You can check out my previous blog here, but I want to pick up quickly where I last left off with Christians for Biblical Equality’s (CBE) Application #2.
In the church, public recognition is to be given to both women and men who exercise ministries of service and leadership.
In so doing, the church will model the unity and harmony that should characterize the community of believers. In a world fractured by discrimination and segregation, the church will dissociate itself from worldly or pagan devices designed to make women feel inferior for being female. It will help prevent their departure from the church or their rejection of the Christian faith.
In their second application, CBE highlights the need that all members of the church should be publicly recognized for the work that they do in the ministry. They believe that by doing so, “the church will model the unity and harmony that should characterize the community of believers.” This would also cause the church to distance itself from the ways that the world currently uses to make women feel inferior for being women, and it would help to secure the faith and commitment to the church of these women.
I personally find that this application causes a lot of questions to arise in the mind of the reader. For instance, does public recognition really promote and model unity and harmony? Will public recognition cause a woman to feel better about herself? What are the ‘worldly or pagan devices’ that they have in mind here? Is the church obligated to publicly recognize the work of all of its members? And will receiving public recognition really cause some women to remain in a church or not leave the faith if they are intent on leaving? I am sure that my complementarian brothers and sisters would ask more penetrating questions, but the point is to see if complementarians have formally addressed this issue or not. However, I am not sure if the emphasis is actually on addressing an overall lack of public recognition or if it is attempting to address and remedy the sense of inferiority that a lot of Christian women feel with public recognition. So, I’m going to address public recognition in this blog and take a look at the Danvers Statement again.
Looking through the Danvers Statement, I actually did not find any statement addressing the need for the public recognition of the work of men and women in the church. However, to offer some sort of examination of practices that may be found in complementarian churches, I will refer back to my former church homes since I’ve been married.
In our church in Louisiana, I do believe that there was a level of public acknowledgement of the work of women and men in the church; however, this acknowledgement did not come in the middle of the church service or from the pulpit. Oftentimes, if the women and men serving on various ministries needed more help or volunteers, our pastor would stop Sunday school early to make a mention of the important work of the ministries, thank those who already participate and contribute, and encourage others to sign up and help fulfill the needs. In our church in Colorado, women and men served in various capacities throughout the church. Soon after I arrived, the women serving in the kitchen for lunch preparation (and there was lunch every Sunday) began to feel pretty rushed because as soon as church would end, people would come rushing downstairs to eat, and they had not finished with their preparations. So, they appealed to the elders to get people to wait at least 10 more minutes to give them time to finish and breath before the rush. Our elders were highly responsive to their needs, and they made mention of the need before the congregation at the end of service and made everyone wait at least 15 extra minutes just to make sure the women had enough time. Obviously, the women felt appreciated, and we did not have any subsequent problems.
I give these two examples as evidence that there are complementarian church pastors and elders that do recognize the work of women and men in the church and appreciate them for it. No, there were no elaborate announcements of recognition or any special ceremonies, but people were not acting like work got done by itself. Moreover, in these churches, people were individually appreciative for the work of other people. So, it was not surprising to hear about a member sending another member a little note of appreciation, or dropping by a basket of goodies to say thanks. People didn’t mind meeting up with each other to treat one another to coffee or call someone up to just say thank you. Thus, it appears to me that there was a lot of recognition going on, but the recognition was largely personal and private.
That being said, complementarians should look at this application and examine themselves individually to make sure that they are showing appreciation to others for their hard work and also recognizing that it takes committed members to get things done each week. This appreciation and recognition can be displayed genuinely in a multitude of ways, and we should all be striving to heed Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Here, we have a series of explicit commands that our love for our fellow brothers and sisters should be genuine and our Christian walk ought to be real. Now, I do understand that some people may take this verse to be a basis for why we should have public recognition in the church, but I believe that the context of this verse is for the individual Christian in his or her life. Paul is always very clear about what should take place in the church throughout all of his epistles, and he did not make any indication here that this “showing honor” should take place in a corporate setting.
What of recognition that is actually public?
Now, remembering my egalitarian upbringing in the Black Baptist church, public recognition for the work of men and women in the church was fairly non-stop. Just to give you an idea, I remember attending these services multiple times through the years: Pastor’s Appreciation, First Lady (the Pastor’s wife) Appreciation, Usher’s Day, Women’s Day, Men’s Day, Youth Day, Church Choir Appreciation, Deacons and Deaconesses Day, and Founder’s Day (which could also be called Church Anniversary or Homecoming Service). Not only that, we had church-wide birthday celebrations for the pastor, for his wife, for the ordained ministers in the church, for the minister of music, and whoever else someone thought was important enough to make an event out of it. But not only that, we also attended the same celebration days at other churches in our county, and we were expected to serve in those other churches for those celebration and appreciation services. Now, this may seem a little extreme to you, but we believed in public recognition for EVERYBODY’s work in our church. And yes, I did spend a lot of time at church each year going to these events.
Being older and considerably more mature, I think that these events were well-intentioned, but considerably over the top. Not only that, it greatly took away the reason why we come to church in the first place! Instead of focusing on the worship of our God and Savior, we were extolling the praises of our fellow brothers and sisters and holding actual church services to honor men.
Final Thoughts on the Complementarian Position
Considering the complementarian emphasis on being grounded in Biblical doctrine and faithfully consistent to it, I believe that the main reason there is no statement on showing public recognition to women and men who serve in ministries in the church is because there is no explicit Biblical basis for that practice (at least I have not come across one yet). Now, there is an explicit command found in 1 Timothy 5:17, and even the context of this verse is largely about making sure that good elders are taken care of as they do their work in the church, aside from receiving respect. But outside of that, the Bible actually charges us not to seek public recognition or praise when we perform good deeds or labor diligently for the Lord. Please consider Colossians 3:17 and verses 23-24 when you get a chance.
Finally, one last important passage that should be considered is 1 Corinthians 12:21-26. I believe that it is this text that mentions the overall harmony and unity that should be present in the church and the attitude that we ought to have for one another. We are told that our weaker parts (or members) are indispensable and that we bestow greater honor on those parts that we think are less honorable because God has composed the church in such a way that greater honor is given to the part that lacks it and for no division to occur. Clearly, this is the manifold wisdom of God on display that the things no one really wants to do in the church (i.e. vacuuming, picking up trash, set up, cleaning bathrooms, etc.) are actually indispensable to the church, whereas the things that people generally want to do (i.e. head up a new ministry, be a small group leader, be an advisory board member, etc.) are really the things that no church absolutely needs to be a good church. Not only that, God Himself gives honor to the less honorable parts, and He does this so that we have a balanced appreciation and high respect for all of the work that our fellow brothers and sisters do within the church, from the pastor to the janitorial staff.
The honor we receive from the Lord should not be expected in this life, although it may at times occur. But, we know with absolute certainty that the honor we will receive from the Lord will come when we behold Him face to face. We are responsible as members of the body of Christ to honor and respect every person within the body and appreciate their contributions to the church, and we need to carefully examine ourselves to make sure that we are being obedient to God’s Word in this area. However, personal appreciation and honor does not necessitate public recognition.
In my next blog, I would like to jump back and deal with the sense of inferiority that this application mentioned.
23 thoughts on “Egalitarian Beliefs: Public Recognition”
I have always understood that a pastor is a public figure and a ministry is a public service. Without recognition of a pastor or ministry, how would non-members know who to go to for spiritual advice or who to talk to about a food pantry or clothes closet once they’ve fallen on hard times? Since egalitarians believe that men and women can be pastors and can have a ministry, they want to tell people about them.
The other aspect is being a model to the world. Why is a model important? It’s to show the world that the current system isn’t the only way that works, but doing things differently can work just as well. You have to consider that the Christian life is a witness. This division has two different witnesses: husbands lead and wives submit or husbands and wives practice co-leadership together and mutual submission together.
Egalitarians are winning the heart argument, and complementarians are winning the head argument moreso out of necessity than love for it’s teachings. I guess it all comes down to what message we choose to send: “We’re in this together.” or “I trust my spouse to fulfill his or her role.”
You engage in several fallacies when you write “Egalitarians are winning the heart argument, and complementarians are winning the head argument.” First, you set up a false dichotomy by pitting head against heart. Complementarians, by which I mean those who have been won over to complementarianism, are just as convinced that it is loving as they are that it is true. They don’t leave their hearts at the door. This assertion is insulting on so many levels.
Second, you assume the prime target for the argument is to win favor with men and women rather than God. The main heart and mind complementarians seek to ‘win’ is the heart of God and the mind of God. We want to do so in such a way as to showcase the glory of God and win the hearts and minds of men and women, but that is secondary (second table if you will). The FIRST and great commandment is to love God. The SECOND is like it, but it the second is still second.
As for the rest of your comment, you bring up several valid concerns, many of which may have biblical remedies. However, none of them warrant pragmatic solutions that run contrary to Biblical mandate. We must be formed by Scripture, not seek to shape and mold Scripture into something more to our liking or comfort level. That is how we love God and, when we love God, we truly come to understand how He has designed neighborly love to work.
“Egalitarians are winning the heart argument, and complementarians are winning the head argument.”
This statement was a summary of the NPR article I posted on a study about secular views of egalitarianism and complementarianism, it was not intended as a blanket statement about all egalitarianism and all complementarianism.
To know God’s heart and mind is to use an eyedropper to relocate all the water on Earth or to send ships to map out the entire galaxy inch by inch. We could never win either one or both through human effort. Scripture does say to have an answer for our beliefs, so we do have to win some favor from men and women if they are to come to Christ. Why join a belief system if it is at odds with what you already believe?
Fortunately, Christianity is so fragmented, it is possible to be theological opposites and still be believers in Jesus Christ.
“To know God’s heart and mind is to use an eyedropper to relocate all the water on Earth or to send ships to map out the entire galaxy inch by inch. We could never win either one or both through human effort.”
This approach to the acquiescence of God’s truth (whether we are speaking heart or mind here) is also fallacious. It assumes we can only have true knowledge of God’s mind and heart if we have exhaustive knowledge of it. If such were true, there would be no reason for us to be having this conversation, because “your guess is as good as mine.” However, we can know God truly, because He has revealed Himself to us in His word and He indwells and aids His children in their quest to discern said revelation.
“Scripture does say to have an answer for our beliefs, so we do have to win some favor from men and women if they are to come to Christ.”
We are exhorted to have an answer for the hope that lies within us. That hope is enveloped in a very specific worldview that is very peculiarly described in Scripture. The defense is secondary to the hope, not the other way around. We don’t look at the hope and say, “Well, that’s indefensible,” and then redefine the hope in order to make it more palatable to the pagans around us. No. Our task is to be ready to defend the word of God in a world that the word teaches us hates God.
“Why join a belief system if it is at odds with what you already believe?”
Because the Holy Spirit has given you a new heart with new desires and is renewing your mind so that you think more like Christ and less like the world.
“Fortunately, Christianity is so fragmented, it is possible to be theological opposites and still be believers in Jesus Christ.”
Careful, though, lest in your fragmentation you begin to redefine Christ so that we are believing in two different Christ’s. Think of it this way.
In 1Corinthians 11, Paul uses to lines of argument to explain the roles of men and women. First, he roots his complementarian understanding of men’s and women’s roles in the Trinity. He says that a man (that is a husband) is the head of his wife (that is his wife and no other) just as God (the Father) is the head of Christ. Second, he roots it in creation. He argues that woman came from man, not man from the woman.
So an egalitarian has quite the conundrum here. First, you have to explain how your view of men and women is not a fundamental denial of the Trinity. Second, you have to explain how your view of men and women is not a fundamental denial of a historical Adam and Eve.
Oh, and given that Paul’s argument in 1Corinthians 11 is rooted both in the Trinity and in creation, and given that Paul explicitly mentions the image of God, it is clear that Paul is offering a complementarian explanation of the image of God in Genesis 1:26-27. So, the natural question arises, how do egalitarians not also dismantle the image of God in man by imposing this strict egalitarian structure on human relationships?
Considering the vast majority of complementarians I’ve ever met don’t even obey the verses’ advice for women to wear head coverings, I wasn’t terribly worried either way. I really don’t believe that knowledge will save me.
Well, I do know that the topic of head coverings is an interesting one, and people have many ways of interpreting it. But, I can tell you that as a complementarian, I do actually wear a head covering at church. It obviously has its moments of making me feel weird or out of place, but my basis for wearing it is the same reason why I submit to my husband now…..I feel like the Scriptures are plain enough (even if I don’t know every single thing about the cultural or why Paul wrote it the way he did) and clear enough for me to come to a reasonable conclusion that my head should be covered during corporate worship. So, I say that to at least let you know that this complementarian, for the sake of consistency, is covering her head during worship.
But, looking at your comments Jaime, I feel like I should ask you: What do you believe about Christianity? What is your understanding of the gospel? What are your beliefs concerning the Bible in general? Do you believe it is inerrant, infallible, literally breathed out by God? And I ask these questions because it provides a better context to engage in a discussion with you.
I believe that Christianity is a spectrum of beliefs which allows for a great variety in interpretation; an Arminian and a Calvinist who both profess faith in Jesus are both Christians even if they disagree in absolutely everything else, for example. The gospels are the accounts of the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, three are called the synoptic gospels because they share similarities: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John is the fourth gospel which is different and unique from the others. The original manuscripts of Scripture, written by the hand of their original authors could very well have been inspired, but they were lost to time. We do have copies of the text, but over the centuries they were copied down countless times and small errors have been found in every discovered manuscript – of the thousands that have been found, there are no complete New Testament manuscripts that completely agree with each other throughout, which honestly worries me. We’re also talking about a very uncommon language and we have to trust human translators to choose the best possible word without bias; historically, that has not always been the case: for example, Junia was a woman and held a position among and known to the apostles, however some historians changed her name to Junias, said she was actually a he, and said that he was an apostle in his own right, others said that she’s a servant to the apostles. Phoebe is another example, the Greek word that describes her is translated to “deacon” when used of men and “servant” in her case. Even if the Bible is inerrant, infallible, and inspired, humanity interprets it and humanity is certainly none of those things. If you’re an Arminian, you’re trusting that the ideas Jacobus had about scripture are true. If you’re a Calvinist, then you’re trusting in John Calvin’s understanding to be true (even though Jacobus Arminius was a student of John Calvin’s son-in-law). Either way, for centuries, Christians lived and died prior to Calvinism so I don’t that either belief system is the end all and be all of Christianity. I still think that there’s room for a variety of interpretations, but all that is really needed is a belief in Jesus Christ and that it is wise to not fall into the trap of “Christ and (favorite interpretation)” or “Christ and (pet doctrine)” or “Christ and spiritual knowledge” because it’s easy to emphasize the “and” and forget that it’s called Christianity because of Jesus Christ – He’s the way, the turth, and the life, and everything else won’t save you.
Thank you, Jamie. Now could you please define Christ? Because there are many “human” interpretations of Him, what He taught, who He gave to the church to unite and guide her, and what He and they required regarding belief and practice. We all say we believe in Christ here, and it won’t suffice to leave that notion of Christ undefined.
I know the definition of Christ as ‘the anointed one’. I’m not sure it’s possible to define the person of Christ anymore than I could define the person of William F. Leonhart III, as I lack sufficient information.
Then yes, we are of two separate religions, because the Christ I worship defined Himself clearly so that we would know the Object of our worship. You apparently worship (if you worship him) someone / something rather different. Thus, either I am not a true Christian or you are not, but we are not of the same cloth.
I wouldn’t say that, as I said, Christianity is a spectrum of beliefs which allows for a great variety of opinion. If even you say that I’m not a Christian, I think we both are; we just go about it differently. Perhaps I misunderstood you when you said “define” I thought you meant: “state or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning of.” or quite possibly: “mark out the boundary or limits of.” If I say that Jesus is God, then to some degree He is as undefinable as God is. Why not tell me your definition so I can tell you whether or not I agree with it?
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Jamie, would you agree with the following statement concerning Christ
“The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”
Would you agree with the doctrine of Christ as espoused in the Nicene creed?
“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”
Would you agree with the definition of Chalcedon?
“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.”
I would have been far less eloquent, I think: Jesus is the son of God, sent to be the savior, the messiah. We basically agree, I just tend to be cautious because each extra word used to describe him has a range of meanings and beliefs that can be interpreted. I remember my history well: whomever was considered ‘orthodox’ called everyone else ‘heretics’ and excommunicated them, this is one mistake I prefer to not make if at all possible.
I understand. In regards to orthodoxy and heresy, have you read “The Heresy of Orthodoxy” by Kostenberger and Kruger or “Canon Revisited” by Michael Kruger? I think those books address those particular issues pretty well, particularly the orthodoxy of the early church.
In regards to the meaning of the terms used in the creedal statements that I mentioned above, do you believe that the theological language used is reflective of the theological beliefs and the historical context of the individuals who crafted the various documents? For instance, the first quotation comes from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Would you believe that the language used in first quotation is reflective of the theological views and historical context of the framers of the document (i.e. 17th century Particular Baptists)? This would suggest that the lexical range of these terms would be somewhat limited based on the context under which the documents were written.
My churches never taught me about church history, confessions, creeds, or anything like that so I don’t understand them. What I do know is what I learned from Wikipedia. But I also learned that each church tends to write it’s down definitions, what one says with one word can be understood to be completely different to somebody else. So when I learned about complementarianism, I recognized right away that’s what my church did and because of the problems that church had, I immediately looked for something else to see what options I had that they never told me about – that’s when I realized that egalitarianism worked for me. Anything beyond the ABCs (Admit, Believe, Confess) of FAITH (Forgiveness, Available, Impossible, Turn, Heaven) might as well be a foreign language. It’s not that I’m unwilling to learn, but every time I’ve tried people are constantly judging me or are sending me to various links that don’t really explain anything. I might be in the ‘shallow’ end of the pool of Christianity, but experience has taught me that it’s never good to swim in the ‘deep’ end without enough skill to ensure that I don’t drown. To me, confessions, creeds, and all those other things are a flood of words and concepts that threaten to sweep me away into the open ocean where I will undoubtedly get lost and have no help to find my way.
I definitely understand that… I didn’t grow up with creeds or confessions either. I would love to discuss these matters more fully with you through email if you would like, particularly any of the theological phrases that you may find unclear. In that case, we can hash out theological distinctions and definitions based upon biblical concept in more detail than what you would typically find in Wikipedia discussions. Let me know if your interested.
Thanks for answering my questions earlier. I do understand your caution with not having a full understanding of church history, creeds, confessions, and so on. I would encourage to look beyond Wikipedia though and get your hands on some good books that will walk you through church history and theological definitions and distinctions. To be honest, I’ve learned the most concerning theology in the past year than I ever have because my church did not emphasize those things either growing up. Some resources I personally found helpful were Ligonier Ministries, which was created by R. C. Sproul. He definitely is the “teacher” type and has tons of lessons, articles, sermons, and books on most topics that you can think of pertaining to the church. Also, actually reading through the catechisms (Heidelberg, Westminster Larger and Shorter) also helped me to have greater consistency in my beliefs. Working through those documents though caused me to ask more questions, obviously, and that’s led me into reading up more on church history from a variety of sources. However, my biggest resource was my husband (theroadofgrace guy responding here). So, I would encourage you to connect with him via email because he loves pointing people to good theological resources and stuff like that.
I also appreciate your responses to my blogs too. I know we don’t see eye to eye on everything I’ve written, but I am learning from the experience. I pray you are too. 🙂
I appreciate the offer, but I’m quite happy with where I’m at right now. I might not agree with every last iota of a Lutherans or Methodist or Baptist’s ideology, but I accept that they all have common ground in Jesus and that’s enough for me. I’ll likely still investigate the creeds and covenants, but it’ll have to wait a little while. This sort of stuff is easier for me when it’s a little bit at a time so I can digest it, not all at once – it’s overwhelming.
The point I’m making is simple. It would not suffice for my wife to say that she loves and has a relationship with “Billy” if, when asked who I am, all she is willing to allow is that I’m a 6’1″ thirty-something who frequent’s Starbucks and hosts a website. It would not suffice, when asked about my political, social, and domestic opinions, for her to say, “Well, I’ve already told you that he’s a 6’1″ thirty-something who frequent’s Starbucks and hosts a website. That’s all I’m willing to permit he has revealed about himself.” She and I have been together for 15 years. I have not revealed myself to her as thoroughly as 66 books worth, but we have had some deep conversations, and there is much more she could say about me than that.
God has been in relationship with man for much longer than 15 years, and He has revealed Himself to us in 66 books. So much more could be, and should be, said about Christ than merely that He “is the son of God, sent to be the savior, the messiah.” Having poured out Himself for us to the point of death on the cross, He has earned much more from us than those minimal statements. The reason the creeds and confessions are so eloquent is because those men, given to the church by Christ Himself (Ephesians 4), understood that it was necessary to clarify what all true Christians mean when we say, “Jesus is Lord.”
When I speak of Jesus, I am not referring to a mere man (Arianism), the spirit brother of Satan (Mormonism), the arch-angel Michael (Jehovah’s Witnesses), a sinless prophet on par with Mohammed (Islam), or a reincarnation of Krishna (Hinduism) or Buddha (Buddhism). Many of these false religions, in their own ways and with their own definitions, would agree with you that “Jesus is the son of God, sent to be the savior, the messiah.” It is only when we are willing to define our terms that we start to see that, behind the vernier, we are actually describing two vastly different persons when we each evoke the name of Jesus.
And the reason why the Pharisees taught the Oral Law was to clarify what God meant by the written law, so they deduced, and added to and explained why the oral law was as important to keep as the written law. They honestly thought that they were doing everybody a favor, but Jesus had some pretty unkind words reserved just for them. Why can’t it be as simple as “Jesus is Lord”? Jesus used parables to deliver truths that were simple, readily understood, and easy to relate to. He did not use a wall of words or several run-on sentences to describe concepts about what the kingdom of God was like.
Actually, Jamie, the role that the creeds and confessions have played in church history has been to weed out anything that may have been added or taken away from the doctrine of Christ and the apostles. Again, Ephesians 4 clearly explains the role of pastors and teachers. They have been given by God to unite the church in truth, not to unite the church in vague concepts about a vague God.
Regarding your assertion that Christ never used a “wall of words,” I would encourage you to read the hard sayings of Christ in John 6&8 and the barrage of words He used in His Sermon on the Mount which spans 3 whole chapters from Matthew 5 to Matthew 7. Christ was not as simple as you make Him out to be.