What if the ambiguity at the root of the women’s-ministry debate is not accidental but God-inspired?

R. PAUL STEVENSR. Paul Stevens is associate professor of applied theology at Carey Theological College and academic dean at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and is the author of many books.

Competent biblical scholars line up on both sides of the women’s-ministry debate. Some defend what they call parity of the sexes at home and in the church; others defend distinctive roles and governmental differences between men and women. Both groups claim the authority of the Bible.

It is a frustrating situation. The debate seems to have hit an impasse, with many people “solving” the problem by finding churches where everyone already agrees with their position. To me, this seemed to be less than ideal. And yet what were the alternatives? I did not want merely to add my voice to the polemical chorus. And then I had a thought: What if the ambiguity at the root of these differences is not accidental but God-inspired?

When Both Sides Are Right

Let’s summarize the arguments for each side. On the one hand, the Bible teaches radical sexual equality in creation and in Christ as illustrated by the following observations:

• Both sexes are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–28).

• Full side-by-side complementarity of the sexes is God’s intended plan (Gen. 2:18–25).

• In Christ, the curse experienced by males and females is substantially reversed. Instead of the politics of rule and revolt (Gen. 3:16) in the home, there is the grace of mutual submission (Eph. 5:21–33).

• Males and females enjoy full equality in Christ (Gal. 3:28).

• Men and women are joint heirs of the spiritual gifts and coleaders of God’s people under the New Covenant ...

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