Thursday, July 19, 2012

Complementarianism for Dummies

Ever heard the term "complementarianism"?  Don't be surprised if you haven't.  Complementarianism is a theological position that I hold to that delineates the ways in which men and women reflect the glory of God in ways that are unique to their gender, and in a complementary way.  This view asserts that God has specifically designed the two genders for certain roles and responsibilities in society, the home, and even the church.  The complementarian position stands in contrast to egalitarianism, the view that men and women are equal in every way and that their are no God-given, gender specific roles or functions for men and women.  In fact, egalitarianism asserts, gender roles are interchangeable between men and women.  The difference between complementarianis and egalitarianism is an incredibly important issue, and is one that the church would do well to sort out at the local level.

Here's a really good, brief description of complementarianism called "Complementarianism for Dummies" that I'd like to recommend to you.  Unfortunately, given our culture's hyper knee-jerk reaction to any kind of supposed gender discrimination, not to mention the gender confusion perpetuated in our society by those who would seek to eliminate any kind of gender distinctions between men and women, positions like the complementarian one are not readily welcomed in the public square - especially when those positions are derived from a commitment to the Bible.  Often times complementarians are pigeon-holed as being discriminatory, chauvinistic, sexist, and patriarchal.  Nothing could be further from the truth, however, and this short description of the position helps to clear up a lot of the common misunderstandings about complementarianism.

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of complementarianism is that males bear the responsibility of holding positions of authority within the home and the church.  What is commonly misunderstood about this aspect of complementarianism is that the authority men bear is not the kind of authority that permits them to rule over women, or that women are somehow less valuable than men, or even that men somehow rank higher than women in some kind of preconceived authority structure.  Rather, complementarianism asserts that the authority men have in the church and the home is "not the right to rule - it's the responsibility to serve."  Or, as Doug Wilson has said, "Husbands if you want to preach the gospel to your wife, then you have to die."

Anyway, rather than me doing a poor job of summarizing the position in this post, I recommend you read the article.  (Note: for other good, brief descriptions of complementarianism, see here, here, and here.  And here's a typical egalitarian response to complementarian views.)

It should be noted that this is a difficult issue, and that good, God-fearing Christians differ on this topic and remain brothers and sisters in Christ.  This should not be something that unnecessarily divides the church.  Rather, it should be an issue we can discuss openly and honestly with each other as we wrestle through it in scripture.

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