I’m back from Philadelphia, where I guest-lectured at Westminster Theological Seminary, sat on a panel about education, and made plans for BookExpoAmerica. And I forgot my camera. So a few details of all the above, entirely illustrated by stock photos…

I earned a Master of Divinity at Westminster in 1991 and I have very fond memories of my three years there (for one thing, I met my husband at Westminster; for another, I really LOVED Advanced Hebrew).

Here’s Machen Hall, the main administrative building:

I have a great affection for Westminster and a great respect for its (mostly male) faculty. I find it discouraging, though, that Westminster is still going in circles over the same issues that were troubling the (overwhelmingly male) faculty when I was there fifteen years ago. To wit, What Should Women Be Doing in the Church? (For those of you who are thinking, “Huh?”, an orthodox view of the New Testament has to take seriously certain passages in which Paul seems to be restricting some church jobs to men only.) My guest lecture was in an ecclesiology class, in which I tried to get the students to consider the ways in which their Americanized evangelical indoctrination in what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine” affects their understanding of the New Testament. Evangelicals generally are very resistant to the idea that their ideas about masculinity and feminity are in any way shaped by their culture; a certain division of gender roles has become, for many American evangelicals, the center of their orthodoxy. (Not the Apostles’ Creed, say, or the Nicene Creed, but, “Do we ordain women?”) Far too many evangelical groups identify themselves, not by their understanding of the resurrection, but by the restrictions they place on women.

There are tremendous fears that lie behind this attitude, which I have written and lectured on before and won’t take the time to lay out here. Sometimes discussions about “women in the church” are actually discussions about the reliability of the Bible, and sometimes discussions about the reliability of the Bible are actually discussions about men’s fears of women, and it’s exceedingly difficult to figure out WHICH conversation you’re having at any given time. However, I highly recommend a new and brilliant book by John Stackhouse (which I’m supposed to be reviewing for Books & Culture) in which he explains how to distinguish between New Testament principles which are intended to apply only in limited circumstances, and those which are intended for all times and places.

Here’s Stackhouse’s conclusion: “When society was patriarchal, as it was in the New Testament context and as it has been everywhere in the world except in modern society in our day, the church avoided scandal by going along with it–fundamentally evil as patriarchy was and is. Now, however, that modern society is at least officially egalitarian, the scandal is that the church is not going along with society, not rejoicing in the unprecedented freedom to let women and men serve according to gift and call….This scandal impedes both the evangelism of others and the edification–the retention and development of faith–of those already converted….William Webb points out something that is obvious to many in the pews but is too rarely remarked on in the literature: The continuation of patriarchy by churches in this society puts a religious stumbling block in the way of those already converted.”

(You go, John!) When my full essay-review is published, I’ll link to it. For now, check out Stackhouse’s book at Amazon (note reactionary ignorant customer review, an ongoing hazard for all thoughtful writers):
Finally Feminist.

Anyway, the day after the lecture I worked on my dissertation at the WTS library for most of the day, and then took part in a panel about education in which some of the panelists talked much more than others. But I got to stay with my friends Mel (windofhebel.blogspot.com) and Justin greenfieldsbeyond.blogspot.com) Moore, so that trip was worth it.

Just before leaving, I got an email from my editor, inviting me to the Norton cocktail party at BookExpoAmerica, the big ol’ publishing conference in May that everyone who’s anyone goes to (Peace Hill Press is planning on having a booth–more on this later). So naturally I accepted (although, alas, publishers usually highlight their fall titles at BEA rather than the spring books, so my upcoming book won’t get a lot of publicity at the conference itself). Now for one of those really serious questions: What do I wear?

I betcha Westminster professors ask themselves the exact same thing.

Showing 49 comments
  • Plato's Stepchild


    I think Dr Pia Francesca de Solenni — winner of the Pontifical Gold Medal for her doctoral dissertation is someone whose views you would be interested. She works in Washington, DC at the Family Research Council. A remarkably approachable scholar.

    “The Holy Father’s Address of November 8, 2001, to the sixth public session of the Pontifical Academies of Theology and of St. Thomas Aquinas. Dr. Pia Francesca de Solenni won the Prize of the Academies. In her thesis she did an analysis of feminist theories of the person in the light of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. The Holy Father gave her a check for 30,000 dollars.”

  • Kathy in PA

    I attended the panel discussion. I think it was wonderful of the four panelists to give their time for such a unique event. I wish more churches would sponsor this type of forum. It was a great way to bring people out of their little bunkers (like me) and listen to different points of view.

    The discussion was intended to focus on the role of Christians in education. The panelists were The CEO of the Philadelphia school distrist, the Headmaster of a suburban Christian school, the Provost of a Christian university, and Susan. The CEO ate up a lot of time, and sounded like he was on a campaign to promote the accomplishments of his school district. He seemed like a nice man, though, very passionate about his job. The Headmaster also seemed very nice, but his comments were not all that insightful. The Provost lamented the lack of intellectual curiosity that plagues incoming freshman, and Susan talked about the difficulty that some Christian students (including those who were homeschooled) have in expressing/defending a coherent worldview, suggesting that churches could play a role helping families in this area. I thought these were the most interesting and engaging lines of discussion.

    This would have been very beneficial for Christian parents and teachers, and I’m surprised the place wasn’t packed. The few friends I asked to go were not interested, probably because it didn’t seem directly related to/specifically affirming of homeschooling. Anyway, I found it challenging and enlightening. Thank you, Susan!

  • PariSarah


    I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Stackhouse’s approach, but it’s not any worse than Duke’s approach, which is either (depending on the faculty member) to ignore those certain passages, or to label them interpolations (even absent any textual variant to justify the label).

    It sounds like your approach might be pretty interesting–I’ve always wanted to point out, both to ardent feminists and ardent “traditionalists,” every passage in the NT that instructs men to be submissive, gentle, and peaceable.

  • Karen


    Thank you for this article. I will be linking to it from our college girl site.

    I am alarmed at the results of patriarchy within the homeschooling community. Having just returned from a convention and seeing the number of speakers and books dedicated to encouraging young women to not even seek an education beyond high school, it iw refreshng to hear a sane voice within the homeschooling world.

  • Laura in PA

    ByFaith magazine had a thought-provoking article on women theologians… specifically in the PCA. If you are interested, you can find the article at:


    It was refreshing to see the church finally address this issue in a more head-on, congregation-involving approach. Now we’ll see where we go from here.

  • Anne in TN

    What a great thought provoking post. I’ll have to read that book. Although my denomination doesn’t struggle with women in ministry, I am surrounded by friends who have that struggle, and besides, It’s just plain interesting. Thanks so much.

  • Michelle in MO

    You made some excellent points in your post. It has always bothered me that when legalism enters a church, it seems to affect women (i.e., dress, hair, pursuit of a career/college, etc.) more than men. This to me is completely unbiblical. Thank you for your insights.

  • FlockOfSillies

    I guess where I would disagree with Stackhouse is that when Paul says women should not teach or have authority over men in 1 Timothy 2, he doesn’t argue from a cultural standpoint — he goes back to Creation and the Fall. Hopefully he addresses that in his book.

    Anyway, the cover looks fabulous. It looks like the kind of design that can be easily adapted for the whole series for a consistent look. I can hardly wait to get my own copy.

  • Elizabeth in TN

    This is an interesting discussion. I wonder what the basis is for the Stackhouse’s conclusion that patriarchy was and is fundamentally evil. I guess I will have to read the book. I also wonder what results of patriarchy within the homeschooling community have caused alarm.

  • Rahab

    I hate the term “feminism” and its various forms, though I do admit to cringing at a vast many homeschooling conferences. So many little girls being trained in home economics with no hope of education, coupled with the recent thematics of “do you really need to go to colleg?” I fear a generaton of Christian young ladies will be severely short-changed. I certainly enjoy my high calling of motherhood, but I certainly relish in my post-high educational experiences as well.

    My chief concern, in church matters, is how a married woman reconciles submission to her husband with leading in a church setting. When she is placed, by virtue of position, over him within a church does it skew her mandate to submit?

    Time to read more of Romulus and Remus courtesy of “that Mrs. Bauer” (that would be my 5 year old speaking…..)

  • Brian Andrews


    You bring up a good point about reconciling a wife’s submission to her husband with a wife being in authority over her husband in a church setting. I know a woman who is serving as a senior pastor and i asked her how she reconciles that with the command to submit to her husband. I didn’t really get a good answer from her. Another woman I talked to said basically, “Well, if I were a senior pastor, my husband would be the head at home, but I would be the head at church.” I asked her half-jokingly, “So who would be the head as you’re *driving* to church?”

  • pduggie

    Hey Susan, long time no see. Enjoyed your homeschool books.

    Reformation21mentioned you recently, directing folks to this post.

    Are you actually arguing that the Bible allows for women to fulfil every liturgical function (preside at Eucharist, preach an authoritative sermon during worship)? Just checking since your blog entry lacks specificity on those issues, though I see how it could be read that way.

    Paul Duggan from Philadelphia (& Upenn)

  • Meredith

    Dear Susan,

    I am an alumna of WTS also and sat in one of the ecclesiology classes where you lectured once on the same themes. You were the best speaker we had all semester, both in terms of content and delivery. And orthodoxy, I might add, for all the witch-hunters out there reading this.

    I, too, am discouraged that the conservative Reformed world is still going in circles on this subject. Where else have you written on this and how can I read it?

    Please do hang onto your excellent sense of humor — you are going to need it, I think. The trolls are definitely coming after you.


  • Susan


    I haven’t written much on the subject until now because I was still sorting through my own thoughts and reading, reading, reading what other orthodox thinkers have written. I knew that once I opened my mouth on the subject I would immediately be accused of no longer believing in inspiration, which is as far from the truth as possible. (But has already happened.) Pete Enns’s excellent book has given me a valuable framework to use in dialogue about the issue (assuming that dialogue will be possible). And now that I’ve got teenage kids, a healthy sixteen-year-old marriage, an established writing career, and a faithful believing community, I think I’m finally ready to face the fray. So stay tuned. 🙂 SWB

  • Doug


    I appreciate your writing over the years to help equip homeschool parents to teach the classics.

    As a church leader, husband, and father, I do have grave concerns with your statements on this issue. You have occupied an extreme position to confront another extreme position.

    I am a firm believer in male headship. I hold my wife in highest regard. I respect her, cherish her, serve her, and protect her. Her career (homeschool and housewife) is much more demanding than my own in many regards.

    My wife is college educated. I pray that both my son and daughter will earn college degrees. I pray that my son will one day marry and learn to lead and shepherd his family. I just as fervently pray that my daughter will marry and joyously give herself to the work of rearing another generation of God-fearing, God-honoring Christians as she has children of her own. I desire not that her ambitions will be repressed by this murky, evil patriarchy to which you allude, but that she will come to believe and accept the clear teaching of the Bible on this matter, and find satisfaction and fulfillment in the order that God has ordained for His people.

    I know better than to believe that completing a college education is the right thing for everyone, male or female. I desire that for my children, as I know they have the tools to achieve it. I pray we succeed in instilling in them the self-discipline required to excel. I firmly disagree with those who teach their daughters that they should not pursue education.

    I soundly reject the notion that the church must – or should – subject itself to the whim of the culture in which it finds itself. To assert that the New Testament church was moved to adopt doctrines of male headship in order to be acceptable to the culture is lunacy, and betrays your position on divine authorship of Scripture. Everything about the church was counter to the culture. The believing church is still counter to the culture.

    To choose to exalt God over self is unnatural.
    To choose to serve others rather than to seek pleasure for self is unnatural.
    To choose to lay up treasure in heaven rather than fill your barns here is unnatural.
    To choose – as a man – to selflessly give your life in service to your wife and family is unnatural.
    To choose – as a woman – to selflessly give your life in service to your husband and family is unnatural.
    To choose – as a husband – to make yourself accountable to the impossible standard that is servant leadership in the home is unnatural.
    To choose – as a wife – to submit yourself to the servant leadership of your husband is unnatural.

    To seek after what is natural – and the culture is all about doing what is natural – is the antithesis of seeking after God.

    To do what is unnatural and so exalt God is the essence of the Christian life! Read the sermon on the mount in light of the times in which Christ lived and ask yourself if Christ was about conforming His church to the culture?


  • tuvwxyz123456

    Ms. Bauer insists that the Reformed community is “still going in circles over the same issues” regarding gender roles. It is apparent, however, that she herself will not consider this discussion closed until all share her egalitarian perspective. Does this not make her a part of the problem?
    Rhetoric and repetition do not make an opinion true (nor, admittedly, does tradition). “New” ways of interpreting the relevant texts will be offered, those who’d prefer a change in application will continue to press their opinion, and those who feel compelled to defend the church against these will take their stand. Thus, Christians will find it necessary to round this circle again and again.
    It is entirely unhelpful for Ms. Bauer to demonize her “opponent.” Complementarians do not fear women. I have a wife with far greater talent than I, and two daughters whose futures and education are of great concern to me, and I take every step within the will of Christ to encourage both. But, with Paul grounding his complementarian instruction in the created order (1 Timothy 2:13-14) and making male leadership a universal norm (1 Corinthians 14:33), it is imperative that all three of my ladies–for their own well being and that of their families and churches–exercise their brilliance within the parameters established by God.
    I am not a complementarian out of fear or a lack of information. Rather, I find the view compelling, while the egalitarian view seems always to stand upon tenuous constructs and strained exegesis. If it was simply a matter of fairness I’d say, “Let everyone teach! Let everyone lead!” But God is preserving something far greater and that is his created order. As an exegete, I believe that complementarianism is the only view that truly embraces the innerancy and authority of Scripture. While some egalitarians find this premise objectionable (including Ms. Bauer), the majority of egalitarians would concur with my assessment–they have no such commitments. Evangelical egalitarians, however, find themselves in the unenviable position of needing to defend two seemingly incongruous viewpoints.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Hi Susan,

    I made a comment on your current post which correctly belongs here. I was at a forum where Stackhouse spoke along with Maxine Hancock and Jeremy Bell. I have written about it here.


    Ordination is a side issue in my opinion. The main problem is that men are talking about women as sexualized beings, intead of sisters. That is the only appropriate way for a Christian man to talk about women other than his own wife. All else is sexual harassment.

    I have recently been researching the participation of women in missions in Canada in the 1890’s. It was reassuring to see that brothers and sisters together studied medicine to go as medical missionaries, and the women ran their own hospitals just like the men. One of these women was married to a minister, but it was evident that he in most ways supported her demanding ministry. Sometimes the men were the doctors.

    There was little sense of a gendered response to God’s call to serve. There was little difference in hierarchy. This was considered the ultimate in evangelistic mission at that time as the gospel was also preached by these women.

    It was described in the 1925 mission history that I am reading as the “Apostolate of Women”. It is very sad to see things are so retrograde now.

  • Rebecca


    I have always enjoyed your writing and respected your clear communication skills. This issue of women’s roles is one with which I have struggled for years, but in the end it always seems to distill down to the issue of the inspiration of the Bible.

    Could you please write specifically about how you reconcile your views on women’s roles with the inspiration of the Bible? Those passages are just so darned clear, I don’t see any way to get around them if you believe that the words are the very words of God. There are some things about egalitarianism that are very attractive to me, but I always hit this brick wall in being able to accept it and still believe in the total inspiration of the Word. All the agruments I’ve heard have to say something like, “That was then, this is now…” or, “Paul was influenced by his patriarchal culture…” Also, isn’t it true that this type of reasoning opens the door to just about any interpretation we want in every other area, such as homosexuality?

    Anyway, I’d really love to see you lay out clearly how you reason this out from the scriptures, and what you believe about the inspiration of the Word.


  • Can Dance

    Really enjoyed your post. I am interested in classical education as well, though just beginning to explore it.

    As for patriarchy being “so clear”, I would have to strongly disagree with pp’s who have stated this. To me its quite clear that patriarchy is a result of sin (Gen. 3:16) and not what God intended. To me, it makes more sense that God would call Christians to something radically different from what the world practices. which is patriarchy. There is absolutely no need to toss out any verses that we don’t “like” to come to this position either. a common accusation, but an inaccurate one. Women are people and to say patriarchy is good says otherwise.

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    Thanks Can Dance.

    I had read Aristotle’s Politics very carefully and then the Sepulveda and Las Casas debates, before realizing the tragic effects on history that come from a belief in intrinsic hierarchy.

    Here is an excerpt.

    “On the one hand, Sepúlveda reasoned, the Indians were a barbarian race whose natural, inferior condition entitled the Spaniards to wage war on them. To bolster his point, the humanist scholar cited Aristotle’s theory of natural slavery. In the third century B.C.E., the philosopher Aristotle had differentiated between human groups among whom reason dominated over passions, namely the civilized, and the barbarians, among whom passions prevailed over reason. For Aristotle, the latter were naturally subservient to the former.”


    We can also find much of what complementarians say about women written in Aristotle, that women have a certain ability to reason, but are ‘without authority’, that ‘silence is their grace’. I wonder if complementarians realize how steeped in Aristotle they are.

  • Ross Morrison

    Dear Susan,

    We have enjoyed your ‘History of the World’ series very much. In fact, my son, who is 8 years old has already gone through it about 3 times. He loved having us read the stories to him before bed or any other opportunity during the day.

    I was saddened and disappointed in your remarks about male and female roles in the church and society. To be sure, all of us are influenced by culture to one degree or another but on this issue I wonder who is being influenced more by the culture. Mary Kassian in her book ‘The Feminist Mistake’ reveals how influential feminism has been in our thinking and outlines the detrimental impact upon society.

    Most of the discussion around this issue begins with men and women rather than God and that is very revealing especially in our humanistic culture. We must begin this discussion focused on the glory and majesty of our Triune God. It is clear that the three persons of the Godhead are fully God and equal as persons within the Trinity. However, it is also abundantly clear that Father, Son, and Spirit have different roles within the Godhead.

    It was the Father who sent the Son and not vice versa. It was the Son who submitted to the Father and not the Father who submitted to the Son. It was the Son who died on the cross not the Father. It was the Father and Son who sent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In fact, we realize that there will continue to be a distinction in roles even after the consummation of all things. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15:28, “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything uder him, so that God may be all in all”. Are we to suggest that this distinction in roles is unhealthy within the Godhead? Are we to suggest that somehow the Son is in bondage to the Father?

    Our understanding of human relationships within the family, church, and society must be grounded in the Trinity as is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. We cannot rightly understand our worth before God nor our roles without meditating upon the glory of the Trinity.

    In regards to what John Stackhouse has written in regards to distinguishing between principles which are intended to apply only in limited circumstances, and those which are intended for all times and places, it is very clear that male and female worth and roles are Creation principles before the Fall. God’s pattern transcends time and place and circumstances. If you can explain away distinctions in male/female roles, I think that you can explain away marriage as revealed in Scripture and in fact, I think that you can explain away much of what the Bible teaches.

    I pray that you might reconsider your position in light of the glory of God as revealed in the Trinity.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Ross Morrison

  • Donna L. Carlaw

    Suzanne McCarthy, a couple of replies above this one, makes this astounding accusation.:

    “We can also find much of what complementarians say about women written in Aristotle, that women have a certain ability to reason, but are ‘without authority’, that ’silence is their grace’. I wonder if complementarians realize how steeped in Aristotle they are. ”

    It seems to me that Suzanne, and all who believe that the Bible supports egalitarian thinking, would benefit from a careful read of The Communist Manifesto. In that document, Marx and Engels make this statement.:


    “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. ”

    …and this:

    “The bourgeois claptrap about the family and education, about the hallowed correlation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labor.

    But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the bourgeoisie in chorus.

    The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.

    He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.

    For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce free love; it has existed almost from time immemorial.

    Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives. (Ah, those were the days!)

    Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalized system of free love. For the rest, it is self-evident that the abolition of the present system of production must bring with it the abolition of free love springing from that system, i.e., of prostitution both public and private. ”

    If you wish to truly understand the present-day feminist movement, including Christian egalitarian feminism, then a careful reading of Marx and Engels would be of greater benefit to you than a reading of ancient Greek philosophers.

    Besides, just because Aristotle made some statements about women does not mean that the Apostle Paul was influenced by his thinking when he wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.:

    1 Corinthians 11
    8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

    I hope that these words of Paul, speaking the very words of God, will be seriously considered, and joyfully embraced.

    God bless,
    Donna L. Carlaw

  • Psalmist in Texas

    Wow, Donna…equating feminism with communism, and prooftexting–and with a translation that says something very clearly different from the Greek, at that! (There is no “sign of” in the Greek. Just not there. A woman, according to Paul, ought to have authority on/over her (own) head.) Your arguments against biblical equality are uncompelling, to say the least.

    I think that both complementarians and egalitarians would do best of all to recognize the worldly world views that inform their hermenutics, then subject their own preferences to what the whole of Scripture actually says. The only way people can make Scripture out to commend patriarchy is through prooftext. Patriarchy, while described (because that is how people structured their societies) in Scripture, is never prescribed by God. The subjecting of self in favor of others is consistently raised as the counter-cultural Scriptural command for us Christians, male and female alike. There’s simply no getting around that. I commend Susan Bauer for recognizing the church’s practices for what they are: a continuation of a cultural tradition not mandated by Scripture.

    By the way, the passage you lifted out of context concerns the need for women to conform to the culture’s standards of modesty and decorum when praying and prophesying within the Corinthian assemblies. I agree that we would all do well to apply this passage–the whole of it–with sound discernment and a desire above all to obey the God who inspired it.

  • Young Christian Woman

    Clearly we are not going to get anywhere by trying to interpret scripture if one side is convinced that their opponents are not valuing it while the other is sure the opponents are “prooftexting.”

    Let us then look at the fruits of these practices. A good thing will be shown by its fruit.

    The fruits of Biblical patriarchy are that men respect the chastity of women, women respect their husbands, children respect their parents, parents put their spouse’s and children’s needs before their own, and all are oriented towards creating a legacy of honoring God.

    In egalitarianism, the focus is on the woman becoming like man. Therefore, she must have a career. To have a career (and to be like a man) she must not have children. Or she must just have a few and then find someplace to put them so she can continue in that career. She does not need her husband, so she does not appreciate or respect him. The fruits of egalitarianism are birth control, abortion, divorce, a lack of respect, a lack of chastity, children who are sent to ungodly schools, and changes in wages that force many families to procure two incomes in order to survive.

    I have a college education and I’ve had jobs and those things made me miserable. I was on birth control to “save money” but I would give up my beautiful house in the country in a heartbeat to have a child. Being a mom is what I wanted since I was five, and my Godly husband works to support me so that I can live out my dream as God intended–raising my own children in His image.

  • Susan

    Generally I’ve enjoyed simply watching this discussion unfold, but I can’t let this comment go without responding, as this kind of argument gets us nowhere. My existence disproves the previous poster’s statement (as the existence of sincere, Christian men and women who believe in “Biblical patriarchy” would disprove any sweeping statement I might make about the “fruits” of such a position).

    I have gradually moved towards egalitarianism (while still affirming the inerrancy of Scripure–more on this in a couple of weeks). I have four children, who are home schooled and who are with their parents for most of their waking hours. I am married to a minister; I respect him and appreciate him, and he has consistently affirmed me in my writing work, in my parenting, and in my teaching. I live peacefully in the county where I grew up; I have a close relationship with my parents, who live near me. I serve in my local church (not in an ordained teaching ministry, because that’s not what I’m called to, but in worship and other areas). I am part of a faithful believing community which works to center itself around Christ, not around the demands of our jobs.

    These are not “fruits of egalitarianism,” or “fruits of patriarchy” either; they are the fruits of a wholehearted desire to love and serve God.

  • Donna L. Carlaw

    Susan, you make a comment that, to me, sounds a bit conflicted. You say, “I have gradually moved towards egalitarianism (while still affirming the inerrancy of Scripure–more on this in a couple of weeks).”

    Why, if Scripture so strongly and firmly supports egalitarianism, do you have to add the caveat “while still affirming…”?

    I have to admit that I was tempted to fall for egalitarianism, but could not find biblical support for it. Personally, fully embracing God’s good and perfect design – in spite of how human beings have messed that up by their sinfulness and rebellion – to be one of the most peaceful experiences in my own Christian walk.

    So, what is your inner conflict about? If you are so satisfied, why did you say “still” in reference to accepting the inerrancy of Scripture? Do you secretly believe that God could have made an error?

    Has God said…? …or not?

  • Susan


    The “still” doesn’t suggest inner conflict. It is a reaction to outside pressures–which is to say, the number of people who assume (wrongly, IMO) that to be egalitarian inevitably involves relinquishing a high view of Scripture.

    I said above “more on this in a couple of weeks” because I’m working on an essay about this issue for Books & Culture, and don’t want to pre-empt it by posting the exact same thing here. When I’m done the essay, however, I do intend to post here all of the thoughts that wouldn’t fit into it. 🙂 In the meantime, John Stackhouse (again IMO) does a good job of showing how a high view of Scripture and egalitarianism are completely compatible. He is not the only biblically orthodox Christian writer to have done so, just the most recent.

    Yes, of course God has said.


  • Susan


    The reason I don’t tend to respond to posts on this topic individually is because whenever I do I end up posting again and again, as others respond. I’ll probably save further remarks for the more extensive blog entry I’m planning. Now I have to go kiss the five-year-old good night, chase the other children off to bed, and finish Chapter Four of my dissertation instead of spending the rest of the evening here.

    SWB redux

  • John Stackhouse

    Just a quick note to say that I wrote FINALLY FEMINIST partly for one important reason: that I was nauseated by how so many proponents on various sides of this issue damned the other side as stupid and evil as if it is so “plain” and “obvious” what the “right” answer is. And I see some of the same smugness in letters on this blog, alas.

    So my approach in this little book is actually to listen to both egalitarian and complementarian scholars and fellow believers–among both of which parties I count some of closest friends, relatives, and colleagues–and to try to figure out how such intelligent and godly people could read the same Bible and come to such different conclusions. If THAT kind of study interests you, then please take a look at my book. (And I’m glad to say that complementarians have written to me to affirm that, while they disagree with my conclusions, they appreciate the fact that they are not caricatured and that I have, in fact, taken their arguments seriously.)

    If, instead, you are seeking more ammunition for your righteous battle, well, I’m not saying my book doesn’t provide it, but that’s certainly not its purpose.

    Thanks to Susan (whom I have yet to meet) for her kind words about my book. I do hope it will be helpful to some of you, her faithful blog friends!


  • Donna L. Carlaw

    Susan, I will look forward to your comments. No, I don’t expect personal responses to every comment posted on your blog. You would have to quit your day job in order to do that.

    I feel quite special, actually. 🙂

  • Psalmist in Texas

    This paragraph is false:

    “In egalitarianism, the focus is on the woman becoming like man. Therefore, she must have a career. To have a career (and to be like a man) she must not have children. Or she must just have a few and then find someplace to put them so she can continue in that career. She does not need her husband, so she does not appreciate or respect him. The fruits of egalitarianism are birth control, abortion, divorce, a lack of respect, a lack of chastity, children who are sent to ungodly schools, and changes in wages that force many families to procure two incomes in order to survive.”

    It is caricatures like this that make it so difficult to take people who say such things seriously. If you can so completely mischaracterize what equality means, you can know nothing about it. I hope this is honest error, YCW, or that you’re simply repeating what someone else has taught you. But know this: equality, particularly the biblical equality that so many Christians believe it because Scripture clearly teaches it, bears no resemblance to your paragraph here.

    For the record, biblical egalitarian husbands respect their wives, just as biblical egalitarian wives respect their husbands. They also love and submit themselves to each other. That, in a nutshell, describes how biblical equality is practiced within marriage. It’s simply how Scripture teaches us that Christians should relate to one another.

    Please don’t make the common mistake of assuming that the worst of the world’s behaviors are because the world embraces some form of secular equality. I don’t think Christian patriarchalists like it much when people assume that there is no difference between them and the worst of secular patriarchal practices. Why do the same thing when speaking of equality with Christian egalitarians?

  • SingingOwl

    Thanks for that post, Psalmist. I am solidly egaliarian, and I agree with not one statement of what eglas supposedly believe.

    I do not want to be like a man. I want to be a person of God, conformed to the image of Christ Jesus, and I want to serve in whatever way God gifts me to do.

    I have children, and I was a SAHM when they were young. I love, honor and respect my husband. It is not hard to do, but I also affirm that the Bible instructs women to respect their husbands. Need my husband? We need each other. Of course I need him. I believe in purity, I am solidly pro-life, and the word divorce just doesn’t get spoken in my home.

    Donna, your broad caracature is, frankly, actually quite offensive. Not to mention completely false, as Psalmist has pointed out. These kinds of statements are what keep us, brothers and sisters in the faith, from being able to intelligently discuss the issues. RESPECT…it’s a key!

  • Donna L. Carlaw

    Suzanne accused complemntarians of basing most of what we think about the “gender issue” on pagan philosophy.

    I countered with the fact that the modern feminist movement – including Christian feminism – is heavily influenced by Marx and Engels. That is really, really easy to substantiate.

    Really, though, what was Paul influenced by, except by the Holy Spirit? I’ll set aside my Aristotle if you will set aside your Lenin and Mao.

    What did Paul mean when he said that woman was created for man? That is a statement taken from biblical understanding.

    I don’t see the egalitarians dealing well with that particular aspect of Paul’s teaching.

    Do you?

    Your response, Psalmist and Owl, are pretty typical egalitarian reactions, though, and logically flawed.

  • Psalmist in Texas

    Singing Owl, I think Young Christian Woman, who posted that false caricature, is someone different than Donna L. Carlaw, who has claimed that modern feminism (and who now also includes Christian feminism) is heavily influenced by communist writers. I suppose that equating feminism and communism could also be considered caricature, but I’m not sure that’s what Donna was after.

    I have no Marx and Lenin to set aside, Donna. You’re the one who’s reading them into this discussion. I’m not ready at this point to say, as Suzanne McCarthy did above, that [so-called] complementarians are steeped in Aristotle. I do continue to stand by my claim that patriarchy is a worldly practice that can be supported scripturally only through proof-texting. This is self-evident from patriarchalists’ own writings.

    Of course woman was created for man, Donna. Contextually, it is clear that they were created for each other and, together, for the purpose of glorifying God and partnering together to do God’s will. Christian egalitarians deal far better with what that means than patriarchalists ever have, since we have solid, contextual support for our views in Scripture itself. If you were familiar with Christian egalitarian writings, you’d be aware of that. We’re not superimposing onto Scripture all kinds of cultural baggage as the patriarchalists must in order to baptize their preferred worldly practice as “Christian.”

    Whatever you mean by my “reaction” being “typical,” what I’ve posted here is soundly logical. Far more logical, in fact, than crying “red” about one’s philosophical opponents rather than engaging in actual debate or discussion with them. Ad hominem, such as you have engaged in, generally marks a weak or untenable position.

  • Lori Buckle

    I studied Marx in college, and to say Christian feminism comes from communism is completely and utterly false. Could somebody please supply some quotes from his writings to support that view?

    I also studied Aristotle and Susan is correct. Most of today’s comp./patriarchal teaching comes directly from that pagan philosopher, whether you want to admit it or not.

    And if we want to study Paul’s writings, then let’s study
    I Timothy 2.

    2:9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,

    To what is the word “likewise” referring to? To what verse or idea is it linking?

    And as for those “clear and obvious” verses, let’s examine them, too.

    2:11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.

    2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

    2:13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.

    2:14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

    2:15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

    Women…woman…women. Why does Paul suddenly change from the female plural in vs. 9 to the singular in vs. 11-12 and back to the plural in vs. 15? What doesn’t Paul remain consistent with his pronouns throughout this section?

    And let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:2.

    “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. ”

    The word “men” is actually the Greek word “anthropos,” which means “mankind.” In other words, it is gender neutral and means people in general, not men only.

    Or Romans 16.

    16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant [“diakonos” which is translated “deacon” everywhere else it’s used in the NT] of the church which is at Cenchrea;

    16:3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers [“sunergos”= used elsewhere to describe male co-workers by Paul] in Christ Jesus,

    16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.

    Or I Cor 11:5

    “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head–it is the same as having her head shaved.”

    You can certainly pray in private but it wouldn’t make much sense to prophecy in private. Since Paul is addressing the Corinthian church, he’s assuming that women will be prophecying in it.

    And by the way, Psalmist was right when it comes to 5:10. In the original Greek, the phrase “symbol of” [authority] is not present.

    Or I Cor 14:1, 26

    “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy…What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

    Again, Paul does not distinguish between men and women so he must be assuming that women should be using their spiritual gifts in the church, too.

    As one scholar put it, if in light of all this Paul suddenly turns around and forbids women from speaking in church, then he’s not only a confused writer but an uninspired one.

    And for the record, I have absolutely no desire to be a man, nor in an ideal world would I want to work. I would be quite content if my husband made enough money to support both of us without my working. If you’d like to know some more of my feminine credentials, here they are: pink is my favorite color, I love teddy bears and lace and Victorian things, and I enjoy wearing dresses. In addition, most of the egal. couples I know have children. So let’s stop throwing around stereotypes shall we, and engage in some real dialogue?

  • Lori Buckle

    In regards to the doctrine of the eternal subordination of Jesus, that doctrine has been rejected by the Church for most of its history. The early church fathers, especially Augustine and Athanasius (considered two of the greatest theologians in Christianity), explicitly rejected it. The Councils of Nicea and Constantinople condemned the idea as heretical. The doctrine that Jesus was and is co-equal with the Father for eternity has been accepted as the orthodox view for 2,000 years. Any attempt to justify the doctrine of eternal subordination today is ignoring church history.

    If you choose to believe it, then you have to ask yourself this question: to subordinate Himself in human form while He was on earth is one thing, but what exactly does Jesus being subordinated to the Father look like now? Is Jesus asking to do something, and is the Father saying no? What wishes and desires is Jesus laying aside for the Father?

    When it comes to the subordination of women for eternity, remember what Jesus told the Sadducees, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matt 22:29-30)

    So if there is no marriage in Heaven, then why do women need to be subordinated? Or are you saying that women are subordinate to all men, therefore it won’t matter in Heaven? And if you are saying that women are subordinate to all men, then doesn’t that suggest some sort of permanent underclass? How can the doctrine of women being created equally in the image of God along with men be reconciled with the belief that all women are permanently subordinated to men, simply because they are born women?

  • Suzanne McCarthy

    I have not been following but this is very interesting.


    I would say that some of what is found in Marxism is also found in Plato. So the ancients have their little uses once in a while.

    Don’t blame it all on Marx. Think of Hilda who in the 7th century was the leader of a combined convent of men and women. Many monks who had been subject to her became bishops. And Paula and Olympia. There are many women who gave up family life to live a communal Christian life.

    We are in an interesting time, where the male and female attributes seem oddly exagerated and set in contradistinction. Where is bravery and courage and fidelity and kindness, virtues of men and women alike.

    I too am a wife and mother, loving the domestic, and married 27 years. We are happier now than ever. We always consider first what is in the best interest of our family.

    In our case my having a teaching career was a mutual decision, best for all. Now that my children are older my husband and I share the family responsibilities without regard for other people’s opinions on this.

    However, I am certainly glad to see that complementarian women today are in no way less outspoken than egalitarian women. I was myself brought up in a rigid traditionalism.

    As for more feminine credentials, you must plunk on my link. I am thinking of putting up a picture of my dollshouse complete with knit bedspreads, sylvan critters with their homeknit outfits, tiny sheets, and pillows, shall I tell you more. The kitchen is complete down to the tiniest utensil.

    But I also like Greek and keyboards and code and things like that. It is too much to split myself in half. I must simply be.

  • Donna L. Carlaw

    This has gotten very weird, IMO.

    It’s simple. We mere mortals are influenced by all kinds of junk – good junk and bad junk.

    What was Paul influenced by when he said “woman was made for man, and not man for woman”?

    It’s simple. Who was made for whom?

    If we get that right, then the rest is pretty simple.

    If we get that wrong, we will fight God tooth and nail, and miss our place in His perfect design for humanity. There is a design. There is a place. What is all that about?

    It’s no skin off my nose, really, except that I don’t like comments made about me, assuming things that may or may not be true, and then MY NOT BEING ALLOWED TO RESPOND.

    I have been called really, really, really nasty names by egalitarians. They have engaged in character assination and slander of all kinds. It has caused me great grief. Yes, I’m kinda’ ticked off about it all, esp. since it has happened right here, on this very blog, too. I thought that maybe this place would be different, given the high level of scholarship and all.

    I have purchased the book in question. I will read it. So, far, even on this blog, all I have been entertained by is the same ol’, same ol’ egalitarian unfair tactics, including close monitoring, censorship, and viewpoint descrimination! I tell ya’…

    Wha’? Can’t win in a fair fight? Do the egals need a leg up, or something?

    Here’s another idea. Who can a woman blame if she decides to get an abortion, leave her husband and children, run off with another man, run off with another woman, etc.?

    Is it some man’s fault? That’s what I HATE so far about egalitarian feminism. It’s just another way to excuse women’s bad behaviour.

    Well, I am venting, now, but what have I got to loose?

    Just carry on with your “speak bitterness” conflab.

    Donna L. Carlaw

  • Susan

    As we’ve clearly reached the limits of civility on this thread, no more responses will be approved unless they begin a new line of discussion.

  • Suzanne McCarthy


    I can only apologize for how my comment came out. I’m sorry. I am not sure this will be posted and I can’t respond to your comment but I am sorry.

  • Donna L. Carlaw

    Suzanne! I can’t believe it.

    You are certainly forgiven. I didn’t mean mine to come across so strong, either. the point is that what is really important is what Paul said – and what the HS was seeking for us to understand through Paul’s words.

    We can be influenced by all kinds of things. The HS cannot be.

    I am usually the one groveling, begging forgiveness, when none is available for the likes of me…

  • Michelle

    Susan, et al,

    I am looking forward to reading your essay so that I can consider your position based on your own words and not the perspective of reviewers.
    This is a topic that our home church has continued to study, pray about and teach on. (Do not mistakenly think that it has consumed our church or that we are in stagnate debate. It is simply one of many topics that are affecting the culture and the church currently and our pastors are committed to accurately preaching and teaching the scriptures.)

    I am disappointed in the progression or should I say regression of this blog. One of the hallmarks of classical education is quality rhetoric and formal debate. In reference to the latter, the starting point for a debate must be the definition of terms. It is clear from reading this blog that there are many interpretations of the terms “egalitarian,” “complimentarian,” “feminist,” “traditionalist,” “submission,”
    “leadership,” etc. The lack of clarity in defining these terms has led to characterization and maligning of character rather than reasoned presentation of arguments.
    Once completed this comment turned out to be somewhat lengthy, but I hope that readers will consider what follows. The length is attributed to an attempt to present a well thought out response rather than a quick retort.

    I would like to submit for consideration, some passages which have not been presented.

    Genesis 2:18ff

    “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good fro the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable (corresponding to) for him.’

    So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he spelpt; then HE took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
    The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which HE had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
    The man said,
    “This is now bone of my bones,
    And flesh of my flesh;
    She (This one) shall be called Woman,
    Because she was taken out of Man.”
    For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; they shall become one flesh.”

    This passage is pre-fall. God is sovereign. In Genesis 1:26-28 the triune God- head affirms the design of creating a male and a female to reflect His image completely. He could have caused the creation to unfold in any manner He chose. Why did he choose this particular order? Why was woman made the helper to man and not man the helper to woman?

    1 Corinthians 11:8-9
    Paul is answering a number of issues that were open for debate in his time.

    “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.”

    Paul goes on to state a cultural expression of this principle in which it is not acceptable for a man to cover his head while praying and prophesying; but it is a disgrace for a woman to not cover her head in the same situation. He concludes this issue with the following statement,

    “For a man outght not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
    For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man;
    for indeed man was not created for a woman’s sake, but a woman for a man’s sake.
    Therefore the woman ought to have (a symbol of) authority on her head, because of the angels.”
    [I realize that this particular verse has been used in previous arguments in this blog. While the phrase “a symbol of authority” does not appear literally in the original language, the intent of the verse is the same. In fact the orignal language as expressed in the KJV is stronger. “For this cause a woman ought to have power on her head because of the angels.” The word “authority” in some translations is rendered “power” in the KJV. The meaning of this word in Greek is: mastery, magistrate, token of control, authority, jurisdiction, power, right, strength according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Paul is stating that a woman ought to show some type of visual symbol that she is under the authority of man.
    “However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent (without) of man, nor is man independent (without) woman.
    For as a woman originates (is) from the man, so also the man (has his birth) through the woman; and all things originate (are) from God.”
    Again Paul acknowleges that authority does not refer to worth or value or position before God.

    Paul goes on to say that the local church may judge for itself how to display/ express the priniciple of God’s design for man and woman. More importantly, Paul calls their attention to their motives for the discussion and expresses his diappointment at such division.

    God is sovereign. He could cause scripture to be written in any time period and culture He so chose. The principles of scripture transcend time and culture. Paul makes this argument to the Corinthians. Our motive for any given practice should be the glory of God.

    The question of a woman’s worth/value before God or a wife submitting to her husband does not seem to be the issue of the debate, but rather what role a woman has and what posistions of leadership she may have within the local church. It would seem to me that a careful study of the passages of scripture concerning this specific issue would yield more fruit than culling historical documents for support of a personal perspective. I would submit the following passages for consideration:

    Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-7

    The precedent of scripture is male leadership, both Old and New Testament. Again, God is sovereign. God refers to Himself in male terms; God sent his Son thus choosing male form for incarnation. The called leaders of the tribe of Israel are exclusively male – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc. etc. etc. (Should someone mention Debra, consider that she was a judge, not the called leader of the tribe and that the called leader abdicated his leadership to the detriment of Israel.) New Testament leaders- the apostles, Paul, Timothy, etc.
    For those that would raise the argument that scripture was written by men in a patriarchal society, I would ask them to consider the sovereignty if God in choosing this means for the recordation of His infallable Word.
    Such a precedent by no means diminishes the role or value that God gives women in His sovereign plan. God chose to use many woman to carry out His plan- Eve, Sarah, Debra, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Mary, Tabitha, Priscilla, etc. etc. etc. Yet, none of these women held a leadership position within the church. Each of them displayed God’s glory within the context of their role as women in their home, their church and their culture.
    In defining terms, the role of deacon (diaonos) is one of being an attendant, a servant and women are mentioned in that role in scripture. The office of deacon as a position of leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3:8-13) list as the requirement to be a man. In later church developments, the office of deacon has taken on various forms and responsibilities in each denomination.

    Scripture affirms the equality of men and women in value and standing before God and the necessity of both to dispay the image of God completely.
    Scripture affirms the complementary nature of the roles of men and women in the family, the church and the culture.
    When the terms are defined according to Scripture and Scripture is upheld as the standard, both men and women mutually exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

  • Donna L. Carlaw

    Scripture affirms the equality of men and women in value and standing before God and the necessity of both to dispay the image of God completely.>>>>

    I enjoyed your post. Thank you. Since you brought up the fact that we need to carefully define terms, may I ask you this? What do you mean by “equal”? I suggest that a complementarian would define that word differently from an egalitarian.

    This subject is pretty complex. Even the word “equal” is being used differently in each camp. That is one of the main bones of contention – that the Bible teaches we are equal, yet still have gender-based roles and limitations placed on women as a gender within the church and home, yet that is what the Bible clearly teaches.

    Then, do men and women display the image of God in the same ways? If so, why did Paul say that man was the glory of God, and woman the glory of man? If we were created male and female – contrary to those, even Evangelicals like Stackhouse, who say that Adam was not really male until the female was created – then how does masculinity demonstrate the image of God in man, and how does femininity demonstrate the image of God in man? Is it correct even to ask these question?

    They have been asked throughout church history, though, so I think it appropriate to ask them here.

    Picking up on the book that Susan suggested, I do think that the Finally Feminist book was very helpful in laying out the different positions, even though I don’t agree with the writer’s conclusions.

  • gorhendad

    Hi Donna,

    Just a few comments on this thread:

    In regards to the difference between how egalitarians and complementarians view equality:
    In my recent experience with complementarians, it is almost impossible to get a unified answer in regards to how they view men and women to be equal, if at all. I learned the hard way that the idea of male/female equality “in essence” is by no means shared by all complementarians. This has ranged from convoluted excuses like: “I can’t use the word ‘equality’ outside of mathematics”, to the outright statement that God’s plan is for male/female INequality.

    In terms of the degree to which men and women image God:
    This is highly speculative, isn’t it? And yet many complementarians put an inordinate amount of time into theorizing about the differences in quality and quantity. I am extremely worried about the soundness of some of the theories that have been put forward, especially the repeated claims by complementarians that men are “saviors” and “redeemers”, words that previously were used almost exclusively for Jesus in Christian circles.

    So on one hand, complementarians endlessly speculate and create questionable theories about the imaging of God in men and women. On the other hand, they refuse to agree on a definition for the term “equal” which was used by Paul to declare men and women to be equal in Christ.

  • Susan

    Yet another reminder, to those of you whose posts have not appeared on this blog. Posts which use accusatory and abusive language will not be cleared. They will disappear from the ether as though they had never been.

    Never cross the lady with the delete button.


  • Mandy

    Michelle says:
    [the verse should be/can be translated] ““For this cause a woman ought to have power on her head because of the angels.” The word “authority” in some translations is rendered “power” in the KJV. Paul is stating that a woman ought to show some type of visual symbol that she is under the authority of man.”

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand this. How about some reasoning by analogy, “Because I am stronger, I should lift the heavy things” = I should have a visual symbol that you should lift the heavy things??

    I think actually the argument is pretty simple and can be followed by identifying the discourse cues it contains:
    (1) For a man ought not to have his head covered,

    [since indicates explanation/justification] (1a)since he is the image and glory of God;

    [but indicates contrast with 1a] (1b)but the woman is the glory of man.

    [for indicates a sort of cause/effect or explanation relationship, so this explains why man is the glory of God and the woman of the man] (2)For man does not originate from woman,
    [but/contrast] (2a) but woman from man;

    [another for; this is either further explanation for (1) or explanation for (2)] (3)for indeed man was not created for a woman’s sake,
    [but/contrast] (3a) but a woman for a man’s sake.

    [a ‘for this cause’ = ‘for this reason’. Which reason? Well, either (3) or (1). Since (1a)-(3) all support (1), I’m going to go with (1); my guess is your choice would be (3)](4)For this cause a woman ought to have power on her head
    [because indicates explanation or justification; we could spend years on (3a)](3a)because of the angels

    Why do I argue that (4) is ‘because’ (1)? Because of the repeated use of the word ‘head’, which I interpret as the woman’s actual physical head (with eyes and a mouth in it), not her husband/”family representative”. Also because both sentences talk about things that go on heads. And finally, because (1a)&(1b), (2)&(2b), and (3)&(3a) are all contrasts (I have heard that stacking up the contrasts like this is a way of arguing common to that time) while (4) involves no such contrast.

    Either way, whether you read it as the woman having power on her own head, or the woman having power on her own husband, I don’t think you can get ‘symbol’ in there.

  • Elaine

    I’m surprised no one has yet noted that in three of the four Gospels, the risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdelene and exhorts her to go and tell the disciples that she has seen him.

    This means a woman was the very first to receive Christ’s commission to spread the “good news” of his resurrection. Interestingly, Mark 16:11 tells us the men would not believe her.

    I’ve always found it interesting that people will quote CERTAIN chapters and CERTAIN verses while turning a blind eye to the overarching themes of the Bible. If Jesus would eat with tax collectors and even welcome one as a disciple, if he would consort with sinners of every type, if he would admonish that the first shall be last and the last first and repeatedly warn the legalistic Pharisees that they were missing the point of God’s plan, how can anyone argue against a more inclusive interpretation of the Bible and His will?

    Acts 2 quotes Joel: “God declares I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” Are we to understand that Christians should then only attend to the men who prophesy while disregarding the message of the women?

    I think the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s actions and words tell us everything we need to know as far as the distinction God makes between men and women.

    The newly risen Christ could have appeared to any of his followers. He chose Mary Magdalene and sent her to proclaim his good news.

  • Jon Coutts

    All I can say is that when Paul says the woman was made for the man, he is talking about “being the glory of man” (which no heterosexual man can deny), not some sort of ownership. Besides, a couple verse later Paul jumbles up the order lest anyone take it too far. One other thing, people keep hearkening back to creation order, but when Paul does this I think it has more to do with the long-cultured idea of promigeniture (or firstborn status), and not some inherent dominion over women that is given to man. And even promigeniture is a rule that in God’s redemptive plan seems to have been made to be broken (i.e. Jacob, Judah, etc).

    Also, while I haven’t read every word of the comments above, I should note that the word “helper” is used of God more than anyone else in the Old Testmant, as in God helping humans, so to say it implies subordination is to read a lot into the Hebrew word based on our English translation.

    And when you read the creation account you see a build up of this idea of mutuality in the human race, never more sacredly reflected than in the marriage relationship. Then comes the fall and it reads like a messing up of the whole thing. But if you look at the first two chapters of Genesis you are hard-pressed to find patriarchy unless you have those glasses on already. Which I’ll sadly admit, for most of my life I have had.

    I am extremely grateful for the gracious way many egalitarians have continued to dialogue on this, and they can count me as one of the won over. Having said that, I resist the “fight” mentality, and even in disagreeing with complimentarians I simply ask them to not discount us egalitarians as liberal nutcases or even militant feminists (although there will be those) and to just keep in the dialogue, all of us who have been saved by the grace of Jesus speaking the truth in love. If we can do that, no matter what decision we make, we can be sure we’ll be glorifying Christ at least through the dialogue itself.

    thank you.

  • Chris

    Hi, Susan. I just learned of this fun controversy, and I briefly scanned a few of the comments. From what I can see, the “negative” comments come from men, and the “positive” or “cautiosly-optimistic-but-can-you-say-more” comments from women. So I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring and tip the balance. (I’m male, and I had a positive reaction to your sentiments about the issue of gender in the church.)

    As the father of two young daughters, I’ve experienced the complete disintigration of everything I ever thought I’d known aobut the role of women in the church. (Another disclaimer: I was raised as a Southern Baptist…nuff said.) I’ve gone from embracing the “male headship” (or whatever) position to accepting the roles of history and culture in shaping the views expressed in the Bible. In grad school (for literature), I attempted a brief defense of my previous beliefs in the face of an amazing (I realized later) feminist professor. Thank God for her.

    Long story short, I now hope that my daughters one day will be as prolific as you and will have the good fortune to grow up without believing their roles in either society or the church are preordained by cultural biases 2,000 (or more) years out of date. No, I don’t believe that women’s roles in the church are mandated by God, but rather by well meaning (I hope) people (mostly men) who were unable to see much beyond their own cultural moment. I still attend church, and I’m discouraged that women haven’t taken more of a role in leadership, even among the so-called “emergent” churched. Perhaps my own daughters will become part of the first generation in which it isn’t taken for granted that church leadership must be mostly male.

    I’ll happily continue using your homeschool curriculum and will use your own mind-boggling ability to handle home, school, and writing as inspiration for them and for myself! (Speaking as someone who gave up on the PhD dissertation in order to work full time so that my wife and I could homeschool, and also as someone who hopes to find more time to write in the future…)

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