This was posted as a guest post on a few other blogs, but I thought I'd post it here, too. It's an answer to those who say that we who want full, functional equality for women in the church and home (we call ourselves "egalitarians"), simply have a problem with authority. "Complementarian" is the term usually used for themselves by those who believe that women and men are equal in salvation before God, but that women must always be under male authority in the church and home.
What complementarians don’t seem to understand is that egalitarians don’t object to authority per se. What we object to is “divine right.” Most modern Christians have rejected the notion of divine right in all areas but this one. We no longer agree with, “Because I was born royal, I have divine right to rule this country,” or “Because I was born an aristocrat, I have divine right to govern the peasants on my land.” We certainly don’t agree any more with “Because I am white, I have divine right to be served by those of other races.” We also reject the corollary, which is “keep your place.” “Because you were born a peasant, it is not your place to govern the land,” or “Because you are of the servant class (or of a “lesser race,”), it is not your place to take jobs outside the serving sphere.”
Most Christians now would agree that there is no such thing as “divine right” – that God has established earthly authorities, but no one can say, “Because of my birth, it’s my divine right to be one of those authorities.” Except in this area. Christians say, “Because I was born male, I have a right to be in authority over my wife in the home,” and “Because you were born female, it is not your place to take leadership beside your husband in the home, or to take leadership in the church over men (“over your betters” is implied here, although we don’t use that term anymore).”
I might also add that in Paul’s day, the authority of the “pater familias” over his wife, children and slaves was one of the earthly authorities that had to be taken into account– and Paul’s words to the Ephesians reflect this understanding. That doesn’t mean that we, as 21st-century Christians, need to return to a husband-authority structure, especially when our own cultures have abandoned such structures; any more than we need to go back to serving a king or an emperor just because Paul said, “honor the king.”
I do agree that though God has established earthly authorities, God did not desire to do so in the church. Church leaders, yes – but not by “divine right.” Church authorities, no. Jesus said, “Not so among you.” I wish we would finally listen to Him.
PS. I wanted to add what Shirley Taylor at Baptist Women for Equality said today:
"What about the so-called difficult scriptures? You know what is difficult about those scriptures? The real difficulty in those scriptures is this: that we find it easier to believe that God made women inferior, than it is for us to believe that we have misinterpreted those scriptures."
I think she makes an excellent point.