Complementarianism as a Mediating Position

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I really like Augustine, but the following is just terrible biblical exegesis:

What was said to Cain about sin, or the perverted desire of the flesh, is said in this passage about the sinful woman, and here is to be taken as meaning that man, in ruling his wife, should resemble the mind which rules the flesh. For that reason the Apostle says, 'A man who loves his wife is loving himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh.' [Augustine, City of God, XV.7, Henry Bettensen translation, 1972 Penguin edition]

The sense of 'flesh' Paul has in mind in Ephesians 5:28 is not the same sense as when he speaks of the flesh as something to resist. He's talking about people loving their own flesh as a good thing and thus a model for how a husband treats a wife. How can it follow from that that a husband would rule over his wife the way my mind might rule over my flesh in the bad sense of 'flesh'?

This is an obstacle complementarians face in recognizing distinction of gender roles but equality of nature. That kind of relationship isn't master-slave but can nonetheless have an authority structure. Augustine's view of a husband-wife relationship isn't standard complementarianism today, and it's not the view that I think the biblical passages on this assume. Complementarians tend to place themselves in a mediating position between Augustine and absolute egalitarianism, which calls any gender role distinctions evil.

Egalitarians naturally resist that characterization, since calling a position mediating suggests that other views are extreme. But such resistance shouldn't justify mischaracterizing another's view. We should seek accuracy in representing how relate to each other, and I've seen countless attempts by egalitarians to place contemporary complementarian positions such as those of D.A. Carson, Thomas Schreiner, William Mounce, Craig Blomberg, or Bruce Waltke on the same level as what Augustine says. Those who really do know what complementarians are saying who do this are making the difference between Augustine and contemporary complementarianism out to be nothing, and that strikes me as deliberate misrepresentation. Advocating ultimate husband leadership in a marriage but with significant input and even major decision-making on the part of the wife will in practice look far more like an egalitarian marriage than like the master-slave model that many egalitarians portray complementarianism as advocating. Even those who will still disagree with complementarianism ought to acknowledge that, and I see much egalitarian rhetoric as trying to cover over such distinctions rather than acknowledging them.

27 Comments

"I see much egalitarian rhetoric as trying to cover over such distinctions rather than acknowledging them."

Me, too. I never know whether that's deliberate, or because they just don't understand the complementarian position, either through ignorance of it or muddled thinking about it.

I've pretty much given up trying to correct it, and I probably shouldn't give up, but I've grown tired of the "hurt feelings" card being played when I speak up.

Jeremy, you have rightly linked hermenuetics with this issue. For more than a decade the discussion on women's ordination as elders and pastors within my own denomination (Seventh-day Adventist) always comes back to hermeneutics. I would say that in my reading and discussions I've found egalitarians and complementarians equally guilty of misreprsenting the "other side", which only increases the polarization.

Rebecca's comment also hits the mark and sadly represents how emotions and patronizing remarks colour the discussions.

I have to confess that exegetically, I'm riding the fence on women's ordination, even though I would consider myself complementarian on gender roles in marriage. Perhaps I've succumbed to the pressures of a more liberal European position, where we do ordain women, albeit only a few, as pastors. The global line within my own denomination is split along East and West, as well as North and South, African, Asian, and South American members favouring the complementarian view on both ordination and marriage issues. Within the States the same regional differences exist.

It seems culture, particularly between country and urban life, seems more a deciding factor than exegesis, though I wouldn't push this distinction too far.

By the way, I've resent the trackback you mentioned in your blog comment. Thanks.

There are a few women (and men) I'm not very popular with over this...

Call me complementatarian. ;-)


I think that complementarians perhaps need to find models other than "master/slave" to help explain what is really meant. I've been thinking about what would be a good example for a while.


Here's an analogy I came up with from my field of work. I'd be interested in whether you think it fits, and if you have any better analogies...


I am a software developer, which means that I have lots of technical knowledge about how to write a computer program that does what a customer wants. Sometimes I work in a team of programmers, but often I work alone on one product. However, even when I am the only developer, there is always a project manager. The project manager is in charge of the budget and timescales. He decides what the application will do and how it will do it. In other words, in our team of two, he is the one with the authority.


So if there is an improvement that I think we should make, I must ask the project manager. And if there is a feature that I think will be too much effort to implement, the project manager must decide whether it is in or out. A good project manager will listen to my ideas and suggestions, and take them into account. Usually I have a far better understanding of the technical issues, and have strong opinions on what should be done. But at the end of the day, it is his call, and I have to accept that sometimes I will have to do something that I don't think is the best idea.


But just because the project manager has the authority (and also responsibility - it will be him that must give an account to the directors if the project is late, poor quality and over budget), doesn't mean that the developer is somehow a second-class citizen. In fact, he is vital to the success of the project. And just because the project manager makes the final decisions, doesn't mean that he has to be dictatorial in his approach. In fact, usually the best results will come if he hears and accepts the suggestions of the developer.


So I would argue that it is possible to be in a partnership where one has authority but both are equal in value. Where one has overall responsibility but the work is shared according to the skills of the individuals involved. Where decisions are made by one party but always take into account the ideas of the other. Where both feel fulfilled that they are doing what they enjoy and what they are good at. In short, where two people complement each other they can achieve better results than if they both attempt to take on identical roles.

How about "Christ and church"? As a woman, I'm not afraid of submission as unto God, to a man who loves me as Christ loves the church.

Just a quick comment regarding this statment from above:
"Me, too. I never know whether that's deliberate, or because they just don't understand the complementarian position, either through ignorance of it or muddled thinking about it."

I just want to say, as a person who tends to the egalitarian side of the discussion, that I cannot pin down what complementarians believe, and it is certainly not deliberate on my part. Heaven knows I've tried.

For instance, I have not been able to determine if some, any or most complementarians believe that wives have a relationship with Christ that is independent from, and not mediated through, their husbands. I have heard statements made by several different complementarians that seem to imply they do not think so.

So what am I supposed to think? What if Jim Jones came to me and said, "I'm Christ's glory on earth and you're my glory on earth, and I can mediate between you and Him. You were created to submit to my authority." I would reject that outright and tell him to take a swig of his own kool-aide.

Yet, it appears I'm supposed to not only accept the idea that at least some complementarians appear to believe exactly that, but also at the same time apologize for my own lack of orthodoxy.

Trust me, if this whole debate was just about female pastors, I probably wouldn't give it the time of day. This debate is about statements that regularly issue forth from the mouths of certain prominant complementarians that are perplexing at best and false at worst.

I'm sure there are people who believe that a wife's relationship with Christ is mediated through the husband, but I would not consider that the middle-ground position of complementarianism. The standard names associated with complementarianism don't believe anything close to that, because it's just so clearly against the clear biblical teaching that there is one mediator, Christ himself.

If you know of anyone calling themselves complementarians who say this, I'm curious who it is, because no complementarian I know of would consider this complementarianism. It goes against the whole point. Complementarianism insists that men and women are equal before God, and complementarians take Gal 3:28 to be about spiritual equality, exactly the thing this other view denies.

Complementarians do often take husbands to have responsibility over their families in a way similar to elders' responsibility over their congregations, which means being held responsible for anything that goes on in the sphere of responsibility, but that certainly can't imply being a mediator between the wife and Christ in the sense important for salvation. I'm going to say flat-out that I think such a view contradicts the key claim of complementarianism, and thus anyone who holds it is not a complementarian, by the very definition of the term.

Hi Jeremy,
Regarding this statement:
"I'm sure there are people who believe that a wife's relationship with Christ is mediated through the husband, but I would not consider that the middle-ground position of complementarianism."

This leads us to the question of what organization or group of people can be considered to hold the middle ground position of complementarianism. Can we say that CBMW does?

This comes right off the CBMW website:
http://www.cbmw.org/resources/articles/husbands_role.php
"He is her head as being vitally interested in her welfare. He is her protector. His pattern is Christ Who, as head of the Church, is its Savior!"

Do you understand why women are a bit leary of rhetoric like this?

Christ's work as savior was unique. No human being could accomplish, or even come close to accomplishing, the work of the cross. So what exactly does he mean by this? Is it just a really poor choice for an analogy, or something else?

How about this quote, also from CBMW:
"As husbands, we have been assigned the task of leading our wives on our pilgrimage through earth to heaven..."

One can only ask why. Can she not find the way without her husband showing it to her? Maybe this was also a very poor choice of wording, and the author did not intend to imply such a thing.

As for women:
"She should want him to lead her, and should be ready to submit to his leadership as unto Christ."

Should she really? Is her husband's leadership really equivalent to Christ's?

How about this quote by Stephen Wickstrom?
"A servant-leader husband is a life-giver, protector, provider, lover, responsible for, and developer of, his wife."

"Life-giver"? Does the husband give his wife spiritual life, or does this refer to physical life? Where does this idea come from? Is he referring back to Adam and Eve? Did Adam give Eve life, or did God?

All in all, are these people saying straight out that a husband mediates in terms of salvation for his wife? As I originally stated, we can't pin that down. I am being very honest about the fact that I do not know.

But to me, there some very perplexing and questionable statements in the quotes I included above.

I would say that CBMW was fairly representative of the range of views within complementarianism until they started scaring the most reasonable complementarians away because of their extremist stance on gender translation. But their official view is not at all outside the mainstream of complementarianism, even if the more moderating influences are less present now than they were when their important Piper/Grudem book was published. The CBMW position is mainstream, with some more radical and some more moderating. But the view you had stated in your first comment seems to me to be not just outside the mainstream but against the very definition of complementarianism. I very much doubt anyone in CBMW believes that, at least in the way you were stating it.

The Dennis Rainey statement is pretty much right out of Ephesians 5. Paul presents an analogy between the Christ-church relationship and the husband-wife relationship. One of the things he draws attention to is Christ's role in serving the church as her savior, which Rainey paraphrases as "someone vitally interested in the her welfare". I tend to think of husbands who aren't interested in their wife's welfare as not very good husbands, so I agree with Rainey on this. The way he's using the analogy has to be read in context. Christ's role as savior showed that he had an interest in the welfare of the church, and since that's the only element of his being savior that Rainey draws attention to I can't really see anything more significant about it in the essay you linked to. Rainey doesn't say that a husband is savior to a wife. He does say that a husband is to imitate what Christ did as a savior in serving the church by serving his wife. Read it again. What you're saying isn't there.

I don't know where the pilgrimage quote comes from, but what you're saying sounds to me as if it's probably taking it way out of context. Does it say that everyone who needs a leader can't think for themselves? If not, then I'm not sure we should conclude that someone's being a leader means the ones being led can't think for themselves. After all, everyone in a congregation has leaders, the elders. Does the fact that the elders are leading me mean that I can't have a relationship with God for myself? That's not what leadership is about. It's about caring for the interests of those assigned to your care. That doesn't have the implication you're inferring when it's church leadership, so why should it have it if it's family leadership?

On submitting to a husband as to Christ, that is again right out of Ephesians 5. Those are Paul's exact words. Paul doesn't say that the husband's leadership is equivalent to Christ's, though, and I really very much doubt whoever you're quoting said that eiter, though again I have no context. Doing something to someone as you do it to someone else doesn't mean those two are equivalent, just that your attitude is similar in enough respects to make a comparison. The complementarian view endorses the biblical command for wives to submit to their husbands as to Christ, and that language is pretty much Paul's own wording.

I'm not sure what the life-giver thing is. It might just be metaphorical for the fact that most husbands provide what's necessary for life in income that can buy food. Some complementarians do think husbands ought to be the income-earner in the family. It might be metaphorical for providing energy for a wife to thrive on. I have no idea. Neither of those possibilities strikes me as especially likely, but neither does yours. I've never seen anyone say this about a husband's role, but then I've never heard of the guy who said it either. No one has a perfectly consistent theology, and no one fully gets things right even if the complementarian view is correct. Surely there are plenty of ways to take this statement that are more charitable than assuming this guy thinks men were in the beginning creating their wives with God. I really doubt this guy thinks that, but people speak uncarefully and sometimes hold views that are wrong. That doesn't mean other views of theirs are all wrong. After all, one of the most concentrated place for heresies in the church is at the most fervent of prayer meetings by well-meaning believers who just speak uncarefully in the moment.

It's hard for me to see your interpretations here as fair. I know you're trying to understand what these people are saying, but you're really adding a lot to what they're actually saying. In the last case, you're reading into it a view that probably no one has ever held. I don't think any of these statements imply that a husband is a mediator in any sense that would conflict with the statement that there's only one mediator, and I don't think any of these statements have anything to do with how an individual receives the gospel or Christ.

Hi Jeremy,

Here's a few comments, pulling some quotes out of your message.

Jeremy "Christ's role in serving the church as her savior, which Rainey paraphrases as "someone vitally interested in the her welfare"."

The simplest definition of "savior" that I found was "a person who rescues another from harm, danger or loss". This is what Christ did in a cosmic spiritual sense. Rainey's definition does not fit what I believe to be the understood definition of "savior".

Nor is Rainey the only complementarian who is throwing around the idea that men/husbands are saviors. Wives should be "vitally interested" in their husband's welfare. So one can only question why wives are not being referred to with the "savior" analogy as well. This is what leads me to believe that there is something more to the "savior" reference than suggesting that the husband have an interest in the wife's welfare. Why take the mundane idea that spouses should be interested in each other's welfare and apply the term "savior" to it?

Jeremy: "I don't know where the pilgrimage quote comes from, but what you're saying sounds to me as if it's probably taking it way out of context. Does it say that everyone who needs a leader can't think for themselves?"

Jeremy: "Paul doesn't say that the husband's leadership is equivalent to Christ's, though, and I really very much doubt whoever you're quoting said that eiter, though again I have no context."

Both of these quotes are from the same article.
Here's the link:
http://www.cbmw.org/article.php?id=82

This guy is excited about the idea of husbands writing "mission statements" for their wives. Not "with their wives", but "for" them. Apparently, people who need a leader can't write, or participate in writing, their own mission statements. Maybe it's kind of an itinerary for the pilgrimage. Are the wives thinking for themselves here?

In regards to the "life giver" quotation, here is a similar quote, right of the CBMW website:
http://www.cbmw.org/article.php?id=96
"The man as protector and guardian, as life-giver and as the firm rock."

We cannot say that husbands give life to their lives in a reproductive sense. Nor can we say that sustaining or providing for the conditions of life is the same thing as "giving life" to someone. So why do at least two complementarians use this term in two different articles?

Jeremy: "It's hard for me to see your interpretations here as fair."

I would say that you were right, if there were not a pattern of such comments in complementarian literature. The problem here is that I am repeatedly required to give complementarian statements the benefit of the doubt. It is not a matter of one statement that is a bit off. Some of this terminology is being used over and over.

I tried to stick to quotes from CBMW, since I believed you would consider them moderates. In actuality, I have heard and read this sort of stuff from a number of different complementarian sources.

Jeremy: "I don't think any of these statements have anything to do with how an individual receives the gospel or Christ."

The onus is on the complementarian community in general, and the CBMW in particular, to make things clear, disavow extremists and eliminate ambiguous statements from their literature.

Sadly, the complementarian/egalitarian debate has long since ceased to be civil in many cases. (Present company excluded obviously). This is not a debate over whether to use acoustic guitars or electric guitars in the worship service.

I'm not really worried about the outcome, because the Church cannot afford to have over half its members become silent bystanders who are limited to nursery duty and ladies' devotional tea parties and eventually find something more interesting to do in the secular world.

Regardless, the debate at this point is fierce, and I don't think the CBMW can afford to be sloppy about how it presents its theology if it hopes to hold its own.

Rainey isn't throwing around the idea of husbands as savior. That was my whole point. He twice quotes Paul's comparison between Christ and the husband, where Paul says that Christ is to imitate Christ, who served his church to the point of being her savior. Paul doesn't say the husband is the wife's savior, and neither does Rainey. All Rainey does is quote Paul in saying this when saying that the husband's role is self-sacrificial love for the sake of the wife's best interests. Your asking why Rainey does something. The answer is simply that he doesn't. I tried in vain to find any reference in that essay to what you're saying. It's simply not there. Rainey does take seriously Paul's command to husbands to love wives as Christ loved the church. You might ask why Paul says that to husbands and not to wives, but you're instead wondering why Rainey does. That answer is easy. He's simply giving a brief exposition of Paul, following the structure Paul lays out.

Now maybe there are complementarians who do what you're saying. Rainey, if he does so, does not do it here. But maybe even he does. What surprises me about your response is that it seems to be objecting to the mere mention of Christ as savior in the context of telling husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. But the objection as you've stated it applies to Paul as much as to anyone else, since he very clearly did that. For those who go beyond what Paul actually says, I can't really find it bewildering how they might take Paul to be saying that something about Christ's role of savior is captured in the husband's love of his wife, since it is in Paul's analogy. If the husband has special authority responsibility to serve the whole family in a way that involves accountability that the wife does not have, then the call to love with the interest of the other in mind does still apply to both, as you say, but complementarians might take it to be more particularly poignant for the husband's special responsibility. This need not involve any notion of the husband having greater spiritual status or being the source or mediator of the wife's salvation (in fact egalitarians are more likely to call the husband the source of the wife to avoid the authority implications of 'head').

In the Lepine piece, I don't get the sense that he's recommending husbands to come up with some plan for their wives to carry out. It sounds to me as if he's excited about a general sort of thing that he's encouraging men to do with their wives in leading them spiritually, and in this particular guy's case it involved him coming up with a plan of how he would approach it, given his knowledge of his wife's concerns and needs based on talking to her about it, for where he would like to direct his energies in leading her. It doesn't sound like he is writing a statement about what she should do but more like a statement about his own mission in serving her. He calls it a missions statement for his wife, which I guess you're taking to be a missions statement for his wife to follow rather than what seems more obvious to me to be a missions statement for how he will approach his role as leading her. It's his missions statement, which means it's about how he will lead.

The context of the Bjerkholt piece does strongly suggest that he means life-giver in exactly the sense of the Isaiah passage he just beforehand had referenced. In that passage it's about streams of water in the desert and protection from the elements. I imagine he means the provider-protector role, since that's what his analogy involves. I'm not sure why he applies this passage to the husband-wife relationship, but I don't find anything contrary to complementarianism here the way I do in the view that the husband is a mediator between the wife and God. So I don't think this counts as evidence for what you're saying.

I'm not saying to give complementarians the benefit of the doubt when all the evidence points the other way. I'm saying that the examples you are giving don't point where you say they point. In context, what you're saying simply doesn't follow from what they say. Context is always key.

But whatever you say about these particular people's statements, it strikes me as extremely unfair to portray complementarians as advocating that women's ministry be restricted to "silent bystanders who are limited to nursery duty and ladies' devotional tea parties". The more conservative complementarians restrict women in teaching so that they aren't teaching over groups that include adult men, but that doesn't mean just nurseries. It includes adult women, children much older than babies, and on some people's views teenagers (who are technically not adults). On less restrictive complementarian views it allows for teaching men under the authority of a man, and it may include leading Bible studies as a co-leader with a man or under the supervision of a board of elders or single elder who is a man. On even less restrictive complementarian views, it even allows preaching from the pulpit under the authority of male elders or a male head elder, perhaps even eldership (as on Blomberg and Hugenberger's complementarian view).

Then that's just teaching. Most complementarians do not advocate restricting women in any most other areas of giftedness. Depending on how creative the complementarian in question is, they might or might not realize the scope that this does allow. It might include:

(1) administrative abilities like managing finances of the church or organizing activities that will involve the whole church and not just men
(2) prophesying (which Paul explicitly states that women would do in the congregation)
(3) serving in musical capacities, which some would exclude from being the worship leader because leading worship involves teaching over men but some would not
(4) giving meditations of encouragement or testimonies in public with men present, though many would apply the restriction that it not involve the authoritative teaching of scripture,
(5) public reading of scripture, with or without some meditation on the scripture beforehand or afterward
(6) serving as an usher for offerings or even for communion
(7) hospitality, which doesn't just include having people over as a host but includes greeting people and might even include leading others, including men, to take initiative to greet new people or spend time with those who are less likely to consider themselves part of the congregation (and whether this can be leading might depend on the differences between "teaching and having authority" as authoritative teaching and "teaching and having authority" as including either teaching or having authority in general).
(8) evangelism, which again may or may not include evangelism to men, depending on whether evangelism counts as teaching or authoritative teaching (depending in turn on which is forbidden in I Tim 2), and then leading teams in evangelism is clearly allowed, while leading teams that include men may or may not, depending on how the complementarianism in question is fleshed out
(9) Kostenberger, among others, argues for female deacons, and he's as complementarian as you get
(10) lots of other giftings (and thus service and ministries) have nothing to do with this issue, such as gifts of faith, caring for people's needs, financial giving, prayer, perhaps counseling (which again might require a co-counselor who is a man and might not, depending on the particular views), shepherding in ways that don't involve teaching, discernment in contexts that wouldn't involve authority but might involve offering suggestions to be evaluated by others or might involve pointing out things others don't see, perhaps overseeing Sunday School programs, which wouldn't involve teaching over any men but might involve overseeing male teachers (so again it depends on how I Tim 2 is to be taken), and then there would still be all the so-called sign gifts such as tongues, healings, and miracles of that sort of nature if such gifts have not ceased (and I see absolutely no biblical warrant for thinking they have).

So it's exactly the kind of statement you made that set me off on writing this list that I'm deliberately complaining about in this post. You're making complementarianism out to be something that restricts women in a way that would disallow everything in the list above, and complementarians should allow for those things, with the qualifications I stated depending on the particular version of complementarianism involved. Not every complementarian sees this, but you're making it sound as if this is all at stake in the complementarian/egalitarian debate, and it most certainly is not. Saying that it is at stake seems to me to count as gross misrepresentation of complementarianism, and that's the sort of thing I wrote this post against.

I agree with you that complementarians face a challenge in presenting their view in a way that it doesn't give the wrong idea. That was one of my points in writing this post. It was pretty much how I started out my evaluation, because Augustine shows how complementarians are going to be taken. But at the same time complementarians do regularly and consistently distinguish their position from the sort of thing Augustine says, and they consistently get treated as if they're saying something like what he is saying. I don't think the responsibility of interpreting carefully disappears just because the writer is imperfect in expressing things, as all writers are. There may be more of a responsibility to be more careful in emotionally loaded contexts, but what I'm calling egalitarians to is to intepret the unclear in light of the clear. Complementarians have stated a clear view, and some of these unclear things (like what it means to say a husband is a life-giver) should be interpreted in light of that if someone has clearly sided with complementarianism over a view like Augustine's.

Hi Jeremy,

A few comments regarding your comments:

Jeremy: "Now maybe there are complementarians who do what you're saying. Rainey, if he does so, does not do it here."

My position is that husbands can offer sacrificial love as Jesus did, but this does not make them actual or analogous as saviors.

I do not understand why complementarians have not seperated these two ideas, so that people do not become confused regarding the fact that husbands cannot act as saviors in any comparative way to Christ.

http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/HUSBAND.HTM
Here is MacArthur doing the same thing:
"For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church." To his "Saviorhood" if you will, as a preserver, Christ even to the church as the Savior as well. So she, in verse 24, is told that as the church is subject to Christ, so is she to be to her own husband in everything, in a beautiful submission to the husband who is a savior, a preserver, a provider, a head who cares for her."

If I were a complementarian, I would never put the words "the husband who is a savior" in print.

If complementarians want to play fast and loose with the term "savior", then I can't argue, since I guess there's a verse that provides license to do so.

At any rate, I'll concede the point to you.

Jeremy: "But whatever you say about these particular people's statements, it strikes me as extremely unfair to portray complementarians as advocating that women's ministry be restricted to "silent bystanders who are limited to nursery duty and ladies' devotional tea parties.""

True. As you detail, there are actually a variety of activities that women could do under a complementarian structure.

Let's take one of those areas and set up a hypothetical situation:

Let's say a woman with a heart for the needy decides to start a ministry of her own that involves an emergency telephone help line for shut-ins who want someone to talk and pray with them. A bunch of other women join. The woman who started the group makes policies about giving out personal information, what you can say on the phone, when you need outside help and so forth.

The group meets for prayer, training and discussion every week. The female leader teaches a bible theme that they will focus on for the week, and mediates problems or difficulties that arise. She intervenes when someone is behaving contrary to the guidelines of the ministry. Some men join the group, which the male shut ins like, because they can talk about whatever guys talk about.

Suddenly, the church realizes there is a problem with the ministry, because the person who started the ministry, has the charisma to draw people to participate in it, knows best how to run it and is instructing and dictating the policies to male members is a woman. Maybe the group is large, cohesive and dedicated to their cause by now, and the ruling elders will cause a quarrel/exodus if they embitter members by making changes.

Do they shut the ministry down, or refuse to give church resources to support it? Do they ask the group to expel its male members? Do they ask the female leader to step down in favor of a male leader?

What should the church have done before this happened? Request that women do not start ministries? Request that any ministries started by women do not accept male participants? Request that females who start ministries in which they are in authority hand over those ministries once they reach a certain level of success and/or have male members?

Obviously, the safest thing that can happen in a complementarian church is that women either do not start ministries and stay carefully passive as members in the ones they join, or restrict female-led ministries to women-only membership.

Even a women-only ministry, if it is powerful enough, is a problem for a complementarian church. Such a ministry will have no decision-making voice in the leadership of the church and will be obliged to come before the elders as supplicants for the needs of their ministry.

In the meantime, the women-only ministry will be making decisions and gathering resouces independently of the leadership of the elders because this is easier than trying to consult a decision-making board of which none of them are allowed to be a part.

So the problem is not the variety of roles that women can do, but the degree to which women are successful and gain influence within the church in doing them.

Jeremy: "You're making complementarianism out to be something that restricts women in a way that would disallow everything in the list above, and complementarians should allow for those things, with the qualifications I stated depending on the particular version of complementarianism involved."

I guess what I really meant by the nursery duty comment was that complementarianism cannot go to those extremes, because too many worker bees are women and they are needed for many roles in the church. Whatever the attitudes of the leaders of the church, they need someone to serve communion and act as ushers.

Additionally, women are now used to so seeing themselves represented in societal roles, that this cannot be avoided in churches. I personally get nervous and uncomfortable in a church with no women ushers, greeters, servers, musicians, etc. In my own church, which has relatively few women in visible roles, I sometimes get those strange moments when I feel like women are around strictly to fill chairs.

It's a huge church, but oddly enough they are constantly pleading for people to get more involved and do things. I guess the women want to encourage the men to be active servant leaders, because they barely bat an eyelash, outside of glaring at the nearest man for not volunteering to teach Sunday school.

Keep in mind that the word 'savior' doesn't and shouldn't just be restricted to God/Christ. While it was ultimately God who saved/delivered Israel from Egypt, Moses was also their deliverer/savior. The judges were deliverers as well, and David saved Israel from their enemies. While I don't think Paul's use of 'savior' in his Eph 5 analogy necessitates seeing the husband's role as savior, and I don't think the quotes you gave before do so either (though MacArthur clearly does), I don't have a theological problem with seeing one human being as a savior of another human being in the same limited sense that the Bible regularly speaks of human beings as saviors under God. Your objection does surprise me in part because there should be no problem with people saying this. That's exactly what MacArthur seems to be doing. I wouldn't want to word it this way because it can be misleading, but it's not necessarily a theological problem. It's certainly not playing fast and loose with the term, at least not unless you want to accuse the Bible of doing the same thing.

In your hypothetical example, I would say that there ideally wouldn't be lone ranger ministries of this scope run by an individual without any authority structure over them. I wouldn't think men or women should do that. That's not a gender issue. If the elders of her congregation are concerned about this issue, they should have been overseeing it from the outset and should have insisted that a team or partnership be running it if it is to have the elements that they think a man should be involved with. Not every complementarian would have a problem with this, but those who would could very easily insist that a ministry of their congregation have multiple leadership and that at least one of them be a man, even if he is merely doing mostly oversight and allowing things to run smoothly without much of his input or advice. That would satisfy most complementarians, I think, and it doesn't require either of your more extreme solutions.

A board of elders would not be unable to talk to women and to hear from them what their recommendations about their ministries would be. If a leadership group is making decisions regarding any group under them, I would have thought the ideal way to do that is to actually talk to the people involved, hear what they have to say, understand what they're doing, what the debated issues are, and what the people leading the ministry would recommend and why. If they're not doing that, then of course it's a bad situation, but that's just bad leadership. It has nothing to do with gender. If I'm running a ministry under a body of elders, and they don't invite me to tell them anything about it before they make a decision, then the same problem arises. So the problem you're presenting is not a problem just for complementarians, and it's not a problem that necessarily arises for complementarians. It's just bad leadership.

As for not having a decision-making voice, any ministry without an elder directly involved has no decision-making voice in the sense you mean, but that's no reason to have an elder directly involved in every single ministry. That's why it's more important to have a decision-making voice in the way I've just explained, but that can happen as easily under a complementarian structure as under an egalitarian structure.

Jeremy: "I wouldn't want to word it this way because it can be misleading, but it's not necessarily a theological problem."

I think you feel that I'm being overly exacting and fussy about what seems like one or two odd references. The problem is that complementarians are quite aggressive about pressing people to swallow a wide variety of ideas that they claim are obvious and clear in scripture.

The natural and biblical reaction to this is to say, "Wait a minute, I'm not going to eat another forkful of that stuff until I find out what's in it."

I've talked with complementarians about the eternal subordination of Christ in the Trinity. They quoted me verses, and the verses themselves contradicted their own doctrine. The more they tried to create analogies between people and the three members of the Godhead, the more confusing and contradictory things became. It's not my fault, since I consider the doctrine of the Trinity to be entirely seperate and above this whole debate. They were the ones using the Trinity as a blunt instrument to push female subordination.

The complementarians I talked to were disgruntled because I stopped, read the verses, seriously thought about the doctrine they were attempting to press on me, and spat it out when I realized that there was something about that idea that did not work out.

Likewise, the analogies of men to "saviors", "redeemers" and "life-givers" are not something I can swallow. I'm not eating it, unless I know what it is. Am I entitled to say that I am uneasy about it, especially as I hear it over and over? Why would complementarians argue with someone who wants the term "savior" to refer to Christ's special work, and not a man who gives up his golf game to go shopping with his wife? I'm arguing for the uniqueness of Christ's sacrifice, for heaven's sake!

Here's an incomplete list of pronouncements from complementarians that contradict what I have already been taught, contradict what I believe the bible says, or contradict common sense:

1. "Women who don't respect godly authority are demonic." (a direct quote from a pastor)
2. "The entire human race fell because sex-roles were reversed." "Adam was cursed for failing to exercise leadership in his family." (sermon notes)
3. "God pronounced a death sentence on Adam, not both of them, since he was head." (sermon notes)
4. "The guy was doing nothing and that was THE male sin."
5. "[Women]You were created to submit to authority" (pastor)
6. "Nevertheless, it is clear from the order of Creation that Eve was placed in a position of subordination to Adam." Sproul
7. The idea that Mary became the New Eve who reversed the actions of the old Eve.
8. The idea that gender is a part of one's permanent spiritual identity.
9. The idea that sexually-determined functional subordination does not imply inequality of personhood.
10. Many confusing notions, debates and speculations about the gender identity of God which are fueled by the human gender debate rather than an honest consideration of what gender means to non-human spiritual beings.

Once I have added all of this up, what's an egalitarian like me supposed to do with the complementarian movement? Am I being overly particular about docrinal issues?

I wouldn't try to make the difficulties of understanding the Trinity into issues about complementarianism. As I said above, the most common heretical statements in Christianity pop up in the mouths of non-heretics several times in the average prayer meeting, and most of these have to do with the Trinity. Very few Christians nowadays understand the history or concepts involved in the Trinitarian debates in the early church. When you then complicate it with this issue, I wouldn't have as high standards about comments that aren't the main focal point of whatever is being said. Getting things right is important, but it doesn't seem right to me to single out complementarians who do this as somehow worse than others who do.

Since I've spent many long hours dealing with that issue in other posts, I'm not going to get into it now. I do think it's very hard to maintain an egalitarian view (at least one that insists on your #9 above) in light of what I think scripture states very clearly about the Trinity in I Cor 11 and Eph 5. Since I don't want to repeat all that, you can see the discussions here and here.

Several of your numbered statements are extremely strange, and I've never encountered them at all. I can't believe some of them are common among complementarians, even if they do pop up now and then. Anyone who confuses making a theological mistake with being demonic is an extremist. The problem with this is much more general view than complementarianism. It's an attitude toward doctrinal error that's the problem, not the more specific application of that attitude toward the particular thing that's viewed as an error here.

#7 sounds strange, but it could be true if meant very, very loosely. I may have heard something like that where the context makes it clear that this is a much looser connection than the connection between Adam and Christ. I'm not sure I've seen it in such an unqualified manner.

Other statements in your list strike me as being just the usual kind of uncareful thinking that is so common in evangelicalism. I've heard that:

1. we should expect God to heal us in exactly the way we want, simply on the ground that we have enough faith
2. the atonement is only about the legal appeasement of God's penalty for sin
3. there will be a miraculous disappearance of the church at the beginning of a period that the Bible describes as a great persecution of the church at the end of this age
4. there is no continuity between Israel and the church
5. there is complete and absolute identity between Israel and the church
6. tongues have ceased
7. tongues are normative for Christians
8. geneaologies in the Bible have some hidden meaning based on numerology
9. predestination is merely corporate
10. predestination for the elect and the damned are in exactly the same sense despite Paul's use of the passive voice for one and the middle voice for the other.

I don't think there's scriptural support for any of the above, and I find some of them to be very common views among evangelicals, including smart leaders who have a good seminary training and their heads screwed on right for most other issues. Some of them are very strange, and some of them are not. Some of them are disturbing, and others of them are not so disturbing.

I think this list is very similar to yours. You just have assembled some that are all about gender that complementarians have said. Mine are more general, and this problem in uncareful thinking or uncareful language is not a problem about complementarianism. It's a problem about being uncareful. The same could be done for egalitarianism, of course. Several items on my list would be things you would agree with, perhaps. You would probably find others to be very strange.

But I'm sure many egalitarians have made strange statements over the years. The problem behind anything wrong in your list is not a problem with complementarianism. You have taken a general problem with biblical interpretation and noticed that it occurs in this area and then concluded that it's a problem with complementarianism. I think we need to resist that conclusion, because this phenomenon isn't restricted to this issue at all or this view within this issue.

I'm not going to explore all the issues with your list, but I happen to think some of them are true (or at least ambiguous with both a true reading and a false reading). Paul pretty much says #6 in I Tim 2 and I Cor 11, and I have discussed #9 enough on this blog (see above links) that I won't explain that again here, but I have no problem with either one of thse two when meant in the right way.

I think there's something right about #2. One of the elements involved with the sin of Genesis 3 was indeed that God's proper order in creation was not observed. The most primary way this occurred is that God's authority was subverted and human authority asserted over it, but that doesn't mean other relationships weren't flipped as well. There are contextual clues in the first few chapters of Genesis, including the order various names are used. The original naming pattern is God, the man, the woman, and Satan. The sin naming pattern reverses the relationships to Satan, the woman, the man, God, flipping everything on its head. This chiastic structure, together with the great concern in Genesis with order, is at least suggestive of what #2 says. I wouldn't insist that this is obvious, but I do think it's there.

#5 is technically true even according to egalitarianism, but it's misleading to say it this way. Men were created to submit to authority too. Humans in general were created to submit to God's authority. That doesn't begin to capture what we were created to do, but it's nonetheless part of what we were created to do and thus true. Similarly, complementarianism has a further element of this. I would say that part of the creation purpose for men and women as men and women involves an authority structure (though not one of every man and every woman). Saying #5 the way it is without further qualification is incredibly misleading and maybe false depending on how it is intended, but even the way it's worded I would say it could be true depending on how it fits into a larger context of statements.

#8 is nonsense if 'gender' is taken in its normal academic sense of being whatever culture adds to sex differentiation, but most people don't use it that way. The word is usually seen as a synonym rather than an antonym for 'sex'. The issue here is what is meant by permanent spiritual identity. If it involves levels of classes that would contradict the spiritual equality of Gal 3:28, then of course it's false. If it involves simply the view that we will be gendered permanently in some sense, then I see no scripture that clearly contradicts it, though I'm not sure there's clear support for it either.

completely aside and definitely able to be ignored: but the Bible describes the persecution at the end of the age as the great persecution of the Church?

There's a call to persevere throughout the book of Revelation and in all the other passages talking about it. That isn't a call to nonbelievers. The church will be vindicated by righteously proclaiming the truth amidst the greatest persecution of all time, with Christ returning triumphantly at the end to demonstrate that the church's witness is true after all. That seems to me to be the main point of the book of Revelation.

Jeremy: "Getting things right [in this case about the Trinity] is important, but it doesn't seem right to me to single out complementarians who do this as somehow worse than others who do."

Complementarians have been aggressive in pushing their view of the eternal subordination of Jesus on people who have either never heard of it or had a differing view. Like me.

This has forced the rest of us to confront the view, often as we are being accused of incorrect or ignorant theology. Complementarians call their view the dominant historical view, and accuse egalitarians of changing the doctrine of the Trinity.

Jeremy: "I do think it's very hard to maintain an egalitarian view (at least one that insists on your #9 above) in light of what I think scripture states very clearly about the Trinity in I Cor 11 and Eph 5"

Right. This is the only reason anyone is discussing it at all. Otherwise, it is a difficult, academic issue, which is why people refer to the "mystery of the Trinity". Numerous cults have subordinated Jesus right out of His divinity, so wise Christians are very careful in making pronouncements about the subordination of Jesus.

My feeling is that, if Jesus is "eternally subordinated" in the Trinity, it is an entirely different sort of subordination than any type of subordination between humans, and therefore has no role in the gender debate regardless of one's position.

Complementarians chose to import an obscure and arguably unrelated doctrine into the gender discussion. Not me.

Jeremy: "Several of your numbered statements are extremely strange, and I've never encountered them at all."

I hate to tell you this, but those quotes from the sermons and sermon notes came out of my mega-church. The pastors are devotees of Piper, Grudem, Wilson, et al, and I can only assume that they are paraphrasing stuff they've found on the CBMW. Most of the rest of the stuff came from the CBMW site, or members thereof.

Jeremy: "Anyone who confuses making a theological mistake with being demonic is an extremist."

I've heard/read two seperate and influential men have made statements to this effect. And I'm pretty sure they don't know each other. I Cor 11:10 is the reference that my pastor gave, saying that the rebellion of the angels against God's authority is analogous to the rebellion of women against their "heads". I'm sure he got this out of complementarian literature.

Jeremy: "[strange Mary doctrine]#7 sounds strange, but it could be true if meant very, very loosely."

Or if one is not a Protestant. Then the whole idea of Mary reversing the fall of Eve sounds great, because it enforces Mary as a co-redemptress. It is never so much as suggested in the biblical account.

Jeremy: "Other statements in your list strike me as being just the usual kind of uncareful thinking that is so common in evangelicalism...
9. predestination is merely corporate
10. predestination for the elect and the damned are in exactly the same sense despite Paul's use of the passive voice for one and the middle voice for the other."

OK. I'm going to say something that may upset you, because there's no way around it. Are you ready? Calvinism is not standard majority evangelical thought, not because evangelicals are "uncareful", but because they have alternate and carefully considered beliefs. This does not mean that there are not Calvinists that could be considered evangelical. And, yeah, I know some evangelicals were mad when they didn't get raptured on Y2K, and became Calvinists out of spite, but they are a vocal subgroup, not the traditional majority.

I'm not Reformed, and I'm starting to think that that's the reason that I cannot understand complementarianism. Maybe complementarianism is actually just a doctrine of second election within Christians, with men being doubly elect.
If one already believes in Reformed theology, that is not so hard to accept.

There's people who make things happen (lately the complementarians and Reformed people pushing to make their doctrines synonymous with mainstream evangelicalism), people who watch it happen (me, and a bunch of other saps), and people who wonder what happened (the Baptists, except for Ergun Caner, I'm guessing).

Jeremy: "I think there's something right about #2. One of the elements involved with the sin of Genesis 3 was indeed that God's proper order in creation was not observed."

The sin was disobedience against God's command not to eat the apple.

The male sin was not "doing nothing", it was disobedience against God.

The problem was not that "the man sat by passively and permitted sin" (sermon notes), but that he, himself, sinned.

The complementarian reads all sorts of things into the story that are speculative.

Jeremy: "Similarly, complementarianism has a further element of this. I would say that part of the creation purpose for men and women as men and women involves an authority structure (though not one of every man and every woman)."

The rule of the husband over the wife is a clearly stated consequence of the fall. If this relationship existed in the Garden before the fall, then there was no reason to curse women with it after the fall. If it was a good thing, it would not be stated in negative terms.

I'm not going to deny that people say uncareful things in complementarian writings or that some of these things are really extreme. What I'm denying is that it has anything to do with their being complementarians, because non-complementarians say extreme things, and complementarians who are careful do not say extreme things. I've said this enough times, and I really don't want to have to keep saying it.

Complementarians call their view the dominant historical view, and accuse egalitarians of changing the doctrine of the Trinity.

I agree with them that it's the dominant historical view, and I think it's very hard to maintain the egalitarian claim that complementarianism is a contradiction given the historic Trinitarian view that says the same sort of thing. But the issue of how people present a view is independent of whether the view is true. Your problem seems to be largely with how people present the view. Some people express the view in funny ways, from ignorance of how the historical view really worked itself out, and thus they end up spouting forth heresy. My point is that many egalitarians who respond to this are missing the point by focusing on the uncareful formulations of it and not on the careful ones.

I hate to tell you this, but those quotes from the sermons and sermon notes came out of my mega-church. The pastors are devotees of Piper, Grudem, Wilson, et al, and I can only assume that they are paraphrasing stuff they've found on the CBMW. Most of the rest of the stuff came from the CBMW site, or members thereof.

Right. As I said, almost everyone does this. Hardly anyone is careful enough to satisfy my standards of being careful. My point is that not being careful is very common, and it doesn't do to go around lambasting one group of people for being uncareful when everyone else is doing it too. That kind of selective attention starts to become uncareful itself.

Now I should say that Piper and Grudem aren't on my high list of careful thinkers. I'm not sure who Wilson is. If you mean Doug Wilson, I'd put him on the bottom of the list. He's better than most theonomists, but that's not saying much. Grudem has done excellent work on prophecy in I Corinthians, and I think his systematic theology is in many ways a nice condensation of the general arguments in the various traditions he brings together in interesting ways. Unfortunately it doesn't have the careful kind of argumentation that you find in Hodge. He just lists verses, many of which need a more careful argument to see why he thinks it shows what he thinks it shows. His creativity as a thinker is certainly worth noticing, because he's got such a diverse set of views. But his work on gender translation is some of the most awful psuedo-scholarship I've ever seen. I'd say the same of Poythress, Ryken, and most others who have jumped on that bandwagon. Contrast that with Carson and Blomberg, who are a breath of fresh air on the subject. I don't think the introduction to the CBMW book that Piper and Grudem wrote is all that helpful either, and several comments they make are unjustified and give entirely the wrong impression about what complementarians think. The fact that they extend gender roles to society, with no biblical warrant, is the most obvious example of this. The actual biblical chapters in that book are much better, but those aren't by Grudem and Piper.

As for Piper, search this blog for his name, and you'll see how uncareful I think he is in his theology. His book on Romans 9 is one of the best treatments of that chapter in a long time, and I think some of his pet issues in his popular writing and preaching brought a needed balance to how evangelicals see their desires and loves. The Augustinian tradition of seeing ethics as loving God first and foremost comes out in Piper's work in a way I greatly appreciate, but once he starts formulating his statements in philosophical terms it becomes clear that he has gone way too far in some ways and also just misuses terms or unclearly defines them, which leads to some important conflations.

People I would describe as careful complementarians include D.A. Carson, Thomas Schreiner, Craig Blomberg, Douglas Moo, James Hurley, and Andreas Kostenberger. Piper and Grudem are not on that list. They're certainly better than the sort of thing Augustine says above, because their official view is clearly complementarian in a way that some of his statements make him out to be something else entirely. But that doesn't mean I think their work is careful enough to be definintive of the core conception of complementarianism that its best representatives would hold to. It's the latter sort of view that I would defend, and I don't take Grudem and Piper to be representative of that view or of that careful approach to the issue. There's still a lot of disagreement amongst them, but it's the way they approach the issues that I like.

I think I. Howard Marshall is a very careful thinker. He's both an egalitarian and an Arminian. On the other hand, as I just said, I don't think John Piper is a careful enough thinker. He's a Calvinist and a complementarian. I think Piper happens to be closer to the truth on these issues, but I'd expect Marshall to have spent far more time interacting with those who disagree with him. It's that kind of thinking that I consider careful.

Now I'm guessing that you just misunderstood the point of my examples. I was picking examples that are uncareful, and should be relatively uncontroversially so, among the best thinkers on each side of an issue. The most careful Arminians do not think election is merely corporate. They think much of the election language is about Israel as a whole or the church as a whole, but they acknowledge a sense of election for individuals. They just take it to be not first and foremost on the basis of God's choice but rather on the basis of God's foreknowledge of what people will do. I don't think this view will hold up in the end, but it's something the most careful Arminians and Wesleyans will plainly admit. That means they deny that election is merely corporate. Those who do not admit this have been less careful to acknowledge the language in scripture that is individual. That is why I think it's fair to call this a less careful position than the other one.

Then, to be fair, I pointed out an uncareful thing on the Calvinist side. Many Calvinists think election of the damned and the saved are in the same sense, but Paul seems to have chosen a middle voice verb for the damned and a passive voice verb for the saved. That suggests that he doesn't think of the two in exactly the same way, even if neither is an active verb. The most careful Calvinists acknowledge this, and there are several models for working out what that might mean. But there's the uncareful view at the popular level and even among some otherwise careful scholars. I think of that view as less careful due to its unwillingness to acknowledge the actual language Paul uses in Romans 9.

You then proceeded to lump most Calvinists into the category of those who would be so petty as to adopt a view out of spite of not being raptured. This is even stranger given that most Calvinists aren't dispensationalists to begin with and thus don't hold to a pre-tribulational rapture of the church. I'm not sure where this sort of nasty language is coming from, but I run this blog in a civil manner, and I expect civil discussion by commenters. If you don't want to do that, then you can stop commenting here. I'm not going to continue to tolerate such wild aspersions of people who

You make it sound as if I think Arminians hold their views only because they are uncareful. Rather it's that most evangelicals are uncareful, and thus some of them end up with correct views for wrong reasons (in my view Piper and Grudem do this), while others end up with wrong views that more careful people on their end of the spectrum would not hold (the examples I gave). I do think most evangelicals are uncareful in their thinking. I've met several people who hold to a view simply because it's been taught to them, without showing any willingness to read anything by those who take another view. Then if they finally get forced to read alternatives, they admit that their own view was not well thought-through, but most people never get that far. Most evangelicals I have interacted with would have a hard time doing well in a philosophy course, and this goes for people I agree with as much as for people I don't. Many who teach the Bible deserve a fair rebuke on this score. You have seen examples of it on an issue you care a lot about, but it's a much more comprehensive phenomenon. I'm saying you've mistaken the particular examples of this as exemplifying the complementarian movement rather than just a manifestation of a problem in evangelicalism. It's really much larger than that. You can look at U.S. political discussions in the comments sections of most blogs to see that it's not just an evangelical thing, but it's infected evangelicalism in ways that have nothing to do with gender.

There are plenty of people who are both complementarian and Reformed, but there's no necessary connection between the two. You certainly don't need to hold one of the two positions to understand the other. It's true that both views try to aim at what they see as a middle ground between two extremes (hard determinism and libertarianism in one case and egalitarianism and a view like Augustine on marriage in the other). But there's no logical connection between Calvinism and complementarianism.

It's certainly not true that there's a second election in complementarianism, because the entire point of complementarianism is that there's no such thing. You're now going back to the thing that complementarians in fact deny both from the very outset and throughout their entire working out of the differences in roles. The role differences do not constitute a difference of nature. Nor do they count as either being more important, more essential, better, higher, or any other sort of thing that a second election could be. The point of complementarianism is to affirm Gal 3:28 while maintaining the distinctions in I Cor 11, I Cor 14, Eph 5, I Tim 2, and so on. It's not to deny Gal 3:28, which is what you've made it out to be. You've done this sort of thing several times, but I think this was the most blatant. I'm getting less and less tolerant of this.

Now I don't have any idea what you're talking about with complementarians pushing complementarianism as equivalent with mainstream evangelicalism. I think the reverse is true. Egalitarians portray complementarians as backward the way they would talk about people who supported slavery. Complementarians, on the other hand, spend most of their time trying to recapture what they think evangelicalism has largely abandoned. How that can be seen as equating evangelicalism with complementarianism is just beyond me.

When did I ever say that Adam did nothing? Adam did something very clear. As I already said, he rebelled against the authority structure God had set up, and the primary way he did this was by allowing within himself the consideration that he might go against what God said. His sin was long before he ate the fruit, but he did something in eating the fruit too. But that doesn't diminish the further point. He had a responsibility to lead in righteousness, and he failed to carry it out. The fact that he actively sinned does not mean that there wasn't an authority structure that God had set up that he went against when he was invited to sin by his wife and he chose to go along with it. You're making it sound as if his active sin disproves that there was an authority structure, and all I'm saying is that the two are compatible.

I could say a lot of minor things about your concluding comments, but one thing seems to me to be the key issue. Paul bases his arguments for gender role distinction in worship on the creation order, something present before the fall. He does this in more than one place. If they are merely because of the fall, then I can't make any sense of what he says.

I'm not Reformed, and I'm starting to think that that's the reason that I cannot understand complementarianism. Maybe complementarianism is actually just a doctrine of second election within Christians, with men being doubly elect.

I'm not Reformed either nor a Calvinist (nor an Arminian although it could be argued, I guess). I'm also one of those corporate election adherents and one of those folk expecting a rapture of the church (before or mid-tribulation--undecided and doesn't matter)but all that doesn't impact my thoughts on gender roles for I'm also a complementarian (insert revelatory music here. heh). I think Jeremy's final point summed it up: Paul argues on creation order first then touches on the fall.

As per the consequence of the fall there's several persuasions on that:
1) the man lording his authority over the woman
2) the woman grasping for the authority of the man
3) a combination of both of the above
4) an institution of man's authority over woman despite the woman's love for him.

Some great comparisons could be done by looking at the Genesis 3 episode versus the Genesis 4 episode and seeing certain similarity in language. Paul's arguments are outstanding but looking at his sources is also extremely illuminating.

Jeremy: "Now I should say that Piper and Grudem aren't on my high list of careful thinkers. I'm not sure who Wilson is. If you mean Doug Wilson, I'd put him on the bottom of the list."

OK. The top two names associated with complementarianism, the ones basically wrote the textbook, are not trustworthy thinkers. Doug Wilson, who is widely quoted and influential and uses all those latin words on his website, is a downright shabby. In order to get a firm sense of what complementarians should really believe, I have to read an assorted list of other theologians, none of whom I have ever heard of.

The problem is that there are people who do not have the time and energy to embark on a detailed assessment of who's who in complementarian thought, but who still have to make a decision about it. This is not a theoretical ivy-tower issue to me. I and my XX chromosomes take it personally. But I will accept your point that the best apologists are the ones I haven't read.

Jeremy: "You then proceeded to lump most Calvinists into the category of those who would be so petty as to adopt a view out of spite of not being raptured. This is even stranger given that most Calvinists aren't dispensationalists to begin with and thus don't hold to a pre-tribulational rapture of the church. I'm not sure where this sort of nasty language is coming from, but I run this blog in a civil manner, and I expect civil discussion by commenters. If you don't want to do that, then you can stop commenting here. I'm not going to continue to tolerate such wild aspersions of people who"

All right. This is a delicate subject, so I should have been more careful in my wording. Christianity goes through trends. Why do so many of GenXers seem to be embracing Calvinism? My pet theory is that, after years of the rapture/tribulation/Left Behind stuff, the failure of any of these Hal Lindseyish prophesies to come to fruition is causing people to look for other theological systems.

You are exceedingly well read, trained, etc. The average person is not. They are dealing with these ideas on a simple level, after the theologies have percolated down through their college professors, high school teachers, youth pastors, teaching pastors, and so forth.

I know that the hyper-smart Reformed set has difficulty believing that anyone would move from one theology to another without careful study and reflection. I am not trying to insult you. There is a world of Christians who read devotional literature or Christian novels and watch TBN. They do not adopt theological ideas after careful study. They do it for reasons like the fact that the End Times theology that was once so popular didn't pan out, or they go to a church for the ambiance, and the pastor there is teaching Calvinism.

I, a non-Calvinist, personally go to a Reformed church, because it is a secondary issue to me. However, it has not been lost upon me that certain movements are almost exclusively dominated by Reformed people, including the fact that virtually all the big thinkers in Complementarianism are Reformed.

That is all I am going to say about Calvinism and its current trend of growth. I'll keep my feet out of the minefield until I know where I'm stepping.

Jeremy: "I'm saying you've mistaken the particular examples of this as exemplifying the complementarian movement rather than just a manifestation of a problem in evangelicalism. It's really much larger than that. You can look at U.S. political discussions in the comments sections of most blogs to see that it's not just an evangelical thing, but it's infected evangelicalism in ways that have nothing to do with gender."

So what is it? Information overload? Laziness? Sloganism? Media propaganda? A scattered approach to basic education? A blind conviction by the incompetent that they are qualified to lead and inform?

Are people of an opinion to make concessions in debate for these mitigating circumstances?

Does it go like this: If complementarians have flaws in their arguments, it is because they are the poorly-reasoned persons in their movement. If I talked to the well-reasoned complementarians, then they wouldn't have flaws in their arguments. In that case, the right kind of complementarians must be right and I should drop the argument altogether. I'll admit it is a sleek way of putting it, except that I'm worried that the poorly-reasoned complementarians will prevail over the well-reasoned complementarians, and I don't want to end up in a chador-like garment watching my own marriage being arranged.

Jeremy: "Now I don't have any idea what you're talking about with complementarians pushing complementarianism as equivalent with mainstream evangelicalism."

The Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family are pretty much mainstream evangelicalism. Once you've got your foot in those doors, you've made it to the big time.

Jeremy: "I think the reverse is true. Egalitarians portray complementarians as backward the way they would talk about people who supported slavery."

Perhaps this is because of the Douglas Wilson connection. And there are others. It could also be because you are talking to, and reading books by, the more elegant complementarians, and you have not heard some of the things that go on amongst certain complementarians.

Jeremy: "Complementarians, on the other hand, spend most of their time trying to recapture what they think evangelicalism has largely abandoned. How that can be seen as equating evangelicalism with complementarianism is just beyond me."

Free Methodists and many other Holiness-type denominations are evangelical, and they have a history of women evangelists, ministers and active involvement in church decision-making. How old are those denominations? Certainly, many of them precede what we think of as twentieth-century evangelicalism. Complementarians are portraying long-standing traditions in those groups as being "new", "liberal" or "feminist".

Jeremy: "Paul bases his arguments for gender role distinction in worship on the creation order, something present before the fall."

Most, if not all, Egalitarians believe in that the genders are distinct, and were distinct from Creation. They disagree with the interpretation of Paul's arguments, which leads to a biblical reconciliation for the idea that the curse verses after the fall are actually curses, and not reiterations of something that was proclaimed "good".

By the way, Jeremy, I think I'm going to give you the last word, since I am taking up a lot of your time.

They're not high fantasy, but if you are receptive to reading children's books, you should consider "The Thief", "The Queen of Attolia" and "The King of Attolia". Not that I have anything against Harry Potter and friends...

Complementarianism was around long before the Piper/Grudem book. They pulled together a mix of complementarian scholars (who were already around, taking a fairly traditional position going a good ways back) with popular-level stuff (some of which was innovative and some of which was not) to form a really mixed bag. The quality really varies. It's a good resource on the biblical stuff, but most complementarians I know don't consider the other stuff worth as much, including the only part Piper and Grudem had anything to do with, which was the introduction.

My pet theory is that, after years of the rapture/tribulation/Left Behind stuff, the failure of any of these Hal Lindseyish prophesies to come to fruition is causing people to look for other theological systems.

If what you mean is that the recognition of such views as bad theology has led people to look for other theological systems, then I have no problem with that. I was dissatisfied with what the churches I grew up with taught, which was dispensationalism, sometimes of the more Calvinistic variety but usually with a more Wesleyan stripe (but rarely full-blown Arminianism of the historic kind).

But I don't think you're right about what motivates people to change their minds, on this issue at least. What motivates it is that someone gives them a convincing reason to think the view they've adopted doesn't fit with scripture. In this case what does that is a study of the relevant passages. I wouldn't say that it's always based on the best exegesis, but I would very much connect the popular motivation for complementarian positions to the fact that the relevant passages do really seem to say what complementarians take them to say. Most egalitarians acknowledge this but then engage in complicated hermeneutics or exegesis to get around it.

So what is it? Information overload? Laziness? Sloganism? Media propaganda? A scattered approach to basic education? A blind conviction by the incompetent that they are qualified to lead and inform?

There's some of all that, I suppose, among other things. I'm not prone to simplistic explanations, so I wouldn't insist on limiting it to a few bits of what seems to be a much larger phenomenon.

Does it go like this: If complementarians have flaws in their arguments, it is because they are the poorly-reasoned persons in their movement. If I talked to the well-reasoned complementarians, then they wouldn't have flaws in their arguments. In that case, the right kind of complementarians must be right and I should drop the argument altogether. I'll admit it is a sleek way of putting it, except that I'm worried that the poorly-reasoned complementarians will prevail over the well-reasoned complementarians, and I don't want to end up in a chador-like garment watching my own marriage being arranged.

Why not just treat them the way you'd treat poorly-argued egalitarians? It's not representative of what a complementarian necessarily holds, even if it does reflect what some complementarians say. Is it central to what their message is or a little side comment? There are all sorts of factors that affect how you treat it with respect to the view in general and how you treat it even with respect to the person in question.

The Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family are pretty much mainstream evangelicalism. Once you've got your foot in those doors, you've made it to the big time.

But that only shows that some influential evangelical organizations and ministries are complementarian. It doesn't show that most are. It doesn't show that most evangelicals hold to it. It doesn't show that most evangelical scholars are complementarians. It doesn't show that most evangelical churches are complementarian. I wouldn't deny that complementarian is within the mainstream of evangelicalism. In fact, I'd insist on it. What I said is that most complementarians are complaining that evangelicalism is on the whole in the process of moving away from it, and that seems to me to be true in general.

Free Methodists and many other Holiness-type denominations are evangelical, and they have a history of women evangelists, ministers and active involvement in church decision-making. How old are those denominations? Certainly, many of them precede what we think of as twentieth-century evangelicalism. Complementarians are portraying long-standing traditions in those groups as being "new", "liberal" or "feminist".

Just because something precedes the 20th century doesn't mean it's the historic position. If you go back just to the 19th century, you've only gotten ten percent of church history. I'm not sure all the people you're talking about were full egalitarians anyway, but even so I would argue that something close enough to complementarianism is much older than that. Certainly the traditional views that egalitarians are rejecting are much older than egalitarianism, even if those views are not contemporary complementarianism.

Sorry I’m so late to the discussion. I hope to put up a full post on my thoughts later.

Jeremy: I feel you’re being a little unfair to Tosca. She started off saying that she was really perplexed by what it is exactly that complimentarians believe. And that “This debate is about statements that regularly issue forth from the mouths of certain prominant complementarians that are perplexing at best and false at worst.”

She then quotes from the CBMW and from the Piper/Grudem book as well as from Piper devotees. You dismiss her concerns by saying that they are all not careful thinkers (and you know I agree that they aren’t) and that they therefore aren’t good representatives of what the best of complimentariansim has to offer (and I agree that that is true as well).

However, can you really blame her for her confusion??? The CBMW and the Piper/Grudem book are the public face of complimentarianism. The vast majority of complimentarians (though not the careful ones) look to them as the leaders of complimentarianism, and in that sense, I think it is fair to say that they are representitive (of a sort) of complimentarian thinking. While Carson, Moo, Hurley, et al are better, they haven’t exactly made complimentarianism their cause or raised much public awareness of it in the way that CBMW and Piper/Grudem have.

I think that the most accurate way of putting it is that complimentarianism covers a wide range of beliefs, some of which is unbiblical, much of which is uncareful, and most people how consider themselves complimentarians have some level of disagreement on the issue with other complimentarians. Tosca seems to have responded to the largest (probably majority) and most public faction of complimentarianism, and since the rest of the complimentarians are relatively quiet on the issue, has assumed that complimentarianism is monolithic. And if you are going to talk about a group like “complimentarians” as a single entity, it usually makes sense to talk about the majority/plurality position--as she has done.

(This is similar to when you were ranting about the “No War for Oil” crowd and I pointed out that there was a much better version of the “No War for Oil” argument that you were not addressing. You rightly pointed out that most “No War for Oil” adherents did not use the more careful objection to the war. But I nevertheless--as you have done in this comment thread--maintained that you were not addressing the important issues that the best version had to offer.)

So while you rightly distance yourself from factions of complimentarianism that you disagree with, in your original post you talk about contemporary complimentarianism as if it were monolithic (even though you are careful to qualify your statements about egalitarians since you know that they are not monolithic). But since you referred to contemporary complimentarianism without qualification (though your reference to Carson, Schreiner, et al may have been an unclear attempt to do so), you can hardly fault Tosca for doing the same.

I'm not sure I dismissed her concerns as much as insisted that the concerns she has had are not with complementarianism per se as with particular statements by particular complementarians. I wasn't actually sure what her conclusion was supposed to be. When I tried to formulate her argument, it came up as this:

1. Some complementarians say X.
2. X is bad.
3. Therefore, _________.

I wasn't sure what was supposed to be filling in the blank, but the way she was talking sure sounded to me as if it was supposed to be something really bad about complementarianism as a general view. Since I had in my post pointed out that it's a difficult task facing complementarians to be careful in distinguishing their view from the more extreme one, I didn't expect Tosca simply to be agreeing with me that it's difficult to be clear about this. It had to be something much more negative than that, and the general sense of opposition I was seeing in the comments suggested to me that it was directed against complementarianism in general and not just against some specific side comments of some prominent people.

Even aside from the issue of what she was overall trying to argue and what I was overall trying to argue against (which may not have been the same thing), my main concern was to point out that some of her interpretations were not what seemed to me to be the most charitable interpretations or even the most obvious ones in context.

In my post, I was pointing out that complementarianism by and large is indeed much more moderate than the position Augustine was taking. I wasn't saying that all the variation within complementarianism amounts to nothing so that complementarianism is monolithic. Even with all that variation, complementarianism stands distinct from the more extreme position on the role difference side just as much as it stands distinct from egalitarianism. So I think what I said that you're taking as monolithic was never intended to be such, just that all the various positions have the one thing in common that distinguishes them from egalitarianism and the Augustinian view.

By the way, I do think I addressed the more careful version of No War for Oil at some point (which I don't think is the best way to describe the view you had in mind), just not in the posts you were talking about.

I told myself I would check out of this discussion. However, in light of recent comments, I'll say just a few things:

1. I'm an egalitarian, or something close to that, which necessarily means that I disagree with complementarianism.

2. I quoted comments made by a number of complementarians. A number of these comments seemed to imply that the husband's role not one of spiritual mutuality and equality with his wife, but rather that he takes a role that implies he has innate spiritual wisdom and discernment beyond that of his wife.

Any idiot can figure out that if the person with the XY chromosomes always gets a position of spiritual leadership, there is quality about him that distinguishes him from the person with the XX chromosomes.

3. In spite of the fact that the "right" complementarians do not say the sort of things that the ones I quoted did, those comments are, in fact, a very logical conclusion of complementarianism.

Complementarianism is a movement that promotes the idea that women and men have different intrinsic traits, not just in the physical sense (which everyone agrees on) but in some sort of psycho-spiritual essential sense.

Scratching the surface, we always find that the differences, while usually worded in carefully positive rhetoric, are that women are less analytical, less logical, better suited to caregiving than other things and more suited to following than leading as opposed to men.

Complementarians have two choices: they can portray these as the natural and beautiful inherent traits of womenkind; or they can portray these as ideals that women must achieve in spite of what their natural inclinations might be.

Option one is a problem, because women in the real world have amply displayed a diverse range of traits and it's just getting worse all the time. Option two is a problem, because it requires that some women play-act through life, voluntarily limiting themselves based on whatever degree of complementarian thought they adhere to.

This discussion is not somewhere up in the high clouds of lofty intellectual debate, Jeremy. The idea that complementarians are offering me something kinder and gentler than Augustinian misogyny is like telling me that I'm being offered road kill on a platter with mint sauce, rather than making me eat it raw on the street.

There is one position on men and women in the church that I could live with, which is that a man should be the head pastor, for no reason besides that many feel it is dictated by scripture. Of course, that is nothing particularly new. Complementarians are the ones who came in with extensive lists tabulating whether women could sing solos in church versus lead the choir.

Many churches have long operated with males in lead pastor and even elder positions, without creating an elaborate theology of womanhood in the process.

That would enable us to simply discard all the other complementarian baggage regarding women, and re-entitle women to the diversity of their traits in all other areas.

As I've detailed elsewhere, there are three positions within complementarianism about innate traits that ground the differences of role. In that discussion, I showed how all three views are different from the view that there is some spiritual inequality between men and women. That view is simply not complementarian, and one of my main goals in this discussion has been to distinguish complementarianism from a position that is not complementarian. Many of the statements you gave were supposed to show that complementarians were saying things that are this fourth, non-complementarian position. I spent a great deal of time showing that in context many of those statements do not imply this fourth position at all. In the post I just linked to, I spent a great deal of time showing that none of the three positions that are complementarian should lead to this fourth position.

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