Mailbag

The Mailbag: Husbands, pastors, and mentors- Which roles do they play in a Christian woman’s life?

 

I have three questions that are kind of related to each other:

1 Corinthians 14:35 says women should ask their husbands questions at home; how does this fit with women mentoring other women in Titus 2?

Where does a husband’s role end and where does the role of a godly older woman begin in terms of teaching younger women?

Are there areas where a pastor’s authority trumps a husband’s authority?

Thank you for your help.

These are really awesome questions. I love it when women ask questions that demonstrate that they’re digging into Scripture and thinking deeply about the things of God. It’s so exciting to me!

(Before I begin answering, let me just stipulate, as I usually do in articles about marriage, that the following statements assume a normal, relatively healthy, average marriage, not abusive marriages, extremely aberrant marriages, etc. Also, it’s not my intent to leave out my single sisters, but the reader asked specifically about married women, so that’s how I’m answering the questions.)

So let’s take each question separately…

1 Corinthians 14:35 says women should ask their husbands questions at home; how does this fit with women mentoring other women in Titus 2:3-5?

The first thing we need to do when we’re addressing questions like this is to look at each of these passages in context. This is a very simple study skill that will clear up nearly all instances of supposed contradictions in Scripture.

Read 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. What is the venue for Paul’s instructions in this passage? In other words, is he telling people how to behave at home? At work? At the movies? Look at the key phrases in verses 26 (“when you come together”) and 28,33b-35 (“in church”). Paul is giving instructions for how an orderly worship service is to be conducted. He is not making a blanket statement that any time any woman wants to know anything about Scripture or God or life in general that the only person she can ever ask questions of is her husband. What he’s saying is that in order to avoid chaos in the worship service, women are to sit down and be quiet during the preaching and teaching, rather than interrupting to comment or ask questions (one of the reasons Paul says this is that the women in the Corinthian church were doing just that – interrupting the preaching and teaching with questions and comments). If you read further in chapter 14, you’ll notice he places similar restrictions on prophesying and speaking in other languages to prevent chaos and confusion during the worship service. I’ve discussed this passage in further detail in my article Rock Your Role ~ Order in His Courts: Silencing Women?

Now read Titus 2. What’s the main idea of this chapter? Is it the same as the main idea of 1 Corinthians 14 – instructions for an orderly worship service? No. Verse 12 gives a nice summary of chapter 2: “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” That’s what this chapter is about. “Titus, here’s what your church members (and you) are to do and how they’re to conduct themselves as they go about the business of living as Christians in this world and in community with one another.” The older women teaching and training the younger women in verses 3-5 is not taking place during the worship service, but as these women go about daily life with one another. Today, this kind of teaching and training takes place in women’s Bible study classes, women’s fellowship groups, and in one on one discipleship, not in, nor instead of, the gathering of the whole church for worship.

So as we can see when we examine the context of both passages, 1 Corinthians 14:35 and Titus 2:3-5 are not in conflict, they’re actually in harmony, addressing two distinct ways women are to conduct themselves in two completely different venues.

 

Where does a husband’s role end and where does the role of a godly older woman begin in terms of teaching younger women?

I don’t think it’s really that discrete and linear, i.e. the husband teaches this list of topics the wife needs to be taught about and the godly older woman teaches that list of topics she needs to be taught about, and never the twain shall meet. It’s a much more informal and “whatever is needful at the moment” type of thing. Additionally, it’s going to vary from marriage to marriage. Some women have unsaved husbands. Some women are newly saved with husbands who have been saved for decades. Some husbands and wives are very private about everything, some are very open to others. So the balance between who (husband or older woman mentor) teaches what, and how much, and when, is going to look different in every marriage.

I would just offer a few guidelines:

• After your relationship with Christ, if you’re married, your highest allegiance is to your husband. He should be your best friend and first confidant, not a woman who’s mentoring you (or even your mother, sister, or female best friend). He should never feel like he’s in competition for your time, interest, or affinity with the woman who’s mentoring you, or that you esteem her on the same (or, perish the thought, higher) level of loyalty or emotional intimacy with him. If you’ve gotten that close to your mentor, you’re too close. Turn your attention toward your husband.

• Along those same lines, always keep in mind that God instructs you to submit to your husband, not your mentor. The only time you should ever follow your mentor’s advice over your husband’s desires is if your husband is asking you to do something the Bible clearly calls sin and your mentor is advising you to obey Scripture instead. (But even in that case, you’re not really choosing your mentor over your husband, you’re choosing to obey God rather than to sin.)

• There are some things that are private between a husband and wife that shouldn’t be shared with anyone, including a mentor. Which things? Again, that’s going to vary from marriage to marriage, but a few no no’s might include the private details of your sex life, your finances, and anything your husband would be embarrassed for someone else to know. Talk with your husband and ask if there’s anything he would rather you didn’t share with your mentor.

 

Are there areas where a pastor’s authority trumps a husband’s authority?

It really depends on what you have in mind when you ask that question.

If you’re talking about personal decisions made between a husband and wife, let’s say, for instance, whether or not to move to a certain part of town or whether or not the wife should take a part time job, it is not the pastor’s place to step in and overrule the husband’s decision, nor should the pastor have any expectation that the couple would obey any edicts he issues. If the couple goes to him for counseling or asks for his advice, he can certainly give it, but we never see any place in Scripture where a pastor has authority over another family’s decisions. The husband is responsible before God for leading his family, not the pastor.

But if you’re talking about a situation in the church, then yes, a pastor’s (or the elders’) authority – assuming he’s abiding by Scripture – trumps a husband’s authority, and pretty much every other church member’s authority as well. For example, a husband does not have the authority to walk up to the pastor and say, “I’m going to let my wife preach the sermon next Sunday,” or “My wife is going to take over this Sunday School classroom and use it as her personal office.”. If a husband were to say something like that, the pastor is well within his authority as shepherd of the church to say, “Oh no she’s not.”. The buck stops with the pastor when it comes to how the church runs, and he is responsible before God for making godly decisions for the church.

I’m aware that there are aberrant, fringe “churches” (many of them are some stripe of New Apostolic Reformation or extreme legalism/fundamentalism) out there in which the “pastor” has ultimate authority over every decision a family makes: where they live, how many children they have, what to name their children, whether and where each spouse should work, etc. If you’re in a so-called church like that, leave immediately and find a doctrinally sound church to join. A church doesn’t plunge to that depth of spiritual abuse without succumbing to other dangerous false doctrines along the way.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Complementarianism

Mythbusting Complementarianism: 4 Truths Egalitarians Need to Know About Complementarian Women

I am often frustrated in my role as a complementarian¹ woman. I am not frustrated by what God teaches in the Bible about my roles in the home and the church. I am not frustrated in carrying out those roles. I am not frustrated by complementarian men.

I am frustrated by egalitarians – most of the ones who have crossed my path, anyway – because of the incorrect assumptions they make about me and other complementarian women².

And it’s not just that the assumptions are wrong, it’s that the assumptions are often hypocritically, “log in the eye,” wrong. Then, they turn around and use these false assumptions as reasons to fight against complementarianism. But the reasons don’t exist. They’re shadow boxing. Fighting against a ghost. If you’re going to fight for something, your fight should at least be based on legitimate reasons.

I’m under no delusions that this article will change the hearts and minds of egalitarians, but if I could, here’s what I’d try to help them understand…

1.
It’s a spiritual issue.

I know this isn’t going to be popular. I know I’m going to be called judgmental and harsh and any number of other printable and unprintable names, but I’m going to say this anyway because this is the crucial element on which this entire complementarian vs. egalitarian argument rests.

This is a spiritual issue. It’s not an oppressors versus victims issue, it’s not about power or position or circumstances or legalism or casting off shackles. It’s not about any of those visible, tangible, surface level things we think it’s about. This goes beyond the earthly realm and has its foundation in the invisible, spiritual realm. The reason you hold the positions and opinions you hold as an individual is based on one thing – your relationship with God. This is a me versus God issue. Do you love and obey God as a genuinely regenerated Christian, or do you reject Him and rebel against His commands as someone who is still lost?

The Bible makes crystal clear from Genesis to Revelation that people who genuinely know and love God obey Him, and that if you don’t obey Him, you don’t know Him or love Him. Over and over and over again we see this through Israel’s countless cycles of idolatry and the prophets calling them to repentance in the Old Testament, to John’s near broken-record repetition of the theme in the New Testament. Scripture is clear. Love of God and obedience to God are inextricably and irreducibly intertwined.

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3-6

Additionally, if you’re not saved – a “natural man” – the things of God are folly to you. It’s not that you’re smarter or enlightened or have a different opinion than those who obey Scripture. It’s that you’re spiritually incapable of accepting, embracing, and obeying what God has told you to do. That’s why you see those of us who do as fools.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

Let me say it plainly. If your general trajectory in life is to consistently find yourself angered by, indifferent to, or unable to accept the plain meaning of Scripture, and your heart persists in fighting back against God’s Word even if you’ve been biblically corrected, you are almost certainly not saved.³ That’s not me saying that. That’s a whole lot of Scripture saying that. Regardless of how saved you feel. Despite what you may claim to be. No matter what people have told you about your salvation. God says loving Him equals walking with Him toward embracing, loving, and obeying His commands. And that includes His commands about the roles of men and women.

This is the fundamental reason most egalitarians disagree with most complementarians. It’s usually not that either side doesn’t understand what the other side stands for. It’s that both sides generally do understand what the other side stands for and they reject the other side’s view because of where they are, spiritually.

(Addendum: After I published this article, a few people responded who seemed to misunderstand what I’ve said in this paragraph. Let me see if I can clarify:

1) You’ll notice I’ve used words/phrases (“most egalitarians,” “general trajectory,” “almost certainly,” etc.) indicating that this is a broad, general principle, not something that is universally deterministic about every single individual who has ever had an egalitarian-esque thought cross her mind.

2) I am not saying that holding to an egalitarian viewpoint is what makes someone unsaved. Rejecting the gospel is what makes someone unsaved. What I am saying is that most people who are already false converts gravitate toward the egalitarian viewpoint as a fruit of the pre-existing condition of being unsaved. It is a logical fallacy to turn that statement around and assume I mean the converse to be true.

3) I certainly believe it is possible for genuinely regenerated Christians to have good faith, incorrect interpretations or understandings of Scripture – starting with me. When my husband and I picked out wedding vows 26 years ago, I flatly refused to use any set of vows that said I would “obey” him and only grudgingly agreed to a set that used the word “submit” instead. Embarrassingly, in our wedding video, you can clearly hear me hesitate before repeating that part of the vows. About 10-15 years ago I held a position of local denominational leadership that I’m only now beginning to see I probably, in some respects, shouldn’t have held. One reason for that is that on two or three occasions the position required me to speak to local congregations during their midweek services on a biblical topic which could not be properly addressed without explaining Scripture. Do I think I was unsaved because I thought those things were OK at the time? Of course not. But I’ll tell you this – over time, the Holy Spirit convicted me of those things and I repented. And as I’ve grown in Christ my rebellious attitudes and misunderstandings of those Scriptures and others have increasingly come under submission to God’s Word.

That’s the kind of thing we’re talking about here – the general biblical principle that saved people are on a trajectory of increasing holiness and Christlikeness. Lost people are on a trajectory of increasing disobedience and rebellion (and not strictly with regard to egalitarian ideas). It is possible to be a saved, simul justus et peccator, growing in holiness, desiring to please the Lord, Christian and get some non-soteriological things wrong along the way, in good faith, in the process of growing. What is not possible is for someone to be genuinely regenerated and live in a general attitude of heart-rebellion against God, His Word, and His ways (His ways in general, not strictly egalitarianism) in favor of doing life on her own terms. I don’t know how to make that more clear. That is what the Bible teaches.

4) I clearly made the statement that this article pertains to “most of the [egalitarians] who have crossed my path”. I guess what I did not make clear is that most of the egalitarians who have crossed my path have not been the small minority of genuinely regenerated Christians who have made a good faith error about Scripture’s teaching on the role of women as they’re growing in Christ. That might be your experience, but it has not been mine. Most of the egalitarians who have crossed my path have clearly been of the vast majority of egalitarians who have come to that position, as I explained above, as a result of being false converts. And it shows in their demeanor as they mock the authority of God’s Word in general, lash out in rage, blaspheme, swear, and slander, and generally display the opposite of the Fruit of the Spirit.

5) As I’ve stated many, many times in my articles, the Bible is our authority as Christians, not a pastor or Christian leader who holds a particular position, not your loved ones who are in error but you’re certain they love Jesus, not any church or denominational structure or position that conflicts with Scripture – the Bible. If you are going to argue against a biblical principle, you need to support your argument with rightly handled, in context Scripture, not examples of fallible human beings – however godly or well-intentioned they might be. Scripture is our standard, not people.)


2.
Complementarian women don’t feel
oppressed and downtrodden.

Obviously I can’t speak for every complementarian woman out there, but I can say that of the dozens of women I know personally and the thousands who have followed me online for the last eleven years, and speaking for myself, I have never met a single, genuinely regenerated, complementarian woman who felt diminished, held back, chained up, or walked all over by the role God lays out for us in Scripture.

Do we sometimes sin by thinking and acting selfishly? Yep. Have there been husbands, pastors, and other men who have sinned against us? Of course. Do we have a bad day from time to time? Naturally. But none of that changes our delight in our role itself. Even people who have their dream jobs have nightmare moments, but there’s still nothing on the planet they’d rather do. Nothing that makes them feel more alive and fulfilled. And that’s generally how complementarian women feel about our job – maybe even more so, because it’s not just a job, it’s a calling from God Himself. And nobody has a better Boss than we do.

We don’t need your pity, egalitarians, any more than a kid in a candy store needs to be pitied. And we don’t need to be rescued, just like you wouldn’t think of trying to rescue a child from Disneyland. We’re not sitting around saying, “Woe is me,” and feeling like we’re losing out on life. For us, keeping God’s commands about our role is a delight and a joy, because we love Him:

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. Psalm 119:47

No one is happier, more fulfilled, or more content in life than the Christian who is living in the will of God by obeying Him. No one is more miserable than a false convert who is trying to obey God through sheer force of will, or a genuine Christian living in disobedience to God’s commands.

And if all of that seems foreign or ridiculous, folly or foolishness to you, unfortunately, you’re bearing out the biblical truth I explained in section 1 of this article.


3.
Complementarian women aren’t brainwashed.

Probably the most hypocritical sexist viewpoint of egalitarians is that they assume that Christian women couldn’t possibly have come to the complementarian worldview via our own study, intellect, will, and choice. We must have been brainwashed into it by sexist, misogynistic, abusive complementarian men. But if we could somehow manage to understand the viewpoint delivered by our egalitarian saviors, we’d see the light, cast off the shackles, and be set free from all that’s holding us back.

I’m not making that up. That’s essentially the diatribe I received from one of Beth Moore’s followers recently (and I’ve heard it plenty of times before). Beth had said on Twitter that the reason she was receiving so much pushback from Christians following her announcement that she would be preaching the Sunday morning service at a local church was because sexist men were just trying to protect their positions and power. To which I responded, “What about the pushback you’re receiving from complementarian women? Are we sexist and trying to protect positions and power, too?” No, her follower angrily replied, you’ve just be brainwashed by those men.

If egalitarians can’t see how arrogant, hypocritical, and sexist it is to stand on a pedestal and declare that they’re the ones who will empower women, ensure that women are heard and valued for their independent ideas and unique contributions, and then turn around and condescendingly assume that women who have used those very independent minds they themselves tout to reach a non-egalitarian conclusion are brainwashed, I’m at a loss as to how to explain it. It’s like trying to prove water exists to someone who’s sitting in a lake while drinking a glass of ice water.

Complementarian women are not brainwashed into our worldview. We are convinced by the study of Scripture and our love for God that His plan for men and women is best, beneficial, and a blessing.


4.
Complementarian women aren’t
limited or lesser, we’re specialists.

Oh, that poor cardiologist! He’s so limited in his profession. If only he could be a General Practitioner!

I just feel terrible for that guy – he only practices civil law! He doesn’t know what he’s missing by not also practicing criminal, personal injury, estate, real estate, corporate, family, and malpractice law!

If you ever had the misfortune of hearing someone say something so ridiculous, you’d probably think she was a little off her nut. In the professional world, we normally regard specialty positions as more prestigious than more generalized positions (not that that’s right – general medicine, law, etc. are equally important). Specialists usually go to school longer and have a unique skill set for a unique segment of the population. General practitioners don’t have the luxury of focusing on a more narrow field of study. They have to be a jack of all trades – all things to all people.

But somehow, for egalitarians, that concept doesn’t translate to complementarianism. In the complementarian church, male pastors, elders, and teachers are the general practitioners. Women are the specialists. We specialize in discipling women and children, because we have a unique, God-given skill set for ministering to that unique segment of the population. God has given us the luxury and freedom to concentrate on this population He has called us to serve without the added burden of also having to teach, disciple, and oversee men.

It’s much the same in the complementarian home. The husband is like the CEO of the family. The buck stops with him. Every. single. buck. The house. The wife. The kids. The car. The yard. The bills. Everybody’s health. The extended family. The spiritual leadership. Church involvement. Provision. Decisions. Everything is ultimately on his shoulders. This leaves the wife free to specialize in being the COO of the family – day to day, boots on the ground operation of the household – an equally important position, which, again, she has a unique, God-given skill set for carrying out. While she and her husband certainly work together, God has given her the freedom and the luxury of passing everything that’s not under her purview up the chain of command for someone else to deal with. If she needs something in order to do her job, she has someone to turn to to provide it.

The egalitarian worldview looks down on women who specialize in discipling women and children in the church and being the chief operating officer in the home. Our teaching only has value if there are men in the audience, which reeks of sexism. As if men are the standard, the high bar to be set, the only ones whose mere bodily presence can validate a woman’s teaching and suddenly make it worthwhile. Who cares about teaching women and children? Men are the important ones. Our role at home is only a worthy and important one if we’re the ones calling all the shots at the macro level. Never mind that things actually have to get done and be overseen at the micro level in order for every member of the household, including the CEO, to live, grow, and flourish.

Specialties aren’t limiting or lesser. There’s an equally prestigious and necessary place for GPs and specialized medicine. For general law and specialty law. For CEOs and COOs. For complementarian men and complementarian women.

 

The egalitarian view does not value women as women. It only values women who are cheap knock-offs of men. Complementarians are the ones who value women as a separate, and equally significant, unique creation of God – not measured by how well we can imitate a man, but measured by how well we live up to all God created us to be as women. And we’re supposed to feel oppressed, limited, and lesser by that? We’d have to be brainwashed to love a worldview that values us for what we are, not for clawing and scraping toward some impossible standard and state of being God never created us to reach?

When you set men up as the standard and tell women they have to measure up to men to have any value, what you are is not egalitarian. What you are is sexist.

No thanks. I’ll take the complement.


¹Thanks to the advent of everything-but-the-pastoral-office “soft complementarianism” I should probably add an adjective, like “biblical complementarian,” but I’m not ready to concede the term yet. Complementarian means you embrace the full biblical teaching of the roles of women and men. If you compromise on that, you’re a functional egalitarian. We only need two terms.
²Egalitarians make incorrect assumptions about complementarian men, too, the main one being that they’re sexist, misogynistic, even abusive. Please. I’ll let complementarian men speak to that themselves, or this article will be way too long.
³Sometimes people who are genuinely saved worry that they’re not. If you’re concerned about your salvation, I encourage you to work through my study AM I REALLY SAVED?: A 1 JOHN CHECK-UPand make an appointment with your pastor if you need counsel.
Complementarianism, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Counter Arguments to Egalitarianism

 

What are some of your favorite counter-arguments to egalitarian theology? 

Such a great question for a plethora of reasons. One important reason is that it’s a hot topic right now that needs to be dealt with biblically in order to silence the lies and to make onlookers aware that the Bible does address this issue with the correct answer. Another reason is that, when you think through an issue via an apologetics, “point-counterpoint” framework, it really helps solidify in your mind, and give you confidence in, what the Bible has to say about the issue.

So let’s start off with some basics…

If “egalitarian” is a new term for you, let’s nail down what egalitarianism is and what complementarianism is. Both have to do with the issue of women’s roles in the church and in the home.

Egalitarianism is the anti-biblical view that women can do anything men can do in the context of the church and home. Women can be pastors, elders, heads of denominations, preach whenever, wherever, and to whomever they want, and they don’t have to submit to their husbands.

Complementarianism is the biblical view that women and men are of equal value and worth in salvation and in the imago dei, but have different, yet equally important roles in marriage and the church. Complementarians embrace the Bible’s teaching that women are privileged to portray the relationship of the church to Christ by graciously and joyfully submitting to our husbands. Complementarians honor and respect the high calling and unique gifting women have to disciple other women and to raise up the next generation of godly men and women by discipling our own, and other, children. Because this is such a weighty and arduous responsibility, we consider it a blessing that God has not also burdened us with the responsibility to preach, teach the Scriptures to men, or exercise authority over men in the context of the gathering of the church. Rather, we encourage the men who have been given this responsibility, leaving godly women free and unfettered to carry out the ministry God has given us.

Currently, there is a movement afoot to establish a third position regarding this issue. It’s often called soft complementarianism – an attempt to straddle the fence, make everybody in both camps happy, and have your cake and eat it too. There are a variety of beliefs among those who choose this label. Many would argue, for example, that a woman may not hold the office of pastor (i.e. she can’t be on staff as the pastor of a church), but it’s perfectly OK for her to guest preach the Sunday morning sermon. At least on Mother’s Day.

Let’s dispense with soft complementarianism right now. It is a position of compromise between the biblical and the anti-biblical. Compromising with sin has never been a biblical stance for God’s people to take. Ever. The Bible tells us “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” You don’t have to consider yourself a full-blown egalitarian to infect the church with ungodliness. Just a little compromise, a little leaven, a little dab’ll do ya. And that little dab never makes the church or individual Christians more godly, more biblical, or more Christlike. It always leads to more compromise and greater ungodliness.

Furthermore, we don’t treat other sin and rebellion this way. No one would dream of saying, “I hold to a soft view of adultery. Only actual extra-marital sex is off the table. Kissing, touching, dating other people – that’s all fine.”

For those who would argue that complementarianism vs. egalitarianism is a secondary theological issue, I would argue vehemently that it should not be categorized this way. It is sin. And it is extremely detrimental when high profile complementarians unhelpfully classify it as a “secondary issue”. I know all they mean when they say that is that it is not part of the ordo salutis or a linchpin doctrine of soteriology. But when Christians hear “secondary issue” what they think is, “Oh, this is an issue where both sides have genuine biblical support like pre/post/a- millennialism or credo/paedo baptism. We can just agree to disagree and both sides are biblical.” Nobody thinks that about adultery, murder, gossip, lying or any other sin, and we need to be more careful in our terminology lest we give people an opening to think that way about egalitarianism.

Rebelling against God’s commands regarding the role of women is either a sin or it is not. There is no middle ground, so so-called soft complementarianism is not a biblically legitimate position to take. If you’re a “soft complementarian,” you’re a functional egalitarian. And if you’re a Christian who’s toying with this idea, I urge and encourage you to repent, love Christ and His Word more than you love the world and its ideals, and unashamedly embrace and promote what the Bible says about the role of women.

The next foundational issue we need to explore is whom we’re addressing when we make these apologetic arguments.

There are only two kinds of people in the world: saved people and unsaved people. Which means there are only two kinds of people who hold the egalitarian view: saved people and unsaved people.

The Bible is abundantly clear that saved people have the mind of Christ. That means we think the way Jesus thinks and we view the world and the church the way Jesus views the world and the church. We deny ourselves, putting aside whatever we might want or think, and we submit, as Jesus did, to “It is written…“. Additionally, obedience (or lack thereof) to the commands of Scripture is an indicator of whether or not someone actually belongs to Him. In fact, God says if you claim to be a Christian and you habitually and unrepentantly walk in disobedience to, and rebellion of heart against, His commands, you’re a liar, and you don’t know Christ.

What this means in practical terms when dealing with any biblical issue – egalitarianism, evolution, abortion, homosexuality, etc. – is that a sizable portion of the people on the unbiblical side of the issue are unsaved. Because a saved person has the mind of Christ, she will embrace, believe, and obey God’s Word regarding these issues and come out of these unbiblical camps, and an unsaved person will continue to fight for the unbiblical position. A new or previously poorly discipled Christian may need to be taught what Scripture says about these things, and it may take some time for her to come to grips with God’s commands, but her nature is to fight her flesh to submit to God’s Word, not to make provision for her flesh to fight against God’s Word.

Why do we need to understand this crucial foundational concept in debating this issue? Because people who are unsaved regard the things of God as foolishness and they cannot accept them no matter how much you explain Scripture to them or how much sense you make. This is a spiritual issue that requires a spiritual solution – the Holy Spirit must save the person and open her eyes to the truth of His Word. Often, what the person you’re arguing with needs most is the gospel, not an argument about a theological issue. And you will need to be careful and wise to discern when your apologetics are helpful and effective with someone who truly wants to learn and accept the biblical view, and when it’s time to gather up your pearls, step out of the pigpen, and go home until the Holy Spirit does His good work in her heart.

So I guess all of the above would be my primary apologetic argument against egalitarianism: If you’re truly saved, the fruit of your new nature in Christ will be to forsake and repent of any opinions or positions you hold that conflict with Scripture and submit to, love, and obey God’s commands. If you’re not saved, your opinion doesn’t really matter when it comes to how the church is run because the church is the body of Christ – Believers – not the house of unbelief.

Another argument I’m fond of is what I call the “let’s take a stroll through the Bible” argument, because it addresses so many arguments about 1 Timothy 2:12 that it’s almost a “one size fits all” argument:

But the Bible only says one time that women can’t preach to men!

That was just Paul, as a human, saying women can’t teach men, not God.

That passage is about wives taking authority over their husbands, not about women preaching to or exercising authority over men in the church.

That instruction only applied to the women of the Ephesian church at that particular time.

Look at the overall general pattern of male headship and leadership in Scripture. First human created? A man. The Patriarchs? As the word implies – all men. Priests, Levites, Scribes? Men. Heads of the twelve tribes of Israel? Men. Major and minor prophets? Men. All kings of Israel and Judah? Men. Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants? All established between God and men. Authors of Scripture? Men. The forerunner of Christ? John the Baptist – a man. Messiah? A man. All of the apostles? Men. All of the pastors, elders, and deacons of churches in the New Testament? Men. Founder and head of the church? Christ – a man. Leader and head of the family? Men. Now which fits better with this pattern, women preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church, or women not preaching to, teaching, and exercising authority over men in the church?

It’s not just one verse. The entirety of Scripture backs up 1 Timothy 2:12. Which means it wasn’t just Paul’s human idea, just for the women of Ephesus, or just about wives and husbands. Male headship and leadership in God’s foundational institutions – family and church – has been God’s idea, God’s plan since the dawn of Creation (as 1 Timothy 2:13-14 clearly explains). It’s much harder for someone claiming to be a Christian to throw out the whole Bible than to sweep one verse aside.

Another argument that often needs to be made is explaining the difference between descriptive and prescriptive passages of Scripture, because one of the most common arguments egalitarians will make is, “Look at Deborah! Look at Priscilla! Look at the women at Jesus’ tomb! Look at the women Paul commends in Romans 16! They were all in some sort of leadership or teaching position, so that means women can do anything in the church that men can do!” No. No it doesn’t.

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus.

And when looking for instruction about the role of women in the church, we look to clear, prescriptive passages which tell us what to do and what not to do, not descriptive passages about various women in the Bible. Descriptive passages may support, but never trump, the clear instruction of prescriptive passages.

(I’ve addressed each of the women often trotted out in defense of the sin of role-busting in my article Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian.)

Some try to make the argument that it’s OK for a woman to preach or teach Scripture to men if she’s doing it “under her husband’s/pastor’s authority”.

When God tells us (in context, rightly handled, correct covenant, etc., of course) not to do something and we do it anyway, that is sin, right? Only God has the authority to say what is sin and what is not. No one – not your pastor, your husband, your parents, your best friend, the Pope, nobody – has the authority to tell you that it’s OK to do something God has said is sin. That authority belongs to God alone.

Try inserting any other sin into that situation. Does your husband, pastor, etc., have the authority to tell you it’s OK to lie? Cuss? Covet? Of course not. And why would they even consider doing such a thing?

If you were to ask your husband and pastor to show you from Scripture where God says it’s OK for them to allow you to teach men, they would quickly realize that they are not basing their decision on Scripture (because there is no Scripture that allows them to do this), but on their own opinion that it’s OK.

When God says “no,” no man has the right to say, “yes.” 

And there’s the “You don’t know Greek, so you don’t know what that passage really means. I do.” fallacy.

 

And finally, if a Christian struggles with the biblical argument against egalitarianism, God has graciously given us a real-time, tangible, visible argument against it. Take a look at all the once doctrinally sound Christian churches and denominations that are now apostate – the ones that embrace homosexuality, New Apostolic Reformation heresy, preach morality or liberal politics instead of the gospel, etc. They all followed the same pattern. The very first step they took on the road to apostasy was “soft complementarianism”: letting women teach co-ed Sunday school classes, preach on Mother’s Day, hold committee positions that placed them in biblically improper authority over men, and so on. The next step was full blown egalitarianism: allowing women to be elders, ordaining women as pastors, placing women in unbiblical denominational leadership positions. Next came embracing homosexuality: extending church membership to unrepentant, practicing homosexuals (and now, transgender people), ordaining them, and allowing them to serve in any and every position of church and denominational leadership, including the pastorate. And the final step is abandoning the gospel and the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word altogether. It happened to the Lutherans, the Episcopalians, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, scores of non-denominational churches, and now it’s happening to Southern Baptists. Not a single church or denomination that has embraced egalitarianism has become holier, truer to God’s Word, or more spiritually healthy. They have all ended up dead eventually, and the true Christians in those churches and denominations have left to form biblical churches and denominations.

Egalitarianism is anti-biblical, harmful to men, women, and the church, and dishonoring to God. We may not be able to convince every egalitarian to repent and embrace what God’s Word says about the role of women, but it’s important to think through this issue in a biblical way, and using an apologetic framework is a great way to do that.

Additional Resources:

Rock Your Role Series

Jill in the Pulpit

Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue

All Things Being Equal

Rock Your Role FAQs

Fencing off the Forbidden Fruit Tree

The Mother of All Rebellions: Having a Woman Preach on Mother’s Day


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.