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Thursday, May 04, 2017


Cool word, right? Okay, maybe not, but ... what is it? In an opinion piece entitled Is Your Pastor Sexist?, the New York Times says, "It refers to those who believe the Bible set forth that men should lead and have authority over women, and that married women must submit to their husbands." Feminist writer Carol Howard Merritt, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), wrote, "Complementarianism means married women have no choice over their lives at all.” (Emphasis in the original) Typical objections are based largely on the recognized abuse of the concept, focusing on overbearing, authoritarian husbands who use the notion to justify abusing their wives. It would appear from the article, however, that the biggest problem with complementarianism is that it views women as unequal and, perhaps worst of all, isn't in line with many mainline churches. Yeah, that about says it, right?

Missed it entirely.

Complementarianism is a biblical position originating from the Creation story in which God corrected the only part of His creation about which He said, "It is not good" (Gen 2:18). It was not good for Man to be alone, so He sought to "make him a helper fit for him." That "fit for him" is the idea of complementarianism. It sets aside male abuse of women by making male and female complementary. Two things are complementary when they combine in such a way as to enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other. It is two things filling in the gaps of the other producing a stronger, more complete union. As complements, they are the completion of each other. Where, in all of that, does "abuse" and "authoritarian" and "inequality" come into play? Complementarianism prevents these things on one side and corrects the "all genders are the same" error on the other. It provides equal worth and importance, since the roles are equally valuable and complement each other.

"So, you're saying that it does not mean that 'men should lead and have authority over women, and that married women must submit to their husbands'?" Yes ... and no. Complementarianism does not mean all women should submit to all men. It is only in terms of husband and wife. And even there it does not mean what so many seem to think it means. Interestingly, there is no Scripture that commands men to be in authority over women. There is Scripture that tells wives to submit to their husbands. You might not see the distinction, but it's clear and critical. Husbands are commanded to "live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7) and to "love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph 5:25). In fact, Paul said, "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them" (Col 3:19) and that they were to "love their wives as their own bodies" (Eph 5:28). Correlating spousal abuse with these kinds of commands is, quite frankly, impossible.

The Bible does give authority in the church to males (1 Tim 2:12-14), but biblical leadership at all levels is servant leadership (Mark 10:42-45; John 13:3-5; 1 Peter 5:1-3). This is true in the church and in the home. Conversely, submission is a Christian value, beginning first with Christ and working through all believers (Psa 40:8; James 4:7; John 5:19; John 12:49-50; 1 Cor 15:27-28; Eph 5:21).

The question is of roles, not of equality or even restriction. Consider this easy question. Men cannot have babies; only women can have babies. Does this make men less equal or women superior? No. It isn't a question of inequality; it is a question of roles. The question is not about equality or even "How does it make me feel?" The question is "What does the Bible say?" and, then, "Go thou and do likewise."


David said...

It takes a complete failure of understanding the English language to come to the conclusion that complementarianism has anything to do with dominance. I mean, it's right there in the word. Complement. That blouse complements that skirt doesn't mean that one has power over the other, it means it makes the other better.

Stan said...

Yes, indeed, but as we've already discovered words often don't mean what they mean anymore. (And, sadly, our education system is lacking, so that many people have a smaller vocabulary ... supposably.)

David said...

Don't believe it's the education system. It's parents not caring enough to teach, correct, and reprove their children. Irregardless, people are not bright often.

Danny Wright said...

All is seen through the lens of power. Know one seems to know what equality is, but they sure do know that when one has power over another--unless it is the hand of the almighty as expressed by a certified government bureaucrat or democrat politician--then inequality is present and must be eradicated, especially in marriage.