A commenter in a previous post asked some questions about Complementarianism and how it plays out practically in various settings. I am happy to answer these queries, so I will list them here and respond to them in turn. For an overview of the Complementarian viewpoint that I am defending, see the Danver’s Statement.
1. Does your complementarian perspective mean that women don’t understand the Bible or biblical doctrines as well as men do? That they don’t receive scriptural revelation like men do? Or that they just aren’t able to TEACH it the way men do?
The short answer to this series is no, no, and no. From time to time, you’ll find someone like Mark Driscoll who interprets 1 Timothy 2:14 to mean that women are generally more gullible than men. But this is not a mainstream Complementarian view. Driscoll’s interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:14 does not take into account verse 13 which grounds the prohibition of 2:12 in the order of creation: “for it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.” For a competent defense of the mainstream Complementarian view, see Douglas Moo’s essay “What Does It Mean Not To Teach or Have Authority over Men?” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
The different roles that God assigns men and women are not based on which sex is more or less gifted than the other. God gives the gift of teaching to both men and women. So for Complementarians, the discussion is not about the innate abilities of the sexes. It’s about how the Bible directs men and women to use their gifts within the church. Complementarians affirm that men and women are created equally in the image of God and that redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation. Nevertheless, they also affirm that some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to qualified men (Galatians 3:28; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 1 Timothy 2:11-15).
2. Is the complementarian perspective something that is preached from the pulpit of churches that embrace this doctrine? I’ve been to many churches that probably hold this view, but I’ve never heard it preached from the pulpit. Rather, the pastor preaches something more in tune with the members’ everyday life.
Yes, Complementarians do preach on gender roles, and many such sermons are available on the internet (see CBMW’s audio resources). If you want to hear an excellent exposition of the Bible’s teaching on marriage and family, you should check out John Piper’s recent series that went from January 28 to July 1 of this year. What you’ll find in all of these sermons is that the Bible’s teaching on these matters is very practical; it gets into the nitty gritty of everyday life. It affects how husbands give themselves away for their wives, how wives follow the leadership of their husbands, how husbands and wives forgive one another, and more. Complementarianism is not merely about esoteric and philosophical speculations about gender. Complementarianism commends a way of life rooted in the biblical revelation, a way of being disciples who are created as both male and female.
3. As a NT scholar, do you know why Paul wrote this admonition to Timothy [in 1 Timothy 2:12]? What was going on in that particular situation that warranted Paul’s response? Could it be possible that this was a situational problem, since this admonition is not really given in other instances?
Egalitarian exegetes often say that Paul only meant for the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 to apply to a specific situation in the Ephesian church (once again, see Moo’s essay). This argument simply will not work since Paul grounds his prohibition in a creation ordinance: “for it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). In other words, it’s something about the way in which God created men and women that is the foundation of Paul’s directive, not some situation in Ephesus. Paul draws on a creation principle to address the specific problem in Ephesus. The exegete does not even have to reconstruct the specific background to see the general creation principle that Paul is setting forth.
4. A friend of mine received her Masters from a famous Baptist seminary. As a single woman, she’s been a missionary and a nurse, but she told me she’s not allowed to get an M.Div. or teach classes on doctrine or Hebrew/Greek. She is however allowed to teach children and youth and classes on marriage, family, social issues, etc. This makes no sense to me. First, when does a teenage boy become an “adult male”?
As far as I know, Complementarians have not set an age at which they believe a boy becomes a man. I think opinions on this question vary. In general, however, Complementarians favor the view that boys should begin taking on the responsibilities of manhood at a much earlier age than that practiced by the larger culture.
5. Have you ever pastored a church?
I have been an active member of a church since I was nine years old. I have also served as a youth minister and in various staff positions in different churches, but I have never been a senior pastor.
6. If you have NOT pastored, then please just answer this question the best you can. What practical difference does this “Comp. vs. Ega.” thing make to a church member?
It makes all the difference in the world. When Jesus calls people to be His disciples, He’s not calling them as androgynous creatures. He calls them as male and female. A man’s role as a Christian husband is different than a woman’s role as a believing wife (Ephesians 5:21-33). A Christian husband will lead his family as Christ leads and “heads” His church, or else the husband is a disobedient disciple. A Christian wife will follow her husband’s leadership as the church follows Christ’s, or else she is a disobedient disciple. These two biblical principles alone have massive practical implications for the ordering of family life, for the raising of children, and for the continued health of marriages. Within the church, Complementarianism has enormous practical implications. It means that a church that wants to obey the Bible will only call qualified men to be pastors. It means that churches will be aiming to open up appropriate avenues of ministry for all of its members, including women. The practical outworking of Complementarianism is too large to list here. There’s just no getting around the fact that the gender question has massive implications for the life of the disciple in nearly every aspect of his life.