Archive for the ‘Complementarianism’ Category

Well folks! Here we are again!
Finally getting round to writing this final post to our series in response to Mr Irwin’s response to my article.

Let’s get cracking shall we?

Mr Irwin writes:

“Aaron began by citing 1 Peter 3:1-2, where wives are told to submit to their husbands “in the same way.” This leads Aaron to ask (quite rightly), the same as what?

Aaron notes that Peter mentioned “many other situations where Christians (not just women) are to submit themselves to different authorities… even if those authorities are harsh.”

In fact, Peter talked mostly about one other situation: slavery. The apostle commanded slaves to obey their masters, even the abusive ones (2:18-25). From there he moved immediately to wives, telling them to submit to their husbands in the same way that slaves submit to their masters.

I wondered why Aaron didn’t specify that slavery was one of the “other situations” to which Peter referred, but in any case, I think it reinforces my point that the arguments once used to justify slavery are inextricably linked to the those used today to argue for the unilateral subordination of women.

But that’s also why I was a little surprised to read this near the end of Aaron’s piece:

Furthermore, I don’t know about the arguments, supposedly used to justify slavery, that are being used to justify complementarianism, nor am I about to suggest that the Bible does the same. There is an article on the Desiring God website that quite clearly demonstrates that Paul did not think that way at all.

The Desiring God (DG) article claims the New Testament viewed a slave’s submission differently than a wife’s. DG proposes the instructions to wives “have theological strings attached to them that slavery does not.” But if that were true, then it wouldn’t make sense to argue (as Aaron does) that Peter’s instructions to slaves should govern how we read his instructions to wives. You can’t have it both ways.

As it happens, I think DG is wrong, as I argued in this post back in June. Both the wife’s submission and the slave’s were rooted in the same thing: obedience to Christ. Seems to me this is a pretty big “theological string.” And as Aaron reminds us, Peter told wives to submit in the same way as slaves.

So if we’re going to insist on wives submitting to their husbands on the basis of Peter and Paul’s “household codes,” then we’ll also have to argue for slavery and the submission of slaves to their masters.

Indeed, when you study 19th-century theologians from the American South, you will find the arguments they used to justify the enslavement of blacks leading up to the Civil War are the same as those used today to justify the subordination of women.”
So, as before, we shall examine the texts in question, and deal with the objections a section at a time.

Our text in question:

1 Peter 2:13-3:2

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

21For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.

Lets take the first part:

Aaron notes that Peter mentioned “many other situations where Christians (not just women) are to submit themselves to different authorities… even if those authorities are harsh.”

In fact, Peter talked mostly about one other situation: slavery. The apostle commanded slaves to obey their masters, even the abusive ones (2:18-25). From there he moved immediately to wives, telling them to submit to their husbands in the same way that slaves submit to their masters.

Now, looking at the text, we can see what my claim originally was, is in fact accurate. In 1 Peter 2:13-17, it talks about other authorities, specifically human institutions, kings and governors – not just slave masters.

Further, the apostle does not move immediately to wives after discussing slavery – no, he interjects a reason for the slaves obedience, that is, that Christ Himself suffered unjust treatment, how much more should we endure in whatever vein of life we find ourselves? Be that slaves (v18-20) or free but under human authorities (v13-17).

Moving on:

I wondered why Aaron didn’t specify that slavery was one of the “other situations” to which Peter referred, but in any case, I think it reinforces my point that the arguments once used to justify slavery are inextricably linked to the those used today to argue for the unilateral subordination of women.”

I didn’t specify it because it doesn’t change anything – also I didn’t have remotely the word count I would have liked to have!

As we will see later, the arguments are not ‘inextricably linked’.

But that’s also why I was a little surprised to read this near the end of Aaron’s piece:

Furthermore, I don’t know about the arguments, supposedly used to justify slavery, that are being used to justify complementarianism, nor am I about to suggest that the Bible does the same. There is an article on the Desiring God website that quite clearly demonstrates that Paul did not think that way at all.”

I don’t know why this would be surprising, it didn’t occur to me that this would even be a possibility from reading the text, because frankly, it’s a silly idea – further, I still think now, after our engagements, that it is a silly idea – attempting to link the slavery of the American civil war to complimentarianism is just staggering.
Moving on.

 

The Desiring God (DG) article claims the New Testament viewed a slave’s submission differently than a wife’s. DG proposes the instructions to wives “have theological strings attached to them that slavery does not.”

I would encourage any reader here to read the article yourself – it is a good article!
I have already demonstrated that the idea of a wives submission to her husband as being rooted in the creation order at the end of the previous post, so I won’t go over it again here. This is, of course, in contrast to slavery, which is not at all related back to creation – so there are indeed different theological strings attached to both.

“But if that were true, then it wouldn’t make sense to argue (as Aaron does) that Peter’s instructions to slaves should govern how we read his instructions to wives. You can’t have it both ways.””

I think it would make perfect sense. Just because slavery holds one of the strings, (ie Christ’s example) doesn’t mean that overrides the other string of being rooted in the creation order – which slavery is not.  It would only not make sense if you didn’t make any distinctions.

As it happens, I think DG is wrong, as I argued in this post back in June. Both the wife’s submission and the slave’s were rooted in the same thing: obedience to Christ. Seems to me this is a pretty big “theological string.” And as Aaron reminds us, Peter told wives to submit in the same way as slaves.

So if we’re going to insist on wives submitting to their husbands on the basis of Peter and Paul’s “household codes,” then we’ll also have to argue for slavery and the submission of slaves to their masters.

Indeed, when you study 19th-century theologians from the American South, you will find the arguments they used to justify the enslavement of blacks leading up to the Civil War are the same as those used today to justify the subordination of women.”

Again, I can only restate what has come before– there is a very real difference between the submission of a wife to her husband, and that of a slave to a master – the former being rooted in creation (pre-fall), the latter not being rooted in that. Distinctions matter.

So, what are the other distinctions?

Well, we already mentioned one, the fact that slavery is not rooted in the creation order, where a wives submission is.

What are the other two?

1) Type of slavery different.
I wrote about this back when I was dealing with the pro-homosexuality advocate objections. It is grossly over simplistic to draw the parallels that Mr Irwin is in his article here:

Indeed, when you study 19th-century theologians from the American South, you will find the arguments they used to justify the enslavement of blacks leading up to the Civil War are the same as those used today to justify the subordination of women.”

What Mr Irwin has failed to maintain is the difference in the type of slavery! He is simply reading the text with 21st (or 19th) century glasses on and expecting us to accept this. This will not do!

As I wrote previously (and you know you are in trouble if you start quoting yourself):

“Exodus 21:7  states:

[7]  “If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do.

Now, on the face of it, this may seem instantly to be of very bad taste – how could this possibly be allowed in scripture? The problem is that we are reading it with many pre-conceived ideas, and 21′st century concepts and sensibilities.

When most of us think of slavery, we instantly are drawn to the horrible things that were done to the African community and the great injustices that were done there! However, to read that kind of abuse back into the Exodus text, is by definition NOT how we do biblical interpretation.  Second, we also have to understand, back in that time, there were NO social benefits or government help – it’s not like you could just sign up for benefits at your local tax office or post office or whatever! You had a very stark choice. If you were poor and unable to get employment in a “hand to mouth” society, you could do one of three things:

One: Starve – Not really an option.

Two: Beg – obviously not a guarantee that you would actually get anything, and actually survive, especially if you had a family to feed!

Three: Sell yourself, or family member, or both as a slave – If you sold yourself, you would be provided for, but who would provide for your family? You could use some of the money to provide for them, but what happens when your money runs out? You could sell your family member(s), and they would be provided for and cared for by the master, and you could use the money to survive in the world in the hope that you could get a job and use the money you raised to buy them back out of slavery, or simply wait until after the six years of serving had been fulfilled, and they would be released on the seventh year. You could also sell your whole family into slavery to server, and in turn be cared for if you worked for the particular master, again, at the end of the six years, you would all be released. Slavery was not the cursed thing that it is seen to be today, in fact, it was sometimes the only way a person would survive in difficult times!”

 

This kind of practice was also done in Rome to save yourself from starvation, so it was not just restricted to the Jews! This practice is a far cry from the horrible acts that went on in the civil war where people were forcibly taken from their land, on to slave ships to travel around the world to be sold! It is not as if they sold themselves into slavery! So it is a failed analogy on the face of it!

2) Legitimacy of institution

Even if you wanted to still push the case, what is clear from the text is that Peter is telling the slaves to be submissive to the masters, even if they are unreasonable – he is giving them advice as to how to live as slaves if they find themselves in slavery. What he is not promoting is the legitimacy of slavery as an institution! He doesn’t even mention that! He is simply giving advice as to what to do if they are slaves! The legitimacy of a wives submission however is clear, as we mentioned before, it is rooted in the pre-fall state of creation.

As I said before, it is a totally flawed analogy to link a wives submission to her husband to American civil war slavery – a flaw for which it should surely be dropped.

Well, this post was thankfully a bit shorter than the rest! I hope this series has been helpful for you folks and will hopefully move on to something else… I may see if I can finish off the pro-homosexuality objection responses, or maybe I may just move on to something else in dealing with some of the post-modern philosophy and its result in the emergent church, God willing!

Who knows? God surely does!
God bless folks!

 

Well, not totally doing this in a chronological order, but I felt I should tackle this portion of Ben’s objections next!

Ben states the following:

“Aaron also cites Ephesians 5:22-23, claiming that Paul couldn’t have endorsed mutual submission, since he told wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. This is a better argument, though I suspect that as with most analogies, Paul wasn’t trying to suggest the husband-wife relationship is like that of Christ and the church in every way.

More importantly, Aaron didn’t account for two vital pieces of context. The first can be found just one verse prior, in Ephesians 5:21.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This is the governing statement for everything Paul says in the “household codes” of Ephesians  5:22–6:9. In fact, the Greek word for submit (hupotasso) doesn’t even occur in verse 22; it has to be supplied from verse 21. Grammatically and logically, then, Paul appears to subordinate the wife’s submission to the greater call for mutual submission. Which convinces me that the wife’s submission and the husband’s love (Eph. 5:25) are in some ways two sides of the same coin for Paul.

Second, we have to look at the historical/cultural context of the “household codes” in letters like Ephesians and Colossians. Rachel Held Evans has a good summary on her blog, but the short(-ish) version is that these codes were relatively common in first-century correspondence. You can find similar codes in the writings of Philo and Josephus, for example. The household codes were considered vital to the preservation of Roman society and the all-importantpater familias. Any attempt to undermine the established system would have drawn unwelcome scrutiny from the authorities. So for the sake of the gospel, it was necessary to defer to Roman cultural sensibilities about how a family should be run.”

Now, there are a few issues with the section above, so let’s work through them, shall we?

First of all, let’s look at our text in question! Always a good thing to have the text in front of you when dealing with these things!

Eph 5:18-6:9 (NASB)

18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19  speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20  always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21  and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

22  Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26  so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31  For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

6:1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.

 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ;  not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,  knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Let’s deal with the first part:

“Aaron also cites Ephesians 5:22-23, claiming that Paul couldn’t have endorsed mutual submission, since he told wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. This is a better argument, though I suspect that as with most analogies, Paul wasn’t trying to suggest the husband-wife relationship is like that of Christ and the church in every way.”

My actual argument can be found here: http://www.christian.co.uk/opinions/is-leadership-male-part-3-p11034

I thought this was a bit of a weak response to my argument. When we look at the text, we can see a few things. Firstly, as always, what is the context of this passage? It is the filling of the Holy Spirit which results in a number of different things, singing, thanks giving and submission. The section we are most interested in here is in reference to submission – so looking at 5:21 through to 6:9, we see many instances of different examples of submission being given here. I agree with Ben that we cannot take the analogy to mean the relationship is to cover every aspect of the relationship of Christ to the Church, so the question is then, in reference to Ben’s objection, in what way or aspect is the wife to demonstrate in her relationship with her husband in fulfilling the analogy of the Church and Christ? Well, if we look at the pattern of what is being said from 5:21 to 6:9, we should be able to see. You should see the fact that v22-24 is talking about a wife’s submission and subjection to her husband, in v25-33 we see that love is given in reciprocation. In 6:1-3 we see that children are to be obedient to their parents, in v4 we can see that the children are to be brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord ( one brings to mind the general relationship between discipline and love mentioned in Hebrews 12:6).
In 6:5 we see that slaves are to be obedient to their masters, and in v9 masters are to be good to their slaves and not threaten them.

In every section, there is the repeating motif of submission, subjection or obedience to be rendered, and love, kindness, respect and sincerity to be reciprocated. The submission is, in every case, to that of an authority- the submission always goes one way.  Clearly therefore, the aspect of the analogy that is in place is in reference to submission to Christ’s authority – this being more clearly shown with the larger context of the other two examples given of children and parents, and slaves and masters. Certainly no one would possibly argue that a child is to have authority over a parent (indeed this would be called a disobedient child, a characteristic mentioned in the many sins in 2 timothy 3:2 that would become more prevalent in the last days). Nor could someone say that a slave has authority over the master! A slave, by definition has no authority over the master!

Therefore, in view of the relationship of Christ and the Church to the husband and the wife, we should note that the wife should render, in fulfilling the analogy, submission and subjection to the husband’s delegated authority. As I said before – it is simply unthinkable to conceive that Christ is submissive to the Church.

It may also be worth noting that nowhere in scripture – nowhere – does it ever speak of a husband told to be in subjection to the wife. It speaks many times of loving their wives, but never being in subjection to them. A hard thing to miss in scripture I think! If it is to be as the egalitarians would have us believe, such a clear idea for God’s design for husbands and wives, I think we would expect to see at least some verses that stated otherwise – but alas, it is not.

So, we read on:

“More importantly, Aaron didn’t account for two vital pieces of context. The first can be found just one verse prior, in Ephesians 5:21.”

Yes, I did leave this verse out, for two reasons.

1) I wanted to focus more on the specifics that the apostle gave in reference to v21
2) I only have one article with a limited word count to reply to both of Ben’s, therefore had little room for being as verbose as I am here. I didn’t manage to cover as much as I should have.

However, I now have no such restriction, so we shall deal with this verse and the subsequent objections!

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

This is the governing statement for everything Paul says in the “household codes” of Ephesians  5:22–6:9.

I wonder why Ben thinks that this should be the overriding governing statement for the rest of the section? An assertion alone simply won’t do! Perhaps it is what comes next:

“In fact, the Greek word for submit (hupotasso) doesn’t even occur in verse 22; it has to be supplied from verse 21.”

That is indeed correct, albeit there are some later manuscripts that have hupotasso in them in verse 21 – but let’s assume for the minute that we run with the earlier manuscripts, which I think would probably be the better reading. What Ben has left out, knowingly or otherwise, is that hupotasso is used in v24, reaffirming what has already been said in v22, so his dismissal of v22 on the basis of a missing word simply won’t help his case here. Frankly, even if the word was missing completely, it still wouldn’t be a case to promote what he is attempting to assert here:

Grammatically and logically, then, Paul appears to subordinate the wife’s submission to the greater call for mutual submission. “

Wrong.

First of all, as I mentioned in the previous section and also in my article, this kind of thinking would make mincemeat of the apostle’s use of the analogy of Christ and the Church, which is why I brought up the argument in the first place! Furthermore, if consistency is to be pushed, why does Ben limit the mention of v21’s mutual submission to v22-24? If he was to be consistent, he would have to force that submission upon the relationship of the parents and children, and the masters and slaves – not only then, would we have children telling parents what to do, but slaves telling masters what to do- a reversal of the roles – and one that makes the idea of a master and a slave incoherent and the relationship between children and parents silly. So by asserting this position, he has made the apostles commands incoherent. Grammatically and logically then, Paul cannot be calling for the kind of submission Ben has in mind, it just isn’t possible.
Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I should have been in the article on this matter, but hopefully that is now cleared up.

So what IS the purpose of v21 then?

Generally in the New Testament, Christians in the church are called to be humble and submissive to each other as a general principle, consider:

Phil 2:3:
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Why is this the case?

Because as v5-11 in the same context states:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As with all the Christian life, our motivation for doing what we do is in reference to Christ and the gospel.

So, therefore, it is out of this general principle (not a governing or over-ridding one) of Christians submitting to other Christians that Paul gives specifics admonition to the wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. Paul is simply bringing further clarification on top of the existing principle.

We go on:

Which convinces me that the wife’s submission and the husband’s love (Eph. 5:25) are in some ways two sides of the same coin for Paul.”

Yes, I would agree – however, this would be a complementarian view, not an egalitarian one, as that would involve two coins. Wife’s submission and husbands love being one, and the husband’s submission and the wife’s love being another.

Further we read:

Second, we have to look at the historical/cultural context of the “household codes” in letters like Ephesians and Colossians. Rachel Held Evans has a good summary on her blog, but the short(-ish) version is that these codes were relatively common in first-century correspondence. You can find similar codes in the writings of Philo and Josephus, for example. The household codes were considered vital to the preservation of Roman society and the all-importantpater familias. Any attempt to undermine the established system would have drawn unwelcome scrutiny from the authorities. So for the sake of the gospel, it was necessary to defer to Roman cultural sensibilities about how a family should be run.”

I do find, often, when reading egalitarian views, objections or questions, they all have one thing in common – an over-arching consistency between most of them in finding ways to get around the clarity of passages by obfuscating them in favour of questionable or dubious historical sources or supposed situations.

Before we ever turn to historical sources, we should be certainly sure that we have scanned the scriptures themselves for answers in reference to the questions we have, and even then, if we cannot get anything clearer, we should look to the historical information we have – and be fearfully sure that the sources we are using are reliable!

In the above case, it is a matter of not looking at the apostle’s argument close enough!

You can read through the above information if you wish, however, one simply has to ask, what is the apostles reason for grounding the submission of the wife to the husband? Is the grounding some contemporary Greco-Roman idea, or is it, much more in character with Paul, the scriptures themselves?

It is of course, the latter.

What is Paul’s over all understanding of the roles of husbands and wives?

You can note that the reason Paul has given is found here in v23:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church,”

So, what is this concept of headship? The Greek word is kephale, means “to have authority over”

Of course, there is disputation about this by the egalitarians, however, I think the objections have been quite readily dealt with by Wayne Grudem  in his article “The Meaning Of kefale (“Head”):

An Evaluation Of New Evidence, Real And Alleged” here: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/kephale.pdf

So, with that in mind, where else does the term ‘kephale’ get used, within the same kind of context we are discussing? We find it in 1 Corinthians 11:3 amongst a discussion of how a woman is to prophesy and pray in church (which I will cover in another aspect of Ben’s objection to my point, but I shall stay on topic for this section)

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. 

So, how does Paul ground this idea of headship? What reason does he give for the husband being the head of the wife? Christ and the church and God and Christ to be sure, however, there is also another interesting mention a few verses down:

For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. “

Paul’s understanding of this headship is also grounded in the creation account of the man being made before woman in Genesis 2! He appeals to this to show that there is a particular authority inherent in this created order!

So, having looked at another aspect to Paul’s understanding of husbands and wives, men and women, we have then go back to our previous question, what is the apostles reason for grounding the submission of the wife to the husband? Conformity to Greco-Roman household codes? Clearly not! Paul, being consistent with himself, refers to the creation order as the reason! This is what I also think he means when he mentions ‘just as the law says’ here :

1 Cor 14:34
“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.”

So this objection that Ben has raised by appealing to historical cultural norms is not what the apostle had in mind at all, therefore is an invalid objection.

Having now looked at the Eph 5 objections, I will, God willing, look at the rest of Ben’s objections soon! Thanks for your patience!

I thought, on my night off I would write a quick response to a blog entry made in response to the article that I did in regards to complementarianism (this has ended up turning out to be a lot longer than anticipated). Unfortunately, I was fairly restricted in word count in my single article due to having to respond to two posts, while trying to cover as many of the bases as possible, but thankfully this venue allows for much more to be written. I thought I would grab the final little comment on Ben’s response for the sake of time.

This will be the first of a number of blog posts covering the examples that were brought up in a discussion with Ben Irwin in regards to complementarianism and egalitarianism. His last line was:

“In the end, I think the values of mutuality and equality make better sense of the New Testament, especially its radical claim “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.””

Recently online, I have seen many egalitarians (not just Ben, hence starting on this text first) quoting some variation of Galatians 3:28 as a proof text to the idea that God does not have specific roles in mind for men and women. Frankly, I have been disappointed by this, because I think that the text couldn’t be any clearer as to what it is saying – it has nothing whatsoever to do with supporting the issue of female eldership and teaching in the church. It just isn’t in view. At all.

Lets look at the text, in context:
Gal 3:15-29

15  Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “ And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

19  Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousnesswould indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Now, the obvious first question to ask whenever doing exegesis of a text is – what is the context?

From the above we can see that Paul is addressing the Galatians in regards to the promises given to Abraham, the intent of the giving of the Law to lead us to Christ and that the means by which we should receive those promises is by faith in Him.

Now, straight away we can see something interesting that is lacking from the text. There isn’t very much about roles of men and women in church in the above text is there? Nothing mentioned about submission, about who can teach, what the qualifications of eldership are, is there? In fact, there isn’t a single point in the whole chapter that makes reference to those issues.

To attempt to make a case for this verse actually speaking to those particular issues is, in consideration of the context then, is simply to engage in eisegesis.

What does the verse mean then?

Taking into consideration the context’s main themes, the unity refers to their common inclusion into the benefits of the inheritance and the promises that were mentioned by faith in Christ- no one is to be restricted from that ! Neither being Jew nor Greek  slave nor free man, male nor female could make any restriction or commendation in regards to inheriting the promises that are in Christ, because they are attainable through faith in Christ, not race or social status or gender. They are united in their common salvation, the sole condition being accepting the gospel, repenting of sin and having faith in Christ! The context is salvation – not the removal of differing roles of men and women in church!

Further, if the case is really being made that unity is all that there is here, and there is a lack of any distinction as a result, that would put the person in question at odds with the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 12:4-5:

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

Here the apostle clearly states that there is unity in the body, and yet he still notes that people have differing roles and functions and giftings, so clearly, even if Galatians 3:28 was making the case that being ‘all in one in Christ’ made for no more distinctions to be made in regards to people at all, it would still be possible to make the case that there are still distinctions there, because the unity that Paul talks about is a complex unity – a unity where distinctions and individuality exists, yet they all share in the one universal body of Christ. This is of course what Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 12, where in v13 he sets up with an almost parallel statement to Gal 3:28, and then goes on to state that even though you are all united, there are still differences and distinctions in regards to roles and functions when talking about the parts of the body :

1 cor 12:12-30

12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20But now there are many members, but one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

27Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?
Even looking at it from even a very obvious and basic level, its clear that just because a person is in Christ, they do not suddenly become genderless!

If a case were to be made, a person would need to demonstrate clearly that the extent of the unity went as far as to blur the lines in regards to the particular roles of men and women in ministry in Gal 3:28- except there is no exegetical imperative to do so from the supporting and surrounding context, and I think I have shown sufficiently that the unity mentioned by Paul in Gal 3:28 is not some kind of a melting pot where all distinctives are lost, as Paul, consistent with himself, mentions other areas where unity in Christ and His body is mentioned, but distinctions are present.

Egalitarians will have to make a case for their theology from another text im afraid.

The second part of my response here : Ephesians 5:21-23, Egalitarianism and Ben Irwin and the third part here: 1 Peter 3, Egalitarianism and Ben Irwin

Check it out above, or click here!

“So what is it then? What is masculinity? Simply put, masculinity is the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility. A man who assumes responsibility is learning masculinity, and a culture that encourages men to take responsibility is a culture that is a friend to masculinity. When a culture outlaws masculinity, they soon learn that such outlaws are a terrible bane to them, instruments that destroy civilization with their mutant forms of masculinity. ”

via 20 Quotes from Father Hunger – Desiring God.