Thin Complementarianism?

David Talcott weighs-in late on a Complemenatrian controversey pitting Aimee Byrd and Carl Trueman against John Piper. Talcott explains:

Several weeks back there was a bit of a dust-up in conservative Reformed Protestant circles over the following simple question: Does being a man or a woman have any ethical significance for the way we live together in civil society? Despite the success of feminism in radically reworking gender roles over the past half century, conservative Evangelicalism has maintained a modest conviction that our sexuality has ethical import. Certain New Testament passages compel conservative Evangelicals to maintain that women should not be pastors and that the husband is in some way the head of the home. The group of Evangelicals who hold to this, which readers will quickly ascertain is simply a boringly normal version of the historic Christian and Jewish teaching on such matters, are commonly called Complementarians. In their view, men and women are distinctive complements to one another rather than identical and universally interchangeable parts.

But, this teaching about the importance of our sexual nature as male and female is generally limited to two distinct spheres (home and church), and generally limited to the barest of convictions (that a man ought to be in the position of headship). Thus far goes the resistance of conservative Evangelical Protestantism against the onslaught of feminism.

Beyond this lies a parting of ways. Some Reformed Evangelicals argue that we cannot go further and develop a broad theological view about the nature of manhood and womanhood. So, Aimee Byrd writes that there is no “biblical manhood and biblical womanhood filter” that our ethical questions need go through. In other words, when asking the question “should I do this?” or “should I be like that?” it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman. You do not have a male or female nature that would offer you guidance on your basic ethical questions about what kind of person you should be and what kinds of activities you ought to engage in.

On this view, our sexual nature simply does not have that kind of significance. So, Dr. Carl Trueman writes that Complementarianism “lost its way when it became an all-embracing view of the world and not simply a matter for church and household.”

Talcott ends up defending Piper’s side of this, and for good reason in my view. Here are some of my own reflections on this discussion, and I’ll be eager to hear feedback from those who may disagree. For my part, I regard this as a conversation among friends. All sides of this particular debate share the same first principles. The real question is the extent to which our first principles apply.

As best I can tell, Trueman and Byrd are chafing against the suggestion that complementarian principles might be applied outside the domains of church and home. In Trueman’s words:

I rarely read complementarian literature these days. I felt it lost its way when it became an all-embracing view of the world and not simply a matter for church and household.   I am a firm believer in a male-only ordained ministry in the church but I find increasingly bizarre the broader cultural crusade which complementarianism has become.  It seems now to be more a kind of reaction against feminism than a balanced exposition of the Bible’s teaching on the relationships of men and women.   Thus, for example, marriage is all about submission of wife to husband (Eph. 5) and rarely about the delight of friendship and the  kind of playful but subtly expressed eroticism we find in the Song of Songs.  Too often cultural complementarianism ironically offers a rather disenchanted and mundane account of the mystery and beauty of male-female relations.  And too often it slides into sheer silliness.

Likewise, Byrd writes:

I affirm that Scripture teaches that my husband has the responsibility of headship in our home… I also affirm that only certain men are called to ordination in the church as pastors and elders. Those are special leadership positions that I affirm as a result of the goodness and authority of God, who is the authority of us all. Isn’t this what a complementarian believes?

Trueman gives a list of “problems that occur when the issue of male-female complementarity is detached from the specific issues of marriage and church.” To do so is to fall into “cultural complementarianism”—which he calls a “bizarre… cultural crusade.”

I am not here trying to defend everything that flies under the banner of complementarianism. Every movement has its margins. But I do believe that Trueman and Byrd’s specific critique of Piper hits wide of the mark. There is no problem with Trueman and Byrd questioning whether Piper has correctly applied the principle of headship outside the sphere of church and home. The problem is that they seem to question that such an effort should be made at all.

Both Trueman and Byrd affirm the headship principle as it applies to the domains of church and home. They are uncomfortable with deriving implications for male-female relationships outside those two spheres. Trueman believes that trying to develop guidelines like Piper’s—which extend outside the sphere of church and home and into the workplace, politics, etc.—leads to absurd, infantile, unbiblical rules.

But is it really the case that complementarian principles extended outside church and home leads to a “bizarre… cultural crusade”? I don’t think so. If complementarianism is a creation principle, then the implications are necessarily wide-ranging. The biblical norms of manhood and womanhood apply wherever human beings appear in the world. That is why the apostle Paul applies those norms to hair-length (1 Corinthians 11:14). The law of Moses forbids cross-dressing (Deut. 22:5). When Paul wants people to behave courageously, he tells them to “act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

What is going on here? Why are those culturally-encoded gender norms given the weight of apostolic decree? Paul tells us the answer. “Nature”—which is Paul’s way of talking about creation norms—teaches us what it means to be created in the image of God as male and female. There are implications of this teaching which necessarily extend outside the domains of church and home.

This is not a defense of Piper’s particular framework (although I think it’s useful). It is a defense of his attempt to come up with one. Piper is simply trying to define manhood and womanhood based on the creation norms that are set out in Genesis 1-2 and that are elaborated through the rest of scripture. That is a noble effort that we would all do well to emulate. Furthermore, we need to figure out how to apply biblical gender norms to the nitty gritty details of our daily lives. Such application is not “detaching” complementarianism from church and home (as Trueman has it). It’s simply trying to apply scriptural teaching to all of life.

Complementarian readings of scripture have laid the groundwork for a faithful response to recent cultural developments such as the mainstreaming of transgenderism and feminism. If we limit our application of first principles to church and home, we unnecessarily hobble our ability to speak to these salient challenges that are confronting the church and that must be answered.

One final point. Trueman and Byrd write as if complementarianism has recently become something that it wasn’t before. That may be the case, but Piper’s remarks on this point are not evidence of that. The framework from Piper that they are critiquing has been in print for at least 25 years, going back to Piper’s work in Chapter 1 of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This is an old complementarian conversation, not a new one.

—————

UPDATE: Carl Trueman has posted a response to Talcott here. He pushes back on the notion that he denies the importance of gender differences and clarifies:

What we did argue was that the kind of complementarianism advocated by John Piper and company, focused as it is almost exclusively on issues of authority, hierarchy, and submission between the sexes, leads to horribly complicated micro-management and confusion once it is extrapolated to the whole of life. The evidence? That there is so much agonizing over how women should give travel directions to men who are lost, whether women should lift weights in the gym, how a housewife should relate to the mailman, etc. To those unfamiliar with the evangelical discussion on this, yes—these are things which have been raised as serious questions. I leave the reader to decide on whether my use of the term ‘silliness’ was appropriate or excessive.

I do not believe it is fair to say that Piper-style complementarianism focuses “almost exclusively on issues of authority, hierarchy, and submission.” Any reading of Piper’s voluminous works on this subject proves this not to be the case (read This Momentary Marriage, for example). In popular discussions, the “hierarchy” thing gets a lot of ink because it’s precisely this point that is contested by secularists and egalitarians. There’s no contest over men loving their wives self-sacrificially—another critical component of complementarian teaching which shows up over and over in Piper’s writings. It’s the authority-submission piece that people tend not to like, and that is why there is so much heat over that issue. In fact, even egalitarians want to be known as “complementarian” just so long as you subtract the parts about authority/submission.

Trueman also says that complementarians are in danger of reducing themselves to a “reactionary movement, defining itself over against feminism.” Even if he were right about this, I’m not so sure we’d be in bad company. I think Athanasius could have been accused of fostering a reactionary movement that defined Trinitarianism over against Arianism. Perhaps the Synod of Dort might have been accused of defining reformation theology over against Arminianism. Is the Christian church the worse off for those “reactionary movements”? Sound doctrine has often been clarified over against error. There’s nothing new or scandalous about that.

What I would still like to hear from Trueman is how he fits the headship norm of Genesis 2 into his anthropology. Is there such a thing as maleness and femaleness? If there is, then how does the headship norm—which Genesis 2 establishes as a creation norm—inform his view of maleness and femaleness? Is there really no legitimate application of that norm outside the church and the home?

To be fair, I think complementarians have a lot of work to do in this area. The Danvers Statement itself is pretty limited in its application to the church and home. But its minimalism is not consistent with its own first principles when those two domains are deemed the only relevant domains for living out manhood and womanhood.

31 Responses to Thin Complementarianism?

  1. Bev C. September 18, 2015 at 12:32 pm #

    Though I cannot find it anymore on the CBMW website they used to have a link to Stephen B. Clark’s ‘Man and Woman In Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Men and Women in Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences’. It is worth the time to read this rather lengthy treatise to more deeply engage this topic on a scholarly level. Tabor House has republished this volume in the last several years.

    One of the problems we have, as has every culture throughout history has had, is that often times we are so immersed in our culture and things are so “normal” to us that we don’t even question them and when we read Scripture, we read it in light of our built in bias.

    Feminism with its many and varied tentacles is one of those blinding issues.

    Dr. Piper is on the right path to question the current cultural mandates.

    • bravelass September 18, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

      Bev,

      I agree with you about Clark. But since he is Catholic, he will never get much attention from Complementarians. CBMW has gone through yet another website division, leaving more and more of their history behind, including PDF book files. The newest version of their website doesn’t even have a search function.

  2. Barbara Jackson September 18, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

    I agree with Dr. Trueman, but then maybe it’s a Presbyterian thing (I am). To be fair, I do see that kind of reactionary response he refers to happening around me in circles that are highly influenced by a specific teacher who I won’t name but who is certainly well known, well respected, and certainly known for being doctrinally sound; but I see it especially prevalent on a reformed singles site of which I am a member where there is much discussion about biblical roles. One such woman even chastised me for speaking to another woman in a way that she perceived to be one of instruction because in her view it was “not appropriate for a woman” (in spite of Titus 2, but I digress) . Clarity surely matters, but so does grace and reason.

    As an RN I have often been in positions where I supervise men – orderlies and other nurses, for example. I teach my male patients too, about how to take care of themselves and coach them on matters of lifestyle modification and how to talk to their doctors. I will offer to pray with and for my male patients who desire it and are too ill to do so themselves, and some of them are retired pastors. As a single older woman, i am the head of my household of one, but I submit to the authority of my elders in the church (by the way we have a female state representative among our faithful members) and I submit to the authority that is over me in the world, be it male or female, whomever it is I report directly to, as God commands (Col 3, etc). So, if the specific nature of the biblical roles associated with home and church extend beyond those environs, I would be in clear violation of God’s word by carrying out those responsibilities, would I not?

    Should women be police officers? In a fallen world, I say, Absolutely. I can tell you from many years working in the ER, many situations where a female officer has been far better qualified to handle a sensitive situation – especially where female crime victims and their families are involved, though not exclusively so – than a man could ever be. I see so many he said/she said articles on the net and find it wearisome when written by people who aren’t there (so I appreciate your asking for feedback). I do think it is far too easy to theorize and postulate and pontificate, and it hurts us more than it helps us.

    That’s not to say that gender distinctions shouldn’t matter. The vocal progressives of western society who insist on the elimination of such distinctive so have clearly lost their collective mind. I don’t think some duties should be interchangeable, and I certainly don’t agree with women in combat, but I think we have to be careful not to make the error of the Pharisees in drawing circles around commands that extend beyond the command itself. I don’t think doing so is going to change the culture one iota.

    Just my $.02.

    • Alexander King September 22, 2015 at 10:30 am #

      That was very well said. Thank you

  3. Ben Carmack September 18, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    I can’t speak for Baptists, but in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches it’s safe to say that there is considerable resistance to the development of a comprehensive theology of sexuality…Adam first, and then Eve. Controversies like this one are useful because it’s “reconnaissance by artillery.” John Piper shot a few arrows, and he found out where his opponents are and why.

    Of course this is not the first time Pastor Piper has had this happen. Only a few years ago, Piper made a comment at the Desiring God conference that Christianity has a “masculine feel.” Around the same time, he answered a question from someone about Beth Moore, and cautioned men who listened to and learned from Beth Moore vis a vis 1 Timothy 2.

    At the time both of these incidents happened, Rachel Held Evans and the Internet Monk (among other bloggers) took great umbrage at Piper for saying these things. It was a sign for them of Piper’s extremism, his allowing cultural war politics to invade his theology.

    What’s the difference here? RHE and the IMonk identify as full egalitarians, while Trueman and Byrd identify as complementarians. What do they share in common? They share an opposition to a comprehensive theology of sexuality, an opposition that is principled, not accidental.

    Where does this end? When the culture pushed women to act more and more like men, abolished sexual distinctions, called evil good and good evil, and even pushed women onto the literal battlefield, good sensible middle to upper class Presbyterians responded by retreating to our homes and churches and telling the world, “You can have everything else.” But will the feminists be satisfied with everything else? Do the feminists think it inconsequential that we Christians call God Father and Jesus the Son? How do feminists regard the “hopelessly patriarchal” Bible, or one of its primary authors, Saint Paul?

    The feminists understand what the game is. They understand how a culture war is won and lost. They understand that Christianity is their primary obstacle, not only in the church and home, but in the world at large. They will attack the foolish Baptists first, since they have enough faith to confess some doctrine of sexuality in the public square, but they will eventually come for the private homes and churches of sensible, upper to middle class, Two Kingdom Presbyterians too…so what will we do then?

    Regards,

  4. johnhughmorgan3 September 18, 2015 at 3:46 pm #

    You just put your finger on one of the key problems in the church today. It is still living under Old Testament “creation principles” with marriage and reproduction falling under Mosaic Law. There is no eternal value whatsoever in marriage on this earth. It is but a blink of an eye. So the more time we talk about about Complemenatrian controversies, feminism, eroticism, headship principles, gender norms, authority, submission, etc., the more time we waste. What this debate assumes is that everybody is either Adam or Eve, is under God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, and is either married or on the road to marriage. That is simply not the case in light of the New Testament.

    • steve hays September 19, 2015 at 12:17 am #

      The creation principles in Gen 1-2 are independent of the Mosaic Covenant. The new covenant doesn’t abolish Gen 1-2.

      • steve hays September 19, 2015 at 1:18 am #

        I’d add that since the NT is complementarian, attempting to pit the NT against the OT on gender issues is self-refuting. It’s the same anthropology throughout.

  5. Tim September 18, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

    Denny, the merit of Byrd and Trueman’s positions that it stays with the Scriptural record. (Aimee is a friend of mine and knows I disagree with her conclusion that it requires a complementarian doctrinal position, but that’s beside the point here.) Where Piper errs is going so far beyond Scripture that he strays into legalism, which does violence to the gospel of Christ. I bless Trueman and Byrd and their efforts.

    • Christiane Smith September 19, 2015 at 5:11 am #

      Hi TIM,
      I fear what legalism has done to many young Christian women’s lives. I have a niece who is a very Christian woman, recently married, who is a Lt. Cmdr. in the USN. She has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and knows her way around weapons, as well as some high tech medical equipment. She has saved lives. My niece has served her country honorably, and she can still pin up her blond hair with diamond clips and wear a formal evening dress with graciousness, and she can still play a lovely, lyrical, classical piano sonata on demand.

      What are the religious limits on such a young woman? How is she forbidden to pray with a young dying soldier thousands of miles away from his mother? In what ‘gospel’ would she be forbidden to staunch the bleeding and open the air-way of a young man with half of his face blown away? Who would deny her right to be armed against an enemy who despises that women in the West are given any education at all?

      I don’t understand ‘limits’ on women’s roles, not when I look at Linds who is a beautiful, gifted, honorable, and decent young woman. I know how much she suffered overseas, writing home:
      ‘there are no words’ over her deep sadness at the deaths of some of our finest young soldiers.

      If I were the Christian mother of one of these young soldiers, I would have wanted for a young woman like Linds to be there to help her daughter’s or son’s final moments on this Earth. And if I were the Christian father of one of the young soldiers Linds kept alive until the docs could do their thing, then I would be grateful for her outstanding medical education at UVA, and for her unrivaled medical training in battle conditions.

      Our country needs young women like Linds. She is not so easy to ‘label’ with contempt, no. I am glad she was not victimized by having her gifts discounted before she could use them to good purpose. That would have offended the One we call the Giver of Gifts.

  6. sismarydandelion September 18, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    Piper has absolutely strayed into legalism, Tim. The logical outcome of what Piper is saying is turning the entire world into an episode of “19 Kids and Counting.” We see how well that turned out. Plus, it would take me a LONG time to grow out enough hair to pass muster.

    Piper is trying to bring society back to a romanticized view of the “good old days” when women were all stay at home mothers. I am not gifted to be a stay at home mother. I am gifted at project management in my secular career. I can keep a team of people on task, on time, and on budget. I can stand in front of a board room full of executives and say, “This is what needs to happen to get the job done.”

    I can also stand behind a pulpit and rightly divide the word of truth. I hear all the time that I’m not qualified to do that because of my gender. Incidentally, nobody ever stood up in a board room and told me I was unqualified. It was usually the case that they were calling my company and asking for me by name for future projects because I had a reputation for getting the job done.

    It puzzles me what any of this has to do with salvation or the Gospel.

    • Kamilla Ludwig September 18, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      It has to do wth salvation because faulty anthropology inevitably infects Christology. See, for example, Jory Micah’s confusion about and apparent denial of the Incarnation.

  7. David McKay September 18, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    Denny, do you have time to edit “Complemenatrian controversey?”

  8. Kamilla Ludwig September 18, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    Denny,

    I WISH Complementarianism were a reaction to feminism. If it were then perhaps they’d be responding to denials of the Incarnation and the verbal plenary inspiration of the Scriptures along with friendly feminist engagement with the pagans of the “Christian Godde Project”. All seen on social media among feminists that are self-identified evangelicals in the last little while.

    As to the comprehensive nature of maleness and femaleness or manhood and womanhood, you know there’s already an answer out there. One that is deep, wide, comprehensive and as thick as thick can be.

  9. Christiane Smith September 18, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    I think the coming of Our Lord and of the Holy Spirit is meant to bring a real healing to this sad situation which resulted from the Fall:

    ” . . . when we read in the biblical description the words addressed to the woman: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16), we discover a break and a constant threat precisely in regard to this “unity of the two” which corresponds to the dignity of the image and likeness of God in both of them.

    But this threat is more serious for the woman, since domination takes the place of “being a sincere gift” and therefore living “for” the other: “he shall rule over you”. This “domination” indicates the disturbance and loss of the stability of that fundamental equality which the man and the woman possess in the “unity of the two”: and this is especially to the disadvantage of the woman, whereas only the equality resulting from their dignity as persons can give to their mutual relationship the character of an authentic “communio personarum”.

    While the violation of this equality, which is both a gift and a right deriving from God the Creator, involves an element to the disadvantage of the woman, at the same time it also diminishes the true dignity of the man. Here we touch upon an extremely sensitive point in the dimension of that “ethos” which was originally inscribed by the Creator in the very creation of both of them in his own image and likeness.”

    (the quote is from ‘MULIERIS DIGNITATEM’ by John Paul II)

    If we see people celebrating the lifestyle of one sex dominating the other sex, it may be that they missed understanding how it came about in sin, and what it costs both the women and the men who partake in this painful way of living for both.

    Love doesn’t need ‘rules’ for dominance or submissiveness . . .
    Marital love always was meant to be freely given ‘either to other’

  10. senecagriggs September 18, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Thinking about men, women and police departments. You can have a police department with no women. You can NOT have a police department without men. Somewhere in the background, masculinity must be present for a police department to stare down evil men.

  11. dr. james willingham September 18, 2015 at 10:54 pm #

    Complementarianism as held by many is but a visceral reaction to feminism. As such it reveals its weakness, the weakness of a reaction response, the same weakness of Fundamentalism all during the 20th century (and actually beginning in the 19th century). While there is a difference physically between men and women, male and female, there is no basis in biblical teachings for the, “I am in control,” attitude which many display in home and church. The truth is that authority is but a function of role. A woman, adequately prepared, can exercise authority with the same capabilities as a man. The doctrine of the church ekklesia is that all members a re wqual, all have the right to exercise the privileges of full membership. Anything else is but an exercise in fear and futility, doomed to disaster down the way.

  12. brian darby September 19, 2015 at 3:35 am #

    You know Dr. Burk I really do try to understand this, but Women and Men do just fine using their gifts in whatever capacity they do in life. From my personal experience Women in faith communities often do much of the heavy lifting, especially where abuse is concerned. I have seen many fine women pastors and leaders.

  13. Diane Woerner September 19, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    It’s interesting how we unconsciously cut to the pragmatic in our thinking: because someone CAN do something, they also SHOULD. Korah and his followers probably could have led Israel, maybe very effectively, as they are described as renowned leaders in Numbers 16. But God’s perspective, as we know, was different.

    God created masculinity and femininity for a very specific purpose: to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church. When we dilute or distort the meaning of these, we go against His created design and lose the metaphor–which, of course, is the intent of our enemy.

    • Christiane Smith September 19, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

      Hi DIANE,
      I look at the Duggar tragedy and I can agree with you that distorting the meaning of the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ roles can open people to the temptation of ‘the enemy’. I cannot imagine the sorrowful impact on Anna who has just given birth, but many people are praying for her and many more hope that her situation will go forward in a good direction.

  14. Diane Woerner September 19, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    Denny wrote: “There’s no contest over men loving their wives self-sacrificially….It’s the authority-submission piece that people tend not to like.”

    If I might inject another thought here, it’s my impression that we have some blurry ideas about authority and submission that are partly to blame. Consider the common statement that men are to express their headship by being servant-leaders. Part of the problem is that the term “servant” has a double meaning. One is that a servant works to benefit the one he serves; the other is that he is one who submits to the wishes of the one served.

    I prefer the term “benevolent leader,” as this retains the self-sacrificial component, but it places the responsibility for the chosen service on the leader, not on those he is serving. If you consider the biblical example of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, you will note that He did it of His own accord–and initially against their wishes–because He understood the benefit they needed to gain (not only clean feet, but the model itself).

    If we could come to understand authority as the carrying of the weight of decisions, I believe we would have an easier time sorting these things out. A husband is to carry the weight of the wellbeing of his family, not only for the sake of the family, but also because he is accountable to God. While his wife rightfully adds her counsel to the decisions that must be made, the responsibility (in God’s eyes) rests on the husband.

    So in all matters of authority, it seems we must ask: whom does God hold responsible (Romans 13:1)? To the extent that we look at the question through the filter of its impact on us, I think we will continue to lose our way.

  15. pauldreed2 September 19, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Complementarianism is a euphemism for what it’s trying to describe. Complementarianism implies equality, albeit with different roles, such as in an engineering firm, a software engineer and a hardware engineer. However, the Bible clearly says the husband is the head of the wife, so a more apt comparison might be lawyer and para-legal.

    • Deb Welch September 23, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Paul, I appreciate the attempt to use analogy; however, it think a more accurate rendering would be the hardware engineer and the software engineer at an engineering firm, whereby both roles are inherently of equal worth and value, but where the hardware engineer is given the authority and responsibility by the CEO to provide guidance, oversight and final decision making for the branch of the business he is appointed over (which includes the software engineer and any of the interns or contractors).

  16. Ike Lentz September 19, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

    So should a Christian support Carly Fiorina?

    • Joshua Smith September 20, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

      Hello Ike,

      Was God complimenting the Israelites here?

      Isaiah 3:12
      As for my people, children are their oppressors,
      and women rule over them.
      O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err,
      and destroy the way of thy paths.

  17. RStarke September 23, 2015 at 1:45 am #

    As someone who’s been an ancillary part of these discussions for sometime, I so appreciate your willingness to engage the arguments Aimee and Carl make, and may your tribe increase. 🙂

    That being said, for those of us who hold to a version of complementarianism I’d submit is broader, rather than thinner, the issue is whether biblical principles of gender flow out of Genesis 1, where God declared all of his creation good and rested, *before* Adam and Eve began their work, or out of Genesis 2. If complementarianism is somehow inherent to marriage and childbearing, that’s certainly a Genesis 2 perspective. But if the complementarity of the genders comes from Genesis 1, before marriage and childbearing, then there is room for a broader view. Given Jesus’ own permanently unmarried/celibate state, the indicators are strong that we should ground our understanding of *gender* in Genesis 1, not 2. There are specific contexts described in Genesis 2 to be sure, but if Jesus is savior of all (not just all men), and if the gospel is about what God has done for us, rather than what we do for God, then a vision of gender complementarity that doesn’t account for those two facts cannot be complete or accurate.

    \

    • steve hays September 23, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

      The creation of man and woman in Gen 1 isn’t chronologically prior to Gen 2. Gen 2 simply covers the same ground in far more detail. You can’t pit one against the other as if they represent two different visions of humanity.

    • Diane Woerner September 24, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

      RStarke, I’m glad you mention “Jesus’ own permanently unmarried/celibate state.” I would say that while physical human celibacy was something He maintained, it’s not true that He will never be married. However, what the passages in Revelation and the other references to Him as bridegroom tell us (e.g. Luke 5) is that marriage in eternity will be similar to, but also infinitely more than, what we experience now.

      It is my contention that this eternal marriage–while we can’t fully understand it–gives us a clue as to the purposes of human masculinity and femininity. We have no reason to believe that we as His bride will reach a point of shared status, a sort of unity of equals, but rather we will give full expression to the glorious differences intended in the male/female model we see dimly in this life.

      By focusing on the lines that should be drawn in the particulars of our life choices, we are distracted from the understanding that we are called to lean into our assigned masculinity or femininity in every way possible and in every context possible.

      So much of what is addressed in these conversations is motivated by the pragmatic desire to avoid the pain that comes from abuses due to human fallenness. Patriarchy in its perfect form is intended to protect women and children and to bring honor to men, even as Christ desires to shepherd us and receive honor from us.

      We may push against the model because of the abuses, but we have little reason to believe that our alternative models are enhancing manhood as representative of Christ or womanhood as representative of His church and bride.

  18. Deb Welch September 23, 2015 at 9:04 am #

    Denny, I greatly appreciate your attempt at bringing the discussion back to the Danvers Statement Affirmations, because many local church leaders who do not make a point to follow internet controversies or blog articles and posts still primarily see the complementarian position that they subscribe to as best represented by the affirmations of Danvers. That was the original position that they were asked to affirm and confirm when “signing on” to the complementarian movement.

    However, when you stated that “its minimalism is not consistent with its own first principles when those two domains are (home and church) deemed the only relevant domains for living out manhood and womanhood,” I don’t think that is a fair characterization.

    Affirmation 2 clearly states that there are “Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles” “ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.” That sentence appears to be quite deliberate and helpful, since the outworking of male and female roles that are not clearly defined by scriptural commands should be handled with great discernment and on a case by case basis can. How we live it out will look different for a variety of life circumstances and needs to be handled as a matter of the heart, not as man-made rules, imho.

    Without a scriptural mandate to bind consciences in other spheres of life outside the home and the church, we risk quite a bit. Legalism, yes. Stumbling blocks to the Gospel, yes. The hindrance of the means of grace to believers, yes.

    When our “rules” on this topic in the local church context go in the direction that Piper does, one practical outworking that invariably occurs is that women in non-traditional stations and seasons of life (Singles, single mothers, widows, empty nesters, divorcees, low income two family homes, etc….) will unnecessarily (perhaps inadvertantly) be limited or disconnected from the life and full participation of the church.

    Also, when we define gender roles in terms of things that are not scriptural (like toy preferences and recreational activities), we feed into needless cultural stereotypes that cause boys to feel like they have to become girls to enjoy babies or the arts.

    A woman’s obedience to our created gender distinctions have to do with hearts that are inclined towards fully living out being true “Ezers” and life-givers in broad terms, not in our choosing of Barbie dolls over catchers’ mitts and other such minutia.

    How we frame these discussions is so incredibly crucial on so many levels, I find it hard to capture the gravity in a short comment. (Sorry this is so rambly).

  19. Deb Welch September 23, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Denny, I greatly appreciate your attempt at bringing the discussion back to the Danvers Statement Affirmations, because many local church leaders who do not make a point to follow internet controversies or blog articles and posts still primarily see the complementarian position that they subscribe to as best represented by the affirmations of Danvers. That was the original position that they were asked to affirm and confirm when “signing on” to the complementarian movement.

    However, when you stated that “its minimalism is not consistent with its own first principles when those two domains are (home and church) deemed the only relevant domains for living out manhood and womanhood,” that may not be a fair characterization.

    Affirmation 2 states that there are “Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles” “ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.” That sentence appears to be quite deliberate and helpful, since the outworking of male and female roles that are not clearly defined by scriptural commands should be handled with great discernment and on a case by case basis can. How we live it out will look different for a variety of life circumstances and needs to be handled as a matter of the heart, not as man-made rules, imho.

    Without a scriptural mandate to bind consciences in other spheres of life outside the home and the church, we risk quite a bit. Legalism, yes. Stumbling blocks to the Gospel, yes. The hindrance of the means of grace to believers, yes.

    When our “rules” on this topic in the local church context go in the direction that Piper does, one practical outworking that invariably occurs is that women in non-traditional stations and seasons of life (Singles, single mothers, widows, empty nesters, divorcees, low income two family homes, etc….) will unnecessarily (perhaps inadvertantly) be limited or disconnected from the life and full participation of the church.

    Also, when we define gender roles in terms of things that are not scriptural (like toy preferences and recreational activities), we feed into needless cultural stereotypes that cause boys to feel like they have to become girls to enjoy babies or the arts.

    A woman’s obedience to our created gender distinctions have to do with hearts that are inclined towards fully living out being true “Ezers” and life-givers in broad terms, not in our choosing of Barbie dolls over catchers’ mitts and other such minutia.

    How we frame these discussions is so incredibly crucial on so many levels, I find it hard to capture the gravity in a short comment. (Sorry this is so rambly).

  20. dr. james willingham September 23, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    The problem with complementarianism is that it uses a method which limits discernment. The analytical method, so popular today in view of the success of science, is flawed. There is a better method, what I call the synthetical one, which holds that if the rule is true and the exceptions are true, then the truth is both the rule and the exceptions. Ordinarily, the rule holds without giving absolute power and always within the context of checks and balances. However, at times there might be exceptions, as in the case of prophetesses. I call attention to one prophetess of the Old Testament whom Israel consulted (her name escapes me for the nonce, but you all can look it up). In any case, not to hear the one ordained and sent of God for a particular event is the same as not hearing God Himself and involves judgments just like the rule for such things under normal circumstances. The Puritans often had a list of contrarieties. Unfortunately, we do not, because we lack acquaintance with the biblical methods of interpretation from the past. Some of them, we might find helpful in the present.

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