By Pastor Matthew Everhard
1) Definitions of Differing Positions Regarding Gender
• Complementarian: Men and women are created equal in value; and yet distinct in role. God ordained that men and women would each have unique gifts and abilities; among them is the male’s leadership role in the church and home. This view holds that men alone are to hold the position of Teaching Elder in the Church. This is the traditional position of Reformed Theology, and is espoused by the leadership and pastors of Faith Church.
• Egalitarian: Men and women are created equal in value and equal in role. God created men and women as virtual equals in all things. This position can be summarized with the motto, “Whatever a man can do, a woman can do.” Egalitarianism is non-traditional in Reformed Theology, but gaining ground.
• Heirarchical: Men are created superior to women in value and/or role. This position is rejected in Reformed Theology.
• Hyper-Feminist: Women are created superior to men in value or role. This position is rejected in Reformed Theology.
2) Several Main Points to Consider in Support of Complementarianism:
a. God created men and women equal in value (neither gender is superior, per the hierarchical and hyper-feminist views). This is made explicit in the Creation account where Scripture says in Genesis 1:27,
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
This declaration is repeated in 5:2. It is important to note that 1:27 occurs before the Fall, whereas 5:2 is repeated after the Fall. In other words, the Fall did not change the equality of value between male and female.
b. Nevertheless, males and females are consistently given different roles to play in the home and the Church; specifically, the male is given headship (or primacy of initiative) in both Church and home. The account of Creation in Genesis 2 makes this explicit, where Adam is given the primary charge (Genesis 2:15). We note Eve’s God-designated role as helpmate to Adam. This assumes Adam is on a mission of obedience already! Eve would not have anything for which to “help” Adam if he were not a man-on-fire for obedience to God!
c. It is NOT undesirable or oppressive to submit to one who is being obedient to God already! This is true of course, assuming that the “helpmate” has already determined to follow Christ in her own life as well. Assuming both marriage partners are Christ-followers, they ought to be walking in the same direction and with the same conviction. If the husband is being obedient to God, a wife’s submission is therefore an extension of her obedience to God.
d. The husband/wife covenant is to be modeled after the Christ/Church covenant as Ephesians 5:22-33 shows. If male headship and female support are compromised, the covenant of marriage fails to do what it was originally designed by God to do, viz. illustrate the authority of Christ over His grateful and joyfully obedient bride, the elect.
e. Biblically, “submission” not at all a bad word as our culture suggests, but is rather a beautiful picture of honor. The Greek word hypotasso (submit, cf. Ephesians 5:22) is used several times to describe the wife’s obligation to her husband, but we must not forget that hypotasso is a verb that is used to describe the disposition of Christ as well. For instance Jesus was said to hypotasso to Joseph and Mary in Luke 2:51. Christ is also said to hypotasso the Father in 1 Corinthians 15:28. Obviously, this verb does not imply any sort of inferiority (as Christ is fully divine and worthy of all praise) but rather a loving inclination towards honor.
f. Submission for the wife ought not to be a burden, but rather a joy. After all, the man is told to love his wife “as Christ loves the Church,” which means he ought to be ready to bleed, suffer, and die for her! We note that in Ephesians 5, after Paul counsels women to submit to their husbands, he does not tell the men “therefore subjugate your wives.” On the contrary, the parallel command is not to oppress them but to love them. He even says to do this “as Christ loved the Church,” that is, unto His own death by crucifixion. For this reason, a man ought to love his own wife, even if doing so should result in his own torture or death.
g. Egalitarianism (see above) is in error because it robs BOTH genders of their God-given uniqueness. By minimizing the differences between genders, our culture is headed towards becoming an increasingly androgynous (asexual) society. Consider this example. The Navy has just changed its longstanding policy regarding women serving aboard submarines. While gender roles are obviously complicated within the Church, how much more complicated is social policy outside the Church! Christian sociologists are beginning to notice how the very idea of gender is being stripped down to nothing. Current trends such as homosexual marriages, same-sex couples adopting children, and the epidemic of the fatherlessness of American children further underscore an almost incessant urge to strip both genders of all intelligible giftedness and meaning, rendering one (or both) utterly inconsequential.
h. On the other hand, complementarianism is written into our very DNA. For instance, if a criminal or wild animal breaks into the home of a married couple in the middle of the night, the course of nature suggests that a man should automatically rise to defend his wife and children, not push his wife into the way. This comes instinctively as he is created to lead and defend. On the other hand, women are uniquely gifted in other categories of life experience. For instance, a wife may be much better at tending to a child with an inconsolable earache, and may possess special gifts of tenderness, compassion, and mercy. This comes instinctively, as she is created to care and nurture. Obviously, while women can fight off intruders and men can tend to hurting children, nature itself dictates that each gender has unique and special properties given by God that cannot be extinguished without harming the human race in general.
3) Recommended Reading
For more information of complementarianism, please consult the exhaustive and extremely helpful work on this subject, entitled Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway) edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper. This comprehensive work defends complementarianism in a thoroughly Biblical manner.