Theological Axioms for Equality

Are the “open our eyes” examples of how God has and is using women in key positions, including leadership, exceptions?  Unusual?  Problematic?  “Oops moments”?  Or are they the “real deal”?

Theological axioms should guide exegesis.  In Man and Woman, One in Christ, Dr. Philip Barton Payne  (PhD, Cambridge) presents an eloquent, articulate for the latter that does just that.

Payne posits that we must interpret Paul’s specific statements about women in the context of Paul’s theological axioms. Consequently, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (described at begins by examining Paul’s backgrounds and crucial influences, his personal relationships with women colleagues in ministry, and his theological axioms.

Paul’s theology of man and woman is grounded in twelve theological axioms, each of which presupposes the equality of woman and man: creation in God’s image, the creation mandate and blessing, being in Christ, servant leadership, mutual submission in marriage, mutual submission in church life, the oneness of the body of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, gifts of the Spirit, liberty in Christ, inaugurated eschatology, and the equal status of male and female in Christ. These axioms provide the theological context for understanding each of Paul’s teachings about women.

Payne points out that Paul writes that all believers are created in God’s image (Col. 3:10; cf. 2 Cor. 3:18). In Colossians 2:10-11, he affirms that all Christians, female as well as male, “have this fullness [of the Godhead] in Christ in whom you were also circumcised.” Paul depicts females as “circumcised,” and males as members of the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:22-27) because their gender is irrelevant to their status in the image of God and in Christ. Since humanity as male and female is in God’s image, God cannot be exclusively male. Indeed, God is spirit, not male or female. Accordingly, Paul’s reflections on the person and work of Jesus typically use the inclusive word anthropos (man/human; e.g., Rom. 5; Col. 3).  Notice:

– 1 Timothy 6:17 affirms the creation mandate and blessing: “God richly provides us [male and female] with everything for our enjoyment.”

– At the heart of Paul’s theology is the unity of redeemed humanity “in Christ,” in whom “there is no distinction” (Rom. 10:12-13; Eph. 2:14).

–  Christian leadership is humble service.

– Mutual submission in the church and in marriage (Eph. 5:21; 1 Cor. 7:1-16 enumerates equal rights and privileges) presupposes the equal standing of men and women.

– Hierarchy of status is antithetical to the oneness of the body (1 Cor. 12:25, “no division”).

– The priesthood of all believers includes teaching (Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:26).

– Everyone is gifted (1 Cor. 12:11).

– Liberty in Christ is antithetical to role restrictions in ministry (Gal. 5:1).

– The new creation destroys the barrier, “the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph. 2:14), creating a “new self” (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:11).

– Paul’s argument against social inequality (Gal. 2:11-14) denies the distinction of male and female in Christ (Gal. 3:28). 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 affirms that woman is not separate from man in Christ, supporting their equal status and privileges, including prophecy.

Dr. Payne notes that Paul’s theological axioms undergird his teachings about man and woman.  He says his book argues that all Paul’s statements about women are congruent with his theological axioms.  Order it from the CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) bookstore  here:  Man and Woman, One in Christ.


Dr. Payne has served with his wife Nancy for the Evangelical Free Church Mission in Japan for seven years. He has taught New Testament studies at Cambridge, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Gordon-Conwell, Bethel, and Fuller, and is known for his studies on textual criticism, the parables of Jesus, and Paul’s teachings on women.


Join us next time for “…And Ain’t I a Woman?”


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