Roger Olson on Being “an Egalitarian Complementarian”

Roger Olson is mining a vein that I have also visited.  Modern egalitarianism AND modern complementarianism have generated ideologies that are polar opposites, and ignore reality.

Among academics I reject the radical minimizing of sex differences. I believe male-female difference is more than biology/physiology and social conditioning. I admit that identifying that difference is never easy, but I believe it is observable in tendencies of behavior well before hormonal influences can account for it. We are one humanity; our humanity is one. But difference does not mean inequality in any other area of human life; we celebrate difference and “otherness” (in academia). We can be and are one humanity in variety. And maleness and femaleness is one of the irreducible manifestation of that variety. It cannot and should not be obliterated by social engineering.

At the same time I stand together with feminists in opposing oppression based on sex or gender. Females should have every opportunity to fulfill their human giftedness including entrance to every level of leadership in every profession.

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From my earlier post:

 Am I a “Jesus Feminist”?  I can’t be a feminist; I don’t think the Jesus Feminists would have me.  I’m a conservative Republican.  I’m thoroughly pro-life.  I like & admire Sarah Palin.  I agree with 85% of what the pro-family movement says.  I listen to Rush Limbaugh.

I’m not a feminist; I just don’t believe women who are gifted by the Holy Spirit for ministry should be pigeon-holed, restricted as to the kinds of ministry they can do.

Am I an egalitarian?  I don’t buy this label, because “egalitarianism” is often taken to mean that there are no essential differences between women and men, they are interchangeable.  That’s clearly NOT the case.  I believe both women and men are gifted by God, but the embodiment and outworking of those gifts may differ depending on any number of factors.  One of those factors will be the gender of the person with the gift.

Am I a complementarian?  Complementarians accept that there are differences between men & women, as do I—so far so good.  But those differences are incredibly slippery and difficult to pin down, much moreso than the complementarians are willing to admit.  For example, see McKnight’s summary of Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen’s paper, “Social Science Studies Cannot Define Gender Differences” (

Complementarians ignore the difficulties and universalize these differences.  Further, somehow “complementarian” always ends up meaning SUBORDINATION and hierarchy.  I categorically reject the notion that God’s design for his Church is subordination on the basis of gender.  (Or race, or socioeconomic status, or …)  God’s intention is MUTUAL submission (Eph 5.21); “submission” does NOT = subordination.  It means giving up yourself for the benefit of others, in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ.

I don’t think any of these labels fit me.

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