This post is a response to Randy Stinson’s article titled “Is Complementarianism a Merely Personal Conviction?“
In Randy Stinson’s article it appears that there is a lot of fear that comes through even to the point of suggesting that if one is an egalitarian they will be affected negatively for their entire life, even to the extent that they may not remain in the Christian faith. I would like to unpack some of the key points of Randy Stinson’s article to look at the underlying message to see how it brings a divisiveness into the body of Christ. Mr. Stinson gives a very telling statement at the beginning of this article:
I believe it is possible for someone to be wrong on the gender issue, but still be a believer. So being an egalitarian does not mean you are not a Christian, but it does cripple the discipleship process for that person for the rest of their life. [emphasis is mine]
I personally do not ever recall reading egalitarian Christians questioning the salvation of their complementarian brothers. Rather than dividing from their brothers, egalitarians generally start with the thought that these are our brothers in Christ and the debate is only on the secondary issues of faith. However complementarians are more and more being pushed towards questioning the salvation of egalitarians. Note Mr. Stinson doesn’t say that egalitarians who are evangelicals are our brothers and sisters in Christ but rather he says that it is “possible” for egalitarians to be believers. He then makes a very bold statement that egalitarians are crippled in their walk with the Lord. His use of this word picture is designed to draw the conclusion that the egalitarian viewpoint is a disease that one can survive but with great damage to our faith. Mr. Stinson then goes on to draw a line in the sand with assumptions that are not only unproven but which are extremely divisive. He lists six points that he says are key areas of Christian theology and practice that are apparently crippled by the egalitarian belief:
1. The authority of scripture is at stake.
Mr. Stinson greatly overstates his case in this point and draws the reader to the conclusion that egalitarians do not hold to the authority of God’s word. While he says that the Bible “clearly” teaches that men and women have distinct and complementary roles in the home and the church he does not mention the fact that a growing number of evangelical Christians who strongly hold to the authority of scripture read the hard passages of scripture in their context and see something that is not so “clear” at all that there are differing spiritual roles for men and women. These same Christians hold tightly to the authority of the scripture and they do not teach people to disregard God’s word but rather they teach that we should all read the hard passages in their complete context because God’s word must not be interpreted in a way that causes one scripture to contradict another.
2. The health of the home is at stake.
Here Mr. Stinson equates the foundation of the home as one person – the husband, whereas scripture reveals that the one-flesh union of husband and wife brings a unity of authority to both mother and father. (Deut. 21:18-20; Leviticus 19:3 where Mother is even placed before Father; and Ephesians 6:1, 2)
Mr. Stinson also says the egalitarian view is disobedience and “they will not have the proper foundation upon which to withstand the temptations of the devil”. Where is such a thing listed in scripture? There is no scriptural reference for Mr. Stinson’s claim. However there is an example of a wife going against her husband and taking her individual authority to pursue peace with King David whose servants had been insulted by her husband. The story is found in 1 Samuel chapter 25 and Abigail is said to be intelligent (1 Samuel 25:3) and one who had discernment (1 Samuel 25:33). She took authority over a matter and did not tell her husband who is described as a fool, a character trait that matches his name. Her wise action which was done in direct conflict with her husband’s foolish decision actually saved her family.
This hinders the sanctification of married couple…
Where is this found in scripture? The only “sanctification” that is found in scripture regarding married couples is in 1 Corinthians 7:14 regarding an unbelieving mate.
1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.
Notice here that scripture lists first of all that an “unbelieving husband” is sanctified through his wife. Paul also says that an “unbelieving wife” is sanctified through her believing husband and the purpose is for the benefit of the children. Sanctification in the marriage is not listed in scripture as coming through a husband as if he was a leader of a subordinate person (the wife) but rather sanctification in marriage comes through a believing spouse whether a wife or a husband. Every other reference to sanctification is personal and has nothing to do with marriage. Mr. Stinson is very wrong in equating the sanctification of the marriage as having anything to do with complementarian belief and practice.
and also introduces confusion about basic parenting issues such as raising masculine sons and feminine daughters.
Mr. Stinson as well as his organization called CBMW (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) makes much of teaching about spiritual masculinity and spiritual femininity yet the bible teaches nothing about the spiritual way to raise masculine sons or feminine daughters. Christianity is not about following Jesus in a feminine way or a masculine way. All of us are to follow Jesus in the same spiritual way. We are all to be humble and to practice submission as Jesus did. The teaching that there is a feminine way regarding spirituality and a masculine way to spirituality is foreign to the scriptures.
3. The health of the church is at stake.
Just like the home, if the church disobeys the teaching of 1Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and disregards the structure that God put into place for the community of faith from the beginning, then the church will be weakened. If the church is weakened in its convictions, it will be less effective in accomplishing its mission.
Here Mr. Stinson implies that 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 are a “structure” that God put into place for the community of faith. Where is this “structure”? 1 Timothy 2 has no hierarchical structure listed. In 1 Corinthians 11 the inspired “order” of 1 Cor. 11:3 is not an ordered list of hierarchy nor does the rest of the passage list any authority of the man over the woman. Rather 1 Cor. 11:11 shows that the male does not operate independently of the female nor the female independent of the male (no hierarchy here at all). In fact verse 12 shows that first in creation did not bring preeminence just as the fact that the man now comes through the woman show that she is now preeminate. The preeminence is solely in God himself.
Mr. Stinson also does not show how the egalitarian view of scripture weakens the church of its convictions in the essentials areas of faith or how the church is less effective in its mission of evangelization and discipleship.
4. Our worship is at stake.
Here Mr. Stinson makes a point that God “named Himself” father. God did not “name” Himself Father. His name is “I AM”
Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
Exodus 3:15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
“Father” is not God’s name, it is his relationship with us. While I do not advocate calling God “mother”, God has revealed in scripture his character that has motherly qualities. Yet to us, he has decided to be known in relationship to us as a Father. God is not “Father” because he is male. God is neither male nor female. God is Spirit and there are no “body parts” in God that could make Him male. Rather, God is “Father” because this is the way that he choses to express his relationship to us.
The very nature of our triune God is revealed in a biblically ordered marriage.
Where does scripture say this? If the “triune God” is revealed in a biblically ordered marriage, who in the marriage relationship is the one corresponding to the Holy Spirit? Marriage is a one-flesh union of two equals. It is two people becoming united into one flesh. Marriage is not three persons united into one flesh.
5. Bible translations are at stake.
…my concern is that in the name of gender equality, the Bible is undermined and the very words of God end up being revised.
The English language has evolved so that words previously used in earlier generations do not have the same meaning today as they did in an earlier time. The Greek word for generic humans was translated into English as “man”. In the past it was understood that “man” meant human (meaning men or women), but today the word of God can be held back from being being crystal clear when the term “man” is seen in our day as meaning male only. If we use what is today a male term when a generic term is meant in the original Greek, would that be a good thing for the next generation? Is it wrong to “sharpen up” the English if the original intent of the Greek word is kept intact and made clearer? We should be far more concerned about keeping the clarity and faithfulness of the original languages than we should be concerned that the English word is changed.
6. The advance of the Gospel is at stake.
Ephesians 5 calls husbands and wives to relate to one another as a picture of Christ and the church. The picture involves the humble, sacrificial leadership of the husband…
Jesus is both God and man. As God he is Lord and Master and King. As the human Son, he is the husband of the church. This picture of Christ and the church is shown to be one of a unified body with Christ as the one who serves the church by giving her food. Jesus service is manifested through humble sacrifice to give himself for the church. The husband is to serve his wife in the same way, but scripture never once calls the husband the leader of the wife. Neither does the scriptures say that the husband is to have a sacrificial “leadership”. What complementarians have done is added a word to the inspired scriptures. Without the addition to the text, the husband is pictured as serving his wife and giving himself up for her. The husband is never pictured as being a leader but is pictured as being a servant.
and the joyful, intelligent submission to that leadership by the wife.
When our tradition adds “leadership” to sacrifice, we have in effect watered down and devalued God’s word in accordance with our tradition. We have also watered down the scriptures which say that Christians are to submit to one another. Submission is a “Christian” characteristic, not a feminine characteristic. The tradition that only the woman is to submit to the man takes away a key part of Christian maturity. We submit to one another, not only for the other person’s edification, but so that we may receive from that one the benefit of the other person’s gifts.
Romans 15:2 Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.
Should a husband submit to his wife’s gifts? Should a husband please his wife for her good and for her edification? Common sense says that we are heirs together in Christ (1 Peter 3:7) and as heirs together we can benefit from each other’s gifts. We cannot benefit from these gifts unless we submit to receive the gifts. Submission then is a Christian virtue, not a female virtue alone.
Deviation from biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood distorts the picture of Christ and the Church, and hinders the advance of the gospel.
Not only is there no biblical teaching on “manhood” and “womanhood”, but there is nothing in scripture that says that the gospel is hindered by the church who has women taking their place alongside the men or by the home that has a united authority of Father and Mother. What this teaching does is attach the gender issue to the essential issue of the Gospel and this is wrong.
Why is this issue so important? Because the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be severed from the methods he has authorized to spread it. Homes and churches in which manhood and womanhood are prized advance the Gospel and the glory of God more accurately than any other kind of home or church.
Here is where the complementarian message has added itself into the gospel. Randy Stinson is essentially saying that the gospel preached by complementarians is “more accurate” than the gospel preached by egalitarians. In essence the complementarian view of “men only” leading in public teaching is part and parcel of the gospel message. One then cannot preach the full gospel that is necessary to save us unless one is also preaching concerning male-only leadership. No wonder so many complementarians are seeing egalitarians as heretics and as unsaved religious people who they must fight against. This is divisive and harmful to the body of Christ. In the last several years, the position of CBMW, of which Randy Stinson is president, has been increasingly antangonistic towards their egalitarian brothers and sisters in Christ. The position has been preached that egalitarians can be saved, but they must repent of being egalitarians.
In the past there have been groups who have attached their own personal preferences to the gospel. Some claimed that one could not be saved unless one spoke in tongues. Now we have a group who are claiming that belief in male leadership is necessary as part of the gospel. This is an ungodly addition to the gospel. CBMW is guilty of dividing sheep against sheep by adding conditions to the gospel of Jesus Christ. May there be repentance from this divisive work before it further harms the body of Christ.