Five Forms Of Egalitarianism: With A Critique Of David Instone-Brewer’s View Of The Household Codes -- By: Andrew Wilson

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 18:2 (Fall 2013)
Article: Five Forms Of Egalitarianism: With A Critique Of David Instone-Brewer’s View Of The Household Codes
Author: Andrew Wilson


Five Forms Of Egalitarianism:
With A Critique Of David Instone-Brewer’s View Of The Household Codes

Andrew Wilson

Pastor, Kings Church
Ph.D. Candidate, Kings College

Eastbourne, England

I encountered a new type of egalitarianism the other day. At least, it was new to me. In the course of discussing different approaches to gender roles over the last ten years or so, my experience has been that the same four varieties of evangelical (or, in one case, quasi-evangelical) egalitarianism always crop up—exegetical, experiential, trajectory hermeneutic, and “kingdom now” egalitarianism—and I thought that I had the whole landscape mapped out. But then I came across an article by David Instone-Brewer in Christianity magazine which, though resembling two of these somewhat, was so different in its overall approach that it required a whole new category.1 I haven’t settled on a name for it yet, but for the purposes of this article we can call it “uninspired” egalitarianism.

First, though, here’s a sketch of the original four. Exegetical egalitarianism consists of the view that we should do whatever the New Testament says, but that when the exegesis is done properly, there is no restriction on women being elders in the New Testament. Thus, the famous prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 is about teaching false doctrine in a way that usurps or undermines men, and need not imply eldership was off-limits; the requirement for elders to be “one women men” simply means that men were the only people in that world who would be polygamous; and the wide range of women in key roles in his churches indicates that Paul had no problem with women teaching or leading men. This is the position of Tom Wright, Mike Bird, Ben Witherington, and many others; and although I disagree with it in a number of ways, I regard it as the most defensible of the four.2

At the opposite end of the spectrum is experiential egalitarianism, which represents those for whom, no matter what Paul or anyone else might say, their experience indicates that women can be elders, and that’s that. This might be personal (“I’ve felt God tell me to do this, and you’ve got no right to say that’s wrong”), or observational (“so-and-so is a woman, and she’s an elder, and God is blessing her, so how can that be wrong?”), or even societal (“the world has changed, and if we keep doing this, they’ll think we’re idiots”). This brand of egalitarianism was pointedly illustrated to me recently when a French woman, with whom I was discussing

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