One of the bigger debates within the evangelical church has been between the egalitarian and complementarian views of men and women ministry. This is the question as to whether women should be able to preach to mixed audiences or hold the office of Elder (or its equivalent) or not. In listening to the debates on both sides, I found myself harkening back to a section that I read in Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth, where she discussed the roots of feminism.1. The thing that struck me was how much of the issue arose from the definition what a woman could or could not do! If a woman couldn’t hold a job like a man could, she should be considered worthless. This stemmed from the practical application of the two-tiered Enlightenment2 world view which relegated women to the “spiritual” or “private” sphere, while men could function in the “factual” or “public” sphere. This was patently wrong needed to be corrected badly.
However, to define and value a person by what they can or cannot do is demeaning. What value does an infant have then, who cannot do anything besides eat, poop, and sleep? Or how about an aged person who doesn’t have the strength or is deteriorating mentally? This view would rob them of any value they have and gives credence to horrible ideas like abortion, infanticide, or euthanasia. Human rights cannot exist in such a world view. This is the satanic, pragmatic view of humanity espoused by the world.
Unfortunately, the Church3 is just as guilty as the world is of espousing the idea that an individual’s value comes from their deeds. The egalitarian vs. complementarian and charismatic vs. fundamentalist debates are to a considerable extent based specifically upon what Christians can or can’t do. If I can’t preach, I’m worthless. If I can’t do miracles or speak in tongues, I’m worthless. If I can’t exposit scripture properly, I’m worthless. If I can’t follow my church’s rules, I’m worthless. If I can’t act or speak differently from the world, I’m worthless. If I can’t—fill in the blank—I’m worthless. We don’t say this out loud, but we imply it through our arguments and argumentation.
But where does our worth come from according to the Bible? It doesn’t come from what we do, it comes from what we are. It comes from our origin: our being made in the image of God (Ge. 1:26-27; 9:5b-6). It comes from the fact that God loves us, that he chose us before the foundation of the world; that he sent his son to redeem us; that he adopted us as his heirs; that made known to us the mystery of his will; that he indwells us with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:3-14). Which of these things can we do? None of them! Each and every one of these realities has to do with what we are. If we truly understand these realities, then we will not attempt to get our worth from what we can or cannot do. We can be both equal and opposite4; equal in worth, but opposite in role; and we can be happy with that. Note that I write happy, not content; for happiness is beyond contentment. It is from this worth that we step forward to do, not the other way around. Christianity remains a religion of the hands as much as it is of the head and heart. Our deeds show our faith to the seen and unseen world, but they do not give us our worth.
So, memorize Ephesians 1:3-14 and every time you feel like you’re worthless, because you can’t do a certain thing in the church, whether because of time, lack of ability, or your role, think of how God sees you and rejoice in that. “Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glorious face.”5
Image Credit: Kevin Carden | Lightstock
- 1. Nancy Pearcey, “How Women Started the Culture War”, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), pp. 325-348
- 2. This title is kind of an oxymoron, as the point of the Enlightenment was to reject Biblical truth for human reason, thus darkening the minds of its chief proponents and resulting in anti-God ideas like Darwinist evolution, the superiority of human intellect, and the contention that God is dead and we are on our own; but it is a technical term for a certain period in history, so we’re stuck with it.
- 3. I.e., the church universal, not only its local expressions.
- 4. J.M. Diener, “Both And vs. Either Or”, WolfHawke.com, June 2022 < https://www.wolfhawke.com/ptm/both-and-vs-either-or > (accessed 2022-06-06).
- 5. Helen H. Lemmel, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”, © 1922, 1950 New Spring.