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A personal word from Wayne Grudem to his egalitarian friends who have not walked the path of liberalism. He writes the following in the introduction to Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?

On a more personal level, I want to say that I consider a number of the authors whom I name in this book to be my friends. And I consider a number of the executives at many of the colleges, seminaries, and publishing houses that I name in this book to be my friends as well. I want to say something to you at the outset.

I realize that many of you have not personally moved along the path toward liberalism that I describe in this book. You simply decided (for various reasons) that you thought the Bible does not prohibit women from being pastors or elders today, and you have changed nothing else in your theological system. You haven’t moved to liberalism and you wonder why I wrote this book arguing that evangelical feminism leads to liberalism.

In fact, I agree with your strong desire to see women’s gifts and ministries developed and encouraged in our churches, and I have written elsewhere about the many important ministries that I think should be open to both men and women.

In addition, I realize that most of you do not think you are leading churches and schools toward liberalism at all. After all, you personally love Jesus Christ and love the Bible and teach it effectively. How, you might think, could that contribute to liberalism? And furthermore, you know others who take the same approaches, and they haven’t become liberal, have they?

In fact, I have a number of egalitarian friends who have not moved one inch toward liberalism in the rest of their doctrinal convictions, and who still strongly believe and defend the inerrancy of the Bible. I include among this number strong defenders of biblical inerrancy such as Stan Gundry (senior vice president and editor in chief of the Book Group at Zondervan Publishing Company); Jack Hayford (founding pastor of the Church on the Way, Van Nuys, California); Walter Kaiser (former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary); Roger Nicole (former professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and at Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando); and Grant Osborne (professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois). These men are respected senior scholars and leaders in the evangelical world. If they can hold to an evangelical feminist or egalitarian position without moving toward liberalism themselves, then how can I argue in this book that evangelical feminism is a new path toward liberalism?

I do so because of the nature of the arguments used by evangelical feminists, arguments that I explain in some detail in the following pages. I realize that a person can adopt one of these arguments and not move any further than that single step down the path to liberalism for the rest of his life. Many of these leaders have done just that. But I think the reason they have not moved further toward liberalism is that they have not followed the implications of the kind of argument they are using and have not taken it into other areas of their convictions. However, others who follow them will do so. Francis Schaeffer warned years ago that the first generation of Christians who lead the church astray doctrinally change only one key point in their doctrinal position and change nothing else, so it can seem for a time that the change is not too harmful. But their followers and disciples in the next generation will take the logic of their arguments much further and will advocate much more extensive kinds of error. I think that is happening in a regular, predictable way in evangelical feminism, and I have sought to document that in this book.

Therefore, to all of my egalitarian friends, I ask you to consider care fully the arguments and the pattern of arguments that I discuss in this book. You may think you are doing nothing wrong, or you may think that if you adopt a doubtful or questionable interpretation here or there, it won’t matter much. But I am asking you to stop and consider what is happening in the evangelical feminist movement as a whole, how the trend is to undermine the authority of Scripture again and again at this verse or in that phrase or this chapter or that context.

You may think your own role in this does not influence the larger debate, but, like the soldier in a battle line who thinks that his place is not that important, if you give way at one point you may provide a huge opening for an enemy to flood in and overrun large sections of the church.

It is easy to pick up a new article or book, skim through the argument, and think, “Well, I can’t agree with his (or her) approach to this verse, or that argument, but at least the book is supporting what I know to be right: the inclusion of women in all aspects of ministry. Maybe this argument or that one is not acceptable, but I can approve the result just the same.” And so, one after another, the egalitarian arguments that I list in this book accumulate and the Christian public accepts them.

But what if the assumptions made, and the interpretative principles used, actually do undermine the authority of Scripture time and again? Does that make any difference to you? If you allow arguments to stand that undermine Scripture again and again, just because you think the author “got the right answer for the wrong reason,” isn’t that eroding the foundation of your church for the future? If Scripture-eroding arguments go unchallenged in your circles, how can you protect your church or your organization in the future? While you personally may not change much else in your beliefs, your students and others who follow your leadership will take the principles you have used much further and will abandon much more than you expect.

Please consider what I say in these pages. I hope you will be persuaded, and will perhaps even change your mind on some of the arguments you have used, or even on the conclusions you have drawn. But even if at the end you are still convinced that an egalitarian position is correct, will you at least decide to challenge publicly some of the evident steps toward liberalism that other egalitarians have supported?

With all of the steps toward liberalism that I detail in these pages, it surprises me to see how few egalitarian leaders publicly object to any of these arguments. I hope I can count on some of you to do so.

It seems to me that one need not agree with every jot and tittle of Grudem’s argument to see the valid points he is raising here.

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82 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Egalitarians about Liberalism”

  1. mark mcculley says:

    Hey, one of my best friends is a black person. But he’s an exception. And my friend knows that he has a particular duty to keep other black people straight.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      A very strange counter-example, to be sure.

    2. Ryan says:

      What does this even mean?

    3. Scott C says:

      Wow! That came out of left field.

  2. Rhys Laverty says:

    Grudem’s bang on the money here. I am constantly astounded by the kinds of people with whom egalitarians will ally themselves when arguing against complimentarians.

  3. Wesley says:

    I appreciate Wilson’s four “species” of egalitarianism distinction: helpful in framing the argument in a way that is fair and doesn’t drift into generalizations.
    – the Ox.

  4. Luma Simms says:

    I think this is key: “they have not followed the implications of the kind of argument they are using and have not taken it into other areas of their convictions.” And of course, as Grudem says, their intellectual children will indeed follow the logic all the way down.

    Two things concern me: First, what is meant by liberalism? Second, allowing the FEAR of the slippery slope to cause us to sin by hedging God’s Word in a way which creates just as much harm. That is, if egalitarians are “taking away” from Scriptures, we certainly don’t want to fall off the other side of the horse by “adding to” Scriptures. I’ve seen both happen. I am thinking along the lines of Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18–19.

    1. Scott C says:

      This is where the history of interpretation comes in. When we divorce ourselves from the historical context of orthodoxy we are at greater risk of exalting novel interpretations that are foreign to the church. The arrogance of the modern is always a danger to the church. Furthermore, we live in a day and age where novelty is celebrated. That ought to concern anyone who takes these issues seriously unless we think we are so much wiser and more enlightened than our forebears.

    2. This same bit caught my attention too, Luma. I think we must be aware that the hill of slippery slope has two sides to it. Grudem is right that people don’t always understand the implications of their argument or realize how a subsequent generations will propel the initial point past a orthodox framework. But I’d offer that this has happened among conservatives as well.

      When my dad taught me to drive a car, he described it as a process of constantly correcting the direction of the car. If I didn’t, the car would naturally drift to one side or the other; my job was to keep it centered by multiple, constant corrections of the steering wheel. Seems like the metaphor applies here too.

  5. I can appreciate what both Grudem and Wilson have said.

    I think it would be very helpful if ‘liberalism’ could be briefly defined in this context. What does Grudem mean by ‘liberalism’? Does he go on to say?

  6. MarkO says:

    To argue from any angle that egalitarianism can, may or does lead to liberalism seems to put the cart before the horse. Doesn’t there need to be some Darwinian evidence that the outcome (liberalism) is a direct and uncomplicated result of the holding a particular theological position (namely egalitarianism)?

    …or to mix metaphors, which comes first? the chicken or the eggalitarianism?

    1. Brad says:

      That was my question, too.

      I have never heard someone say that their belief in egalitarianism led them to liberalism.

      Although I am not an egalitarian, I have noticed that many egalitarians do not deny the authority of Scripture. I think this is one reason why these types of egalitarians have not been led down the slippery slope to liberalism.

      1. MarkO says:

        Then again, maybe Grudem is on to something with his hypothetical warning. Last month the first female Orthodox rabbi was ordained in the US.

        “So then, Itsack, tell me. Is an Orthodox rabbi orthodox if she’s a women? Oy vey, can this be?”

  7. Wesley says:

    I think we can safely assume that Wilson and Grudem have in mind at least the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy as well as J. Gresham Machen’s work in the early 20th C. “Christianity and Liberlaism” when they speak of “Liberalism” as an ideological and theological destination.

  8. I appreciate Wilson’s breakdown of the different approaches to explaining the disparity between what the Bible teaches and what egalitarianism teaches. What I’ve noticed is that when a specific explanation is held by a group of egalitarians and that explanation isn’t well taught, those who note the disparity will begin to regard the Bible as somewhat less than authoritative. That is the first step into liberalism.

    It’s the same for those who led the charge into egalitarianism to begin with. None of the explanations truly begins with the idea that the Bible doesn’t appear to teach what we call today complementarianism. As a trend, it obviously derives from the movement of the secular culture over and against the teaching of the Bible. Therefore, cultural sensibilities internalized by individuals seek to find some explanation that allows them to hold both to be true rather than to analyze cultural trends according to the revelation of the Bible. The difference is that the former diminishes the hermeneutic principles that we use to understand the Bible so that our understanding becomes less clear and that clarity must be derived as much or more from our culture as from the Bible.

  9. Bruce says:

    “There is no internal difference between men and women”

    I know how to debunk this: watch 100 women try to discipline 13 year old boys.

    1. DC Cramer says:

      I thought Bruce’s comment was pretty silly too, though I would caution using the word “retarded” as a derogatory term.

      1. Brian MacArevey says:

        Fair enough (though I did not mean it in the sense that you took it) it was not my intention to offend and I am sorry if I did…however silly is too weak. Perhaps sexist or bigoted would have been more appropriate?

        1. DC Cramer says:

          I don’t think there are any appropriate contexts in which to describe something as “retarded,” if not meant in the literal, dictionary definition way. That said, no worries. And, yes, sexist would be better, although probably the best response is just to ignore it all together.

          1. Brian MacArevey says:

            I must say that I am confused. I used the word “retarded” and while the word does not have to be understood as referring to “disabled people” and thus considered an insult to persons with disabilities, I still agreed that my use of the word could come across in as being in bad taste and thus I apologized for any unintended offense against disabled people.

            Where I am confused is in that my original comment was erased, but not so much that it was erased as much as the fact that the sexist and bigoted comment which provoked my comment was left up.

            I just find this ridiculous! My comment, which was not intended to be insulting is erased, however Bruce’s comment, which was blatantly and intentionally condescending and sexist remains? Deleting my comment is fine, but for Christ’s sake, get rid of Bruce’s as well!

            1. Concerted Effort says:

              What’s condescending and sexist about it?

            2. Bruce Russell says:

              I admit to being intentionally sexist in the sense that I believe with all my heart they exterior sexual distinctives of the body are reflective of equally profound interior sexual distinctives of the soul.

              Here is a thought experiment: watch 100 men manage a household of four children under 7 all day. Then watch 100 women try to discipline cantankerous 13 year old males.

              Yes, God has made males and females profoundly different. The exegetical egalitarian has found a way to drill down into individual texts and find a rationalization for their culturally conditioned position. What they fail to do, is read the Bible in in it’s epochal and canonical sense where the authority and power of the Father and Son are mediated to culture through patriarchy.

              Another thought experiment: examine cultures where fathers and husbands are not faithful. Try as they may, women face depredation and squalor in such a culture and children are damaged. Look around every city in the US and increasingly suburbs. Squalor and debauchery are essential features of matriarchy. Cultural ugliness is only rooted out by righteous and vigorous men.

              Your egalitarianism is a symptom of a debauched culture, not of careful and obedient Bible Study.

              I am being intentionally sexist here, I don’t mean to be condescending.



              1. Leah says:

                A short multiple choice test:

                Read the following statements and choose the sentence that is the best conclusion to the statement.

                1. “Another thought experiment: examine cultures where fathers and husbands are not faithful. Try as they may, women face depredation and squalor in such a culture and children are damaged. Look around every city in the US and increasingly suburbs.”

                A) “Squalor and debauchery are essential features of matriarchy. Cultural ugliness is only rooted out by righteous and vigorous men.” Therefore, Patriarchy is the best form of societal rule.

                B) Women and children are fine without responsible and loving men in their Iives. Therefore, Matriarchy is the best form of societal rule.

                C) Women and children need responsible and loving men in their lives. A healthy society requires both men and women to be faithful to their families.

                2. Another thought experiment: examine cultures where mothers and wives are not faithful. Try as they may, men and children will suffer from neglect and hardship.

                A)Cultural ugliness is only rooted out by righteous and vigorous women. Therefore, it is clear that Matriarchy is the superior form of societal rule.

                B) Men and children are fine without responsible and loving women in their lives. Therefore Patriarchy is the best form of societal rule.

                C) Men and children need responsible and loving women in their lives. A healthy society is dependent on both men and women to be faithful to their families.

                To maintain consistency in your analysis, if you chose A for question #1 (which was your original proposal), then you must also choose A for question #2. And then we see how silly this type of reasoning is. You cannot redefine Patriarchy (father-rule) to mean fathers being faithful to and not abandoning their wives and children, if you do not also redefine Matriarchy (mother-rule) to mean mothers being faithful to and not abandoning their husbands and children. (Which, we would all agree, are both good.)

                Additionally, if we go with your new definition, we must conclude that all fathers who remain faithful to their families are Patriarchs, including egalitarian men who choose not to “rule” their households, nor consider themselves the sole leaders nor as having any “final say” in decisions, because you’ve effectively disassociated Partriarchy with “rule/lead” and paired it with “not abandon or neglect”. (Because those women and children living in squalor that you mentioned above, have been abandoned and neglected by their husbands and fathers, rather than not ruled or lead by them.)

                If your attempt above was to show that when men do not embrace Patriarchy (in it’s traditional definition), it leads to unfaithful husbands and fathers who abandon their families, there are probably thousands of men who take an egalitarian view of leadership and yet are very faithful husbands and fathers who would disprove your assertions.

                If however, the discussion is whether or not “Patriarchy” is a prescriptive of scripture, it may be best to leave the silly and sexist arguments aside and continue with ones that follow a more logical pathway.

              2. Leah says:

                Additionally, this argument also fails to prove that men and women are inherently different (which I definitely think they are, by the way), or especially that said differences would cause us to conclude that the one should then be ruled/lead by the other.

              3. Bruce says:

                Leah, God only asks us to obey when He has proven His goodness, trustworthiness and has imparted a vision of reward. This is where “rule” morphs into “guidance” that requires sacrifice.

                I admit that 99% of Bible believing Christians don’t understand this principle. But this is what Paul has in mind when he expounds Old Testament sexual roles and places them in New Testament context.

                Men are endowed with the strength and vision to sacrifice in pursuit of long term reward, Women are endowed with the strength and vision to make sacrifices in pursuit of immediate family and community benefit. God is calling for the complimentary coordination of the best of each.



              4. Leah says:


                I’ve not really much time at my disposal to engage in anything lengthy here but I’ll briefly respond.

                1) I don’t disagree that men and women are different. It’s kind of the basis behind the whole love, romance and marriage thing. I’m glad we’re different.

                2) The differences cannot be expressed in such broad and sweeping generalizations as you have made:

                “Men are endowed with the strength and vision to sacrifice in pursuit of long term reward, Women are endowed with the strength and vision to make sacrifices in pursuit of immediate family and community benefit.”

                No, that is not necessarily true for every man and every woman. Nor is it true that every human would only be endowed with one particular type of strength or vision. While some strengths may be more prevalent in one gender or another, these are not absolutes as we are different as individuals as well.

                3. Even if the generalized statement you made above were true, that fact would only determine that the one gender should rule if you happen to value their prescribed strength and vision more than the other. If, say, one were to believe the more family and community focused strength and vision to be the more necessary and valuable, then they may conclude that those who possess it should in turn be the leaders. However, when you recognize that both strengths are equally valuable and necessary, you will determine that a ruling gender is unnecessary.

                4. “God is calling for the complimentary coordination of the best of each.”

                – Yes. It is probably in how that plays out where our differences lie.

            3. Concerted Effort says:

              I must agree, you are confused.

              1. Concerted Effort says:

                In response to Brian:

                “I must say that I am confused”

  10. Simul Iustus et Peccator says:

    The PCUSA appointed a woman evangelist in 1893, began ordaining women elders in 1930 and women ministers in 1956. In 2001 the number of men and women ministers was about the same.

    My grandmother, a godly, respected servant, was one of the first women made elder. She was Reformed, evangelical, conservative, traditionalist, an educated and sophisticated lady. If she were alive she’d be shocked to have a lesbian minister today. She had no clue that the compass heading she headed out on in 1950 would led to lesbian ministers. Like Hezekiah, she was spared of the outcome.

    How anyone can argue there is no connection or influence between the reasoning that led to ordaining women as ministers in the 50s and the reasoning that led to ordaining lesbians today?

    The “mainline” is “cut flowers” and feminism is the centerpiece of its liberalism.

    1. Brad says:

      I thought egalitarianism began in the 1980s or so.

      1. Wesley says:

        Feminism and thus biblical feminism began as a serious movement around the 70’s/80’s. As for the other stats Simul offers i would question the reliability of sources on that info (“In 2001 the number of men and women ministers was about the same.”???? No – that is not even close to accurate today let alone in 2001.

        1. The question of women “preachers” or evangelists is very old. Currently reading a novel published in 1859 that uses it as one its main themes. Not sure who was the first to officially commission women to preach, but the Methodists were doing it as early as the late 1700s–this was an evangelistic type of preaching done outside the church and was not considered equal to the office of elder. Also, the Salvation Army has a long history of utilizing women in evangelistic preaching roles as well.

          The question of what women can/should do is much older than current egalitarianism and our understanding of the issue has been clouded (imho) by the advent of feminism. Unfortunately, this makes it hard for us to engage in serious, nuanced conversation about what the Bible teaches because the debate has become so stratified and few of us (egals and comps alike) know the history prior to 1960.

        2. Simul Iustus et Peccator says:

          Wesley: If you have exact stats for the PCUSA in 2001 for the ratio of male/female ordained ministers please do post them. The source I used was over-generalized but the trend is undeniable: women’s ordination is growing and celebrated by the PCUSA, as is liberalism generally.

          Do trends of the 50s toward feminism/egalitarianism/ordaining female elders contribute to other trends common to liberalism or is it merely symptomatic of liberalism generally? Root or fruit? Contributing cause or resulting effect?

          Can a evangelical who is not liberal embrace egalitarianism and remain conservative (in all other areas)? Yes: e.g., R. Nicole, etc. But, do the heirs of conservative egalitiarians like Nichole who embrace his reasoning for egalitarianism apply it to other doctrines and practices? Surely the answer for many is yes.

          Do institutions contribute to the trend? Surely they do. The connection between liberalizing trends at seminaries and the outcomes we see today is clear and not disputed.

          For example, it’s ok today to be PCUSA-ordained and openly a lesbian professor at Princeton Sem. where Warfield once taught.

          Liberalism may be slow getting to some conservative evangelical institutions, but the process has been under way for 40 years at others. In only takes 20 years or so.

          The cultural pressure to confirm is intense. Five years ago the Clinton’s and Obama’s (all 4) were on record for supporting traditional marriage legislation. They sensed pulse of the nation, as liberal politicians always do, and quickly switched.

          Churches, institutions and evangelicals generally change slower than liberal politicians, but the trends are clear. The mainline has led the way down the slippery slope and cast of biblical authority. Will evangelicals follow?

          1. Al says:

            Simul: exegetical egalitarians DISAGREE with the exegesis of the passages on gender by complementarians. The reason they take hold their particular view is precisely because they take the Bible as seriously as complementarians do and they don’t want to get it wrong. This means that it is very easy to have a conservative view on other matters of doctrine etc. One compelling reason why egalitarians may become increasingly liberal with the passing of time must also be linked to the fact that they are welcomed by liberals but treated as akin to heretics/secularists by some other evangelicals. There are conservative evangelicals who even question the salvation of people who have a egalitarian view and define their theological authority solely on their attitude to gender. Is it any wonder that some egalitarians may decide to go where their reception is warmer and eventually are influenced by views they would previously have rejected? There are conferences I no longer feel welcome at and bible studies I have been excluded from by people I previously thought of as friends and fellow travellers simply because of my egalitarian views. It is not an easy position to maintain by yourself – I am fortunate in knowing enough people in a similar position to be supported in my ministry but I understand the temptation to slip.
            A slippery slope of kindness, respect and welcome may propel some egalitarians to liberalism – I fear that complementarians who refuse to acknowledge that egalitarians are also serious about the authority of the Bible are playing their part in encouraging this unfortunate development.

            1. There are a couple of problems here. First, it’s one thing to be serious about the authority of the Bible but another to put it into practice. Without going into the kind of detail that is inherently prohibitive in the nature of a comment thread I’ll say in short that when you look at the passages that seem to be clear that women should not be in leadership and you conclude that they cannot mean that, the application of hermeneutical principles that you use to explain how they mean something different for us today than what they say is detrimental to other passages if you apply the same reasoning. That’s why complementarians often say egalitarians are less than serious about the authority of scripture.

              The other problem is when you say this:

              “One compelling reason why egalitarians may become increasingly liberal with the passing of time must also be linked to the fact that they are welcomed by liberals but treated as akin to heretics/secularists by some other evangelicals.”

              If one determines one’s theological bent based on relationship rather than sound hermeneutics, one is decidedly not serious about biblical authority. Relationship with fallen humans should never be a determinative factor. By the power of the Holy Spirit, submission to Christ as the way, the TRUTH, and the life – as Lord, Revealer, and Redeemer – should be the primary determining factor in understanding God as passed down in the pages of scripture. Having a right relationship with other believers is the result, not the determinant, of that undertaking.

              1. Al says:

                Dear Jim.
                The arguments surrounding this issue are very lengthy and learned. It is nice for you that you are so certain that your exegesis and hermeneutics are correct and I am glad that I am so certain of mine. I won’t say that my understanding (shared by many eminent biblical scholars) is clear though because, although it seems to be very clear to me, it would imply there is something wrong with you if I do and that would be arrogant and rather silly – because eminent biblical scholars also share your view. So whoops! What do we do now? Stalemate? Or continue a respectful dialogue – and give each other the benefit of the doubt ie we are both serious and sincere and this issue is still ‘live’and is perhaps not as clear as we would like to be on the biblical texts – (unless we are only reading them in English of course which we can’t do because that limits our understanding of all of scripture and we want to understand as much as possible after all).

                As for the second part of the comment: of course hermeneutics can’t rely on relationship (we all know that!). You are completely missing my point. I will restate it: if you are continually spending time with the Christians who affirm you because they are the only ones who will continue to have any meaningful fellowship with you then it is not surprising if someone in that position takes on their views over time.

                It doesn’t make it right! It is just what happens to believers who are flawed and need each other to help them in their life of faith. All of us are fragile and can go off course in the right conditions – that is one reason why we gather together – to keep each other strong in the faith. I know that I need other siblings to keep me facing in the right direction at times and I do the same for them as well. Try being shunned all the time and see how attractive it becomes to join another group.

                For my part, I try not to treat complementarians with disrespect and include rather than dismiss – but it’s not always easy so I can appreciate why it is sometimes hard for complementarians to extend the same courtesy and love to me.

                Your final sentence seems to say that if one’s hermeneutic on this issue is wrong then you have only yourself to blame for not being in relationship with complementarians.

                Happily not all complementarians take this view. Your response contrasts sharply with that of Jennie Pollack responding to an egalitarian in the comment section of her article on the same blog as Andrew Wilson’s. She puts it so well I am quoting her:

                ‘Thank you so much for your honesty. I sincerely hope that you – or anyone with any theological differences to us (and as you know from following this blog, there are lots of things we disagree on amongst ourselves!) would find yourself as welcome at our conferences as you would at ones put on by egalitarians. If not, we’ve got something seriously wrong! Christ’s greatest commandment to us was to love God and love one another, not to love God and make one another feel small and/or ostracised until they come round to our way of thinking! Though we love to debate the ideas we consider important, if we slip over into doing that in a judgemental or unloving way, or start thinking our words are more important than our love, then I think it’s time for us to stop. This is the link to her article:

                Now that is a complementarian I am happy to open my heart and mind to!

              2. “I won’t say that my understanding (shared by many eminent biblical scholars) is clear though because, although it seems to be very clear to me, it would imply there is something wrong with you if I do and that would be arrogant and rather silly…”

                Actually, that is a bit reletavistic. You think I’m wrong or you wouldn’t aregue otherwise, but saying that assuming that I could be right is respectful is a passive-agresive dodge that implies that I’m not respectful. I think you’re wrong and I’m not afraid to say it. Also, I have a solid apologetic for my position and I can defend it.

                However, I have said that such a discussion is too much for the com box and you seem to agee by saying that the discussion is lengthy and learned. But what is your proposed solution:

                “…continue a respectful dialogue?”

                Well, a dialog on this issue isn’t what this post is about. It’s about the slippery slope from egalitarianism to liberalism. It’s interesting how you keep demonstrating this.

                “…of course hermeneutics can’t rely on relationship (we all know that!). You are completely missing my point.”

                The thing is I do understood your point and you misunderstood my response. Let’s look at the way you restated it:

                “if you are continually spending time with the Christians who affirm you because they are the only ones who will continue to have any meaningful fellowship with you then it is not surprising if someone in that position takes on their views over time.”

                If you hang out with liberal egalitarians because you are already an egalitarian, then you started as an egalitarian and are seeking to grow in liberal theology because your desire for relationship exceeds your desire for truth. If you cannot see that there is no love without truth and there is no truth without love, then you cannot see that admonishment in truth is not disrepectful, but incredibly loving.

                “Your final sentence seems to say that if one’s hermeneutic on this issue is wrong then you have only yourself to blame for not being in relationship with complementarians.”

                My final sentence means exactly what I wrote. I’ll exegete it. It’s not that difficult.

                I wrote: “Having a right relationship with other believers is the result, not the determinant, of that undertaking.”

                Who is or are the ones having? Believers. This is evidenced in the phrase “with other believers”. What do believers have? A right relationship. That’s as opposed to a wrong relationship. So we have here an ideal given by the Bible, which I haven’t expounded on in what i have written rather than what we usually find among believers. Nevertheless, we strive for the ideal.

                So what am I saying about believers having an ideal beblical relationship with other belieers? It is the result of something. I said is in not the determinant for it. It doesn’t determine what I’m saying it is the result of.

                So what is this something? I said only “this undertaking.” This refers to something I had written at the end of the sentence prior: “…understanding God as passed down in the pages of scripture.” Now I had some other conditions that I spelled out in the first part of the sentence, but this is the sum of what undertaking I was referring to. If believers don’t have truth right, believer’s right relationships with other believers will suffer. Now sanctification will heal relationships, but only to the extent that the weaker believer is capable.

                So that was what my final sentence meant, and I concluded with a very brief summary of its implications that I would expect fellow Christians who understand the process of sanctification to conclude in reading it. How you got what you concluded out of it is beyond me, but is perhaps indicative of the hermeneutical issues you must have.

  11. Matt says:

    Grudem argues that egalitarianism is the first step of a slippery slope (informal fallacy), an argument which only possibly works if we allow him to beg the question (another fallacy). He begs the question by assuming that egalitarianism is not even possibly itself the biblical position to take. The problem with this is that many of his interlocutors do think that egalitarianism is wholly biblical. They do not believe that 1 Timothy 2, as a prime example, teaches that women cannot be pastors. They point to the existence of important women church leaders in the Bible. So Grudem is not arguing with them on any common ground, but deciding in advance that they have given up the authority of scripture.

    I’m not even an egalitarian, and I can’t stand the terrible and terribly disrespectful way that Grudem treats people that don’t agree with him–especially fellow Christians (read: evangelical) who are egalitarian or who might, gasp, agree with democrats on some fiscal issues.

    1. Slippery slopes are not always fallacies. In fact, it’s only ever a fallacy because it trades on a natural logical transience that isn’t typically fallacious.

      Regarding biblical authority, go back and look at the comments that have been made. The issue is with the way we need to approach the Bible in order to accommodate egalitarianism rather than whether anyone feels they are treating the Bible as authoritative or not. The change in hermeneutic results in a fundamental degredation of the application of principles that undermines a robust understanding in other areas, regardless if an egalitarian believes he or she has a high view of scripture.

      How you feel that Grudem treats people doesn’t mitigate the veracity of his observations. That seems like you are issuing an ad hominem following your discourse on fallacies.

      1. butter light says:

        Jim P,

        I take Matt’s comment regarding how “Grudem treats people who don’t agree with him” not as an ad hominem, but as Matt pointing out Grudem’s own ad hominem approach. Matt is not attacking Grudem’s person – only pointing out Grudem’s attacks on other persons.

        note: whether Grudem is attacking other persons or not I don’t know enough about he has written to know the answer to that question BUT I can be sure that what Matt wrote above is not an ad hominem discourse.


        1. Mark,
          I did say “seems” for a reason. Grudem isn’t discrediting someone else’s argument by attacking them, so if Matt is making that point, which he didn’t explicitly say, then it’s a bad charge to make. However, Matt does seem to be discrediting Grudem’s argument by discrediting his character. If that’s the case, then it’s ad hominem by definition.

  12. Scott says:

    Justin –

    You say: He doesn’t claim that this necessarily happens, but that there is overwhelming evidence that it historically happens and that it lays the groundwork for it to probably happen, especially for those in the second generation who trace out the implications of key advocates today.

    This is still functioning in the realm of the slippery slope. Do you agree that egalitarianism will probably lead to liberalism?

    Now, I’m not saying that certain evidence should cause us to reflect on things. But Grudem, and maybe you now, are arguing that this is probably going to happen. It’s like arguing to someone in AA: Well, if you have that first sip, it’s gonna lead to drunkenness.

    But what if we train people to not think this way, transform there thinking that does not allow us to be ruled by alcohol. What if we train people to healthily consider women in leadership without leading to denying central aspects of the faith

    I think one other point that needs to be considered is the continual scare-tactic arguments that I find amongst my fellow evangelical brothers and sisters: If you believe A, then it will lead to B, and possibly C, D and E. So don’t go there because it WILL lead to a very dangerous path.

    This is a very unhealthy approach to believe anything. There is a better way, one with strong pastoral care and wisdom.

    1. Lou G. says:

      Scott, Terrible, terrible analogy. Certain alcoholics cannot drink alcohol because their body does not process it the same way as non-alcoholics. Similar to diabeties. Dear Lord, I hope you’re not trying to train alcholics to practice moderation!!! You’re going to end up killing them, bankrupting them, or institutionalizing them.
      Sorry, that has nothing to do with egalitarianism, but I had to correct this huge mis-statement!

  13. Craig Benno says:

    I think that Calvinism / Reformed theology that points to cessationism is just as dangerous as liberal theology… for both deny the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.

    1. Joe says:


    2. Bruce says:


      It is not an accident that egalitarianism is so prevalent in Charismatic and Liberal Churches.

      The Charismatic and Liberal spirit look to embrace something new from the Holy Spirit.

      The cessationist continually looks to understand and apply the old completed message of the Gospel that is rarely understood and applied.


      1. Scott says:

        Bruce –

        Unfortunately, this argument does not hold much water. It’s similar to saying: It is not an accident that no new life exists in Presbyterian and Baptist churches. The Presbyterian and Baptist spirit only embrace a wooden and static form of the Holy Spirit.

        It’s quite fallacious to make such correlations. Just try and be a little kinder and gracious. Blessings!

        1. CPS says:


          This is exactly the point at which you demonstrate that you’ve sold your birthright for a mess of pottage.

          “No new life exists in Presbyterian and Baptist churches”? Really? NO ONE is ever being converted? NO ONE is ever being grown to greater maturity in Christ? NO ONE is ever being lovingly guided into evermore faithful, joyful obedience to Scripture?

          Because, see, that’s actually how the New Testament understands the concept of new life (see, for starters, 2 Cor 5, Gal 6, Eph 4). It’s a shame you don’t understand that and evidently believe it to be something else entirely. I pray that one day this changes for you.

          1. CPS says:


            Yikes. My bad. (That’s what I get for commenting pre-coffee.) Totally misread your post. Please forgive me and disregard. :)

        2. Bruce says:


          I don’t believe my correlations are ungracious. I’m just trying to say something worth responding to. From a Cessationist perspective, Liberals, Egalitarians and Charismatics are alike in that the seek to reify aspects of future glory. Liberals seeks to reify peace and social justice, Egalitarians seek to reify the the future of sexual distinctives, Charismatics seek to reify the powers of the age to come.

          They do so because they are impatient with the set of duties prescribed to believers in this present evil age.



  14. Marv says:

    I think it is sound theory that “exegetical” egalitarians would be unlike the other three categories in terms of Grudem’s observations.

    However, given the particulars of the relevant Scriptural texts, I dare suggest that many “exegetical” egalitarians are underlying “experiential” ones. This is my opinion of course, but I frankly cannot see how the “egalitarian” options of the relevant texts would occur to anyone as the most likely interpretations, ABSENT a pre-existing predilection for the egalitarian side.

    1. Scott says:

      Marv –

      As you know so well, experience is part of the holistic tools God gives to us to understand his truth & revelation. Something like the Wesleyan quadrilateral, right? Thus, on the point of experiential egalitarianism, in that observing women that function healthily in leadership, it does not necessarily conclude that one is putting ‘experience above the scriptures’. It only recognises it as PART of the equation. You and I are continuationist/charismatic, and one of the very strong points that led me (and I think you, as well) towards such a view was experiencing the powerful work of the Spirit in the gifts of the Spirit.

      1. I was thinking something very similar–none of us come to Scripture divorced from our experience and sometimes “experience” is exactly what allows us greater understanding and insight to particular texts. (i.e. A farmer’s “experience” is going aid him in understanding those passages that use agrarian metaphors, etc.)

        A greater danger, to my mind, is when we assume our interpretations are so textually “pure” that we don’t understand how our experiences (for good or bad) are influencing us.

    2. Al says:

      @Mary – Grudem’s insistence that egalitarians are deliberately adopting ‘a doubtful or questionable interpretation here or there’ is seriously unhelpful in continuing dialogue between egals and comps. Grudem seems unable to appreciate that for many exegetical egalitarians it is incredible that anyone can interpret scripture in the way that complementarians do! Exegetical egalitarians have more in common with exegetical complementarians than many would like to admit.
      Far easier to assume we are all just reading the Bible in the light of our own desires, cultures or traditions – unfortunately the result is to make assumptions about each other that are untrue and stifle meaningful discussion.

  15. I’ve said this elsewhere with respect to other complementarians, and I’ll say it here. Sorry for the length, but I think it’s worth reproducing [with some bracketed comments]:

    “I’ve never understood why the tortuous [hermeneutical] ‘gymnastics’ charge picks out egalitarians and not others. Are not the same broad principles applied to Jesus’s command “do not to resist an evil person (Matt 5:39) such that, when considering cases like rape, the victim is allowed “to resist an evil person?” The point is there is a time and place where this instruction holds and where it does not. Likewise, as egalitarians tend to read Paul’s restrictive passages, the purpose of the restrictions are explained as taking into account uneducated and contentious women. Again, we might disagree about this, but the authority of Scripture is not at stake; rather, it is our *interpretation* of Scripture. Just because someone holds a more expansive range of cases where an imperative applies does not mean one holds a stronger view of the authority of Scripture. We would not grant that to a hardcore pacifist; why should we grant this to Duncan [and other complementarians]? No good reason I can see.

    “Second, I think the sort of arguments which conclude “egalitarianism is a new path to liberalism” are flawed. They represent the so-called “track record” like this:

    [1] If one holds to egalitarianism, then one (probably) undermines the authority of Scripture.
    [2] If one undermines the authority of Scripture, then one is (probably) on a path to liberalism.
    [3] There are people who hold to egalitarianism.
    [4] Therefore, there are people who are (probably) on the path to liberalism.

    “Call this THE ARGUMENT. In order for THE ARGUMENT to go through, one has to show that premise [1] is true, that is, that holding to egalitarianism is a *causal factor* that, at least, increases the likelihood of undermining the authority of Scripture. But I think this is far from clear in light of the sizable contingent of scholars who truly hold to the authority of Scripture AND egalitarianism.

    “Obviously, holding to egalitarianism isn’t a sufficient condition for undermining the authority of Scripture (a la Roger Nicole). And of course, neither it is necessary. One can deny the authority of Scripture while rejecting egalitarian gender roles and holding non-egalitarian ones. Plenty of conservative Muslims and Jews do just that. Therefore, I think THE ARGUMENT would be better stated like this:

    [1] If one does not hold to the authority of Scripture, then one is (probably) on a path to liberalism.
    [2] If one is on a path to liberalism, then one (probably) holds to egalitarian gender roles.
    [3] There are people who do not hold to the authority of Scripture.
    [4] Therefore, there are people who (probably) hold to egalitarian gender roles.

    “Of course, evangelical egalitarians would agree with this argument, because the determinative issue is whether one holds to biblical authority–not egalitarian gender roles.”



    1. Just a note: in a conditional syllogism where there is a causal relationship, the consequent is typically the cause rather than the antecedent because the antecedent is sufficient but not necessary to determine the consequent, but the consequent is necessary but not sufficient to determine the antecedent. Things usually have multiple causes so one cause isn’t sufficient to determine the effect.

  16. Nick says:

    Sometimes I think issues like this are made more complex than they really are. We can talk all day about what practical effects certain doctrines may have, and our conversation will be of little to no value. Fundamentally that is the beginning of an eisogetical approach to doctrine. The only question that really matters is: what does the Word of God say?

    I take the complementarian view because I believe that’s what the Bible teaches. To those who agree, my suggestion is to make that the basis of your argument. If the Word of God tells us something, it doesn’t matter what our opinion is.

  17. DC Cramer says:

    Dear Justin,

    As the author of the (first) article Andrew Wilson mentioned, allow me just a few comments.

    First, the “always-sharp” Wilson misreads the point of the (second) article and Scot’s use of it, which leads him to critique an article making basically the same point as him (namely, that social science doesn’t trump Scripture and theology). Consider the introduction:

    “As unwitting children of the Enlightenment, we seem to have a Tower of Babel-like craving for absolute certainty. And so both sides in the debate recruit biologists and social scientists as latter-day natural theologians who are supposed to help close the theological gaps by telling us, from a “scientific” perspective, what gender complementarity “really is.” Thus, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (RBMW) has chapters on biology, psychology, and sociology, and Discovering Biblical Equality (DBE) has chapters written or cowritten by therapists, a sociologist, and an academic psychologist. But as an academic psychologist and gender studies scholar who did not contribute to either volume, I am now going to try to explain (not for the first time) why this is a misguided exercise” (Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, “Social Science Studies Cannot Define Gender Differences,” Priscilla Papers 27.2 [Spring 2013]: 12; emphasis added).

    (2) If you read my entire article (which can be accessed online at CBE’s website), you will note that I at least attempt to be “careful to restate Grudem’s argument accurately.” As you have done above, I note Grudem’s list of exceptions (i.e., egalitarians who have not become liberals) but then simply ask why he doesn’t find these exceptions (and others that could be listed) as counter-evidence to his argument that egalitarianism “inevitably leads” to liberalism (Grudem’s words, Evangelical Feminism, p. 262). In short, if there are exceptions (as Grudem concedes), then it is nonsensical to argue for “inevitability.”

    (3) Feel free to write me closed letters as well as open ones. My contact info isn’t difficult to track down. ;)

  18. Martin says:

    If egalitarianism is considered a ‘slippery slope’, then complementarianism should be considered ‘thin ice’. What’s the difference? When someone falls down a slippery slope, it usually results in a broken arm or leg. When someone goes through thin ice, there is a good chance they will drown due to hypothermia. I would rather take my chances on a slippery slope. The fear that the slippery slope evokes will not deter me from the principles that I have gleaned from Scripture (and nurtured by the Holy Spirit) which apply to my daughter, my sisters, my nieces or any other woman I know.

    Yes, I know – all analogies break down. If you want, you can switch the labels to suit your view. The truth is probably found somewhere in the middle – but, that’s not the Western way of thinking. It’s either/or … right/wrong … black/white … and ambiguity cannot be processed.

    1. CPS says:

      So Martin, what exactly IS the middle ground between the complementarian position (“God forbids women to have leadership roles in churches”) and the egalitarian position (“God permits women to have leadership roles in churches”)?

      1. Al says:

        @CPS – having spent far too much time trying to establish common ground, I fear it doesn’t exist – but I would like to find it. Any suggestions?

        1. If the issue is limited to church leadership, then there is no common ground. However, if the broader construct of biblically established gender roles is taken into consideration, then there is common ground between some varieties of either position.

          1. Al says:

            Trouble with this is that the issue is usually limited to leadership of church. Egalitarians find churches that do not accept women in overall leadership as unacceptable and complementarians find it unacceptable to be led by a woman. That is why I do not think there is common ground within a church but in para church organisations maybe there can be.

            1. That’s another question that needs asked. Are we looking for common ground so that egalitarians and complementarians can form a church together or so that they can discuss theology. It’s like asking what common ground there is between paedobaptists and credobaptists. There is common ground, but for a church to be formed that practices both, the theology of the church will become shallow by teaching that it ultimately doesn’t matter. This is why we talk about theological triage.

              1. Al says:

                Good question. Probably to be able to have edifying discussions.
                When I first started to try to find common ground it was to enable me to stay within the church tradition I was used to and I think this is often how Christians of both persuasions approach this dilemma. No one wants to leave a church they are committed to and love because of theological differences.
                Personally I don’t see how these two particular views can be practiced within a single church. Mohler may be correct in asserting it is a second order issue but it leads to such a fundamental difference in the way church is governed that is impossible to ignore for both parties.

              2. Bruce says:

                It may be impractical, but these deep divides call for smaller groups of fellowship until they can be sorted out.

  19. DC Cramer says:

    One last things, Justin. In the comments section to his original post, Andrew left the following comment in reply to a comment I left him:

    “. . . On re-reading the second article on Scot [McKnight]’s blog (which rather foolishly I did too quickly, since I was eager to get onto the main point of the post), I can see that I misunderstood the key point [van Leeuwen] was making, and have caused confusion as a result. My apologies. . . . I appreciate your clarity and kindness in correcting my misunderstanding of van Leeuwen’s paper. Thanks!”

    Thus, out of concern for accuracy, if not out of Christian charity toward van Leeuwen and the Priscilla Paper editors, I think that it would be appropriate to add an addendum/correction to your post, which currently quotes Andrew’s misreading approvingly. This seems needed especially since neither Andrew nor you link to McKnight’s posts, much less the original articles, so your readers will simply take your word that you have read the articles (and read them correctly), when that clearly isn’t the case. (Feel free to delete this comment if/when you add a correction.) Thank you, brother.

  20. Sue says:

    As an exegetical egalitarian, i would like to mention that there a few if any adjectives used in the Bible for men and not for women. Esther was beautuful and Joseph was handsome but it is all the same in Hebrew. Likewise women are strong, wise, brave and manly. Both sexes should be gentle, submissive, sober and quiet.

    I would be very interested if anyone knew a gender specific adjective in Hebrew or Greek. Thanks.

  21. Martin says:

    Boy or boy, if that is not being condescending, I’d like to hear you when you are being condescending. You really do not know how egalitarians think or read the Bible.

    By the way, historically patriarchal cultures are also the ones who have proven themselves most egregiously unjust, controlling and belittling and towards women. What flavor kook-aid have you been drinking?

    1. Bruce says:


      A Christian patriarchy exists where grown children can proudly and thankfully name their fathers and grandfathers because of their notable faithfulness to Jesus Christ and their families. In such family lines there will be an absence of divorce, polygamy, bastardy, etc.

      If a man is “egregiously unjust, controlling and belittling towards women” he will not be remembered with thankfulness. That disqualifies him from Christian patriarchy.

      Only godly men can establish Christian patriarchy by the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course such men will be despised by the world, and of course such man can do nothing without the support of their wives whom they cherish. Christian husbands realize they can do nothing without the support of their wives, Christian wives realize that success, confidence and happiness comes from performing their role well, not usurping the role of their husbands.

      Of course such a patriarchy is difficult to establish and maintain. We haven’t seen much of this in the world, and so look for the coming of the New Heavens and New Earth!



  22. Adam says:

    I think we do have to make a distinction between egalitarians who are egalitarian because they have gotten rid of Biblical authority, and those who are egalitarians because they don’t believe that the Bible teaches that only men can serve in church office. Now, that doesn’t mean that I think both interpretations are valid. Please do not misunderstand me. The problem lies at a different level.

    I think the problem is more of an attitude problem on the part of complementarians. The problem is, when we think we have the correct interpretation, rather than using that information wisely, we often us it to tear down the other person. Also, rather than engage in exegetical discourse, we often try to use politics to associate the other side with something like “liberalism.” That just doesn’t help.

    Anyone can make exegetical mistakes. Not only are we human and fallible, but we are also sinners. Yes, if we took *any* of our hermeneutical mistakes to their logical conclusion, it would result in liberalism, since it would make a mockery of the Bible. That is why they are errors. The key is to demonstrate that these are errors by pointing out why the argument is unsound using the way natural language functions.

    Also, the issue is not a matter of social sciences. Keep in mind that guys like Albert Mohler like to quote the sociologist Mark Regnerus on the issue of “delay of marriage.” Does that make Mohler a liberal, because he is running off to social sciences? The point is, on both of these issues, the Bible should be ultimate, and brought in only when it can be demonstrated as consistent with the Biblical text. Of course, that brings us right back to the question of what the Bible teaches in the first place.

    And, BTW, I say all of this as a complementarian myself. Exegetical battles can be long and hard, and the temptation is to go back to history or to go to social sciences in order to try to cut the battle short. The Arian controversy was long and hard, but we ended up with a definition of the Deity of Christ that is extremely accurate and faithful to scripture as a result.

    Furthermore, let us also keep things in perspective. We are not dealing with the Arian controversy here. We are not dealing with the doctrine of justification. That doesn’t mean the issue has *no* importance [especially since we are dealing with the way Christ’s church is ran], but it does mean that we must be careful to not *overstate* its importance. It is *not* an issue of the Trinity, Deity of Christ, or any of the other essentials of the faith.

    So, I would say that most of this has to do with our attitude in how we address this issue. I want to know what *scripture* says, not what scripture *seems* to say to me, what history says, or what social sciences say. Finding that out is going to involve linguistic dialogue and discourse, and that is where I would say that the discussion needs to be. More than that, we need to have an attitude of patience with one another, laboring to demonstrate to the other person that this is what scripture teaches. As the Bible itself says:

    2 Timothy 2:24-25 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,

    If that is true of those who have been ensnared by the Devil, how much more true should it be true for those who are brothers and sisters in Christ?

  23. Bruce says:


    Godly men can only rule because they lead. Great leaders explain why sacrifice is necessary and then demonstrate the sacrifice. Try getting children to work hard without giving them a future vision which their hard work is necessary to attain.

    Ungodly men simply demand blind loyalty and obedience.

    If you know history and study organizations you will realize it is not an accident that men dominate leadership in military, politics, business, science, art, academics, and family. They are equipped by God to perform sacrificial effort in pursuit of a distant reward in a way that women aren’t.

    Women are also equipped by God for sacrifice, but on a short term time horizon suitable to the needs of child rearing, family and community. Women, more so than men, are motivated to sacrifice for the immediate good of their families and communities. That is why communities with traditional sexual roles have more vigorous community volunteerism and stronger families.

    God has baked these complimentary visions into the souls of humanity. Both are essential to properly reflect the image of God. None of this can happen if men rule with clenched fist or if women seek to compete for the man’s role.

    Pull back and give this some meta-awareness. It is only Post-Modernism that forbids this kind of thinking!

    Also realize that in the New Creation this things will transform into perhaps something more egalitarian.



    1. Leah says:


      Yes, men have dominated leadership throughout history. Just as those with greater physical strength and societal standing have always dominated those of weaker strength and influence. The question is more, “Should this be so? Is it a result of God-ordained strengths or human’s sinful nature?” When team A brags how they have always outperformed team B, it rings quite hollow when team A admits that they’ve never allowed team B onto the competition field.

      Many men do have great strength of leadership abilities. I believe their role and responsibility is to lay aside any “right to rule” others (even benevelent rule) and use their strength to help remove others from those weak and inferior positions that godless society places them in. But that takes Christ-like sacrifice and great courage.

      You said: “Also realize that in the New Creation this things will transform into perhaps something more egalitarian.”

      We are already New Creations. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

      1. Bruce says:


        You make very smart and insightful comments.

        I would like to revise my comments a bit after reflection.

        (1) In the New Creation which comes in glory at Christ’s coming, “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.”, also marriage shall not exist as we know it now. It is very likely that your desire for sexual equality shall be fulfilled in that day.

        (2) In the garden, Adam was assigned with headship over Eve, which before the fall was anything but subservient.

        (3) In the fall, Eve was enticed by Satan and followed him. In doing so she rejected God’s authority as well.

        (4) Believers are New Creations in Christ, but we exist as ambassadors in this present evil world. We model obedience in our earthly callings with a view to glorious future reward when we shall rule with Christ. Any humility now is rewarded with Lordship later.

        (5) Though some of it is more private, female influence is profound, and no male succeeds without it.

        (6) Mature Christian husbands do not boss their wives around. Unfortunately there are few mature Christians.



  24. Martin says:

    CPS …

    I did not mean to ignore your question. I frankly did not read it until now. I appreciate you forming the basis of difference by writing that both complementarians and egalitarians believe either it is “God” that “forbids” or “God” that “permits”. I don’t know if there is a middle ground, especially since egalitarians believe that their position extends to church government.

    When I read the Bible I try not to see just individual trees, but the whole forest. So my egalitarian position has evolved from gleaning principles that extend much deeper in our lives that what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy and Titus regarding women and men.

    One of the over-arching teachings in all of Scripture is social justice (another is salvation and the promised Messiah). I ask questions such as … “is it right for a Christian male to condone injustices in society … such as a) restrictions on women in government positions over men or b) the denial of voting rights or c) hindering women from the highest paying corporate positions”. No … this would be condoning injustice. My next question is … “then why is the Church exempt from adhering to socially just practices and structures”? How can we call for socially just practices when we ourselves do not model the standard above in our own community – i.e. females absent from positions of authority over men, no female pastors (highest paid person in the church), final decisions are made by males.

    Some would say this is bowing to cultural norms. I reject that claim. I believe it is consistent with Jesus not regarding His position as “something to be grasped … taking the form of a slave … emptying and humbling Himself”. I say that any man who cannot humble himself at the feet of a woman teaching the truths of God is not fit to hold a position of authority. Authority is not something to be claimed or imposed. It is something to be recognized due to personal integrity and spiritual maturity.

    Now that most think I am a flaming (or at least, misguided) liberal, allow me to link justice to salvation. I used to think of justice in relation to salvation as restricted to the fact that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ‘just’ response of God to sin. Well, it was. But, it was even more. By sending His Only Begotten Son, God the Father came to the rescue of His children who were weak, poor in spirit and under the hand of a very strong oppressor – Satan. God Himself became the Rescuer giving His children freedom through the Promised Messiah. God is the great lover and liberator of His creation.

    So where is the middle ground? I really don’t know. However, I know that if I am going to err by trekking on a ‘slippery slope’ or skating on ‘thin ice’ (and both complementarians and egalitarians are subject to faulty footing … if we are really listening to each other), then I will err on the side of freedom rather than restriction. I believe that is what God delights in – His children, boys and girls, treating each other as if we stood in each others’ place. I am a father and I know that’s how I want my kids to treat each other … common sense theology.

    1. Bruce Russell says:


      You make a very good stab at this.

      It’s interesting how Social Justice is used to control Biblical reasoning and conclusions.

      We live in strange times. Social Justice initiatives look very different at $200 per year per capita incomes which prevailed just 200 years ago.

      In the frontier, on the farm, in war, in economic collapse, you will see sexual roles revert to male domination with women finding freedom in one place: the Church. Not freedom to rule, but freedom to be loved and cherished.

      The postmodern women hardly needs to depend on a man, and her husband doesn’t expect her to. But Postmodernism will pass, and human nature will not have changed, nor the Bible’s accurate presentation of it.



  25. Martin says:

    Bruce, an interesting comment from you. I appreciate that we are not ‘shouting’ at each other. Perhaps our exchange is the first step (or the only step) towards ‘middle ground’ – one of mutual respect.

    Your historical perspective is partially constructed from experience. Admittedly, mine is too. The application of complementarianism , as well as egalitarianism, looked much different in the 1st century than it does in the 21st. While I enjoyed and grew spiritually in two complimentairan churches to which I belonged, I was very disappointed by its application. But, perhaps their application was off the mark of true complimentarianism. I admire much of the many males and females that adhere to its core position. They are people of integrity.

    That being said, I remain egalitarian. As a husband, father of a daughter and brother of three sisters (all of them Christians), I hope they do too.

    May God’s blessings be upon you too,


    1. Bruce says:


      I’ve seen many churches attempt to implement “complimentarianism”…it is increasingly difficult because the culture has turned so hard against it.

      I find one thing that hinders them, and that is the prevailing conservative soteriology/eschatology.

      Modern and postmodern fundamentalism and evangelicalism have a particular individualistic theology of salvation and not a covenantal one. That is, people model their moral duty from an abstract conception of Biblical law. So they see complimentarian roles in Scripture and seek to impose them on themselves and others. They do this without thinking through the reason and purpose for the complimentarian model.

      The Covenantalist sees the complimentarianism of Adam and Eve as a reflection of the image of God. The roles are embraced because doing so maximizes our possession and enjoyment of future glory, both for ourselves, our children, and our neighbors. The present Already – Not Yet Kingdom is both secure and elusive: we bring its fullness into our lives through obedience.

      Demanding that women conform to some sentimental concept of male headship is dangerous and often downright stupid.

      Biblical obedience is obtained by showing how it glorifies God and obtains concentrated fulness of reward. God always shows his provision, promise and goodness before he asks for obedience.



  26. David says:

    I’ve just seen this and I don’t think Gudem’s points are at all valid. In fact, they are incredibly manipulative and insulting to evangelicals who see egalitarianism as the true teaching of the Bible.

    If Grudem had lived in a previous age, he would have probably written the same things about the abolitionist movement. Mark Noll’s excellent “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis” considers in detail how abolitionism was seen as a liberal attack on Biblical authority. These are EXACTLY the same arguments that Grudem employs.

    I believe that, one day, people with complimentarian views will be seen in the same way that we now see those who believed that slavery was God’s plan – deeply misguided individuals who abused the Bible to justify oppression. That is what complimentarians are doing, and it is shameful.

    The evangelical egalitarian movement is not an attack on the authority of the Bible. Rather, it is an attack on the right of certain men to interpret the Bible in way that preserves the old-boys club of theologians and church leaders. No surprise, then, that they’re fighting tooth and nail against it…

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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