Hello reader, and welcome back! Today I will be discussing where Christian egalitarians and complementarians find Biblical support. We will not be able to cover all of the significant Bible passages in one post, so this will be part 1 with more to come. First, I will make the case that both egalitarians and complementarians use the Bible to support their viewpoint. Second, I will list the most common Biblical passages used in the debate. Finally, I will end with a question that is important to consider when considering theological matters.
One of the more popular complementarian bloggers, Tim Challies, says the following in this article:
"The primary reason I am not egalitarian is because I believe the position fails to withstand serious biblical scrutiny. Certainly it can prevail on a popular or emotional level, but I see no way for it to overcome on a biblical level."
I thought this exact way when I first started researching egalitarianism. I thought the Bible was clearly pro-complementarian, and that to believe egalitarianism you had to basically "throw out" the Bible. However, after reading articles by N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, and F.F. Bruce, I came to see that egalitarians do hold the Bible in high regard. They quote Scripture, use thoughtful argumentation, and I started to take them seriously. I heard them. And then I had to do the hard part: think critically about each position.
Here are the common Bible passages used by both views, and a brief summary of their interpretations:
Men and women are created equal in essence, dignity, and value, but distinct in role. Male headship is clear based on the following: God created men first, God told Adam first to not eat of the forbidden fruit, Eve is called Adam’s 'helper,' and Adam named Eve—indicating her inferiority in role to Adam. Eve sinned first, yet God first approaches Adam as the one ultimately responsible. The Fall produced in women a desire to usurp the authority of the man, and produced in man a tendency to let women lead.
Men and women are created equal in essence, dignity, value and role. Man is incomplete without the woman, and the word 'suitable' relating to Eve shows equality and adequacy. The term 'helper' is used in the Bible to describe God, indicating the opposite of inferiority. If naming indicates Eve's inferiority, then woman is reduced to the same class of being as an animal (contradicting Genesis 1:26-27). The effect of the Fall was inequality between men and women.
As you can see, both views rely on the Bible for evidence of their belief, and interpret the same text in different ways. How is a person to determine which is the better way to interpret the Bible? That is where critical thinking comes in, my dear reader. It is not enough to say "Tim Challies/Desiring God/my pastor thinks that the Bible says this, so that's what it says." You must make a choice within yourself to think for yourself. This is the concept of ownership.
I leave you with this question: "What is the cost of not owning my own interpretations of Scripture?"
(This is the second post of a series of posts on complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. You can read the introduction here.)
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