Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

7 Books on Christian Doctrine without a Complementarian Edge

For Cynthia

Some well-known books on evangelical doctrine and systematic theology have been written by staunch hierarchical complementarians and patriarchalists such as Wayne Grudem, Louis Berkhof, and J.I. Packer. But there are excellent books that have been written by scholars who hold to a more egalitarian or mutualist ideology when it comes to men and women in marriage and in the church.

I’ve compiled this list of books on Christian doctrine in response to a reader who has been asked to lead a woman’s group and teach “solid doctrine.” Her pastor gave her a book written by a well-known complementarian, but she would prefer to use one written by an egalitarian.

The books below have been recommended to me by egalitarian friends and acquaintances. I don’t have much personal experience with these books myself. So, apart from a few personal comments, I have simply copied and pasted information provided by the publishers.

What I do know is that the writing styles of these authors, and the way they have arranged the content in their books, varies. So have a good look at the books, in real life or online, before choosing which book to buy. And take note of the length (page numbers) of the books, and the costs.


Evangelical Theology
A Biblical and Systematic Introduction

by Michael Bird (PhD University of Queensland)
Zondervan Academic, 2013 and 2020, 912 pages.

Evangelical Theology book Michael Bird

Dr Michael Bird is Academic Dean and Lecturer in Theology at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia. His book on evangelical theology, which was published in 2013, has received a lot of great press. (A second edition was released in October 2020.) I love Michael’s lucid writing style and humour, and his book is on my wish list. Watch him explain his approach to the book in this 3-minute YouTube video here. Michael blogs at Euanggelion.

“Evangelical Theology is a systematic theology written from the perspective of Australian biblical scholar Michael F. Bird who contends that the center, unity, and boundary of the evangelical faith is the evangel (= gospel), as opposed to things like justification by faith or inerrancy. The evangel is the unifying thread in evangelical theology and the theological hermeneutic through which the various loci of theology need to be understood.  Using the gospel as a theological leitmotif—an approach to Christian doctrine that begins with the gospel and sees each loci through the lens of the gospel—this text presents an authentically evangelical theology, as opposed to an ordinary systematic theology written by an evangelical theologian.”

The second edition of this book is available at Book Depository and Amazon, and through Logos Bible Software.


Theology for the Community of God

by Stanley Grenz (ThD University of Munich)
Eerdmans, 2000, 723 pages.

Theology for the Community of God book Stanley Grenz

I have Grenz’s book Women and the Church on my shelves. If this book is any indication of his writing, then Grenz’s book on theology should be excellent. Grenz completed his doctoral dissertation in 1978 under the supervision of Wolfhart Pannenberg who wrote a famous systematic theology.

“This proven systematic theology represents the very best in evangelical theology. Stanley Grenz presents the traditional themes of Christian doctrine — God, humankind, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, and the last things — all within an emphasis on God’s central program for creation, namely, the establishment of community. Masterfully blending biblical, historical, and contemporary concerns, this new edition of Grenz’s respected work provides a coherent vision of the faith that is both intellectually satisfying and expressible in Christian living.”

Available at Book Depository and Amazon.


Christian Theology (3rd Edition)

by Millard J. Erickson (PhD Northwestern University)
Baker Academic, 2013, 1200 pages.

Christian Theology Erickson

Dr Millard Erickson is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. His Christian Theology is deservedly well known. What I didn’t know until today was that the author is a member of Christians for Biblical Equality and is on their board of reference.

Some of my friends love this book and recommend it highly, but it’s not my favourite. I don’t enjoy the style of writing.

“This influential textbook, now substantially updated and revised throughout, offers a comprehensive introduction to theology that is biblical, contemporary, moderate, and fair to various positions. The third edition takes into account feedback from professors and students and reflects current theological conversations, with added material on the atonement, justification, and divine foreknowledge.”

Available at Book Depository and Amazon.

Introducing Christian Doctrine (3rd Edition)

By Millard J. Erickson
Baker Academic, 2015, 512 pages.

“Leading evangelical scholar Millard Erickson offers a new edition of his bestselling doctrine text (over 100,000 copies sold), now thoroughly revised throughout. This book is an abridged, less technical version of Erickson’s classic Christian Theology. Pastors and students alike will find this survey of Christian theology and doctrine to be biblical, contemporary, moderate, and fair to various positions. It is a practical and accessible resource that applies doctrine to Christian life and ministry.”

Available at Book Depository and Amazon.


The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology

Oxford University Press, 2010, 552 pages.

Evangelical Theology Oxford University Press

This book contains chapters written by some of my favourite authors. John Stackhouse wrote the chapter on Jesus, Craig Keener wrote the chapter on the Holy Spirit, Scot McKnight wrote the chapter on the Gospel, Dallas Willard wrote the chapter on Discipleship, Howard Snyder wrote the chapter on Spiritual Gifts, and Cherith Fee Nordling wrote the chapter on Gender.

“Evangelical theology is a burgeoning field. Evangelicals have been growing in numbers and prominence worldwide, and the rise to academic prominence of evangelical historians, scripture scholars, ethicists, and theologians–many of whom have changed the face of their disciplines–has demonstrated the growing maturity of this movement’s intellectual leaders. This volume surveys the state of the discipline on topics of greatest importance to evangelical theology. Each chapter has been written by a theologian or scholar who is widely recognized for his or her published work and is considered a leading thinker on that particular topic. The authors critically assess the state of the question, from both classical and evangelical traditions, and propose a future direction for evangelical thinking on the subject.”

Available at Book Depository and Amazon.


Practicing Christian Doctrine
An Introduction to Thinking and Living Theologically

By Beth Felker Jones (PhD Duke University)
Baker Academic, 2014, 246 pages.

Beth Felker Jones Christian Doctrine

Dr Beth Felker Jones is Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, where she teaches systematic theology. She is the author of several books.

“This introductory [and affordable] theology text explains key concepts in Christian doctrine and shows that doctrine is integrally linked to the practical realities of Christian life. In order to grow into more faithful practitioners of Christianity, we need to engage in the practice of learning doctrine and understanding how it shapes faithful lives. Beth Felker Jones helps students articulate basic Christian doctrines, think theologically so they can act Christianly in a diverse world, and connect Christian thought to their everyday life of faith. This book, written from a solidly evangelical yet ecumenically aware perspective, models a way of doing theology that is generous and charitable. It attends to history and contemporary debates and features voices from the global church.”

Available at Book Depository and Amazon. A PDF preview is here.


The Mosaic of Christian Belief
Twenty Centuries of Unity Diversity (2nd Edition)

By Roger E. Olson (PhD Rice University)
InterVarsity Press, 2016, 399.

Egalitarian doctrine theology Roger Olson

Dr Roger Olson is Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

“Roger E. Olson thematically traces the contours of Christian belief down through the ages, revealing a pattern of both unity and diversity. He finds a consensus of teaching that is both unitive and able to incorporate a faithful diversity when not forced into the molds of false either-or alternatives. The mosaic that emerges from Olson’s work, now updated throughout and with a new chapter on the Holy Spirit, displays a mediating evangelical theology that is irenic in spirit and tone. Olson, writing with nonspecialists in mind, has masterfully sketched out the contours of the Great Tradition of the Christian faith with simplicity while avoiding oversimplification.”

Available at Book Depository and Amazon.


Faith Seeking Understanding
An Introduction to Christian Theology (3rd Edition)

By Daniel L. Migliore (PhD Princeton University)
Eerdmans, 2014, 485.

systematic theology egalitarian

I’ve heard good things about Daniel Migliore’s Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. (Book Depository; Amazon)

“A superb, standard Christian theology text for nearly a quarter century, Daniel Migliore’sFaith Seeking Understanding explores all of the major Christian doctrines in freshly contemporary ways. This third edition offers new ‘For Further Reading’ suggestions at the end of each chapter, a substantial expansion of the glossary, and new material incorporated throughout, including a section on Christians and Muslims.

Further, the three imaginary theological dialogues culminating the book — pointedly playful exchanges that have delighted countless readers — are here joined by a fourth dialogue, between Karl Barth and Friedrich Nietzsche, on atheism. All in all, a new generation of students, pastors, and Christian educators, eager to better understand the rich heritage, central themes, and contemporary challenges of Christian theology, will find both guidance and stimulation in Migliore’s updated work.”


Other top scholars with egalitarian leanings include Kenneth E. Bailey, David Instone Brewer, F.F. Bruce, Gordon D. Fee, Joel B. Green, Walter Kaiser, I. Howard Marshall, Scot McKnight, Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright, and many more, here.

Are there any other books that should be included here?

And if you’re looking for Bible Commentaries without a complementarian edge, take a look at this list on the website of Christians for Biblical Equality International.

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24 thoughts on “7 Books on Christian Doctrine without a Complementarian Edge

  1. Can you tell me what the chapter on Gender is about in the Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology.

    1. Hi TL,

      Not sure. It’s the last chapter, chapter 32, beginning on page 497. I’ll try and find out when I have more time.

  2. Has any Biblical, evangelical woman, or women as a team, written a systematic Theology book, or contributed a significant portion of one with multiple authors?

    1. Good question.

      Cherith Fee Nordling is the only woman who contributed a chapter in The Oxford Handbook on Evangelical Theology.

      Women have a lot of catching up to do. Men have typically been welcome and encouraged in seminaries much more than women. And, until quite recently, men could more easily devote themselves to scholarship while women typically took time away from academia to take care of their families, if they were part of it at all.

      There is a book on theology where all the chapters were written by women I’m not sure how evangelical it is, despite being written from a Reformed perspective.
      Feminist and Womanist Essays in Reformed Dogmatics edited by Amy Platinga Pauw and Serene Jones (Westminster Knox Press) 2006.

      There must be more books on doctrine out there written by a woman. I can see that gradually more and more Bible commentaries are being written by women.

      There are many evangelical women scholars who hold doctorates and are contributing to theological and biblical knowledge. I think it’s only a matter of time before we see some of these women producing more well-known works like some of their brothers.

      1. Hi Marg,
        I wonder if we really will see a systematic theology produced by a women anytime soon. The problem is one of institutional support and economics.To write something like a systematic commentary you really need to be in a position where you are researching and lecturing so you can work up your material. Then you need your institution to continue to support you as you write your commentary or systematic theology. Even theologians need to eat and pay the mortgage Further the institution will normally have pathways to assist in publication. What I am describing is a person in a senior teaching position and these positions are normally filled by men. To have women contributing at this level of intellectual activity would need a change in culture with women supported in a sustained way through a career path. Bible colleges might be happy to take women degree students and even MA students if they pay their money but how likely are they to employ women and support them through to senior teaching positions?

  3. Marg,

    You’re the best! I can’t wait to look into them. My class starts in October. Thank you so much!

    Cynthia

    1. My pleasure. 🙂

  4. Good post Marg,

    Yes there are a many others that are significant:

    1. Millard Erickson, Systematic Theology
    2. Paul Jewett, God, Creation, and Revelation
    3. Daniel Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding
    4. Thomas Oden, Systematic Theology (3 vols)
    5. Thomas Oden, Classic Christianity
    6. Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith
    7. William Placher, Essentials of Christian Theology

    Sarah Coakley is also writing a multi volume systematic theology, and her first volume just came out.

    I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting (I’m at a thrift store shopping with my wife). My doctorate in systematic theology was on women in ministry etc, so this is pretty familiar to me.

    Blessings,
    Jamin h

    1. Thanks for this, Jamin.

      I must admit the info on Sarah Coakley’s first volume doesn’t make me want to buy it.

      1. Wow, just read a bit of this book on the website . . . really strange. I will pass on any books written by Coakley!

  5. Do you think it is possible to have a reformed theology with an egalitarian mindset? Just asking because that seems to be where I am at this point.

    Input anyone?

    Cynthia

    1. Cynthia,

      Possible? Inevitable I would argue, as a consistent doctrine of total depravity (for example) leads to the basics of feminist and egalitarian thought (eg patriarchy, androcentrism, and sexism is the result of a fallen creation under sin).
      By the way, my master’s thesis for Reformed Theological Seminary was entitled “A New Case for Female Deacons” (published by Wipf and Stock, due in 2015), and doctoral dissertation which is related (the title will be released later) has the subtitle: “A Reformed-Evangelical Approach.” I’ve spent nearly a decade preaching in reformed churches, the latter half during my egalitarian years. So, I am apparently living proof!

      ja

      1. Ha thanks Jamin,

        I am part of a wonderful, evangelical, reformed church that has no problem with women deacons and women are held in high esteem by the pastoral staff. Wow, would I love to read that! Would you have a particular book on Doctrine that you could recommend. I am looking for one that is more egalitarian but doesn’t make a point of it…just good solid doctrine. The one by Erickson seems like a good one. It is with many of the women that I have to tread lightly and slowly. Thanks,

        Cynthia

        1. Cynthia,

          Before I write any further, the title of Erickson’s book is “Christian Theology” (not Systematic Theology). Anyway…

          Pretty much all of those volumes do not push egalitarianism (few even address to topic directly). The subject comes up more overtly in Oden and Placher than the others, but they’re certainly not aggressive.

          It really depends on what kind of “doctrine” book you’re looking for, and at whatever depth, and for what purpose (group study, personal reading, classroom teaching, etc.). I’m currently using Oden’s “Classic Christianity,” Placher’s vol, and Bavinck’s 1 vol abridged “Reformed Dogmatics” for my systematic theology classes. It’s an odd mix, but I like it like that; really helps people see the larger spectrum, even though there is substantial overlap. They’ve been fantastic volumes so far. Erickson is alright, but a bit too 20th century fundamentalist for my personal taste. I can’t say much of Jewett since I haven’t gone through it much…

          1. Thanks again. I teach a 10 month class at our church where 50 % is focused on Doctrine. I am looking at the books Marg listed for me above. I appreciate your thoughts. I don’t really get involved in either the egalitarian or complimentarian debate though I am defiantly more egalitarian but rather look to Scripture among other study tools for solid understanding. I wish there was no division. I have no interest any longer in those who write with a strong hierarhicial view. On another note there are many I know who call themselves Calvinists and though I believe some of the points in TULIP from what I read about him besides being an anti-Semite he really seemed like he had a low view of women. True or not…curious?

  6. Hi Marg,

    Just wanted to give you an update as you were such a big help during my search for a sound book on theology/doctrine. I chose a book called Created for Community by Stanly Grenz and I supplement with his more expanded book, Theology for the Community of God. So well written…we are loving it!

    During the second half of my class we will be looking into women in the church and have loved and appreciated all your research, study and insight. It is not an easy road but there have always been forerunners that God raises up to bring truth and a deeper understanding of his word. I am not about a cause nor do I teach out of hurt or disillusionment in the church as I sense that some do when I read certain articles. When we know scripture and understand the teachings of Christ, when we walk in love, forgiveness and humility, God’s spirit will lead us into all truth. Free from an agenda, we will speak into peoples lives trusting the work of the HS.

    I believe that is what you do and am so thankful for your ministry. Many blessings.

    Cynthia

    1. Thanks so much for letting us know. 🙂

      I love your second paragraph. It can be hard to hear what people are saying when they speak out of hurt, disillusionment, and especially bitterness.

      Hoping that all Christians will walk in love, forgiveness and humility.

      Marg

  7. Dr Katherine Sonderegger, a scholar and Episcopal priest, is writing a multi-volume systematic theology. Volume 1, entitled The Doctrine of God, was published in 2015. Information on this volume is here. Information on the forthcoming volumes 2 and 3 is here.

  8. Thank you for compiling this list of resources. Do you know of any New Testament commentaries that don’t have a complementarian edge? I read Padgett’s list, but I was wondering if there are any that include all of the New Testament.

    1. Hi Taylor,

      Any commentaries written by Gordon D. Fee, Craig Keener, Scot McKnight, and Ben Witherington won’t be complementarian. I also recommend commentaries by Lynn Cohick and Karen Jobes. There are many excellent scholars writing wonderful commentaries, but I’m not sure what you mean by commentaries “that include all of the New Testament.”

      Commentaries written by any of the scholars listed in this article will not have a complementarian edge: https://margmowczko.com/prominent-biblical-scholars-on-women-in-ministry/ Though I don’t agree with everything John Stott and Kenneth Bailey have said about men and women.

      1. Thank you for this list; I’ll look into these commentaries. By including all of the New Testament, I meant a book that has commentaries for most or all of the books of the New Testament. Most of my commentaries include a section on every book of the Bible; the commentaries are usually written by different people but compiled into one book. All that I have or have been able to find in that format have been complementarian, and I wondered if there were any that were less complementarian since I’ve had a hard time finding any.

        1. There are a couple of egalitarian books that include commentaries on every book of the Bible. I have one called The IVP Women’s Commentary which is egalitarian, but I’m a little disappointed with it. The style is dry, and because it covers every chapter of every Bible book, there isn’t much depth.

  9. Hi, I’m looking for a systematic theology book that is both egalitarian and non-Calvinist. I was interested in Erickson’s book but I heard he’s a Calvinist or moderate Calvinist. I find the books by Erickson, Bird and Grenz to be the kinds that I’m looking for. Could you recommend which one that you think fits my need? It’s for my personal reading and study

    1. Erickson’s book seems very Reformed, so I guess that means it’s Calvinist. I also found his writing style dry and interesting.

      Roger Olson holds to an Arminian theology so you may prefer his book, but you can’t go wrong with either Bird or Grenz for an indepth systematic theology.

      Have a look at the previews on Amazon to see what suits you, as the authors have different writing styles and approaches.

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