Can one forgive a non-forgetful man? / Kann man einem nicht-vergesslichen Mann vergeben?

I hope my regular readers will forgive me for this utterly superficial post and perhaps even take a laugh with me.

Ich hoffe, dass meine regelmäßigen Leser mir für diese völlig oberflächliche Post vergeben und vielleicht sogar mit mir lachen werden.

(German translation which must be bypassed for discovering my improvised modifications of the story)

(Däitschi Iwersetzung)

Wer sagt denn, dass Männer keine Erinnerungen haben!

Ein Paar ging einkaufen für Weihnacht. Das Einkaufszentrum wimmelte von Leuten und die Ehefrau ging umher als sie überrascht entdeckte, dass ihr Mann nirgendwo zu sehen war.

Sie war echt erschüttert denn sie hatten noch viele Dinge zu tun. Deshalb wurde sie so besorgt, dass sie ihn auf seinem Händi anrief und daraufhin fragte, wo er war.

Mit einer leise Stimme sagte er: “Erinnerst du dich an die Juwelier, in deren Geschäft wir fünf Jahre zuvor hinein gingen? Du hattest dich in diese Diamantenkette verliebt, die wir nicht bezahlen konnten und ich sagte dir darauf, dass ich sie für dich eines Tages kriegen würde.”

Die Frau wurde vor Rührung sprachlos, fing an zu weinen und antwortete:

“Ja, ich erinnere mich wirklich gut an dieses Geschäft.”

“Na, eigentlich bin ich im Pub grad donewe!”

Drink responsibly. Portrait of drunk men sitting at the pub with

I can truly assure you that in such a situation I’d have been much more original than him.

Ich kann euch wahrhaftig versichern, dass ich selber in einer solchen Situation viel origineller als er gewesen wäre.

“Well, I courageously stole this necklace for appeasing your wrath following my having broken the tenth glass in the first month since we’ve been living together. But after I successfully went across the wall, I got caught by this weed-smoking bobby who put me under arrest.”

“Na, ich habe ganz mutig diese Halskette gestohlen, um deine Wut zu besänftigen, die deswegen entstand, weil ich das zehnte Glas gebrochen habe, seitdem wir zusammen leben. Aber nachdem ich erfolgreich durch die Wand gegangen war wurde ich von diesem grasrauchenden Bullen erwischt, der mich verhaftet hat.”

I really don’t know why but I felt the urge to make a fool of myself before getting to bed.

Ich weiß wirklich nicht warum aber ich empfand einfach den Drang, mich zum Narren zu machen, bevor ich ins Bett gehen würde.

If at least one person laughs because of the story instead of laughing at me, I’ll consider my goal reached.

Wenn mindestens ein Mensch lacht wegen der Geschichte, die ich erzählt habe, anstatt sich über mich lustig zu machen , werde ich mein Ziel als erreicht betrachten.

 Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

Reclaiming female ministry within the Church

I caused quite I stir by defending a mild form of complementarism according to which men and women are (at least in some ways) statistically different so that it is mistaken to strive for a society where they ought to be equally represented in every domain.

I do not, however, hold this view owing to Biblical statements (which I see as culturally conditioned) but due to strong empirical evidence.

This is by no means an absolute conclusion and if it can be shown that men and women are statistically by no means different, I shall gladly accept this conclusion.

I consider anyway the following thing to be certain: during the whole history of mankind, many differences stemming from cultural prejudices have been seen as being the ways things are and should be, thereby causing a tremendous amount of frustration and suffering.

It is an inconvenient truth that the Church has plaid a very dark role by holding fast to dogmas which are clearly unjust and fly in the face of our concrete experience.

One example is the existence of female theologians, pastors and apologists. I think it should not be controversial that they do the job as well as their male counterparts.

Interestingly enough, I think that a good argument for encouraging their number to grow is because they bring up a different and complementary perspective in the concerned fields.

From an Evangelical standpoint, Leslie Kenney wrote a great manifesto for that purpose which I reproduced here.

I decided to start this year’s series with a reprint of what has become my manifesto. By the time you’re finished reading thing, I want you to make your hotel reservations singing “I Am Women.”

So here is my plea to any woman who feels called by God to serve Him through the study and practice of theology or biblical studies in an academic setting—to any women who feels called to serve God in any environment dominated by men—don’t give up, back-down, or walk-away! Please!

While the whole question of whether women should preach, teach, or be in positions of authority cycles through the Christian blogosphere with dependable regularity, I usually try to ignore it. However, back in August 2011 I read a blog post by Marlena Graves in which she quoted Margaret Feinberg. When Feinberg was asked in an interview whether there was a “gender ghetto” in evangelical Christianity? Feinberg’s response was:

I wonder why we’re even talking about this when there are so many needs around the world?…Now is not the time. When every starving person has food, when every homeless person has a place to live, when every well is dug, when AIDS has been eradicated in Africa, when all of our neighbors know Jesus, then we can sit and debate about titles and who should do what.

Moore’s response to this quote from Feinberg, which was much more restrained than what mine would have been, is that gender inequality in Christian leadership is a justice issue. No, it’s not as critical or urgent as saving people’s lives, but social justice is not a tidy, self-contained list of problems that can be ticked off one at a time; it’s an interconnected web of cause and effect. But more importantly, I sensed in Feinberg’s response more than a little rationalizing. If Feinberg can convince herself (and other women) that things like the gender ghetto within evangelical Christianity are superficial issues compared to world hunger, human trafficking and evangelism, then she can keep ignoring it as long as she wants to—and make other women feel guilty if we bring it up.

Fast forward to a few months later and the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Francisco November 2011. Now, I knew that there wouldn’t be many women there, but a series of posts by Michael Bird and Brian LePort made me start to wonder whether I might, in fact, be stared at like some carnival oddity. By time I got on the plane for San Francisco, the charts

illustrating how severely the ETS lags behind almost every other religious/academic organization in the number of female members had burned themselves into my brain. I wondered whether I would be sitting at dinner with a big invisible “quarantine” sign around me?

As it turned out, I was occasionally the only woman in the room, but more often I was one of two or three. And most of the men I met were downright giddy that a woman would want to pursue a PhD in theology, although they admitted that there was still a small contingent of hard complementarians who believed otherwise. My experience tells me that women would be welcomed at the ETS if they would come. The problem is that many women won’t feel comfortable until there’s a critical mass, and there won’t be a critical mass until more women come. As Michael Bird wrote in the post that started the whole ETS kerfuffle, “If you (women) don’t speak out for women’s issues among evangelicals, then who will? Don’t count on me, I’m male, and I’ll be too busy going to the various receptions and browsing the book exhibits, so it’ll have to be you girlfriend!”

By the time I got back from ETS, it was time to start prepping for the holidays. My days were spent in a haze of cleaning, shopping, and writing posts about Advent and the commercialization of Christmas. One day though, one of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Mac, wrote something that made me stop the holiday whirlwind. Apparently, another of those inevitable arguments had erupted on the blogosphere about whether women can lead or teach in church. The details really don’t matter, although you can read about it here. What mattered was Amanda’s response (paragraph returns have been removed for the sake of space):

I don’t know that there is any more fruitful discussion to be had about this topic around the blogosphere. It just ends up being a way for those who already know which side of the debate they’re on to affirm their position and sharpen their polemic against the other side. Part of me is tempted to do a self-imposed moratorium on writing about women and ministry issues on CW Theology. Part of me says, “Amanda are you nuts? Writing about women in ministry brings in the big page hits.” Part of me wants to throw everyone in a UFC cage and let them fight it out — The last person standing wins. All of me is tired.

In her post, Amanda links to another popular blog “Emerging Mummy,” in which Sarah Styles Bessey writes that she’s “leaving the men’s table:

So I am no longer standing beside your table, asking for a seat, working and serving and hoping to be noticed and then offered a seat or arguing for my right to a seat. I don’t care to sit here anymore. I have not desire to be indoors, in your neat boxes. Instead, I am outside with the misfits, with the rebels, the dreamers, the people of the second chance, the radical grace givers, the ones with arms wide open, the ones that you’ve rejected as not worthy of being listened to and I will be happy here.

This is a wonderful post, full of joy and triumph. And leaving, for Sarah, may be a gift that God has given her, but my concern is that she makes leaving the men’s table sound so empowering and downright sensible that women may leave who really need to stay.

It’s a ruthless truth that evangelical academics is an overwhelmingly (white) man’s world. Even the theological blogosphere, which should, theoretically, be a level playing field, is ruled by men. And as I’ve said before, the comments section of even egalitarian blogs like Scot McKnight and Roger Olson is populated primarily by men. Then there’s Amanda Mac’s Great Blog Experiment of two years ago in which she took all personal references off her blog, essentially making herself anonymous. When commenting on other blogs she used only her initials or some other genderless pseudonym. What she found was that people were more likely to click on the link to her blog when she was anonymous than when she used her real name and went back to being a girl.

Now other than a few specific hard complementarian sites and seminaries (and we all know who they are), I don’t think most of these guys are doing this on purpose. With a few notable exceptions, I don’t think there’s an active conspiracy to keep women out of the evangelical academy or the theological blogosphere. I do think that there is a centuries-old paradigm that continues to infect us all and that must be destroyed. It’s a paradigm that assumes that men, and only men, can interact with deep theological topics, and that women always speak from their hearts rather than their heads.

I have, literally, sat around the table with these men and been part of the conversation. I have spoken and been spoken to and many (though admittedly not all) of these men are ready and willing to talk deep theology with a woman. But how will the rest of the masculine academic tribe ever have this experience if women don’t pull up a chair and start talking—regardless of the odd reactions they might get. The reason I feature my photo prominently on my blog and also started attaching my photo when I comment on other people’s blogs is because I want people to get used to seeing a woman’s face. Focusing that much attention on myself does not come naturally and still feels kind of weird (as it probably does to a lot of women), but I encourage female bloggers and commenters to start doing the same.

Back in September 2012, Leanne Dzubinski wrote a wonderful post called “God Will Make a Way,” in which she challenges the frequently-held belief that if God intends a women to use her gifts in a non-traditional ministry that God will open a door for her to walk through. Dzubinski challenges this assumption on two fronts. The first problem, she says, is the assumption that if a women is not offered an opportunity to use her gifts that there is something wrong with her. The possibility that there might be something wrong with the system never enters her mind. The second problem is that it removes the responsibility of the woman to act, encouraging her to passively leave everything in the hands of providence. But the Bible tells us that God does not want us to be passive. God called Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and the New Testament Church (to name just a few). Then he expected Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and the New Testament Church to go and do what he asked them to do—regardless of the obstacles. “While God absolutely can and sometimes does miraculously change things for us,” writes Dzubinski “can we also consider that perhaps we need to work together to change the system?”

I ask any woman who has been called by God to study theology, hermeneutics, or apologetics (and you know who you are) to just do it. I encourage any women who feels discouraged or tired because she sits in a classroom populated entirely by men to remind herself that obstacles are not evidence that she should give up. I demand (and I don’t demand things very often) that if you are not called to “women’s ministry” that you do not let others channel you in that direction.

And I humbly ask that if you want to blog about complex theological issues, do it. Do it often. Do it well. And let everyone know about it.

I really hope that the Church of Rom will follow this trend in every respect.

Egalitarianism and complementarism, statistics and exceptions

Egalitarianism and complementarism, statistics and exceptions

Following my post about egalitarianism and complementarism, I receive an email from Mary, a young woman from North Dakota who has been living in Lancashire (not far from the city where I now live) for three years.

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I find it extremely interesting and insightful, so I reproduce it here:

“I have some very strong feelings about this topic.
I respect you and your method of communicating, and you also stated that your views were open to evolving if you were given new information, so I feel it would be worthwhile for us to open a little dialogue on this.

Now, it’s difficult for me to get into a dispassionate conversation about this topic, because it has had such blatant and hurtful affects on me.  I can keep my emotions uninvolved when it comes to discussing many, many topics, but this is not one.  So please understand if I liberally insert a bit of my personal feelings and experiences into this, although I will try to present plenty of non-anecdotal evidence for my position as well.

Complimentarianism and Egalitarianism were defined well in the article.  Egalitarians believe that people should be judged on their individual merits alone, without regard to their gender.  Complimentarians believe that judgments should be partly made by gender, because being a certain sex infuses you with certain merits and qualities that the other gender cannot fulfill.  Indeed, complimentarians will generally say that a woman will be most fulfilled if she embraces feminine roles, and a man will be most fulfilled if he embraces masculine roles because that is what their bodies and souls were designed for.  Their gender defines them, at least in part.

First of all, I want to emphasize that there is NOTHING wrong with fulfilling a traditional gender role.  If a woman wants to be a stay-at-home mom and a man wants to be a breadwinner, I will not judge them… so long as that decision was made by them, and not by their culture.  However, I can tell you without reservation that complimentarianism hurts people.  Enormously, horrendously, gruesomely, it hurts people.  In a slightly more distant sense, it harms people like gays and lesbians and transgender people who seem to transcend conservative ideas of what “man” and “woman” can be.  These people face violence and discrimination as a direct result of defying these little generalizations.  However, it has a much more direct affect too.  I’ve seen many young lives boxed up and stored on separate shelves, labeled “man” and “woman” and, to me, that is a tragedy.  I’ve seen young women quietly discouraged from going to college, or held back a  grade in high school so that their younger brother can attend school with them to protect them from society’s influences.  I’ve seen women who never left home because their family expected them to stay under their father’s authority until marriage… after all, a woman is most fulfilled as a wife and mother, not in a career.  I’ve seen young men ostracized by their friends because of a soft voice and a penchant for wearing jewelry.  I’ve seen women taught to fear their bodies and men taught to fear their sexual urges.  All of this was done in the name of protecting and preparing children for their pre-designed roles… roles that were assigned from birth, before the parent even had a chance to get to know their son or daughter for who they are.

   And herein lies the insidious poison of Complimentarianism: it is disguised as stability and support, when in truth it undermines the individual and tries to replace it with a mold that might not fit.  Plenty of men and women will step forward and explain how they are happy in their roles, and how perfect it is for them.  But for every man and woman that fits that role, there will be others that do not, and still more that will spend untold years in pain, trying to force themselves into those neat boxes in order to please their family and culture.

   For my own experience, I hated being a girl.  From the age of six, I told my mother that I should have been born a boy.  Perhaps part of the problem was my own gender identity, but that was not all; I simply had a deep desire to be respected as strong, fierce, courageous, heroic, smart, and capable.  Even from that young age, I’d absorbed that these were MALE traits.  Females were to be respected for grace, compassion, gentleness, meekness, and modesty.  So great was this distinction, that I believed my own body was the reason that I didn’t fit the box, not the box itself.  And this dissonance dominated huge parts of my young life.

   I strove with all of my might to distinguish myself as a boy.  I started by loudly proclaiming my disdain towards anything that might be seen as girly (birds, bunnies, pink, purple, flowers, bows, and more).  I was filled with shame when I found myself liking Lisa Frank merchandise (I don’t know if you remember those rainbow-colored relics of the 90’s) and I would literally only walk into that aisle of the toy store if no one else was around to see, and I would hide if someone else showed up.  I fiercely argued with my sister when she tried to explain to me that I couldn’t grow up to be a fireman, and I’d be a firewoman instead.  I didn’t want to be a firewoman.  A firewoman would be lesser because she would be meek and gentle instead of strong and brave.  I created alternate identities for myself, all male, and I adored the uncle that I’d never met simply because he referred to me sometimes by the nickname “Al”.  I tried very hard to get other friends to call me by that nickname, but it never stuck.

   Most importantly, my parents never even worked hard to force me into this gender role.  Yes, the implications were there, but I can’t recall many times that I was told to repress my personality or to stop being a tomboy.  My parents encouraged me to pursue my interest in Physics, even if it was a stereotypically male field.  They let me play sports and act tough.  They encouraged me to be independent.  And yet, at 6 years old, I had already recognized that being a woman was less than being a man or at least a woman could not be ME… and that belief never changed until long after I had left home.

   I can think of a few things that my parents did to encourage the gender divide.  My mother did urge me to prepare for motherhood and care of a household, long before I had made any indications that I would ever wish to do these things (I didn’t).  I was thoroughly versed in modesty teachings, and taught to be ashamed and afraid of my developing body because it was an instrument of sin.  I was instructed in “purity” teachings that worked to highlight the difference between the two sexes, and set them up for a lifetime of separation together.  None of these things helped with my gender dissatisfaction.

   But, in large part, it was the culture of Complimentarianism in the Fundamentalist world that taught me to be unhappy with myself as a young woman.  It wasn’t forced and it wasn’t beaten into me; it was so much more insidious than that.  Just because my compliance with gender roles wasn’t outright demanded doesn’t mean that the pressure wasn’t very real.  And very confusing and damaging to a developing young mind that just didn’t fit.

   So when supporters of Complimentarianism try to tell me “I would never force my kids to fit those roles; it would just be strongly encouraged as the best way to achieve happiness,” I have to shake my head.  They clearly have never felt the cognitive dissonance of existing in a world that strongly encourages them to be something they’re not.  That strong encouragement can warp a child’s expectations of themselves, alter their dreams, drive them to self-loathing, or provoke an outright rebellion and fracture of the family.  Why would anyone risk all of that in the name of an outdated presumption of what men and women can or cannot do?  Is a child’s body parts truly more important than their individual identity?

    Indeed, many complimentarians object to many of the stories I tell.  “I would never hold my daughter back from college” or “a man can like jewelry” might be the quick responses.  But Complimentarianism CANNOT be separated from these sorts of tragedies, because, at it’s core, it is erasure of the individual in favor of a stereotype.  It is telling a child when it is born “I don’t even know you yet, I don’t know your personality or your talents or desires or fears… but I DEMAND you to fulfill my stereotype based on that little bit of biology right there between your legs.  I will demand it through my judgments, my encouragements, my suggestions of what you will do and where you will go.  I will demand it through the school activities I will put you in, I will demand it through the pastor’s sermons about how women need to stop talking and men need to “man up”.  I will demand you to fulfill this role and, if you fail, it is because you must be
 broken,
 damaged, flawed.”

Are there statistical differences between men and women?  Sure.  But, especially in all psychological areas, there is more overlap than difference.  Just look through this article if you are in doubt.  http://www.psych.rochester.edu/people/reis_harry/assets/pdf/CarothersReis_2012.pdf  Most men and women are psychologically NO DIFFERENT.  Science has shown this.  And many of the differences can probably be attributed to cultural conditioning… we expect women to be X and men to be Y from a young age, so they develop to fulfill that.  And then Complimentarianists can pat themselves on the back and say “see?  Men and women are different after all” when half of the differences come from this very social construct of Complimentarianism.

I could probably write for another 3 years on the subject, but I guess I’ll stop for now.  Please, I beg of you, consider what I’m saying, ask questions, and just give it all some thought.  People are suffering still under these ideas and it breaks my heart.  People are people, regardless of gender, and we should not be making blanket judgments about them because of their gender.

Thank you very much for reading.  All the best to you!!!”

I am thankful to Mary for having raised so many important issues. If she decides to react to comments, I would be very grateful if everyone were to treat her with the uttermost respect.

Despite having given up her faith, she remains extremely friendly towards Christians and given the circumstances I view this a miracle.

I think that she did an excellent job exposing the huge suffering that Evangelical complementarianism might be causing in quite a few cases.

This was not, however, what I was saying in my last post.

The differences I pointed out are of a statistical nature and there are certainly quite a few exceptions.

There is absolutely nothing wrong about women having the temperament of breadwinners and men preferring taking care of the home and they should never be ridiculed owing to this.

Likewise, I believe that a minority of humans have a homosexual nature and that it is healthy for them to marry someone of the same sex since this is not harmful.

A woman applying for a position in the army should be judged by her own skills alone and not by those of the average female.

What I do oppose, however, is this willingness to impose an equal demography between the two sexes in every sector.

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I and many secular folks reject this silly endeavor of the European Union to forcefully introduce equal quotas for it ignores the fact that (statistically speaking) men and women are psychologically and biologically different.

(Analyzing the evidence and counter-evidence is beyond the scope of this post).

Complementarianism, egalitarianism and the differences between men and women

There is a huge debate raging in the Evangelical community about the place and role of women.

Egalitarians believe that men and women are not only equal but dispose of the same abilities in every respect.

Complementarians believe that men and women are equal but different with respect to their skills and roles.

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I don’t share the belief in Biblical inerrancy of both camps and don’t base my thinking on culturally conditioned statements one can find in Scripture.

Nevertheless I am a complementarian.

Since this might shock many people, I reproduced a great post of Mike Patton explaining this:

The most common understanding of both Complementarianism and Egalitarianism goes something like this:

Complementarians: Do not let women be pastors over men.

Egalitarians: Do let women be pastors over men.

or…

Complementarians: The husband is the leader of the family.

Egalitarians: The husband and wife co-lead the family, with no priority.

or…

Complementarians: Wives submit to your husbands.

Egalitarians: Husbands and wives are to practice mutual submission.

While I think that these are characteristics of both groups, they are not foundational characteristics that define each group. In other words, I don’t think that they are helpful in defining what it means to be a complementarian or egalitarian and they serve to cause a great deal of misunderstanding that leads to emotional bias that is very difficult to overcome once set.

In fact, I am going to say something very radical here and then explain. Here it goes:

It is possible to be a complementarian and believe that a women can serve in the position of head pastor over men.

Did you get that? Reread it. Reread it again…

Complementarianism is not first defined by it view of the roles of men and women in the church, family, or society.

Here is what Complementarianism is:

Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but often, functionally, take subordinate roles (like the Trinity). These differences complete or “complement” each other. Due to these differences, there will be some things that women are predisposed and purposed to do more than men. As well, there will be some things that men are predisposed and purposed to do more than women. Therefore, there are ideal roles for both men and women that should be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society. To deny these differences is to deny the design of God and thwart his purpose.

Here is what Egalitarianism is:

The belief that God has created men and women equal in all things. Men and women are ontologically and functionally equal. The way the sexes function in the church, society, and the family is determined by individual giftedness, not role distinctions according to the sexes. Therefore, each person should be judged individually when being placed in a particular position. We should exemplify this reality by overcoming the stereotypical placement that has traditionally been a part of societies in human history, thereby giving freedom to individuals to follow the path that God has uniquely created them for, whatever that may be. In doing so, we should no longer educate or indoctrinate according to any of the former stereotypes, including those of basic masculinity and femininity.

These, in my opinion, are the foundational tenants of each position without giving examples on how this plays out in the family, the church, or society.

The case I am making here is that in order to be a consistent egalitarian, one must deny virtually all differences that typify men as men and women as women. It is not just about getting women behind the pulpit or the concept of mutual submission in the family. It is much more complex and, in my estimation, more difficult to defend with sensibility.

I had a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who was an Egalitarian (he left because of this—I won’t mention his name). I loved this guy. Still do. Great teacher, thinker, and Christian. In fact, I had him come speak to our pastoral staff at Stonebriar to challenge us on why he became egalitarian and to defend his position. I wanted the staff to understand the “other side” from a very able defender. During his presentation, he painted himself into this very typical corner that I find most all egalitarians end up. 

He was advocating a foundational principle of egalitarianism: there are no essential differences between men and women other than reproductive stuff. We were all quite taken aback. Every example we brought up, he shot down by giving a counter-example in the form of an exception. His basic argument turned on finding exceptions to everything. Whether it was that men were less emotional, more aggressive, more one tracked in their thinking, less tender, more competitive, unable to nurture as well as women, or even liked the color blue more, he brought up exceptions that he believed neutralized the “pattern”. Finally, I thought I had him. I said “What about physicality? Men are stronger than women.” He would have none of that. He then brought up examples of German women who were stronger than men! We could not stump the guy!

The problem is that in order to defend egalitarianism consistently, he had to deny all of the common sense distinctions that people have made about men and women since the dawn of time. I won’t get into the science or psychology of this issue as there are many very good resources that do this. To me, it is rather bizarre that one would actually be inclined to produce evidence to prove that men and women are different!

I am of the opinion that many egalitarians would have been appalled by Peter who said that women are the weaker of the sexes (1 Pet. 3:7) siting every exception to this rule and bemoaning this stereotype until Peter cried “uncle.”

Complementarianism says that men and women are different by design. We are different and God did it. It is that simple.

However, most people would not be willing to go as far as my former professor. They realize that sustaining a proposition that men and women have no essential differences is a battle that cannot really be sustained in real life (only theoretical ideology). Men and women are different. Even most egalitarians that I know would give me this. Hear this again. Most egalitarians that I know would admit, when push comes to shove, that there are some essential differences between men and women. Most would even say that there are essential differences that go beyond reproduction and physicality. But I would argue that these people are not really egalitarians, at least in the way I have defined it. They would be complementarians because they would have given up what I believe to be a central driving tenant of egalitarianism and embraced the central tenant of complementarianism: men and women are different by design and their differences complement each other.

Now, having said this, I believe that it is theoretically possible to be a complementarian and yet not take a traditional complementarian stand on the issue of women in ministry. In other words, someone could believe that men and women are different by design yet not think that these differences have any bearing on women in leadership in the church. They may be convinced that the Bible does not really teach that women should not teach men, and yet be complementarian in other issues and, broadly, in their theology of the sexes.

I am interested and committed to complementarianism for more than just the women in ministry issue. This is just one application. But (and here is where I get in trouble with fellow complementarians), I don’t think that it is the most important issue in this debate. Neither do I think that it is the most “damaging” issue.

You see, when people are truly committed and consistent egalitarians, they have to defend their denial of essential differences. In doing so, they will advocate a education system in the home, church, and society which neutralizes any assumption of differences between the sexes. In doing so, men will not be trained to be “men” since there is really no such thing. Women will not be encouraged to be “women” since there is no such thing. The assumption of differences becomes a way to oppress society and marginalize, in their estimation, one sex for the benefit of the other. Once we neutralize these differences, we will have neutered society and the family due to a denial of God’s design in favor of some misguided attempt to promote a form of equality that is neither possible nor beneficial to either sex.

We will have troubled men and women groping to find their way and feeling pressured to repress their instincts and giftedness. We will no longer be able to train up men and women in the “way” they should go since there is no “way” they should go. Women can act masculine and men can be feminine. Men can retreat in the face of responsibility because, in truth, they don’t have any “responsibility” other than the one that they choose. This is to say nothing of the implications this has on the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage.

But in a complementarian worldview (even one that allows women to teach men in the church), men are taught to be men and women are taught to be women. They both have defining characteristics. Masculinity and femininity find their place and are exemplified and celebrated. Men protect women from physical danger and take their positions of leadership seriously, without trepidation or fear that they will be seen as power mongers. And women support this. Women take up their positions of nurturing and supporting the emotional well-being of the world. And men support it. No role distinction is seen as inferior because in a complementarian worldview both are seen as essential and of equal importance. Only in complementarianism do we not define the rule by the exceptions and bow to the least common denominator. Only in the complementarian worldview, in my opinion, can freedom to be who we are supposed to be find meaning.

The true spirit of complementarianism is that God has intentionally created men and women with differences and we are to celebrate this in every way. The true spirit of complementarianism is never domineering (that is a sinful corruption). The true spirit of complementarianism provides no shame only freedom. The true spirit of complementarianism speaks to God in appreciation.

When we attempt to neuter this design, we have lost much more than authority in the pulpit.

Complementarians, while I believe that the Bible teaches the ideal that women should not have authority over men in the church, let us promote the true spirit of complementarianism then simply defending its particular applications.

I believe that female preachers and pastors can be really great and are an enrichment for the Church. I do hope that the Church of Rom will allow them to become priests over the next decades.

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However, I do believe that (statistically speaking) men and women are both psychologically and biologically different and that there are therefore some types of work which are (statistically speaking) more appropriate for females than for males and vice-versa.

I am convinced that if a man and a woman apply for the same position, there NEVER should be any discrimination.

However I believe that endeavors such as Gender Mainstreaming (aiming at erasing all differences between the sexes in society) are profoundly stupid and noxious.

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My position lies on empirical grounds and is shared by many French (and to a lesser extent German) secular people who are extremely skeptical of the gender ideology.