Who Says What’s a Complementarian?

Who Says What’s a Complementarian? July 9, 2013

Apart from the issue that both (what many today call) egalitarians and complementarians at one time saw themselves as complementarian, one without hierarchy and one with hierarchy, today the term “complementarian” is used by those most commonly associated with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. So they get to define the term, and one very notable representative of this view is Wayne Grudem, who summarizes Complementarian in “The Chart” in his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth.

How do you define “complementation”? Do you think it is more accurate to call this view “hierarchicalist”?

He sketches various views on a spectrum from The Effeminate Left (those who see No Difference and those who ascribe to Egalitarianism), The Complementarian Middle (those who believe in Equality and Difference and Unity and those who ascribe to Male Dominance), and The Violent Right (where there is No Equality). Here’s how Grudem sketches his view, Equality and Differences and Unity (three positive terms, and he does not use positive terms for any other view).

Defined: emphasizing both equality and different between men and women.

God as Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit are of equal value with different roles. [This could sound like modalism but it is not.]

Man, Woman: Husband and wife have equal value but different roles.

Marriage: Husband is noted by loving humble headship; Wife is noted by intelligent, joyful submission to husband.

Children: are loved, cared for, valued, raised with discipline and love.

Family Responsibilities: husband’s responsibility is to lead, provide for, protect; the wife is responsible to help husband by managing household and nurturing children. [This is very close to the Victorian ideal of a wife at home and the man in the public sector.]

Sex: monogamous, equally fulfilling intercourse as the deepest expression of a great ‘mystery’: equality, differences, and unity!

Natural desires are fulfilled; men and women have a deep sense of acting as God made them to act.

Religion: some governing and teaching roles in the church restricted to men. [Notice how this is framed by restriction rather than gifts. Now what happened to equality?]

Authority: exercised within boundaries.

Sports: competition with fairness and rules: winners honored, losers respected.

Crime: punishment is speedy, fair; aims at justice plus restoration of criminal.

Property: laws protect private property and care for poor; more work and skill earns more wealth; equal opportunity for all.

Education: boys and girls both educated, but different preferences, abilities, and sense of calling respected.

The chart, as Grudem observes, contains generalizations on a spectrum.

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