A few weeks ago I wrote this blog post as a response to this post by Dr. Allen Yeh on the Scriptorium, which was a non-theological case for egalitarianism. Now Dr. Yeh has written his second post, which purports to be a theological defense of egalitarianism. I am obliged to point out, however, that it is not in fact a theological defense, but rather a Biblical defense. This is an important difference, primarily because my response will be in two parts. In this post, I want to focus on “big picture” theological issues, namely the inherent patriarchal character of the Judeo-Christian worldview. As such, it may appear to some readers that I am simply talking past Dr. Yeh. In my next post, however, I will interact directly with some of the Scripture passages that he cites.
1. Christianity Is Inherently Hierarchical
John Mark Reynolds has said that there will be 12 thrones next to Christ at the Heavenly banquet, and neither he nor I will ever sit on one of them. There are prophets and Apostles, who are the foundation of the church, who walked with Christ, and who were especially empowered by the Holy Spirit to do works that I will never do. Their unique position entails that they will receive a greater reward. Yet, at the same time, we are all one in Christ. We will all experience eternal fellowship with Him.
Jesus Christ was God incarnate. His disciples called Him Lord, and they rightly worshiped and obeyed him. Yet He called them his friends, and his co-workers.
The point of all this is simple: Christianity sees no opposition between hierarchy and equality. Egalitarianism necessarily opposes these two, such that one must obliterate the other to survive (the subtitle of Discovering Biblical Equality reads, “Complementarity Without Hierarchy“). Because of the prevailing cultural and philosophical presuppositions of our day, egalitarians assume that equality must be preserved, even at the cost of hierarchy. But as we have seen, this need not be the case. Just as Christ is the head of the church, yet he calls us brothers and fellow heirs, so we find that a man is called to be the representative head of his family, and of the church on earth while Christ is away, yet this implies no inequality between men and women. It was a man, Adam, who was the federal head of all mankind, through whom sin entered the world, according to Paul (despite the fact that Eve personally sinned first). In other words, it might be better to view hierarchy in terms of representation and service rather than authority (which is a loaded word). Theoretically, anyone can represent or serve anyone else without being greater than them in an ontological way. So it is with men, who are called to represent Christ both in the church and in their marriages, and through that representation to serve others on Christ’s behalf.
2. Jesus Christ Is The Fullest Revelation Of God
Jesus Christ called God “Father” and instructed us to do the same. This is not insignificant. We are frequently reminded by egalitarians that Jesus used the analogy of a hen and her chicks to describe God, but an analogy is different from a name. To say that an aspect of God’s character is similar to a behavior exhibited by a female animal is hardly the same as calling God by the name Father. Further, if we are to take this as an argument that there is some sort of feminine principle within the Godhead (or that gender is completely insignificant when it comes to God, who is, after all, spirit), then is it equally valid to pray “Our Mother, who art in Heaven…”? Given the anthropological assumptions of egalitarianism, I cannot see why not.
More importantly, Jesus Christ, the fullest revelation of God to humanity, was a male. S. M. Hutchens, in a 1992 article for Touchstone Magazine, puts it eloquently when he says:
If what the Scriptures say about the nature of Christ is true, that this carpenter from Nazareth contains heaven and earth in some astounding way, being universal in his particularity and particular in his universality, the Everlasting Man, the Life and Light of the world, the Beginning and the End of all things, then how can it be a matter of indifference that when he was manifest in human flesh he came not as a woman, an angel, or some tertium quid, but as a man? His maleness, like everything else about him, cannot be regarded as incidental: it has timeless, cosmic significance.
As Adam was the head of his race, Christ is the head of his church; the church called to proclaim and represent Christ to the world. Given such a paradigm, male headship, at least in the church, doesn’t seem so strange after all.
Finally, I feel obligated to address Dr. Yeh’s concluding comments. He says:
…you may disagree with me, but I don’t think you can say I didn’t make a good attempt here! There are Scriptural arguments for egalitarianism to contend with, and I hope nobody writes this off as fluff. You may say that I am wrong (and, by all means, feel free), but you can’t say that I have no biblical case for my position.
To be frank (but I hope not unkind), I find this a bit disturbing. How can one be simultaneously wrong and yet have a “biblical case” for one’s position? Dr. Yeh seems to be suggesting that as long as someone quotes Scripture and makes an effort to use those Scripture quotations to build their case, one cannot possibly call their position unbiblical. This places the bar for defending one’s view from Scripture very low. As long as I can quote the Bible and make my opponent concede that I sincerely made a good attempt, I’ll never have to change my mind.
I hope that I have so far succeeded in undermining some of the presuppositions of egalitarianism and showing that Biblical Christianity is both hierarchical and patriarchal. Next time, I hope to take a closer look at some of the “proof texts” used by both sides.
Update: Click here to read part 3 of my response to Dr. Yeh. ‘