Yes, Call it what it is: Patriarchy

For a long time I have said a number of times that I don’t like either “complementarian” or “egalitarian,” since the former is not really what is meant and the latter is too tied into modernity. I only begrudgingly accept egalitarian and prefer the term “mutuality.” So, what Rachel Held Evans said recently is precisely how I see things: complementarianism, at the bottom, is patriarchy. It is hierarchicalism.

3. And they [complementarians] are losing ground because, at the practical  level, evangelicals are realizing that complementarianism doesn’t actually promote complementary relationships, but rather hierarchal ones.

Complementarianism is patriarchy—nothing more, nothing less. (Though it is sometimes called “soft patriarchy.”) This was made crystal clear when John Piper announced months ago that Christianity is inherently masculine. Such a view can hardly be described as “complementary” when it excludes one gender entirely. We experience the same discomfort when we realize that, based on the “complementarian” understanding of gender, Fred Phelps would be more qualified to speak to your church on Sunday morning by virtue of being a man than someone like Lois Tverberg  or Carolyn Custis James or Christine Caine. When a man with no biblical training whatsoever is considered more qualified to teach than a woman with a PhD in theology or a woman whose work in New Testament scholarship is renowned the world over, we are not seeing complementariaism at work, but patriarchy. (And, I might add, we are missing the Apostle Paul’s point to Timothy about teaching entirely—but that’s a topic for another day.)

Furthermore, as Russell Moore himself has observed, even married couples who identify as “complementarians” are functioning as equal partners rather than forcing a hierarchal pattern onto their relationship that is highly prescriptive regarding gender.  This should come as no surprise seeing as how a truly complementary relationship is one in which differences are celebrated, but not forced. If your marriage is like mine, this means that the complementary differences between you and your spouse often fall into gender-influenced norms (I am more emotional; Dan is more even-keeled), but not always (Dan is better at nurturing relationships than I am; I am more competitive). Rather than trying to force our personalities and our roles into prescribed molds based on gender, it just makes more sense to allow our natural difference to enhance and challenge one another. We lead where we are strong; we defer where we are weak.

Complementarianism isn’t working—in marriages and in church leadership— because it’s not actually complementarianism; it’s patriarchy.  And patriarchy doesn’t work because God created both men and women to reflect God’s character and God’s sovereignty over creation, as equal partners with equal value.

***

UPDATE: For those who think I mean “patriarchy” as an insult rather than a description of reality, consider this: In the current issue of The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Owen Strachan wrote, “For millennia, followers of God have practiced what used to be called patriarchy and is now called complementarianism.”

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Amos Paul

    Can I just say that the implications of both words that you express distaste for is the exact reason that I, personally, profess the word ‘equalitarian’? It’s a real word. I think it avoids a lot of the current, unnecessary baggage.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/equalitarian

  • Kel Hahn

    I don’t think of Patriarchy in these terms. I consider myself a patriarch (and identify myself as such in my personal mission statement) in the sense that I am responsible for raising sons to know God’s ways and follow him, who will raise sons to know God and follow him, etc.–which is consistent with how God viewed Abraham’s role (Gen. 18:17-19) and underscores the failure of most of Israel and Judah’s kings. So I get frustrated when I read posts that do seem to postulate patriarchy as bad (even if it’s not intentional). I consider it an honor and a huge responsibility to raise my kids with an eye to a hundred or more years down the road.

    But, applied to marriage, I confess that I don’t really have a view–at least, I don’t have a stake in the game. I am a part of a church that emphasizes what is described above as the complementarian viewpoint and practice. I suppose this would be intolerable for most, but my wife prefers it (she really does) and so do nearly all of the wives in the church. Our respective roles in our marriages are lived out in faith and we keep the lines of communication open when issues arise.

    In fact, while in seminary, I really struggled with this issue because where I attended greatly emphasized the egalitarian position–so I was often caught between two perspectives. I had lengthy debates with my pastors about the wrongness of the way we did things (they were very gracious and loved me anyway…seminarians are like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. Before long, all of the brooms are out and running amuck). One day, while on a personal retreat, God clearly impressed upon me to drop it. In a sense, he said, “These are the people I want you to build with. This is how they do things. Your wife isn’t upset about it. Neither are the ladies in the church. The only one upset about it is you. So leave it alone.”

    And I have. I apologize if this hasn’t contributed to the conversation in a meaningful way, but I guess my argument is: if you really feel strongly that women should be allowed to have leadership positions and that complementarianism is wrong, then join yourself to churches who believe the same thing. I don’t really care what John Piper thinks, as he does not speak for all of us. No one does. We can all have our own ways of interpreting such things and not blast one another in the media (thinking of the Al Mohler/Andy Stanley post yesterday) because we see and do things differently.

  • http://www.northminstersandiego.com Markus Watson

    Thanks for passing along these words. I think Rachel is totally right. And thanks, Scot, for inspiring me with books like Junia is Not Alone and The Blue Parakeet. Thanks to your books, I’m starting a sermon series in two weeks entitled Leading Ladies. We need to hear more stories of women in the Scriptures!

  • Jim

    It is only because the church has become so politicized and has adopted modernism that a perfectly decent word such as Patriarchy may be cast as negative. St. Paul in Romans praises patriarchy and there are no passages which ever speak negatively about the concept. A culture is ruined when it becomes matriarchal as women are compelled to fulfill roles designed by God for men to fulfill.

  • scotmcknight

    Markus, Awesome!

  • Joe Canner

    Nomenclature and semantics aside, Rachel makes a good point about what complementarianism really means. However, at my church the women are usually more resistant than the men to the idea of women in teaching and leadership roles. Does anyone have any ideas as to why this is (assuming, of course, that this is not a unique quirk of my church)?

  • http://falantedios.wordpress.com nick gill

    Scot, I don’t really see how pointing to the Strachan quote supports your protestation that you aren’t using patriarchy in a pejorative sense.

  • phil_style

    @Jim, “A culture is ruined when it becomes matriarchal as women are compelled to fulfill roles designed by God for men to fulfill”

    Role designed for men to fulfill…
    Do you think women are actually incapable of fulfilling said roles? Or just that God doesn’t want them doing it, in spite of their capabilities.

  • Phil Miller

    I consider myself a patriarch (and identify myself as such in my personal mission statement) in the sense that I am responsible for raising sons to know God’s ways and follow him, who will raise sons to know God and follow him, etc.–which is consistent with how God viewed Abraham’s role (Gen. 18:17-19) and underscores the failure of most of Israel and Judah’s kings.

    I’m personally getting a little tired of going around on this issue too, but I hear this sort of response a lot. My question is, and always has been, how is that any different than what your wife’s responsibility is? Certainly if you passed away or became incapacitated in some way, you’d expect her to provide the same kind of care and oversight for your sons as you do. I guess I just don’t understand the whole thinking that says a husband is in some sense the more responsible party. Honestly, I think that if I were a woman, I would find that sort of statement very offensive. What makes the wife any less able to be responsible for the spiritual development of a household than her husband?

  • phil_style

    @Phill Miller, I agree with your assessment of this: “I consider myself a patriarch (and identify myself as such in my personal mission statement) in the sense that I am responsible for raising sons to know God’s ways and follow him, who will raise sons to know God and follow him, etc.”

    I don’t see why women/ a woman should be excluded from that role. If that were my role, it would be my wife’s role too……

  • Dan Arnold

    I think that “soft patriarchy” is probably more accurate (cf, Webb, Slaves, Women and Homosexuality) than patriarchy for what is being advocated from the traditionalist among us. However, because I think that people of both genders complement each other (and hopefully compliment each other as well :) ), I prefer the phrase “complementarity without hierarchy” (cf, Pierce and Merrill Groothuis, Discovering Biblical Equality). To me this captures the created nature of humanity, both pre-fall and lived out in the present, redemptive, messy community of the in-breaking Kingdom.

  • Tamara Rice

    The most staunch adherents to patriarchy are typically women, in my personal experience–Mark Driscoll aside. I believe it comes from an “if I can’t, neither can you” mentality; a need to “be right” in your personal martyrdom; and the intense need to not realize halfway through life that maybe you would be a totally different woman if you had been taught that you were just as capable and godly as any man. Denial is not just a river in Egypt, as they say. I say this from personal experience, knowing what it took for me to realize that what I was taught was wrong and what I had believed was wrong and that there really is no male or female in Christ, but there is a lot of patriarchy in the Apostle Paul, which should be taken with a grain of salt in the same way we take a lot of other passages of Scripture with a grain of salt, knowing the cultural norms of the day. This is not picking and choosing, it is not a slippery slope, it is merely wisdom and a good dose of common sense, when one takes the Bible as a whole and not in carefully chosen parts.

  • Heather

    @ Jim- I think it may be in part because women are implicitly (if not explicitly) told not to be leaders in many contexts throughout their lives. If this message is not being addressed and denounced (within the family and community context) then women sometimes have to risk their much cherished relationships in order to step up as leaders. Or they may try but are denied the opportunities to serve. I think that’s just a part of the picture though…for me, it took explicit teaching (by both men and women who were close to me) that they respected women as equal partners in the church. Devaluing and condescension towards women is rampant in families and the church but it’s often subtle so goes on unchecked.

  • Dawne Piotrowski

    Joe Canner, I can only speak for myself, but some of the hesitancy may have to do with fear of being “bottled up” again after being released. As a woman who has been called to leadership by God, only to have a pastor explain to me how the call on a man is “different” from the way women are called, I went through many years of suppressing the desire because I thought it was wrong. Killing the desire in my soul was easier than allowing myself to hope and be disappointed.

  • Kel Hahn

    Guys, it’s not like she isn’t involved and I’m not saying she bears no responsibility. In saying I see myself as a patriarch, I am not denying that she is a part of that vision anymore than by saying “I am a husband” I am denying that she is part of the marriage. Not sure how I communicated that embracing my role denies her any responsibility for the vision. Do I need to refer to her as a matriarch?

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    Completely agree on the dislike of the terms.

  • Heather

    ** Oh sorry, I meant that previous comment to be in response to Joe

  • Chris

    I agree with Rachel and why don’t we do the same for the so-called “pro-life” stance.

    For all intents and purposes, it is simply anti-abortion, not consistently pro-life. Pro-life would entail all of life, not just the beginning. Pro-life would oppose capital punishment, assisted suicide, euthanasia and support poverty relief, peace-making, fair wages and fair trade…

  • Dawne Piotrowski

    “I consider myself a patriarch (and identify myself as such in my personal mission statement) in the sense that I am responsible for raising sons to know God’s ways and follow him, who will raise sons to know God and follow him, etc.”

    Kel, are daughters NOT to be taught to know God and follow him, or am I misreading what you said?

  • http://chickchaotic.wordpress.com/ Elizabeth Chapin

    In a conversation regarding Evans post on my Facebook page some joked about complimentarianism as being when spouses compliment each other all the time! Our terminology is SO confusing. I like the idea of clarifying terms. Most egalitarians I know are not against complementarity in relationships. What they have issue with is the hierarchy, patriarchy and strict gender role definitions that many who call themselves complementarians subscribe to. I’m curious what makes you prefer mutuality over egalitarian?

  • phil_style

    I can totally understand individual couples deciding to establish a relationship where they two partners complement each other with respect to tasks/ roles according to their own skills and preferences, determined mutually. If they wish to call this approach “complementary”, then so bit it. I would actually call this “equality”…. equals complement each other by mutual consent, not by diktat.

    What I don’t understand, is why (apart from sex/ reproduction) those roles are imposed by church order in advance. If I became incapacitated in any way, it would be senseless to restrict my partner from stepping into any of the roles I had previously agreed to carry out, just because of gender. So, following that logic, whoever has the skills and/or ability, should adopt the “role”. Being a dude makes me no more capable a leader, manager, puff pastry maker, accountant, engineer, bedtime story reader or dish washer than anyone else.

  • Kel Hahn

    Dawne,

    That is a salient point. Up until recently, I have only had sons! Yes, sons and daughters.

  • Vicki

    @ Joe

    For me, it seems two things are likely. One, women have built their identity around the prescribed roles in scripture, as they understand them. To begin to shift and change those things can rock their boat, if not given a different (or better) way to understand and interpret their Biblical identity.

    Secondly, a sense of security has been built on the man leading the way. To move from a male leadership perspective to one of partnership and mutual accountability changes a woman’s understanding of responsibility and control. She has seen her place as one of submission to the leadership of a man. To shift to mutual accountability can be unfamiliar and insecure territory.

    I don’t think the shift can take place without sufficient understanding and cultural change. For women to buy in by just saying it, when they’ve not really been told a different and more compelling story, can be threatening.

    Thoughts?

  • Steve Sherwood

    A culture is ruined when women lead????

    That is quite a statement, even with the “because they are taking God appointed roles from men” qualification.

  • http://falantedios.wordpress.com nick gill

    Is gender a real, created, intentional difference or just a random bit of plumbing?

    Here’s my struggle – I believe that hierarchicalism/complementarianism/(insert-pejorative-jargon-here) pigeonholes people in ways that the Creator does not intend. It says, “Only one gender may do this bit of stuff, and only one gender may do this other bit of stuff.”

    OTOH, I believe that mutuality/egalitarianism/equalitarianism/(insert-cool-jargon-here) trivializes the intentional, created difference that gender seems to be. It says, “Males and females are equally qualified to fill any role imaginable, even though males and females are very different.”

    Are the differences trivial or meaningful?
    If they’re trivial, what’s the point of talking about them at all?
    If they’re meaningful, what’s the point of acting as if they’re not?

  • Phil Miller

    I think what has been said here is by the ladies regarding the issue why women sometimes seem more willing to accept patriarchy is true. I think the forces telling women that there place is in the home with the children are still very strong within even egalitarian churches.

    My wife and I used to be campus pastors, and there were many women who seemed to think that their performance in school wasn’t important, because, after all, they were going to get married and have kids. Their husband would take care of them. First of all, I think regardless of what one thinks of gender roles, this is stupid thinking. Why should any woman be in a place where she’s at the mercy of others to provide for her? Husbands do die, get sick, leave, etc. I don’t judge anyone’s decision to stay at home with children – God bless them for doing it. But I do question the culture that holds it up as the highest ideal for women, and puts down those who aren’t doing it.

  • Thomas

    It just goes to show that Rachel and Scot are really not interested in engaging and knowing complementarians. If patriarchy remains your understanding of complmentarians than so be it, but it is done because you speak in the abstract rather than listening to what others are really saying.

    I don’t know how many times men like Piper, Carson, Keller, and many others can speak of male leadership through the rubric of Eph. 5 and servant leadership. I can only assume you have not read the extensive amount of literature where they painstakingly say complementarianism is primarily about serving your wife the way Jesus serves his bride the church, or you just don’t believe them. Either case, it is shameful to distort others views and try to re-frame the conversation about patriarchy, when they other side would passionately say, “no that is not my view.”

    This is where it would be good to not continue in this conversation, till you can describe complementarianism in a way that, someone who holds to it would agree with.

  • Vicki

    @ Thomas – why then would it need to be called complementarianism? Why not mutuality? We are both mutually submissive to one another — Ephesians 5.

  • Rick

    Vicki-

    “I don’t think the shift can take place without sufficient understanding and cultural change. For women to buy in by just saying it, when they’ve not really been told a different and more compelling story, can be threatening.”

    That sounds somewhat condensending, and I doubt you meant it that way. Many women may just prefer the complimentary way, and not because they are threatened by change.

  • http://falantedios.wordpress.com nick gill

    I don’t think it is the “highest ideal for women,” but I think that simple math suggests that a system where at least one parent spends all day with their children might be better than a system where (since both parents work full-time outside the home) neither parent will spend more than 2-3 hours a day with their children, and that being post-work tired time squeezed in before bedtime for the children.

    Once school starts, you’re legally required to give your children to the government for 1/3 of their day. I’m just not sure that’s the ideal either.

  • Steve Sherwood

    Thomas, I recently listened to a video of Piper arguing that a woman suffering abuse (emotional or physical) in her home had one biblical recourse, take her concern to men in her congregation and trust that they would get her spouse to stop. That, coupled with his famous/infamous statements about the intrinsically male nature of Christianity lead many to the conclusion that Scot has arrived at. He had a gentle, compassionate tone in his voice on the video, and I don’t doubt that that was sincere, but the message nonetheless was, “women, it is your job to submit, to stay and pray that other men will stop your abuser.” That seemed pretty patriarchal to me.

    To me it feels similar to folks not wanting their position to be called “limited atonement” when, in fact, that is the most accurate description of their TULIP theology.

  • Vicki

    @ Rick

    It was not meant to be condescending. Thanks for pointing it out that it might be. My point is to recognize that women cannot change or make a shift that might be uncomfortable for them in a culture that only tells one story. Where or how do the women in your church hear a different viewpoint or alternative story when the predominant or only one (whether through communication or example) is that of complemtarianism?

    I work in a ministry of spiritual formation for women. When we tell stories of women, or offer a different story for women, most women say to us, “why have we never heard this before”? Our challenge is that they then return to environments where they are only able to live one kind of story… They are then left with choices, none of which are very good. Do they stay? Do they go? What does it look like to stay when the predominant story is different than their own?

  • Harold

    Thomas:
    Sorry, brother, but your post is a case of “pot meet kettle.” To caricature Rachel and Scot as “not interested” is a distortion of their point and guilty of just what you’re accusing.
    Piper, Carson, et al. may SAY a lot. That isn’t the issue. What is at issue is the way too many men don’t serve their wives, because “the Bible says I’m the head of this household.” The theory of complementarianism may be a valid attempt to deal with the Biblical material. The practice of complementarianism too often (not always) looks and sounds like patriarchy. We might not like the terms or labels, but if it swims like a duck and quacks like a duck. . .

  • Kenton

    Chris (11:22)-

    Should we also drop the label “pro-choice” while we’re at it? I know very few people who self-identify as pro-choice who are also in favor of school choice.

  • Thomas

    Not at all Harold, I desire to understand the egalitarian view and have read very widely on it. I just can’t imagine Rachel and Scot saying to Tim Keller’s face, “you are really about patriarchy, lets not sugar coat it.” So you will type it online, but something in you knows that it is less then generous because you have not strived to understand what they really believe.

    As I said before, if you how you describe complementarianism (patriarchy) is not how one who holds to it would see it, then you have failed to really understand their view.

  • Val

    @Kel Hahn – I consider it an honor and a huge responsibility to raise my kids with an eye to a hundred or more years down the road.

    See, this is where I think the comp group is headed, but this is exactly the opposite track the NT writers were on. First, God told Abraham he would be the father of a great nation (childless, landless old Abraham) – and Sarah and him did what most do in order to get there – they practiced polygamy (a form of it anyway, with Hagar). God wanted the opposite – a nation built by him (Issac was a miracle). Notice his other son, Ishmael, is also the “father” of a great (or very long-lasting) tribe or ‘nation’ – the Arabs. In order to be a worldly long-laster you need a) land, at least in the agricultural era, b) sons, lots of them and c) many of the said sons to be in the army, and a strong army. None of this guarantees a long-lasting nation – Esau, Lot, etc. has nations that lasted hundreds of years, while Abrahams two sons fathered nations (that give credit to those 2 men as their forefathers) that lasted thousands. Who decides if their off-spring last thousands? God. No mortal can determine any of that.

    Now, lets look at the followers of Jesus. What did they do to ensure their church lasted centuries? Did they go out and practice polygamy? Fight for control of the Empire and insist on state-protection for their followers? No. They didn’t even marry, or consider marriage an essential to building the Kingdom of God. They brought in the weak, broken and despised of the empire they lived in, and changed the world. NOT with world-class leaders, leadership training, etc. No, instead, through the orphans picked off the garbage heaps, the widows, slaves and dejected.

    All this talk of natural roles, leadership mandates, etc. sound more like Rome’s justification of adopting Christianity than of Jesus or Paul’s teachings. There was a map on fb a while back that showed the rise and fall of world empires since 5,000 BC. Christianity was a little blip for a long time after Rome faded. Rome was a fading empire by the time it adopted Christianity as it’s own. Christianity is at it’s best when God’s way (not the world’s ways) are followed. By not trying to find the best, most powerful way to promote a Christian lifestyle, but just living out Jesus’s commands to love and serve, Christianity properly glorifies it’s beaten, crucified, and risen King.

    I could go on, but right now I have a sweet, christlike 2 year old poking at the keyboard, who is my son, but not my progeny, nor my genetic child, he will not grow up to raise the next generation, he has a genetic condition that makes this impossible, but he, the one the world left behind in the foster system, is the true image of christlikeness in our home.

  • Kaleb

    Thomas,

    If you think that Scott and others don’t understand your view, then maybe you should think twice before you ever critique another opposing viewpoint on anything. I find it ironic that people that hold ‘more traditional’ interpretations or ‘litteral’ interpretations are usual the ones attacking other peoples view points they think are wrong. Take Piper when he was on a crusade against the ‘emerging church’ or any other blowhard attacking more ‘liberal’ interpretations of scripture. Do you think those people being critiqued ever said, “wow, that guy really understands where I am coming from and he critiques my view well”? No it doesn’t work that way does it? So be careful when you want to ever critique a view because then the other person can just say you just don’t understand, as you are doing now.

  • MWK

    Is it just me, or do blog posts that generate the most comments focus toward attacking those with differing opinions on secondary issues?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I have a serious question for the complementarians. Why not change the roles and have women do the leading part (or whatever it is that you call the male part) and the men pick up the other part? If there is no degradation about it, why not switch it around?

  • JPL

    I have an exegetical question. In Eph. 5:21, we are told to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. In vs. 22 the word submit does not occur in the Greek but is rather “borrowed” from verse 21. What is the significance of this? It seems that a natural conclusion then is: the basis for wives submitting and husbands laying down their life for their wives is mutual submission to one another. Does this have merit? Why doesn’t this come up in the discussion and why is this nuance different from the Colossians version?

  • Alan K

    Scot, can you help us here? It seems that there are competing anthropologies at work. Does the identification of the human being primarily stem from creation? Or does the identification of the human being primarily stem from redemption? If anthropoligical assumptions are not dealt with, I’m afraid people will simply continue to talk, post, and shout past one another with regards to who the hell we are.

  • http://www.gallifant.com Caleb

    DRT,

    How do you interpret 1 Tim 2:13-14 when Paul appeals to the created order? (“For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but sthe woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Caleb, I interpret that as purely descriptive of what happened. Further, I interpret that as Paul belonging to a patriarchial culture that did not know that women are men’s equal, or likely better half. It’s that simple. Just like they did not know that the earth went around the sun.

  • scotmcknight

    Nick Gill,
    I don’t think “mutuality” carries that kind of baggage. (On your first comment, did I say something like that?)

  • Shane

    Colossians 2:8-11 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.”

  • scotmcknight

    Thomas, I’m reviewing Keller’s book right now and I see significant and substantive differences between Keller and some other kinds of complementarianism, Piper included. Keller’s approach to complementarianism is self-sacrificing love; I see Piper’s to be much more in the direction of leadership. (I reviewed Piper’s book on marriage at this site.)

  • scotmcknight

    Alan K, we live between the times so we are smack dab in the middle of both a creation order and a redemption order, leaning forward of course.

  • http://www.gallifant.com Caleb

    “Further, I interpret that as Paul belonging to a patriarchial culture that did not know that women are men’s equal, or likely better half. It’s that simple. Just like they did not know that the earth went around the sun.”

    Come on now DRT. Comparing something that’s seemingly subjective with something scientific (that is objective and can be measured)? Couldn’t I just refute your claim rather easily by saying that Paul, in stating the created order, isn’t making a claim about equality?

    Here’s my question to egalitarians: is headship important? (Regardless of the gender)

  • scotmcknight

    I will say what I think is one of the tell-tale signs of when complementarianism is really patriarchy: when the first major discussion or explanation is about roles and not love and service. When it is roles, it is male leadership that becomes the fundamental meaning, and that is patriarchy.

    If the first set of categories is “spiritual friendship,” which is precisely what — God bless him — Keller says, then I’m 100% behind the idea.

    This is what Paul says to men, and you can say this is what “headship” means if you want — the first word is love, Christ-like sacrificial love, not leadership over. When we are talking about men in relationship with wives, the key theme is sacrificial love.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

  • Thomas

    Thanks Scot, that is helpful. So would you say there are varying kinds of complementarianism?

  • Phil Miller

    Caleb,
    Regarding “headship” in 1 Corinthians 11, there’s a few things I’d say. First, in that passage, Paul is addressing a totally different issue. He’s addressing propriety in worship, not gender roles. That’s very much my problem with most of the typical complementarian “kill” verses. Paul is generally addressing something else altogether or he’s addressing a specific situation in a specific place. We can’t put word in his mouth, and we can’t assume that everything he’s saying was meant to be universalized for the church for all time.

    In Greek literature, the word that Paul uses for “head” simply means that – a physical head. It’s very rarely used to connote a hierarchical authority structure. You don’t see, for instance, it used to describe a general position in relationship to his troops. It can, however, mean “source” as in the “head of a river”. This reading, to me, makes much more sense all around. I think, for instance, it’s a stretch to say that the Father is Jesus’ boss, but it makes perfect sense to say that the Father is the source of Jesus (what does “begotten” mean if not that?).

    As far as the other issues in 1 Corinthians 11, it seems that Paul’s point there is to simply say that people need to clearly be what they were created to be in worship. Men should look like men, and women like women. They should look like respectable Romans citizens. For a woman to go without a head-covering was essentially saying that she was sexually available and promiscuous (some would even say a prostitute). So Paul is treading a line in Corinth not much different than what he treads elsewhere. Yes, Christians are partaking a renewed creation, but they are still living in the present one. It means paying respect to certain social orders. After all, when newcomers come to a worship service, we want the focus to be on Christ, not on us.

  • John W Frye

    @ Thomas,
    “It just goes to show that Rachel and Scot are really not interested in engaging and knowing complementarians…”

    I like the fact that you move quickly from the issue of patriarchy to “servant-leadership” in the home. That move, however, does not absolve you of the position that men are *over* women in matters of local church/ecclesial ministry. In the complementarian view, women are *under* men in ministry. That, my friend, is hierarchical and patriarchal. I applaud your commitment to servant leadership, but it doesn’t erase blatant patriarchialism in your view of women.

  • http://www.gallifant.com Caleb

    Scot, I’d agree that fully. By what did you dodge v. 22-24 since that’s the more sensitive set of verses with regard to this discussion? That’s also the set of verses we get the idea of “headship:” “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

  • Vicki

    @ Caleb

    In answer to your question, it seems we need to determine whether Paul was being prescriptive or descriptive in what he said. If prescriptive, this is for all people at all times; if descriptive, it spoke to people of a particular culture about how to relate to one another within their cultural design. If choosing to interpret it descriptively, if in that culture the husband was identifying himself as the head of his household and his wife, Paul was saying his headship is to be as that of Christ to the church, one in which he loves and serves his wife, contrary to the cultural situation at that time.

  • John Inglis

    How is patriarchy not a pejorative work in an equlitarian / egalitarian culture? Whether the so-called “hard” or so-called “soft” patriarchy, the bottom line is that there is a top dog. The only difference between the two is that the “soft” brand of patriarchy is allegedly the exercise of the authority for the benefit of others, rather than for self.

    There is thus a difference between being a “father” and a “patriarch”. A father (as well as a mother) trains children to be disciples of Jesus. A patriarch may do that (if the soft kind, it would be assumed), but a patriarch has a bottom line of authority–and not just for the immediate family either.

    John

  • Dan Arnold

    JPL,

    Excellent questions and a very difficult one to delve into in a blog comment. Suffice it to say that the issue does come up but it’s not as clear cut as one may think. From what I have studied, those on the Egalitarian side find the omission of submit (hypotassō) to be exegetically significant and come to similar conclusions to what you note. However, some on the Complementarian side have focused on how the word your translation renders “one another” (allēlōn) is used elsewhere in Ephesians and conclude that it means “another” or “others”, which implies in the context of submission a definite hierarchy.

    On top of that, the textual tradition is more ambiguous than many realize. The word submit (hypotassō) does indeed occur in verse 5:21 in the Byzantine text family but not consistently in other text families. The editors of both major contemporary Greek texts (UBS and Nestle-Aland) do not think hypotassō was original for good, but not 100% indisputable reasons. What this means is that we can not say, without specific qualifications, that the word for submit does not occur in verse 21.

    I’m not saying what your thinking isn’t potentially a good understanding, but I want to point out that the exegetical waters are much deeper and harder to explore than most people realize.

    Shalom uvrecha,

  • Sue

    This is from the 2009 statement from Church of the Redeemer in Manhatten. I have not cited the relevant passages on self-sacrifice but note that they are also in the statement. The document describes,

    “Tie-breaking authority2. Husbands are to enlist their wives wisdom in all
    decisions reflecting marriage as true partnership. Furthermore, that
    woman is specifically designed to be the complementary helper of the man
    (Genesis 2:18) implies that man should rely upon woman’s insights and
    aptitudes. Nevertheless, there must be tie-breaking authority in every
    relationship to address the issue of a stalemate. In this case, a man ought
    to overrule his spouse only when it is his conviction that the alternative
    would be destructive to the interests of the marriage or family. Without
    this provision of leadership, marriage lacks direction. Moreover, God
    ordains who is to lead. He has not left the decision up to a husband’s or
    wife’s judgment, which would tend to be based upon self-assessed
    aptitudes, gifts or interpersonal skills. This rescues the marriage
    relationship from a potentially devastating power struggle. In summary,
    while headship does grant real authority, it requires the man to submit to
    his role given by God, which brings greater responsibility and
    accountability.”

    There are specific problems when a husband can overrule his wife because he is concerned about her destructive influence on the family, but a wife may never overrule the husband when his influence may be destructive to the family. This in spite of the fact that Kristof’s book clearly demonstrates that men exert more destructive influence on the family than wives. (for whatever reason) This one single statement is overall negative to the health of the family.

    The other part that concerns me is that women are told that they have lesser responsibility and accountability for their own family than the husband.

    These two statements are detrimental to the health of the family overall.

    If Tim Keller did not approve of this paper then I do not know how it was published.

    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:F0_EkXZiejQJ:www.redeemersa.org/helpfulpapers/Women%2520in%2520Ministry%2520at%2520RPC.pdf+&hl=en&gl=ca&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESi8ijAe7R_IZ3niqKa3S2Rfa4jzNUrpyxHV1vIRyKcEo7WgJ-b8u0c0oNTE4rVc2gyMPkLIaq1ZyFlsj2fvzDkdnrexc0TYg1T6AjhKHl6wBI-9E-3VD36lnCqgU2Z5bKQvxy_4&sig=AHIEtbR7JiUr_8Vtxyshd6U7ye6CKQjZCQ

  • Dan Arnold

    Oops, my references to verse 5:20 should read 5:21 and my references to verse 5:21 should read 5:22. (Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb…)

  • Sue

    Dan,

    You write,

    “However, some on the Complementarian side have focused on how the word your translation renders “one another” (allēlōn) is used elsewhere in Ephesians and conclude that it means “another” or “others”, which implies in the context of submission a definite hierarchy.”

    There are no examples that I have ever come across where allelon is used to refer to one group of people acting towards another. They gospel is not that one group of Christians loves the other group, or that one group esteems the other group as better, or that one group carries the burdens of the other group, or that one group defers to the other group.

    The scriptures clearly and unambiguously state that Christians are known by the love they bear to ONE ANOTHER. This is a core gospel statement, and cannot be reinterpreted to mean that Christians are made of of two classes, those that love, and those that receive love.

    I was surprised to find your explanation is now taught in the ESV Study Bible, but it is without any background information from Greek literature.

  • http://falantedios.wordpress.com nick gill

    “A father (as well as a mother) trains children to be disciples of Jesus.”

    Thus my question earlier about whether gender is a trivial and random difference or an intentional and relevant one.

    Are there things about being a male disciple that a mother can talk about but not fully teach because she is not a male?

    Are there things about being a female disciple that a father can talk about but not fully teach because he is not a female?

    It seems to me that the egalitarian/mutuality stance says, “Yes, men and women are different, but those differences don’t matter.” I think the patriarchy extreme makes them primary, and the egalitarian makes them irrelevant. But if they’re created, then they aren’t irrelevant. Are they?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Caleb says:
    May 8, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Come on now DRT. Comparing something that’s seemingly subjective with something scientific (that is objective and can be measured)? Couldn’t I just refute your claim rather easily by saying that Paul, in stating the created order, isn’t making a claim about equality?

    Here’s my question to egalitarians: is headship important? (Regardless of the gender)

    Caleb, I can tell you that I honestly believe as I said. I feel he is simply describing what happened and that fact that it is in a patriachal culture is to be expected.

    Further, equality of men and women can be measured scientifically in every way. For all practical purposes, they are equal.

    I hesistate to answer your headship question, because there are so many subtleties tied up in that. But let me say this. Headship at the expense of Shalom would be bad.

    P.S. Sorry if I make your life difficult Scot, I will strive to improve….

  • scotmcknight

    Caleb, because — as you can see — we are talking about what men do (not what women do). I take the women “submit” to be an orderly existence of sacrificing love for her husband. I take the husband’s love to be male-shaped kind of submission/orderly existence.

  • Dan Arnold

    Sue,

    Just to be clear, I intentionally didn’t delve into the particular strengths and weaknesses of each case. I just wanted to quickly spell out a couple of the divergent exegetical arguments concerning verses 5:21 and 22 in response to JPL’s very good questions.

    Shalom uvrecha,

  • Phil Miller

    It seems to me that the egalitarian/mutuality stance says, “Yes, men and women are different, but those differences don’t matter.” I think the patriarchy extreme makes them primary, and the egalitarian makes them irrelevant. But if they’re created, then they aren’t irrelevant. Are they?

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re getting at, but I don’t see what you’re trying to say. I don’t know that there are very many people who would claim to be egalitarian who would say that there aren’t some things that men should teach boys and women should teach women. That seems to be not the issue. If I want to learn how to play piano, I wouldn’t take lessons from a violinist.

    The issue is whether or not a man’s authority and responsibility somehow trumps or is greater than a woman’s in these relationships. I don’t see a Biblical case for making a case that God designed it so a man’s responsibility is greater than a woman’s when it comes to the family unit.

  • Vicki

    @ Scot McKnight….

    Would love to have “like” buttons added to the comments…most likely not possible, but thought I would ask :-)

  • Sue

    “Just to be clear, I intentionally didn’t delve into the particular strengths and weaknesses of each case. I just wanted to quickly spell out a couple of the divergent exegetical arguments concerning verses 5:21 and 22 in response to JPL’s very good questions.”

    In this particular case, we have a clear record of the commentary. Clement of Rome, Chrysostom and Calvin, all believed that “one another” meant just that. They struggled to explain how masters submit to slaves and kings to subjects. They struggled with their own attempts to uphold cultural hierarchies. But none of these commentators suggested that the verse meant “some submit to others.”

    This simple change to the text undermines the fundamentals of Christianity.

  • Sue

    The previous comment is in response to Dan at 2:38.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Serious question.

    What do the comps do about the fact that sexual gender is a continuum and not something absolute. Certainly no one would mistake me for a woman, nor my wife for a man. We fit the stereotypes quite nicely (including that she wants me to be in charge and like when I am in charge).

    But there are very large tails on the distribution. Many effeminate men, and masculine women. All the way down to ambiguous gender. Does the bible simply ignore them?

  • John Inglis

    Re “It seems to me that the egalitarian/mutuality stance says, “Yes, men and women are different, but those differences don’t matter.” I think the patriarchy extreme makes them primary, and the egalitarian makes them irrelevant. But if they’re created, then they aren’t irrelevant. Are they?”

    The psychological and mental differences between men and women are not exclusive to the one sex: they are not bounded sets–and that is the problem for complementarians. Like most things, there is a range and bell-curves in the attributes that men and women have, and a great deal of overlap.

    There is no such thing–either in nature or in scripture–as the pardigmatic man and women, where one sex is exclusively better than the other at certain things (like leadership, nurturing, forgiving, care, physical stature and work, emotionalism, etc.).

    There is so great a range in ability, and so much overlap, that it makes no sense at all to argue that God has preserved for men a role that he has made them best suited for.

    One could, more consistently with scripture, make the argument that God gave the top dog role to men and expect it to be followed just as He at one time forbid certain foods and expected those commands to be followed (even though pork, etc., can be perfectly fine to eat, even in primitive cultures).

    And the whole “there can be no direction in a marriage unless there is a tie-breaker” is such a false bogey man lame argument that it hardly bears responding to. Egalitarian marriages that I know of (including mine) have no problem with direction (ours is “be disciples of Jesus and serve others”) and no unsolvable decisionmaking problems. Indeed, the very fact that there would be a “tie” on an issue that would need breaking is something that I believe indicates a problem in a marriage that needs to be addressed.

    John

  • http://kristinrichardson.net Kristin

    It has always boggled me that when scripture beautifully portrays marriage as “two becoming one flesh” the church spends so much time picking apart the differences between man and woman and segregating them into perfect little gender role boxes.

  • http://falantedios.wordpress.com nick gill

    “I don’t see a Biblical case for making a case that God designed it so a man’s responsibility is greater than a woman’s when it comes to the family unit.”

    I don’t know that it is a *good* case, but the consistent presentation of the husband-wife relationship as comparable to the Christ-church relationship would imply precisely what you don’t see. Why would the Biblical writers select that particular comparison, rife with notions of authority and responsibility? If they meant them to be comparable except for in the area of authority, why didn’t they *say* that?

    I think, then, that the case would go, “Christ’s loving submission to the church in no way suggests a lessening or equality of responsibility or authority. Why doesn’t the comparison include that fact when discussing the male-female relationship?”

    (I would refute it by starting with “ezer kenegdo” and moving forward from there, through where hierarchical conflicts between male and female are a part of the Curse, not the Blessing… but I don’t know how well that refutation would hold up under close scrutiny)

  • Sue

    The problem is that legally, that is under law today, wives have the same responsibility and accountablity for their children, for debts, for voting, for contracts, etc. as their husbands. The legal relations are different from the complementarian teaching on marriage. This crack becomes a crevasse when there are serious legal, financial or health difficulties in the marriage.

    Perhaps under ancient law, women had lesser accountability, and in ancient cultures, the wife was legally weaker, and therefore, the husband and wife, in some way, as they were in ancient cultures, represented – in one aspect only – the relationship between Christ and the church. It is always, the strong sacrificing for the weak, and in some ways, this can mean, the parent for the child, the wealthy for the poor, etc, and completely overrides gender. All it means is that whoever is stronger sacrifices for whoever is weaker – whoever they are.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I have written several posts today, in draft form, to try and convince comps of how it feels to be egal. But I have not been successful in any of them.

    So I write to the egals.

    Folks, I share what for me is actual pain in trying to comprehend that the comps feel is appropriate. I have never had a child in physical danger without me being able to effect the situation, but I would imagine that this is what it feels like. I feel like my body is screaming, like one would scream as they see someone give a child to Molech (or whoever that god was in the OT who they would burn the kids up).

    I can’t see how the women can be so reserved in this conversation, so let me register my admiration for you.

    Tamara. Heather. Dawne. Elizabeth. Vicki. RJS. Val. Sue. Sue…. Kristin.

    This is not gratuitous. I hope and pray that the spirit of god continues to calm your thoughts and add discretion to your words. I have a more difficult time doing it that you. God bless.

  • Dana

    DRT –

    Women must be reserved in these conversations. Otherwise they will be written off as hysterical, overemotional or not rational enough to have a conversation.

    On the other hand, men are admired for displaying passion.

    Thank you for your passion, DRT.

  • Vicki

    @ Dana – so true. We have learned that behavior well. Interestingly Kathy Escobar recently spoke to this topic in a guest post entitled, ” at Ed Cyzewski’s blog. The title is “Well Behaved Women Won’t Change the Church.” It can be found here – http://inamirrordimly.com/2012/04/20/women-in-ministry-series-well-behaved-women-wont-change-the-church/ I’m afraid that instead of trying to change the system, we are leaving the system. Maybe that also tempers our responses as we are choosing to pave another way.

    @ DRT – thank you for your passion for us. We need it. We grow weary. We want to engage the conversation but it can be exhausting. My own energies are being invested both in paving a new way and in a dissertation addressing how the church system needs to change in order for women to be healthy participants in it. It is still in process and evolving, but it is the place where I am working out my own questions and issues. Theologically, the arguments seem to be stalemated. My desire is to participate in the conversation in places where I can contribute toward moving our choices and conversation forward.

    It is a sometimes painful place but a more authentic place.

  • Victorious

    “Does anyone have any ideas as to why this is (assuming, of course, that this is not a unique quirk of my church)?”

    Conditioning perhaps? They may not be comfortable in a position when they’ve been told over a long period of time that it’s not their “role.”

    Another possible reason might be the time factor. Many work outside the home, maintain the home, and have primary responsibility for children.

    And last, lack of encouragement and validation of their strengths and talents.

    Just some thoughts….

  • Seth

    Nick, Your original comment about plumbing– two thumbs up. Awesome, well stated.

    John- I like and agree with your whole “bell curve” train of thought. I have often said that the concepts of male and female are sort of like the temperature knob on your car’s a/c-heater- if women are red and men are blue (or vice versa), there is overlap. Some women can bench press 340 lbs and I cannot. Insert any other “masculine” trait and there is a woman somewhere who is more masculine than me, etc. Definitely some women are better leaders, and on and on.

    Here’s where I would go from there– I am a science teacher, and one thing I do know is that at our very core, from the moment of fertilization, we are either male or female- there is no in between. (please dont think or say the word “hermaphrodite”…) You either have a y-chromosome, or you don’t.

    What I am about to say only comes from personal experience. So I just put it out there for what its worth. That is, I have never really met a man or a woman who, when I really got to know them, DIDNT share a few core universal commonalities with their own gender. If I were to encourage a MAN– to sort of make him come alive and light a spark within his soul, I would encourage him in ways that helped him discover his masculinity– courage, strength, ability, creative wit, usefulness to the world, etc. And of course, the opposite seems to be true from women– I would encourage them to understand how femininely beautiful they make the world by their presence, and how valuable of an asset they are to their families and friends, etc. Some of this is subliminal, because we live in a psychologically tricky time where people play mind games with their own selves about their orientation, personality and drive. Everybody I know thinks they are a cross between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, and it gets complicated real quick. But Ive never had someone who convinced me that it wouldnt work with them- that I couldnt make them light up by encouraging toward their respective ends of masculinity and femininity, somehow.

    Virtually every woman (and many men) I have ever met who is reactive about male leadership and not being at the top of the hierarchy seems to be driven in that regard by trust issues. Many of them SHOULD have trust issues. Im still not sure that thinking born out of a lack of trust should guide our journey.

    I am only basing a tiny fraction of my experience on her, but my very own wife used to be a very “egalitarian” (insert label) woman on the surface, very reactive to male hierarchy. Growing up, she was bathed in contemporary pop culture reactionary type thinking that suggests it devalues a woman to be submissive to a man. She always feared doing anything that resembled “domestication”, and was the one who wanted to bring home the bacon and be known far and wide for her professional skills. After 10 years of learning that she is safe, valued, and needed in our house without having to prove her worth to anyone, she has started settling into her own skin. She has even started trying new things like gasp, cooking and sewing, and more than anything, has developed a soft, sweet, mothering personality that was hidden deep down inside underneath layers of pride and mistrust. I have watched her go from calloused to soft, from bitter to free, and from “masculine-leader-type A- SheWoman” to what she is now, not because of coercion or manipulation, or me lording anything over her, but because I have stood up for her and led her and walked with her through everything life has thrown at us. I suspect her story is not unique.

  • Victorious

    my post is in response to Joe Canner’s question. :)

  • Val

    Hahaha DRT, I am not all that calm about this, but, I am sure Paul didn’t like the: slavery, power of Rome, persecution of Christians, and subordination of women in his day. He didn’t rewrite culture, or order others to take on the ills of culture (something Piper seems to have missed as he rants away), he just turned everyone to Christ. It was in Christ the early church worked to overthrow slavery, gladiators, and oppression.

    My husband looks at it like this. There is no Greek/Jew (the first Century Church’s battle), no slave or free (the last 2,000, give or take), and now that we have gotten rid of those notions in Christianity, it is now the battle for gender equality in Christ. Can’t speak for the world, only to note that in my country the world seems better/more realistic with gender equality than the evangelical church. But yeah, the idea of women having the full power of God fall on them, seems to be a stumbling block to quite a few who profess to understand scripture.

  • ao

    @Nick Gill,

    I really appreciate your thoughts. In trying to get a better picture of your critique, can you answer this: In what ways do you think men and women are inherently different? I gather that you don’t think it’s just in “plumbing” =). But, how else are they inherently different? And how do you know?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Seth, are you saying that if I strongly encouraged you toward the feminine end of the spectrum that you would find fulfillment? Or not.

  • ao

    Someone earlier asked if headship was important to egalitarians. My answer, as an egalitarian, is, “Sure, it’s important.” Although, what do you with the fact that for Paul in Eph. 5, the significance of the husband being the head (loving and giving yourself up for your wife) is no different than the significance of a Christian being the member of Christ’s body (loving and giving yourself up for others; Eph. 5:1-2).

  • C

    I’ve been thinking for some time that the terms “complementarian” and “egalitarian” are rather meaningless–nobody actually disagrees with either the idea of complementarity or of equality. I agree with you that “patriarchy” is a fair, neutral, descriptive term, and I also really like “mutuality.”

    “A truly complementary relationship is one in which differences are celebrated, but not forced.” This is a great statement.

  • JohnM

    I haven’t much liked the term complementarian either because:
    1) It is someone else’s made up label that I’m more or less obliged to use only to distinguish myself from “the other side”
    2) What exists naturally and by design shouldn’t need a special name anyway
    3) It seems to be an attempt to soften something that is not inherently harsh

    Patriarchy suites me just fine. A loose patriarchy is what develops organically and is taken for granted except when we tell ourselves something is wrong with it and contrive to bend human nature.

    I’ve never liked egalitarian because if you listen to “egalitarians” long enough you find that with many of them their egalitarianism doesn’t extend beyond gender issues. Some of them are otherwise quite elitist. How about feminist? Is there a reason why that term is objectionable?

  • Tom

    @Sue
    When you say, with regards to the 2009 statement from Redeemer in Manhattan,:

    “The other part that concerns me is that women are told that they have lesser responsibility and accountability for their own family than the husband.”

    I think you are reading your view into the statement. Their actual statement says:

    “In summary, while headship does grant real authority, it requires the man to submit to
    his role given by God, which brings greater responsibility and accountability.”

    In other words, headship grants authority that increases responsibility and accountability…period. The statement doesn’t say a man’s responsibility and accountability are greater “than” a woman’s.

    At least, that’s how I read it.

  • E.G.

    Joe Canner wrote: “However, at my church the women are usually more resistant than the men to the idea of women in teaching and leadership roles. Does anyone have any ideas as to why this is (assuming, of course, that this is not a unique quirk of my church)?”

    I suspect a number of possibilities, including what Dawne wrote above from personal experience. And these possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

    1. First, and sort of what Dawne said, in a male-dominated culture many women might be worried to “stick their head up,” so to speak. It’s simpler to just go with the flow.

    2. Many women actually believe, as much as do many men, that this is what the Bible teaches. In some cases (particularly among men), I think that this belief is a convenient “belief” related to power. But, in general, I note that people actually do believe it and only come away from it through a process of growth.

    On point #2, see: http://www.amazon.com/Changed-Mind-about-Women-Leadership/dp/0310293154

    3. I have heard it said in a very patriarchical church that I have attended – by women, none-the-less – that if women started doing mens’ jobs, the “lazy” men would simply abdicate their work in that area as well. Sad, statement, of course.

    4. This one will not be popular. But, frankly, many of the jobs that women are excluded from are the riskier and more up-front jobs. They are the ones that include public speaking, praying, and difficult decisions. Many men don’t really want those jobs, frankly. And I suspect that many women don’t either. The complementarian hierarchical point of view allows women to bow out of seeking those jobs and covers their lack of participation in those areas with seemingly Biblical rationales.

    My two-cents’ worth, anyhow…

  • Dawne Piotrowski

    Wow, a lot of action happening here while I was busy working!

    DRT, thank you for your encouraging words. Believe me, I can get fired up about this issue just as well as the next person; however, I have learned that, for the most part, people on the complementarian/hierarchical side of the argument don’t hate women or want to subjugate them. They truly believe that is what scripture teaches and they want to be faithful. I can respect that. What I can’t respect is the “bomb-throwing” which goes on on both sides, questioning the integrity of someone’s faith who holds a different opinion, and predicting the demise of the Church unless we all agree on one interpretation.

  • http://chickchaotic.wordpress.com/ Elizabeth Chapin

    DRT, I wouldn’t call myself reserved, but perhaps more overwhelmed. There are so many issues here that I could respond to, but I wonder if I’ve missed my window of opportunity. I was away from my computer for a while and then came back to find SO many responses… Perhaps when I gather my thoughts I will respond more thoughtfully. Also, it would be easier if I could reply to specific responses directly instead of so far removed from them in the stream of comments.

  • Sue

    “In other words, headship grants authority that increases responsibility and accountability…period. The statement doesn’t say a man’s responsibility and accountability are greater “than” a woman’s.”

    Tom,

    If women have equal responsibility and accountability, then should they not have equal authority? How can one assign responsibilities without the authority to meet those responsibilities?

  • http://logicandimagination.com Melody H Hanson (@melodyhhanson)

    I was going to answer @joe about why WOMEN seem to be the biggest resisters to a change in the evangelical Church, to relationships/marriages/teaching/elders/pastoral roles in the church. We have been taught what’s (supposedly) “Biblical” and the whole concept of MUTUALITY disrupts our biblical worldview, changes our hermeneutic entirely! Even though everything in my dna my entire life, since I was a impertinent, questioning little girl, told me that I was a leader, influencer, and general provocateur, what I was taught was something else. What in the world would you do? If you’re in your twenties, you re-calibrate and perhaps go to seminary. If you’re in your thirties you look around at your babies and sit tiredly in your den night after night reading and seeking the truth for yourself. You ask for clarification from your pastor and they give you slippery answers, because they haven’t quite figured it out themselves. If you’re in your forties you look at your growing kids, wonder about the job you quit more than a decade ago and wonder where you might be if you hadn’t quit, and perhaps start writing and you crack open those books again, and you think surely a 45 year old woman cannot go to seminary that’s just nuts. You cry over all the pain and anguish women are feeling. And grieve over the loss of decades of your life not believing in yourself and not using your God given gifts and talents, though you were a pretty good mother too. And you pray for brave and Godly men (and women) with enough influence and power to begin to teach the truth, write books, speak up, open doors and continue to speak up tirelessly, as they make the case for what deep down you believed all your life. Whew, where did that come from? I guess I answered @Joe after all.

  • Vicki

    @ Melody…beautiful and well said.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Melody H Hanson (@melodyhhanson) says:
    May 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I appreciate you sharing your testimonial.

    I am a normal weight (well, I used to be normal weight) white male and my wife has said to me for years that I will come back as a fat black woman so that I can learn how much is simply handed to me because of my appearance. As a result I have had years to contemplate this question and so I appreciate it when someone, like you, can tell a very practical and heartfelt description of what it can be like. Thanks.

  • Brad Blocksom

    Apologies Scot – I should really have made my comment here on the blog vice replying to your tweet. Your blog above, including the quotes from Rachel make some good points. But it does seem like it’s lumping all Complementarians into one broad generalization. It seems to me that some Complementarians might allow women to serve as Deacons, lead worship, serve on the prayer team, give public testimony, but not preach or teach “up front” (I’m not necessarily agreeing with that). Others might allow women to preach, but might still consider themselves Complementarian with respect to gender roles within marriage. To lump these in with those who would limit the contribution of women in ministry to preparing food for the church potluck seems a bit unfair. Am I off base here?

  • AS

    @Joe 11:05

    I wonder to what degree hearing, that as a woman, your natural inclination is to dominate and control men and that not only participating but merely having the desire to participate in practices traditionally reserved for men is representative of that sinful inclination, would be stepping out of God’s design for you as a woman, and will have dire consequences for your family, church, and society at large has on women who are more resistant to teaching and leadership than the men who are encouraged and affirmed in those practices. I don’t know if this is what is heard at your church, but this is taught in the leading hierarchical churches and in the writings and at the conferences of hierarchical complementarians.

    @Thomas

    Patriarchy is a social system in which the father holds the supreme authority and has authority over wife and children. Does complementarianism have as a fundamental principle the belief that the husband is the supreme authority and has authority over his wife and children? If, yes, then that is patriarchy even it is a benevolent rule. At the end of this post, you will see where RHE updated her post to show that patriarchy is a term embraced by hierarchical complementarians: “Owen Strachan wrote, ‘For millennia, followers of God have practiced what used to be called patriarchy and is now called complementarianism.;” This quote is from the current issue of JBMW. I wonder if Strachan and those from CBMW would really say about patriarchy, “no that is not my view.”

    @Tom

    “In summary, while headship does grant real authority, it requires the man to submit to
    his role given by God, which brings greater responsibility and accountability.” (from Redeemer)

    “In other words, headship grants authority that increases responsibility and accountability…period. The statement doesn’t say a man’s responsibility and accountability are greater “than” a woman’s.”

    Within the context of the Redeemer statement, the greater responsibility IS is the tie-breaking vote authority that the husband has that the wife does not. Therefore, he with two votes has greater “responsibility” and “accountability” than the wife. I wonder if there are bigger issues in the relationship if decisions are made based on voting with the husband having and extra vote.

    -

  • Phil Miller

    Brad,
    I guess there’s a spectrum of practice out there when it comes to women in ministry, but I think the thing that gets me when reading your reply is the use of the word “allow”. Who put the people are saying what women are “allowed” to do in that position in the first place? So, no, I really don’t see a huge difference when it comes down to brass tacks. Certainly, no company would get away with saying, “we allow women to serve any position in our company except that of CEO or President”. If a woman is called to the pastoral ministry, I don’t believe it’s right for any man to tell her that her calling isn’t right.

  • Juniper

    Steve Sherwood and Sue@3:14 – John Piper’s remarks on how women should treat domestic violence by relying on the men in the church trouble me greatly. Sue points out that women have equal legal responsibilities for their children. In my experience as a practicing lawyer I can tell you that there can be terrible legal consequences for parents who are deemed to be inadequately protective of their offspring. When it comes to domestic violence, waiting is not a good option.

  • PLTK

    Yes, DRT, we painfully learn that to speak up means to be attacked. We addressed this issue in my church on Sunday in our SS class (sermon discussion and the sermon was on Eph. 5: 22-24 — yep, v. 21 was not considered part of the presentation!). My husband and I had talked and prayed and researched about this during the week as we knew it would be discussed. I thought about skipping as I just didn’t want to be there. If there, how could I keep silent? Sigh.

    Do you know, I sat there, however, wishing my husband would speak up first, as they would take all this MUCH better from a man. After listening to all the other women (and a few men) talk about the wondrous grace of submission, how marriages without female submission just ended up in fights and divorce, how men were 75% responsible for a good marriage because of their leadership, how it was nice just to turn over all of that heavy responsibility to a man, I just cringed inside. … I finally spoke up at the point another women mentioned Genesis 3 and how we needed to fight the tendency we were cursed with to try to take power away from men, as that is just a terrible interpretation of those verses. I said I didn’t agree with much of what was said, that were other valid perspectives one could take on these verses (and elaborated on some). My husband chimed in pretty quickly with some nice support and pointed out the whole focus on submission missed the main point of the verses–on oneness and unity and the relationship between Christ and the church. And lots more really good stuff. Honestly, it would have made a much better and applicable sermon than the one that was preached.

    The outcome — I think most didn’t really hear what we said. (Some did, and I am quite sure a few even agreed with us). But most just heard dissension. Dissension started by a female. Or, as one man said, “It is hardly a surprise that on this topic we are having an argument.” “I also don’t think it is a surprise” he added “that in the garden it was a women who was the first one to fall into sin.”

  • John Inglis

    RE ““In summary, while headship does grant real authority, it requires the man to submit to
    his role given by God, which brings greater responsibility and accountability.””

    The key question is in regards to the assumption inherent in the above statement: “greater” in comparison to what? Is there some sort of baseline? The only comparative in view is the woman who does not have the authority of headship and therefore not the “greater” responsibility and accountability that comes with that alleged timeless role.

    John

  • Joe Canner

    Thanks, Tamara, Heather, Dawne, Vicki, Victorious, E.G., Melody, et al., for your thoughtful and heartfelt responses to my question. While these responses make me less hopeful for change in my lifetime, I see that perhaps my focus should be on building up my sisters, especially the younger ones, rather than fighting with them. I’m glad I asked…

  • John Inglis

    RE: ““A truly complementary relationship is one in which differences are celebrated, but not forced.” This is a great statement.”—NOT (a great statement).

    The statement is an example of doublespeak that would fit perfectly in George Orwell’s 1984. The answer is both disingenuous and obfuscating. All so-called “complementarian” relationships force–i.e., insist on–the difference of headship. The man is top dog, the woman is not. The man gets his way. Period. Even when he is being unbiblical the woman is expected to gracefully follow Christ and comply (unless the man’s decision is sinful).

    John

  • John Inglis

    RE Seth

    And just how is masculinity or femininity relevant to leadership?

    John.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    PLTK, the thought that kept occurring to me as I was reading your story was that the others are not actually connecting with you as a unique individual. That you are an example of the class of woman, and you are given all of the attributes that come with that, but not really what you are specifically, or uniquely. That seems like it would make me feel like an object, dehumanized. I don’t think I would like that in the slightest bit.

    The only point of common relationship I have now is that I am getting older, just turned 50, and in the young progressive companies I am being thought of as an old guy that is not on top of his game anymore. I have always been the A team kind of person in work, but now, I have been laid off twice in 5 years now (believe it or not by the same company), and think I have to become a supporter and not a leader…..[but I am a leader inside...]

    I am pretty certain that the following will not be well received here, but I feel it is true. Just as Jesus is rejected and subjugated so too the servanthood that is often more natural from women is subjugated instead of celebrated. It requires true servant leadership, independent of the consequences. A complementarian male who graciously allows the wife to have a say in something can hardly be said to truly be servant if he could get his way with a single word. To truly be servant, the man needs to actually give the power away. Let them do that.

  • http://www.compathos.tv John

    @Melody H Hanson (@melodyhhanson) “You cry over all the pain and anguish women are feeling. And grieve over the loss of decades of your life not believing in yourself and not using your God given gifts and talents..”

    Having heard myriad stories just like Melody’s from my lovely editor-wife (http://www.amazon.com/Taking-Flight-Reclaiming-Through-Advocacy/dp/097968563X), I can say she is far from alone. But for every woman that speaks up, countless others stay silent. Or worse, they continue unknowingly in a repressive religious patriarchy, having long ago given up mining their God-given creativity – allowing it to be replaced by institutional co-dependencies.

    @Vicki “I’m afraid that instead of trying to change the system, we are leaving the system. ”

    I suggest that in leaving “the system” women will, over coming generations, bring a desperately needed balance into the global community of faith. Courageous women (and men) are indeed finding far greater efficiencies towards Grace outside of our irreparably broken systems.

  • Tom

    Sue,
    Do we have to be equal in authority in order for each of us to have legitimate responsibilities and accountability?

    As a side note to this blog in general…when was Piper elevated to some sort of protestant/evangelical papal authority…sheesh…that’s frustrating.

  • Steve Sherwood

    Tom, seemingly somewhere after the forming of The Gospel Coalition?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Trying to learn here.

    To the comps. If Hillary Clinton or Margaret Thatcher were your spouse, would you feel that you should have authority over her ideas?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Tom says:
    May 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    “Do we have to be equal in authority in order for each of us to have legitimate responsibilities and accountability?”

    There is a very big difference between having authority and having final say. Authority connotes that one party has more ability to pick a correct outcome. And subdividing that implies that there actually is some sort of correct outcome that is independent of the relationship between the couple.

    I have been married for over 20 years and have been a leader for longer than that. In leadership being optimal by some analytical measure is frequently the wrong trade off to make. Instead, it is often more important for someone else to make the decision and then have to live with the consequences of that decision. There is tremendous value in serendipity, and even more value in building the relationship between the participants over achieving some sort of local optimal based on profit or some other relatively meaningless statistic.

    A huge part of leadership is facilitating learning. And making the decions for others is probably the worst possible way to teach leadership.

    So in the end, the whole idea of complementarian relationships is inherently demeaning and self perpetuating since it never gives the opportunity to change the situation. I actually find it to be repulsive in the most sincere sense of the word. We are putting felllow humans down to promote others. Quite against Jesus, in my opinion.

  • HeatherPringle

    Joe- your comment about the goal to encourage your sisters (especially the younger ones) almost brought tears to my eyes. God bless you as you build up the Body of Christ. You have no idea how much even just one encouraging comment of pastoral/teaching qualities can help a sister and empower her to love others.

  • Brad Blocksom

    Phil @7:45 – Perhaps a bad choice of word on my part. By “allow” I simply meant a local church enacting a “policy” (perhaps another bad choice of word) which attempts to implement their best attempt to understand what scripture teaches on the topic (even if others might accuse them of bad exegesis). On the other hand, don’t churches make decisions all the time on what to “allow” and not allow. For example my local church allows me to wear shorts to church, allows my (female) co-pastor to preach on Sunday mornings, and allows me to lead a small group. Roman Catholics don’t allow Protestants to take the Eucharist. Pentcostals allow people to speak in tongues out loud during a public worship service, whereas Calvary Chapel doesn’t. Doesn’t each church/movement/denomination have the right to act in accordance with its sincely held convictions?

  • Sue

    Tom says:
    May 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    “Do we have to be equal in authority in order for each of us to have legitimate responsibilities and accountability?”

    The question is whether women have EQUAL responsibility and accountability for the family as men do. I would say that they do, by virtue of being adult members of the family, by virtue of giving birth and being a parent, the wife has equal responsibility and accountability. And therefore, in order to carry out her equal responsibility, she must have equal authority and access to decision-making. I don’t see any other way.

    To me this is the greatest flaw in complementarianism, giving a mother the impression that she has less accountability before God for her own children than the father does.

  • Phil Miller

    Brad @ 10:20

    On the other hand, don’t churches make decisions all the time on what to “allow” and not allow. For example my local church allows me to wear shorts to church, allows my (female) co-pastor to preach on Sunday mornings, and allows me to lead a small group. Roman Catholics don’t allow Protestants to take the Eucharist. Pentcostals allow people to speak in tongues out loud during a public worship service, whereas Calvary Chapel doesn’t.

    I understand what you’re getting at, but I think the issue with saying churches “allow” something is that it implies a top-down, authoritarian model that really goes against the whole ethos that the Kingdom is about. It’s not about what we’re allowed to do. It’s about how we use are freedom to serve one another in love. Yes, it seems some sort of structural framework as to what that looks like in a community is inevitable, but framing these things in terms of what’s allowed or not just seems to be not the best terminology.

    This whole discussion reminds me of a discussion I had in a high school class once. The subject of women in the workplace came up, and someone asked my opinion on the matter. Being young and naive, I said, “sure, I would let my wife work…”. It took me only a few seconds to notice all the glares from the girls in my class… To me, that what this sort of reminds me of. There’s a lot of men sitting around discussing what they think women can and can’t do. Meanwhile, the women who are actually called to ministry are either ignoring them altogether or being held back or hurt by them.

  • Jim

    In response to Heather, I think CS Lewis states it better here. http://www.ldolphin.org/priestesses.html
    Patriarchy does not exclude women leading in the church. There are certain roles which are clearly laid out in Scripture. Mothers lead all the time. Women lead men. Abigal led David away from doing something really stupid. Women should be encouraged in their gifts. Don’t think we want to abolish the beauty of Ballroom dancing and the different roles. Egalitarianism is not a celebration of diversity. It’s a celebration of sameness. The beauty comes with the diversity between masculinity and femininity.

  • CDL

    @John Inglis 8:30 pm

    You’re right, but I believe you misread that sentence. It comes from the Rachel Evans piece Scot quotes here. It’s talking not about the “complementarian” ideal, but about what would ACTUALLY constitute a complementary relationship in any real sense.

    If you continue reading in the same paragraph, she says the same thing differently:

    “If your marriage is like mine, this means that the complementary differences between you and your spouse often fall into gender-influenced norms…but not always…Rather than trying to force our personalities and our roles into prescribed molds based on gender, it just makes more sense to allow our natural difference to enhance and challenge one another. We lead where we are strong; we defer where we are weak.”

  • Dawne Piotrowski

    @Phil – “There’s a lot of men sitting around discussing what they think women can and can’t do. Meanwhile, the women who are actually called to ministry are either ignoring them altogether or being held back or hurt by them.” Yes, that is what it feels like; thank you for articulating this!

    @Heather and @Joe – “Joe- your comment about the goal to encourage your sisters (especially the younger ones) almost brought tears to my eyes. God bless you as you build up the Body of Christ. You have no idea how much even just one encouraging comment of pastoral/teaching qualities can help a sister and empower her to love others.” Absolutely! Women need to hear their brothers in the Lord encouraging them; individually and personally is best, in my opinion. These blogs and other media are great, but there is nothing like having a brother whom I love and respect recognize and affirm the specific giftings he sees in me!

  • http://chickchaotic.wordpress.com/ Elizabeth Chapin

    In Response to Nick Gill who asked some good questions early on: “Are the differences trivial or meaningful? If they’re trivial, what’s the point of talking about them at all? If they’re meaningful, what’s the point of acting as if they’re not?”

    It seems from the level of intensity in this conflict in the church that the differences are not trivial – at least not in our experience. So, we know intuitively that the differences are meaningful – but in what ways are they meaningful? Another question about anthropology struck me as germane to this discussion.

    According to our creation story, the first human was created containing both male and female (Eve was taken out of Adam so must have existed within Adam or else God could have just created Eve separately). The “not good” part of the creation of the first human was aloneness, so it seems the primary intention of the sex differentiation was for the purpose of community, to reflect the community of God – not for division of gender roles.

    Someone mentioned the spectrum of masculine and feminine, and I’d like to remind us that while we cannot completely separate our physical bodies from our social realities, sex is a biological construct while gender is a social construct. There is significant variation among males and females and their inclination toward masculine and feminine social constructs. Some men manifest what we have constructed as masculine and some manifest as more feminine.

    When thinking about gender roles, some look to the Bible to help define, separate and differentiate women from men and they will find expressions of differentiation as the Bible describes the cultural gender constructs prevalent in the times in which it was written. Others find the Bible leading us toward a unified humanity – a community of cooperative friends of Jesus who are more alike than different regardless of our gender identity.

    The problems I have with patriarchy and complementarianism are the strict artificial societal gender roles those systems tend to impose on men and women who are created in the image of God for community – not conformity. I also have a problem with the tendencies of patriarchy to usurp the authority of God. Time and again we see the movement of people rejecting God’s rulership and looking to the systems and cultures around them to define them. God desires to rule and reign in the lives of both men and women equally without a mediator other than Christ.

    As for the discussion of headship, I have understood the terminology used there implies source not authority over. As men are born of women, and woman was created out of man – Paul argues for mutuality by reminding us of our interdependence.

  • Dana

    Jim @ 9:07

    I don’t understand what you are saying. You speak of women leading and then refer to ballroom dancing – where we all know that men lead. You link to an article about priestesses – where the idea is of a priest that represents God to the people and the people to God. I’m pretty sure that most evangelical churches aren’t operating on that system.

    It’s probably me, but I don’t usually feel that I understand the point of the more romantic and sentimental persuasions employed by complementarians/patriarchalists.

    Maybe you could be a little more specific about what this “dance” looks like.

  • Heather

    Hi Jim,
    I don’t find egalitarianism (or at least the egals that I learn from) to be a celebration of sameness at all. Differences are appreciated and acknowledged. But people aren’t boxed into neatly fit categories. And it can be so uncomfortable to live with ambiguity. Are we meant to live with ambiguity about some things? I think so because it requires us to get to know people on an individual level to see how they best serve. Ballroom dancing hey? Sounds fun, never done that before (just kidding around). But seriously, egals aren’t advocating against gender differences. I love chivalry and men who are strong leaders. I love the vulnerable and complementary serving side of femininity. I also love women who are strong leaders who can pastor and preach and advocate for justice with a strong voice. I love men who can follow a woman when she is leading from her calling. I think these “likes” can coexist together.

    In terms of the bible, there are some hermeneutic principles involved here and many books written about this subject. It sounds like we apply a different hermeneutic as I don’t believe the roles are so clearly laid out. Deborah, Miriam, Huldah, Junia, etc. are a few examples of women who don’t quite fit with the “clearly defined roles” argument. The biblical argument side of things has been argued at length by others. So I don’t want to get into a huge discussion about it. Scot wrote a book about this. So did Piper and many many others. But I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t a clearly agreed upon answer by evangelical biblical scholars.

  • http://www.shelovesmagazine.com idelette

    I am thankful we are calling complementarianism exactly what it is.

  • John Inglis

    RE Jim on May 9th: “Egalitarianism is not a celebration of diversity. It’s a celebration of sameness. The beauty comes with the diversity between masculinity and femininity.”

    Umm, I’ve never heard or read egalitarians advocating for sameness and the elimnation of diversity. Egalitarians encourage people to be what they are, and do not restrict the expression of one’s own sexuality and gender or the expression of “feminine” behaviours by women.

    It’s too tragic to be funny, but the irony is that it is the so-called “complementarians” who advocate sameness and try to force it on other evangelicals. All men must expression the same so-called “masculine traits” (as defined by recent American culture); all men must be heads; no women may be heads or teach; all women must express the same so-called “feminine traits” (again, as defined in recent past American culture, or in the American evangelical subculture).

    It is egalitarians who advocate for diversity in headship and in teachers. It is egalitarians who allow for and advocate a range in the expression of maleness and femaleness and who don’t define those traits by recent American culture.

    John

  • John Inglis

    RE CDL @ 9:11, May 9th: “truly complementary relationship ”

    My apologies if I misunderstood you. If the statement is made by an egalitarian, it has a different meaning than if made by a complementarian. Given that you affirmed the usage of “patriarchy”, I had assumed that you were advocating the so-called “soft-complementarian” use of that term. In that context, “truly complementary” and “diversity” mean acceptance of a hierarchy of authority and the redefinition of these terms so that the mean “X as permitted within the scope of patriarchy”.

    I reacted to the terms and the apparent (to me, at the time I read your comment) use of the term in the way that I’ve heard and read it slung about by complementarians. They use it to seem “nicer” and more affirming of women than they really are, and to shield themselves from or at least divert some of the criticism they receive.

    John

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I must weigh in on this sameness vs. diversity.

    Jim, I think I have some glimmer as to why you feel and see that complementarianism does celebrate the diversity of men and women. And why you feel the egalitarianism promotes sameness. But I have a somewhat different perspective and it would honor me for you to consider what I am saying.

    I feel that, indeed as we agree, that there is a huge diversity present in people. That there are extremes and averages along a whole continuum. I would like to share my perspective and see if you can relate to it.

    But I believe that the diversity lives at the individual level. That is, if we type cast that all women are the same, and all men are the same, then we lose diversity. We have two, well defined groups instead of the continuum of diversity that is in people.

    I hope that you consider this seriouslly.

  • KH

    @Seth “Virtually every woman (and many men) I have ever met who is reactive about male leadership and not being at the top of the hierarchy seems to be driven in that regard by trust issues.” I think you may need to meet more women who have had the life kicked out of them by men who told them they were wrong, usurpers of authority, pushy, heretical, dangerous, etc. simply because they chose to step out on faith when they heard God calling. As one of those women I am less reactive now because I too have settled into my own skin. I’m glad your wife has found a place of contentment in traditionally feminine activities. With my husband’s help, I have found my place of contentment in seminary studies. This makes me no less nurturing as a mother (I’ve raised 3 strong children), nor does it make me less feminine (although I will never be able to cook or sew worth a darn).
    To the general conversation – My husband and I practice mutual submission and have never had the need for a “tie-breaker” in our entire marriage. If there is a stalemate we fight it out, pray it out, seek outside counsel, or whatever it takes to come to common ground but we never override one another. That isn’t what being “one flesh” looks like to us.
    I was 17 when I first hear God’s call to teach and preach his word. My parents affirmed it but one Bible teacher managed to convince me that it was a product of my sinful strong will, not the voice of God. Almost 30 years later I am pursuing his call. Like Jeremiah, I have no choice – I am blasted from without if I speak God’s truth but my bones burn from within if I try to withhold it.
    Regardless of your comp/egal position, please consider this – if you stand in the way of ANY person’s calling from God, you will have to answer for it. If you deny your own calling from God, you will have to answer for that as well. I choose to follow because I would rather disappoint the likes of Piper, et al, than my Lord. I somehow can’t imagine hearing God say, “I can’t believe you had the nerve to teach my word and lead my church when I specifically made you female. You should have known better.” :-)

  • Kristin

    DRT – I agree that overly defined gender roles are the Achilles heel of complementarianism.

    Most often I hear complementarians relying on stereotypical gender roles as ‘evidence’ that they are right. This method has served them well for several decades because cultural gender roles matched up by and large but frankly, people my age (under 30) naturally see gender roles differently.

    For example: “women always relate through conversation and men relate by doing activities together.” My husband and I sat through a marriage conference recently and we were the youngest by 20 years…while everyone else exclaimed how true this was we gave each other funny looks as we are the exact opposite on this one. So if complementarianism is one big Jenga game, if you fit the gender roles the theology will appear pretty solid. But if you’re a black sheep like me and you start pulling out the loose, seemingly inconsequential pieces of ‘evidence’ it fairly quickly becomes a shaky theology.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Regarding tie breakers and authority.

    I realize this is a secular example, but please hear me out.

    I have been a manager in one sense or the other for almost 30 years. I have lead organizations of up to close to 50 folks directly reporting to me and 100′s indirectly. In my whole career I can count on less than one hand how many times I have had to invoke my authority in the secular workplace. I remember only 2 instances, and both of those were for people who were fired.

    Sorry if this offends, but if you are having to invoke authority then you are doing something wrong. And/Or, your church is doing something wrong. I believe that everyone can benefit from being coached/counseled in the affairs of dealing with others, everyone.

    I am hesitant to say the church should do it, because I think pastors are ill prepared, in general. But that is where the church needs to god.

    Aside from being proclaimed king, isn’t the message of Jesus that we should get along? There is nothing wrong with coaching.

    But coaching people to be subordinate based on authority is as about wrong as one can get. Complementarianism is the wrong way to go forward in my humble opinion, of course :)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I should have said, 2/3rds the way down

    “But that is where the church needs to go.” NOT “But that is where the church needs to god.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Kristin,

    I agree.

    I would like to share an insight too. People are highly suggestable. They indeed truly want to fit in, be part of the big family etc.

    The gender roles are, in my view, an attestation to the willingness and godliness of previous generations where many were willing to give up their own preferences for the greater good. I too have been indoctrinated to be what others expected of me. All godly people feel that pull to live up to the expectations of others because that admits that they are not the authority, someone else is, and that someone else is god.

    But all too often the expectations are not set by god, but by man. We all know about that.

    My big point: Every large advance in the world seems to have somehow been advanced by changes in communications or transportation, which to me amount to the same thing. Ideas get spread around and that helps with advancing the way that the world functions.

    In our current age, we are being impacted by the advancements of the internet. This impacts every aspect of communication, from how often we make phone calls, to how we access information, to the fact that I tend to text my kids to come and eat even though they are only one floor away from me in the house (I am learning not to be loud, and that is not easy).

    The new information age has made the plight of the individual, and the plight of the small group (gay, horticulture enthusiast, RC pilot like me, etc) available to everyone. The fact that minorities can have sufficient mass and sufficient voice to overcome the desire to conform to the larger groups is a major change and I don’t think many people have identified that change as fundamental.

    So, like you say, the black sheep start to form a voice that is much larger than was availbalbe when the average city was several thousand people or the average town was a couple hundred. Now the town/city/unit in which we can converge is as large as we want it to be.

    I am optimistic that we can figure this out. BUT, I think we need to have coaching types of people in churches and not just pastors.

  • http://chickchaotic.wordpress.com/ Elizabeth Chapin

    I really appreciate how John Inglis says, “It is egalitarians who advocate for diversity in headship and in teachers. It is egalitarians who allow for and advocate a range in the expression of maleness and femaleness and who don’t define those traits by recent American culture.”

    Patriarchy/complementarianism promotes artificial societal restraints on roles, behavior, etc. that I just don’t see support for in the Biblical text. Isaiah prophesies the kingdom vision of men and women prophesying – of men and women being a kingdom of priests. To restrict roles based on gender conforms to the world systems of patriarchy and hierarchy, not the kingdom vision where God is our only patriarch and we all equally represent God’s authority as image bearers.

  • John Inglis

    In regards to biblical interpretation, it seems to me that Paul advocating submission (if indeed that is what he writes) of women to men, is doing no more than when he advocates that slaves obey their masters. In the latter case, it is the truth that slavery is an offence to the image of God and morally wrong, but at the time there was no economic way around it other than to advocate receiving slaves as brothers and freeing them, as individual owners saw fit (e.g., Philemon).

    John

  • KH

    @John I.
    Agreed. Great point. At that point in history, women were regarded as possessions much the same as animals and slaves.

    There was a time when the church claimed that Paul’s exhortation to slaves to submit to/obey their masters was a biblical endorsement of slavery as well. I recall reading in a college history class that the “slippery slope” argument that is now used regarding women in ministry was also used concerning freeing the slaves.

    Since it hasn’t even been 100 years since women were granted full rights of citizenship, I guess I am grateful for the progress that has been made. On the other hand, many denominations and traditions ordained women before they were granted those rights. :-)

  • http://www.redeemer.com Tim Keller

    Hi Sue (and anyone else reading this post and comments)

    You are assuming that the paper you refer to is from Redeemer in Manhattan. You say I must have approved its publication. But I’ve never seen the paper before and it did not come from our church. Tom Gibbs–the author–is not on staff here. I think you have the wrong Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He does quote an old paper of ours a couple of times that my wife and I put together nearly 25 years ago. But the paper is not from our church nor did I publish it. I think that’s important to notice.

    Scot is right that the best place to find my/our views on male female roles in marriage laid out is in our book on marriage published last Fall. That would be the place to look to discover what we believe about this.

  • Seth

    Hi folks. Boy, this comment thread is getting long. Its almost like this is a touchy subject.

    My apologies to anyone who misheard me earlier, if you actually read my entire spill. Im afraid Im not very good at 1) just silently listening without speaking and 2) expressing what Im saying in a reactive context without sounding button-pushing or reactionary. I am also not very smart or educated, so all I can speak from is personal experience, which I know is not as valuable as all of the studies that many of you have read through.

    Hi DRT. Hope you’re doing good. I dont think if you bought me pink princess slippers and told me I was beautiful that it would do much for my soul. Although, you are welcome to try it out- who knows, I may like them?

    Hi John. Wow, thats a very deep question I am not prepared for. It is a good one, though, given the original intent of the blog was talking about leadership. I think gender DOES have to do with leadership. I wont bore you with examples, because we both know God cares a lot more about our willingness to follow and serve.

    Hi KH. Thank you for sharing a little of your story. What a fantastic husband. You are probably right in saying that I need to spend more time around women who have been beaten down by nervous males. I dont guess Im that good- I lack energy in that regard. Insecurity among men (which causes them to oppress women) truly is a pandemic, and it has affected the majority of the women I am surrounded by every day. I am worn out dealing beaten down oppressed women, and I dont know that I could handle many more around me at this point. My heart breaks for them because I know the legitimacy of their trust issues all too well. I am just glad you are not another one.

  • Seth

    and KH– I just read my own comment and that last sentence is awfully worded and sounds completely tacky in one sense. Sorry, I meant well. :)

  • KH

    Seth, It’s all good. You called my husband fantastic, which makes everything else OK in my book.
    KH

  • Ben Thorp

    I think the term complementarian is preferred precisely because all people hear when you talk of patriarchy is hierarchy, and it’s much more nuanced than that.

    I’ve not seen a single mention of the trinity in this discussion, and yet it is often held up as a model for a complementarian marriage – husband and wife are equal in the same way that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal, but husband and wife function in complementary ways in the same way that the Son only does what He sees the Father doing (various points in John 12-15), and the Holy Spirit does not speak in His own authority, but only speaks what He hears (John 16:13).

  • John Inglis

    RE: “I think the term complementarian is preferred precisely because all people hear when you talk of patriarchy is hierarchy, and it’s much more nuanced than that.”

    Umm, no. The term was coined specifically because it would sell much better than “patriarchy” and other terms that were used prior to 1989. As Wayne Grudem has stated: “”For those first two years we were still a very secret, by-invitation-only group. But by December, 1988, at the ETS meeting at Wheaton College, we were ready to go public. We announced the formation of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and handed out brochures. We even had a press conference (Christianity Today showed up, but nobody else). We coined the term “complementarian” as a one-word representation of our viewpoint. So we were now known to the ETS, but not yet in the general evangelical world.””

    Complementarianism is at its core hierarchialism alledged to be God commanded. There are no “nuances” to the position at all, though that word is constantly used to make the position more appealing. The only so-called nuance is that the hierarchical authority is to be used benevolently. We are to have a benevolent dictatorship of men. Men are in the “God-given” position of command and control, and to exercise their power in the furtherance of God’s goals (as determined by them) in the manner determined by them, and in such a way that women are to benefit (love and benefit as determined by men). The power is not challengeable, except to the extent that another man (or perhaps a women as long as she uses appropriate channels) claims that the power is not being exercised benevolently.

    Complementarianism is about power. Power claimed to be given by God–the same as the divine right of kings, or the divine right of patriarchs. The claim that the power is to be exercised “in love”–listening to the weak and for their benefit (i.e., benevolently) does not erase the basic fact of power. And because of the power, men get to determine what is in women’s best interest (if there is a disagreement).

    All the listening and discussion in the world (between husbands and wives, or within a church) does not change the bottom line of power. Men have it, women don’t, by divine right.

    John

  • John Inglis

    More on the inherent Orwellian doublespeak that is so ingrained in the movement that, like the characters in “1984″, the members don’t even see the doublespeak but rather believe the words to actually constitute truth. The complementarians broadcast and indoctrinate a theme that biblical womanhood, true womanhood, may look meek, but is actually fierce. This doublespeak is so much a part of their reality that they can publish books such as “Liberated Through Submission” by P. Bunny Wilson.

    Jumbo shrimp, anyone?

    John I.

  • http://logicandimagination.com Melody H Hanson (@melodyhhanson)

    “Egalitarianism is not a celebration of diversity. It’s a celebration of sameness.” HUH?

    We’re all made in God’s image if by that you mean we are the SAME then I’ll take it.

  • http://aborrowedflame.com AndrewF

    I agree that none of these terms are helpful, largely because of the overlap between them. Egalitarians would hold to complimentary ideas, and complimentarians would hold to the idea of equality and mutual submission.
    Over at RHE’s place, Alistair Roberts has been arguing for a view which is not strictly complimentarian or egalitarian, and rejects heirarchy in favour of an understanding of asymmetry and putting priestly roles in the bigger biblical context, and relating it to the preistly role of Adam in the sanctuary of the garden. It is paradigm shifting stuff for me, and I’d be interested to know what you make of it: http://rachelheldevans.com/mutuality-adam-eve#comment-550498187

  • E.G.

    AndrewF…

    The idea that males are somehow the “priestly pole” has no basis, particularly in light of the NT idea of a priesthood of ALL believers.

    Roberts is simply making an attempt (and not a particularly new one) of shoring up the crumpling edifice of patriarchy.


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