Home. Quotes Piquantes. Personal. Shorter Writings. My Books.

Book Review

Discovering Biblical EqualityGender equality

This is one of those 'milestone' books that can't be ignored—not by me, anyway. It is Discovering Biblical Equality by RW Pierce and RM Groothuis, eds., (IVP/Apollos, 2005, UK ISBN 978-1-84474-107-6; USA ISBN 0-8308-2834-6).

My views on the role of women in marriage and the church were formed by Hurley's Man & Woman in Biblical Perspective and Grudem and Piper's Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. Their arguments, I reckoned, were incontrovertible, particularly the analogy with the ontological and economic aspects of the Trinity. This new book, however, has challenged all that. It tackles head-on all the key scriptures and, more importantly, looks at the assumptions that traditionally lie behind the so-called 'complementarian' view. I have found its arguments to be honest, serious and biblically convincing.

Subtitled Complementarity Without Hierarchy, it brings together contributions from some twenty evangelical scholars, including Gordon Fee, who between them tackle every possible aspect of the topic. It's a big book—over 500 pages—and is not for the casual reader, but it will repay careful study. It is also available in the Logos software format. Because of the immensity of this work I have permitted myself a larger selection of quotations than usual.

The view that the man's creation before the woman's implies his authority over her cannot be sustained by study of the text of Genesis 2, the context of Genesis 1-3,, the comparative literature of the ancient Near East or the invocation of putative customs of primogeniture in ancient Israel. (p86)

Jesus does not treat women primarily as homemakers. A woman called out in Jesus' hearing: 'Blessed is the woman who gave you birth and nursed you!' Here we see this principle of woman primarily as mother voiced before Jesus. And what is his reply? 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!' (Luke 11:27-28). What Jesus states here explicitly, he models earlier in his actions. Thus when Mary sits as a pupil in rabbinic fashion before Jesus (Luke 10:38-42) while Martha follows the cultural mandate to serve as homemaker, Jesus declares that Mary is the one who has selected the good share—to sit at a rabbi's feet in learning. (p132)

It is reasonable to assume that the patron of a household gave leadership to the church that functioned in the context of that household; indeed, it is impossible to imagine that it could have been otherwise in Greco-Roman culture. So when the householder was a woman (e.g. Lydia, Nympha), we may rightly assume that, as in all other matter in her own household, she gave some measure of leadership to her house church. To think otherwise is to impose modern ideas on the Greco-Roman household, on the basis of a prior commitment to her (unprovable) subservient 'role' in the church. (p184)

I suspect that in fact many husbands who are hierarchicalists in theory are virtually egalitarians in practice. (p194)

That there is a general trajectory in Scripture toward a recognition of the equality of men and women in salvation is incontestable. (p202)

Paul...worked within the structures of his time and gave direction for Christian behaviour within them. The danger is to think that this validates the setup for all time. (p204)

How is it, one wonders, that the later church can exercise so much energy in 'getting it right' with regard to leadership, when the New Testament itself shows so little interest in this? (p254)

The Bible in fact sets forth no doctrine of universally and transculturally prescribed male and female roles that permit certain activities and behaviours for one gender and prohibit those behaviours for another gender... The idea of 'roles' is a modern sociological notion and the Bible never mentions it. (p299)

If a blind person's lack of sight cannot rightly be described as a role that has no bearing on his state of being or personal ability, then (a fortiori) neither can woman's creationally based lack of authority in key areas be accurately spoken of as a role that has no ontological entailment... Thus the theoretical distinction between woman's being and woman's subordinate role evaporates under scrutiny... When one's 'role' is grounded in one's essential being and obtains in all things and at all times, one's 'role' defines one's personhood. (p321)

Prior to the 1980s no theologian had ever spoken of the Son's subordination in 'role' only... This new doctrine of the Trinity, formulated by evangelicals opposed to the full emancipation of women, undermines the complete unity of person and work in the Godhead so clearly taught in Scripture. (p338)

Related to the difficulties with establishing patriarchy as a divine order for all cultures is the necessity in an egalitarian culture to set boundaries as to what women may or may not do in the home and church. The net result is that patriarchy thus turns the gospel of grace and Spirit gifting into a set of laws to be adhered to. (p378)

I hope to show, by the use of a redemptive-movement hermeneutic, that an abolition of patriarchy is consistent with the abolition of slavery and is in keeping with the redemptive movement that pervades all of Scripture. (p382)

The dilemma of unequal partnership is that husbands carry the burden of having to know everything and always be right, while wives pretent not to know or suppress what they know is right. (p459)

[View/save a much longer PDF document of my notes on this book, with many more quotations. It is 29 pages, so give it a few moments to load.

And I have reviewed another book on this subject.]


Previous. Next.

Buy hard copy

Buy for Kindle

(not available)

Assessing E.W. Kenyon

Go to top of page for Twitter and Facebook buttons >>>