Every definition is dangerous.
The only label I’m comfortable with is “Christian”. Don’t bother trying to peg me as conservative or liberal because there are multitudes to my right and left. I would rather do the hard work of digging out the truth rather than buying wholesale into blanket ideology.
All that said, let’s talk about sex.
There are two main schools of biblical interpretation – complementarian and egalitarianism.
Complementarian positions usually hold that certain positions in church leadership are reserved for men only, and that in a marriage the husband is properly the head of the family and has some degree of authority over the wife. Some complementarian positions also hold that women and men have different roles outside home and church life in broader society.
Egalitarianism holds that women can hold all the same roles in church leadership as men, and that in a marriage authority is properly shared equally between husband and wife. Egalitarianism also holds that women and men may properly hold the same positions in society more broadly.
The issues are complex, and even the most enthusiastic promoters for one side or the other cannot justifiably claim that the opposing view is beyond the limits of orthodoxy. Nor can one assert that a particular view is the only one reflecting a belief in biblical inerrancy.
I personally believe that men and women are intrinsically different and complementary but I stop short of accepting many of the cultural realities of the first century as directly applicable in the twenty-first century. The truth remains the truth and our task is to understand how to apply it to our lives.
The most even-handed discussion of these two views I’ve found is from a book entitled “Two Views on Women in Ministry.” You can find it HERE. It is a scholarly but readable “conversation” among several theology experts and it is presented in a spirit of honesty and love.
Even though the research I referenced above focuses on women in ministry roles, the general application goes much farther. An organization called CBE International publishes a scholarly theological journal called The Priscilla Papers. One of their articles is entitled “First Corinthians 7: Paul’s Neglected Treatise on Gender”, and in it they say
“Evangelicals have wrongly neglected this text on many counts. First, Paul’s words here are three times longer than any gender passage in his other letters—in fact, slightly longer than all of his other comments on the subject taken together. Second, he addresses no less than twelve related, yet distinct, issues regarding marriage and singleness—again, more than in any other text. Third, his rhetoric is explicitly, consistently, and intentionally gender inclusive—while at the same time reflecting a carefully balanced sense of mutuality. Fourth, written about the time of Galatians (a.d. 49–55), 1 Corinthians 7 applies to marriage Paul’s declaration that race, class, and gender are irrelevant for both status in Christ (Gal. 3:28) and relationships in the church community (Gal. 3:3; 5:1, 7, 16, 25).”
You can access the whole article HERE.
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.
James R. Beck (Ph.D., Rosemead, Biola University) is professor of counseling at Denver Seminary and the author of many books, including Jesus and Personality Theory: Exploring the Five-Factor Model and The Healing Words of Jesus. He and his family live in Englewood, Colorado
Linda L. Belleville (Ph.D., St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto) is professor of biblical literature at North Park Theological Seminary. She is the author of Women Leaders and the Church: 3 Crucial Questions and 2 Corinthians in the IVP New Testament Commentary series. She and her family live in Glenview, Illinois.
Craig L. Blomberg (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen, Scotland) is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. He is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of more than ten books and more than eighty articles in journals or multi-author works. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Centennial, Colorado.
Craig S. Keener (Ph.D., Duke University) is professor of biblical studies at Palmer Theological Seminary (formerly Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary) in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. His books include The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament; Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul; and numerous commentaries.
Thomas R. Schreiner (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of New Testament and associate dean of Scripture and interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of a number of books, including Interpeting the Pauline Epistles; Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9–15; and several commentaries. He and his wife have four children.
Stanley N. Gundry (S.T.D., Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Illinois) is vice president and editor-in-chief at Zondervan. With more than thirty-five years of teaching, pastoring, and publishing experience, he is the author of Love Them In: The Proclamation Theology of D. L. Moody and coauthor of The NIV Harmony of the Gospels. He and his wife live in Grand Rapids, Michigan.