Complementarianism and Egalitarianism

I have been asked about male-female roles a number of times as it relates to marriage today. This is a crucial issue in our society and in families. In fact, recently I wrote a member of our congregation a letter in defense of complementarianism.  I have reprinted it below. It is not meant to be complete but I think it is helpful in starting to understand the Complementarian/Egalitarian argument. – Chap

Genesis Chapter 2 Prefall examined in terms of male/female relationships.

1. The Man was made first, given work to do: 2:15

2. The Man is commanded about what to eat and not eat (thus teaching his wife) 2:18

3. Man names animals as ruler 2:20

4. Eve is made as helper to Adam 2:20

5. Woman was made from man (man was breathed into by God) 2:22

6. Man named woman 2:23 – This is a sign of authority.

7. Woman’s name is a derivative of man’s.

8. Thus, a prefall hierarchy is set up  God – Man – Woman – Animals.

9. The Man Woman hierarchy is also a coruling. It is different than God ruling over Mankind and Mankind ruling over the animals.

All this was before the fall.

Genesis 1 also makes clear that the woman is made in God’s image, that she is given a coruling charge as well. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 balance each other. Genesis 1 emphasizes the partnership. Genesis 2 emphasizes how the partnership is to work.

Genesis Chapter 3 – The Fall examined in terms of male/female relationships

1. The fall is a complete reversal of those roles and hierarchy. The animal tempts the women who leads Adam into sin.

2. When Adam (as head of the race) sinned, then the eyes of them were opened. The wife’s sin does not lead the race into sin. 3:6, 7

3. God dishes out punishment to the serpent (Satan), then the women and then the man. Starting at the lowest and working his way up. 3:14-19

4. God punishment has to do with the primary (but not exclusive) roles of each. For women it will be in relationships and childbearing. 3:16

5. Adam’s punishment is thorns in work (his primary calling) and the death of the race. This ruling of death comes to the head of the race (e.g. Women will die also). 3:17-19

6. Specifically, Adam is punished “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you.” 3:17

NT Passages

A number of NT passages put theological value on this issue of Adam and Eve’s relationship:

1.  Ephesians 5:22ff Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands. Here Paul directly connects the submission of a wife to the submission of the church. If a wife’s submission is cultural then so should the church’s submission to Christ.

2. 1 Cor 11:3, The head of every man is Christ, woman is man and head of Christ is God. Paul is restating the hierarchy of Genesis 2 while including Christ for the first time.  To do away with this hierarchy is to do away with Christ’s submission to the Father. This is probably the most powerful argument for male headhip. It shows that Christ, though equal in substance to the Father, the Son functionally submits to him. The Father does not do what the Son tells him. No, the coequal Son willingly submits to the Father. Evangelical egalitarians always end up starting to redefine the Trinity.

Later on in this passage, Paul emphasizes the hierarchy again. For man did not come from woman but woman from man; neither was the man created for the woman but woman for the man. 1 Cor 11:8-9.

But then, lest men domineer, he balances it.

In the Lord, however women is not independent of man, nor man independent of woman. For as the woman came from man (Creation), so also man is born of woman (every man comes from a mother.) 1 Cor 11: 11-12 In other words, there is meant to be a beautiful and mutual interdependence.

3. 1 Tim 2: A women is not to teach or have authority over a man. Paul’s reasoning goes back to the order of creation and the temptation as a reversal of that order.

11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

4. And a major issue that is beyond the scope of this letter is that Christ is the second Adam, not the second Adam and Eve.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive….45So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[e]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.1 Cor 15:22,45.

5. It is not unimportant that Jesus valued women immensely, indeed making them the first witnesses of the Resurrection. But he only called men to be his disciples.

The Egalitarian’s Life Verse

What then to make of an egalitarian’s key verse, Galatians 3:28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. The context of this verse makes clear that Paul is talking about status before God. The temple made clear that the order of access to God before Christ was: priest, Jewish men, Jewish women and then Gentiles. In the New Covenant. that access hierarchy is now abolished. Those distinctions are gone. Now all enjoy unhindered access. But access to God is not the same as earthly functional roles.

Two Questions Underneath the Question

1.Does difference in function means different in value?

In other words, is a woman who submits to her husband less valuable and thus inferior? 1 Cor 11 makes clear that Christ is equal to the Father in substance yet submissive to him in function. The egalitarians subtle argument is that to be underneath in authority is to be of less worth.

2. Is there a difference between male and female? What does it mean to be male and female?  Is there any inherent difference? Those would argue that there is no functional difference and that the Scriptures are cultural, should follow it to its logical conclusion (like the more liberal churches) and begin to say that homosexual prohibitions are culturally determined. And since male and female are interchangeable and gender is socially determined, then really there is nothing wrong with two males or two females forming a family unit. This is exactly where the thought process of academics are taking this thought.

Pastoral Bottom Line

God made two different types of human beings, male and female. There is something inherent in our masculinity and femininity that glorifies God. Truly godly men will value the input of women even while they are taking final spiritual headship. Truly godly women will understand their value to God and others. Both will realize that sin attacks even our gender distinctions and will seek to put to death those sinful desires that led to the first sin

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