Get The Facts On Gender

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I’m going to make twenty statements, seventeen of which are fairly uncontroversial, two of which are disputed, and one of which is highly controversial. To call them ‘facts’ is, perhaps, slightly provocative, but I felt that calling them ‘statements’ was a bit bland, and ‘theses’ made me sound like Martin Luther – the disputed ones (#9 and #12) cannot really be called ‘facts’ but they appear likely to me, and the highly controversial one (#20), though I emphatically regard it as true, would not be accepted by any scholar who did not see Scripture as divinely inspired. As far as I can tell, though, the other seventeen reflect the best biblical scholarship available, and would be widely agreed upon by leading egalitarian (Fee, Wright, Marshall, Keener, Towner, Witherington, McKnight) and complementarian (Moo, Schreiner, Knight, Blomberg, Carson, Mounce, Köstenberger) scholars. Here goes:

  • 1. Men and women are equally made in God’s image, blessed by God, and given dominion over creation (Gen 1:27-28).
  • 2. Men and women are equally united with Christ, adopted as children, and heirs of God’s promises (Gal 3:28).
  • 3. Jesus traveled with women, accepted financial support from them, and allowed them to sit at his feet as pupils, in defiance of social conventions (Luke 8:1-3; 10:38-42).
  • 4. Women were the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, and without them, there would be no gospel proclamation (Matt 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2).
  • 5. The Twelve apostles were all required to be men (Acts 1:21-22).
  • 6. At least one woman in the New Testament church explained the word of God to a man (Acts 18:26).
  • 7. Men and women both have the Holy Spirit poured out upon them, empowering them to prophesy (Acts 2:18).
  • 8. Women in the New Testament church served as deacons (Rom 16:1-2; 1 Tim 3:11).
  • 9. At least one woman in the New Testament church publicly read an epistle to the church (Rom 16:1-2).
  • 10. At least one woman in the New Testament church was an apostle, and outstanding amongst them (Rom 16:7).
  • 11. Women in the New Testament church prophesied in church meetings (1 Cor 11:5).
  • 12. Paul did not allow women to chat to each other while others were speaking during church meetings, and/or to interrupt their husbands to ask questions while they were prophesying (1 Cor 14:33-35).
  • 13. When the New Testament church gathered, anyone could bring a song, a teaching, a revelation, a language or an interpretation (1 Cor 14:26).
  • 14. Married women in the New Testament church are instructed to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22, 24; Col 3:18; 1 Pet 3:1).
  • 15. In the thought world of the early Christians, relational submission did not necessarily imply ontological inferiority (1 Cor 15:28; Heb 13:17).
  • 16. Husbands in the New Testament church are described as being the head of their wives, and instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:23; 1 Cor 11:3).
  • 17. Paul said to Timothy that he did not allow a woman to teach or exercise/assume authority over a man (1 Tim 2:12).
  • 18. The requirements for elders/overseers in the New Testament included being faithful to their wives, keeping their children submissive, and governing their households well, all of which assume that elders/overseers are men (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
  • 19. No spiritual gift – not prophecy, teaching, leadership or anything else – is identified in Scripture as being exclusively given to men or women (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:4-13, 27-31).
  • 20. All nineteen of the above statements reflect an internally consistent and coherent vision of the way men and women are to function in marriage and the church.

With the exception of the last one, these statements are essentially exegetical judgments: decisions about what authors and texts meant in their original settings. The last one is more a presupposition about Scripture; but although I said it was highly controversial, it is in fact likely to be affirmed by all self-identifying evangelicals, since it is nothing more than an application of a general evangelical conviction (the consistency and clarity of Scripture) to a specific issue. So frankly, there’s an awful lot for evangelicals to agree about.

The main reason for laying them out like this is to show, once again, how much agreement there can and should be amongst egalitarians and complementarians. (Many will be surprised to find that Gordon Fee and Phil Towner agree with Bill Mounce and Andreas Köstenberger on #17 and #18, for example, or that Tom Schreiner and Doug Moo agree with Scot McKnight and Tom Wright on #8 and #10). This, following my previous posts on how much we agree on marriage and the myths in the gender debate, is therefore intended to provide a platform for two further Wednesday posts, on hermeneutics and application, which move from exegesis (on which there is huge agreement) to how these passages should be applied (on which there is huge disagreement). See you next week.

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