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Answering a Question on Egalitarianism

I already responded to one post by Michael Patton on this topic (Am I a Complementarian?), but he followed this up with a question. I have been so busy with the release of my latest book (co-authored with Geoffrey Lentz) that I have fallen well behind the progress of this topic, but I still want to respond, though briefly.

I would note that I don’t agree with the common statement that there are no stupid questions, even though I use that in classes. “The only stupid question is one you don’t ask,” I intone. But then I contradict myself by teaching that often we get the wrong answer because we ask the wrong question. I’ll dodge that one by noting that “wrong” and “stupid” are not synonymous. So I’m not going to call Dr. Patton’s question stupid, but I think it’s the wrong one.

My egalitarianism, or more simply belief in equal rights, is not based on a view of just what women are as a group. This applies both in church and in society as a whole. I do not advocate that women be permitted to compete for and take roles because I think they are the same, but rather because I think that the opportunities should be kept similar. I do believe that some women and some men will be found amply qualified for certain non-traditional roles, and in fact I think that we will find that the determinative differences are few, but that will be demonstrated, in my view, by what those people actually accomplish.

So when Dr. Patton asks:

Here is my question(s):

* Is there any way for us to train boys to be “men”?
* Is there any way for us to train up girls to be “women”?

If so, what does that look like for each?

* What does it uniquely look like to be a “man”?
* What does it uniquely look like to be a “woman”?

My response would be: What do those questions have to do with anything?

Well, I can see the value of a negative response. If men and women are essentially different, why is it that you think you have to train them to be different?

My suggestion? Just as I said with ministry, train and use people according to their gifts. Then if you find that God has not gifted any women (or men) to do a particular task, we can surmise that we are dealing with some kind of fundamental difference.

How would I train a boy to be a boy or a girl to be a girl? I’d look at their individual personalities and gifts and flow with that.

Bottom line? My egalitarianism does not require me to assume some artificial sameness of men and women, nor some arbitrary distinctions. I view each person as an individual, and I believe that is the best way to do it. If no woman qualifies as a pastor, then no woman should be a pastor. If God calls no woman as a pastor, then no woman should be a pastor.

I will emphasize, however, that I do believe there are women who are called and gifted to be pastors, and I know some of them personally. I think there are many more. Too frequently I encounter a woman who is serving at less than her potential because someone told her that women can’t be pastors, or women can’t be theology teachers.

Follow the gifts; follow the call. That’s my approach.

PS: Scot McKnight has a letter on his blog today from a woman in seminary. I find its contents both saddening and quite realistic.

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