Equality is a big thing for us today. We want "equal pay" and "equal rights" and equal everything else. The Supreme Court of the United States intentionally redefined marriage to produce "marriage equality" -- what they call "gay marriage." The modern church has all but folded entirely to the notion of equality that requires the ordination of women to church leadership despite clear biblical command to the contrary (1 Timothy 2:12-15). We will have equality by whatever means possible.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So begins the classic Declaration of Independence. It stirs the heart and makes you lift your chin a little higher as we boldly declare equality among humans. The term is "egalitarianism", the belief in the equality of all people. And, lest you think it is mere human opinion, we get it from the mouth of Paul, too.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
There you have it, clear as day.
But ... is it? You see, I think we need to be careful here not to say what isn't true, and it isn't true that "all men are created equal", at least not in just about any sense that you might intend. You see, "equal" appears to be a little too ... broad.
We know, for instance, that "equal" can mean "alike" or "identical". In that case, we can be quite certain that no two people are equal because no two people are exactly alike. Ever.
"Equal" could be used to express "uniform in operation or effect", and again we'd have to agree that no two people are alike. We all vary in both operation and effect.
And perhaps you begin to see the dilemma of "equal". We are not, as anyone can easily tell you, equal in height, weight, physical characteristics, mental abilities, talents, skills, education, finances, spirituality, politics, emotions, religious beliefs, fortitude ... the list just goes on and on and on. We are not created equal.
So what do we mean when we all agree that "all men are created equal"? Well, of course, we're talking equal worth. As humans, one human is not worth more than another. A CEO is not more valuable than a janitor. A president isn't worth more than a bartender. A PhD isn't worth more than a high school dropout. A man is not more valuable than a woman. To this we all agree.
So it baffles me when Christian egalitarians disagree with Christian complementarians. Read, for instance, the Statement of Faith from Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) International. I don't find a single entry in that list with which I would disagree. Where's the rub? Well, we know where the rub is. Complementarians believe that God created man and woman as complementary -- each combining in such a way to complete or improve one another -- and of equal value as image bearers of God, but not the same. (I don't even think that egalitarians would or could disagree with that statement.) The Bible gives differences between men and women, like when Paul states categorically that "Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:3). Men and women have shared value and shared commands, but they also have differing commands (e.g., Ephesians 5:22-33; Titus 2:1-5; 1 Corinthians 14:34-36; etc.). Egalitarians deny this. Their call is for "no difference" even when they admit differences.
Sadly, this difference of opinion is at the heart of many of the major issues of our day -- "gay marriage", "gender identity", "no-fault divorce", and so much more. And when Christians argue for "equality" without any definition and complain when a definition is offered, they don't realize the effects of the arguments on the reliability and clarity of Scripture, biblical morality, and even the Godhead itself. All while not even thinking about what "equal" really means.
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