And now…on the other side (critique of extreme complementarianism)

And now…on the other side (critique of extreme complementarianism) January 4, 2012

And now…the other extreme from “Christian feminism”

Recently here I critiqued contemporary radical Christian Feminism while applauding egalitarianism. By “radical Christian Feminism” I mean the approach to theology that begins from women’s experience and resymbolizes God away from the predominantly male images of scripture to  female images treated as superior to male images for their social value (e.g., in promoting equality rather than hierarchy). I regard the theologies of Rosemary Ruether, Letty Russell, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Elizabeth Johnson as pernicious to biblical Christianity insofar as they reject scripture as normative and consider women’s experience (as defined by them) as normative for theology.

Radical Christian feminism, however, is not the only extreme form of reflection on gender in theology that I criticize. Just as strongly (and from the “gut,” so to speak, even more strongly!) I reject so-called Evangelical Complementarianism as that is worked out, defended and promoted by some fundamentalist theologians. (Not all complementarians are fundamentalists; my objection here is mainly to those who seem fundamentalist to me in that they appear to adhere to “maximal conservatism,” elevate secondary matters of doctrine and biblical interpretation to the status of dogmas, and reject fellow evangelicals who disagree with them about biblical interpretation with regard to matters about which evangelicals have disagreed for the past century or more.)

So what is Evangelical Complementarianism? I agree with the definition given in a news article by Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press published in Baptists Today entitled “Abandoned his leadership: SBC professor says Adam’s sin was in listening to his wife” (November, 2011, p. 8). The article says that “complementarianism” “holds that men and women are both created in God’s image but assigned different roles.” But this needs supplementation (just as a definition of “Christian Feminism” that mentions only gender equality needs supplementation). Mention “complementarianism” in any evangelical theological circles and most people know immediately it is more than merely the belief that “men and women are both created in God’s image but assigned different roles.” For example, even feminists believe men and women have different roles insofar as only women give birth!

A complete (or at least more complete) definition of “evangelical complementarianism” (is there any other kind?) must mention that it holds that women, though created in God’s image, are meant by God to be permanently subordinate to men at least in the church and the family. From there complementarians go off in somewhat different directions, but on that they all agree. (Personally, I think “complementarian” is a misnomer because it does not sufficiently describe what these people really believe. The emphasis is not on males and females complementing each other but on females being submissive to males. Therefore, whenever I hear the label “complementarian” in an evangelical context I think of it as an example of “newspeak” as in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. I put it in the same category as “Patriot Act”—a name for a very controversial law implying that anyone who disagrees with any of it is less than fully patriotic.)

Some complementarians believe women should not hold jobs where they have to give orders to men. Others restrict female subordination and submission to spiritual contexts and the family. But all place the emphasis on female subordination and submission in such a way that adult women have pretty much the same role as children vis-à-vis adult men. So far as I know, all (or virtually all) complementarians believe women should not preach, should not be pastors (except perhaps “Childrens’ Pastors”), should not teach men in church settings or Christian organizations, and should obey their husbands unless they command them to sin. (I have heard some complementarians argue that women should obey their husbands even if they command them to sin, but that is, I believe, a fringe view among evangelical complementarians.)

This has been, for the most part, a civil and respectful disagreement among evangelical Christians. “Christians for biblical equality” (whether members of the CBE organization or simply those evangelicals who believe that men and women should have equal roles in church, family and society) strongly disagree with Evangelical Complementarianism but, for the most part, anyway, embrace complementarians as fellow evangelicals. (I’m not sure they have any choice as complementarianism seems to be the “default” view among most evangelicals.)

Increasingly, however, the views and language among some evangelical complementarians has become shrill and extreme. Some are making it a litmus test for biblical fidelity and orthodoxy. According to the article cited above, one evangelical complementarian  argued at a recent meeting of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that Adam’s sin was listening to his wife. According to the article (and the statement is placed in quotation marks in the article) “Eve was cursed on her God-given role before the Fall. She is cursed on her role as a mother and as a helper.” Now this is something new; I have never heard anyone make such an argument until now (assuming the article is correct). Taken at face value, what that Southern Baptist theologians and seminary dean and professor is saying is that just being a woman is to be cursed by God. Also, apparently, insofar as the article quotes the scholar correctly, it is a sin for a man to heed the voice of his wife.

Now, I think there can be legitimate debate about women and men and their respective roles in the church and family, although I am settled about it on the egalitarian side. I can at least see where evangelical complementarians are “coming from,” so to speak, because of their literalistic approach to hermeneutics (which is never really consistently literalistic). I do think most of them are inconsistent insofar as they applaud women missionaries who, of course, evangelized, preached to and taught men in non-American contexts (e.g., Lotty Moon—a Southern Baptist saint!). And I suspect that in the privacy of their own homes many of them actually have functionally egalitarian marriages.

The very ideas that Eve was cursed by God “before the Fall” and that Adam’s sin was heeding the voice of his wife (as opposed to disobeying God’s command not to eat of the tree) seem to me bizarre and weird if not downright unbiblical. They also seem dangerous to me. Such a teaching may be interpreted as giving men permission to be misogynists and to abuse their wives. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the view itself is misogynistic. In preference to such a church (where this is taught) I might be tempted to run to the nearest “Women Church!” (Although I suspect I would find somewhat the same view, only reversed.)

Back to the seminary dean and professor in question. According to the article, he claimed that he believes there cannot be “more important debate” (than the conference topic) (viz., gender roles) and “I contend that if we lose the battle over the gender debate, we lose a proper interpretation of God’s word,… We lose inerrancy. We lose the authority of the Bible, and that is detrimental to the gospel.” Others have said the same about: premillennialism, creationism, restrictivism…you name it. (This is how I identify a fundamentalists—as someone who takes one side of a legitimate debate among evangelicals and elevates it to the level of status confessionis.)

So what is going on when an evangelical seminary dean and professor of theology makes such outrageous statements that go far beyond garden-variety complementarianism into outright misogyny? First, it seems to me there is a competition among especially Southern Baptist theologians (I’m not saying all SBCers are guilty of this, though, and SBCers don’t hold a monopoly on it!) to outdo one another in discovering and promoting conservative views on the pet issues. Second, conservative evangelicals are so driven by fear of liberalism that they tend to tolerate, if not applaud, extreme views that, even if outrageously nonsensical, are perceived as helping hold back the forces of liberal darkness. Third, many fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have no sense of accountability to a larger religious, spiritual, theological context. Everyone outside the safe and narrow (not necessarily small!) confines of their own hermeneutical and doctrinal circle is unworthy of a hearing.

I suspect such extreme views on the left and on the right have been around a long time. In fact, as a historical theologian I know it. (Not necessarily these particular views but extreme views on doctrinal subjects and matters of biblical interpretation.) Usually, however, moderating voices prevail. That hasn’t been happening so much in the last twenty-five years. People are de-populating the center and rushing (or at least gravitating) to extremes. I look to evangelical leaders, opinion-makers to condemn such extremes (as were expressed in that article in Baptists Today) and make clear they do not represent the mainstream of evangelical theology. I listen; I hear only silence.


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  • Mikael Stenhammar

    As always insightful! I have been hoping that you would respond some more to this debate. Keep it coming! Thanks.

  • Greg Milford


    There is a new article from Dr. Peter Kreeft on freewill and predestination on which I’d love to read your reflections. As a Catholic and former Presbyterian, he doesn’t take the time to really portray fully, sufficiently, or accurately the Arminian position, but then really does convey a position that to me is Arminian, that God’s love takes precedence in matters that are mysterious, and that human freedom is essential. I’d love to hear what you think of Aquinas’s reflections he references which assert the unity of God’s love and power.

    Sorry if this is the wrong way to ask for an article to be reviewed…I could not find a general “Contact Me” link, or email address on your blog page.


    • rogereolson

      Thanks for the reading suggestion. Years ago, when I was chair of the “convocation committee” at Bethel I invited Peter to speak about C. S. Lewis, John Kennedy and Aldous Huxley on November 22 (I don’t remember the year but it was around the time his dialogue book was published). He did a marvelous job. I’ve always enjoyed his books. I find very little difference between the traditional Catholic doctrine of predestination and the Arminian doctrine except that, of course, the Arminian doctrine absolutely eschews any talk of “merit.” But when it comes to God’s love and the ground and motive for predestination and God’s giving free will through prevenient grace, I find much common ground with Catholic theology. My own study of Aquinas, however, led me to think HE (not his later interpreters) was a monergist and not a synergist. I think Aquinas was heavily influenced by the later Augustine and I think that most Renaissance and Modern Catholic theology has missed the monergism in Augustine and Aquinas (which is, I judge, a good thing!). I will try to read Kreeft’s article as time allows. I’m deep into writing right now. 🙂

      • jesse

        What are you writing? Also, thanks for these recent articles on feminism and complementarianism. With so much polarization in politics and (unfortunately) Christianity, I appreciate your willingness to not follow the extremes but find a third way. I know you’re not always popular for that, but I believe you are really approaching things the God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving way. I hope to be able to to do the same.

        • rogereolson

          Thank you. I’m working on a complete expansion and revision of 20th Century Theology (incorporating some of the original book) for IVP. This year marks the 20th anniversary of that book’s publication and it’s time for an update. The new book will include much more about 19th century theology (therefore probably a new title) and postmodern and Global South theologies.

          • Robert

            Curious, will the new version be dipping into 21st-century, including the 1990s-200s work of guys like Bloesch and Pinnock?

          • rogereolson

            Definitely into the 21st century. I don’t know which evangelicals I’ll highlight, though. The theme of the book is modernity and responses to it. Of all evangelical theologians of the late 20th century and early 21st century it would seem that Pinnock engaged with modernity most intensely. Or, perhaps Stan Grenz who embraced a modest version of postmodernism and rejected foundationalism. That’s a long way off, so I haven’t decided yet.

  • Beakerj

    Thanks for bringing this up in a public place Roger…there needs to be some really serious discussion of the breathtaking levels of oppression of women carried out in the name of Christ. I am astonished & appalled by some of the things preached & practised by some christian men, who seem to have power & submission as their ultimate goal, rather than love. There is also a serious problem with men passing the moral buck, in a way that eventually sounds like Islam, for example that women have to be ultra ultra conservative in the way they dress to prevent men being sexually tempted, rather than men being required to show some self control.

    I particularly like your point about men being authoritative over women the way that women are over children…there is a definite trend of treating women as less than fully adult. I came across something the other day about ‘domestic discipline’ the other day (something I’ve never heard of in England), where a woman is subjected to corporal punishment by her husband when she does something he doesn’t like, in the same way that this might be used on a child. This is considered an appropriate way of showing christian authority …I’m still speechless.

    • rogereolson

      I totally agree. The only thing I’d add is that some women go along with complementarianism even in its misogynistic form. The article I cited in Baptist Today referred to a Baptist seminary president’s wife who whole heartedly supports his and the seminary’s “complementarianism.”

      • Tim Reisdorf

        Since the original commenter brought up Islam, I’ll follow that up with this thought: It is largely the females within Islam that support the wearing of the traditional headgear as well as the burka. For them, it is a sign of obedience to God and they insist on it. While it certainly is not true of all female Muslims, it is true of the ones that I’ve met (generally from Somalia). And in the end, I can respect that while disagreeing with it.

        However, for myself and my family, we strongly cling to “It is for freedom that Christ set you free.” So we try to live as free (and wise) people.

        • While the vast majority of Muslim women in Muslim majority countries support the wearing of head coverings, I suspect they do so because it makes them much safer from rape, sexual assault and malicious gossip if they wear a head covering in public. It’s nice to feel you are doing it to please Allah, and its easier to give that as your only reason than to admit that you are doing it for your personal safety.

      • Beakerj

        This tendency worries me…from what I’ve read of other women’s stories though I would see some of this as a form of conditioning, or hegemony, that can be very very hard to escape.

        • You are quite right, Beakerj. Women and girls are conditioned into this male-superiority ethic. The tragedy comes to a head when a husband is a domestic abuser, becoming cruel and manipulative to his wife in multitudes of ways, many of which are hard to detect and identify because the abuser justifies his actions by twisting scripture, re-writing history, shifting the blame to his wife, etc..
          At the blog CRYING OUT FOR JUSTICE, where I am one of the administrators, we hear from these women all the time. And as an author on the topic of Divorce for domestic abuse in a Christian context, I get emails from many women who have suffered horrendously under this Pharisaic theology.

          • rogereolson

            Do you and your colleagues recognize that men can also be abused in domestic situations? Boys beaten by their fathers and/or mothers. Husbands (and elderly fathers) beaten by their larger, stronger wives (or daughters-in-law)? I know it’s not as common, but it is a mostly overlooked problem in our society now that so much attention is given to women victims of domestic abuse. What resources exist for males who are victims of domestic violence? (Don’t tell me they can just run away; the same can be said for women. There are complicated reasons why many don’t.)

  • Robert

    My main issue with complementarianism is that it’s often couched in some pretty sweeping assumptions about (biological or “God-given”) sex differences. Coming from a behavioral-social science background, I acknowledge (1) some real biologically-rooted differences in the sexes that have a significant “on average” impact on many behavioral and emotional processes, along with (2) a heck of a lot of within-sex variation in personality, interests, etc., along with (3) a substantial impact of social roles and messages on gender differences in behavior. So, even when there is a grain of truth to some of it, I tend to bristle at the very prevalent “Men (and boys) are from Mars, Women (and girls) are from Venus” pigeon-holing that goes on.

    For example, there are some families where the husband will feel most gifted/wired/called to nurture his kids, while the wife is less comfortable nurturing and is more of a take-charge, leader type. In this case, it might be best for everyone (kids included), if Dad stays home with the kids and Mom brings home the bacon in some kind of management job. However, in a lot of circles, that is frowned upon as “weird” for the man and as “inappropriate” for the Mom (after all, isn’t raising her kids “enough”?). So, now both Dad and Mom are pressured to go against the grain of their personalities and gifts in order to conform with common evangelical expectations (which they may or may not have internalized themselves).

    I think everyone suffers when men and/or women are arbitrarily pressured into roles that don’t fit their personalities–basically, you’re forced to “gut it out” in a role that doesn’t suit your interests, skills, or gifts, and no one benefits from what you would have contributed by exercising those gifts.

    Keep in mind that I’m not arguing for a hyper-individualistic, “it’s-all-about-my-needs” attitude, but I think families and couples should have Christian freedom to work out a mode of decision-making, and income-generation that (wherever possible) maximizes the family’s ability to (a) exercise their unique gifts, (b) make responsible and prudent decisions (as judged by their outcomes), (c) earn a living (that is well-stewarded), and (d) invest maximum love and Godly influence in their children’s lives (while minimizing) discord.

    Okay, kind of a ramble and maybe veering a ways from the typical “household code” and “women in ministry” topics, but thought it was in the ballpark, at least.

    • rogereolson

      Those are my thoughts exactly. I often feel somewhat out of place (like a square peg in a round hole) in the dominant culture where I find myself right now. For example, my nephew and I often go out to eat lunch together and because his wife works full time outside the home he is their baby’s care giver during the day. So we take her (the baby) along. (He lives in a rural/small town region of this Southern state.) We get hostile stares from men while women generally think it’s “cute” (to see two men with a baby out in public). My thought is–what’s the big deal? Why do people think in terms of what’s normal or not when it comes to who functions in what way in parenting? I think I was just as much the “nurturer” of our daughters as my wife was and when she was at work and I wasn’t (which was often the case when I was in graduate school) I took our daughter to the doctor. Often I was the only male with a daughter in the waiting room and then even women tended to stare at us as if something was wrong (this was thirty-some years ago and, again, in a Southern state). The only area where I might disagree SOME with you is that I think sex does incline most children toward a behavior. Boys do tend to gravitate toward physically aggressive “play” while girls do tend to gravitate toward playing with dolls and dollhouses, coloring books, etc. Obviously there are many exceptions, but this is what I’ve observed from (with my wife) taking care of small children of all ages in our church’s “extended hour” (after Sunday School during the “big church” service). I’m thinking of two little brothers who are extremely aggressive in play and have been since they were toddlers even though their parents are egalitarian liberal pacifists.

      • Deborah

        Yes, cross-cultural studies have shown very little overall difference between men and women on key indicators. They are like two bell curves that largely overlap. One of the biggest differences (and quite arguably due to cultures, since the majority are patriarchal) is a greater confidence level for men. However, there are aksi apparent differences in how key indicators are displayed (a woman’s aggressiveness is apt to be different than a man’s, partially b/c of her body makeup), and when and how different attributes and gifts develop seems to vary among boys and girls. Regardless, the cookie cutters presented to us will not fit many men or women across cultures; they simply don’t hold even if there are some differences.

      • Robert

        I will grant your point on Children’s play habits, although my daughter used to be really into dirt and toads, and someone once commented to us that “seems like such a boy thing.”

        I also agree with you that it really comes down to one’s view of the hermeneutics of going “beyond the Bible” into issues of culture and context (both the Bible’s and ours). Some people have a very literal, eternal view of gender roles and a “head”=God-ordained leader view of household code scriptures. I just don’t see it that way. Howard Marshall’s chapter in “Discovering Biblical Equality” makes a case that pretty well reflects my views.

        • Deborah

          Yeah, I was never into girly things, and neither was one of my other sisters. Another sister was pretty evenly split between playing superman by jumping off of incredibly tall objects and playing with dolls, lol. Only one girly girl in the family. I do know, however, that I have FREQUENTLY observed dads freaking out when their boys gravitate toward dolls and quickly remedying that situation. Even despite these parental corrections, one of my nephews who is genuinely rough and tumble and has a bunch of brothers spends his very favorite hours playing with jewlery or picking it out for his mom and sisters and applying glitter to everything he owns–as he has for several years. And then there is the marketing that suggests to children, “This is the way to be a girl, and this is the way to be a boy”–something which we have a lot of sociological interest in figuring out. I grew up in a home rather bereft of toys, and I knew I felt a lot of pressure to take a high interest in the rather foreign dolls and princess stuff if I was in someone else’s house. While I was relieved for the rare breaks from my home, it just felt like a weird play-acting that I didn’t relate to in the least. I’d rather explore the plants outside or take “indian squaw” orders from my big brother no matter how condescending he was to me. So I think there is a lot more biological variety than the sociological divvying up suggests. Nonetheless, I do think more boys genuinely gravitate toward wheels and toward physical aggression in ways not accounted for by parents who are pretty even steven. I’m not sure what to say about my observations of girls b/c although I have a dozen nieces to observe, all of whom are loaded with baby dolls and directed toward them, it would seem that at least half of them might otherwise have other stronger predilections. Interesting discussion….

      • Ghisnene

        I have to agree with you, that boys are generaly far more active and aggresive in play than girls, but this still is a generalisation and not always the case. When you get a boy or girl who are defferent they tend to be treated as not normal and are labele. A boy who doesn’t display typical boy behaviour have to be gay. A terrible label to hang over a child’s neck. (I’m not saying being gay is terrible, just assuming a boy that displays different behaviour is gay).

    • Beakerj

      I love this – it’s so congruent with both our reality as individual creations & with Biblical values.

  • Sean

    “Personally, I think “complementarian” is a misnomer because it does not sufficiently describe what these people really believe. The emphasis is not on males and females complementing each other but on females being submissive to males.”

    Exactly. To me, complementarianism in practice seems primarily concerned with making lists of things women aren’t “allowed” to do.

    Complementarianism shatters on the rock of Jesus’ anti-domination teachings such as Mark 10.42-45. WWJC–Who would Jesus control?

  • Ricky Leung

    I am abhorred with the professor stating that Eve was cursed before the Fall. How could an intelligent person make such a nonsense statement? He forgot to mention that Adam was also cursed. One more thing, he forgot to mention that Eve was made from the rib not the foot of Adam.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    I think males and females have quite defined roles in having children – and no scripture backing is really necessary for that. Beyond that, I think that each pair needs to find their own way according to their own individual strengths/weaknesses and callings – and they should be working together to do so.

    I am sympathetic to the evangelical Complementarianism because they are trying to be faithful to God. Overall, I have much more in common with these people in the matters of what I consider to be core belief – so I will be willing to overlook a disagreement of Biblical application.

    I am not as sympathetic to those who go to the point of abandoning/deconstructing the Bible in order to embrace Egalitarianism. While I may have some more surface issues in common with them in the realm of male/female relations, little is left in common below the surface.

    • Robert

      At the risk of sounding like something of a relativist, I think “abandoning” or “deconstructing” the bible are kind of loaded terms. Whatever you want to call it, there is interpretation to be done, and taking a literal approach of “these words apply for all times and mean exactly what they appear to mean to a naive reader” does not necessarily guarantee a more accurate interpretation than one that attempts to understand the culture (i.e., audience) in which the letter was written.

      Although no one would have used the word “deconstruction,” there were most certainly Christians who thought that biblical arguments against slavery were distortions of the clear biblical message that slaves should obey their masters. Also, Howard Marshall has argued that, at the time it was written, the “children, obey your parents” household code may very well have applied to adult children obeying their (older) adult parents.

      • Tim Reisdorf

        Hi Robert,

        Any term I use would be loaded. “Literalism” is loaded because it implies that people will pry out their eye, but I’ve only heard of one example in history of someone who did (thinking they were being obedient). So, “Literalism” does not mean naivete, nor does it mean unintelligent. It may be a different approach than you or I use in many cases, but it is respectable. I can’t understand why we don’t have the grace to just respectfully disagree with them – but we have to label them with names that show just how much smarter we are than they.

        What I was saying in my last paragraph is this: some people will embrace a notion (in this case, egalitarianism) and twist the Bible to make it fit their notion. Thus the Bible becomes the servant of their idea. I see this at work (wholly or in part) of the various Liberation Theologies. It is at this point, when the Bible is a tool rather than the teacher, that I shake my head and walk away, feeling like I have nothing substantial in common with them. I get the very real sense that the Bible (and by extension, God) is only important in how it can be used to further their own agenda.

        • Robert

          Okay, then I agree with you there. And I agree that literalism is also a loaded term.

          • Robert

            I strongly agree about a lot of liberation theology and the more radical feminist theology. There’s no particular interest in glorifying God and His amazing grace. Rather, it’s, “Hey, how can I co-opt Christian symbols to advance my own agenda?” There really is a sense in which the text is appropriated and massaged to advance an agenda.

            Again, I think some of the basic ideas of liberation theology are sound, because they challenge us to take up our cross now and work for justice as invited co-laborers in advancing God’s already-not yet Kingdom. The problem is when salvation and God’s kingdom are virtually equated with economic liberation, as if personal ethics and holiness were irrelevant, and as if the supernatural and metaphysical aspects of the faith were nothing more than symbols to be demythologized.

  • Roger,

    Thank you for this post. As a minister who was trained at a Baptist Seminary and who works extensively with evangelical churches that are predominately Baptist, this issue is one that hits home. To read such twisted interpretation used to support the extreme conservative view brought tears to my eyes, then fear in my heart, then anger.

    However, as I sat with this for a minute, I actually got a peace about it. I don’t believe any truly bible believing person would ever construct such an argument. When those who call themselves “Bible Believers” twist and distort scripture like this, I believe it will only hurt their cause and make people reconsider long held beliefs that they have never really questioned. So perhaps our conservative friend is actually doing those who support egalitarianism a favor.

    Thanks for bringing out the voice in the middle. Like you, I don’t hear much from the moderate voices but it is refreshing when someone like yourself stands in the middle and presents an alternative to the extreme views of the far left and far right.

    • Dana

      Well, I heard one rather prominent complementarian pastor tell a men’s class (I listened to the podcast of the class) that women were cursed in both mind and body but men had not been cursed. Just the ground, the woman and the snake. Not the man. In fact, I think he specified to the men that their wives were cursed in both mind and body.

      I agree with you, that these teachings should help people reconsider their beliefs. I’m not so sure I’m seeing that happen. The idea of being “biblical” even or especially if it does not make sense seems to have a strong pull.

  • Steve Rogers

    Once again you have spoken with bold wisdom showing how, in the defense of their base of power and control, patriarchal fundamentalists marginalize others and make a mockery of the gospel. Of course it is true that the extreme feminist reaction against this power abuse goes overboard at times and hinders progress toward egalitarianism in the “short term”. But, such a pendulum swing is understandable given the historic harm done by the dominating, misogynistic patriarchy, and probably a necessary phase to bring about the reversal of “firsts” and “lasts” in the kingdom of God.

  • Jonathan

    The statement you cite from the article is certainly confusing, but perhaps the author is meaning to say that the curse that applied to Eve relates to the role that she already had before the Fall: that of wife and mother (so that the clause “before the Fall” modifies “role” and not “cursed”).

    • rogereolson

      I would like to think so.

  • Phil Miller

    I was a campus pastor at a large state school for a number of years, and one thing that always surprised was the number of young Christian women I met who in some way or another believed that a woman’s place was in the home. It was her responsibility to keep a good home for her husband, and when they had kids, it was her responsibility to raise them (mostly). I know the old joke about women going to Bible college was that they were there to get the “MRS” degree, but I certainly found that applied with Christian women at secular schools as well.

    I think in some ways, these women simply found it as an easier way out. It really didn’t matter if they performed well in their studies, they could count on their husband to support them. And the really bad thing was that there are local churches and pastors that seem to encourage this mindset. It still shocks me, really.

    What happens to a woman who’s husband is sick or dies early in life? Is she left to depend on the kindness of others to support her family? When we met women who had any of this type of thinking, my wife and I did the best we could to encourage women to spend their time in college wisely – get a skill that makes them marketable, and don’t just be a baby machine. It would be one thing if complementarians kept their philosophy on gender roles confined to the ministry positions within a church, but most of the time it bleeds over into all sorts of other areas.

    • rogereolson

      True. As I mentioned, I know of one leading evangelical complementarian who has privately published (only given to his followers) some article in which he argues that a Christian woman should not hold even a secular job where she must give orders to men. He makes one qualification of that–If her job is, for example, handling the calls to an emergency number she can “order” the EMS men to go to the scene. But clearly he doesn’t think a Christian woman should be a company supervisor or manager. I find that extreme and blatantly extra-biblical and thus rooted solely in either patriarchy or misogyny or both.

      • Robert

        I kid you not, there is a small Christian liberal arts school in my state that, according to a former student I know, actually had an undergraduate major in “Pastor’s Wife” as recently as the late 1990s.

        • Yikes!
          But at another level, how refreshingly honest!
          Many young Christian women go to these colleges hoping to find a husband. Nothing wrong with hoping to find a husband, by the way! But I guess that if you catch a pastor-husband rather than just any Christian man, you might feel that you’ve really hit the jackpot. And these women usually love God and passionately desire to serve him, so if they marry a guy who’s becoming pastor, they will jump at the chance to learn how to do ministry at their husband’s side. The sad thing is, I can imagine what would be taught in that class…

  • I read an interesting book on that a year ago, from a journalist’s (not anti- or pro-Christian as far as I could tell) perspective: Joyce, Kathryn. Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010.

    • rogereolson

      Of course, Beacon Press is the publisher closely related to the Unitarian-Universalist Association. That’s not to say it doesn’t publish good stuff, but I always take the ideological bent of a publisher into account. Nevertheless, the title is intriguing.

  • Jessica

    Although I agree enthusiastically with your critique of complementarianism, I do not think White was arguing that women were “cursed” before the Fall. His point – a common one among contemporary complementarians – seems to have been that subordination of women to men is not part of the curse, but part of the original created order; the curse did not cause subordination, but rather distorted the right and good subordination that already existed. A more precise gloss of White’s quote might be the following: “Eve was cursed after the Fall in a manner directed toward the God-given roles she had before the Fall. The curse on Eve was directed toward her roles of mother and helper, which she had already possessed – in undistorted goodness – before the Fall.” That is why he believes it was sinful for Adam to listen to Eve at the Fall; the unfallen, uncursed condition of humanity involved the assignment to men of the role of leadership and authority in marriage, and to women the role of subordination and helping.

    Once again, however, I certainly do not agree with this position; I simply suspect this was what White meant to express. As a female doctoral student in theology, I am grateful for your willingness to lend your voice and scholarship to the truth that God gifts and calls individuals of both genders for leadership in the church and family.

    • rogereolson

      I hope that is what he meant. If anyone here has access to him, please seek clarification. The article put quotation marks around his statement about Eve being cursed before the Fall. If that is not what he said, Baptists Today should publish a correction.

      • Jessica

        I think the problem is just that he wasn’t very clear in his wording here. The phrase “before the Fall” is meant to qualify “her God-given role,” not “Eve was cursed.” The quote is not incorrect; it is simply poorly stated.

        The third sentence quoted in the article (not included in your quotation above) makes his point clearer: “She will have pain in childbirth, and her desire will be for her husband.” Clearly, this is a reference to the post-Fall curse. White is suggesting that the first part of Eve’s post-Fall curse is “on” her pre-existing “God-given role as a mother” and the second on her role “as a helper.”

        I do not have access to him to ask personally, but would be very surprised if he were actually trying to make the more extreme point. (The conference audio is available here: I do not have time to listen to White’s lecture this morning, but can try to do so later in the day.)

        • Jessica

          I just listened to the lecture. It does indeed make clear that White was not arguing Eve was cursed before the Fall. The quote occurs at point 32:06 in the audio; I’d recommend listening at least from 31:00, if you do not have time (or inclination – there’s no novel or unique content) to listen to the whole thing.

          When he makes the comment about Eve’s portion of the curse in Gen. 3, he is contrasting it with Adam’s portion. He suggests that the fact that Adam’s part of the curse extended beyond himself (to “the ground”), while Eve’s part involved only her own roles as mother and helper, demonstrates that Adam held roles of authority/responsibility before the Fall which Eve did not.

          As an egalitarian, I do find much of what White says in the lecture incorrect and disturbing. But he does not claim Eve was cursed prior to the Fall.

          • rogereolson

            Thanks for that correction.

        • rogereolson

          Perhaps you and others are correct; I hope so. However, it seems to me that so-called complementarianism does amount to belief that Eve was cursed from the beginning–by being necessarily subordinate to and submissive to her husband.

          • Jessica

            I agree completely. The way Deborah says it below is great: there’s a “this-is-God’s-intention-but-it-sucks-to-be-you” sense inherent to the position.

            The same is also true, it seems to me, regarding the argument often employed by complementarians who acknowledge that there are indeed women who possess the gifts/aptitudes/inclinations which would make them well-suited for ministries from which they are excluded on the basis of gender. I sometimes wonder how often complementarian men in ministry contemplate what it would be like for them – gifted for and believing themselves called to a ministry they love and perform well – to be told “not everyone gets an opportunity to exercise their gifts in just any way; you’ll just need to try to find some ‘alternative’ way to use yours”… not just individually and for a specific period of time in a specific situation, but as a permanent (even eternal) consignment fundamentally dismissive of them as individuals. My guess is that it wouldn’t sit as well with most of them as they expect it to sit with us.

    • Deborah

      Ah, yes! I totally missed that in quoting the same section. I’ve heard the teaching a lot re: Adam sinning by not properly guiding Eve and by listening to her, but it was couched in creation order not in a pre-Fall fallen woman. Good point!!! Of course there’s a this-is-God’s-intention-but-it-sucks-to-be-you bit inherent to this view which fits in rather nicely with the idea that a woman might be naturally degenerate. Perhaps that author’s mistake (if it is one) quite accurately depicts the way he truly thinks and feels about women in their genesis. 🙁

      • rogereolson

        He wouldn’t be alone. Much of Christian history is littered with misogyny. I don’t remember if it was Thomas Aquinas or who it was in the middle ages who labeled women “misbegotten males.” (Of course, as I’ve been trying to point out, that situation is turning around especially in educational contexts in the U.S. where, according to a Newsweek cover story on “The Boy Crisis” boys are often treated as “defective girls” by teachers.)

        • leah

          it most likely was Aquinas, because that’s what Aristotle said. Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle. he (Aristotle) taught that all babies were supposed to be male, and women were just fetuses that had been born too early because the mother’s body didn’t produce enough warmth (in the hot/cold, wet/dry system, women are cold and men are hot). he saw women as defective males who simply didn’t have enough time to mature in the womb.

          it has always amused me that for thousands of years, people attributed the gender of the child to conditions in the womb, and in the 20th century, we find out gender is determined by the chromosome carried in the sperm! 🙂

          • rogereolson

            Yes, this is one of the great ironies of history and especially of Henry VIII’s treatment of his wives some of whom he rejected because they failed to give him a male heir. They failed? Oh, if only people then had known. I love to picture some early researcher coming to Henry VIII near the end of his life and proving to him that HE was the one responsible for the sex of his offspring and not his wives! So what lesson can we learn from this? I think we have to be open to the very real possibility that someday a genetic component strongly inclining toward homosexuality will be discovered. I expect it to happen. So far identical twin studies have been somewhat inconclusive, but they incline that way. (I know a man who was involved in that research at the University of Minnesota and he confirms that the outcome of their identical twin studies shown a definite tendency for identical twins to be either both homosexual or heterosexual. The puzzle is why not always? So, at least for now, homosexuality seems to be a matter of nature and/or nurture.) What will that mean? Well, at the very least it should caution parents of homosexual offspring against blaming them for their sexual orientation.

  • Roger-

    I agree with most of what you’ve said. By way of slight clarification (and speaking as one who grew up in very complementarian contexts and went to a sharply complementarian evangelical university for undergrad), I do think that the statement about Eve being “cursed on her God-given role before the Fall” does not mean what you have interpreted it to mean – I think what that professor meant was that the curse God gave to Eve in Gen. 3 was a curse tailored specifically towards the roles God ordained her to have (just as God’s curse on Adam, tailored as it was towards work and provision for the family, reflects [on their reading] the roles God ordains for men). In other words, I don’t think that the professor was saying that Eve’s pre-Fall roles were curses or that God created her cursed; I think he’s suggesting that the content of God’s curses to Adam and Eve helps us understand the roles they (and men and women generally) are intended to have, since the curses reflect truths about their respective gender. I’m not saying this is a correct reading of Gen. 3, but I’m not sure it is as harshly misogynistic as your interpretation suggests.

    On related grounds, I would love to see a review by you of the Driscolls’ new book Real Marriage; complementarian gender roles obviously play a huge part in anything Mark Driscoll says about marriage and I imagine you’d have some incisive wisdom to offer about that book in general.

    • rogereolson

      I tried to engage in an e-mail discussion about gender roles with a young man who ministers in Driscoll’s network as a church planter. He agrees whole heartedly with Driscoll. After I posed a few questions to him he dropped the conversation. I don’t know why, but I suspect they are question he has trouble answering. One that I would like to hear Driscoll and other complementarians answer is this: What should a Christian wife of a Christian husband do when, based on her training and expertise and knowledge, she knows with assurance that his decision in a particular matter will bring significant harm to the family?” I suppose they would ask for an example, so here: “The decision in question is whether to invest the family’s savings in a certain capital venture. The wife, knowing (for whatever reason) that the investment will be lost, cannot convince her husband to change his mind. The investment will require both of their signatures. Should she sign just because her husband tells her to?” So, the issue isn’t sin or morality; the issue is prudence. In this case the wife is more prudent for the family’s well-being than the husband. What would a consistent evangelical complementarian tell the wife to do? I’m old enough to remember Bill Gothard; I think he would have told the wife to sign and trust God. I was an assistant pastor in a church strongly influenced by Gothard’s teachings on “God’s chain of command” and saw families and lives ruined because of them.

      • Carie Good

        Mr Olson,
        I hope that you will permit me to enter the conversation as a late-comer? I was glad to discover your post just now. I believe you bring a (rare) kind and balanced perspective to this charged topic. Complementarity, as a Biblical notion, is close to my heart, and I have been aware of the morphing of its intent over the past couple of decades. Being a pastoral counseling partner with my husband (we work well as a team, especially with marriages) obviously this comes up often. I’d like to suggest that in the compelling scenario you present, you perhaps set up a simplified dichotomy that under-represents the true nature of the problem.

        You frame the question as one of prudence. I agree with you, that an extreme complementarian, to be consistent, would have to tell the wife to sign and trust God. This infers that the only other option is to refuse to sign on the basis of prudence: Prudence trumps submission. My query would have to include another paradigm; let’s say a third way. A way that is based on relationship in the context of love.

        If we look to I Cor. 13 as our definition of love, “Love is willing to wait as long as it takes for ultimate good to come about. Love goes about what it does with a heart of kindness, without demanding. Love does not wish for what belongs to others as if having it would make life more meaningful. Love does not try to make itself look better by parading achievements, acting haughtily, or trying to turn the conversation in such a way as to get credit for something that is already, of itself, worthwhile. Love is willing to lose face rather than win and cause harm to the standing of another. Love seeks to stay aware of the damage that rudeness can do, and carefully considers the welfare and comfort of others, even at its own expense. Love does not store up evidence against others that have done harm, or ever justify retaliation. Love does not secretly delight in any form of evil or harm befalling anyone – even an enemy. Love will not let up until the whole truth is known. Love will always seek to stand up for the value of others, will always trust in what is good, will always hold out for the best in others to be finally seen, and will not be inclined to give up in the face of uncomfortable conflict or confusion. Love does not, ultimately, abandon. Love, unlike any other focus of living, such as striving for knowledge, accomplishments, possessions, appearances or safety, will not disappoint as a way of life. All this is possible because love can rest secure in the knowledge that it can never be destroyed.” (our paraphrase) The answer to your dilemma then becomes more complicated.

        In your scenario the burden is on the wife, so she is the one that needs to grapple with her motives. Does signing, or not signing, “abandon” the relationship — in favor of not causing conflict, in favor of hiding behind the ‘rules’ of submission or in favor of prudence, of demanding what seems right? Or does signing, or not signing, reflect a commitment — to the value of another, to the welfare of another, to holding out for the best in another, to seeking the whole truth? Of course, we will hope the husband would grapple with the very same issues. I feel that authentic, healthy complementarity is the beautiful dance honest love in a relationship can provide. And, sadly, it seems we need to find another word, as this one has been hi-jacked.
        Any suggestions?

        • rogereolson

          Your well-thought out suggestion is, of course, ideal. But my point was–what if the husband is adamant and so is the wife and it’s a pressing issue? My point was that, given conservative evangelical complementarianism (as I have heard it preached and explained in at least some writings by leading complementarians), the complementarian counselor will have to tell the wife to sign after all is said and done and the husband remains firm. To say anything else, IMHO, is tantamount to some form of egalitarianism. Or it just qualifies “complementarianism” to death so that it is not really what the leading complementarians are saying (wives should submit to their husbands so long as their husbands are not telling them to sin). I don’t really see any middle room between complementarianism (as it is explained by leading conservative evangelicals who coined the term and who have jumped on that bandwagon) and egalitarianism. To me, “egalitarianism” is any view that says a married couple should not make any major decisions that affect both of them without both agreeing.

  • Deborah

    I have, unfortunately, heard this teaching for some number of years in random sectors of compism, some of them “soft” and some of them “fundy:”

    “According to the article cited above, one evangelical complementarian argued at a recent meeting of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that Adam’s sin was listening to his wife. According to the article (and the statement is placed in quotation marks in the article) “Eve was cursed on her God-given role before the Fall. She is cursed on her role as a mother and as a helper.” Now this is something new; I have never heard anyone make such an argument until now (assuming the article is correct). ”

    Since I own an old-school cassette player, I recently bought a big box full of old tapes from Christians for Biblical Equality conferences, since they were for the price of penny stocks, lol. One of the interesting discoveries was that in early meetings speakers were complaining that the hierarchalists had taken the term complementarian from them–that they had already self-defined as “complementarian” regarding men and women working together for kingdom good but that now this term had been hijacked as good p.r. for hierarchy. That’s interesting to think about. Also, I think that egalitarians no longer being able to use the term “complementarian” effectively for themselves may be shaping how they view their own position. I’m coming across more egals now who downplay gender differences to the extreme (imho). But usually if you talk to them more, even they will acknowledge that there have to be some observable differences apart from plumbing but that they are reacting to the harm of the cookie cutters that have almost inevitably been a part of the discussion of differences in their experiences.

    I would add that my experience of compism has been different in that I certainly know comp churches (even ones that place a lot of emphasis on compism as part of the gospel) that allow a woman to teach or in some way guide small groups or that even allow women to preach provided that a big to-do is made about her being under the covering of and in submission to her husband and the lead pastor (the latter seems to be particularly common in charismatic churches, but we see it also in a variety of church histories when women came back from the mission field and could give messages from the ground floor level but not from the pulpit). I EVEN know some charismatic networks that encourage (to some degree) women to become lead pastors provided they emphasize their personal submission to their husbands as the “priests” of their the home. The same may sometimes choose to declare that she is a lead pastor b/c there were unknown men who were called to the position but who did not answer the call. So it gets sort of complex….

    Thanks for this article.

  • Deborah

    I wanted to add that a friend of mine in South Africa tells me that complementarianism there has taken on a unique flavor. She recently showed me an article that was written in one of the major evangelical publications in direct response to her letter to the editor complaining about the poor hermeneutics of several comp articles the magazine had recently published. To her dismay, this only prompted them to write an article laying down the comp law as THE “clear” interpretation of all of scripture. The article consisted of one “hard comp” exegetical fallacy after another including the one you are complaining about here regarding Adam absconding his position as a leader (and that position being inherently given to him by the mere fact that God had given him directives prior to Eve’s creation). But interestingly, at the end of the article, it took an equally strident line about how women ARE called to preach (although it did note that this is often b/c men are not available or have rejected God’s calling). She said in South Africa it would sound fairly bizarre for an evangelical to claim that women cannot preach but that it would, unfortunately, sound equally bizarre to say that they are to be considered as equals in decision-making. In other words, she claims that the South African norm is one of a compism very concerned about male authority but where women can preach. As she put it, the statement that the husband is “king, priest, and prophet of the home… tragically, sounds fairly normal to the average South African Christian mind. …On the other hand, the statement that women should not preach sound rather common in America, but extreme around here.”

    • rogereolson

      Very interesting. I wonder if it has anything to do with the prominence of women missionaries in Africa? Two of my aunts were missionaries to Liberia for many years and, of course, preached often.

      • Deborah

        I suspect it does. And what powerful stories we have of women’s communal courage in Liberia! That is a wonderful heritage you have :).

  • Troysko

    I think you may be misunderstanding the SBC prof’s statement that “Eve was cursed on her God-given role before the Fall. She is cursed on her role as a mother and as a helper.”

    He is not saying that Eve’s curse preceded the Fall. He is saying that Eve’s curse concerned the role which God had given her before the Fall. IOW God gave her a good role, but then after the Fall he made parts of that good role difficult for her.

    No one thinks that Eve by virtue of her role was cursed before the Fall. I’m almost certain that the SBC prof will tell you the same thing if you email him.

  • Ben

    Saying Eve “was cursed…before the Fall” has to be one of the most bizarre complementarian arguments I’ve ever encountered. Do you think this is just Calvinism run amok? If someone believes that God foreordained everything, including the fall, then I could see how they might try to argue that Eve was cursed before the fall, even if it results in one of the most tortured readings of Scripture I’ve ever come across.

    Is it just me, or does it seem like there’s more than a small amount of overlap between complementarianism (particularly the kind advanced by CBMW) and neo-Calvinism? If so…why do you think that is?

  • Robert

    Couple of notes:

    1) Hermeneutics and Literalism – Complementarians seem to interpret both the Fall and the household codes as literal and enduring. I think any theology of gender that views Genesis as literal (or as non-literal but supporting unambiguous inferences about enduring gender differences) is deeply problematic. I just don’t interpret the creation/fall story literally, so I can’t find any common ground with people who approach that text in that fashion (though I can understand that this is where they’re coming from).

    3) Control Freakism – This is a somewhat incendiary term, but I’ve noted before that it’s interesting that militant evangelical Calvinism (another loaded term) and highly patriarchal views seem to be somewhat correlated. As limited as those terms may be, I’ll back them up w/ examples: Driscoll, Piper, Grudem, Ware. I’m not saying one way or another whether these guys personally are control freaks, but it is interesting that their views of God-human relations and Male-female relations reflect the assumption that a patriarchal figure must maintain meticulous control of what happens. I think there’s a genuine “psychology of evangdlical Calvinism” thing going on, such that this kind of theology strongly appeals to people with an authoritarian bent.

    • Robert

      Sorry, there was apparently an imaginary note 2) that was too profound for the keyboard. 🙂

    • rogereolson

      I agree (with the last line especially). I have a hilarious story about Grudem. He and I first met some years ago in a hallway at the college where we both taught. (He taught there before I did and was back to visit his son who was a student there.) My wife and I had just started attending a Baptist church pastored by a woman (and with a woman associate pastor, too). Wayne and I shook hands and talked for a few minutes. My wife was standing there. It was just the three of us. When I introduced Wayne to my wife, my dear wife, completely innocently, invited him to visit our church the next morning (Sunday) to hear our “wonderful woman preacher.” Wayne must have thought it was a set up; his reaction was very funny. He got a strange look on his face and began backing up with his arms out as if to push us away from him saying “No, I don’t think I’ll be there.” It was as if we had invited him to go to a bar for a drink.

      • Robert

        lol 🙂

        • Timothy

          There is a story about Winston Churchill at an event in Canada. A young waitress came round with glasses of sherry. Churchill took one. The next person was a Methodist minister and staunch teetotaller. On being offered the sherry he threw up his hands in horror and said that he would rather commit adultery than allow alcohol to pass his lips. Churchill then said, “Come back miss, I didn’t know there was a choice.”

          • rogereolson

            Churchill was extremely clever with his come backs. A woman came to him at a party and said “Mr. Prime Minister, if I were your wife I’d poison you.” To which Churchill replied “Madam, if I were your husband I would gladly take the poison.”

  • Timothy

    I am from and in the UK. So I am not familiar with Baptists Today. So I looked it up on the internet. It would appear to be opposed to hierarchialist approaches to male/female relations. So it is probably necessary to consult the original article that appeared to curse woman before the fall. I agree with some of the other comments above that the more normal understanding of what the original argument was getting at was that the women was affected by the Fall in the two aspects that were typically woman’s, childbearing and helping. This actually seems quite unexceptional. Obviously childbearing is a woman’s task in that it cannot be a man’s. As for helping, that is a role specified in Gen 2. Two comments however. First, it is going a bit far to say that the women is ‘cursed’. Only the snake and the ground are specifically said to be cursed. The comments about woman and man are that life is going to get a lot harder than they would have wished, or even that God would have wished.
    Secondly, the notion of helping need not carry with it the subordination that hierarchialists assume. After all God can be a helper. What the comment about the woman says is that this role of helping is to be blighted by the dominance of men, something very visible down the ages. It is sometimes called patriarchy but has less flattering terms.
    I agree with the basic contention of the article that there are two views on male/female relations, one wrong and the other right but it is not the normal complementarian/egalitarian divide but the essential to be right and the nice to be right divide. Complementarians who fellowship constructively with egalitarians and vice versa are OK; those who cannot fellowship with those ‘on the other side’ are virtually failing the ‘discern the Lord’s body ‘.

    This is not on this topic but it interests me so please can I plead for indulgence as it has some similarities. Al Mohler is a fervent Young Earth Creationist. This is a view that I think resembles that of the male/female debate. It would be nice to get it right but scarcely essential for Christian fellowship. Yet at times, it does seem to be regarded by Mohler as essential. What puzzles me is what function the YEC doctrine has in the theology of Mohler. His blog website has no separate topic devoted to creation. Is the doctrine of creation important to him? Or to others from the same general wing of the church? One distinctive of Christianity from (almost?) all other religions and philosophies is a strong doctrine of creation. It should therefore be something we treasure and proclaim. The lack of a strong doctrine of creation may lie at the heart of the disagreement between Kevin De Young and Greg Gilbert on the one side and the Cape Town commitment from Lausanne movement. Do Mohler or those belonging to TGC have a strong doctrine of creation or does it function primarily as a litmus test in inerrancy debates?

    • rogereolson

      It seems to me that, for the most part, they confuse a strong doctrine of creation with belief in young earth creationism. I take the resurgence of young earth creationism among conservative evangelicals as a desire for what I call “maximal conservatism.” I’m not sure why it is important otherwise. Even Augustine suggested the “days” of creation may have been long periods of time and not 24 hour days.

  • Bob G

    The notion of a pre-fall curse is completely compatible with extreme Calvinism. If it’s no big deal for God to elect a person to eternal damnation, it’s certainly less a big deal for God to predetermine a woman’s temporal curse.

    For the record, I agree with neither view!

    • rogereolson

      Well, I certainly agree with you about Calvinism! 🙂 Of course, most Calvinists will argue that God did not elect anyone to damnation, but the effect is that nevertheless.

  • Marty

    It seems to me that Eve was in the roll of leader when she was approached by Dr. Evil. Was she running the animal intelectual rights company, while her foreman Adam was dealing with the ground level problems; vegetarianism & the animal kingdom, animal unions, carnivoir segrigation, etc? Maybe the curse was a corporate structure reversal. Sorry babe. You listened to the wrong advisory committee. You get a cut in responsibility & pay & by the way having babies is really gonna suck. For at least 18 years.

  • “The emphasis is not on males and females complementing each other but on females being submissive to males.”

    Hmmm excellent point! I have wondered about this same question in semantics for quite a long time. Why is authority in marriage so emphasized? That doesn’t seem to be a theme throughout the whole of scripture. And the verses in the same passage also seem if taken literally to support slavery. Yet wouldn’t most complementarians (I hope anyway!) explain those passages away?

    Is “complementary” only meant as “she does what he says?” Is that all it really means to them? Because I would say my marriage is “complementary” if that was meant “adding to and ake each other better” but semantically, it functions as egalitarian – a word which is good, because we are equal, but doesn’t capture the essence go “being better together.”