Two Kinds of Equality

“Christian equality can be described as equity, or even-handedness. Egalitarianism, in contrast, demands sameness, or equality of outcome. These two visions of equality are about as comparable as dry and wet. Think of it in terms of ten teenage boys trying to dunk a basketball: equity means that they all face the same ten-foot standard, and only two them them can do it — equity thus usually means differences in outcome. Egalitarianism wants equality of outcome, and there is only one way to get that — lower the net. Sameness of outcome requires differences in the standards” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 90).

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12 thoughts on “Two Kinds of Equality

  1. Yeah. Or to force sameness: to equalize requires a non-equal Equalizer: the KGB in the USSR or the IRS here. So the very ideal of egalitarianism worsens the evil it claims to aim to eradicate, and thus provides cover for the power-hungry. To get rid of artificial differences (Jim Crow) is one thing. To force sameness is another.

  2. “And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’” – Luke 3:11

    “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” – Acts 2:44-45

    “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. – Acts 4:32-34

    “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’” – 2nd Corinthians 8:14-15

    “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” – Ephesians 4:27-29

    There does seem to be some sense of a desire for sameness of outcome in the Gospels.

  3. Jonathan

    Not to be ungracious, Brother, but what does that have to with the roles of men and women?

    It seems as if you’re just being pointlessly contrarian.

    In Christ

  4. Jonathan, Jonathan…how can you misunderstand so outrageously! Those who rankle at egalitarians do so not for logical purpose but for backslapping camaraderie. It is much easier to define egalitarianism as that which “demands sameness, or equality of outcome,” and then build a straw man deciding what “they” must, have to, most assuredly believe incorporates egalitarian sameness. Who cares that Mr. Wilson’s basketball example misses the mark on several levels– we’re making fun of egalitarians so logic doesn’t matter!!
    Mr. Wilson’s “visions” are really not wet and dry; they’re all wet. No biblical egalitarian (assuming the subject is male/female kingdom roles) believes that everybody is or should be the same. The egalitarian point is that DIFFERENT gender should not determine DIFFERENT service or relationship. Of course, some people are not suited to preaching (or to dunking a basketball). No egalitarian denies this. The egalitarian simply asks the non-egalitarian why gender means that a woman gifted with biblical knowledge and expression must not even attempt to approach the basketball hoop. Now, some non-egalitarians argue that the Bible forbids women from doing so. Okay, fine. That’s another subject. Mr. Wilson, however, with his basketball story, implies that there is some inability associated with the biblical egalitarian claim for women. What is the inability that we should see from the basketball metaphor?? Not smart enough?? Perhaps women don’t really have souls?? Perhaps women need an extra mediator between them and God besides Christ in order to relate, learn, commune, and live? If this basketball metaphor is thrown on the table, we have to take it seriously. Some of the boys cannot dunk based on physical limitation. What is the physical limitation of women in the service of God?? Do women gifted in knowledge and expression hold some physical limitation in accomplishing the task? If not…if the only limitation is God’s command…well then say so, but don’t try to play wordsy games with metaphors out of left field that have nothing to do with today’s discussion. Maybe centuries ago men thought women didn’t possess souls or were intellectually weaker. But today’s acceptance of women as intellectually and spiritually…um…egalitarian makes this basketball metaphor an oddity of backward thinking.

  5. Wesley, if you don’t mean to be ungracious, then why did you infer negative motives from me? Andrew appeared to have interpreted the statement in the same general manner that I did, and you don’t appear to have accused him of negative motivations.

    Or did I miss something, and do dunking a basketball, the KGB, the IRS, and Jim Crow laws all somehow relate to the roles of men and women?

  6. @Jonathan:

    Every one of the scriptures you quoted was either a description of the Spirit-inspired generosity of the believers, or an exhortation to believers to take care of their own and each other.

    None of them was a command on the order of “Thou shalt not have anything different than thy brethren.”

  7. @ Dan:

    I’m not sure if the tone of your post is implying that you believe what you have written and are mocking those who don’t, or if it implies that you don’t believe what you have written and have constructed a non-egalitarian straw-man and are taking a bit too much delight in knocking it down.

    Whichever it is, when you wrote: “that DIFFERENT gender should not determine DIFFERENT service or relationship.

    I have to ask… why not?

  8. Arwen – I agree that all my examples are focused on the actions of believers and are voluntary in nature.

    But when Pastor Wilson says “Christian equality can be described as equity, or even-handedness. Egalitarianism, in contrast, demands sameness, or equality of outcome,” he makes it appear that equality of outcome is not “Christian” like his “equity” is.

    By quoting John, Luke, and Paul, I am just pointing out that the egalitarianism Pastor Wilson speaks derogatorily of may in fact be the goal of our Christian communities. That is all.

  9. In Doug’s basketball analogy, the height of the hoop is one of the standards which determines whether one can dunk or not. In the egalitarian/complimentarian controversy, one of the standards (or height of the hoop) for preaching is that of being a man. The only way to allow for the egalitarian viewpoint is to change the standard.

    God in his infinite wisdom has decreed in his word that that men should do the preaching (But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man,…1Timothy 2:12). I am not sure why. It could be due to physical differences, emotional differences, or maybe just God giving some people one more thing to rebel against.

    As for the comments suggesting equality of outcome as a biblical principle, I wholeheartedly agree …so long as we live in a theocracy with Jesus as King, …or as an alternative, keep secular government out of the equality of outcome business and leave it to the churches and to real biblical charity.

  10. @Arwen – The line you quoted from my comment was not meant as argument for the broad issue (which would have been off topic). It was merely to correct the false definition of biblical egalitarianism from Pastor Wilson’s metaphor. So, I hesitate to answer the question you posed at the end of your comment directed to me because, first, it is really not on point, and second, it is actually the crux of the whole biblical egalitarian-patriarchal complementarian debate. You didn’t really expect me to unpack all the arguments in a blog comment, did you? My shelves are filled with several books from each side. I could provide you with a list if you wish. Of course, the main reference for patriarchal-complementarianism is Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. The main reference for biblical egalitarianism is Discovering Biblical Equality edited by Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis. And again, of course, these are not the only books to consult. I’m sure if you are serious about researching the subject, especially the biblical egalitarian approach, you could look to works by Groothuis, Belleville, Fee, Sumner, Giles, N.T. Wright, Roger Olson, and others. Although it is the American way to try to convince in bumper sticker slogans, my comments on a blogsite could hardly be as satisfying as real research. I wish you well, if your intent is really to learn rather than merely to find fault. I don’t think I could give you a handful of serious examples of minds changed by blogsite comments. Yet, reading, studying, private reflection, and prayerful consideration almost always help us on our road to understanding God’s revelation. And for that I can heartily wish you well as I hope you wish me well in the same pursuit.

  11. “In Doug’s basketball analogy, the height of the hoop is one of the standards which determines whether one can dunk or not. In the egalitarian/complimentarian controversy, one of the standards (or height of the hoop) for preaching is that of being a man. The only way to allow for the egalitarian viewpoint is to change the standard.”

    It that really the direct analogy he’s making there? I have trouble imagining that even most complementarians would think that’s a good analogy. The height of the hoop is a constraint of the object on which the action is performed, but being a man is an attribute of the person who wants to perform the action. There’s just no analogy possible there at all. I really disagree that that’s the way Doug would make that point.

    “As for the comments suggesting equality of outcome as a biblical principle, I wholeheartedly agree …so long as we live in a theocracy with Jesus as King, …or as an alternative, keep secular government out of the equality of outcome business and leave it to the churches and to real biblical charity.”

    I hope that “real biblical justice” would be even more important than “real biblical charity” in reaching that aim. The way the world works, you can’t have equality of outcome the way God asks us to strive for without some charity, but you can’t even come close without striving for Biblical justice first, which is why justice appears so much more central to God than mere charity.

    * Do you mean charity=love or charity=giving? I think you meant the second, and assumed that in my reply. Both “justice” and “giving-charity” should be done with great “love-charity”.

  12. @St. Lee:

    I figure that God, being our Father, gives us His children chores to do. Pastoring is the brothers’ chore, and we sisters have our own chores to do, and it profits us nothing to either envy or usurp the chores given to the other (regardless of how we think we could improve on the others’ execution of the chore).

    It’s not an idea that I can support with chapter and verse, but it calms my rebellious spirit.

    @ Dan Salter:
    If I find fault, it is primarily with the tone of your post, which made it difficult to determine what target you were aiming to destroy.

    As for complementarian vs. egalitarian whatsits…. quite frankly, I couldn’t care less.

    In Genesis, woman is described as being “like the man, but opposite”.
    In much the same way, the left half of the body is like the right half of the body, but opposite. Both halves of the body must work together, each half works in a slightly different way, the differences in the way the halves work make the world more coherent and navigable, and one half is dominant.

    So it is with men and women (and more specifically, with husbands and wives). And really, as a general principle, that’s all I need to know.

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