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Products>Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

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Regarding gender relations, the evangelical world is divided between complementarians and egalitarians. While both perspectives have much to contribute, the discussion has reached a stalemate. Michelle Lee-Barnewall critiques both sides of the debate, challenging the standard premises and arguments and offering new insight into a perennially divisive issue in the church. She brings fresh biblical exegesis to bear on our cultural situation, presenting an alternative way to move the discussion forward based on a corporate perspective and on kingdom values. The book includes a foreword by Craig L. Blomberg and an afterword by Lynn H. Cohick.

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Key Features

  • Focuses on the key biblical values stressed in relevant New Testament passages
  • Explores themes of unity, inclusion, and humility
  • Discusses the distinctives of servant leadership


  • Foreword, by Craig L. Blomberg

Part 1: Gender in Evangelical History

  • Evangelical Women and Social Reform
  • Returning Home after World War II
  • Egalitarianism and Equal Rights

Part 2: Reframing Gender

  • Kingdom Themes
  • Ministry, Part 1: Rethinking Equality and Rights in the Body of Christ
  • Ministry, Part 2: Rethinking Authority and Leadership in the Body of Christ
  • Marriage, Part 1: Adam and Eve in Genesis 2-3
  • Marriage, Part 2: Husbands and Wives in Ephesians 5

Top Highlights

“His language of headship and submission for husbands and wives in Ephesians may at first glance seem to reflect another attempt for Christians to live according to larger social expectations. But a closer look at the cultural context reveals that while Paul was aware of these expectations, he does not conform to them but rather subverts the traditional order by describing an ethic that asks the head to act in a socially shameful and dishonoring way, that is, the way of the cross (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:18–31).63 Rather than being accommodating, Paul proposes a way that would be seen as causing great social disruption. The irony is that he says that in Christ it actually leads to the opposite, creating intimate unity and harmony between husband and wife.” (Page 165)

“Love, not equality, leads to the true unity that Paul describes in which the members ‘may have the same care for one another’ (1 Cor. 12:25). Equality speaks to one’s personal privileges and rights, whereas love describes one’s willingness to prioritize others.” (Pages 88–89)

“The point is that it is the head, not any other member of the body, that is acting in this way. The husband, like Christ, accomplishes his purpose by acting in a paradoxical kingdom way. Yet he must first be the head in order for his actions to be effective. Thus he leads and provides, but not as the one with privileges associated with the honored position, as would traditionally be the case. As with Christ, the head/husband sacrifices rather than expecting sacrifice from the other. As the head, he fulfills his duty through the application of kingdom values rather than exercising his worldly rights.” (Page 162)

Praise for the Print Edition

Imagine using core biblical themes like corporateness, servant leadership, mutuality, and unity to discuss issues of the relationship of men and women to one another in the church. Imagine focusing not on power or rights but on the example of Christ. If you imagine reframing the gender discussion in helpful ways, then you will be interested in Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian. When one serves while leading and pays special attention to corporate versus individual themes, things are transformed from the way the world (and sometimes the way the church on both sides of the debate) talks about them. Read this book no matter which side of the debate you are on--and think afresh.

—Darrell L. Bock, executive director for cultural engagement and senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

In a debate often polarized by shrill rhetoric, Lee-Barnewall rightly urges us instead to take each passage and argument on its own terms and to put kingdom principles first. Regardless of whether one agrees with every detail of Lee-Barnewall’s reconstruction, her spirit and larger vision offer a constructive way forward, including a willingness to hear and learn from those with whom we may not agree on every point.

—Craig S. Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

This well-written book offers a gentle word of correction to sincere Christ followers who are honestly trying to search for biblical truth. It’s a perspective-giving message that describes in biblical terms the only way to establish church unity, and it issues a quiet, radical call for pastors and church elders to imitate Christ and the apostles and recall the real cost of discipleship. I highly recommend it as a required textbook for seminary leadership courses.

—Sarah Sumner, author of Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership

Product Details

  • Title: Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate
  • Author: Michelle Lee-Barnewall
  • Publisher: Baker
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Pages: 240
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Topic: Biblical Studies

About Michelle Lee-Barnewall

Michelle Lee-Barnewall (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. She is the author of Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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