Defining the Terms

In this blog I will use the term “non-restrictive” to describe the position that there should be no restrictions on what women can do in the church.  I will use the term “restrictive” for the position that women, because they are women, should be restricted from doing certain things.

Why not employ the more widely used terms “egalitarian” and “complementarian”? I find these terms less useful because they contrast two things that are both good and that aren’t really opposites. (Kind of like “pro-choice” and “pro-life” in the abortion debate. The real issue there is whether abortion should be legal or illegal.)  Those who feel there should be no restrictions on what women can do still agree, for the most part, that men and women are complementary beings who will go about doing even ostensibly the same things in characteristic and different ways.  Those who feel there should be restrictions still agree, for the most part, that men and women are equal in status and dignity. I want to keep the focus on the actual question at stake.

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4 thoughts on “Defining the Terms

  1. Pingback: Does the Bible say that women can’t teach or have authority over men? (Part 1) | Understanding the Books of the Bible

  2. Pingback: Blogsurfing Find: Re-defining Women’s Roles in the Church | Getting Started

  3. I disagree where you say, ” that men and women are complementary beings who will go about doing even ostensibly the same things in characteristic and different ways.” I see that as reinforcing gender stereotypes that attribute specific psychological and behavioral characteristics to men or women, labeling them “masculine” or “feminine.” I believe instead that there is no intrinsic difference between men and women beyond the biological, and that there are more differences between individuals of the same gender, than between genders as a whole, a viewpoint that is being increasingly supported by current scientific study into neuroplasticity of the brain, among other fields. I do agree there should be no restriction on what women can do in either the home or the church, as per Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  4. Chris,
    Thanks for sharing your perspectives on this. I’m not a neuroscientist so I can’t really comment on research in that field. But I have seen news coverage of studies that show that when doing the same tasks, different areas of men’s and women’s brains “light up” (go into use), suggesting that they do function somewhat differently. I have no desire to reinforce gender stereotypes, as these tend to lead to restrictions on what women can do in communities of Jesus’ followers. But I do think that the creation account in Genesis suggests that God intended men and women to be complementary beings. It was not good for the man to be alone, so God made an ‘ezer (strong ally) who would be “over against” him, which I take to mean not opposed, but rather strong in areas where he was weak (and conversely weak in areas where he was strong). Despite our difference on this point, I think we are definitely on the same side of the argument about whether there should be any restrictions on what women can do. Perhaps that’s another good reason to change the terminology about the debate. Our exchange shows that people who are “complementarian” (in the sense we’re using the term here) and people who are not “complementarian” can be on the same side of the debate. So let’s make clear that it’s really about restrictions, which a people who hold a range of views can agree are inappropriate.

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