Vicky Beeching is a British contemporary Christian musician and worship leader who has recorded five albums since 2002. If you have never heard of her before, then chances are that you have heard at least one of her songs. She co-wrote the popular anthem “Glory to God Forever,” and churches across the country routinely include this song during worship services.
Recently Beeching posted a critical remark about Complementarianism on her Facebook page (see below), and then invited readers to respond with “BIBLICALLY BACKED UP, theologically well explained” responses. So I’ve decided to take her up on her invitation in this space. I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce readers to the basics of Complementarianism and to clear up some common misconceptions that people have about it. Here’s what Beeching wrote on her Facebook page:
“Anyone thinking the ‘women in ministry’ battle is over & done, we still have a long way to go. Complementarianism, even when delivered with trendy clothes & a cool haircut, is still merely the oppression of women. My heart aches to see younger women grow up free from this teaching, so they don’t have to doubt their leadership gifting, their equality in the Body of Christ, or their equality within marriage.”
Well, at least she’s clear where she stands! But even so, her description of Complementarianism is less than helpful, though it may accurately reflect the way she feels about it. It is simply a mischaracterization to say that Complementarianism equals the oppression of women. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Complementarianism is term that we use to describe the Bible’s teaching on gender and gender roles. The concept stems in part from the biblical account of the creation of the first woman in Genesis 2:18, in which God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” In this text, God Himself declares that the first woman would be a “helper” to the man, and that she would be “suitable for him” or “corresponding to him.”
Correspondence speaks to equality. Adam had just surveyed all the newly created animal kingdom and found no creature that “corresponded” to him (Genesis 2:20). But the woman was different from any of the other animals that Adam named. She shared in the very same humanity that he himself had. Indeed, both the man and the woman were equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Eve alone corresponded to Adam in this sense, and in this sense she was his equal.
Helping speaks to difference. The text says that God created her to be a “helper”–a role that involves aiding and supporting the leadership of her husband. God did not assign this role to the man. He assigned it only to the woman. Thus before there is any sin in the world, God creates man and woman to be equal with respect to their humanity (being created in the image of God) but to be different with respect to their roles. The woman is to be the helper.
In keeping with what we see in Creation before there was any sin in the world, Complementarians believe that man and woman have different but complementary roles. When a woman comes to the aid and support of her husband’s leadership, she is not being “oppressed.” She is fulfilling the purpose for which God created her.
We learn in Ephesians 5 the deepest meaning of the different roles that are given to husbands and wives. Paul says that Adam and Eve’s marriage set the norm for every marriage that would follow. Marriage is designed to show the gospel mystery, that Christ loved His church and gave himself up for her; and that the church is called to submit to Christ. Christ has his role—to lead and to serve his wife, the church. The church has her role—to submit to Christ. Husbands and wives bear witness to the gospel as they fulfill their distinct roles.
God does not call unisex disciples. He calls us as men and women. And in that call he delivers a mandate to embrace the roles that He established for us at the very beginning. If we would bring “glory to God forever” as the song says, then we would delight in His purpose for gender as it is revealed in the Bible.
Ephesians 5:22, 25, 31-32 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
For more resources on Complementarianism, see Piper and Grudem’s classic work, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. For a variety of other resources, including a free online version of Piper and Grudem’s book, visit www.cbmw.org.