Can complementarians agree to disagree?

Can complementarians agree to disagree?

I sent a copy of our DVD “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in February of 2006 and this summer I finally received a response. They have chosen at this point not to try to refute the video and have said that they will just agree to disagree. I think it is wonderful when Christians can have differing viewpoints and after working through their issues, at least agree to disagree. However in this case I am questioning whether that is really possible. I certainly can agree to disagree with them and still call them my brothers in Christ. However their position is that women who teach the bible to men are in sin. Can they agree to disagree when my brothers in Christ see me as living in unrepentant sin? I don’t think they have that option.

When you see your brother in sin, scripture tells us what to do if we see our brother or sister in sin:

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

So if one sees a Christian brother or sister in sin, they should try to restore that one to fellowship, right? Does this seem consistent with “let’s just agree to disagree?” What verse would one point to that agrees that sin is merely a matter of agreeing to disagree?

What about this one – scripture says that the one who is born of God will not continue living a lifestyle of sin.

1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
1 John 3:6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.

So if a Christian brother accuses a sister in Christ of sinning against God by teaching the Bible to men, how is it consistent with scripture to “agree to disagree” and see the “sinning” sister as part of the fellowship of the body of Christ? How can the one practicing sin as a lifestyle be held in fellowship?

I certainly want to be gracious about this and to respect CBMW’s position, but it seems inconceivable to me that an organization of Christian men dedicated to spreading the complementarian position and who sincerely believe that women are in sin for teaching the bible to men can ignore my request for dialogue. I have asked them for their comments on my exegesis and if they believe I am wrong then to show me where I am wrong. It’s a no go. They aren’t interested. They just want to “agree to disagree”. Hmm……. Is that scriptural?

20 thoughts on “Can complementarians agree to disagree?

  1. On a Former Seventh-Day Adventist web forum, I stumbled on the argument bellow in a thread discussing Women in Ministry:

    “Just look at every denomination that ordains women including SDAs–just look where they end up. If anyone can show me a denomination who ordains women that also holds to the inerrancy of scripture and doesn’t get way off into doctrinal error, then show it to me. ”

    Can you provide a list of Churches, denominations which provides a good example of ordaining women and keeping sound doctrine?

  2. Martin,

    I do not have a full list of the churches/denominations that ordain women but below are links to a couple of denominations that are good examples of those who hold to the inerrancy of scripture and are not off into doctrinal error.

    The first two links below are for the Christian Reformed Church. The first link is regarding their beliefs and the second their position on women.

    These next two links are for the Evangelical Covenant Church with the first link below their affirmations regarding the word of God, etc and the next link their position on women in ministry.

    I think that these two denominations are good examples of churches that hold tightly to God’s word. There are also many others including my own denomination. I hope that helps you out in your forum discussion. Once again, thanks for the kind remarks!


  3. Cheryl,

    Can you site documentation for the CBMW’s beliefe that it is “sin” for women to teach men? I am struggling with this issus myself.

    I am gaining insight from your site.



  4. Cathy,

    I am on the road on a ministry trip so I don’t have the page number, etc, but the documentation that it is CBMW’s belief that it is a sin for women to teach men is from their book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They say that women are restricted by God from two things – teaching biblical doctrine to men and having authority over men in the church.

    In personal email conversations that I have had with CBMW, they have confirmed that God’s restrictions against these two things is a “law” that forbids godly Christian women from teaching correct biblical doctrine to men. They say that to disobey this “law” is sinning against God. They are unsure, though, if a woman who continues to “disobey” God by teaching men will go to hell or not. I was told that if a woman continued in disobedience that this called into question whether she was even saved and if she died in this state that she would go to hell. According to them, if a woman was a true Christian, she would repent of this “sin” and would therefore not go to hell.

    I hope that helps.

  5. You go to Hell or you put yourself there because you don’t have CHRIST. If you have The Real Jesus of the Bible: Fully God/Fully Man, The Cross,The Blood,Finished work etc if you are Trusting in Christ alone your Saved and noone can take that away, Noone!

    Romans 8
    38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

    39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    We are not under law, it’s just more bondage from man or mankind.

    “They are unsure, though, if a woman who continues to “disobey” God by teaching men will go to hell or not.”

    The above phrase sounds just like the JW’s…a Cult! We as believers are to Contend for the Faith and preach the Gospel of Christ FULLY to ALL, That’s what my bible said!

    What about the woman at the well, after speaking with Jesus she went back an preached to her town about Christ and many were saved! You don’t hear Jesus saying and NEVER did he say “Hold on a second let me get a man to do this because women are not allowed to teach!”

    I hope this helps you Cathy. My name is Michael an I’m here to help you anyway I can because your my sister in the faith.

  6. I would love to hear of other denominations, especially in the United States, which have sound doctrine and are egal.

  7. If anyone comes across this post and knows of more sound churches who are also egalitarian, feel free to share these with us all!

  8. Cheryl, I have two thoughts on the refusal for those men to speak with you. For one thing, I would personally be relieved. Not only could this be proof of their awareness of their own weaknesses and failure to stand up to scrutiny, but it may be less of a headache. (It would to me, anyway, but then I’m not as knowledgeable on the matter as you).

    on the other hand, it might actually be a sign of respect for them not to debate with you. They may know the Scripture exhorting people to reveal sin, but they probably also know that we are all human and therefore our interpretations of the Bible are open to the possibility of error. If they are not power mongers, then they would not be obsessed with correcting you. Perhaps that’s their reason.

  9. Welcome, Jennifer!

    The problem with these complementarians refusing to correct me is that if one believes that a person is living in unrepentant sin and continues to practice that sin, then the person is not showing themselves to be a believer. This is what CBMW believes. They have publicly stated that the issue of women in ministry is not a side issue but an issue affecting the gospel of Jesus. I have also been told that if I do not repent of the “sin” of teaching the bible to men then my salvation is in question and if I continue to practice this “sin” that I will go to hell. If that is truly the case, then can they agree to disagree with me? If I believed that these men were being so deceived that they were on their way to hell, I would want to witness to them and persuade them of the truth. It just isn’t loving to believe that someone is going to be lost for believing a doctrine different than yours but refuse to correct them. This is my main point. If the differences is significant and attached to one’s salvation there can be no “agree to disagree” between the two.

  10. Thank you for the welcome! 🙂 I’m thrilled to be in the company of devoted and learned Christians.

    Cheryl, I had no idea these people actually threatened you with hell! Good heavens, that and the fact that they hide their faces after doing so makes them outright cowards! I guess I’m just so used to kind complimentarians; there are a few I know and love and some I revere as wonderful Christian writers. Both of these (the writers and the ones I’ve spoken to) are kind people who have proven to me that they respect my position, do NOT believe I’m in any danger of hell, and believe what they do because they honestly interpret the Bible this way, and not because they have an agenda against women (as so many others do). We don’t believe each other is going to hell because we know not only that we’re all human and open to error, but also that our motives are pure and we are operating under the desire and wish to obey God.

    I’m sorry you’ve had such bad experience! Certainly there are some people like that out there (I call them “patriocentrists”, a word that a lady I know quite appropriately christened them with) and they’d do well to guard their hearts more properly.

    Blessings to you for handling them in a far more Christian way than I could!

  11. Jennifer,
    The last Pastor who told me that I would go to hell if I did not repent of teaching the bible to men, will not communicate with me about the women’s issue. He now says that he believes that somewhere along the line I will repent of my sin because he does believe I am a Christian sister. I told him that I will not be repenting of teaching the bible to men because scripture does not call it a sin nor does scripture tell me to repent of this “sin”. If I am wrong, then he should take the time to correct me. Since he doesn’t know how to correct my exegesis and he cannot answer my objections to his view and the contradictions that I have pointed out regarding his complementarian belief, he has chosen to not answer me and say that we must agree to disagree. I see him as a brother in Christ, but honestly if I was in his position and really believed that I was in sin, I would work hard to convince such a person from scripture of that fact. This failure to contend for the faith appears to me to be a serious flaw in their complementarian view.

    Thank you for your blessings! I do believe that my brothers and sisters in Christ who are complementarians deserve my love and respect and I do desire to treat them this way every opportunity I have whether I agree with them or not on this secondary issue.

  12. “I certainly want to be gracious about this and to respect CBMW’s position, but it seems inconceivable to me that an organization of Christian men dedicated to spreading the complementarian position and who sincerely believe that women are in sin for teaching the bible to men can ignore my request for dialogue.” 

    Is it so inconceivable? Keep in my mind that if this organization is made up of men who believe it is a sin for women to teach the Bible to them, then of course they are not going to be interested in biblical exegesis that comes from a woman, no matter how good or logical it is. They reserve a right to ignore or reject teachings that come from a woman, because they assume it is simply wrong for a woman to teach them anything, even if she knows something that they don’t.

  13. Amy,

    Your point is well-taken.  Some may say though that Priscilla still could teach an Apollos and so if they wanted to, they could find a loop hole in their high walls set up to keep women out of their learning process.

    The thing that I haven’t quite been able to get my head across is why God chooses to send women to defend women in ministry.  Someone asked me a long time ago why my husband or another man didn’t do the DVD – at least as far as the on-screen presentation.  The reason is simply that God didn’t call him to do that and the passion that I have for this subject would not be able to be recreated by someone else.  So why does God send women when he knows that many men will not listen to a woman?  I don’t know.  God is sovereign.  I do remember that Jesus said that his parables were for some to understand and others were not to understand the meaning of the parables.  Why?  For reasons that God only knows, he sometimes chooses to harden already hardened hearts.  Is it so that these hardened hearts will become so hard that the rest of the church can clearly see the fruit of this movement?  I don’t know.  Perhaps.  Whatever God does is okay with me and I am not responsible for the results that are in God’s hands.  I wish I understood all the “whys” but perhaps it just isn’t for me to know.

    The bottom line is that I do not want to emulate what they are doing.  I want to keep my heart soft so that if I am wrong, I can humbly be corrected.  I never want to harden my heart against truth even if I am sure I have the truth.  Truth is provable and it is winsome to the open heart.  Truth trumps error any day.  Those who harden their heart against the truth are in a dangerous position and God will judge the motives of their heart in his time.

  14. My take is that God has given them what they seek, they get the fruits of their doctrine when doing the opposite could save them from it.  It is not about who can teach, for Paul says ANY can. 

    It is about whom they choose to listen to.  We all have filters, as we do not have unlimited time.  Theirs includes gender, to their shame.

  15. Don,

    That was quite profound.  I had not thought of it that way before.  Do I have a filter?  I was not aware of it, but I must have to a certain extent so there are voices all around and one must shut out the “many” to listen to the “one”.  I would like to trust the Lord that I am not shutting out any part of his voice spoken through any one of his servants no matter who they are.

  16. Cheryl, God has used women many times when men might not listen: look at Mary Magdelene at Christ’s tomb, and the Samaritan woman. The fact is, pride and fear are what keep these hard comps from listening to you; they don’t respect women (contrary to their patronizing claims) and some part of them, like any tyrant, is scared you’ll wrench their authority away from them. The fact is, some men DO listen; men have been changed by your DVD and by books written by women too on the subject. The blind ones will never see, they want authority more than servanthood, but the wise will listen.

  17. One you see all of us have a (God-given) filter, then and only then can you decide what to put in your own filter and take into acccount other’s filters.  I want 2 things:

    1. That my speech may be seasoned with salt, so that more will accept the truth in it than otherwise.
    2. That I can hear God’s voice even if given through my enemy.

  18. Jennifer,

    “Cheryl, God has used women many times when men might not listen:”

    This says to me that God does not limit himself to only using people and resources that are easily accepted.  That means that man cannot limit God or force him to do as man pleases.  Praise God for that.

    The blind ones will never see, they want authority more than servanthood, but the wise will listen.

    My prayer is that God will help me to find the wise and to walk away from those who will not listen.  My persistence has been good and bad.  It is bad when persistence keeps me knocking on a door that has slammed shut in my face when there are open doors that I am not seeing because of my persistent knock.


    You are a wise man.  I believe that God has used your method to teach many that it is possible to have our speech seasoned with salt so that we can be gentle and not angry with those who are in opposition.  This is the safe environment that those who have an open heart need so that they can let down the external barriers and have the opportunity to change their mind without fear of ridicule or contempt.

  19. Hello,

     I just got the Trinity DVD “Love It”! I’m starting to pass it out to some! Please Pray as always. Thanks Cheryl for all your hard work! You nailed every scripture on the topics at hand! Amen Jesus Is Lord!

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