If you are at all acquainted with traditional evangelical stances on women in leadership, you know that the egalitarian vs. complementarian debate is a touchy one. As I have written previously, Christian women tend to find themselves fretting as they teeter between conservative/traditional and liberal/modern, wishing they were able to be themselves without stepping on too many toes or doing the wrong thing.
Feminism is one of those areas of great concern, particularly for the woman who has been raised in a complementarian mentality, and is afraid that taking a more “modern” view will require her to go full-bore liberal.
I have news for you: there’s nothing to worry about. Despite that as Christian women we feel ganged up on by both liberal feminists and by (some) men, this is an incorrect perspective. In many ways, the debate really is a prime example of the differences between men and women, and between logic and emotion.
I will refrain from a full-scale argument listing both sides of the coin as far as egalitarianism or complementarianism are concerned, since there are plenty of other resources for that. I propose simply to set my fellow Christian feminists (or closet feminists) at ease and suggest a new way to approach the debate.
What is important for both men and women to remember as we both examine the Scripture to see what it really says about women in leadership and ministry, is that we have the important task of keeping the argument reasonable. By that I mean, let us remember that sin nature has caused much harm, and Satan has greatly rejoiced, in improperly-conducted patriarchy. At the same time, sin nature has caused much harm, and Satan has greatly rejoiced, in improperly-conducted feminism.
Yes, at times it requires a great deal of force to break old chains and habits (I do in fact applaud some of our feminist predecessors, as they had it a great deal worse than we). But let us remember that in general, our fellow Christian men are not so much trying to beat us into submission as they are reacting emotionally (via defensiveness, asserting of dominance) to what they see radical feminism accomplishing. And then, women tend to react emotionally to the emotional reactions of men, and both sides lose sight of all logic and wisdom.
Can we not move (at last!) into the freedom of wise and logical feminism in ways that honor both men and God, rather than trading in all logic for the chance to declare our bras useless and our bodies ours alone? (Dear Radical Feminists: your body is not yours, and it is also not the “patriarchy’s.” It is God’s. But I digress.) If we, as women, approach the Scripture humbly and allow that traditional patriarchy has had many faults throughout history but is worthy of forgiveness, then we set ourselves up not for enmity nor for a radical swing into sin, but for bold confidence in who we are to God and to the Church.
If Christian men are willing to do the same, and respond to feminism humbly, considerately, logically, and without defensiveness, then they too will avoid sin.
If neither men nor women assume hostility toward one another nor accept and condone the sin resulting from either mishandled patriarchy or radical feminism, then we are left with a manner of treating and understanding one another that is much nearer to what God intended.
As for the actual Scriptural and logical debate on egalitarianism vs. complementarianism, there are many resources. For a couple of simple ones, try:
Two Views on Women in Ministry by Gundry and Beck
Partners in Christ: A Conservative Case for Egalitarianism by John G. Stackhouse Jr.
Thoughts? Leave them below!