Hello reader, and welcome! This will be the first post in a series diving deep into the ideas of Christian egalitarianism. In this post I want to discuss the phrase Christian egalitarianism—what it means, what it doesn’t mean, and how it relates to marriage. I hope the words will help you on your journey in life, and ultimately encourage critical thinking and loving behavior. Please email us, or comment on our Facebook page with any questions you have and we will do our best to answer.
Wikipedia defines “Christian egalitarianism” as a form of egalitarianism that holds that all persons are created equally in God’s sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status. This means that everyone, regardless of gender, is given the opportunity to participate in all aspects of the Christian life. Here are a few examples of how this belief works in real life:
Both women and men have the opportunity to lead in any setting at home or in the church
Women and men can be pastors, priests, and church leaders
In marriage, both people can lead and follow in accordance with the gifts and skills given to them by God
In summary, Christian egalitarianism is a worldview within Christianity that stands for equality in matters of faith and life regardless of gender. Another name for this worldview is “Biblical Equality.” For more on this, see this article by CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality).
Egalitarianism is one of two predominant Christian worldviews on gender roles, with the other being complementarianism. Wikipedia describes complementarianism as follows: “a theological view that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere.” Here are a few brief examples of how complementarianism works in real life:
Men and women are assigned primary roles in the home and church: leadership roles are given to men and supportive roles are given to women
Women cannot become pastors or preach sermons
In marriage, men are not to abuse their authority and power (i.e. patriarchy), but rather be a servant leader, just as Jesus serves the church and gave his life for it. Women are to joyfully submit to their husband’s loving leadership.
Christi and I will continue exploring what these two worldviews mean and how they work within marriage in the coming weeks on our podcast.
Sometimes it is helpful to know what something is by defining what it isn’t. I will try to do that now. Christian egalitarianism is not:
The view that men and women are the same. This was a question that I had when I first heard of egalitarianism, and is also a common objection by complementarians. As I lived and experienced my marriage, and read other resources by egalitarian thinkers, I came to see that Christian egalitarians wholeheartedly affirm the vast differences between men and women. In fact, they usually go a step further by pointing out that within each gender, there are enormous differences. Women can naturally be assertive, strong, and extroverted, or they can naturally be introspective, caring, and easygoing. The same is true for men. Men and women are different in the egalitarian worldview.
Synonymous with feminism. This is also a common response by complementarians. It is (in my view) a reductionistic approach. Egalitarians are unfortunately guilty of reductionist approaches as well, a prime example being that they will label “complementarianism” as synonymous with patriarchy. This name calling, while easy to do, encourages misunderstanding and lacks nuance. I do not deny that there are feminists within Christian egalitarianism, however not all Christian egalitarians are feminists. Conversely, there are some complementarians who hold that patriarchy is correct, and some who do not.
So how does this all relate to marriage? Well, our view is that Christian egalitarianism simply makes our marriage better. Viewing ourselves as co-leaders, with equal responsibility to submit to one another has strengthened our relationship, improved communication, and leads us both to feel happier about our lives together. We will talk more about this in the coming weeks.
In my next post, I will take a closer look at the Bible and where complementarians and egalitarians find Biblical support for their views. Until then, thank you for reading, and if this topic has piqued your interest, be sure to check out the resources below or more information.
https://www.cbeinternational.org/ - Christians for Biblical Equality (Egalitarian)
https://cbmw.org/ - Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Complementarian)
(This is the introduction to a series of posts on complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. You can read the second post here.)
We'd love to hear from you!
Please send any questions, comments, or thoughts our way.