7 Views on the Role of Women w/in the Inerrancy Camp

I’m speaking at an event today at which I’m outlining seven different views on the role of women held by those who hold to the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture:  


Believe women are more easily deceived than men, but also masters at deceiving. Women are ontologically inferior to men at created level. “Women are the devil’s gateway.” — Tertullian. Augustine, Aquinas, John Knox, etc.

COMPLEMENTARIANS (spectrum of about 4 views)

Women equal before God, but in some form of hierarchy w/ men/ husbands.  Authority = the issue w/ several views on the public ministry of women:

2.  Male “headship” –  all men = “head” over all women. Speak of “male headship.” Innate. At creation. Head = synonym for leader.  

3. Male “headship” in the church and home – husband head of wife + elders head over women in church and home (not necessarily in business, society)

4. Husband “headship” only – husband has headship over wife. Would never apply the word “head” to any other human relationship. Note Koine had only one word for “wife” or “woman”—context determines which. Reference to asking “husbands” at home and “saved through childbearing” suggest wives, not woman, in view. Therefore, verses restricting women actually restrict only wives (e.g., “Let the wives keep silent in the churches…ask husbands at home”; “I am not allowing a wife to teach or have autonomous authority over a husband”)  

5.    Husband = “head” (not headship) – Would not alter the word “head” to add “ship.” See “head” as part of a metaphor, not a leadership picture. Oneness picture. But still embrace the idea that husband = authority of wife today


No hierarchy, but believe in voluntary submission of wife. Favor agape/submit language vs. head/submit or speaking only of “mutual submission” in marriage, though they see that too. Not head over wife, but head of wife. Note that LSJ Greek lexicon does not list “authority” as a possible synonym/definition for “head.”


A. Those who argue synonym for “head” should be source/origin,* not authority. OR…

B. Those who don’t try to refute “head” understood as authority, but would view such usage as culturally influenced and not for all time.

Speak only of “mutual submission” as the ideal in marriage. No limits on women in ministry.

* * *

Complementarians draw line between themselves and egalitarians at different paces:

1.    At bishop level. Bishop must be male. Don’t necessarily have elders in their structure. The bishop might not even reside in their town. So the church may function with what looks like gender equality. But they still have that one position that must be filled by a male. 

2.    At elder level.  Women can preach with men present, as long as women are not elders. Elder board = ruling board. Emphasize that pastor/preacher is a spiritual gift, not an office. Woman may be preachers and speak “under authority” of male elders.

3.    At women preaching. Anyone who lets a woman preach with men in the room (some exceptions made for women who are famous) must be egalitarian.

4. Ordination. “Anyone who ordains women must be egalitarian.” 


At hierarchy. Equality before God has human social ramifications. Reject any authority on basis of sex alone. So complementarian or traditionalist = anyone who believes in male hierarchy of any kind based on sex


Both camps believe in gender differences. Egalitarians believe those differences have no bearing on hierarchy in home/church. Complementarians believe those differences mean men/women have different roles relating to authority in home/church.


Where do you fall? Have you worked through the passages and issues so you know where you stand and why? 

(For a free PDF visual laying out these views, go here.)

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.

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