Is Leadership Male? Part 3

Updated 9:11AM, Wednesday August 8th, 2012 by The Editor, 4 comments seperator

Whether we like it or not, the Bible teaches that Church leadership is male, argues Aaron Trommler.

Forbidden by scripture? copyright imaginedhorizons (creative commons)

In part one Ben Irwin summarised his experience with his wife-to-be and his pastor in a marriage prep session, which is used to illustrate the abandonment of a complementarian theology.

I have to say I enjoyed Mr Irwin's style of writing, wit and humour. However, I do disagree with his reasoning as summarised in the article.

We read in 1 Peter 3: 1-2:

"In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the Word, they may be won without a word by the behaviour of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behaviour." (emphasis added)

One has to ask at the start of the verse, why does it say 'in the same way'?

This takes us to 1 Peter 2, where the Apostle lists out many other situations where Christians (not just women) are to submit themselves to different authorities [1 Peter 2: 13-18]. Even if those authorities are harsh [1 Peter 2: 18-20], the reason for doing so is that Christ himself suffered for us in this world, leaving us an example to follow [1 Peter 2: 21-25].

This is what sets the context for how we should interpret 1 Peter 3: 1. Now, would anyone argue that the submission, as characterised in the previous verses, would constitute that of 'mutual submission' to the other authorities mentioned? It is indeed hard to see how this could be the case. No one is arguing the idea that submission makes the person of any less value by submitting – simply that there is an act of submission taking place to the leadership of the authorities mentioned.

Furthermore, Ephesians 5:22-23 teaches the following:

"Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the Church, He Himself being the Saviour of the body. But as the Church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything."

Whatever idea of submission a person creates or thinks, it must be consistent with the analogy given here in scripture with regards to the relationship of Christ and His Church. Would someone be able to give the argument that Christ is just as much subject to the Church as the Church is to Christ? Clearly not! To see the relationship of the husband to the wife, this is demonstrated in Ephesians 5: 25-33. The husband is in a position of authority, and he should lead his household and wife, and the wife should submit to his authority. However, that is not the full story. It is also one in which he, in love, is to lay down his life to nourish and cherish and help his wife to grow in sanctification and devotion to the Lord. If a husband were to live like that, would the wife have a problem submitting to such a man?

In the example Mr Irwin gives, the man tells his pastor that he wouldn't make a decision until both he and his wife agreed. But where is the necessity for the command to submit if it merely means to 'do only what is agreed between one another'? Submission, as a concept, simply becomes meaningless. Submission entails yielding to the will of another in spite of your own will. If there is already agreement then it is, by definition, not submission.

Further, in regard to the command in 1 Corinthians 14 for women to be silent, Mr Irwin suggests N. T Wright's view that those women were segregated and were being disruptive. However, according to Craig S. Keener (himself an egalitarian) in his Paul, Women and Wives (page 71) "evidence for this practice is problematic at best... there is no clear architectural segregation in the average local synagogue," and that "gender segregation seems to have first arisen in the Middle Ages". Even more problematic for this idea though, is that Paul himself gives the reason as to why they should be silent: not that they were being disruptive and should be quiet – there is no such mention of this reason at all, but rather that it is in regards to demonstrating the submission that is in accordance with God's law:

"The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says." (1 Corinthians 14: 34)

This is also in the context of the judgement of prophecy: saying whether something is true or not. Thus, it is probable that the prohibition is one relating to a specific action, which should be reserved for men.

Mr Irwin also mentions that prophecy is permitted by women in 1 Corinthians 11 – which is true! Prophecy is, however, distinguished from teaching in Romans 12: 6-7:

"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching."

This Paul expressly forbids women doing in church (cf 1 Tim 2:12).

Furthermore, I don't know about the arguments, supposedly used to justify slavery, that are being used to justify complementarianism, nor am I about to suggest that the Bible does the same. There is an article on the Desiring God website that quite clearly demonstrates that Paul did not think that way at all.

Finally, Mr Irwin states that you should never trust someone who tells you that the Bible is clear on gender roles, "because it isn't". I would suggest that we should be highly suspicious of any teaching that calls into question the clarity of the Word of God to justify a theology.



To read more on this subject from authors that agree with Aaron's position see Leadership is Male and Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. For an alternative view see Leadership is Male? and The Gender Agenda. Thanks to Ben and Aaron for taking the time to share their views on this topic.



This article was written and published by The Editor for


Is Leadership Male? Part 3 Discussion

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Anon said...
August 8th, 2012 at 8:10PM • Reply

so hes saying basically its not right for a female to be a leader in church thats abit sexist right :/

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Aaron Trommler
Aaron Trommler said...
August 9th, 2012 at 7:53AM • Reply

Hi Ben!

I do indeed hold to a strong intrinsic equality in regards to both men and women being made in God's image. They are absolutely equal in this way - but as you noted, the difference is in roles - God ordaining particular work for men to do, and particular work for women to do. Thank you for noting that!

Also, thank you for your reply on your blog! I will respond likewise on my blog, God willing, soon!

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Ben Irwin
Ben Irwin said...
August 9th, 2012 at 5:59PM • Reply

I'll keep an eye out for your reply and link to it from my blog when its up. Thanks for the dialogue!

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Ben Irwin
Ben Irwin said...
February 21st, 2018 at 3:35PM • Reply

As an egalitarian (and the author of the first two posts in this series), I don't think it's fair to accuse Aaron of being sexist. Most complementarians I know believe strongly in the fundamental equality (in value if not in roles) of women and men. For what it's worth, I've posted a response addressing some of Aaron's challenges on my personal blog (

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