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What Complementarianism is Really all About

The most common understanding of both Complementarianism and Egalitarianism goes something like this:

Complementarians: Do not let women be pastors over men.

Egalitarians: Do let women be pastors over men.

or…

Complementarians: The husband is the leader of the family.

Egalitarians: The husband and wife co-lead the family, with no priority.

or…

Complementarians: Wives submit to your husbands.

Egalitarians: Husbands and wives are to practice mutual submission.

While I think that these are characteristics of both groups, they are not foundational characteristics that define each group. In other words, I don’t think that they are helpful in defining what it means to be a complementarian or egalitarian and they serve to cause a great deal of misunderstanding that leads to emotional bias that is very difficult to overcome once set.

In fact, I am going to say something very radical here and then explain. Here it goes:

It is possible to be a complementarian and believe that a women can serve in the position of head pastor over men.

Did you get that? Reread it. Reread it again…

Complementarianism is not first defined by it view of the roles of men and women in the church, family, or society.

Here is what Complementarianism is:

Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but often, functionally, take subordinate roles (like the Trinity). These differences complete or “complement” each other. Due to these differences, there will be some things that women are predisposed and purposed to do more than men. As well, there will be some things that men are predisposed and purposed to do more than women. Therefore, there are ideal roles for both men and women that should be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society. To deny these differences is to deny the design of God and thwart his purpose.

Here is what Egalitarianism is:

The belief that God has created men and women equal in all things. Men and women are ontologically and functionally equal. The way the sexes function in the church, society, and the family is determined by individual giftedness, not role distinctions according to the sexes. Therefore, each person should be judged individually when being placed in a particular position. We should exemplify this reality by overcoming the stereotypical placement that has traditionally been a part of societies in human history, thereby giving freedom to individuals to follow the path that God has uniquely created them for, whatever that may be. In doing so, we should no longer educate or indoctrinate according to any of the former stereotypes, including those of basic masculinity and femininity.

These, in my opinion, are the foundational tenants of each position without giving examples on how this plays out in the family, the church, or society.

The case I am making here is that in order to be a consistent egalitarian, one must deny virtually all differences that typify men as men and women as women. It is not just about getting women behind the pulpit or the concept of mutual submission in the family. It is much more complex and, in my estimation, more difficult to defend with sensibility.

I had a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who was an Egalitarian (he left because of this—I won’t mention his name). I loved this guy. Still do. Great teacher, thinker, and Christian. In fact, I had him come speak to our pastoral staff at Stonebriar to challenge us on why he became egalitarian and to defend his position. I wanted the staff to understand the “other side” from a very able defender. During his presentation, he painted himself into this very typical corner that I find most all egalitarians end up. 

He was advocating a foundational principle of egalitarianism: there are no essential differences between men and women other than reproductive stuff. We were all quite taken aback. Every example we brought up, he shot down by giving a counter-example in the form of an exception. His basic argument turned on finding exceptions to everything. Whether it was that men were less emotional, more aggressive, more one tracked in their thinking, less tender, more competitive, unable to nurture as well as women, or even liked the color blue more, he brought up exceptions that he believed neutralized the “pattern”. Finally, I thought I had him. I said “What about physicality? Men are stronger than women.” He would have none of that. He then brought up examples of German women who were stronger than men! We could not stump the guy!

The problem is that in order to defend egalitarianism consistently, he had to deny all of the common sense distinctions that people have made about men and women since the dawn of time. I won’t get into the science or psychology of this issue as there are many very good resources that do this. To me, it is rather bizarre that one would actually be inclined to produce evidence to prove that men and women are different!

I am of the opinion that many egalitarians would have been appalled by Peter who said that women are the weaker of the sexes (1 Pet. 3:7) siting every exception to this rule and bemoaning this stereotype until Peter cried “uncle.”

Complementarianism says that men and women are different by design. We are different and God did it. It is that simple.

However, most people would not be willing to go as far as my former professor. They realize that sustaining a proposition that men and women have no essential differences is a battle that cannot really be sustained in real life (only theoretical ideology). Men and women are different. Even most egalitarians that I know would give me this. Hear this again. Most egalitarians that I know would admit, when push comes to shove, that there are some essential differences between men and women. Most would even say that there are essential differences that go beyond reproduction and physicality. But I would argue that these people are not really egalitarians, at least in the way I have defined it. They would be complementarians because they would have given up what I believe to be a central driving tenant of egalitarianism and embraced the central tenant of complementarianism: men and women are different by design and their differences complement each other.

Now, having said this, I believe that it is theoretically possible to be a complementarian and yet not take a traditional complementarian stand on the issue of women in ministry. In other words, someone could believe that men and women are different by design yet not think that these differences have any bearing on women in leadership in the church. They may be convinced that the Bible does not really teach that women should not teach men, and yet be complementarian in other issues and, broadly, in their theology of the sexes.

I am interested and committed to complementarianism for more than just the women in ministry issue. This is just one application. But (and here is where I get in trouble with fellow complementarians), I don’t think that it is the most important issue in this debate. Neither do I think that it is the most “damaging” issue.

You see, when people are truly committed and consistent egalitarians, they have to defend their denial of essential differences. In doing so, they will advocate a education system in the home, church, and society which neutralizes any assumption of differences between the sexes. In doing so, men will not be trained to be “men” since there is really no such thing. Women will not be encouraged to be “women” since there is no such thing. The assumption of differences becomes a way to oppress society and marginalize, in their estimation, one sex for the benefit of the other. Once we neutralize these differences, we will have neutered society and the family due to a denial of God’s design in favor of some misguided attempt to promote a form of equality that is neither possible nor beneficial to either sex.

We will have troubled men and women groping to find their way and feeling pressured to repress their instincts and giftedness. We will no longer be able to train up men and women in the “way” they should go since there is no “way” they should go. Women can act masculine and men can be feminine. Men can retreat in the face of responsibility because, in truth, they don’t have any “responsibility” other than the one that they choose. This is to say nothing of the implications this has on the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage.

But in a complementarian worldview (even one that allows women to teach men in the church), men are taught to be men and women are taught to be women. They both have defining characteristics. Masculinity and femininity find their place and are exemplified and celebrated. Men protect women from physical danger and take their positions of leadership seriously, without trepidation or fear that they will be seen as power mongers. And women support this. Women take up their positions of nurturing and supporting the emotional well-being of the world. And men support it. No role distinction is seen as inferior because in a complementarian worldview both are seen as essential and of equal importance. Only in complementarianism do we not define the rule by the exceptions and bow to the least common denominator. Only in the complementarian worldview, in my opinion, can freedom to be who we are supposed to be find meaning.

The true spirit of complementarianism is that God has intentionally created men and women with differences and we are to celebrate this in every way. The true spirit of complementarianism is never domineering (that is a sinful corruption). The true spirit of complementarianism provides no shame only freedom. The true spirit of complementarianism speaks to God in appreciation.

When we attempt to neuter this design, we have lost much more than authority in the pulpit.

Complementarians, while I believe that the Bible teaches the ideal that women should not have authority over men in the church, let us promote the true spirit of complementarianism then simply defending its particular applications.

637 Responses to “What Complementarianism is Really all About”

  1. Be sure to check out the new poll.

  2. Hmm,
    I find myself at points agreeing with you and at other points disagreeing. I guess from my perspective even acknowledging what you say about their being differences to be true, I don’t see how this changes the egalitarian position that everyone should be judged by their personal ability to perform a certain task regardless of gender, race, etc.

    To give an example outside of the pastorate it appears (I know someone will disagree with me here) that in general men have a higher PROBABILITY of being interested and drawn to the field of engineering. Now despite this I happen to know a women who is a excellent and gifted biomechanical engineer. Should she have been excluded from persuing engineering on the simple ground that women have a lower probability then men of making a good engineer??? Or should she be judged according to how well she performs the task as hand???

    I would of course say the latter, and would see the role of head-pastor, elder, etc. as no different. It may or may not be that men have a natural proclivity to make better head pastors, but even if this is true it shouldn’t change the situation. Each individual case (man or woman) should be judged according to that individuals ability to perform the task presented irregardless of whether or not natural proclivities exist.

    This is no different from my perspective then in the sport of sprinting where individuals of African descent tend to have a proclivity for running faster. Yet people of Anglo-Saxon descent are still free to enter the races and be judged according to the times they put up. Natural proclivity one way or another should never bar an individual from performing a task if they are up to the task.

  3. Michael, that is a great point and is a position that one could take. Now, of course, engineering is something that most people would say that natural abilities of men or women are not consequential therefore would not be an issue of divide.

    However, let’s say you decide that while there are differences, we should not celebrate these differences or even encourage them on an individual basis. We, as examples, parents, and educators, in essence, remain neutral as to the development of individuals. At that point, I would say you are an egalitarian.

    On the other hand, if you say that there will be exceptions yet we should, as a society, celebrate and encourage individuals to grow in ways that exemplify what males and females should. Now you would be leaning more in a complementarian direction.

    Complementarians recognize and encourage the the development of people according to their differences, according to the way that they feel will have a greater potential at “success” in contributing to the world, according to the way in which others will more readily respond, and according to the way that they will find greater fulfillment. As well, complementarians want the sexes to develop according to their differences so that they will represent the image of God more fully. In other words, complementarians do not remain neutral.

    But I do see what you are saying in that even though it seems that there is a greater degree of interest in engineering among men. Does this mean that this is a sign of “God’s design”? Where do we draw the line? Who determines what men should not be encouraged to do and what women should encouraged to do? Statistics?

    I would say no. All this type of thing does is tell us that men and women are fundamentally different and encourages us to capitalize on these differences. But in most areas, where the consequences are not there, we don’t put up serious road blocks.

  4. I think you have made the subordination function of women quite clear.

    Do you believe that World Vision is simply misguided? Do you want to educate the women of the world into the foundational characteristic of our difference – subordination? Here is what they teach,

    “World Vision recognises men and boys must be an integral part of the solution and that women and girls must participate in decision-making at every level: within the family, community, and society.”

    There is so much inequality still between men and women world-wide, that I simply cannot fathom why some men do not want to be part of the solution and support the equality of women in decision-making.

    Its tragic.

  5. Sue, you are right and the definition was not expressed well (I wrote it). I would not say that women are always subordinate to men in all things. In other words, there are certain roles that women, due to the way God made them, will find themselves in such a positions (but being ultimately subordinate to God like all people). However, there might be times when men take on a type of subordination to women, as to when the design of women predisposes them to superiority in certain areas. Men must submit to this. I do.

    Now, of course, most complementarians do see subordination of the wife to the husband due to how they interpret the Bible (but this does not include a submission to abuse at all). As well, there will be a natural subordination of all people in their local church to the authority of the Pastor or elder and most complementarians would say that this position is reserved for certain men.

    But this certainly does not apply to every circumstance. I was in subordination to a women boss at work at a bank. This is not against my complementarian ideology at all. As well, I have been in subordination to women instructors at school. With this, as well, complementarians have no problem. If they do, the are not complementarian, but are shrouding their partriachialism under a different name.

    Hope that clarifies.

  6. You are redefining complementarianism, much in the way that some egalitarians have when they refer to themselves as the true complementarians. The acknowledge tendencies for some physical (strength), and mental differences between the sexes—and these are hard to deny, your friend notwithstanding—yet claim this means nothing when it comes to roles in the church and family. And there is now no term to describe the concept that God intends for men to lead in the church and family, irrespective of whether that view is true. Sure egalatarians can hold to differences in makeup and tendencies, and even think that men and women tend to complement each other, but this is not what complementarianism means, it is about roles.

    Related to this is your focus on the tendencies, masculinity and femininity. While I agree these exist, I do not think these are primary, though they are consistent with complementarianism and the fact of complementarianism is likely the reason for the differences. But what if these differences were less marked, either in creation or between a couple? Complementarianism still states that men and women have specific roles.

    Rather than approach church roles by masculine and feminine tendencies, identify the roles and see why men and women were given certain tendencies. Taking your example from your recent post, God doesn’t intend for men to teach (confront error) because they are more confrontational, God made men confrontational because he intends for (some) men to teach.

  7. Michael.

    Let me review two entries from your glossary,

    Complementarianism.

    “Theological position held by many Christians (contra egalitarianism) believing the Bible teaches that men and women are of equal worth, dignity, and responsibility before God (ontological equality), but that men and women have different roles to play in society, the family, and the church (relational distinct roles). For the complementarian, these roles do not compete but complement each other. Prominent modern complementarians are Tomas Schreiner, Wayne Grudem, and John Piper.”

    This is a fudge because it does not make clear that complementarians believe in the suborinate role of women.

    Egalitarianism.

    “Theological position held by many Christians (contra complementarianism) believing the Bible does not teach that women are in any sense, functionally or ontologically, subservient to men. Women and men hold positions in society, ministry, and the family according to their gifts, not their gender. The principle of mutual submission teaches that husbands and wives are to submit to each other equally. Prominent egalitarians include Doug Groothuis, Ruth Tucker, William Webb, Gorden Fee, and Linda Belleville.”

    Um, who wrote this? Do you agree that this defines egalitarianism but not complementarianism? Just wondering what to make of these.

  8. I will add that I think the position that men and women are the same physically and emotionally (sans reproduction) is not a reasonable position for anyone to hold. General tendencies are easily seen, and biological data shows us this is the case. Men have heaps more testosterone than women, and testosterone is hugely anabolic to muscle.

    And we know that oestrogen and testosterone have effects on mental function, both at the development level (in utero and puberty) and day to day use.

  9. “Sure egalatarians can hold to differences in makeup and tendencies, and even think that men and women tend to complement each other, but this is not what complementarianism means, it is about roles.”

    It is not about roles FIRST is my point. Saying that there are essential differences will aways lead to implications that men and women may function better in specific roles. That is why roles come into play and this is why it is very hard for egalitarians to concede essential differences…they simply know the logical next step.

    Complementarians recognize this and attemp to capitalize on it through education, encouragement, and direction. Then there is also the Biblical principles which seem to support certian role distinctions which make perfect sense in the complementarian position.

    Sure, you can still say that the ultimate guide is the individual. Complementarians would respect the individual giftedness 90 percent of the time (so they would be very egalitarian in this sense!). But when it comes to the roles that the Bible seems to speak clearly about, complementarians default to the Scripture. Not saying Egals don’t…they just interpret differently, accounting in a different presupposition (i.e. in these cases, egals want gifts to cast the deciding vote because of the “significance” of these issues).

    As well, complementarians would usually be predisposed to have men as leaders in all areas of a certian type of high significance such as rulers of nations, but this is not always the case.

    In the end, that is the point of this post. The foundation is NOT about roles, but about differences by design and these differences have implications.

  10. Sue,

    “This is a fudge because it does not make clear that complementarians believe in the suborinate role of women”

    I just explained that this is not a fundamental across the board characteristic of complementarians. It is an implication only in certian roles.

    I would just use the definitions that I gave above. They are more acute to my thoughts and presentation here.

  11. Michael,

    you wrote,

    “Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but functionally subordinate (like the Trinity).”

    Is this what you mean? Do you mean that both men and women are functionally subordinate like the Trinity, or should this sentence be rewritten. I do not want to misunderstand you.

  12. “Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but functionally subordinate (like the Trinity)” |

    Another difficulty is that C’s believe that women are ontologically equal to men, they are equal in their being and essential nature. Why are egalitarians criticized for the exact same belief?

    The only difference between egal and comp, is that egals believe that women are equal in their essential nature and that women should function according to their essential nature. Comps deny that women should function according to their essential nature.

    Egals also do not understand the trinity as a model for a binity.

  13. Just to be clear, there is no “official” spokes-person for either complementarians or egalitarians. They come in all breeds and I am trying to be fair here.

    Across the spectrum, from the most radical to the most radical on both sides:

    -matriarchalism
    -hard egalitarianism
    -soft egalitarianism
    -complegalitarianism (how’s that?—I do think there is such a position!)
    -soft complementarianism
    -hard complementarianism
    -patriachalism

    Most Evangelical complementarians that I know of are soft-comps. I do know that there are many of a more radical variety. I also know that men have the tendency to take liberties and misinterpret this as if all men, no matter what, are in priority over all women (more like a Muslim society). I also know that many husbands abuse their authority and “rule over” their wives (after all, this is part of the curse—the “rule over” in the curse carries very negative connotation). But abuses of good principles never nullifies the principles any more than the abuse of the office of a pastor (by men or women) nullifies the office.

  14. The Trinity is brought up to show how there can be functional hierarchy and ontological equality. It is in no way an argument for complementarianism, just an illustration of another relationship that exists in a somewhat similar way.

    I will change that since it is so early in the post to clarify.

  15. Your combox is eating my comments. Arhhh!

    One cannot reasonably deny there are differences over and above the obvious reproductive differences. Other than the differences being seen and obvious to most people, we know that there are differential effects of hormones on physical and mental traits. Men have much more testosterone than women. Testosterone is significantly anabolic on muscle.

    And testosterone and oestrogen have different effects on brain function, both in the development phase (in utero and puberty) as well as day to day thought processes.

  16. Sue,

    “The only difference between egal and comp, is that egals believe that women are equal in their essential nature and that women should function according to their essential nature. Comps deny that women should function according to their essential nature.”

    Because equality has to do with nature and personhood and does not necessarily have bearing on the giftedness of the individual or sex.

  17. In the end, that is the point of this post. The foundation is NOT about roles, but about differences by design and these differences have implications.

    The Trinity is brought up to show how there can be functional hierarchy and ontological equality. It is in no way an argument for complementarianism,

    If we look at 1 Timothy 2 Paul mentions one of the reasons for his rule is that Adam was formed first, then Eve. God makes a man, then a woman to complement him. The roles are primary. The character traits of masculinity and femininity are given because they suit the roles. And in Ephesians 5 we see that husband and wife reflect Christ and the church. Analogies of within the trinity (uncreated) and God and the church (created) are perfectively valid as they are the likely, if not the only reason for complementarianism.

    Christ protects the church (or Yahweh protects Israel), men are therefore to protect their wives, therefore God gives protection qualities to men.

  18. “Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but functionally subordinate (like the Trinity)”

    My question is whether complementarianism is supposed to be defined by both men and women being subordinate, or just women. Your sentence does not make clear who is subordinate. Just wondering.

    “equality has to do with nature and personhood and does not necessarily have bearing on the giftedness of the individual or sex.”

    So nature and giftedness are unrelated. And women are gifted for subordination but are not by nature subordinate. Just trying to understand.

  19. Beth,

    But all we need to infer from these is that God created women with different characteristic which complement man and the implications of which, in some context about which Paul speaks, are that husbands are the head of the wife.

    In society, the principle will still holds true (i.e. different by design), but the implications will play out differently.

    As well, the priority in creation in Tim. may only be some sort of set up for Paul’s explanation about Eve’s deception conta Adam. Very difficult passage to interpret as far as the details, even though some of use see the main point as being pretty clear. That is what the last post was about…the “why?” question. I don’t think we can get clear conformation here.

  20. Sue, I don’t know if you read my earlier comments, but the subordination of women is not across the board. In fact, as I describe, depending on the role and circumstance, men may be required to submit to women. In these cases, it will have to do with position of giftedness. Therefore, in the definition, there is not meant be a suggestion of who is subordinating to whom in what area. The role will have to decide. But there are certian roles, as I said above, that will always have women being subordinate to men. 1) Husband/wife relationship (so long as it is not abusive). 2) In the local church, the people are to submit to the elders/pastors and this is limited to men.

    With this answer, your second question should be taken care of as well.

    OKAY! Really going to be now. Late, late, late. Kristie is MAKING me come to bed and she won’t obey me when I say “no”! :)

  21. I just checked your time zone and am stunned. Whew.

  22. Michael, While I think Scripture suggests my point (though disputed by yourself), a problem that arises from your position is that if it can be shown that a particular woman has the specific qualifications that a man needs to teach, then she can teach. You can defer to Scripture, but as you see the role as secondary to the characteristics, the counter to such deferral is that Paul wrote such because these are generalisations, but this woman’s gifting and call does not fit that of a typical woman.

    This problem does not mean you are incorrect, but it remains an issue.

  23. “As well, I have been in subordination to women instructors at school. With this, as well, complementarians have no problem. If they do, the are not complementarian, but are shrouding their partriachialism under a different name.”

    Ha, I love it! But our brethern who fall in the last 2 categories on your list (#12) would contend that for certain courses, it falls under the the purview of teaching scripture and therefore is exercising authority. What strikes me as odd about that position, is that we have Bible commentaries and other Biblically oriented literature written by women that also assist with teaching. This holds true also with the advent of parachurch ministries and the internet. I’m not clear what the difference is unless there are men who refuse to read publications written by women. If that’s the case, I’d say that would be in violation of a whole bunch of passages of scripture in order to protect just one.

  24. I’m probably going to get roasted for this, but here goes…

    Has anyone every considered that reserving ministry primarily for men is not a blessing but actually part of the curse? Eve was deceived, but Adam was not. Ultimately, Adam threw his wife under the bus to get what he wanted, and then blamed her for it. He failed to lead; he shrank from offering any form of spiritual leadership for his wife and, instead, sold her out.

    The tendancy to shirk from leadership and responsibility and to sell out our wives is, IMHO, one of the hallmarks of fallen men. How often do we simply wimp out rather than take a stand. Alternately, how many times are we complete jerks and then justify our actions in the name of “leadership?” How many men have simply abdicated leadership?

    God will have none of this.

    Have we considered that perhaps women really are better at leadership than men? This may be sorta’ counter-complementarian, but run with it for a moment. Maybe women are better at it. Polls show people are happier working for a female boss than a male boss. Is God’s refusal to allow women to lead the church part of the curse, part of God’s command to us men to learn to lead as He would have us lead because naturally we’re not very good at it? It might be part of God’s upside-down counter-intuitive approach in which the weak will lead the strong and those wretches in desperate need of forgiveness will be counted more righteous than those who need none.

    Church leadership should never be thought of as a promotion but as a demotion. It is servitude, not management. Too much of the issue of egalitarianism and women in ministry seems to treat ministry as a promotion instead of a demotion. The same could be said of leading a family; fatherhood is being a servant.

    My concern with both the complementarian and egalitarian is that too often both lack real humility before God or to appreciate God’s upside-down economy.

    Ok, roast away at me!…

  25. Beth,

    No, not really. The reason is because I would say that ideally the Bible teaches that men are always more qualified than women. See my last post about how men are more inclined toward the type of leadership that the pastorate/eldership requires and people respond better to men.

    However, in situations where this is not the case (i.e. there are no qualified men or men simply are not stepping up), yes, a woman would have to step up. This is the case, I believe, in the book of Judges, where men are not doing their job.

  26. Adam was formed first, then Eve. God makes a man, then a woman to complement him.

    Does the text in Genesis say that – i.e., that the woman was made “to complement” the man?

    Doesn’t it say that YHWH Elohim felt (the) Adam needed someone corresponding to him, not necessarily someone complementary to (i.e., completing) him?

    Was (the) Adam incomplete without the woman? Or was it that he was primarily alone/solitary/only?

    Was (the) Adam made “complete” by the forming of the woman?

    Or is it that a woman does not make a man “complete,” nor does a man make a woman “complete,” but rather “man-with-woman” is what is “complete”?

    But this indeed would mean that man complements woman, and woman complements man – not in the sense of completing each other so each one can then be whole and complete beings in their own selves and in their own right, but in the sense that neither of them is complete by themselves in relation to whatever they are to relate to (i.e., God, creation, nature, whatever). They can only function as “complete” beings when they are in a man-with-woman relationship. And then they are not operating as complete beings with respect to each other (i.e., a complete man vis-a-vis a complete woman) so much as with respect to what man (generically/collectively) as male and female is supposed to be.

    Maybe I’m just quibbling over or toying with words. :)

    But since Paul says that this man-woman thing is with respect to Christ and the church, what are the meanings/implications of complete man(kind) = man with woman for leadership and offices and roles and functions in the church – esp. since with respect the Christ we are all his female bride?

  27. You’ve hit on a very discussion-worthy topic!

    You’ve successfully defined me into the complementarian camp, which is fine with me. I wonder, however, what to do with a progressing scientific and psychological understanding that gender is not nearly so… binary as we have traditionally defined it. Masculinity and Femininity are, I think, recognizable and distinct qualities, but they are not very cleanly divided by male and female today. Is this because of a secular failure to teach men to be masculine and women to be feminine, or partially the result of not insisting that women limit themselves to a submissive form of femininity?

    I guess what I’m torn about is that the egalitarian camp has the advantage of knowing what to do with those who feel they were born of the wrong gender (some, genetically, are), or who strongly (and seemingly quite naturally) reject their gender status. It’s easier for the egalitarian to see gender as a spectrum, as the modern world would have us do with both gender and sexuality. What’s a complementarian to do? Do we insist on matching masculinity with the male gender without exception? If not, why would some women not be qualified to teach men, provided they the possess the requisite masculinity?

    – Borden

  28. (I was timed out while editing the last paragraph)

    But since Paul says that when he is writing about this man-woman one flesh thing, he is speaking with respect to Christ and the church, what are the meanings/implications of the nature of a “complete” man(kind) (= man with woman) for leadership and offices and roles and functions in the church – esp. since with respect the Christ we all – both men and women, or simply any man or any woman – are alike members of His one body as well as of one another (i.e., a man in Christ is just as much a member of another man in Christ as he is of a woman in Christ, and vice-versa) and together form His one female bride?

    What is the church on earth to outwardly express in terms of looking like the Body of Christ: A male-female differentiated society? One in which there are few if any distinctions between men and women, slaves and freemen, Jews and gentiles, etc.? Or what?

  29. “But in a complementarian worldview (even one that allows women to teach men in the church), men are taught to be men and women are taught to be women. They both have defining characteristics. Masculinity and femininity find their place and are exemplified and celebrated. Men protect women from physical danger and take their positions of leadership seriously, without trepidation or fear that they will be seen as power mongers. And women support this. Women take up their positions of nurturing and supporting the emotional well-being of the world. And men support it. No role distinction is seen as inferior because in a complementarian worldview both are seen as essential and of equal importance. Only in the complementarian worldview, in my opinion, can freedom to be who we are supposed to be find meaning.”

    It is not “freedom” when someone else is defining what that supposed “freedom” is for you.

    “The true spirit of complementarianism provides no shame only freedom.”

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that the true spirit of complementarianism provides certain “freedoms” it chooses for you?

  30. Truth Unites... and Divides February 18, 2010 at 8:21 am

    “He was advocating a foundational principle of egalitarianism: there are no essential differences between men and women other than reproductive stuff. We were all quite taken aback.”

    I’d be taken aback too.

    The problem is that in order to defend egalitarianism consistently, he had to deny all of the common sense distinctions that people have made about men and women since the dawn of time.”

    It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to rationalize an unblblical agenda.

    Dallas Theological Seminary was correct in removing this leaven from their faculty.

  31. “Christ protects the church (or Yahweh protects Israel), men are therefore to protect their wives, therefore God gives protection qualities to men.”

    Bethyada,
    You fail to take into consideration that all men are not physically able to do such a thing. Your illustration does a great injustice to our disabled, elderly or ill brothers in Christ. I can never imagine God setting up such a paradigm for failure for the men in that position. Imagine being a wheelchair bound husband hearing that as a sermon illustration?

    It would be more accurate to say that God gives protection abilities to some men.

  32. Michael,

    I find your definitions to be a bit too black and white.
    Few people live comfortably inside such a clearly defined box. To suggest that one must choose one and exemplify it to the hilt in order to be consistent is…well, a bit silly, I think.
    What is wrong with taking a hybrid approach that alllows us to more easily take the path of humility in walking out our beliefs (a more pragmatic approach)?

    as far as men being more inclined towards leadership in the Bible…The culture was patriarchal. Would we expect something different to be represented?

  33. “Complementarianism says that men and women are different by design. We are different and God did it. It is that simple.”

    I can agree with you on this. What I cannot agree with is complementarians defining exactly how each sex should be acting according to “roles” you have appointed to each.

    If this supposed “spiritual” concept does not work for all – then it cannot be a “spiritual” law – as is the case for our disabled, elderly or ill brothers in Christ or our sisters who have no natural nurturing inclination or those unable to bear children.

  34. ” As well, complementarians want the sexes to develop according to their differences so that they will represent the image of God more fully.”

    c michael,
    What would you suggest that our disabled, elderly or ill brothers in Christ or our sisters who have no natural nurturing inclination or those unable to bear children, do to develop themselves so that they may represent the image of God more fully?

  35. “Men protect women from physical danger and take their positions of leadership seriously, without trepidation or fear that they will be seen as power mongers. And women support this. Women take up their positions of nurturing and supporting the emotional well-being of the world. And men support it.”
    c michael,
    This is just not possible for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is setting up a paradigm for failure in your “role.”

  36. “Theological position held by many Christians (contra egalitarianism) believing the Bible teaches that men and women are of equal worth, dignity, and responsibility before God (ontological equality), but that men and women have different roles to play in society, the family, and the church (relational distinct roles).”

    c michael,
    I believe that the Bible teaches that men and women are of equal worth, dignity, and responsibility before God, no “but”s. Whether or not that person can lift one finger for themselves or “play” a certain “role,” they are fully representing God’s image.

  37. Truth Unites... and Divides February 18, 2010 at 9:29 am

    CMP: “When we attempt to neuter this design, we have lost much more than authority in the pulpit.”

    True, dat.

    Egalitarians defacing and marring God’s Divine Design for biblical patriarchy causes individuals, families, churches, and the culture to lose a lot.

  38. Tim Keller has a paper on the role of women. He explains at length that in society, power must be organized democratically although the ideal is a rule submission relationship, which would be like a monarchy. His reason for democracy in society is sin. He writes,

    “In summary, the pattern of rule-and-submission is greatly muted in society because of sin. People abuse authority, so politically, all authority must be elected authority—and all individuals must have access to places of authority.”

    But in marriage he affirms rule submission.

    Now my question is why he does not admit that there is sin in marriage. He does not want men to suffer the abuses of a non-democratic government and affirms that they must have access to places of authority.

    But in the home, where we spend so much of our time, there is no mention of abuse by Keller and no mention that authority must be elected.

    Given the reality, that spouses are abused all the time in the home, and this is the locus of the greatest amount of suffering in all societies, it seems callous to put women under men, and thereby assure women that the suffering they experience in the home is in accordance with God’s will for a rule submission relationship.

    Since the Bible always presents imperial power, or monarchy as a power which the Christian must submit to, I find it galling that men have ensured that they live in a democracy with access to the places of authority, and women live in subordination. Why are women uniquely asked to bear the greater suffering?

  39. “In the end, that is the point of this post. The foundation is NOT about roles, but about differences by design and these differences have implications.”

    c michael,
    O.k., so now you say it is not primarily founded on “roles”, so then are we to assume that our disabled, elderly or ill brothers in Christ or our sisters who have no natural nurturing inclination or those unable to bear children are faulty by design?
    What are the implications of that?

  40. Truth Unites... and Divides February 18, 2010 at 9:48 am

    CMP: “Every example we brought up, he shot down by giving a counter-example in the form of an exception. His basic argument turned on finding exceptions to everything.”

    Dear CMP,

    You see this phenomena happening again in this very thread. You have the advantage of being experienced in dealing with this.

  41. “I also know that many husbands abuse their authority and “rule over” their wives (after all, this is part of the curse—the “rule over” in the curse carries very negative connotation).”

    c michael,
    You know this “rule over” is part of the curse, but want to keep women under it – so, for what did Christ come? To make the “rule(r) over” more benevolent?

  42. I think that you have a pretty good take on complementarianism, although I think it is in some ways commonsense, ultimately scripture and the nature of God point to roles, at least for certain positions of leadership. Also I think it is important to remember that Christ’s method of leadership requires the leader become a servant, be extremely loving and in a way submissive to the people being led, and is also accountable to God. So yeah, in general, men should be in leadership positions, as long as it is a biblical leadership model.

  43. “Now my question is why he does not admit that there is sin in marriage. He does not want men to suffer the abuses of a non-democratic government and affirms that they must have access to places of authority.

    But in the home, where we spend so much of our time, there is no mention of abuse by Keller and no mention that authority must be elected.”

    How might the authority be elected in the marriage? Don’t you need a majority to elect? Thats why God gave authority in that area of our lives, to bless us not to curse us. Yes, sin has messed everything up, but that does not mean we get rid of the original intent.

  44. And a little less painful. If only it did.

  45. “If we look at 1 Timothy 2 Paul mentions one of the reasons for his rule is that Adam was formed first, then Eve. God makes a man, then a woman to complement him. The roles are primary.”

    bethyada,

    Genesis 1:27-28 says this: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
    God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

    Also, as c michael has acknowleged, Adam’s “rule over” is part to the curse, not part of the design.

  46. Kay and Sue,

    Do you believe that all effects of the curse are reversed for the Christian while still in this body on this earth? That is the only way your argument will work. Or are there some aspects of the curse that will only be reversed when Jesus returns?

    I’m not trying to change topics here, just trying to clarify how your logic in # 38 and # 39 are working.

  47. “It is not about roles FIRST is my point. Saying that there are essential differences will aways lead to implications that men and women may function better in specific roles.”
    Umm, no. I deny the premise that essential differences will always lead to implications that men and women may function better in specific roles. Since “head pastor” is a leadership role, let’s focus on leadership. There is no evidence whatsoever that men function better than women in positions of leadership. On an anecdotal basis I have met, and also know, many women who have made excellent leaders, so in terms of ancedotal evidence for male leaders it’s a draw (both sides can point to good and bad leaders of both sexes). But what about the science? In this post and the next I will present the evidence that supports the conclusion that the following is a fact: women are equally as good leaders as men, and likely better”.

    Caliper, a Princeton, New Jersey-based management consulting firm, and Aurora, a London-based organization that advances women, conducted a year long study in 2005 of women leadership. Caliper has assessed the potential of more than two million applicants and employees for over 25,000 companies around the world as part of its management consulting practice, and Aurora, a comprises a 20,000 member businesswomen’s network. The title of the final paper is “The Qualities That Distinguish Women Leaders”.

    The Caliper paper described its methodology as follows: “while much research has been published comparing the leadership styles of women and men, this study specifically focused on the personality qualities and motivational factors which are at the core of the underlying gender differences. This study included a valid and reliable personality assessment, the Caliper Profile, as well as a demographic analysis and in-depth interviews with 59 women leaders from some of the top companies in the United Kingdom and the United States . . .

  48. The subtitle of “Discovering Biblical Equality” is “Complementarity Without Hierarchy”

    This is because many egals see the term Complementarian as obfuscating and NOT straight talking, something believers are NOT to do. This is because the term was invented by some male hierarchicalists as a way to try to better “sell” the idea of gender hierarchy. There are reports of those at those meetings where they were trying to come up with a term that did not have such negative connotations as patriarchy or similar.

    So most egals DO believe in the complementary nature of the genders, what they deny is the gender hierarchy. This is my position.

    One way non-egals try to push back against egals is to claim egals want “equivalence” of genders, that is, the claim that to be consistent, egals need to claim there are no distinctions between genders, except for obvious ones. This is a bogus claim by non-egals for the most part.

    My concern is that there seems to be a lot of smokescreen stuff that is put out be non-egals, to NOT discuss the dividing issue, which is whether new covenant believers are to be in a gender hierarchy or not.

  49. “. . . These women came from 19 different business sectors; . . . For comparison purposes, the women leaders in this study were matched to a representative sample of male leaders drawn from Caliper’s database, representing similar job titles.”

    The study came to the following conclusions: “Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a stronger need to get things done and are more willing to take risks than male leaders . . . Women leaders also were found to be more empathic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts. ‘These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial,’ according to Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper. ‘We should emphasize that the male leaders in this study were also exceptional in these areas. But the women leaders set a new standard,’adds Dr. Greenberg.”

    The paper also concluded that, “The women leaders scored significantly higher than male leaders in ego-drive (persuasive motivation), assertiveness, willingness to risk, empathy, urgency, flexibility and sociability. The strong people skills possessed by women leaders enable them to read situations accurately and take in information from all sides. This willingness to see all sides of a situation enhances their persuasive ability. They can zero in on someone’s objections or concerns, weigh them appropriately, address them effectively and incorporate them into the grander scheme of things when appropriate. These women leaders are able to bring others around to their point of view or alter their own point of view— depending upon the circumstances and information they uncover. They can do this because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from. This allows them to come at a subject from their audience’s perspective, so that the people they are leading feel more understood,…

  50. “They can do this because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from. This allows them to come at a subject from their audience’s perspective, so that the people they are leading feel more understood, supported and valued.”

    The Caliper study findings are summarized into four specific statements about women’s leadership qualities:

    1. Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts.

    2. When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude.

    3. Women leaders demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making.

    4. Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks.

    In her book “Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman: The Unique Female Qualities of Leadership”, author Esther Wachs Book examines the careers of fourteen top female executives – among them Meg Whitman, President and CEO of eBay – to learn what makes them so successful. What she discovers echoes the Caliper study, including a willingness to reinvent the rules; an ability to sell their visions; the determination to turn challenges into opportunities; and a focus on ‘high touch’ in a high tech business world.

    And what about men? The Caliper study found that ““The male leaders we’ve studied, on the other hand, have a tendency to start from their own point of view,” explains Dr. Greenberg. “And because they are not as flexible or willing to interact with others, the male leaders may tend to force their perspective and convince through the strength of their position…rather than actually persuading. The male leaders we studied run the risk of not necessarily convincing people to agree with them so much as pushing for their point of view.”

    The above establishes my premise that men are not naturally better leaders than women, and refutes the contradictory premise in the lede.

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