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Bruce Ware differentiates 2 views of God’s design for men & women

LONGWOOD, Fla. (BP)–A biblical position on gender roles in families and ministry is one of the most pressing concerns for today’s church, the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s president, Bruce Ware, said.

Gender is a key example of American culture “rapidly and in so many, many ways moving away from God’s plan and purposes for human beings in so many areas of life,” Ware said during CBMW’s “Different by Design” conference at First Baptist Church of Sweetwater in Longwood, Fla. Ware is senior associate dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

The importance of a correct view of gender roles cannot be underestimated because the issue is the one area where the church interfaces with the culture most directly, Ware said during the Sept. 8 conference.

“If this intersection of church and culture is most clearly seen on the question of gender roles … then there is both the greatest degree of threat and promise in that intersection,” Ware said.

In an overview of key issues in the gender roles debate, Ware noted that two movements exist among evangelicals regarding the roles of men and women — egalitarianism and complementarianism — “where there is great disagreement about what the Bible teaches,” Ware said.

CBMW embraces the complementarian view, meaning that when God created men and women, he created them equal in essence but different in terms of how they are to relate to one another.

In contrast, egalitarians believe that God created men and women equal in every respect, a position Ware thinks is unsubstantiated by Scripture.

“One of the greatest tragedies of the egalitarian movement is it basically tells men in homes, ‘You don’t have to lead. In fact, you shouldn’t,'” Ware said. “Men are already prone because of sin to that passivity anyway. It’s just exactly the wrong message that needs to be conveyed to the men of our churches who need to stand up and embrace the responsibility they have as loving leaders in their home.”

The egalitarian view, Ware said, rejects the notion of male headship and instead regards men and women as equal in their functions. Egalitarians believe that humanity’s fall into sin resulted in the introduction of a sinful and illicit hierarchy with male headship, Ware said, and that, in redemption, there is a return to the created design of male-female equality.

Such a view is incorrect, Ware said, describing male headship as God’s intention even in creation. Among Ware’s reasons for his position:

— Man was created first. Ware said the apostle Paul uses this argument in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 when he is arguing for male headship in the church.

“I draw the conclusion that if Paul thinks this is significant, we ought to also,” Ware said.

— The woman was created for the man’s sake. Again, Ware pointed to Paul’s use of this reason in 1 Corinthians 11.

“The woman is created to help the man in fulfilling his God-commanded, God-ordained role,” Ware said. “If we have apostolic interpretation of this, then we ought to follow it.”

— Both before and after sin, Adam named his wife. Ware said in Old Testament theology, naming something indicated a responsibility for the ones named, like parents naming their children.

— Man, not woman, was given the moral commandment in the Garden of Eden. God could have given the command to both Adam and Eve after she was created, but instead God chose to give the commandment to Adam, Ware said.

When Satan tempted Adam and Eve to sin, he came to Eve. In doing so, Satan was “usurping God’s design of male headship,” Ware said. “Satan knew God’s design of male headship and he purposely went to the woman to indicate his disregard for what God had put in place.”

When Adam and Eve sinned, they were equal in that action and both men and women share in the common judgment of God and in the need for salvation, Ware said. But the effect of sin was to distort what God had put into place — namely male headship.

“So there is a tendency for women to seek the place of authority, seek the place of responsibility, that God has given to men,” Ware said.

Redemption therefore results in a return to what God designed in the beginning — “responsible, loving male headship leadership; creative, winsome, energetic, joyful, willing submission on the part of wives to their husbands,” Ware said.

That doesn’t give men the right to think of themselves as better, more valuable or more important than women, Ware said. It simply means that while men and women are equal in standing before God, they have different responsibilities they are to fulfill.

“Our heart is to set free men and women for all of the legitimate roles and ministries God has for them to do,” Ware said.

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was formed in 1987 by a group of evangelical Christian leaders “who were concerned over the erosion of the biblical framework for male and female differences and relationships in the evangelical church, as well as society at large,” Randy Stinson, CBMW’s executive director, told the Florida Baptist Witness. “From the beginning, these leaders shared a deeply held conviction that confusion over biblical manhood and womanhood was at the root of the breakdown of the family and the rampant acceptance of alternatives to biblical morality-often within the church itself.”

CBMW is an organization that addresses the issues “raised by feminism from a solid, biblical and academic foundation, providing sound answers to help Christian leaders withstand its pressures,” Stinson said. “Its mission is to proclaim the truth of God’s Word regarding God’s wise design for the complementary differences between men and women who share equally in the image of God, in order to better equip evangelical homes, churches, academic institutions and other ministries to be faithful to his Word and thus to experience the goodness of his created purposes for men and women.”

Although broadly evangelical, CBMW includes many Southern Baptist leaders among its council members and advisors. Along with Bruce Ware, CBMW’s current president, Stinson also is a Southern Baptist.

CBMW can be contacted at 1-888-560-8210 or www.cbmw.org.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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