Rachel Held Evans on the Gospel Coalition, sex, and subordination UPDATED

Rachel Held Evans posts a hard-hitting critique of this article on TGC’s website:

Now in the past, I’ve always made a distinction between the complementarianism of groups like The Gospel Coalition and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the hard patriarchy of groups like Vision Forum and the FIC Movement, assuming that the latter was much more legalistic and patriarchal than the former. But in recent years the two seem to be getting cozier.  I know many complementarians who, although they believe men should hold authority over women in the home, church, and society, make an exception for the marriage bed, acknowledging the Apostle Paul’s teachings on mutuality in this regard (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). So I was surprised and disturbed to see a mainstream complementarian organization—The Gospel Coalition—endorse male authority and female submission in sex.

UPDATE: Rachel Held Evans has followed up to her original post. Here’s her final point:

And finally, amidst all the impassioned rhetoric on both sides, we seem to have lost the  main point a bit. I have yet to receive a straight answer from Jared or Doug regarding what it means, practically, to preserve the complementarian ideal of male authority in sex? The two have insisted that they advocate mutuality in the bedroom, and yet, according to Doug, “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party,” but instead “a man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants” while a woman “receives, surrenders, accepts.”  What does he mean by that? What’s wrong with an “egalitarian pleasure party”? (Sounds like fun to me!) In other words:  How is complementarian sex supposed to be different than egalitarian sex? Does preserving male authority mean that a man must always initiate sex? Does it mean that the missionary position is the only acceptable one for Christians? Is it too “egalitarian” for both a man and woman to be pleasured? Does “submission” mean that a woman must perform sex acts she doesn’t like in order to please her husband?  The Wilsons have yet to clarify what they mean when they assert that “true authority and true submission are…an erotic necessity.”  They’ve said a lot about what they don’t mean, but not what they do mean. As one commenter put it: “If an appropriate sexual relationship within marriage is not an ‘egalitarian pleasure party’ but is not legalized rape, what exactly is it?” A clarification here would really move the conversation forward.

A clarification would indeed be helpful.

3 thoughts on “Rachel Held Evans on the Gospel Coalition, sex, and subordination UPDATED

  1. Having been raised in an AoG church and having been pastoring or in ministry with my husband for over two decades in non-denominational settings, from what I have listened to online and followed online, I have been taken back by how many AoG pastors and men’s ministries are regurgitating to their congregations the gender-based hierarchy and stereotype teachings coming from the neo-reformed crowd and para-church organizations.

    The Wilsons are only taking their beliefs about male authority and female submission that precludes women from the pulpit, and in some places from even reading scripture or praying aloud in the assembly, to its logical conclusion. That is, to be “biblically complementarity” there must be male authority and female submission even in the bedroom despite all the overt biblical evidence to the contrary. If gender hierarchy and stereotypes continue to be propagated in AoG pulpits and men’s ministry, I am concerned the AoG’s legacy of leading the way and making a place at the table for women in pastoral ministry will be lost (as there has already been great decline) as that would be the natural outcome of gender-based hierarchical teachings.

      1. Can’t seem to get this off my mind.

        Until recently, I have assumed what I hear and read online is not likely representative of the movement and are rare, isolated cases of undiscerning pastors.

        However, several months back after listening to a sermon by an AoG pastor, I curisouly went to the AoG men’s ministries website and was surprised to see the article “His Roles & Its Duties” by David W.T. Brattston.


        At first read I was shocked to read Origen, et al quoted more than Jesus or Paul and no exegesis. After a Google search, I learned Brattston is a retired lawyer and a “self-directed student of ancient literature”. Even though his article was on an AoG men’s ministry website, my reasonable expectation for exegesis of a biblical text through a Christ & cross-centered hermeneutic was not fair to Brattston because I think the intent of his article is to straightforwardly synthesize historical information from biblical and extra-biblical texts and in this case the role and higher status of the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd century husband and his duty in light of the rise of Christianity to love his wife. It seems exegesis of a biblical passage based on a Christ & cross centered hermeneutic and its practical implications in a post-modern non-patriarchal culture was not Brattson’s intent.

        Based on my Google search, the intent of Brattson’s writings appears to be to offer a synthesis of biblical and extra-biblical ancient texts on ethics, morality, and other issues. Therefore, his articles discussing polygamy, homosexuality, and other moral and ethical issues do not appear to be necessarily theological treatises but historical synopses that are picked up by religious and other various (e)magazines around the world including Mormon and GLBT sites. It also appears Brattston’s articles require permission for inclusion, and so I am assuming permission was sought or, it’s possible, Brattston submitted the post himself and it was accepted. In any case, I wonder what the intent of the AoG’s men’s ministries was in posting “His Roles & Its Duties”. Gender based hierarchy and stereotype preaching may seem like isolated incidents and purely coincidental of my podcast choices. However, Brattson’s article on the AoG men’s ministries website, “priest of the home” and other similar language in other articles makes me wonder about the trajectory of the AoG embracing officially a gender-based hierarchy in the home and church.

        If you take the time to read it, and if my assessment of the article differs from yours, any insight you can provide would be helpful.

        Can you explain here or in a post, the basis for your own concerns?

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