25 Responses to Can Egalitarians Tolerate Complementarians?

  1. Jerry April 20, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    As an egalitarian I find Payne’s position more informed by culture than Scripture. There are many egalitarians like myself who base their position on their understanding of Scripture alone without concern for contemporary definitions of rights, morality etc.

    So I would have to say you go too far too fast when you argue that the egalitarian position necessarily entails intolerance of complementarians in the name of morality, and accordingly should not be given leadership positions.

    Many egalitarians are not like Payne and do not find complementarians immoral but fellow brothers sincerely trying to live out their convictions from Scripture (as they are). Your picture of an egalitarian is not sufficiently nuanced. On the basis of this incorrect alarm-generating portrait of egalitarians as a whole, you then advocate a drastic action that would escalate hostility in the body of Christ.

    Of course if all egalitarians were like Payne, your recommendation would be justified. I respect your complementarian position as I know it is held by many godly and biblically faithful men.

    • Kris April 22, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      Jerry

      I think your response is very well spoken and hope that Jim (and others) hear your concerns and corrections.

      • Jerry April 22, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

        Thanks Kris. Below is a quote from Don Carson about Roger Nicole and his faithfulness to Scripture while being an egalitarian (taken from the Gospel Coalition website).

        “The degree to which he espoused egalitarianism ensured he was not entirely trusted in complementarian circles, but no one who talked with him about these matters thought he arrived at his conclusions by trying to skirt Scripture’s authority.”

        • JMH April 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

          Kris & Jerry,

          I would encourage you guys to read about the way Scott Hafemann was treated by the egalitarians at Southern Seminary when he was interviewed back in 1993. The story can be found on pp. 509-10 of Greg Will’s history of the school, “The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Oxford, 2009.

          In the same volume, on p. 537, Wills correctly notes, “Neutrality on the issue in faculty selection was difficult in practice because it was not just an interpretive issue–it was a personal issue. And egalitarians viewed it as a justice issue. They tended to view any support or accommodation of complementarian views as compromise with injustice. Their support of egalitarianism tended to become a moral principle that brooked no compromise.”

          Besides that, of course, it directly contradicts what the Scripture clearly teaches.

          Blessings!

          Jim

          • Kris April 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

            Hi Jim,

            Thanks for responding. Just to clarify: Jerry and I are not questioning the fact that there have been and are “bad” egalitarians. What we’re stressing is that (in our opinion) your post – and even most recent response – is too generalizing of the egalitarian-forest. That there actually are some good egalitarian-trees out there – just as there are good, bad and ugly complementarian ones too. Each view comes in a spectrum of flavors.

            From here I only wish to affirm, specifically, what I saw so good in Jerry’s initial response:

            “…I would have to say you go too far too fast when you argue that the egalitarian position necessarily entails intolerance of complementarians in the name of morality…”

            “Your picture of an egalitarian is not sufficiently nuanced. On the basis of this incorrect alarm-generating portrait of egalitarians as a whole, you then advocate a drastic action that would escalate hostility in the body of Christ.”

            I hope you understand our concern. Kind regards,
            Kris

    • Brendan Payne May 24, 2012 at 3:19 am #

      Jerry, if you knew Phil Payne’s writings well, as I do, you would not “find Payne’s position more informed by culture than Scripture.” Phil Payne’s conclusions are firmly based in Scripture, and if you actually read his writings you would know that. Unfortunately, it is easy to judge people based upon secondhand reviews and not bother to get to know the people as they are.

      • JMH May 24, 2012 at 8:44 am #

        I don’t think the statement “Phil Payne’s conclusions are firmly based in Scripture” will stand examination. The Scripture teaches what Payne is arguing against.

        • Brendan Payne May 25, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

          You may disagree with Payne’s arguments, but he bases them in Scripture. I said that in response to Jerry’s simply wrong statement that Payne’s arguments are based in culture more than Scripture.

          Now, you may say Payne’s interpretation is wrong, but you can’t say Payne’s arguments aren’t Scriptural, because they, like all arguments based off of Scripture, are Scriptural arguments. You seem to be confusing two meanings of “Scriptural”: on the one hand, in accordance the true meaning of the Scriptures. On the other, based upon Scripture. My meaning was the latter.

          It’s very important to see the distinction between these two meanings, and respect the fact that people can make “Scriptural arguments” that are not in accord with the true meaning of the Scriptures. It’s the difference between a value-neutral observation and a value judgment.

          • JMH June 4, 2012 at 8:31 am #

            Yes, but Payne has decided that evidence that is in every manuscript we possess doesn’t belong there, and he has built his system off its exclusion. And it seems to me that he has invented evidence to have the material that negates his position excluded . . . He winds up not explaining the Bible but arguing against it.

          • Brendan Payne June 7, 2012 at 4:23 am #

            A text-critical note:
            By a text-critical definition of “manuscript” that includes variants within a given manuscript as well as non-Greek texts, there are several manuscripts that omit 1 Cor 14:34-5. But even if the verses were in every manuscript, one could reasonably determine the verses were not original if the version of the text that omitted the verses best explained all the manuscript evidence (see Bengal’s first principle).

            Payne’s view is in line with the view that regards the original manuscripts, and not human copies, as inerrant. You may find his argument unpersuasive, but his reasoning as such is not against the Bible as inerrant autographs, but against a traditional understanding of what belongs in the Bible.

  2. Mike Bird April 21, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    Jim,
    I resonate with your frustration. Today I had in my car a well-known American evangelical egalitarian scholar and he was opining how an article he submitted to an egalitarian journal was rejected because it did not tow the party line on some issues. So, yes, egalitarians can be intolerant and restrictive. But then again, ETS has female members but in 50 years plus has never had a female president! That’s kinda restrictive too. Grudem seems to regard all egalitarians as liberals. Also, full complementarians don’t always treat soft complementarians nicely either! The conviction that one is right can justify arrogance and unloving behavior on both sides. I think the thing to remember is that the “gender debate” is a significant matter for churches and denominations to decide upon (just like baptism, church governance, etc), but it is ultimately a secondary issue that does not need to hinder fellowship. At my college, we have a range of views among the faculty and student body, and though we have forthright debates, we get along well together because we know the difference between the things that make a differences and the things that don’t make a difference.

  3. Mark B. April 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    I fully agree. There cannot be two truths on this issue, and even the “soft” egalitarians prefer other egalitarians of the “hard” variety over complementarians, as has been shown time after time. The egalitarian position cannot be sustained biblically; it essentially arises from contemporary culture and politics in opposition to orthodox faith, so it will impact other doctrines. Once you conform to the world, the world takes over. How welcome are creationists in science faculties? How welcome are advocates of Christian counseling methods in sociology or psychology? One of the weirdly defining aspects of contemporary “egalitarianism” is its fundamental intolerance for those who don’t agree. Since their source of truth is in the world, let them take their place in the world, and leave the churches and seminaries to those whose source is the Word.

  4. Chris Taylor April 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Dear Mike Bird,

    As a conservative Presbyterian who has suffered dearly on account of the divisions that happen over the differing interpretations concerning baptism, I must object to a few ideas in your post.

    First, you equate the issues surrounding baptism with those surrounding headship when you lump them both into the realm of ‘secondary issues’. But certainly there is a significant difference here. Baptism is a secondary issue, only in so far as the mode, timing, and recipients are concerned. The fact that baptism is a clear command of Jesus actually makes it a matter of first importance. Therefore, if someone were to reject any sort of baptism, that would put them outside the realm of the church. However, since there is room for legitimate differences on the mode, timing, and recipients of baptism (there is no clear command to baptize infants, but there is no clear command to forbid it either), only these aspects should be viewed as secondary.

    Likewise, we have clear commands from the Apostles in the N.T. that forbid women from teaching or having authority over men. To reject the N.T.’s clear command here would be akin to rejecting baptism outright. Only in so far as there is debate on the extent of Paul’s command and its application is there room to think of this as a secondary issue. Therefore, if a group rejects the teaching outright, a significant hindrance to fellowship arises.

    Secondly, you clearly state that while the ‘gender debate’ is significant, it does not make a difference. I think, given enough time, I might be able to come up with a compelling argument for why this issue makes a world of difference. I would start with looking at the issue in relationship to the gospel and the fruit that is produced when the Spirit is applying the gospel to the hearts of his people (thinking Ephesians 5, Titus 2, etc.). I might also interact with the causes behind the diminishing mainline denominations and increasing divorce rates in the church. By mentioning these things, I am not saying that there is a proven connection, but I have my suspicions. Ideas have consequences and significant ideas make all the difference.

    Warmly,

    Chris Taylor

    • Dinah July 8, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

      “Egalitarian intolerance” …… if it didn’t make me weep I would laugh ….

      what about “Complementarian intolerance” ????

      let us both admit that we have not shown Christian love to each other …. but ….
      Egalitarians were forced into the position of appearing to be intolerant by sheer Complementarian intolerance

  5. Brendan Payne May 24, 2012 at 3:36 am #

    There is nothing intolerant about following Biblical teachings on gender. Both sides claim to be Biblical (and therefore ethical); neither make one more or less intolerant. One is right and one is wrong, but neither is inherently more intolerant. From my alma mater of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, I know egalitarians and complementarians who work together and are very tolerant of each other.

    What is intolerant is people who don’t listen to or give space to the other side at all, but shut it out without giving it a hearing. There are such people on both sides. You, Jim Hamilton, fight “to preserve biblical gender roles by refusing to acknowledge the unbiblical demands of egalitarians.” In other words, you blast egalitarians for their “intolerant” view of Biblical justice because your own view of Biblical justice is different.

    Now, you might be right on the Biblical view. But you are certainly intolerant of egalitarians. You advocate they not teach in churches and seminaries. You want to shut them up. Not all complementarians or egalitarians want to shut the other up, but you do. So I find it ironic you insist so adamantly that egalitarians are by definition intolerant while complementarians tolerant, when your own intolerance against egalitarians is self-evident. Maybe you’re right, but you’re certainly intolerant of those you view as “unbiblical”.

    • JMH May 24, 2012 at 8:43 am #

      Payne is the one who has equated the gender debate with the Civil Rights movement. This suggests that complementarians are bigots whose views are immoral and not to be tolerated.

      Tolerance is allowing someone to hold their position, even if it is wrong. Tolerance is saying something like this: I think your views are wrong, but I’m not going to kill you because of it, nor am I going to make a law against your view.

      The fact that I tolerate someone does not mean that I am obligated to hire them to pastor my church, train my ministerial candidates, or teach my children.

      I’ve heard enough stories about places where egalitarians and complementarians are members of the same faculty to know that the situation is unworkable.

      I do want to protect the people of God from the unbiblical, Bible disobeying egalitarian position. That does not mean that I don’t listen to what egalitarians say.

      I do have other things to do, so I don’t plan to spend my life making sure I’ve heard everything they’ve said.

      I am tolerant of egalitarians. They are free to hold their views. Their freedom to hold their views, however, does not take away my freedom to argue against them, to refuse to hire them, and to urge others to obey the Scriptures and make sure they hire pastors, professors, and teachers who believe everything the Bible says.

      Blessings!

      JMH

      • Brendan Payne May 25, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

        So egalitarians equate their issue to the civil rights movement. So what? Toleration is not the content of one’s beliefs, it’s the love and respect shown towards others.

        Jim, many egalitarians do allow complementarians to hold and espouse their position, even though they believe it to be wrong, and I’ve never seen any egalitarians kill or tried to pass laws against egalitarians. That’s toleration.

        It’s not intolerant to think some in an immoral bigot. Some people are. It’s not intolerant to think people are what they are. Even to think wrongly that someone else being a bigot is not intolerant. Again, content of belief does not make someone intolerant. What’s intolerant is not showing love and respect, even to our “unbiblical” opponents.

        You think we can’t tolerate people if we think they’re immoral? I tolerate immoral people every day. That’s a big part of what it means to be a Christian: loving those who hate us. If we are incapable of loving those who hate us – or call us bigots – how can we live as Christ commands?

        How do we tolerate those we disagree with? “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” It’s pretty simple: giving liberty in the church people who have different views on something that’s not essential. You do not give that liberty to egalitarians. I would give that liberty to both. The Bible doesn’t say that gender roles is an essential. Who’s more tolerant?

        • JMH June 4, 2012 at 8:34 am #

          So what? Is it loving and respectful to imply that complementarians are gender-bigots?

          You say that you would give liberty on this point, but I suspect that if you were the president of a seminary and you had two profs, equal on every point, but one was egal. and one was comp., you would prefer the egal.

          I’m stating up front that I think it’s a point of adherence to the Scriptures and a requirement to be within the bounds of the statement of faith that one be complementarian.

          So I think I’m just saying out loud what you would in fact do in practice.

          • Brendan Payne June 7, 2012 at 4:06 am #

            It’s neither unloving nor disrespectful to stand by what one believes the Bible teaches. And if that leads some to believe that complementarians are gender-bigots, so be it. If that leads others to believe that egalitarians are intolerant, unloving, and disrespectful, so be it. But, again, tolerance is not decided by content of belief, nor is tolerance decided by orthodoxy, but by actions.

            Jim, you’ve made your views on not hiring egalitarians perfectly clear and you’re entitle to your point of view. I certainly hope, were I a seminary president, I would be open to hiring both complementarians and egalitarians and would judge based on merits other than that issue.

  6. JMH June 7, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    1. On Manuscripts: every ancient scrap of parchment, papyrus, vellum or other surface on which 1 Corinthians 14 is attested contains verses 34–45. Any “manuscript” on which those verses are not attested exists only in the imagination of someone like Phil Payne, who is committed to the notion that they are not original.

    2. On Tolerance: Tolerance requires a willingness from everyone involved to tolerate others. Those who want to practice tolerance cannot tolerate those who would not themselves practice tolerance if they were in control. So if the western world does not want to become the Muslim world, they cannot tolerate Muslims in the majority, Muslims becoming judges, or Muslims otherwise taking over society, because if the Muslims take over they will not tolerate freedom of religion. Sharia law is intolerant, so people who want toleration cannot tolerate a takeover by the intolerant.

    Please note: I am not saying that egalitarians are Muslims.

    I am saying that Complementarians should not hire egalitarians at churches or seminaries because egalitarians will not tolerate complementarians, but more fundamentally, because egalitarians are in rebellion against the Scriptures on the gender issue.

    Blessings!

    JMH

    • Brendan Payne June 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

      1. On manuscripts: the evidence suggests 1 Cor 14:34-5 was originally a marginal comment, as it is inserted alternately after v. 32 and after v. 40 in existing manuscripts. A marginal note is technically an interpolation, even if Paul wrote it, though it’s plausible Paul didn’t write it. Even if Paul did write it, we can’t be sure how it fits into Paul’s argument, because it was originally in the margin.

      As a side note, the original text, like Payne’s speculative text, “exists only in the imagination.” The original autographs are our only authoritative text, but since they are lost to us, we have to rely upon an “imaginary” text reconstructed from the existing data. We can never assume that just because some or even most manuscripts have certain verses, they must reflect the original text; instead, we have to submit the text to rigorous critical tests. And in the end, virtually all of the Biblical text in our English translations is vindicated by good text criticism (biases of many text critics aside), but I regard 1 Cor 14.34-35 a notable exception to this rule.

      2. Interesting point about Muslims. I get the idea that some Christians are very much like they way you’ve described Muslims: if they’re have power, they won’t share it with others. And while I don’t think that’s true of all Christians (or Muslims), I know from Nigerian friends that certain Housa Muslims do abuse power once they have it. I certainly agree that Christians should not allow people to take positions of power – even fellow Christians – if they cannot share power with others of different persuasions. I pray we would never act like that.

      So I have no problem with having a Muslim or Jew or Hindu or Christian or Atheist or Mormon judge or congressman or president, provided that that person does not discriminate against other faiths but governs well and shares power (e.g., no Sharia). And I have no problem with egalitarians and complementarians within the Christian camp at the same seminary or interdenominational setting as long as they respect those with whom they disagree.

      I think a great example of this is the recent Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, 2010, perhaps the largest, most globally representative gathering of evangelical leaders in church history. One of the main preachers/lecturers there was a woman, and a certain complementarian privately told her he didn’t think she should give that sermon. She gave her sermon anyway, but the two of them became friends by the end of the conference.

      I pray that this kind of interchange would be a hallmark of the evangelical church: we have disagreements, and maybe don’t always go to the same local church, but have that love and respect and friendship with one another from our common love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and obedience to the Word of God, even as we disagree on secondary issues exactly how that gets parsed in the local church.

  7. Tom McCall September 25, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    JMH says that he has “heard enough stories about places where egalitarians and complementarians are members of the same faculty to know that the situation is unworkable.”

    I don’t know what stories he has heard. But I do know that there are places where the “situation” indeed is “workable.” I’ve taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for more than a dozen years, and it has been very “workable” here.

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