So now our president has decided to drop the restriction of women in combat. While earlier generations thought that women deserved respect and care, we've outgrown that silly notion. They've now managed to exchange the best of what humans can see for the worst. They don't deserve respect and care. No one does. Our government has decided that women and men are equal enough to both be intentionally placed in the line of fire ...
I am a complementarian. By that I mean I like to say complimentary things about people. No, that's not it. "Complementarianism" is the theological view that men and women are created with equal value, but with differing roles and responsibilities. It stands in opposition to "egalitarianism", the view that men and women are equal and have no gender-based variations in roles, functions, or responsibilities. I am one convinced that the Bible is abundantly clear that the latter is false and that from the beginning God designed male and female to be equal in value but different (complementary) in role.
Now, you can find all sorts of places to find the arguments on both sides. Complementarians base their views on the myriads of Scriptures referencing roles of Father and Son, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, males and females. Egalitarians primary call on Gal 3:28 -- "There is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" -- as their source and then try to align other Scriptures with that notion. The arguments get sticky from there on out and you'll have to sort through them. (Note that in almost every case the two sides end up talking past each other. One side says "Equal worth but differing roles" and the other side says "Equal worth so no differing roles" as if one explains the other.) That's not my purpose here. My goal is to lay out a reason to look. I am a complementarian. Why? What does it matter? Why even bother with the discussion? What difference does it make?
Note first that all agree that the question is not essentially cultural, but theological. Both are theological views. They go back to who God is, what His design is, what the Bible teaches, and so on. These are not minor issues. They are fundamental.
The question is quite clearly pivotal in the question of male and female roles (since the roles of male and female are the primary question of the two positions). What does God intend manhood and womanhood to be? Are they the same or different? Did God design men and women to be the same or different? Did He design men to have strengths and weaknesses that differ from the strengths and weaknesses of women or are these just human strengths and weaknesses? Beyond that, the question works its way immediately into everyday living. Are the roles of husband and wife different? Are the roles of father and mother different? Did God intend that men and women in church have the same roles or differing ones? These things bear on every facet of life. Just as importantly, since it is a theological question, it would seem obvious that knowing what God intended would be of great value. If God intended men and women to be complementary -- filling in gaps for each other and operating on roles designed by God for them -- then it should be something we embrace with pleasure and gratitude. And vice versa. These things matter.
Setting aside (for the moment) the arguments for complementarianism (or egalitarianism), I want to look at the ramifications for a moment. What does it matter? First, it has been for the last 50 years a key issue in many (most?) churches. Are women in charge, or are men? For the first 1800 years of church history there was no question. Women certainly had their ministries, but men were in charge. They got this ridiculous notion from passages like 1 Tim 2:11-14, 1 Cor 11:3, and 1 Cor 14:34-35. But with the advent of feminism starting in the 19th century and its astronomical rise in the 20th century, the trend has been to discard these types of passages in favor of egalitarianism. Roles are not determined by a biblical view of gender, but by personal preference -- "calling".
Feminism also brought about changes in marriage. For almost all of history (let alone Church history) the view of marriage has been that the husband is in charge and the wife is in submission. The Church has agreed, again based on "obscure" passages like Eph 5:22-24 and 1 Peter 3:1-6 (along with, of course, 1 Cor 11:3 ... again). The outcome has been a two-headed monster where each marriage is structured with two heads -- man and woman. "I now pronounce you man and wife" has been deleted from weddings, no brides vow any longer to "obey", and the only "correct" structure in a marriage is that both lead equally. Fitting that into a 1 Cor 11:3 paradigm fails miserably, but it's the view of the day.
Having destructured church polity and restructured marriage, the next question is the basic question. What is the difference between man and woman? Everyone agrees it is not about value. Everyone. But if there is no gender difference in role, what is there? If it is simply anatomy and nothing more, that can be fixed, can't it? I mean, that is obviously something that is changeable. What else? And we end up down at this level with gender confusion. It becomes a question of gender identity. Have you heard that one before? You should have, because it is absolutely the question of the day. Having dismantled church leadership and marriage, we are at the point now to argue that, since the clear teachings on church leadership (male) are not clear and the clear teachings on marriage (patriarchal) are not clear, obviously the other clear teachings on sexual identity are not clear. Who says that it's wrong for a male to be sexually attracted to a male? Who says that females shouldn't be more like men? Your Bible? Don't be ridiculous! Haven't we already settled that question? Call it coincidence if you like, but it appears to be almost universal that those who call themselves Christians and believe that homosexual behavior is moral are also those classified as egalitarians. The egalitarian view -- "no gender difference" -- would produce the logical conclusion regarding the morality of homosexual behavior.
And so it goes. As it has worked itself out, the question of whether or not God intended man and woman to be equal in value but different in roles or equal in value and equal in roles has become a question of fundamental biblical tenets. The question is first and foremost one about the nature of God -- theological. For instance, if "equal" must mean "equal in authority" (as egalitarians assert), then in what sense can we say that Christ was "equal" with the Father when Christ Himself said that He was in submission to the Father. It is a theological question. Then it is about the nature of His creation -- male and female. Ultimately it comes down to the question of roles in church, marriage, family, and even sexuality. These are pervasive issues and not of small or unimportant value. No, no egalitarian argues that men and women are the same. Still, in the final analysis, the result is that men and women are different; it just doesn't matter how. What you need to decide is whether or not that's what God intended. It isn't a trivial question.