Rhetorical Questions: Kevin DeYoung

If you follow my blog, it is quite likely you are already familiar with Kevin DeYoung’s recent article, “Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus”.  I would even wager that many of you have read the excellent responses to this post written by Jory Micah, Ruth Perry, and Philip Payne.[1]  Initially, after reading these posts, I honestly didn’t feel the need to write my own response.

That is, until I decided to enter the fray on a Facebook comment thread related to Jory’s post.  Without rehashing a long conversation, it became evident to me that there are several aspects of DeYoung’s post that I have yet to see anyone address.  Thus, as I have previously done with Albert Mohler’s work, I want to analyze DeYoung’s argument based on three criteria.

  1. Are there any rhetorical weaknesses?  Are there rhetorical issues such as logical fallacies and factual errors which might undermine the premise being argued?
  2. Is the argument biblically defensible?  Does it represent a sound hermeneutic, or are there glaring inconsistencies with the collective witness of the biblical text?
  3. Is the argument Christ-like?  Given what we learn about Christ in Scripture, does the post present a theological position consistent with the person and works of Jesus?


Before I begin, I want to be abundantly clear; the existence of fallacious logic does not necessarily mean the writer’s premise is false.  It is entirely possible to arrive at a factually true premise while using woefully flawed logic to support one’s claim.  The existence of logical fallacies does imply that the premise might be weak or untrue.  Thus, such errors can be indicative that the argument doesn’t stand on its own two legs, and thus the premise requires further examination.

With this disclaimer in mind, I present the following fallacies.


DeYoung begins his post with “We often hear that…” According to DeYoung, his perceived opponents are “modern feminists” who call anyone who disagrees with them “anti-woman” and “knuckle dragging Neanderthals.”  According to DeYoung, this centers around arguments about complementarian ideology.  As such, DeYoung sets out to show that his opponent are simply caving into culture and resisting the path of true Christianity.  He does this in three ways.

  1. He accuses his opponents of making “ad hominem” attacks on his character.  He never presents or even interacts with any of their counter-arguments.  Instead, he reduces them to easily dismissed hurlers of baseless insults.  Since, clearly, DeYoung is not a “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal” his opponents are thus wrong.  Of course, a great many of his critics, myself included, have never resorted to such attacks.  But, as long as we are lumped in with the “modern feminists” who hurl insults, he need do nothing more than casually brush us aside.
  2. DeYoung furthers this method by speaking of “God-designed complementarity.”  DeYoung never supports this claim, nor does he care to.  The point is not that he intends to argue that complementarity is God-ordained.  He assumes this to be true.  Instead, he wants his reader to know that anyone who would dare oppose him is also opposing “God’s design”.   The reader thus responds in conditioned fashion by thinking, “No Good Christian would dare question God’s design.”  The problem is, DeYoung doesn’t make a careful argument here.  Perhaps he wants the reader to recall his previous work, but if this were the case a simple hyper-linked citation to a post where he does make his case would be useful.  His failure to do so, combined with his opening paragraph, suggests he instead is seeking to create a caricature of his perceived opponent that will create the conditioned response of unquestioning support in his audience.
  3. DeYoung argues that this so-called “God-designed complementary” is a sign of the counter-cultural nature of Christianity.  Thus, DeYoung argues that his “opponent” represents the “status quo”.  This is also a subtle form of tu quoque.  The argument DeYoung has thus far caricatured is one that I have made often, that Complementarian doctrine is little more than a Christianized version of the patriarchy of the Ancient Near East.  In fact, I have argued that complementarians assume the status quo of post-fall creation as normative of God’s will, then project that ideology back onto the Genesis creation accounts in order to create an absolute definition of gender roles entirely foreign to Scripture.  That is to say, I – and many others – have argued that complementarianism represents a maintaining of the status quo by assuming that the cross of Christ doesn’t critique the culture of the Ancient Near East, but instead prescribes it.[2] Ironically, then, DeYoung responds to his critics by presenting a Strawman argument that enables him to point his finger disapprovingly and say, “Nuh-uh you do.”


What DeYoung has not done here is interact critically and carefully with the work of any of his detractors.  DeYoung may very well have valid points about comments made against him, or believe that critiques such as mine fall into the categories he presents.  However, whatever his opinion of his critics, DeYoung has not cited any of them nor has he presented anything resembling a careful engagement with their thoughts.  Due to the lack of engagement here, I would encourage the reader to themselves engage the work of DeYoung’s critics and decide if he has portrayed them accurately.

 Fallacy of Composition

A Fallacy of Composition occurs when one assumes that, because something is true of part of a group, it is true of the whole group.  DeYoung’s fallacy here is incredibly obvious and fairly straightforward: he states that because the only stories of apostles being called are those of men, all people called to apostles must be men.  DeYoung briefly notes the weakness of such an argument by stating that his argument “doesn’t prove conclusively [Jesus] was a ‘complementarian’.”  However, he then plows ahead by stating that “it does indicate that his revolutionary attitude toward women stopped short of including them in all forms of leadership.”  The problem is, DeYoung operates on the assumption that only those who are depicted as “called” are also included as apostles and thus, because the “calling” stories depict men, then Jesus excluded women from apostleship.

While there is a great deal of biblical evidence against this interpretation, for now it is only necessary to ask if there is an exception which would disprove the rule.  That is, is there any example of a female apostle within Scripture itself, or within the traditions of the early Church, which would indicate that DeYoung does not have a firm grasp on the qualifications for apostleship – that he is projecting a definition from the identities of certain named apostles onto all persons called as apostles.

Such a Scriptural exception occurs in Romans 16:7. Here, we have the case of a woman, Junia, being named an apostle.  To be fair, I recognize that this is a bit of a controversial assertion.  There are, typically, two objections to this claim which occur in various forms.  In order to make my case, these must be addressed.

  1. There is an argument which centers around the Greek word “Iounian”, the name which occurs beside Andronicus in Romans 16:7.  The question here is whether the Greek, transliterated into English as “Junian”, represents a conjugation of the feminine Junia or the masculine Junias – considered to be a shortened form of the name Junianus.  While the latter is a possibility, it is considered highly unlikely by some of the most influential Pauline Scholars.

In his book Gospel Women, Richard Bauckham notes the masculine name Junianas is rare and Junias itself as a shortened form is entirely unattested.[3]  Bauckham even goes so far as to state:

“The history of [insisting on the masculine Junias] is a sad story of prejudice making bad translations.”[4]

Further, in his commentary on Romans, Joseph Fitzmeyer notes that until the medieval period, “Junian” was considered to be the feminine Junia by the majority of influential church figures –  including Origen, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Theodoret, Pseudo-Primasius, and John of Damascus.[5]

Likewise, the translators of the NIV, NLT, ESV, HCSB, and NRSV have all chosen to represent the feminine form in their translations.  Given the considered opinion of influential scholars, the historical evidence, and the fact that even a proudly complementarian translation such as the English Standard Version (edited by Wayne Grudem himself!), all consider the feminine Junia the proper translation, I assert that we must accept that Junia is, in fact, a woman.

  1. The other half of the argument revolves around whether the woman Junia can, in fact, be considered an apostle.  The controversy centers around the Greek words, “episimoi en tois apostolois.”  The question is, do these words, translated in the NRSV as “prominent among the apostles,” carry the meaning that the persons mentioned – Andronicus and Junia – are respected by the apostles or respected as holders of apostolic office.

Here Bauckham asserts that Paul’s consideration of Junia as an apostle is “virtually certain.”[6]  Bauckham sees the lack of a qualifier for “apostolois” in Romans 16:7 – such as occurs with “apostle of the churches” in 2 Corinthians 8:23 or “your apostle” in Philippians 2:25 – to be an indicator that:

              Romans 16:7 must refer to the apostles of Christ, whom Paul generally refers to simply as “apostles.”[7]

Bauckham readily notes that this usage is not as narrow as that used in the Gospels at the choosing of the “twelve apostles”, but points out that it is the sense in which Paul refers to his own inclusion as an apostle.  In total, Bauckham devotes nearly 100 pages to his assertion that Junia must be considered an apostle in exactly the same way we consider Paul and apostle.[8]

This view is not a novelty to Bauckham however.  In his book, Junia is Not Alone, Scot McKnight minces no words, declaring.

                Junia was a woman.  Junia was an apostle.  Junia was an outstanding apostle.[9]

Likewise, in Surprised by Scripture, N.T. Wright states:

                We should not be surprised that Paul calls a woman named Junia an apostle in Romans 16:7. If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection [per Paul’s argument in Galatians 1 and 1 Corinthians 15], there were women who deserved that title before any of the men.[10]

Further, this has also been the historical position of the church fathers.  In fact, John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople who live from 347-407, was so clear in his assertion that Junia is both a woman and an apostle that notable 20th century Bible scholar CH Dodd once declared:

Chrysostom, preaching on this passage, saw no difficulty in a woman-apostle, nor need we.[11]

The above example, strongly attested both in the historical documents of the Early Church Fathers and the modern work of numerous well-respected NT scholars, shows that DeYoung operates from a faulty definition of the word apostle.  He seems to have read what he wanted to see in the Gospels reference to “The Twelve Apostles” and stopped there.  He then, as Richard Bauckham has so poignantly stated, allow his “prejudice to make a bad translation” of Romans 16.[12]  DeYoung thus also commits the fallacy of Begging the Question by assuming his premise – that God only chooses men to be the heads of the church – and dismissing any evidence to the contrary.  This is particularly detrimental to his cause, as a study of the Church Fathers, or even an appeal to the Greek Orthodox tradition who commemorate St. Junia the Apostle on May 17, might have saved him such an egregious error in rhetoric.


Cum Hoc

A Cum Hoc fallacy occurs when one assumes correlation equals causation.  Often, this is done by discrediting or outright ignoring any other data that is readily available in order to make an argument which serves one’s own purposes.  This may be an act of willful ignorance, though it can just as often be an unconscious act of confirmation bias.

Whatever the reason, DeYoung makes just such a mistake.  He assumes that, because there are explicit scenes in which Jesus chooses twelve men to act as apostles from amongst the larger cloud of people he has commissioned to spread the good news, this correlates with a God-designed complementarian view of headship to which Jesus ascribed.  However, this correlation is not in and of itself and indicator of causation.  That is, just because complementarians insist that only men can lead the Church AND Jesus chose only men for the Twelve Apostles does not mean that Jesus was a complementarian.

The first sign that DeYoung’s argument is doomed actually occurs in his own words:

Further, that Jesus called only Jewish males as apostles doesn’t mean that for Jesus to be making a statement about normative male leadership he must also be making a statement about normative Jewish leadership. The Jewishness of the apostles is linked to a particular moment in salvation history, while their maleness is not. After Pentecost, the kingdom Jesus ushered was no longer for the Jews alone.  Gentiles like Luke and Titus assumed positions of teaching and leadership. But when the disciples needed a successor to Judas, the apostles looked for a man who had been with them (Acts 1:21–22).

This is exceptionally lazy logic for at least a couple of reasons.

  1. DeYoung assumes that there were, prior to the choosing of Matthias, no female apostles.  However, as argued above, there is in fact strong biblical evidence that just such an apostle existed.
  2. DeYoung assumes that apostleship was limited to the twelve.  However, the fact that James the brother of Christ is not considered an apostle in Acts 15 is notable, as Paul directly calls him an apostle in Galatians 1:19.  Also, in Acts 14:14 Barnabas is called an apostle equal to Paul despite the fact that there is no passage which depicts Barnabas as being called or commissioned by the risen Christ (per Peter’s words in Acts 1:21-22).  Unless DeYoung wishes to state that Paul himself did not occupy the office of Apostle in the ancient church, the categories for the choosing of Apostles he has put forward do not hold water.
  3. DeYoung demonstrates a profound ignorance to the role of Jesus in Israelite history, according to the Gospels.  From the genealogies of Matthew 1 and Luke 3, to the allusions to the Moses story and Exodus (Matt 2:13-23), and straight into the desert temptations Jesus (Matt 4, Luke 4, and Mark 1) is depicted time and again as the fulfillment of Israel’s history.  Jesus is the moment towards which all of Israelite history has been building, and in him Israel will again find its meaning as the descendants of Abraham who bless the world.[13]

An important aspect of this is the choosing of the twelve.  These men are chosen as representatives of the twelve patriarchs (for whom the tribes are named) of Israel.  This becomes explicit in places like Acts 2:36, where the twelve are depicted as witnesses to “the entire house of Israel” and in Luke 22:29-30 are depicted as those who “will sin on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”[14]

That is, Jesus states his purpose directly.  He says, I chose twelve men to represent the twelve tribes of Israel as witnesses to the twelve tribes who will see the reestablishment of Israel.  The twelve even understood this to be their assignment, as at the ascension – as depicted in Acts 1:6-11 – they ask Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6)

DeYoung has made a self-defeating argument by asserting that complementarianism is causatively related to the choosing of the twelve, despite significant biblical evidence to the contrary.



As demonstrated briefly above, Kevin DeYoung fails to consider the collective witness of Scripture in his assertion that complementarian gender hierarchy is both God-designed and openly practiced by Jesus.  I thus want to highlight two areas in which his argument, in my opinion, are biblically untenable.

First, as stated above, DeYoung entirely fails to understand the ways in which the imagery of the twelve apostles is tied into Jesus role as the fulfilment of Israel.  Consider: if the house of Israel has rejected God, been exiled, and still awaits a Messiah who would restore them, then it is no wonder that twelve Jewish men were chosen as witnesses to fulfill this in Israel.  The beginning of the restoration of Israel would be to restore order, and Israelite history depicts Israel at its mightiest when the tribes were united under a Davidic king.  If Jesus is the King of the Jews in the line of David, per the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke, then he will need twelve strong men to represent his interest and advance his kingdom amongst his people.

Yet, after the crucifixion, these twelve men – the hope of Israel’s future – are found cowering in fear as women proceed to the tomb – a scene which occurs in each of the Gospels.  It is only because of the faithfulness of these women to Christ, and their faithful witness to the “leaders” Jesus had appointed that any of the apostles found out about Jesus resurrection.  If seeing the resurrected Christ is a condition for apostolic office – as Peter states in Acts 1 – then the ability of the twelve to continue to hold the office of Apostle is directly dependent on the witness of women.  Does this really sound like a story designed to uphold the hierarchical superiority of male headship?

Second, DeYoung insists that complementarianism would have been countercultural to the Ancient Near East – even as he apparently assumes it is today.  This, however, simply isn’t so.  In fact, the entire Bible is set against the backdrop of patriarchy.  Whether it be the Roman pater familias or the Jewish patriarch, these were powerful men who held the power over the lives and livelihoods of everyone under their roof.  Thus, if Jesus were going to go against the social order of hierarchical ordering of individuals into categories of superior and inferior, one wonders why he would do so by simply creating different categories which accomplish much the same goal.

The reality is, the Bible doesn’t say God came to soften up the distinctions we create between ourselves.  Instead, it argues he came to undo them.

It is thus extraordinary how the book of Acts moves from the exclusively Jewish apostles who are following Jesus by seeking to make manifest the kingdom of God amongst the Jews to the unequivocal equality and inclusion of Gentile believers in Chapter 10.  Just as astounding is that this is the same message Paul delivers time and time again.  This point is made perhaps most poignantly when in Romans 3-5, Paul argues that the covenant fulfilled in Christ is not through law, but through the faith of Abraham.  As a result, the Gentiles are now just as much children of Abraham as the Jews themselves.

Likewise, In Galatians 3, Paul argues that in Christ there is no longer a social hierarchy.  The divides between Jew and Gentile, Slave and Free, Male and Female have been undone among believers.  This is no small statement.  For a slave and a freeman to be called equal is to exalt the slave to the level of his master in the Church, and to radically shift the paradigm of how slaves and masters would relate to one another.  In fact, one would wonder how a master who comes to see his slave as an equal would then continue to hold or treat him as property.

This is a radical subversion of the social order.  It is deeply and sadly ironic that, when Paul places “Male and Female” beside “Slave and Free” in his speech on the undoing of hierarchy, DeYoung somehow sees Christ as upholding a certain level of hierarchy.  In fact, DeYoung argues that it is countercultural to maintain hierarchical distinctions in ecclesial authority despite the fact that Paul directly states that hierarchical systems of denigrating individuals, including the most disparate social distinction of Slave and Free, means nothing in the cross of Christ.

From 1 Corinthians 1, to Ephesians 5, and Philippians 2 Paul makes the upheaval and reversal of hierarchical systems the center of his theology.  This he presents as an upheaval of the way the world is done.  And it is because Paul believes that all are equal in Christ that he praises Junia as Apostle (Rom 16:7), that he calls out Peter for his dietary snobbery (Gal 2:11-21), and condemns the Corinthians for favoring the rich while watching the poor starve (1 Cor 11).

It seems to me entirely impossible to argue a hierarchical theology from the beautiful hymn Paul advises as personal ethic in Philippians 2:1-11.  It seems to me that, when one takes up an ethic of kenosis, it can lead nowhere but to Jesus Christ crucified (1 Cor 2:2).



There is one final aspect of DeYoung’s article I would like to consider.  I want to address DeYoung’s assertion a specific relationship between Jesus and the OT.  Specifically, he says that Jesus never contradicts any part of the OT.  Apparently, DeYoung sees Matthew 5:17 as affirming this.  However, this is a sad irony of DeYoung’s theology that is not particularly supportable by the NT itself.

However, in Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus states,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (NRSV)

This is a difficult passage for anyone to sort through, but as I see it there are some significant interpretive hints throughout the NT which make it possible to sort out what Jesus is saying.

First, of interest is that Jesus claims that he didn’t come to abolish the law but fulfill it.  This is a theme Paul takes up regularly throughout his works.  In my opinion, the most profound treatment in Paul occurs in Galatians 3.  Here, Paul asserts that the law can only be a curse, a source of condemnation (vv. 1-5, 10).  In fact, as Paul sees it, the law is something entirely separate from the covenant of God (vv. 6-9).  The law is seen as a disciplinarian, a babysitter watching God’s children (v. 24).

The wording of verse 10 is of particular interest here.

“Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the books of the law.” (cf. Deut 27:36)

Paul recognizes that the law exists, but notes that it cannot save.  In fact, anyone who does not obey every single law is cursed.  This becomes important because in verse 13 we are told that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…”  Thus, Paul sees Jesus as fulfilling the law by taking upon himself its curse.  As such, the covenant of Abraham – which exists apart from the law (cf. Rom 4) – is also fulfilled and the Gentiles are now included as Abraham’s offspring through Christ (v. 29).  It is through this that Paul argues in verse 27 that there is no longer “Jew or Greek, Slave or Free, Male and Female”.  This is important because the law is depicted as that which would divide these persons, yet Christ has fulfilled the curse of the law which divides and united them all as equals in him.

It seems to me that DeYoung has to seriously contend with Paul’s words in Galatians before he can assert that Matthew 5:17-18 affirms that “Jesus never rejected biblical teaching from the Old Testament.”  In the very verses leading up to Paul’s discussion of the cross in Galatians 3, he states:

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.  But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!  But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (2:16-21)

This seems devastating to DeYoung’s argument, because here Paul is arguing that the Jews cannot serve Christ by maintaining a strict adherence to the Old Testament law.  He has just recounted his reprimand of Peter for returning to Jewish dietary restrictions and for refusing to eat with Gentiles.  Now, leading up to his statement in Galatians 3 that the law can only condemn, can only produce sinners and not redeemed persons, Paul speaks of using the law to try to be justified in Christ and states that such efforts can only led to being found “sinners.”  Yet Christ cannot be a servant of that which can only condemn sin without justifying the sinner before God.  Thus, as Paul states, no one person having torn down the law (as Peter did in Acts 10 when he ate with Cornelius) can claim this is an act in obedience to Christ.  Instead, the very act of adherence to the law is a demonstration that one is a transgressor, and thus a contending identity to life in God through Christ.

Thus, it makes no sense for DeYoung to insist that Jesus never contradicted an OT law.  If Jesus is cursed under the law, then in what way does he not stand juxtaposed to it?  If Jesus is followed by faith, and not by strict adherence to the law – the law which both Paul and James say you must obey completely or be guilty and condemned – then how can DeYoung argue that Jesus simply upholds the distinctions inherent to the OT law?  If Jesus offers salvation by faith, and not works, then how does the accursed cross which by its very nature depicts violation of law, uphold the law which demands strict works?

But there is still another aspect of Matthew 5:17-18 to contend with.  Jesus states that none of the law will pass away until “all of these things have come to pass.”  That is, “until heaven and earth have passed away.”  He even tells them that those who break even a single commandment cannot enter into the Kingdom.  Further, to put this is in stark perspective, Jesus tells the people that not even the supposed righteousness of the Pharisees can be enough.  Within this statement, we must contend with two claims.  First we must deal with Jesus seemingly impossible demand for strict adherence to the law.

It is helpful to realize that these verses occur precisely in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount.  This is significant, because in the next section of the Sermon, vv. 21-48 use the formula “You have heard…but I tell you…” repeatedly.  In this, Jesus speaks of an ethic defined by love for all people – even those who might otherwise be considered enemies.  In this, he tells them, they must strive to be as perfect as God himself.  This is no small statement, Jesus has taken the letter of the law and created a standard for love of all persons as obedience to God.  This is a theme further developed later in Luke 10.

In the passage leading up to the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is asked the greatest commandment.  He replies “Love God with all your being, and a second that is like it – love your neighbor as yourself.”  When asked who might be considered a neighbor, Jesus tells a story in which the moral is, consider your worst possible enemy – the person whom you despise the most – that is your neighbor.  And Jesus claims it is this law which fulfills all other laws.  This is interesting, because in John 15:13 Jesus states that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for others, a thought that is the basis for the claim in 1 John 4 that we can only show love in as much as we have embraced God’s love for us expressed in the cross of Christ.

As such, in order to understand what Christ demands as fulfillment of the law from his followers, and what he means when he says he himself has come to fulfill the law, we must view this through the lens of the cross.

This brings us to Jesus statement of the law remaining until heaven and earth pass away.  What Jesus is saying here is that until the apocalypse is upon them, until the barrier between heaven and earth has been shattered and the newness of the kingdom is born among them (cf the fullest realization of this depicted in Rev 21), the law will maintain its place.

This is incredibly important because, when Jesus is crucified, the event is depicted in very apocalyptic language.  The sky darkens, the earth shakes.  The dead are raised and walk around.  The earth appears to be coming apart at the seams as the creator of all things dies accursed on the cross.  In all of this chaos, something amazing happens.  God himself weeps so heavily that he rends the temple veil in grief.  This is of no small importance.

As it was understood in ancient Israel, the Holy of Holies was the place where heaven and earth met.  The mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant connected the innermost chamber of the Temple as God’s throne room, the earthly footstool which sits beneath the throne of God in heaven (cf Isa 6).[15]  Only the highest order of priests was permitted to enter this room.

It is interesting then that the veil which was believed to contain God’s presence, to keep out all but the elite, is destroyed.  The Holiness of God, which was believed to inhabit Israel only if this sanctuary remained untainted,[16] was now exposed and defiled by an act of God himself.  All that marked the delineation between heaven and earth, all that marked the holiness of God separated from the sins of his people became obsolete (2 Cor 5:21).  Heaven and earth as they had been understood passed away, and the newness of the kingdom of God made manifest in the crucified Christ began to break through.

In the resurrection, Jesus became the Firstborn of the Dead (Col 1).  The very curse of sin – death itself – has been reversed and a new reality, the beginning of a new creation, has declared that the old order is done.  The way heaven and earth had related since the fall was no longer.  All that had been is passing away, and from the ruins of the old something new is being born (2 Cor 5:17).  All of creation is awaiting the fullness of the new creation (Rom 8).  In my opinion, this is precisely what Christ had in mind when he spoke of “heaven and earth” passing away.

Now, we live in anticipation of the fully realized New Creation.  But until then, we exist in the liminal space, the place where the Church is called to be the ambassadors of the Kingdom (Rom 12), those who live outside the order of the world (1 Cor 1:18-31) and by the kenotic example of Christ (Phil 2:1-11).  In this new reality, the law is nothing more than the death knell of a fallen creation, while the cross of Christ points us to its rebirth.

Is it any wonder, then, that in his earthly ministry Jesus touched lepers and bleeding women (Matt 8:1-4, 9:20-22), thus violating laws of cleanliness without undergoing the proper purification ritual at the temple (cf. Lev 11-15)?  Is it surprising that He gives children – those on the lowest rung of the social hierarchy – the preferred place in his kingdom while commanding grown men – at the top of the social hierarchy – to be more childlike (Matt 18:1-15, 19:13-15)?  The man who was God violates common decency when he eats with Samaritans and forgets to wash his hands before meals (John 4, Matt 15:1-20).

If Jesus simply upheld the OT law, it seems quite odd that he would have his disciples violate the Sabbath.  It seems even more odd that, when called on it, he would tell them that Sabbath was instituted for people, not people for the Sabbath (Matt 12:1-14).  This is especially shocking, as the penalty for violating Sabbath was expulsion from the community, and in some cases death (Ex 31:12-17, 35:1-3).  For someone who is the perfect representation of the God of the OT (John 1:1-18), a god who is depicted as borderline obsessed with holiness in Leviticus, Jesus doesn’t seem to have much regard for these divinely appointed rules.  Instead, he humbles those who exalt themselves and exalts those who are humble (Luke 14:1-14, 18:9-14).  He praises the faith of Gentile women while condemning the empty platitudes of a rich temple ruler (Matt 15:21-28, 19:16-26).

These are not the actions of someone who adheres to the strictures of the OT law, nor of someone who respects the “God-designed” social order the Israelites attempted to maintain.

Thus, as I see it, DeYoung’s claims about Jesus relationship to both complementarianism and OT teaching collapse under their own weight.



Having examined DeYoung’s argument, it seems to me that his premise holds no merit.  DeYoung has demonstrated a profoundly weak grasp of the historical and biblical discussion surrounding the office of apostle.  As such, it seems to me DeYoung is attempting to create a god in his own image.  Because DeYoung believes complementarian doctrine to be true, thus he assumes that Jesus motivations must have been to preserve complementarian gender roles.  Unfortunately, he has repeatedly resorted to blatant logical fallacies instead of supporting his thesis with careful, well-reasoned arguments and critical engagement with relevant Scriptural texts.

As such, the only conclusion I can see is, IF Jesus were a complementarian, Kevin DeYoung has utterly failed on every level to offer a solid argument for it.



[1] The Payne article linked above is part one of a two-part series.  The second part was released today (3/10/16).

[2] I have argued this in various fashions in multiple posts. If one is interested, my collected library of posts on issues surround complementarian doctrine, theology, and praxis can be found here.

[3] Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002) p. 167

[4] Ibid. 166.

[5] J.A. Fitzmeyer, Romans (AB 35, New York: Double Day, 1993) p. 737-738 as quoted in Bauckham, Gospel Women, 166.

[6] Bauckham, Gospel Women, 172

[7] Ibid 180.

[8] Ibid. 109-202.

[9]  Scot McKnight, Junia is Not Alone (Englewood, CO: Patheos Press, 2011) Location 273 in Kindle edition.

[10] N.T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture (HarperOne: San Francisco, 2014) p. 69.

[11] CH Dodd, The Epistle to the Romans (MNTC; New York: Harper & Row, 1959) p. 241. as quoted in Bauckham, Gospel Women, 167.

[12] Bauckham, Gospel Women, 166.

[13] N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God volume 1 in Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1992) pp. 77-80.

[14] Robert C. Tannehill, Luke (ANTC, Nashville: Abingdon, 1996) p. 113.

[15] Carol Meyers, Exodus (TNCBC, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) pp. 227-231.

[16] Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus (Continental Commentaries, Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004) location 264 in kindle edition, attained from amazon.com/kindle.


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12 thoughts on “Rhetorical Questions: Kevin DeYoung

  1. Jumping in late but just discovered this blog. To me, it always seemed that an obvious reason for choosing his closest disciples to be men was that they traveled frequently with Jesus and probably lodged together etc. it seems culturally and morally appropriate, especially for a single man who was without sin, to not travel with women. Do you think that’s a compelling reason?


    1. It would make sense. The issue is, there were female disciples who followed Jesus and funded his mnistry according to Luke’s 8. There is ample evidence that the role of apostelship and discipleship was not limited to men at all. The relationship to the 12 tribes is important as well.

      All in all, the 12 are important persons who served many different roles in the early church, but their importance in the Gospels is largely symbolic and likely reflects a theological nuance rather than a precise restriction of his inner circle. Does that make sense.


      1. That definitely does, and I had honestly not thought of it in relation to the 12 tribes at all! Now I see the symbolism.
        I had just wondered if the “inner circle” were kept male for practical rather than theological reasons. But I bet the women who participated in his ministry likely traveled with him too.
        Thank you for your work through this blog!


  2. I liked several things about this post.

    You didn’t let your disagreement with DeYoung become in any way personal. There is far, far too much of this on the internet.

    Unlike many egalitarians, you did acknowledge the case of Junia as being ambiguous. It seems to me there is general agreement this figure was probably female, but the English translation ‘well-known amongst the apostles’ reproduces from what I have read the ambiguity in the source language. It is not certain she was in fact an apostle herself. This is not always recognized to be the case, and reveals that some have made up their minds what they want to see there before opening Romans at chapter 16.

    Just as DeYoung assumes complementarianism is biblical, you also assume that ‘hierarchy’ is intrinsically bad in some way! I’ve noticed this a lot in similar discussions, but once we have (rightly) got lording it over people out of the way, this needs to be argued rather than assumed. Fodder for a post!

    I wish more people would see that because some part of a group or persuasion think or act in a certain way, they all do. These discussions are often hampered by the over-use of stereotypes.

    And finally, well done for not falling for the atheists’ trick of using Matthew 5 to put Christians back under the OT law. They always seem to miss the phrase ‘until all is accomplished’, plus what the rest of the NT has to say on the matter, which is almost always ignored but hardly unimportant.


    1. Ken, I don’t think hierarchy is intrinsically bad. I think gender hierarchy in the way DeYoung et al describe it is bad. I also think we many times practice a notion of hierarchy rooted more in the larger economic/business sense. There will be leaders and followers in many situations, but what that means must be filtered through the cross and presentations thereof through the metaphors of Matthew 20 and other key texts. When the “first are last”, the “exalted are humbled”, and the “Son of Man is servant of all”, and when Paul uses kenosis as the basic of the Christian ethic (having the same mind as Christ) then however leadership hierarchy works, it is based solely in calling and not in artificial or arbitrary categories we introduce to the text.

      As far as Junia, I wouldn’t even have introduced the gender debate if CBMW hadn’t stated a few years back that there isn’t a definitive answer.

      As far as apostleship, I consider the historical evidence overwhelming. Also, I’d encourage you to read the Bauckham book O listed. He makes a very strong linguistic argument as well.

      In whatever case we disagree on, I think we can both agree DeYoung’s article was, to be as kind as possible, little more than click-bait fodder.


  3. I had never looked at the crucifixion in terms of apocalyptic language. I had such a wow moment reading that. Great post among great posts you linked to! Though I still haven’t read DeYoung’s post yet. Ha! 🙂


    1. It’s the influence of Moltmann’s view of God crucified. Moltmann conceives of the cross as a deeply Trinitarian event, an event which has a profound effect on all persons and not just on Jesus. Basically, he points out that Jesus, on the cross, was simultaneously the human embodiment of the Logos and the divine embodiment of sin. That has had a profound affect on my theology.


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