Tonight I was perusing Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.? Its a 500+ page volume, and my copy is personally signed by Wayne, To Ruth, with appreciation for your friendship.
I have debated the issues of biblical equality with Wayne and many others for most of two decades. Its often a matter of going at each other with our swords our biblical proof-texts.? That is not my purpose here.
Here I am focusing on the words equal and equality. In the Preface of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper writes:
We hope that thousands of Christian women who read this book. . . will feel fully equal to men in status before God, and in importance to the family and the church.? We pray that, at the same time, this vision of equality and complementarity will enable Christian women to give wholehearted affirmation to Biblically balanced male leadership in the home and in the church.
Similarly, we desire that every Christian man who reads this book will come away feeling in his heart that women are indeed fully equal to men in personhood, in importance, and in status before God. . . . (p. xiv)
That women are equal in dignity and personhood is, in a nutshell, what is called the Complementarian view of women a position held by many Evangelicals who restrict women in roles in the church and home. Women may not be ordained ministers or elders or teach men, and they must defer to their husbands if they are married.
The opposing view is referred to as the Egalitarian position, which is most clearly enunciated by CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality). I quote the following from the CBE website:
What is biblical equality It is the belief that all people are equal before God and in Christ. All have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God. God freely calls believers to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race. We believe this because the Bible and Jesus Christ teach it to us. That is biblical equality.
That statement is straightforward. There is no discrimination regarding class, gender, or race. The use of the term equality is easily understood?that of equal opportunity.? It is a standard definition that is universally accepted in everyday life.
As a member of CBE, I hold an egalitarian position, but as stated above, I’m not seeking to defend that side on this post whether or not the husband is the head of the home or whether or not women can be ordained for ministry. There are many web sites that focus specifically on that debate.
My topic here is the definition of the word equality and how that word is used by those who call themselves Complementarians.
To argue that women are fully equal to men in status before God, and in importance to the family and the church, as Piper does, is to hijack a perfectly straightforward term and infuse it with its opposite meaning.
Equality by no definition means sameness. Equality, for example, does not mean equal intelligence or equal strength or equal appearance. The common usage understood in western culture is equality of opportunity. Thus, a man in a wheelchair and a woman track star have equal opportunity to seek a university coaching position. An African-American janitor and an Anglo-American corporate CEO have equal opportunity to vote in the upcoming presidential election.
To tell a black man that he is fully equal to a white man before God and in importance in the church but he cannot serve as an elder simply doesn’t wash. The word is not equality, rather discrimination or inequality. I have heard many times the Complementarian differentiation between race and gender on this topic and that?s not what this post is about. It is about using the term equality. Why must Complementarians bow to political correctness Yes, of course it would be politically incorrect to say that they do not affirm the equality of women. But that would be truthful. If you’re a Complementarian, I am pleading for honesty. Stand up like a man, and say it: The Bible does not teach that men and women are equal.