I'm a little late to the party, I know. The fire storm caused by John Macarthur's recent comments about Beth Moore, has started to die down. If you haven't listened to them, here is a clip. Go Home Beth Moore No doubt, we've already found the next fiasco to stir up a frenzy of indignation, but the issue of women in ministry is still red-hot in our cultural moment. It's not going to go away any time soon. Because of this, I was willing to accept an invitation from my friend Mike Erre, an extremely gifted Bible teacher who hosts the popular Vox podcast and who also happens to be an Egalitarian, to weigh in on Macarthur's recent comments and women in ministry in general. It's quite long, but I think worth the listen. Vox Podcast: Alan Frow on Women in Ministry
To be honest, the response to our discussion took me by surprise. In a good way. While Mike and I may differ in our views on men and women in the family and the church, our discourse felt warm-hearted and fair-minded. That seemed to encourage listeners who reached out to me from both sides of the aisle to say that they appreciated the tone of the conversation. In this age of outrage in which we tend to villainize those we disagree with, that alone seemed worthwhile. Moreover, some Egalitarians contacted me to tell me that they found some of my points helpful and even convincing. They didn't realize that there was another kind of Complementarian than MacArthur's version.
What I realized was that men like Macarthur have created a caricature of all Complementarians as insecure and arrogant. A few minutes in to the interview, Mike literally asked, "So you grew up Egalitarian and now you are Complementarian. How is that? Because you don't sound like a jerk!" It seemed incredulous to Mike that someone might be a Complementarian and not be a jerk.
There is now such a stigma associated with the idea that men and women are equal in value and dignity but not interchangeable in role, that it is viewed by many as religiously-veneered sexism. Admittedly, men like MacArthur, with their high-school-locker-room-smugness, add fuel to the fire of this perception. And yet, there is an unmistakable theme of complementarity rather than sameness between men and women in the Scriptures. The differences between men and women in the family and the church are not viewed as a power play in the Scriptures, but rather as a necessary and beautiful mystery, reflecting the image of the Tri-Une God, complementing one another in united diversity. Better together.
I fear that the rise of Egalitarianism in the Church in our day; the idea that equal value and dignity between men and women must mean equality of role - may partially arise from a fear of rejection by our pervading culture. Today, Christian sexual ethics and complementarity are two of the primary Biblical teachings that make us feel like exiles - a peculiar people, out-of-step with our culture. But we ignore the timeless call for men and women to be diverse image bearers of God, at our peril. The attempt to blur gender difference removes the beauty that God displays by the combining of binary opposites in creation; night and day, heavens and earth, sea and land, male and female.
I have written quite extensively on the ways in which we have tried to arrive at a more spacious Complementarity here. and here.. I believe some of the historic boundaries we have put in place have been narrower than what Jesus would have wanted. If we look at his liberation and protection of women, as well as the ways in which He engaged women and received ministry from them, we Complementarians must allow His life to mess with some aspects of our human tradition. And yet, Jesus, the great women's liberator and breaker of social convention, still chose twelve men as his Apostles. Egalitarians must allow this to mess with their deconstruction of Biblical tradition.