Being Egalitarian and Taking the Bible Seriously

Too often I read criticism that egalitarians don’t take the Bible seriously, or they simply don’t pay attention to it at all. One blogger recently decried the decision of a conservative church to open up the office of elder to women, saying “The denial of complementarianism undermines the church’s practical embrace of the authority of Scripture.” (Denny Burk, Some reflections on a church that has recently embraced egalitarianism, quoting Ligon Duncan.)

My experience, though, is that egalitarian Christians carefully engage with Scripture. Groups such as Christians for Biblical Equality, forums like the Junia Project and bloggers like Margaret Mowczko (and many others) are proof of that. (See Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in MInistry.)

In any case, I thought it would be handy to have a symbol ready for the next time someone tries to claim complementarians are the ones who take the Bible seriously while egalitarians don’t.

Jesus loves me, this I know,

The authority of Scripture that teaches me that Jesus loves me is the same authority that informs the rest of my understanding of God and his people. Others might come to a different understanding on various matters: free will and predestination, God’s sovereignty and our responsibilities, whether to be pre-millennial and look for a literal seven year tribulation or not. More can be listed, but the point is that no one should denigrate another’s position as being the product of a lack of concern for the Bible’s very words.

So here I stand:

Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.


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27 Responses to Being Egalitarian and Taking the Bible Seriously

  1. Mary Anne says:

    “So here I stand . . .” And just think–you didn’t have to nail it to a church door or anything! ;-D

  2. Heather G says:

    Gee, this is so reminiscent of something I wrote a few weeks ago –

  3. This is really interesting, Tim. I have no background in Scriptural interpretation of any kind but was struck by the writer’s quote from Duncan suggesting that egalitarianism and inerrancy aren’t ultimately compatible because inerrancy and trajectory hermeneutics aren’t compatible. It seems like a very narrow way of interpreting inerrancy. Does inerrancy ultimately mean literal here?

    • Tim says:

      I suspect that inerrant means taking the Bible the way they say it should be taken.

      • That’s what I thought, from the reference to “the way God intended the Bible to be read, understood, believed, and obeyed” — which seems to imply that “WE know exactly what that way is.”

        • Greg Hahn says:

          Inerrant can’t possibly mean “literal”. Nobody on earth, other than the certifiably insane, takes the Bible 100% literally. All Bible readers understand the Bible sometimes uses figurative language. (My favorite example is John 6:53, which all fundamentalists take figuratively, but all Catholics take literally.)

          In any case, Ligon Duncan and Denny Burk know this.

    • Pastor Bob says:

      “inerrant” to be without error.
      Scripture is without error of any kind.
      The errors excluded include transmission, recording, translation (some argue this, but the arguments are often ‘distractions.’ as in one chooses not to follow a clearly implied principle citing ‘translation’ from the original language.)
      Interpretation – that is another issue. It is entirely possible to have more than one accurate interpretation for a particular passage, some are not so clear, and some can be seen as educated speculation.

      Some issues that are not clear are NOT important, some have cultural significance, some have divided denominations for a long time. Some issues are important to some, but are irrelevant when it comes to salvation.

      Simple definition and explanation for a topic that is much deeper.
      Interpretation covers a WIDE and DEEP amount of data, start with prayer.

    • Ian says:

      Jeannie, trajectory hermeneutics is only one theological approach to egalitarianism. You can also reach egalitarian conclusions by standard historical-grammatical exegesis – discovering what the text meant to the original readers.

      Denny Burke’s quoting of Ligon Duncan was a bit strange. Duncan is a Presbyterian and Burke is a Baptist. I’m sure Burke believe that Duncan’s willingness to baptise babies undermines the authority of scripture, but it doesn’t suit him to say so.

  4. April Kelsey says:

    They claim complementarianism is the plain reading of scripture. And then when you point to the context of the verses they quote, they claim the plain reading supercedes any context.

    • Tim says:

      They point to broader context to understand the plain words sometimes, and sometimes say it’s a distraction from the plain meaning. I’ve probably done the same, and would appreciate getting called on it. Not that I’d find it a pleasant experience, but I’d still appreciate it eventually.

    • April,

      You clarified ‘their’ thinking. Bang on!! Exactly right.

      Or another way of stating their ‘plain reading’ posture: My way or the highway! 🙂

  5. Christiane Smith says:

    that word ‘inerrant’ is used by some people to mean ‘if you don’t accept MY interpretation of what the Bible clearly says, you are not accepting God’s Word’ . . . . and yes, I have noticed that these men always preface their pronouncements with ‘the Bible clearly says’ . . .

    the other thing I have noticed is that the men doing this sort of thing will take certain Scriptures out of context and apply them to their own ‘theological’ agendas . . . usually at the expense of something very important: the absence of Jesus Christ as the ‘lens’ through which they claim inerrant interpretation

    the result: the growth of cult-like ‘churches’ that claim to have ‘discipline’ authority over their members and the abuses of ‘the sheep’ that flows from a lack of humility before the Lord Christ . . . humility that was cast aside when ‘inerrancy’ replaced Our Lord as the ‘lens’ through which we need to examine and seek understanding of sacred Scripture

    • Tim says:

      I’ve noticed the same problems flowing from an improper understanding and application of the word “inerrant” as well.

  6. Pingback: God Never Settles – exposing patriarchy’s nonsense about women | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  7. Just Now says:

    How could Jesus not love you and egalitarianism, Tim?

  8. Mark says:

    What an odd combination of words: “without error of any kind.
    The errors excluded include . . .”
    I find it better to speak of Scripture as a faithful witness, the collective witness of faithful believers accurately describing what they have heard and seen of God’s works and words. Inerrancy is not the most helpful way of speaking of the authority of Scripture to describe an authentic life of faith.

  9. Anita says:

    Along with Mary being called to be the first to preach the risen Lord, I’ve always loved how Luke 2 tells of Anna, the old woman in the temple, who saw the infant Jesus and “gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Truly, God calls women to proclaim the Good News.

    • Tim says:

      It’s almost like Anna and Mary act as bookends in Jesus’ life: one is there proclaiming the good news at his birth and the other at his resurrection.

  10. I have been writing on the exact same topic today. Won’t be publishing for a while, but I completely agree.

  11. Hey Tim, here’s the writing I did. I am slightly terrified that it’s going to cause a firestorm, but here it is.

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