Tim Keller, Women and Ignoring your own rules

Tim Keller, Women and Ignoring your own rules

Just in case it needs reiterating- the views represented on my blog and in this post are my own – I am not speaking on behalf of any organisation that I work for.

Why Is TGC Complementarian? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.


If you know me a little or if you have read this blog before you know I love Tim Keller. He is one of my favourite authors and preachers. His gracious tone makes him one of a very small number of people I know of who have the capacity to take on the role of Global elder statesman in the mold of John Stott and Billy Graham (in his prime). I have had the opportunity to tell him this in person. I also had the opportunity to ask him directly about one area where I found his position puzzling. It was on the role of women. Tim was one of the founders of the Gospel Coalition whose name suggests that it is a gathering of Christians around the gospel. Indeed on the Gospel Coalition website it says “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.”

Included in the Gospel Coalition’s founding documents are very clear statements around the distinctive roles of men and women in church and home:

God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.

Now ofcourse groupings such as these have the right to include and exclude any one they like from their membership. What saddened me was that Tim Keller speaks very highly of the work of Intervarsity and IFES and in fact I have heard him talk about the fact that his theological and apologetic formation happening through such groups. IFES has always taken a clear distinguishing line between first and second order issues and never sought to make views on gender roles an issue that would exclude others from fellowship or ministry. So as one of the founders of GC I was surprised that Keller would include this in his list of entry requirements.

When I had the privilege to spend some time with Keller I asked him if he thought views on the role of women were part of the gospel, he said they weren’t but that they were very important. I came across this video recently on the GC website where along with Don Carson and John Piper he goes a lot further. To say I found this video discouraging is an understatement:

Very recently I commended Keller on some fantastic rules of engagement he had produced on how to deal with views that he didn’t agree with. Particularly:

  • Never attribute an opinion to your opponents that they themselves do not hold.
  • Represent your opponents’ position in its strongest form, not in a weak ‘straw man’ form.
So it was sad to hear the arguments used in this little 17 minute video. Yes I think that Keller was the person offering the most conciliatory and bridge building role in this dialogue – but he neither disagreed nor challenged those expressed by his fellow participants. Here’s what I heard being used as arguments against including egalitarians in the gospel coalition, I am open to be corrected of course.

1. Having a non-complementarian view of gender roles means you have a “loose approach to scripture.” (Keller)

This seems to transgress two of Keller’s main rules in engaging with “opponents.” As an egalitarian I have a very high view of scripture so I am being attributed a view that I don’t own. Secondly no one in this discussion has engaged with egalitarianism in its “strongest” form. Carson dismisses other views of reading Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2 as reconstructionist and does not tackle any of the biblical texts or theological themes that egalitarianism at its best draws upon. Yes it is true that some egalitarians use purely cultural and sociological arguments – just as it is true that some complementarians do ( I was at a told recently that women buy more new age books than men so they obviously are not fit to teach or lead.) But again using this kind of argument is not dealing with the theological position in its strongest form.
Even when Keller tries to soften his statement by saying that “there are plenty of people” only loosen things on this issue and then “keep it tight everywhere else,” the point is still that egalitarians cannot hold to a high view of scripture and come to their conclusions – it has to involve loosening their grip on scripture at some point.
The problem with the argument that people who take a different view on the role of women are “loose with the scripture” is that it assumes that there is only one way of reading scripture on this issue. As Carson rightly notes in his opening comments – that is not how the GC understand the way that evangelicals read scripture when it relates to Baptism or Church Government. For me to argue that I have met more people that have turned away from gospel doctrines such as belief in the resurrection or the uniqueness of Christ that also held paedobaptist views – see for example the large number of self described liberal presbyterians or anglicans – would be a facile and prejudiced line of reasoning.

2. Trajectories (John Piper)

Piper’s line of reasoning here is that to take a different view on gender roles will lead to changes in view on homosexuality. This seems to contradict Keller’s rule “never attribute to your opponent a view they do not hold” or even more explicitly never “attribute to antagonist no opinion that he does not own, though it be a necessary consequence.” It is true that some egalitarians have argued that the church should change its views on the role of women and our views on the practice of homosexual sexual intercourse. But it is also true that some have argued that male headship in the home is license for domestic violence against women. Neither of these views are “necessary consequences” and so Keller is wise to argue that you shouldn’t assume the worst when engaging in conversation. But this is precisely what Piper does. As an egalitarian I believe that leadership roles are available to men and women in the church, this does not lead me to change my views on homosexual sex.

Perhaps there is a contextual issue at stake here. Perhaps things are different in the US? Two examples from the UK. The first UK denominations to ordain women were the Salvation Army (c.1870 ) and the Baptist Union of Great Britain (c.1920); neither are liberal today. (Thanks to Steve Holmes for this information). Perhaps a wider contextual awareness may help. But the bigger point is – just because some egalitarians change their minds on homosexuality -doesn’t necessitate that all will. For example just as many complementarians end up becoming AngloCatholic doesn’t mean all will.

3. Egalitarians apparently dont know the difference between men and women – we have nothing to say to 8 year old children on the issue of gender (cf John Piper).

This is a straw man/woman (!) argument. To argue that men and women both have the opportunity to lead in the church does not mean that all egalitarians see no differences between gender. It is true that we may not agree with some of gender differences that some complementarians attribute to men and women – mainly because we think that those differences owe more to culture than biblical exegesis. I have heard a number of complimentarians argue that all women want to be “rescued” and lead by strong men. But this leaves little room for biblical women role models such as Esther, Deborah or Priscilla.

4. Gender is an issue of this time ( baptists and paedobaptists used to argue but this is not the issue that is addressing our culture) (Carson)

I would love to understand how Carson understands the polyvalence of the Bible on the issue of baptism and why it is different from the role of women. I can’t believe that Carson is arguing that our willingness to believe the hermenteutical best of those who read the Bible differently to us on baptism is just an accident of history. As Keller argues your view on women is not a central gospel truth but surely your views on how someone is saved is part of the gospel. Some of my Anglican paedobaptist friends believe it is possible for someone to be saved without personal faith in Christ and that on the basis of promises made by Godparents an infant is regenerate and included into the body of Christ. To argue that this is not an important issue for our time seems to reduce the importance of the gospel. To elevate gender roles above the issue of how salvation operates seems strange to me – but I may have misunderstood Carson on this one, or it is possible he is not being entirely consistent.
I find it hard to believe that the rise of egalitarianism is seen as one of the most pressing dangers facing the church and the culture – above global poverty, gun control, the environment…

5. Confusion on Gender is part of what is at the heart of what is wrong with our culture (Carson)

It seems that Carson is arguing that the breakdown of the family in many western contexts is due to a more egalitarian view of gender roles. I would love to see the evidence for this. Isn’t it possible to argue that while the church has been predominantly complimentarian we have seen the greatest increase in family breakdown.

6. Lack of courage (Piper) “If you arent willing to stand against the tide on this issue you will cave on other issues – gospel issues.”

This doesn’t seem to be portraying egalitarians in their strongest terms. It also contradicts Keller’s fifth rule of engagement “Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing theology–because only God sees the heart.” Writing off egalitarians as cowards is hardly a theological critique. I would like to understand why Piper and Keller who participated fully at the Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization seem so completely unaware of its commitment on the issue of unity across views on gender roles:

We recognize that there are different views sincerely held by those who seek to be faithful and obedient to Scripture. Some interpret apostolic teaching to imply that women should not teach or preach, or that they may do so but not in sole authority over men. Others interpret the spiritual equality of women, the exercise of the edifying gift of prophecy by women in the New Testament church, and their hosting of churches in their homes, as implying that the spiritual gifts of leading and teaching may be received and exercised in ministry by both women and men.[96] We call upon those on different sides of the argument to:

  1. Accept one another without condemnation in relation to matters of dispute, for while we may disagree, we have no grounds for division, destructive speaking, or ungodly hostility towards one another;[97]

7. We are not listening to what scripture says on its own terms “it is not listening to what God says” to take a contrary view on this is “not to tremble at God’s word” (Carson)

Carson joins in the attack on the character of egalitarians – again contradicting Keller’s rule “Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing theology–because only God sees the heart.” Basically we are trembling at God’s word if we agree with Carson’s apparently infallible reading of the gender texts.


I contend that it is possible to have a high view of scripture and believe that women can take on leadership roles in the church.
I contend that egalitarians are not all cowards – sometimes egalitarians have faced significant opposition from conservative friends and colleagues because of where their reading of scripture have taken them.
I contend that the role of women in leadership in the church is not an unasailable division – if we have found a way to find unity in diversity on baptism surely we can on this issue.
I have benefitted greatly from the ministry of all of the men in this video, they have produced some brilliant books and materials, its such a shame this video is not up to their usual high standards.
I would like to encourage the Gospel Coalition to reconsider its position in light of Keller’s very helpful rules of engagement and consider removing this inflammatory and insulting video. I would like to suggest a dialog between evangelical complementarians and egalitarians modelled on Keller’s rules that can genuinely engage with each other’s convictions at their best and explore ways we can find unity in the gospel rather than division on this matter.

Post Script

I have been asked to provide some reading material to help read Egalitarianism at its best.
Here’s my limited list – very happy for other suggestions:
6. Women in the Church: A biblical Theology of Women in Ministry, Stanley Grenz
Here are some others recommended through social media ( I have not read them… yet)
Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters’ by Philip B Payne
Women and Authority, Ian Paul , Grove Booklets
I suffer not a woman’. Kroeger & Kroeger;
‘Women & Religion’ Clark & Richardson.

92 thoughts on “Tim Keller, Women and Ignoring your own rules

  1. Glenn Innes says:

    An excellent article Krish, thanks.

    Where in your view is there a good summation of the best egalitarian thinking – either book,article or video.

  2. I’d also pick it up from another perspective, which is simply that these three chaps take it as read that the Bible can only be read one way on this issue. NT Wright has recently given the strongest line of attack on that, and Mouse would start there as the first point of difference.


    The way Mouse reads the Bible, it is simply a wrong understanding of scripture, and it would be better to discuss this, rather than pretend that if you read the scripture in the way NT Wright, Rowan Williams, Justin Welby and numerous others do, is to be a kind of Christian wimp who simply blows with the wind on cultural issues.

  3. Chris says:

    the final comments seem to be the most telling. “Let them compromise we cannot!” They make the headship of men in the leadership of the church a matter of Dogma and not a doctrine or opinion that can have different positions held. Could have done with an egalitarian there to respond to their statements.

  4. Garrick Roegner says:

    Good and important article Krish. Frankly, I don’t understand why the GC make this such a big deal. I work for one of the largest evangelical organizations in the world, and we have complimentarians and egalitarians, and everything in between. For the sake of the gospel, we put all those secondary issues behind us, and press on with the job. It works great, and has not hurt our ability to witness to the truth.

    I have found that for the most part (even on gender issues) most complementarians and egalitarians have a lot more in common, and their practical theology is really much more the same. Often the disagreement boils down to language, and finally who can be the “head pastor” of a church. For me the GC seems to have reignited the old debate and driven more of a wedge between the body of Christ, one that is more imagined, and doesn’t need to be there.

    1. Kevin Conway says:

      Garrick, I did a search and found that we work for the same organization, but I must say that I could not agree with you more. Recently in Kentucky a campus director was demoted for not allowing a woman to lead a Bible study. Piper’s closing words were correct: by allowing both sides to practice their beliefs, egalitarians win the day due to default. This means that complementarians are forced to accept views and live under leadership that they find anti-biblical.
      Much time is spent on Eph 5 and 1 Tim 2, and rightly so, but it’s quite curious that Gen 3:16b (God’s curse/judgment on Adam & Eve) is mostly ignored. God’s design in Gen 2 for male leadership (man created first, woman created from man and for man as his “helper” [cf. 1 Cor 11:7-9], man naming woman, God giving the command to man and questioning only the man after they both sinned [cf. Rom 5], etc.) is reversed by the woman’s “desire” for her husband and his “rule” over her. Both terms are found again together soon thereafter in Gen 4:7, where sin is crouching at the door (like a lion) and its “desire” is for Cain. Obviously, this is not a reference to sexual longing but the desire to overtake/dominate. Due to the reversal of God’s design as a result of the curse/judgment, man likewise is no longer content to lead his wife by protecting and providing for her (cf. the command to love her like Christ loved the church in Eph 5), but now desires to “rule” over her. In sum, the “complementarian fit” of the leader and his “helper” charged with the ruling of the earth as God’s representatives has been replaced by competition and self-centeredness.
      One should not confuse modern Westernized understandings of authority and submission with that found in the creation order, which Song of Songs, Ephesians, etc. embrace.

      1. Kevin Conway says:

        Sorry, make that “disagree” in the first sentence.

      2. Ian Paul says:

        Kevin, the ideas that

        a. the man was created first, so is the leader
        b. the woman came from the man and is named helped, so is follower
        c. the man ‘named’ the woman and so has authority

        are part of traditional readings, but are poor exegesis as scholarship has well trodden for the last 40 years.

        The frustrating thing about this debate is that relatively secure insights into the text are constantly ignored without proper engagement.

      3. Don Johnson says:

        I find Kevin Conway’s comments to be very uninformed, it seems clear he has not engaged with the best egalitarian scholars in any significant way or he would decline to propagate so many mistakes is so short a post.

        What Kevin should do is remove his blue glasses (that is, his assumption of masculinism) so he can see clearly what the texts in question actually say.

      4. Don Johnson says:

        Is there any way to turn off the video so that it does not start automatically?

      5. Garrick Roegner says:


        I would say that the argument goes both ways, but mainly to the side of complementarians in Cru. I am an egalitarian, but most people in Cru are comps. This means I and my wife choose to work in a setting where a woman usually cannot ever be the ultimate authority. We are fine with that, and feel that there is a fairly good balance.

        The problem with your assertion is that many complementarians would disagree with you. The case you sited (and I am now familiar with it) is odd, because I am not sure how you get to women can’t lead a student bible study from a complementarian point of view. Many, if not most complementarians would not have a problem with this. Most comps. in Cru believe that men should be the ultimate authority, thus a man (Steve Douglas) leading the organization, or a man being the CD (Campus Director), unless one is not available.

        So, really the argument in Cru, and my guess in this case, is not egalitarians versus compelementarians, but one kind of complementarian against another kind of complementarian.

        Saying women can’t lead a mixed bible study is a fairly arbitrary designation, and begs the question, so what? What happens to a ministry, or a bible study if a woman leads it? What about a discussion group? An Alpha group? A prayer group? Why does there even need to be a leader?

        As I said in another post, I am willing to bet the division in this case in Kentucky is tied to Piper, Grudem, or Driscoll and their call for people to take a strong stance on this issue. Its divisive and counter to the gospel. But, I would reiterate that they simply don’t speak for most comps., nor do they present the most clear case for how their views are to be worked out in a para-church, missional setting.

        I base my stance on egalitarianism from the Biblical record, and what I have come to see as the overwhelming Biblical evidence for egalitarianism. I think you can still be a complementarian in good faith, but only by excluding women from head pastor, or ultimate authority positions. Trying to develop a complex schema of when, and what a woman cannot do within the minutae and day to day of ministry is simply incompatible with Scripture, and fails to wrestle with all the available texts.

        With that said, I think many organizations and churches walk the line well. Really, it is only a problem for those who choose to make it a problem, or take extreme positions that are only held by the fringe of the complementarian or egalitarian camps.

        Compassion and grace are needed in the discussion and a willingness to work through some of the difficult issues together, but in the end, I think, and know that complementarians and egalitarians can work together for the sake of the gospel.

        As per Genesis, I believe you are reading too much into the text, and would point you to an eschatalogical reading of it. Even if we assume that because of the curse (which I believe we can) the relations between men and women face inversion and corruption, we now need to understand these problems in light of Christ and the current time of the Holy Spirit, particularly through the lens of Joel 2 and Galatians 3:28. We live in a new reality, one that breaks free from the curse, and restores to what should have been and what will be. Even though the kingdom of God is not fully here, we still live in its reality, and not in the enslavement to our old ways and sin. We live eschatalogically. Which begs the question, on the new earth, with our new bodies, new hearts, new natures, will women still be under the authority of men? To me that seems unbiblical and anachronistic. Thus, if we yearn for a time when men and women live in pure equal harmony as Paul alludes to, then why not begin now.

        Plus you have a clear pattern of women leadership in the Bible: Deborah, Huldah, Junia, just to name a few.

        Blessings, and maybe we will have the chance to discuss more one day in person. I am in Spain, where are you?

  5. Lauri Moyle says:

    For the sake of argument (since I dont yet have a view of the issue), and because I know a little bit about Keller and because the other comments have been so sympathetic to your line Krish…

    Carson, Keller and Piper and not an unholy trinity but you apply Kellers rules to Piper and Carson as if they where one. They are not, so the charge of ignoring your own rules should only really apply to your first point. Unless you are applying a very collectivist view of people to a group of people who don’t have a collectivist view of themselves, and who operate very differently in their own contexts.

    To the first point you make quoting Keller. I have not watched the video, but isn’t Keller saying that to have a non-complementarian view of gender roles means you have a “loose approach to scripture” on matters of gender roles? In other words, Keller could mean you have a very strong view of scripture in other matters, but that his reading of scripture just seems to be strongly in favour of the complimentarian reading and the best arguments (and Mouse should be aware that Keller has likely read Wright on this), just dont convince him. That does not mean he is being derogatory. (Remember to pose their arguments in the strongest possible way, including how they might have meant what they said).

    You should perhaps also remember that Redeemer City to City does not have the same policy as GC, and as far as I understand they are training a woman in Germany to plant a church. (best keep that one quiet though 😉

    1. krishkandiah says:

      Thanks Lauri – happy new year by the way…
      Sadly Keller does say that if you are loose on the issue of women in leadership then you tend to be loose on the issues relating to the gospel- watch the video and see if you think i am being fair. Also I agree they are not the Trinity – but they are all participating in a conversation – and keller offers little resistance only affirmation of the beliefs shared…
      Happy to be wrong on this one – but this is the video that GC put out – its not a secret film – so must assume all 3 participants were happy with what was put out.

      1. Lauri Moyle says:

        Happy new year to you as well. I’ll watch the video when I have a moment, but it still seems to me that you are applying a more collectivist view of them (guilt by association) than they would proscribe for themselves. On the other matter, your going after the guy you like the most out of the three of them and essentially calling him a hypocrite in all but actually using that word. Given the City to City work and that Keller does agree with Lausanne, all we can conclude is that functioning in different circles means functioning in different ways. Either that or an accusation of split personality would be in order.

        1. Lauri Moyle says:

          Krish he says exactly what I said I thought he might say. He says that for some people they only “loosen” their reading around that one issue but keep it very tight in other aspects of reading. Others loosens the whole way they read the bible (which I am sure you will agree can happen.) So he readily acknowledges that your reading of scripture is very orthodox, but for how you read the text on gender. If he did not think that there would be no debate on complimentarian non-complimentarian issues.

          I think it would be best if you amend your quote to reflect fully what he actually says and direct the full force of your rightful criticism at the extra biblical comments and assumptions made by the others.

          1. krishkandiah says:

            hey Lauri
            I still think he says that even if they only are loose on this issue it models a way of handling scripture that leads to being loose on other issues.
            blessings mate

  6. Andy Moore says:

    “I would like to suggest a dialog between evangelical complementarians and egalitarians modelled on Keller’s rules that can genuinely engage with each other’s convictions at their best and explore ways we can find unity in the gospel rather than division on this matter.”

    As someone who is still split on this issue, the above dialogue is also something I would love to see!

  7. Ian Paul says:

    Wondered if you might include my Grove booklet Women and Authority in your list plus discussion on my blog…?

  8. Gavin says:

    While I understand what Keller is trying to say, I was shocked by Piper’s contribution especially to the ‘what you say to an 8 year old’ section. His thinking here seems to be unbiblical for the following reason. If most of the Bible is addressed unequivocally to both men and women, then it is not a Biblically balanced position to define masculinity and femininity on the basis of the few texts that are addressed to only one gender. This is simply selecting evidence to produce a desired result. In order to justify this extremely exaggerated and distorted position he resorts to making non-biblical universal claims such as “men are just wired that way”. Such extra-biblical claims are of course not authoritative but are therefore presumably open for empirical research. So (a) what if it turns out that we aren’t universally wired as Piper asserts?, and (b) what if it turns out that what in fact “wires us” is the culture in which we are socialised? No doubt Piper’s approach will not cause barriers to the hearing of the gospel in contexts where people are wired as he assumes; but what are the consequences and prospects for the gospel when it is declared in such terms to people who are not ‘wired’ as he assumes?

  9. Graham says:

    Thanks for a really interesting article and reading list Krish! I have always struggled to get to the bottom of this issue and have had lots of conversations with friends at work about it in light of the recent vote in Synod.
    Hopefully reading some of these books will help me get my head round it a bit more and enable me to effectively answer questions about what the Bible says about women in leadership.

  10. Ian Paul says:

    Btw, I think the terms ‘complementarian’ and ‘egalitarian’ are entirely misleading. I am not sure where they come from, but they seem to me to be part of the propaganda.

    Piper’s position is in fact hierarchical, and as someone who does not believe in hierarchy even though I believe men and women contribute different things, I would want to be called a ‘complementation.’

    The terms as they are just disguise the real issues at stake.

  11. Dan F says:

    Here is a very similar blog post by Carl Trueman, coming from a complementarian position which I though may be appreciated:


    What I would say is that the issue is one of hermenutics. It is true that there is a hermenuetic used for justifying women in leadership which can also be used to justify an alteration in Chiristian sexual ethics (i.e. the Bible was of its time, our culture has moved on from their culture, it is inspired only in so far as it is inspiring). It is also true that there is a hermeneutic which allows for a view of baptismal regeneration. Neither of these can (I believe) be seen as coherent evangelical hermeneutics. However, there are other ways of arriving at an egalitarian position and to a paedobaptist view which does not forsake being evangelical. For what its worth, I am a complementarian paedobaptist (being a confessional presbyterian). I disagree with egalitarians, but the extent do which I disagree depends on how their position is arrived on, i.e. what hermeneutic is used, as there is more than one. I also believe that the Roman/Anglo Catholic route to paedobaptism is wrong for the same reasons

    Ps. There may be a little bit of double standards going on here. If offence is taken to the insinuations made by the Gospel Coalition, imagine how complementairans felt at the whole Women’s bishops kerfuffle…

    Pss. You say that “it is also true that some have argued that male headship in the home is license for domestic violence against women”. Um, could you name that person?

    1. Ian Paul says:

      ‘neither of these can be seen as coherent evangelical hermeneutics’. Excuse me?!

      It is one thing to say that you are not persuaded by another’s position, and to give reasons. It seems to be saying something quite different to then label the other view as ‘incoherent.’

      Interestingly, I have asked a number of discussion partners to show me where there is any gender hierarchy in the creation accounts in Gen 1 and 2, and they have struggled to offer any answer other than ‘Our reading of Paul says that he says there is.’

      1. Dan F says:

        Hi Ian,

        Just to clairfy, I wasn’t saying that all egalitarian positions are such as to make question one’s status as an evangelical. I distinctly put “a” hermeneutic, not “the”. What I was saying is that one position rests on a hermeneutic which does not come from an evangelical doctrine of scripture. Some egalitarians do argue from an evangelical position, holding to inerrency etc, and thus are solid evangelicals, and should be treated as such by the likes of the Gospel Coalition. I am agreeing with Krish here.

        But there are some who argue for an egalitarian position from a distinctly non evangelical position, i.e. the Bible is only inspired to the extent that it is inspiring, it isn’t inerrent, it isn’t revelation but merely a record of revelation given (the Barthian position). In the same way, the paedobaptist position for baptismal regeneration comes from a Catholic understanding, not from a reformation position, and thus also cannot be evangelical.

        So, I wasn’t saying that all egalitarians weren’t evangelicals. I was agreeing with Krish. Hense the Carl Trueman link.

        1. Ian Paul says:

          Dan thanks for the clarification! That’s really helpful.

          (Personally, I would want to question the existence of an ‘evangelical’ doctrine of Scripture, since I think ‘evangelical’ ought to be defined by accord with Scripture, and not with accord on a doctrine of Scripture–but that is another whole discussion for a different day!)

          My own view arises from exegetical questions, and the real problem I have with the TGC position is that I think it arises from really poor exegesis which is unaware of its own patriarchal, cultural assumptions. Krish has pointed out some of these in his comments. I cannot think of a place in Scripture where it says ‘Men go to work, women stay at home and look after the kids’ in a normative sense. If that were the case, it is supremely ironic that the primary metaphor for God is as Father–someone too busy to spend time with the kids..??!

      2. Lauri Moyle says:

        Ian do you mean the parts of Genesis were God created Adam first and then Eve because no suitable “helper” could be found, and the part were Eve sins but God calls Adam to account? How do you mean gender hierarchy?

        Keller goes out of his way to be clear in the above video that what TGC means by complimentarian is not the conservative american mico-family and that what it means to be complimentarian will be different in different countries and contexts.

        He says very specifically that what it means for a man to be the head of the family will be different in different families depending on the make up of the people in the family, and he says the same about the church.

        To that extend and for the reasons mentioned in my previous comments I think the first point Krish makes is not as accurate as it could be. Krish I would love to read how you come to your conclusions on egalitarianism. In the sense that I have not made up my mind precisely because I am afraid that I will have a weaker hermeneutic because of the passages mentioned above. Do I have to become a Barthian or is there some other way?

        1. Ian Paul says:

          Lauri, in Genesis 1 is very striking that male and female are created simultaneously and that what comes last is the climax of the creation not something inferior.

          In Genesis chapter 2 very strong emphasis in the language of suitable helper is the idea of someone who is different but equal. The animals failed to satisfy this not because they are unhelpful but precisely because they are not the man’s equal. Man’s final existential cry at the end of the creation account celebrates the fact that here was someone who is like him not someone who is inferior to him.

          In Genesis chapter 3 man and a woman are held equally accountable. There’s no sense in which the man is punished on behalf the woman because somehow rather he is ‘head’ of her and is therefore responsible for her.

          1. Lauri Moyle says:

            Ian I am not entirely sure we have the same understand of what the complimentarian position is. My understanding is not at all that women are inferior to men. From a biblical perspective precisely at least because of the Genesis 1 and 2 accounts of what it means to be human. But it was Adam that names the animals, but Eve for what ever reason is not mentioned as having done so. The way I understand complimentarian position distinguishes equality from difference.

            In Genesis 3:9 God calls Adam first. Adam names his wife. Eve is given a different punishment than Adam, who will have to work the earth, while Eve will have painful childbirth, moreover, Man will rule over her… (that might not be the way things should continue after Jesus, but that is I think were Paul gets his ideas from…). Reading 1 and 2 knowing 3 I think its fair to assume that how one understands what “helper” means, is up for grabs…

            Anyway. As I have said I am neither complimentarian or egalitarian, but I think your use of language of inferiority is not the right way to frame what complimentarians think of when they speak of a hierarchy.

            Interestingly to me at least, while the Angel came to Zacharias first, he did not tell Mary’s father or Joseph, but came first to her and then to Joseph.

          2. Ian Paul says:

            Lauri, all my reading of the literature suggests that the complimentarian position is that men lead women and women submit to men both in an asymmetrical way. I don’t see any basis for this whatever in Genesis chapter 1 and two.

            I agree with you that the ruling of men over women comes in chapter 3 and of course this is after the fall. From a theological perspective, this suggests that hierarchy in gender relationships is a sign of sin not part of God’s original intended creation.

            ‘Complimentarians’ want to argue that there is a gender distinction between men and women in terms of hierarchy (women should obey men) and yet this does not make them inferior. I find this argument implausible.

          3. Lauri Moyle says:

            Then you don’t/or have not understood the trinity. Mind I am not implying that complemenetarians or egalitarians have it right one way or the other… but the trinity does exhibit equality and difference. The son does the fathers bidding, trusting him completely. God died on the cross, because God trusted God to bring himself back to life. I think the problem with both the complementarian and egalitarian position is that they lean too much on an individualistic identity of personhood. If man leaves his mother and father and joins with his wife to become one, his wife as much as he, makes the decisions inasmuch as they are one. But we just dont understand that unity yet. In the same way that I was unified before I got married, I am not different after I have married because I am now a part of the me that is our family. That does not make me inferior or superior to a single man or woman, but it does change who “I” am.

            Also just to clarify complementarians do not say that all women should obey men. There is a proper context in which to obey specific men and even then there are problems with obedience. Two obvious caveats come to mind which challenge the inequality argument. The first is that a wife should disobey her husband if he “commands” her to do something that is wrong. The second and perhaps more nuanced point is that women are not commanded to obey any man in the sense that I cannot come up to your wife/sister/daughter/mother and tell her what she must do. That authority lies elsewhere and is not based on my gender and theirs.

            Furthermore, complementarians do not believe women cannot have authority over men in general. They thing that women can have authority over men, its just that they cannot have authority as elders, or as having overall authority in the family. So Maggy Thatcher, or my doctor (even if she is my pastors wife, or perhaps peculiarly because she might be) should have authority in how she relates to diagnosing my illnesses, ruling the country, or running her own business (Proverbs 31:18)

            Anyway. Think of the trinity and then think of how complementarians think…

          4. krishkandiah says:

            Its fair to say there are a range of opinions amongst complimntarians on the role of women in the workplace and soceity.

          5. Ian Paul says:

            Lauri, you comment ‘Then you don’t/or have not understood the trinity.’ You really need to be more careful in your comments!

            What you mean is that you think I haven’t understood the modern construct which suggests that there is eternal subordination within the Trinity. The literature on this is reasonably developed, and I am persuaded by Kevin Giles’ argument that this was long ago agreed to be heretical by orthodox Christians.

            As someone else has pointed out, the logic of the ‘complementarian’ argument that women are subordinate to men as the Son is subordinate to the Father (btw on the basis of one, single, disputed verse in what is generally agreed to be the most complex passage in the NT) is very recent, and certainly excludes the theology of the late John Stott from what is regarded as ‘gospel.’

            This short list of facts demonstrates quite clearly how badly wrong this argument has gone.

          6. Lauri Moyle says:

            Ian I did not mean to insult. But I am blunt. What I wrote on the trinity has been my understanding and I have not been taught otherwise, either in a Presbyterian University, at an Anglican Church, or in fact, at the very church John Stott pastored for most of his life. Perhaps I did not hear a sermon on the trinity…

            While I am not familiar with the phrase eternal subordination, I was certainly not aware that it was heretical. My phrasing of the way I described the trinity had nothing to do with subordination.

            But your insistance on continuing to use the word subordination and the word inferiority are off-putting and do not lead to a sympathetic hearing of egalitarianism, even for somebody who would like to lean that way.

            As it is there are many forms of complimentarianism, and there is no doubt that Keller’s view is not the same as Pipers. I mean he so obviously hesitates when he goes in for the caveats that how you work your complimentarians views out depends on your own circumstances, personality or where you live. You could almost hear the alarm bells going off in Piper and Carson’s head, so Carson has to come back and clarify. etc.

            For clarities sake and to reassure Krish, I agree that TGCs position on this is strange, illogical and petty. I think Keller is in the TGC because its better to be in than out and by and large they do a lot of good stuff that he wants to be a part of. He is complimentarian at least in part because the PCA requires him to be, but he helps lead an organization dedicated to promote church planting in cities where they are training amongst others a woman to be a church planter.

            I genuinely think that Keller is not being unfair, and I dont want to be either in that I think that in order to be an egalitarian in some way you have to think about scripture less literally, but because what Carl Truman said in that article I am now confused and would like a source which would help me understand that. Preferably online and concise.

          7. Lauri Moyle says:

            Krish, given that you say that Keller should repudiate/disassociate from TGC, I hope you clarify the caricatures of complementarianism in the comment section of your blog section below and give an honest account of what Keller believes complementarianism is.

  12. Karl Udy says:

    Although John Piper was probably the most vocally opposed of the three to egalitarianism, he did make what was probably the most cogent point as to why they have made this stand – that practically a group that includes both must choose to function like one or the other. There has been a public example recently within Cru in the US where the practicality of including both views has proved untenable (at least in this example).

    1. Garrick Roegner says:

      Karl. Could you please elaborate your remark about Cru? I work for Cru, and I am unaware of anyway the maintaining freedom with both views has become untenable. Thanks.

      1. Karl Udy says:

        Hi Garrick,
        I also work for Cru, though not in the US. I’m referring to this case http://www.worldmag.com/2012/11/campus_ministry_conflict

        I know nothing about it except what has been published, but it does seem apparent that while both sides can agree it is a secondary issue, in practice every organization or gathering that practices preaching, teaching or spiritual leadership is going to have to make decisions about how they are going to operate.

        1. Garrick Roegner says:


          Yeah, those kind of things are going to happen every so often. Not sure what the big deal there is, and I don’t see it as endemic or widespread. What is kind of amazing is that guy was on staff for so long, yet was just now realizing that he was against the policy, one that has been in place since forever. I mean women are in leadership pretty much everywhere in Cru. He seems to be taking a pretty hard line stance also on who can and cannot lead a bible study. Even when I was a complementarian I never thought women couldn’t lead a bible study. I was more against official and authoratative teaching. Most complementarians in Cru (and I believe them to be the majority) wouldn’t hold such a strong view.

          I think this is what Krish is getting at, that this only becomes a dividing issue when someone decided to make it a dividing issue, and that it probably doesn’t need to be one.

          I would also wager that you can trace this particular situation back to the teachings of Grudem, Driscoll, or Piper and their calls to make a strong stance on this issue.

          Thankfully there are a wide range of approaches and practical stances on the complementarian and the egalitarian side of things, and probably a fair amount in the gray areas in between.

          Blessings. I work in Western Europe. Where are you serving?

          1. Karl Udy says:

            Hi Garrick,
            I’m serving in Hong Kong. I know quite a few of our staff in the UK, and some in some other Western Europe countries. Knowing the small world we live in, I’m sure we have mutual friends 🙂

            I agree that this case is not a common case in Cru, and I’m also aware that the prominence of this issue varied depending on where you are. There are several countries where there are women in quite high positions of leadership, however the classic position of “Campus Director” is almost always male and “Assistant Campus Director” is female. This may differ in some parts of the world, but I don’t personally know of any exceptions. So it seems that Cru has made concessions to both sides in terms of the practice of running the ministry. Of course this means that hard-liners on both sides will often have bones to pick.

            I do think the practical question is a difficult problem if you make this an issue of conscience (as in 1 Cor 10). However, I have a feeling that it may be an issue more like the issue that caused the conflict between Peter and Paul, as it was more of an issue of how the group functions, as opposed to the individual.

    2. Garrick Roegner says:

      The big problem with most people holding a complementarian viewpoint is that they simply don’t live it out. I once heard a theologian at ETS admit during a debate on the issue, that his marriage (while they termed it complementarian) functioned essentially as egalitarian. Most complementatrian churches (unless they are prohibiting women from all roles) allow women to teach, lead, and even in many cases hold pastoral roles. Most of them keep women from preaching regularly and taking a head pastor roles. Some churches simply run around in logical and exegetical circles attempting to apply complementarian praxis. I had a friend whose wife had played college basketball and had even coached at high levels. She was allowed to coach her son’s 12 year old church league basketball team, but when he became 13, she could not. Because they deemed that as taking authority over a man. It was a completely arbitrary designation. Never mind that she was more qualified than any of the other male candidates to coach a junior high team.

      1. Ian Paul says:

        More fundamentally, if you believe women cannot exercise authority over a man, how can you agree to have a woman as head of the church? How could you agree to the exercise of authority by a woman Prime Minister?

  13. Peter says:

    I would add to your list of helpful books on an egalitarian position the US’s Scott McKnight’s “Junia is not alone” . John Dickson from down here in Australia has also addressed one of the key texts involved very recently in “Hearing Her Voice – A Case for Women Giving Sermons”.

    I remember being influenced by my Baptist New Testament lecturer in the early 90’s and by involvement with Scripture Union that you could put together an egalitarian position biblically. At the time that position was seen as very evangelical. Your reference to this position in the Lausanne congress is significant as I feel that it has been a more recent development that groups like the Gospel Coalition have undertaken a somewhat intentional and aggressive approach to repositioning evangelicalism to their particular position.

  14. Fiona says:

    Hi Krish

    Thank you for posting this comment. I have lived in a complimentarian position for most of my adult life and studied for a lengthy paper on the role of women. However, I find myself increasingly moving towards an egalitarian position. I have over recent months been more aware of the issue again through the comments and small storm in American Evangelical circles over Rachel Held Evans recent book ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’. I was very disappointed the way some well known international leaders reacted and responded to her book. I have also become increasingly irritated by what feels like a side issue taking the forefront of discussions, rather than the gospel itself, reaching out to the poor and transforming our communities. Surely the focus should be on being disciples of Jesus and obeying what He asks us to do rather than arguing about the gender of who it is he asked? I wonder if Jesus had issues with the gender of Mother Theresa, Jackie Pullinger, Amy Carmicheal, Mary Stewart and Heidi Baker to name a few. I haven’t fully settled on the issue yet and feel like ‘morphing’ is a good way of describing the changes but with 3 girls of my own my question to them when they are 8 will be what do you want to be and what do you think God is calling you to- not whether they are women should do it because of their gender.
    God Bless

    1. Debbie says:

      If you have not already, I encourage you to read RHE’s new book. It may help you as you look to your daughters and walk this journey of thought and prayer. Many of the books already listed as excellent references as well. Blessings on your journey!

  15. Jim Henderson says:

    The only person missing is Mark Driscoll. He represents the second generation of what they hope to produce. I would take them far more seriously if they initiated what Krish suggests – a panel of people who disagree with them. People like Brian McLaren, Paul Young, and Sister Joan Chittister. That conversation might honor The Holy Spirit

  16. Fred Harrell says:

    I defended complimentarianism for 16 years until I simply could not any longer based on my commitment to Scripture.

    Complimentarianism as a biblical construct has a history of about 40 years. The only real argument up until that time was that women are inferior. Sociologically that was playing out to be absurd, so this argument, which is an old argument from Charles Hodge in the 1860’s used to keep slaves in their place, started to become popular for maintaining the exclusion of women from office, and the attendant submission in marriage.

    That the so called “Gospel” Coalition could name itself as such, and couldn’t include John Stott for instance… or Roger Nicole…God rest their souls… is absurd. I wish Tim Keller would disassociate himself from it. He’s such a profound influence in my life and I pray for him to spend his time doing what he does so well, commending the gospel to very secular people with wisdom and brilliance.

    Book Recommendations:
    Jesus and The Father, by Kevin Giles
    Discovering Biblical Equality: Complimentarianism Without Hierarchy
    Women Leaders and The Church, by Linda Bellville

  17. Alicia M. says:

    Book recommendation: “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complentarity Without Hierarchy” ed. Pierce & Groothuis

  18. Alicia M. says:

    Book recommendation: “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy” ed. Pierce & Groothuis

  19. You’ve made a respectful and clear case for some in TGC to hold to their own standards of disputation.

    But your spellchecker is on the fritz. It’s “complementarian.”

    forgive me for being inordinately fastidious about spelling, but it detracts from your case in some way I can’t quite pinpoint

    but thank you for your effort to bring clarity to the conversation

    respectfully yours

    1. Fred Harrell says:

      Microsoft Word will call it a misspelled word even if spelled “correctly” which might suggest its strength of argument as well. 🙂

    2. krishkandiah says:

      Thank you that was my aim. As Lauri reminds we need to make sure that our comments and responses all measure up to Kellers rules.
      Sorry about the spelling errors.

      Blessings Krish

  20. Judith Lewis says:

    Forgive a voice unable to join in with the theological language and learning. But isn’t it worth shifting the perspective? Scripture can be read in different ways on this and many subjects. I”m always inclined to go back to the wise words of Gamaliel in Acts 5. Do we, or do we not, see God at work in parts of the church that adopt a more egalitarian view of women in ministry?

  21. Daryl Andrews says:

    Excellent article. I would also highly recommend the book, “Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis by William Webb” for another excellent resource for this discussion.

  22. Ian N says:

    Depressing video and I am at a loss as to why this is part of the core statement of faith of TGC. I could argue that John Piper’s position on infant baptism elavates tradition above scripture, ignores and reconstructs many of the clearest biblical statements you could find and could even suggest it is a cowardly position to take in order not to upset the authorities. I feel that very strongly – baptism is of foundational importance.

    However TGC don’t want to push a particular view of Baptism but do want to make holding to a complementarian view of leadership as indispensable to gospel and biblical faithfulness.

    Bizzare and just comes across as arrogant…

  23. Merle Strangway says:

    A couple of books to add to your list:

    Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by William Webb
    – scholarly work describing a redemptive movement hermeneutic

    The Journey Back to Eden by Glen Scorgie
    – more popular style of book written by a professor at Bethel Seminary. Easy read. Strong arguments.

  24. Don Johnson says:

    After the gospel, Hebrews tells us what are the “milk” things of the faith and while baptisms is on the list, gender hierarchy (or not) is not on it. So TGC is operating under false pretenses and 180 degrees out of phase with what the Bible actually teaches is in the next ring of importance, if you will.

    They should change their name to the Complementarian Gospel Coalition, at least it would be straightforward and honest.

    For some reason those guys are blinded on the gender debate and CHOOSE to slander their debate opponents.

  25. Gavin says:

    Listening to it again I think there is a significant problem with a key element of what Carson says. he draws a historical comparison with baptism, and points out that there were times when baptists and paedo-baptists could not work together because of the pressing issues of the time. He then relates that to the current debate, using that as a basis to escalate gender roles to the status of a core gospel issue around which unity/inclusion in TGC should be based.

    I would like to turn that argument on its head. If in times past confessing evangelical Christians have been unable to work together for the gospel because of their divisions over baptism – then the pressing and most urgent priority of their day was to overcome such secondary divisions for the cause of Christ. Fast forward to today and gender roles – and Carson’s parallel with Baptism and Christian unity is profound and compelling; but in fact to the opposite conclusion than he proposes.

  26. Richard says:

    Hi Krish,

    I join with you in contending that it’s possible to possess a very high view of scripture whilst at the same time believing that women can undertake leadership roles within the church. I also believe that it is important for dialogue to take place between evangelical complementarians and egalitarians within the UK. Perhaps a seminar at the EMA or New Wine?

  27. Pete Sanlon says:

    I think it may be helpful to have a discussion about how might an organisation, or a church, or a denomination, function, if it accepts the legitimacy of the best presentations of both positions on gender roles.
    The practical possibilities, benefits and limitations would be part of an apologetic.
    Further – such an exploration should include suggestions of options about how organisations that restrict themselves to one view, envision themselves relating to other groups.
    The theoretical matters are as well canvased as they can be, I suspect.

  28. Sean Meade says:

    Everything Gordon Fee writes on egalitarianism makes good sense. It’s been awhile since I read his stuff in seminary, but I’m guessing one or more places in his 1 Corinthians commentary. And he has a high view of Scripture.

    I think you and I are pretty similar. I love Keller but find Piper and Driscoll, especially, off-putting.

  29. Pingback: Weekly Meanderings
  30. Jenny Cornfield says:

    When I first watched this video last year I have to admit, without wishing to sound melodramatic, that I found it to be deeply distressing and disheartening. The way in which the arguments were presented, the words that were used and the fervour of their delivery, the examples given and the body language employed, led me to feel exceptionally uncomfortable and saddened. I too have great respect for Tim Keller and actually wondered if he was feeling somewhat uncomfortable about the way in which the discussion was going. His physical demeanour was very awkward!
    Whilst I agree wholeheartedly that we should as the church of Jesus Christ be able to unite around the common ground found at the foot of the cross and the empty tomb, and agree to disagree on issues of a secondary nature, I actually do not regard the issues in regards to women as secondary to the Gospel. (I would not even put this discussion alongside the one about baptism although understand why you have). Tom Wright said, “All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead”. I believe that Piper, Carson and Keller’s arguments begin at the wrong place. If they began at the empty tomb with the woman charged to tell the disciples the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, the conclusions reached have to be a little more radical, counter cultural and transformational.
    Whilst I agree that a person’s salvation is not affected by their views in regards to women, I do believe that Gospel teller comprises and stunts the ‘Good News’ when they place upon a woman a ‘role’ (which I genuinely find difficult to see as biblical) which confines her to domestic spheres and limited leadership positions. That Gospel teller, it could be argued, states that Jesus’ death & resurrection was not strong enough to right the broken relationships that began in the Garden.
    Because we live in a world where resurrection has happened – I stake my life on that cross and tomb. And I believe that it changed the world and is changing worlds. My concern is that while the church continues to speak and be led by the views articulated in TGC video we place – for a woman – a proviso on Gethsemane. And we continue to live with very serious repercussions; for those views I believe not only hinder us from firing on all cylinders as a church but they also mean that the church is not taking its rightful place in what the UN would call the world’s greatest injustice: the inequality of women.

    (I recognise that by the time I have got round to writing this comment it is now a little out of sync with other comments that have been voiced. Apologies!)

  31. Jenny Cornfield says:

    Sorry my last sentence should read…’…the church is not taking its rightful place in FIGHTING what the UN would call the world’s greatest injustice: the inequality of women.

    Sorry! Never try and write seriously with a five year old fighting dragons all around you!:-)

  32. Greg Hahn says:

    In this video, John Piper makes that Egalitarians have nothing to say to an eight year old who asks the question, “What does it mean to grow up to be a man and not a woman?” (6:55 – 8:20 in the video)

    According to Piper, he’s never heard an Egalitarian answer it. And that in the church, we need an answer for that.

    Piper doesn’t answer the question either! But his implied answer: Male rule over females.

    That’s the difference, according to Piper. The ONLY difference. Because if there was another difference, Egalitarians could cite it. Piper says there is nothing else to cite. So according to Piper, that’s it.

    Think of the implications of that. If a male is not the boss at home, can’t get his wife to obey him- logically, he is not a man.

    In Piper’s world, manhood is tied up in whether or not a woman will obey. And so disobedient women are logically an assault on manliness. Disobedient women, therefore, are an insult to a man, a degradation.

    Men who think this way will be hurt, and/ or insulted by women who refuse to obey their commands. Maybe even enraged, depending on the man.

    Can you see where that could lead? Domestic violence.

  33. Rachael Burke says:

    Hi all,
    Thanks Krish for a great post, and thanks too for an interesting read through the comments page. I think most people here have picked up a lot of the intellectual points I would like to have made.
    But I’d just like to add in an emotional / pastoral point (if that’s the best way to phrase it… I don’t mean devoid of intelligence or not up for debate, just not about hermeneutics). I had a horrible gut feeling when one of the commenters mentioned that we should have a debate about this at New Wine or similar. I can’t think of anything worse. I’m really sorry to sound ungracious, but as a young-ish woman who would be prepared and love to serve in God’s church and in fairly evangelical churches, I would (and occassionally) do feel so side-lined and marginalised by having that sort of debate. For women who are serving, leading, following God’s call in churches up and down UK in any capacity (certainly not just talking about ordained ministry) to have somewhere sensible like New Wine to have a debate about whether what we’re doing and called to do is heretical would feel very very wrong. As it is, I think that women in leadership and preaching roles is not modelled and encouraged nearly enough, even in egalitarian places and churches.
    There are some places where I don’t feel welcome and valued and can largely then guess ahead and avoid (TGCs website, for instance), but to have this brought into somewhere like New Wine would not feel at all right.
    Sorry, that’s much more a gut response than a reasoned argument. Do you understand what I’m getting at?

    1. Ian Paul says:

      Rachael, I entirely agree with you. It is impossible to have these discussions in public in any kind of neutral sense. However, discussion must take place somehow. A couple of years ago, St John’s hosted a colloquium with E A on the general question of evangelicals and biblical interpretation.

      It feels as though the time might be right for a similar day looking at why Evangelicals disagree about women’s ministry. It would have to be invitation only. But something useful might come out of it. How about it Krish?

      1. Jane Takushi says:

        I’m not sure a discussion would help, although I usually believe fervently that talking is, most of the time, a good thing.

        I was employed by church and para-church organizations for 8 years in my twenties and into my thirties. I had my ministry questioned on the basis of my gender too many times to count. I left ministry for a career in learning and development and then organizational development, and I am now employed by a global company to do that work, which sometimes includes teaching men how to be more effective leaders.

        When I was looking for a church in my new community, complimentarianism (which I agree is a euphemism for hierarchy and a misleading term at best) became a deal-breaker for me. Here’s why: I will not engage in a debate about my own equality. And that’s what this is. I am either one in Christ with my brothers, or I am not. Please don’t say that this is not about equality and my standing in the kingdom alongside my brothers. If I am gifted in leadership, preaching, whatever — and the only reason I cannot use those gifts in the church is my gender, then we are talking about equality, power and control. And engaging in this debate — seeking to convince people of my own equality — diminishes me. And I won’t do that.

        For awhile, I attended a complimentarian church that asked me to commit financially to that church. Which to me, was the ultimate hypocrisy: accepting a portion of money I make doing something in the marketplace that I am expressly forbidden from doing within the walls of the church. No. Enough. I am done.

        May God bless others may engage in this debate and find it useful. But as for me, I’m serving the Lord without apology.

  34. Ariel Price says:

    Thank you for tackling this video. I’ve watched it before and it has always frustrated me. Thank you for so eloquently pointing out the flaws in their arguments.

  35. E says:

    Great post Krish.

    Academic book recommendation: William Webb”Slaves. Women and Homosexuals”

  36. Amanda B. says:

    If you’re still wanting to add suggested material to your recommendations, “Why not Women?” by Loren Cunningham (co-founder of YWAM) and David Joel Hamilton is one of my favorite introductory egalitarian reads. While it’s not as rigorous as other books, it is theologically respectable and above reproach in tone. I recommend it to anyone who is grappling with the subject for the first time.

  37. J.W. Wartick says:

    I really enjoyed this post and your evaluation of TGC’s position in relation to women in the church. I found your comments about the third point to be most enlightening. Thank you.

    It’s not a huge deal, but you may want to edit the post to make sure everywhere you refer to complementarians you spell it that way and not complimentarian.

  38. Lots of food for thought in this post and the comments. I’d just like to add a comment on whether Keller is violating his own rules of engagement.

    I don’t think he is: debating what are the logical consequences of a position is important, and can and should be done without misattributing beliefs to a brother or sister who holds an opposing view. It seems to me that Keller discusses the issue of logical consequences without falling into this latter trap.

    Similarly, Piper’s trajectory argument is a reductio argument, which is a loigcally valid argument to make, distinct from the fallacy of misattributing a belief to egalitarians. He’s making an argument about the logical consequences of egalitarianism, not misdescribing what egalitarians actually believe. The egalitarian counter-argument involves demonstrating a consistent Biblical hermeneutic that embraces equal roles for women but does not “loosen” what the Bible teaches elsewhere.

    The arguments on both sides are well-rehearsed, but it’s entirely legitimate for Piper to state his basic position on this aspect of the gender debate.

    A similar argument in the other direction would be that a necessary logical consequence of complementarianism is that women should be barred from leadership in public life, such as business and politics, not just in the church or home. If complementarians deny this, they must also deny complementarianism as a whole. To rebut this argument, complementarians must demonstrate a difference between roles in marriage and in the church, and gender roles more widely, for example.

    What would be wrong would be saying “complementarians want to keep women from leadership in all walks of life”, since this would be misattributing a belief, even if you thought it was a logical consequence of complementarianism.

    Steve Chalke explicitly argues in his recent article on homosexuality that because evangelicals have changed their view on women, they should also do so on homosexuality, so there are some people who do follow a “slippery slope” trajectory. Discussing whether or not that’s Biblically and logically warranted is very important, and we should aim to work this through graciously and without misrepresentation.

  39. Tom Stanbury says:

    Dear all,

    An article that I found beneficial and think others in the discussion will enjoy.


    As a friend of mins says ‘Big Love’ to you all.


  40. James Brown says:

    It’s interesting that what Jon Piper said about taking a different view on gender roles will lead to changes in views on homosexuality is exactly what has come to pass from Steve Chalke’s line of arguement towards the acceptance of gay relationships and gay marriage.

  41. Rhys Laverty says:

    You may some great points Krish, especially along the lines of wrongly attributing to someone a view which they do not hold.

    However, I think that the bulk of your argument is removing the right any person has to deconstruct a view/worldview with which they disagree. It is not enough to say “I have a high view of Scripture” when a complementarian says otherwise, because the very fact that you are an egalitarian, to them, indicates otherwise. Perhaps analagous would be a pro-choice person saying “I have a high view of human life”. A pro-life candidate would say that, by the very fact that person is pro-choice, they do not have a high view of human life.

  42. I am tired of being discussed and chewed over just because I am a woman. And all of you men should be tired of being qualified because of your birth anatomy.

  43. Thank you for this thoughtful response, Krish. In case no one has added this book yet – I would recommend John Stackhouse’s “Finally Feminist.”

  44. sarah says:

    Please also see Women and the Kingdom by Faith and Roger Forster. It should be on any reading list on the subject. Jackie Pullinger To said of it “Reads like a thriller’.

  45. Eric Breaux says:

    could someone talk some sense to the misinformed person who wrote this http://christianstudies.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/does-kephale-mean-source/ article

  46. Rickopodomus says:

    I really appreciate this article and the comments it has drawn. The primary issue is that The TGC and it’s members draw from a fairly strict Calvinist Reform tradition. This expression of Christianity holds the Bible to be inerrant and infallible. Therefore, the words of scripture are perfect and binding. This includes the antiquated role descriptions from thousands of years ago…that is the simple explanation. If you hold that the Bible is incapable of error…then your theology must respond accordingly…even when it comes to gender roles.

    I am thankful that Jesus is the true infallible Word of God and that everything else is just a testimony. Everything in the Bible, IMHO has to be filtered through the character of God as revealed through Jesus…not the other way around. Think of it this way:

    God is like Jesus.
    God has always been like Jesus.
    There has never been a time in which God has not been like Jesus.
    We have not always known this about God.
    But now we do.


  47. Peter C. says:

    Egalitarians take a modern political ideal – that of equality – and choose to worship it. Consequently they inevitably distort it and ironically end up abandoning it and, if applied within the church, God Himself.

    I draw your attention to the imagery C.S.Lewis once used (about a different matter) involving the dogmatism and blind foolishness of people who believed pebbles laid out in a row were more beautiful than an arch. He was suggesting that each stone of the arch was as valuable and as vital to the whole as any other. But some must naturally be more prominent than others. I apply his metaphor to the role of men and women in the church.

    Feminise its leadership and you will destroy its meaning and its message.

    There is an old saying that summarises the 26 verses of Isaiah chapter 3. It is not a message of misogyny. Merely one that warns humanity of the ultimate sin of modern feminism. When I look around me at the world of the 21st century its prophetic accuracy is profound.

    “When the power of Satan is at its height your leaders shall have the minds of children and women shall control them”.

  48. Tom Hardee says:

    An older egalitarian book (evangelical, intelligent, and readable) I have found the most impressive over the years: Women at the Crossroads by Torjeson-Malcolm, IVP. Her navigating the hermeneutical methodology is a (the?) key insight for the debate. I had defended the complementarian position for a decade, then began to shift. This book put into clarity where my seeking mind was headed, a fresh understanding respectful of biblical authority.

  49. Tammy says:

    Addition to list of Women in Ministry:
    Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free/author Cheryl Schatz
    This is a DVD series

  50. Pingback: Leadership Blog
  51. very good, thank you for posting, you write very well

  52. kenworley says:

    I read a book a few years ago that offered the most biblical and historical I have ever read on this issue. The book is
    “In The Spirit We Are Equal” by Dr. Susan Hyatt (Hyatt Press)

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