TGC’s Reason that it is Complementarian

The Gospel Coalition has posted a video of a panel discussion between D.A. Carson, capsule John Piper and Tim Keller on why TGC has chosen to include complementarianism in it’s doctrinal statement and vision for ministry.

A few things to highlight and comment on, sovaldi sale though I encourage you to watch the video yourself.

First, for sale John Piper says that the reason TGC is complementarian is three-fold:
1. Because TGC wants to protect and put safeguards around the Gospel
2. Because TGC wants to display the Gospel
3. Because TGC wants to release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing

Does a complementarian distinction protect the Gospel from heresy the way that the Creeds and Confessions of the Early Church did? Is complementarianism really on the same level as Christological and Trinitarian statements? Can we really safeguard the Gospel? The Gospel is dangerous and powerful and upends societies. It breaks chains and restores dignity. It provides hope for the downtrodden and it humbles the arrogant. How does a complementarian statement protect this bold Gospel? Is it even our job to “release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing?” Yes we are called to preach the Gospel, to live the Gospel, to participate in sharing the Gospel, but I would argue that “releasing the Gospel for maximum human flourishing” is primarily the job of the Holy Spirit.

Piper and Carson both allude to the “slippery slope” that is egalitarianism; that if you embrace egalitarianism you will begin to compromise or accomodate on other doctrines and ethics. Piper seems to blame egalitarianism for the current “badness” that is in our culture, everything from absentee fathers to the brutality of men. Is the brutality of men really due to the shift to an egalitarian culture? Right from Cain and Abel we have men practicing violence. And if he means brutality not in general but brutality to women, the Old Testament culture which was definitely not egalitarian had its share of brutality against women. And does not the “slippery slope” also work the other way? Is it not possible for complementarianism to lead to radical patriarchy?

Carson says that egalitarians are domesticating the word, rather than trembling at the word. To this I say, it is precisely because I tremble at the word that I cannot simply proof-text a verse and say that the plain meaning is clear. My trembling at the word leads me to study and to pray and to worship and to wrestle with it. When I come to 1 Timothy, my best answer is “I don’t know.” I can’t dismiss it, but I also can’t whole-heartedly ignore the cultural specificity of the instruction and say that it is 100% a timeless instruction. And as for Ephesians 5, I wish egalitarians and complementarians would spend more time not on the “submission” text of v. 22, but on Paul’s declaration in v.32 that it is a “profound mystery.”

Piper gives the example of a group of Christians, say a university fellowship, deciding it is time to have a woman preach because it is “fair” even though there are people in the group who believe it to be wrong, is an act of disobedience. Piper concludes that it just doesn’t work to have a Gospel movement that is both egalitarian and complementarian, because egalitarianism wins by default.

Keller seems to take a more nuanced and generous approach, (which is what has been the case outside of this video as well). Keller says that how headship plays out in marriage, in different cultures and in different ecclesiologies will look different. He defines a “gospel complementarian” as a person who does not upbraid the other side (egalitarians) for their understanding of Scripture.

Why Is TGC Complementarian? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

As well, Kathleen Nielson has written a letter “To My Egalitarian Friends”.

There will probably be countless reflections hitting the blogosphere over the next couple of days. I’ve struggled through this issue for years, and I don’t know that I have more to say. What am I? The best I can say is that to egalitarians I probably appear too complementarian, and to complementarians I appear too egalitarian. No matter what I do I’ll end up offending somebody. If I preach in church I’ll offend those who don’t think it “biblical” for a woman to preach. If I don’t preach in church I’ll offend those who say that I’m enabling the silence of women. While I think it’s important to have these conversations regarding gender and theology, I am not a crusader. I don’t want to be a crusader. I want to be a humble servant. I want to worship and pray and talk to God. And if God can use any of my gifts and talents to edify the Church, then I submit to that authority.

#mutuality2012 Feminism and Christianity: Interacting with Daphne Hampson

Rachel Held Evans is hosting a week of mutuality on her blog. As part of this synchroblog event, buy cialis I will be doing two things: One, treat I will be highlighting posts that I have written on the subject; and two, healing Leslie Keeney over at The Ruthless Monk and I will be posting about encouraging women to attend this year’s ETS annual conference that is coming up in the fall. We want to write about this now so that people have plenty of time to prepare and plan to come.

Daphne Hampson argues that the problem with Christianity is that it is permanently rooted in history, a history that is patriarchal in nature, and because it is a religion that must always point back to a historical point it cannot be of use to feminists. On the one hand, she is absolutely correct that “Christianity cannot lose its reference to that history.” (pg. 7) On the other, her assertion that this historical reality of Christianity, as found in the incarnation of Jesus, is a hindrance to and completely incompatible with feminism is logically weak. Just because there is a necessary historical referent does not mean that Christianity is unable to navigate between timeless truth and temporary cultural realities.

Of course, in order to answer the question of whether Hampson is right or wrong in her assertion that one cannot be both a feminist and a Christian, the question of definition must be addressed. What is feminism? In the case of this particular work, Hampson suggests a minimalist definition of feminism: “the proclaimed equality of women and men.” (pg. 50)

Unfortunately, what she presents in her subsequent argument demonstrates that she does not actually hold to in the minimalist definition. Hampson argues that Christianity is inherently patriarchal; that because God is referred to in male terms, and because Jesus never fights against the oppression of women, (pg. 89) there is inequality inherent to Christianity. Hampson suggests that had Jesus been concerned with equality, then instead of having women like Mary sitting at His feet learning, He would have sat at the feet of a woman. (pg. 104) What she fails to consider is that Mary is not sitting at Jesus’ feet because He is male, but because He is the Teacher and she is a disciple. In addition, Hampson fails to consider that the issue of feminism would have been a foreign concept in the first-century Judeo-Christian world.

Hampson is absolutely right that, in the past, Christian structures did not proclaim the equality of the sexes. Indeed, Christianity has often times affirmed a superiority of men over women. But, just because Christian institutions did not fight for equality in the past, does not mean that Christianity itself is antithetical to feminism. Hampson is right to point out the inequality of Christian practices, such as communion, in which a group of men gathered can partake together of communion, but a group of women (e.g., nuns) have to have a man present to administer sacraments. She argues that this demonstrates that “within the Christian context women must necessarily refer to, and exercise a dependence upon, the world of men, of a kind which men would not conceive of having in relation to the world of women.” (pg. 63)

The question, then, which Hampson fails to address, is, is the problem with an inherent inequality between men and women, or is it with a faulty understanding of the administration of communion? Modern evangelicalism is not immune to this. Take for example women’s conferences in more traditional congregations that require that a male pastor still preside/be present at the conference as a way to ensure that the women leaders are under the authority of a male elder.

So, can Christianity be redeemed from its patriarchal past? Hampson argues that it cannot, but I would suggest that there is much to be said for trajectory hermeneutics, such as William Webb’s Redemptive Hermeneutical model, which demonstrate how the biblical narrative demonstrates a theology of gender that differed from its surrounding culture, including, for example, Jesus counting women among his followers, as well as his first post-resurrection appearance to women, which put the women in a position of witness, an area that they were not considered reliable for in the broader culture.

In addition, in 2011, the minimalist definition that Hampson sets forth is a definition that the majority of Christians would affirm. Even within evangelical circles, and the ongoing debate between complementarians and egalitarians, there is agreement, that at an ontological level, men and women are equal in their standing before God through Christ. The question then becomes, does the exclusion of women from certain roles within the Church, such as pastors and leaders, necessarily demonstrate an inequality that must be overcome? Can there ever be complete equality between the sexes when our biological makeups are so different?

Ultimately, Hampson’s argument that Christianity and feminism are incompatible is a result of her not wanting them to be compatible. Twenty-five years of discussion and dialogue about the theology of gender has occurred since the publication of Hampson’s book, and there has been much written on how they can indeed be compatible. And this compatibility does not necessitate the dehistoricization of the faith. Indeed, if anything, the concreteness of the Christian faith, as it is grounded in an historical event, becomes the foundation for this compatibility. For as the Apostle Paul wrote, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29).

This post was originally posted December 12, 2011.

Laundry, Dishes and Gender Roles — A Followup

Last November, salve Owen Strachan wrote a post on ‘dad-moms’: those men who take on female responsibilities like laundry, dishes and childcare. This post was then picked up by Her.meneutics where the discussion continued. Well, this month, an expanded essay on the topic appeared in The Journal For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Two things of interest in this expanded essay. First Owen Strachan admits that complementarianism is patriarchy. He writes, “For millennia, followers of God have practiced what used to be called patriarchy and is now called complementarianism.” It’s interesting that he says this given that most complementarians try their hardest to distinguish complementarianism from patriarchy.

Second, he says that most of the response to his post was from a ‘feminine voice.’ And yet, I was blessed by seeing how many men stood up to voice their opinion about it (particularly on twitter). But it does raise the question, is this an issue only for women? Why isn’t it an issue for men? Is it not a manly enough issue for men to discuss? Do those men who disagree with Strachan no longer qualify to be ‘men’ because they supposedly have been shaped by culture rather than Scripture? What happens if it turns out that those men who don’t have a problem with ‘dad moms’ have truly based their understanding on Scripture instead of on secular culture and still arrive at their conclusion? Does that make them ‘feminine?’

So, I encourage you to read his essay. Also read my original response, as well as an example of a ‘male’ response.

Being a Smart Consumer of the Academic Literature: Gender Differences and the Comp/Egal Debate

The CBMW blog has a post up highlighting research that supposedly agrees with the timeless truth that men and women are different. Jeff Robinson writes:

That this research and story confirms the obvious aside, cialis this represents something of a landmark admission by a secular science journal. Since the advent of feminism in the 1960s, secular academics and researchers have been hard at the task of seeking to prove that gender differences are negligible, circumstantial and not a part of design.
This research once again confirms God’s good and design: He has created men and women in His image to play equally valuable, but complementary roles. To accomplish this, it has pleased God to equip us with different gifts, different strengths and different weaknesses-all perfectly congruent with those of the opposite gender. It will be interesting to see how much play this article gets in the media and how (or if) the secular academy responds.

So what does this mean? Is Mr. Robinson being a smart consumer of the research literature, or is this an example of selecting and spinning for the purpose of upholding an agenda?

To examine this, I turn to Dr. Charles Hackney for assistance. As a psychology professor, Chuck has the huge task of teaching his students how to be smart readers and how to properly use their “B.S.ometers”. Here are some tips on how to critically evaluate the research being presented:

Find the actual study:

Don’t just go to the media write up. The actual study can be found here.

Evaluate the Journal:

PLoS-ONE is an open-access journal that charges authors money to publish their papers, does not assess the quality of the study beyond the technical aspects, and accepts 70% of papers submitted (by contrast, the journals published by the APA have an average 71% rejection rate, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, which published Chuck’s meta-analysis, has an 80% rejection rate). So it’s not a great journal.

Evaluate the research methodology and conclusions of the study:

The authors of the study deliberately (and explicitly) chose methodological and analytic approaches that they believed would maximize observed gender differences, then claimed that this made their approach “better.” This is a dubious move, that has been criticized by a number of other researchers.

Part of the authors’ argument is that previous research has relied on broad-brush personality theories like the Five Factor Model, and their use of 16 factors provides a more detailed analysis. Fine, except for the fact that FFM personality tests further break down the five factors into smaller subfactors. The most well-known FFM measure, for example, does provide five scores representing overall personality traits, but also provides a more detailed break down involving 30 more specific facets. One study, published in 2001, involved administering an earlier version of this measure to over 23,000 participants in 26 cultures. The researchers did find gender differences in 28 of the 30 facets, but these differences were small to moderate in size. The size of the differences also varied from one culture to another. This points to another limitation in the study, and the conclusions that might be drawn from it. The study published in PLoS-ONE only drew their participants from the US, which limits our ability to generalize the results to all humans. (The 2001 study, by the way, was cited in the PLoS-ONE article, but the authors only talked about it in terms of the five broad traits, and then claimed that their more specific 16-factor approach was better.)

Evaluate the Blog Post:

First, there is a difference between “gender differences” and “inherent gender differences.” Gender differences (and that includes personality differences) are often substantial, but are the product of both biological and social factors. So finding larger differences than previous studies found does not lock us into the interpretation that these differences are all about God’s design. Also, the CBMW author rails against secular academics who are trying to prove that gender differences are “negligible, circumstantial and not a part of design,” but ignores the fact that the study (which I’m guessing he didn’t read) is about a conflict between academics who expect gender differences to be small and other academics (mostly evolutionary psychologists) who expect them to be large.

In addition, the CBMW author finishes off with a snarky expectation that the story will be ignored by the mainstream media and the academy. First problem: his source for the story IS the mainstream media (The Telegraph). Also, a quick google search shows that the story is being run by all sorts of mainstream news-media sources.

Pointing to a poorly written study in a poor-quality journal and using it to “prove” an organization’s position actually serves to undercut the credibility of said organization.

Laundry, Dishes and Gender Roles — Part Two

Yesterday I posted about my reactions about the ongoing conversation related to Owen Strachan’s post on ‘Dad-moms’.

Today, physician it is Chuck’s turn.


Complementarian? Egalitarian? Comgalitarian? Egalmentarian? Maybe I’m just confused.

In response to Amanda’s post concerning the latest round of cyber-debate over gender roles, I’ve been giving the matter a bit of thought. Bear in mind that this is coming from a Christian social psychologist; I am neither a theologian nor a biblical scholar.

Looking over the options that have been presented to me, I find myself in partial agreement with both camps, leaving me with my usual sense that I have a lot of reading to do before I declare myself an official partisan of either side.

Areas in which I find myself in sympathy with the complementarians:

1. Gender differences are inherent.
Actually, it’s considerably more complicated than that. We (social psychologists) have a boatload of research evidence that differences between the genders are biologically-based, involving differences in brain structures and functioning and differences in psychologically-relevant hormones. However, we also have a boatload of research evidence that our concepts of masculinity and femininity are cultural, and that gender identity is influenced by the messages passed on to us by parents, peers, and the media. What I share with the complementarian camp is the recognition that no amount of political activism or theoretical hand-waving will eliminate the role of biology in gender differences.

2. Gender differences should be celebrated.
In the 1970s and 1980s, certain psychologists argued that psychological androgyny (possessing equally-high levels of both masculine and feminine traits) should be held up as the ideal, and that parents should isolate children from any media messages that might cause them to develop a gender-specific identity. Research on gender and mental health, however, combined with the current influence of evolutionary psychology on the psychology of gender, has sidelined androgyny. The current approach more often takes the perspective that masculinity and femininity have their own strengths and weaknesses, which fits well with the complementarians’ position. For myself, I am a frequent reader of the blog The Art of Manliness, the intended audience of which is men who are not interested in media images such as the metrosexual or the manchild, but instead want to enjoy being manly in healthy and prosocial ways. Similarly, many women hold the position that becoming strong and capable does not require them to abandon their femininity. Complementarians often point to the great potential for happiness and fulfillment that can come when men are empowered to be manly, and women are empowered to be womanly.

Areas in which I find myself in sympathy with the egalitarians:

1. Gender differences are not categorical.
There is a tendency when discussing gender differences to interpret them in a rather absolute manner. If, for example, women are shown to be better than men at emotional communication, many people take that to mean that men are utterly incompetent in the emotional realm, while women are blessed with superhuman Heart Powers. The reality is far less dramatic. When studies reveal a consistent gender difference, what we see is a general trend in average scores, with a considerable amount of overlap between the genders.

So, perhaps, ON AVERAGE, women TEND TO outperform men on emotional tasks, but that does not mean that emotionally-competent men do not exist, or that emotionally-incompetent women do not exist. It also does not mean that emotionally-competent men are womanish men, or that emotinally-incompetent women are mannish women. This is an error that I sometimes see among complementarians; treating displays of behaviors at which the other gender more often excel as violations of the essence of their own gender (e.g., A man who changes a diaper is not just changing a diaper, he is acting womanish).

2. The descriptive is not the prescriptive.
Finding a statistically-significant difference between two groups does not necessarily mean that the difference becomes a moral obligation. This is an error in logic sometimes called the Naturalistic Fallacy. The difference might be celebrated and enjoyed, but the existence of that difference does not necessarily become a standard of evaluating group members’ goodness. Cross-cultural research has shown that, on average, members of Western societies tend to have a more individualistic self-concept, while Easterners tend to have a more collectivistic self-concept. Does this mean that a Chinese man must not have any sense of himself as an individual, or that an American must not have strong family ties? Geographical research within the US using the Five-Factor Model of personality shows that residents of North Dakota have the highest Extraversion scores, while residents of Maryland have the lowest Extraversion scores. Does this create a moral obligation for North Dakotans to be socially outgoing, while a Marylander is obliged to be introverted? (We actually have a lot of fun with this argument, since Alaskans had the lowest Conscientiousness scores. This would mean that Alaskans are morally obligated to be unprincipled? 🙂 ) Similarly, the existence of gender differences does not necessarily create a moral obligation to act in accordance with those differences. Men tend to outperform women on mental image-rotation tasks (This and all following examples are drawn from this 1992 Scientific American article). This does not mean that a woman who plays Tetris is usurping a God-given masculine role. Women tend to have higher verbal fluency scores than men. This does not mean that men who want to honor God will stop writing books. If we use established gender differences as a part of an argument that God has purposefully equipped one gender for one set of tasks, and the other gender for a different set of tasks, then this means that God does not want women to do laundry (men outperform women on visual tasks involving folding), play darts (men outperform women on projective accuracy tasks), read “Where’s Waldo” books (men outperform women on perceptual disembedding tasks), or do accounting (men outperform women on mathematic reasoning). It also means that God does not want men to play matching games (women outperform men on rapid image-matching tasks), work on assembly lines (women outperform men on precision manual tasks), or analyze crime scenes (women outperform men on tasks that involve noticing when objects are missing). Why is it only the gender differences in agency and communion that are relevant?

Areas in which I remain confused:

1. Okay, there’s actually only one area. All the above is fine as long as I am looking at this as a social psychologist. Will anything change when I look at this as a Christian? Both complementarians and egalitarians claim to be grounded in the best-quality biblical scholarship, and accuse each other of letting social constructs (patriarchy, feminism) cloud their vision. I don’t know who’s right, and arguments in the blogosphere too often end up being nothing but a restatement of one’s own position and irrelevant character attacks on one’s opponents. I need better arguments than “Complementarians are right because we’re right and you’re wrong.” Diving into the literature on this topic is on my To Read list (along with all the other stuff that’s on my To Read list, a list that seems to be growing much faster than I can read my way through it). Where is the really good scholarly work on this topic? Whose books should I be reading? No cheesy polemics; solid scholarship.

In the meantime, I do the best I can to be a good husband and a good father. I take Jesus’ servanthood as my model (not that I always live up to it). If he emptied himself for our sakes, I should be emptying myself for the sake of my wife and our cheeselings. If that means that I take on some extra burdens, and encourage my wife to do what she is clearly gifted at (preaching and teaching in a pastoral role, being a grad student and eventually going into doctoral studies, etc…), then that’s what I should be doing.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis as an Example of a Good Complementarian Wife?

Courtney Reissig at TGC asks, ed Can Jackie O teach us to be good complementarians?

There are three issues with the article that I wish to highlight:

1. This is a rather muddled article, healing with Reissig on the one hand suggesting that we should not go back to past eras’ understandings of gender roles, sovaldi but on the other hand, suggesting that we should look to Jackie O as a great example of what gender roles in marriage should look like today. She argues that all cultures are flawed, and that our understanding of gender has been flawed since the Fall, but then doesn’t interact with the idea that her understanding of ‘biblical womanhood’ might be just as flawed, and just as ‘cultural’. She argues that submission is good and right, but then suggests that submission in marriage that doesn’t point to Christ is meaningless.

2. I really shouldn’t comment on her use of John Piper’s definition of submission, but what always gets me is that it’s only a definition for a woman. What does submission look like for all Christians? (Since we all are called to submit to each other (Ephesians 5:21), to submit to Christ (James 4:7), and to submit to governing authorities (Romans 13:1))

Reissig writes,

While we are not defined by changing cultural norms, we can see some elements of truth in how women like Jacqueline Kennedy support their husbands. Her devotion to President Kennedy is one that, as Christian women, we can admire and desire to emulate. This unswerving commitment to his success and good is reminiscent of the biblical command given to women by God in Genesis. God made woman to be a suitable helper for her husband, to submit to him and honor him. John Piper defines submission as “the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.” Kennedy’s support of her husband and desire to make her home a haven of rest for him is a picture of what God intended when he created men and women.

3. And the biggest struggle I have with this article is that it completely falls for the magical facade of Camelot. What about John’s indiscretions? It’s easy to gloss over them for the sake of the fairy tale, but by buying into the facade it can be implied in Reissig’s presentation that Jackie’s devotion in light of John’s indiscretions is a good thing. What kind of message is that sending to women? “Submit to your husbands, even when he defiles your marriage vows and chooses to dishonour you.” But then again, if she’s following Piper’s definition, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the message, since Piper has also suggested that a woman who is being abused by her husband should “endure for a season”.