context of the 16th century, and with everything else that was going on with the Reformation and its aftermath, this was a reasonable call for that time and place. But neither is there any general obstacle to women in clergy or other leadership positions.

      • I like your openness, but I’m not sure I can bring myself to conclude that we truly can’t understand what Paul was really speaking to in those verses. I’m sure we’ll never understand any verse in its entirety, but the “specific situations” explanation leaves too many un-answered questions to satisfy my conscience, at least for now. But regardless of how seemingly contradictory verses are reconciled, there is no women elders in all of scripture. It may be true that Paul was addressing specific circumstances in his writing to Timothy, but he did word it in universal terms. The other side is, when he says “I do not allow a woman to…”, what he specifically does NOT say (and many seem to assume he does) is that “…and you shouldn’t either.” Paul is making a declarative statement there, not an imperative one… Will we ever understand why?

        • I don’t know if you will read this Miguel, but let me give a bit of a Greek lesson here, which might shed some light on some translation gender bias.

          What we have translated as “I do not permit” is from the negation of the first person present form of the verb. So let us take another common verb and see how we would commonly translated.

          “To Walk” – We have two ways to translate this. I am walking. I walk. The negative of this is either “I am not walking” or “I do not walk”. Both are reasonable translations of the negative first person present. I would argue that the first translation conveys the present tense better. “At this present moment I am not walking.” That is not to say that I would never walk, but for the moment “I am not walking.”

          So if we do the same with “to permit” to translate it as “I do not permit” implies that a verb in the present tense is meant for all time. “I am not permitting” has a much better sense of the temporal nature of the command that the present tense implies.

          As to your concern about “husband of one wife”, I would encourage you to read my post of the topic here.


    • “What about passages that say that an elder should be a [one-woman] man?”

      I saw someone use that to argue against priestly celibacy, on the grounds that Paul was obviously making it a requirement that an elder be a married man, whereas I interpreted it as ‘he shouldn’t be divorced and remarried with a living ex-wife or even wives’ or even ‘if he’s a widower, he shouldn’t remarry’ to go with ‘widows shouldn’t remarry’, because obviously there would be converts who had common-law wives or had been living in sin or had done the married/divorced/remarried/divorced again/remarried again thing common in Roman and Greek society, back before they got converted, and Paul was setting standards for ‘so what now?’, the same way the churches in Africa set down guidelines for what about new converts who were polygamists in their culture and what happens their wives now?

      No, according to this guy, not alone was it permissible, it was compulsory to be married.

  17. For me, Piper’s concern begins to make sense only if you accept certain premises regarding how much our male-ness or female-ness makes us who we are.

    If you accept the more or less modern notion that men and women, aside from certain biological differences, are essentially interchangeable and can do all of the same things, then Piper’s comments sound awful.

    If you hold to an older view, a view that has been held by most societies and is implicit in the Biblical writings, that men and women are two very different halves of one human race, and that it is unreasonable to believe that they can do all of the same things, then Piper’s comments make more sense. You would want to know, “Where’s the line here?”

    That said, diversity is a great thing. We need to have people who deviate from accepted norms. So having some women lead churches and teach isn’t anathema to me. People should be free to be who they want to be. At the same time, recognizing that there are common sexual norms of behavior is not anathema either, but common sense. Too many people treat any kind of defined gender roles or rules as great sin, when in reality, it’s a way of putting our cultural affairs in order so that our culture doesn’t die or decay. It’s not discrimination, it’s just self-preservation.

    • I should add that my thinking about matters of gender was shaped very much by John Eldredge’s book Wild At Heart. Looking back on it, I realize that he says things in there that tend to minimize grace, which is bad, in fact, heretical. Yet at the same time I love his more poetical and mystical approach to the gender issue, rather than the literal approach of people like Piper, Mohler, Driscoll, etc. I shared more in common with Eldredge than I do with the Neo-Reformed.

    • I don’t really “accept the modern notion.” I accept Genesis 1 as my foundation, which says that God made humankind, male and female, to bear the image of God — which means to represent God as his rulers and priests in the world. This does not mean they function identically, but it does say to me that females represent the authority and truth of God every bit as much as men do. Therefore, the inauguration of the new creation in Jesus and at Pentecost frees women once more to proclaim the Word alongside men as it had been intended at the beginning (Acts 2:17-18)

      • Would it be acceptable to refer to God as “Our Mother which art in Heaven”? Is Jesus equally also the Daughter of God as well as the Son? Is is significant that God has chosen to reveal Himself using masculine pronouns, or not? Honest question, not trying to bait.

        • See, I really can’t imagine that John Piper is saying, for example, that a woman teaching “There are three Persons in one God” is unacceptable usurpation of masculine authority.

          So that leads me to think that we’re talking about non-basics here, and that is what gets into boggy ground. What exactly are these female teachings or teaching style that is going to undermine masculinity? It does sound like the notion that women make men soft so they can’t fulfil their proper role of going out and dragging home a mammoth to be roasted over the fire.

      • RE: Acts 2:17-18. Yes, totally agree. Men and women should prophesy and dream dreams. Recall that there were prophetesses in Israel like Anna, who prophesied over the baby Jesus. But there were distinctions between the prophetic office and the priestly office, likewise in the church in the early years distinctions arose between “bishop” and “elder” and “deacon.”

        What St. Paul says in II Corinthians 11:7 that a man “is the image and glory of God,” but a woman “is the glory of the man,” I think he’s using a universal principle in a culture-specific situation (vis a vis long hair or no long hair).

        All of this suggests that we need to keep some general principles in mind: that, if faced with two equally qualified candidates for a pastoral role, one male and one female, we would do right if we preferred the man. But if a situation arises in which no qualified men are available and a woman has shown herself to be quite capable, then it’s alright: go ahead and put her in charge.

        We should acknowledge general principles, but we always give ourselves freedom to adapt them to particular circumstances (by avoiding an overly literalistic reading of Paul, which some in the Reformed camp are prone to).

        • “go ahead put her in charge” – I think that phrase in and of itself reveals a problem at the heart of this issue. Being a pastor or an elder isn’t about being in charge – its about serving the body of Christ. The way Piper is talking about the issue, he seems to be equating the pastor of a church to the CEO of a corporation. He’s the guys who gives the orders, and the sheeple follow. No where in Scripture do I see such a top-down version of leadership espoused by the early church. There was the council at Jerusalem, but it seemed its role was one of guidance and care, not giving orders to all the congregations under them.

          • I think you are exactly right here. I have observed whenever the role of the pastor is seen as being in charge of an organization, there is great resistence to a woman in the role. Whenever taking care of people is how the office of pastor is defined, there is much less reluctance. So again, it is our viewpoints and attitudes which are shaped by our culture for which we search the Bible to find justification on both sides of the argument. We loudly point to the scriptures which seem to agree with us and ignore or explain away those that don’t fit our viewpoints.

          • Yes.

            And, and the problem is artificially attenuated by the idea of “official leadership” roles. When we see each other as brethren, fellow heirs with Christ, having the same equal footing though distinct individuals with distinctive giftings, then there’s no need to create “offices” then decide that women can’t be in that office.

            We we part of a dear congregation about 6 years ago that had previous to our coming had a monumental falling out about women in “leadership” roles. What had occurred was that one gifted lady was contributing a significant amount of leadership in the “worship team” but was asked to not be so “leaderly” because of her sex. The congregation’s leaders had created a leadership position–one not even recognized or inferred in the NT–then told a gifted leader she couldn’t lead because she is a she.

            Just ain’t no cure for stupid….


        • Btw, I’ve heard other pastors voice this same sort of thing – a women can be and elder or pastor if there’s not a qualified man, but men should really step up to take their rightful place of leadership. To me, that’s just asking for problems. It’s basically telling the congregation that the woman in a leadership position doesn’t deserve the same amount of respect as a man does, and it’s sending the message to women that they’re second class citizens in the church.

          Also, what are the objective “qualifications” when comparing two candidates for a pastoral role? Are we talking about comparing resumes, general impressions, or what? It’s such a subjective thing, it just seems that the standard of choosing a more qualified male would usually come down to the standard of having a penis.

  18. I know Piper’s been reading the Koran and got confused

  19. Thanks, CM, for standing up for females in ministry. I’ve been called to ministry from the age of 16, and the Holy Spirit continues to sustain me, even though I’ve heard countless “no’s” from persons who hold a complementary positions. It’s a humbling position, and has allowed me the opportunity to trust God’s guidance even more.

    I wonder if we can bless one another on our Christian walk, and work toward bringing Christ’s presence to a world of hurt, pain, suffering, and sin.

    • One time Capital Hill Baptist was recommended to me here in DC. It’s led my Mark Dever. I went there one time….t-shirt and jeans and was so underdressed. But it was the only place in my 10 year jounrey with fundgelcials where I saw 2 women wearing veils. I’m sure Mullah Omar and the Taliban would approve….

    • David Cornwell says

      Amen Kate. Methodists were fighting this battle way back in 1899.

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    It is not wrong for a man to listen to a woman preach or teach . . . as long I don’t “become dependent on her as my shepherd”? Frankly, I don’t get this. Is any believer called to become “dependent” on another believer as his or her shepherd, male or female?

    Part of me suspects that’s because if you “become dependent on HER as your shepherd” you’re not becoming dependent on John Piper. That and “Shepherd” and “Shepherding” has been used to justify some real control-freak Clericalism. Just like “Complementarianism” has all too often become a long word for “Male Supremacist”.

    • Aidan Clevinger says

      You can very well disagree with Piper’s position without resorting to personal slander. I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but the above comments are disrespectful and assume far too much about his inner motives than you (or I) will ever know.

  21. CM – No more “gymnastics” are required to understand the Complementarian position than are required to understand your interpretation of I Timothy 2 with your distinction between command and policy. Both interpretations are equally obvious as to merits and also as to where they stretch the bounds of easy acceptance.

    To illustrate the point of Piper’s distinction, I personally listen to and benefit from many teachers who I would never place myself under the authority of. I am an open minded person and I enjoy finding truth expressed from different perspectives. On the more extreme end, I count Nietzsche among the authors who have taught me something about life and truth but I would never become a member of a philosophical organization that he headed up. On the less extreme end, I really enjoy listening to Mark Driscoll but I would still never become a member of a church organization that he headed up. In the case of Driscoll, I wouldn’t mind joining a church where he served on the ministerial staff but I would not subject myself and my spiritual walk to a place where he was my senior pastor. The distinction is really not that difficult to grasp.

    • But you did not deal with any of my detailed critiques of his interpretation of the text.

      • Because I am not saying I agree with Piper. Just that you make too much of the “gymnastics” required to see his point of view. Honestly, both view points have interpretations that require “stretching” the meaning of the various sections of Scripture.

        What do I personally believe? My beliefs are nearly identical to Miguel’s as stated above. I am complementarian in principal but in practice “I am egalitarian on all issues save one.”

        • Opps, I mean “complementarian in principle.”

        • I can respect your position, but I fail to see how my view entails the gymnastics Piper’s does. It seems pretty straightforward to me — but maybe we all feel that way about our own positions.

          • By “gymnastics” and “stretching” I mean that both egalitarian and complementarian views require an understanding based on nuance and reading in what is implied. For complementarians it is reconciling multiple verses since a direct reading would seem to set one verse against another (as you point out above). For the egalitarian it is arriving at a conclusion that is exactly the opposite of what a straightforward reading of the verse would seem to be saying.

            The fact that 2 Tim 2:11-14 can’t possibly mean what it seems to say (and I agree with you here) is used as a point in your argument that the exact opposite of a straightforward understanding of 2 Tim 2:11-14 must be true. You call that straightforward? I don’t think either position is straightforward. It is a complex issue that I have yet to hear a completely satisfying argument on.

          • Oops, I mean 1st Timothy. I really need to either proof my stuff or stop writing while I am at work. I think I better get back to work!

          • I find it clearest to look back to the creation order. The man was created first, as the head of the family. (The Fall has corrupted this into domination and abuse)

            Similarly, in marriage the man is the figure of Christ and the woman that of the Church.

            So then, in the local church, the elder men are the head. To place a woman in this role is to turn headship upside down. It makes the Church head over Christ.

          • Nedbrek–was that before or after the bit in Genesis where “male and female He created them” pops up?

            Reason #1 and Reason #1001 why I am not a young-earther or biblical literalist. Brother Ned, you can’t get out ot the FIRST BOOK OF THE BIBLE before it starts contradicting itself!!! So, for most of us, that verse is a big non-starter on “why men are superior beings”.

            And heck…even a silly girl like me could figure that one out (blush, eyelash flutter).

          • John 3:12 “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you [of] heavenly things? ”

            Disbelieve the beginning, disbelieve the rest…

          • Nedbrek, you said, “I find it clearest to look back to the creation order. The man was created first, as the head of the family.”

            Woman was made from the flesh and bone of man. Therefore she shall be considered less than man.

            And man was made from the dust and dirt of the earth. Therefore he shall be considered less than, uh, dirt?

          • Who said anything about a woman being less than a man? It is feminists who make women’s roles less (by asserting that men have better roles, and women should aspire to men’s roles).

            The Corinthians passage says women are the glory of men.

            We think of leadership as the world does. If we recognized that church leadership is closest to the job of garbage man (where are the feminists addressing the gender imbalance for sanitation engineers!), we would argue a lot less strenuously for complementarianism.

  22. MelissaTheRagamuffin says


    This complementarian stupidity is one of many many many MANY reasons that I’m a Quaker.

    • And it’s a reason that I am and remain a Reform Jew. It simply sidesteps the whole problem and eliminates the document at the root of it all.

  23. Aidan Clevinger says

    I understand all of your objections to the complementarian view, and I don’t know that I’m well-versed enough (pun intended) in my own opinions to join the discussion. I will, however, mention the “wife of noble character” from Proverbs 31 as an excellent example of a woman who, though submissive to the authority of a man (her husband), is by no means weak or oppressed.

    • Oh, the Proverbs 31 Woman. That, in and of itself, could be deserving its own post.

    • No pressure, ladies, really!

      Seriously, it’s a composite poetic ideal, but that doesn’t make it practically applicable in its entirety to a particular individual. As someone who’s been married more than 23 years to the world’s most wonderful woman, I’m pretty sure that if I held the Proverbs 31 woman ideal in its entirety up to my wife as an example and expected her to be like that, I’d get a well-deserved smack upside the head.

      • …and if she held the sermon on the mount up to your life, all us men would have had our eyes removed long ago. Just because an ideal is unachievable, does not make it ignorable. The law (God’s supreme standard) is given to us as a gift to guide (in repentance, society, and obedience.)

        • Never advocated ignoring it. I think we’re saying the same thing. But let’s admit it: Prov 31. gets waved in women’s faces (usually by men) a lot more than the Sermon on the Mount gets held up in front of men. And BTW, Proverbs is not law; it’s part of the writings portion of the OT. Poetic. Descriptive. Different genre and therefore requires a different take when interpreting.

          • Proverbs tend to be law doctrinally, not categorically. Yes it is in the wisdom literature, but the vast majority of its statements consist of imperatives, not indicatives. Even the Gospels contain statements of law.

    • Hmmm… I see the Proverbs 31 women being praised for being virtuous, capable, strong and industrious. I don’t see any praise for submissiveness, nor do I see any description of submissiveness to her husband.

      I guess we all see want we want to see and disregard the rest.

  24. Wow! I’ve been a Jesus follower since I was a small child (I’m probably older than you, CM) and I had never heard of this “complementarian” and “egalitarian” stuff until just a few years ago. The churches of which I was a part never talked about this.

    I suppose it must cater to a certain crowd. Apparently there is a need to distinguish oneself and one’s group in some way that will attract people with certain interests. I personally find the complementarian view most strange. I suppose one can find whatever one wants to find in the Bible, as seems to have been happening for a very long time.

  25. It is interesting that the Salvation Army has had many women leaders for years. In it’s day it was mightily used of God. And of course there have been women Pentecostal preachers for years.

    In a report in ‘The War Cry’, 1 January 1887 (pp4-5) says that when asked ‘Why do you have women for leaders?’ the General William Booth replied: ‘Because they often lead better than the men’.

  26. It is difficult for human beings to think of God as “spirit” and without gender. I see the subjugation of women to various degrees in all 3 Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) because of this belief that God is a “man.” Maybe we were created as men and women so we could reproduce, and not because one sex is superior to the other.

  27. I’m a little late to this conversation I guess, but I am grateful for the post.

    I have been wondering for some time now why Piper et al seem to insist on piling complementarianism on top of the Gospel. It seems as though Grace is enough — as long as you keep to your proper gender roles. When I start hearing that sort of thing it makes read Galatians all over again.

    I find that the writings of the apostles place The Gospel of Jesus Christ as the normative principle of gender relations — not complementarian/egalitarian constructs. We are therefore to live out Grace to one another, not use a derived concept of a perceived natural law to box grace into a particular Gender corner.

  28. CM: Could you give me more of your thoughts on I Tim 3:1-7. I don’t think I read anything in the post on how a passage like this fits. It seems to speak of the role of the overseer/elder as being specific to men. Or is that an example of what you called convoluted and neo-reformed?

    • I also would like a deeper exegesis of biblical passages in question.

    • This article by Ben Witherington speaks to this issue. http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2006/02/literal-renderings-of-texts-of.html

      Basically, though, if Paul in the chapter before tells this congregation that the women there need to settle down and be quiet, it would be quite odd in the next breath to say it was OK for them to be overseers there. There’s nothing that would lead us to believe that Paul is giving a rule for all congregations at all times.

      • David Cornwell says

        Paul would have had a ball on some blogs, but not sure who he would be telling to settle down. Of course a blog isn’t a congregation.

      • Phil: I didn’t see anything in this article that included his thoughts on the I Tim3:1-7 passage.

        • Sorry, I should have been more clear. He addresses those specific verses in the comment at the end of the article where he says:

          1 Timothy 3 refers to men as overseers and to women as deaconesses along with the men deacons. Why no women overseers here? That has been explained in 1 Timothy 2– they need to be trained first. Notice 1 Tim. 2.6 is specific that the person in question is not to be a new convert. There is another factor that is important here. Paul is in the process of gradually changing the existing hierarchial structure of things. He does not do this all at once. He must start with people where they are, as will any good pastor, and then work one’s way to the way things ought to be. There were indeed problems with the assumptions women and men brought to the Christian faith out of participation in paganism. Instruction was required first before people could teach and assume such roles. It is worth adding as well that teaching was viewed as more authoritative than preaching in such a culture anyway. This is why James warns not many to become teachers. It makes no sense today to suggest it is o.k. for women to teach in various settings but not to preach. That is privileging preaching in a way that the NT never does.

  29. CM,

    While I do have an evolving position on this issue, I’d like to post not regarding that but to challenge you to make sure your arguments are sound before posting. In your point #4, you say, “Fourth, this passage does not define the audience or setting for this ‘authoritative teaching’ that is being restricted. So why do complementarians restrict this ‘prohibition’ to the idea that women can’t be pastors? Isn’t Beth Moore, for example, ‘teaching authoritatively’ when she teaches women? Why should that be allowed if the text simply says, ‘I am not allowing a woman to teach or exercise authority’?”

    Yet the text you quoted specifically says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority OVER A MAN” (emphasis mine, I know of no way to emphasize it other than the silly caps lock).

    I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your position. But when you make an point as flagrantly poor as that…well, it actually detracts from the force of the rest.

    As I used to tell my students, if you believe the following:
    All poodles are dogs
    All dogs are mammals
    Therefore Jesus is God
    No matter what your conclusion is, and no matter whether I concur with it, your faulty logic is arguing in favor of your opponents’ position, whatever that may be.

    Unless I am completely missing something here, in which case I humbly apologize.

    • …hmmm …. perhaps “authoritative teaching” refers to the teaching which comes from an ordained clergy…

    • I stated my point poorly. Thanks for pointing it out. I will go back and revise it to make it clearer.

      What I meant to say is that “teaching or exercising authority over a man” does not necessarily equal “being a pastor in a congregation.” The setting and the audience is unclear here. Does teaching or exercising (or seizing) authority over a man mean an individual woman should not attempt to teach or rule over an individual man? Does it mean a woman should not lead a Bible study where men are present? Does it mean preaching in front of a mixed congregation? Does it mean to hold an authoritative teaching position that might influence men — such as professor or author or conference speaker?

      That’s what I meant by Paul does not specify the audience and setting.

  30. It’s been nearly 2,000 years, and Jesus hasn’t yet returned.

    It’s taken the church nearly those same 2,000 years to start getting the equality of women in the Gospel right.

    Coincidence? I think not. He’s not coming back until we’re good and ready. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient TOWARD YOU, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

    While He may be waiting for all those who are not yet saved to be saved, He’s also waiting for all of us who are saved to mature into Him, adding to our faith the qualities and behaviors that will cause our entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be supplied to us.

    Jesus is waiting for the church to do what it’s supposed to do. And He’ll wait another 2,000 years if He has to.

  31. This has been sooooo interesting…women in ministry bad, because the NT implies it . Slavery okay, because the OT implies it. Just throw all of the cultural contexts out the window, and don’t disagree with Piper, since every book he has written is considered to be “The Fourth Book of John”.

    I can’t wait until the polygamy discussion!

    CM, as a pastor, I will be the first to say, my wife loves and respects me, lovingly takes care of our home, and whips my tail (not literally) if I get out of line. Does that make her my boss? If she’s running the show, does that mean that she is taking on the role of a Bishop?

    Before any of you say that if she’s running the show, I’m not leading my home in a Biblical manner, you better check yourselves. Either you’re single, or your wife is planning a nice game of “grits ball” (Madea, AD 2006) at breakfast in the near future.

    • IMO, there is no such thing as “leading one’s home in a Biblical manner.” There is partnership as husband and wife love and respect one another. The two become one flesh. Then they work out the details of life together.

  32. I think Piper is suffering from a case of feeling very strongly both ways. I think he would like to say “No, no it is not.” But he is the pastor of a Baptist church. The Baptist Faith and Message precludes having female pastors. He knows critics will come at him with 1 Tim 2. I have to admit that his answer does come off pretty ridiculous, but understand he is in somewhat of a predicament.

    Chaplain Mike has been to my “place of business,” a small Christian school in Appalachia. Sometimes we get questions like “Where in the Bible does it say you can’t dance?” The short answer is “Nowhere,” but in our rules students are not allowed to. All of the rules exist for a reason, but some of us may not agree with the reasoning. Some policies are dictated by our insurance provider, others may be “dated” and no longer as relevant as they once were. And sometimes we have to keep the little old ladies happy that write us a check each month; they could drop by for a visit anytime to see what they are paying for. There may not be a written policy about keeping the blue-hairs happy, but it’s always in the back of our minds.

    Piper may feel pulled between two factions among Christians over this issue, or may be in a transition process regarded what he feels personally. I’ve been there before, too.

    • Piper is also a strong Calinist. And in that camp complimenrarianism is almost a creed.

      • Assuming that’s true, why is that?

        • Why? Above my pay grade.

          But a growing number of pastors / big names in the SBC and other denominations are strong Calvinists. SGM is a very strong Calvinist organization and very complementarian.

    • Clark said, “But he is the pastor of a Baptist church. The Baptist Faith and Message precludes having female pastors.”

      But Piper is not a Southern Baptist and the Baptist Faith and Message is a Southern Baptist document, having no impact on Piper’s church at all. Bethlehem Baptist Church started as a Baptist General Conference church, a Swedish Baptist group located mainly in the northern midwest. Bethlehem has become, to some extent, its own denomination, at this point. The Baptist General Conference changed its name recently to Converge. Its interesting, the two best known pastors in this group are Piper and Greg Boyd, pastors at opposite ends of the evangelical spectrum.

  33. It wrong to listen to Beth Moore because she is a horrible exegete (if she even does this) and pop-theology is poison (but then Piper’s errant Christian Hedonism isn’t much better if “better” is even appropriate in the construct). I am a complimentarian, btw

    But I do believe you do a disservice to those who distinguish contexts, as complimentarians. That is, apart from ecclesiastical and domestic contexts, the Bible, for some complimentarians, does not forbid women from exercising roles of authority all the way up to President.

    And even domestically, while a husband may be a CO she is the XO, the second commanding officer in the marriage (and family if there are children) which places her in a rather authoritative role as it is.

    But the point about Piper’s question, which I disagree with his approach, is important. The issue genuinely is not about women teaching anyway. Anyone can say anything at any point and we can learn from it. As usual Piper states the obvious since he is not very rigorous in his thinking and avoids the real issue. It is about context.

    Suppose someone stands in the position of President and proclaims something to be true (you know , like at a press conference) and they aren’t really President but claim to be the President and have people who have formally inaugurated them as such. Does that make them President? No. But does that make untrue any true thing that person might say? No.

    But what it should tell us is that such people should not be treated as sources of authoritative instruction because they have no genuine respect for authority in the first place and are willing to impose themselves upon and over other valid authority, not whether they have capacity to utter truth.

    In Piper’s case, Beth Moore, whether he likes it or not, is a de facto Minister. While she may not be formally ordained she engages on the same platform and with the same unilateral force as Piper. He is only fooling himself when he thinks it really is about whether someone utters truth that we should listen. If Piper were to be honest about his own standard he would have to conclude that Beth Moore is in just a great a violation as women who are ordained (as well as unqualified men since the office is not open to any man but those gifted and qualified) but much of complimentarian Evangelicalism plays semantic games.

  34. I’ve been a rather quiet, unheard from reader on this site for many many years. I have been greatly encouraged in so many ways here. Many years ago I wrote Michael Spencer and told him that his article on the Weak Christian literally saved my sanity and my life, and it did. Having said that I am just frankly annoyed by a recurring theme that is present in several comments in this whole discussion. And that is, that so many of you are responding and using language that says, if you are a complementarian then you obviously hate women or at least think of them as dirt or less. So many of you have made comments about John Piper in a way in which you assume the man must think women are nothing but a piece of sh.. I’m no big fan of Piper. I’ve heard him speak several times publicly. I observed him several times with his wife. I don’t think that all of you Piper criticizers know what you are talking about and ought to consider your own spirit and attitude toward a christian brother. I remember days in the past where the imonk called a spade a spade and could say somethings straight up about what he thought. But I don’t remember much of the sort of stuff I’m reading today and shall give some thought about how much time I’ll spend here in the future

    • I’m pretty sure this is the only comment on this thread worth reading.

    • It is sad that you see debate as disgust….but maybe that “christian brother” needs to give some thought to the scandal and hurt that HE is heaping on half of the Christians in the world (those of us wtih uteri).

      If you are looking for a site that forbids disagreement and discussion, you may very well be at the wrong place.


      • Pattie,

        If you read what ronh is saying, it is honest disagreement and discussion that he DOES want. But it is the snarky remarks and character assassination that his is against. And I agree with him.

  35. N. T. Wright is mentioned above. His commentary on the passage is superb and, for me, definitive. I used to be very high on Piper, but one of us changed in the last several years. Me, I think.

  36. I understand what Piper is saying, but disagree completely with his summary.

    It’s never wrong to listen to someone or read something etc. Why anyone would affirm such language by trying to answer that question is beyond me.

    Piper believes that scripture teaches that elders/pastors etc. are supposed to be men. Piper apparently does not believe that women cannot teach, have insights, share those insights. He appears to simply be attempting to maintain that distinction.

    I don’t see that as difficult to understand.

    But I find this debate really boring for the most part.

    The vast majority of the church since it’s founding believes that the Bible teaches that men should be elders/pastors/the pope etc. That is still the case.

    The foundation of the church rests on male leadership as Jesus, the 12, the writers of scripture were all male. Church history is settled on that question. 2000 years of church history has men in these roles. Doesn’t really matter what we do now. That history is not going to change.

    Let me suggest that the churches who believe it’s o.k. for women to be priests/elders/pastors etc. to just get on with doing that. No one is really stopping anyone who wants to start a church or hire a female pastor.

    All this arguing is really boring, however. It’s about as bad as name calling. Some commenters above say they get sick when they see Piper, that Dever’s church promotes women wearing veils, that they scream at Piper when they see him on the computer etc.


    How about people who are convinced in their positions just agreeing to disagree? Kind of like the author of this post did with the Catholic position.

    Is all the acrimony helpful or moving either side toward a more mature understanding or greater influence?

    I am not trying to be Rodney King or anything, but how about giving this one a rest.

    I think that this is the last post I will read that features a “debate” about women in the ministry.

    They are all starting to sound the same.

    • I agree that when the arguing gets out of hand and it results in childish name-calling and insulting, it’s just pointless and even sinful. It’s just not productive or even loving. I would say, however, that it is important to have conversations like these because both parties can learn so much from them if they approach the conversation with humility and respect. I’ve already learned a lot just from reading Chaplain Mike’s post. This conversation also does have implications on the way we view Scripture and the way that congregational bodies and church governments operate and so it is important to discuss, debate, and wrestle over. I do think it’s important to pick your battles (for lack of a better phrase…I don’t really like using the world “battles” here), but just agreeing to disagree is often not going to do anything for anybody.

      Just some thoughts to consider.

      • Paul,

        I agree with what you say. Mindless “let’s just all get along” is silly and dialogue is important.

        As a comparison, I often see atheists, agnostics and people of other faiths wander on to Christian websites and get involved in conversations. The conversations I have seen are usually respectful and contain lots of good dialogue, without anyone being mindless or ignoring differences.

        But when Christians of different perspectives get going on blogs, it’s another matter.

        I have read parts of one of Piper’s books and have seen him speak on the internet one time. I don’t get the impression that he is heretical or evil or running a harmful cult.

        But to see the things said about him, you might think that he is.

        I guess what we are witnessing is what humans often do in relationships. Sometimes we reserve the deepest hatreds for people who are really close to us. And we extend all sorts of allowances to those who really do oppose us or may intend us harm.

        it is an interesting phenomena.

  37. I’ll get the off-topic part out of the way first…
    I just wanted to point out that when you mentioned “Sola Scriptura,” you said that it means that Scripture is our sole authority. It actually means that Scripture is our highest authority.

    I really appreciated this post because it brought to light some really clear arguments from a side of the issue that I don’t hear from often–that of being against complementarianism. I have personally found myself recently agreeing more with the complementarian view, but was really interested in good, solid arguments from the other side.

    I will concede that what John Piper said was a little ambiguous, but it’s really not that complicated–no mental gymnastics required. I think it’s obvious to most that it’s okay for men to listen to female speakers. I do believe it is important, though, that men be seeking out spiritual sources of authority that are also male.

    Also, your starting point could be at those other Scriptures that you mentioned, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the 1 Timothy 2 passage is still there. It is worth noting, though, that while the complementarian view is articulated primarily using 1 Timothy 2, we could look at what Paul says in his other letters about the dynamics between men and women. In the context of a family ‘community,’ Paul says that the husband is the head and has authority over his wife (of course in a loving, sacrificial, servant way as men and women were created equal in worth and dignity but distinct in roles). Within the context of a church community, why should this be any different?

    I would also echo a viewpoint that I have heard from Matt Chandler a time or two–that in the end I would rather be at fault for taking what Scripture plainly says and abiding by it than to explain to God that I didn’t think it really meant what it was saying to me and decided to infer a different meaning instead.

    • I think there are many reasons why the “roles” in a family/marriage situation do not and should not transfer to the church community, some of which are that in the church, Christ alone is the “head” (kephalê – but the meaning of that word is a discussion for another day) to which all the members of the church – His Body – are to hold fast and grow up into. Christ is the Bridegroom, and all the members of the church, whether male or female, are the Bride in relation to Him. The Holy Spirit has been poured out on and given to all flesh, male and female, slave and free, and S/He gifts and empowers who and as S/He wishes. The Church is a New Human, a New Creation; and in Christ there is not “male and female” but all are one in Christ. Etc.

      Also, 1 Timothy 2 is not a good example of “what Scripture plainly says,” especially if you study the passage in the original Greek.

    • I simply don’t think that the complementarian interpretations of 1Tim 2 and the other passages in the NT you mention can be described as “taking what Scripture plainly says and abiding by it.”

      One simple observation from 1Tim 2 is my evidence here. The text says “I am not permitting a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man BUT TO KEEP SILENT.” There goes Piper’s entire argument and yours, when you say, “I think it’s obvious to most that it’s okay for men to listen to female speakers. I do believe it is important, though, that men be seeking out spiritual sources of authority that are also male.” That is simply not what the text says.