Opinions on faith and life

Straw Man Burning


In case you don’t know, “burning a straw man” is the practice of launching a rebuttal against an argument that isn’t actually being made. It can be done in ignorance, and frequently is, but sometimes also in a deliberate attempt to defame one’s opponent by making false charges about them, and then arguing against those false charges. Today I followed a link in another blog to an article titled Many evangelicals unwittingly live as feminists, Moore says , which very nicely displays the straw man fallacy, along with several others. I will put quotes from the article in indented sections, then respond below each.

Egalitarians are winning the gender debate because evangelical complementarian men have largely abdicated their biblically ordained roles as head of the home and have, in practice, embraced contemporary pagan feminism

Before giving a definition of what an egalitarian (I’ll abbreviate to egal) is, this group is said to be winning a debate about gender. Nice claim, no evidence cited. Then a group called “complementarian men” (I’ll abbreviate to comp) are charged with abdicating something. Has this charge been proved? No evidence cited. And what they are alleged to have abdicated is claimed to be “biblically ordained”. Another claim without evidence or references cited; it is simply presumed. The specific thing presumed to be “biblically ordained” is something called “roles as head of the home”. Again, no citations. In fact, such a claim is nowhere to be found in the New Testament (NT), but the opposite is: “I will therefore have younger women... rule the house” (1 Tim. 5:14). The Greek is literally “house despot”. Lastly, such men are charged with a motive: to “embrace contemporary pagan feminism”. Very bold, very serious-- and very false. No evidence is cited for this one either; the defendants are not invited to the trial, much less given opportunity to witness in their own defense. And this alleged “contemporary pagan feminism” is not defined.

So many errors from one sentence! That has to be some kind of record.

Complementarianism is the view that men and women have been created equally in God’s image but have different yet complementary roles. Egalitarianism is the view that that men and women have been gifted equally so that no role is limited to one sex.

When many who call themselves comps are asked to define it, few agree on a definition. So for this post, we’ll just go with the one claimed here. But it doesn’t actually define what these alleged “roles” are, how they are “complementary”, or how they differ. It isn’t much to go on. The definition for egal is given in a similarly shallow manner, without citing anyone who calls themselves an egal. The problem Mr. Moore has created for himself is that this definition of egal sounds nothing at all like “contemporary radical feminist” (I’ll abbreviate to CRF). Why talk about egals at all, when the debate is supposed to be between comps and feminists? Where is the definition for radical feminist? Like the first quote, it keeps mixing egals and radical feminists without ever defining the latter. This is a transparent attempt to get the reader to equate the two and thus assign guilt by association.

Moore called for a complementarian response built upon a thoroughly biblical vision of male headship in which men lead their families and churches by mirroring God the Father, whom Scripture portrays as the loving, sacrificial, protective Patriarch of His people.

Response to what, CRF or egal? And where is the scriptural basis for claiming a “vision of male headship...”? Mr. Moore is also ignoring the fact that it is Jesus who is to be modeled, by both men and women. He showed us by his life how to relate to God, not how to be God! Moore offers no scripture showing this alleged mandate for males to act like God toward females. God is indeed protective and authoritative, but not once are any of us told to “lord over” others. Jesus said the opposite in Mt. 20:26. And nowhere in scripture does it say any man or woman is to have authority over churches.

Egalitarian views are carrying the day within evangelical churches and homes, Moore said, because complementarians have not dealt sufficiently with the forces that drive the feminist impulse: Western notions of consumerism and therapy.

Moore alleges that something called a “feminist impulse”, which he doesn’t define, is being driven by a force called “western notions of consumerism and therapy”. No evidence cited, no definition for “western notions of consumerism and therapy”. Is this yet another entity Moore is attacking? Or just another guilt by association? So far he’s cited egal, CRF, and now a “feminist impulse”. How many members of any of those groups can be shown to be driven by whatever “consumerism and therapy” are? And what, if any, is the connection between them and “egalitarian views”? Perhaps if Moore would actually try to find out what egals believe and why, and focus on that instead of bringing in every non-male-centered belief he can think of, he’d have something to say. So far he’s just throwing a lot of labels around.

This therapeutic and consumerist atmosphere has led evangelicals away from a view that sees Scripture as the external, objective standard of truth and has pushed them to look inside themselves to find ultimate truth, Moore said. Because self and not Scripture is the final authority, evangelical homes and churches hold complementarian views but practice egalitarianism, he said.

Another shallow and simplistic “definition”, this time for a “therapeutic and consumerist atmosphere”. It is alleged to refer to an abandonment of scripture as final truth. Yet without evidence once again, he assigns this to the practice of egal. This, of course, is the giant straw man Moore is burning. Egals do not abandon scripture or put self above it. We do not look within for truth. We do not promote the elevation of women over men, and certainly not the elevation of men over women as comp does. What do these actual beliefs of egal have to do with consumerism or therapy? Nothing whatsoever. It is a false charge against us.

If evangelical homes and churches are to recover from the confusion of egalitarianism, Moore said, they must embrace a full-orbed vision of biblical patriarchy that restores the male to his divinely ordained station as head of the home and church.

So egal is accused of causing “confusion” too. How so? Does Moore call having his baseless accusations questioned “confusion”? I’m sure it confuses him when he is shown to be in error, and to be slandering/libeling so many true believers. Is he setting himself up as judge and jury of us all? By whose appointment? And there is no such thing as “a full-orbed vision of biblical patriarchy” applied to Christians. It doesn’t exist. Again, it is the woman who is the “despot” of the home, and as I’ve written before, “head” does not mean “boss” in ancient Greek. Moore, like Grudem and the rest at CBMW, presume the narrow, modern, English meaning of “boss” and impose it upon the scriptures. There is also not one scriptural basis for the claim that any man is “head of the church”. That is pure fiction.

The model of biblical patriarchy/male headship that evangelicals must rediscover is tied to Scripture’s teaching of the fatherhood of God, Moore said.

“Rediscover” what, Mr. Moore? The cultural and sin-induced male supremacism? Are you advocating going back under the Law too? Why not? You seem to spend more time looking at the Old Covenant than the New, in a vain effort to redefine the church according to prevailing society as it has been since The Fall. The only thing patriarchy is “tied to” is pride and power. But remember, Jesus said “Not so among you”!

Galatians 3:28, for example, is all about patriarchy -- a Father who provides his firstborn son with a cosmic inheritance, an inheritance that is shared by all who find their identity in Christ, Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free.

What happened to “you are all one”? Look at the context, Mr. Moore. It’s about freedom from the old law, about being one in Christ Jesus, about being children of God by faith. What “one” do you think we all are? And if we are all, male and female, “one”, then where is patriarchy in this verse? This male-supremacist interpretation is the farthest thing from what the verse actually says.

I’m not going to bother with the rest of the article. He goes on to insinuate that egals are into Open Theism, rebellion against a God-ordained order, and who knows what else. This has to be one of the poorest defenses of male supremacism I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot. Anyone who wants to promote male supremacism had better at least try and get their story straight.



Wow, Paula, you caught more contradictions that I did when I first read it. I guess I was very concerned about him even mentioning Patriarchy and seeing the expected slide into legalism we knew to expect from comp teaching.

You are right, it is a straw man and as a scholar, he is not very scholarly. He backs up none of it.

The article you reference was in baptist press in 2005. The Henry Institute paper was written about a year ago. I am wondering if he has continued to speak about Patriarchy. I am of the opinion that it would be good if he did. It would wake more comps up to really look deeply into comp teaching.

It seems he is using Patriarchy to undergird his false teaching on eternal subordination in the Trinity.

Paula Fether

I wouldn’t have guessed him to be a scholar. I’ve never read his stuff before, so I didn’t know him from Adam. If this is comp. "scholarship", no wonder they’re losing the debate!

I’ll look around and see if I can find something more recent, but I’m not holding out much hope of improved scholarship on his part.


one of the troubling things about the gender hierarchalists is that so many of their so called scholars barely cite any Scriptures and when they do, they are more reflective of helicopter theology than any actual contextual exegesis.

Paula Fether

"Helicopter theology" sounds interesting... can you elaborate?

And I still stand amazed that any born-again believer can even want to boss another believer. Seen any comp answers for that one?



well said! though it’s not a difficult argument to rebut this time, hey? i just came to your website for the first time today (from WIM link).

i believe that the best way to dialogue with comps is to ask them for scriptural basis on ’each’ of their ’claims’ and work through these one by one...

(in my humble opinion) the comp argument gets rolled up into one big bowl of spaghetti and looks convincing to some from a distance - but when you pull out each strand one by one, they are not easily defended by scripture and are actually very circular arguments based on other presuppositions and especially based on the tradition of ’man’… not the word of God.

the biggest flaw in the comp position is the lack of consistency - eg: 1 Cor 14 says women shouldn’t talk ‘at all’ in church - which very few comps take ’literally’ - yet they still use this verse at times to restrict women from speaking when it ’suits’ them... not many comps force their women to wear ‘hats’ in church these days – but they will try and use the passage in 1 Cor 11 to restrict women’s roles in church… 1 Tim 3:2’s “an elder must be a husband of one wife” is quoted to claim women cannot be elders – yet no one seems to enforce the other guidelines – such as being married and having children who follow the Lord etc… inconsistency is rife… I can site many many other examples…

I find it so frustrating – as I am married to a lovely wonderful (comp) man who has been grounded so solidly in Comp tradition and it doesn’t ‘wash off easily’… I am just praying by the grace of God we can slowly and openly work together through the scriptures individually one by one .. and both be willing to acknowledge our biases and traditions which we bring to the Word… May God help us!

(-: Kerryn

Paula Fether

Hi Kerryn! Thanks for stopping by.

Yes, it’s all very circular and internally inconsistent, good examples there. And many of the other big controversies suffer from the same illness. It seems there is an underlying problem of hermeneutics, where people don’t first see if their method is consistent without needing "bypassing" (ref. The Fountain of Truth under Features) when certain scriptures are encountered.

I wish you well in your efforts with your husband. I am blessed with a "natural egalitarian" one (it’s something he considers a "given"), but our fathers certainly were not. I would try to emphasize the basic Christian principles of "esteeming others as better" and "not so among you", of humility and service, when the theological arguments aren’t an option. If these basic qualities are stressed, arguments about who’s in charge will evaporate.


You know what, guys? I was raised in an egal home but did not know it. It was a natural thing. My maternal grandparents were egal, too. I did not know there was anything different until I was older and joined (unknowingly) a very hip cool mega comp church. Now that I look back, I can see they focused more on ’roles’ and marriage than they did on Christ, the Cross, Sanctification, etc. As a matter of fact, I do not recall ever hearing the words: Regeneration, Propitiation, Justification or Sanctification.

Jason Oliver

Hey Paula,

I read that article from Moore about over two years ago. One of the most disturbing theological articles (if I can call it theological) I have eve r read. As you have rightly pointed out, there was no citations to prove his point which is common in complementarian circles. Such ideology of fear is what drives evangelicalism into sectarian walls-it’s neofundamentalism!! This thinking tarnishes the witness of the Church in America.

Paula Fether

Hi Lin, yes, the churches have long put other issues to the forefront and forgotten the gospel. They’d rather ask Dobson or Warren what to think than God. Grudem et al are their social engineers and "theologians".

Hi Jason, I still can’t believe this Moore is considered a scholar. But then, they call the people at CBMW scholars too, go figure. I agree, they are afraid-- of losing their position, just like the old Pharisees. It does turn people from the gospel; I’ve seen atheists and Muslims say so. We have to keep up on this just to be able to explain it to them.

Words of a Fether » Moore Of The Same

[...] “complementarian Christianity”. And then we see a quote I mentioned in my 2008 article Straw Man Burning: “concessions to the therapeutic and consumerist impulses of American culture”. Then he [...]