John Chrysostom on 1 Cor. 11:3

One of the things that struck me in reading the Ware and Starke book was how much this sort of defence of complementarianism depends on 1 Cor. 11:3 – ‘But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God’ (NIV). Simply put, even if we could demonstrate an eternal functional subordination in the triune life, we would have no warrant to draw an analogy to gender relations apart from this single verse. But the verse cannot bear that weight: however we read it, ‘head’ is being used in (at least) two senses. Particularly if we are talking about things like authority, the Father-Son relation is just not the same as the Christ-human relation. That surely does not...

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Reflections on a new defence of ‘complementarianism’

I recently picked up a new book arguing in more detail than I have seen before the thesis that the doctrine of the Trinity, specifically the Father-Son relationship, gives warrant for what tends to get called a ‘complementarian’ understanding of gender relations – the idea that there is something inherent in human nature and intended by God in male authority and female submission. The book is: Bruce A. Ware and John B. Starke (eds), One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015). I did not expect to agree with the various authors: not only have I taken a fairly straightforward stand against ‘complementarianism’, I have argued even more forcefully that analogies from the triune relations to...

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Again, on conferences and statistics

Ian Paul, who I have never had the pleasure of meeting, but with whom I interact regularly online, posted some reflections occasioned by my blog post on his blog (I think it is better to describe it like that than as a ‘response’). I’m sorry to move back over here rather than responding directly there (not least because his blog is much more professional, much nicer-looking, and (I assume) much more widely read than mine), but this essay just got too long. Before I start, I should say that I respect Ian greatly, that we agree on most subjects (although he belongs to one of those strange sects that sprinkle infants…), and have made common cause together before now. Specifically, given the topic under discussion, Ian has been a committed and...

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On the reception of the 2014 gender stats for Christian conferences

In reviewing last year, I looked at a list of everything I had ‘delivered’: writing sent off for publication; teaching done; students submitted; talks given; … I find it helpful: it is too easy to remember the stuff I didn’t manage to do, of which there is always much, and focus on that. (For the first time I also had a heading for things I had intentionally stopped doing, which wasn’t a long list, but is something at which I intend to work harder.) One of the things that gave me most satisfaction to note was the public launch of Project 3:28, a small collective of people working towards gender justice in the church, who have come together to do some specific things. It came out of Natalie Collins‘s collation of statistics on...

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Arguments for male-only ministry, good and bad

A conversation with a good friend yesterday reminded me of an old (9 months; palaeolithic in internet debating terms) blog post by another good friend, Mike Higton. Mike addresses a class of arguments for restricting certain things – church teaching ministry, perhaps, but the argument works equally well for frontline combat roles or for preschool childcare – to people of one gender. He addressed arguments of the form: ‘This role requires characteristic X; But characteristic X is generally more developed in people of one gender; so this role should be reserved to people of that gender.’ Thus expressed, this is formal, but the concrete examples are not hard to list: men are generally physically stronger, so only men should be miners; women...

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