Have you ever noticed that complementarians often manage to assume an air of superiority when they write and speak? Well I have. They seem to think their interpretation of the Bible is the Bible, that the Word of God is so clearly on their side of the gender issue that one must go to great lengths and keep one eye closed to miss the intended male over female hierarchy.
Perusing complementarian literature, it’s easy to find the likes of the following
“At the core of this topic lies the fundamental issue of biblical authority. If we write off, ignore, or distort the Bible’s teaching on gender roles, then we are bound to do so with everything the Bible teaches. Indeed, the Bible is so clear on male-female distinction…….. ….If we can wrest egalitarianism from the Bible, we can pervert it to say anything we wish.”1
I can think of few kind things to say about such nonsense. The best I can do is to assume well-meaning but misguided intentions and total blindness to the biblical bankruptcy of their own position. But it’s difficult to be that charitable.
These guys would have us believe that in all their alleged proof texts, Paul and Peter are teaching the same hierarchical complementarianism espoused by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, and that it came from the creation story. That last part is absolutely essential to their argument, that’s why they keep kicking what is obviously a dead horse.
Because if Paul and Peter are teaching gender hierarchy as the complementarian guys say, here’s the question: Where did they get it? Where did it come from? Logically there are only two options: they either started it as a new thing, or they got it from someplace else.
Obviously, they can’t have Paul and Peter initiating new doctrine that subjugates the women to the men. First of all, nobody would believe that, and more importantly, that doesn’t fit the teaching style of either apostle. The apostles were careful to build on the established foundation. But where is that foundation?
Jesus didn’t breath a word about gender hierarchy, but that’s not necessarily a big deal. Jesus didn’t address every possible topic because He didn’t need to. It’s fine that He didn’t mention it, as long as the foundation is laid elsewhere. But that is exactly where the gender hierarchists go embarrasingly astray.
The creation story is where they turn, naturally, and it ought to be there, right? If it’s God’s good plan and all like they say. Every important biblical concept begins with the foundations laid in the first few chapters of Genesis. And look at the many clear and unambiguous statements in Genesis 1-2!
God was the creator. 1:1, 2:4
Everything God created was originally good. 1:31
Mankind was created in the image and likeness of God. 1:26-27
God created marriage. 2:22-24 and blessed the sexual union of man and woman. 1:28
Men and women were told to fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over the animals. 1:28
Plants were given for mankind to eat. 1:29.
Etc, etc, etc.
Clear. Concise. Compelling.
And according to complementarians, this is also where God set up specific “gender roles” in which man would rule over woman in a hierarchical relationship with man as the leader/ initiator / responsible party and the woman as the submissive assistant and only one rung lower than the man on the authority ladder.
Ok, so how about a clear, unambiguous statement to that effect? Nope, sorry. No can do. Can’t help you there.
But what we DO have, are, according to Denny Burk, some “evidences” Or as Raymond Ortlund says, “A series of more or less obvious hints,”2
OK, so let me get this straight. You guys are telling me that God subjected one-half of the earth’s population to the other half at creation, an action that affected 100% of the people who ever lived, something more common, in fact, than marriage and sex, and yet God can’t spare a single sentence in the creation story to tell us this? Aren’t you the same guys who were just telling us a moment ago how clear the Bible is on this subject?
According to these self-proclaimed guardians of biblical truth, this gender hierarchy stuff is major doctrine. These guys consider it so essential that they made it a litmus test for membership acceptance into the Gospel Coalition. Piper ominously warns us that, “Egalitarianism must always lead to an eventual denial of the Gospel.”3 There’s that air of superiority again, with a little fear-mongering added for good measure.
Well I have a newsflash for you purveyors of the clear and obvious biblical truth of gender roles: You don’t establish major doctrine like that on “a series of more or less obvious hints.” You need an unequivocal statement of fact- especially in a foundational passage that is literally filled with such factual statements.
And you want to know the part that must cause them unbearable anguish? The clear and unambiguous statement they need is right there in Genesis 3:16, but they can’t use it because it’s clearly connected to the fallen condition of mankind, not the blissful state in Eden.4 So instead of finding their proof text, they are forced to admit that 3:16 describes a fallen state, and publicly lament that the fall left us with a perversion of God’s original blessed and wonderful design for male leadership.5
So supposedly God gave us a clear unequivocal statement when it comes to male rule as a curse, but when it comes to male rule as a blessing He beat around the bush.
Sorry guys, that’s shoddy exegesis and this brother isn’t buying it. And frankly, if what you’re teaching wasn’t so damaging to the church of Jesus, I’d laugh at the foolishness of what you consider a great argument. It’s ridiculous.
Well, Ok. The complementarian crowd came up empty in the creation story. Perhaps later? Moses, maybe in the 10 commandments, or some other law in the pentateuch? Surely God would have told Moses to put something about it in the law, since it’s such an important part of God’s wonderful plan, right? One would think. But no. Missed it there too.
Maybe Job? The Psalms? Song of Solomon? Isaiah? Those all sound like possibili……well…no, actually. Nothing. Not a word in the rest of the Old Testament about this major doctrine of joy.6
And then we get to Paul, and these complementarian dudes immediately see very clearly that he’s teaching gender hierarchy. Because there were some “more or less obvious hints” dropped 1500 years and 1070 chapters previously without a word about it in between. Gotcha.
Good grief! They have no scripture! They really don’t- because Paul and Peter can’t be teaching hierarchy if it’s not supported elsewhere, and neither the Old Testament nor Jesus teach gender hierarchy to support such an interpretation.
Complementarianism is bankrupt because it has no coherent biblical foundation. And yet they claim biblical superiority to the point of infallibity, cast aspersions on egalitarians, and incite fear in the church over abandoning their corrupt system.
This is why I find it difficult to be charitable in my judgment. By and large, these guys tend to be very bright and well educated. How can they be this obtuse?
- Preface to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 2006 edition (xi-xii)
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1991 edition, page 88
- Preface to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 2006 edition (xii)
- This was not always the case. For centuries patriarchal teachers used Gen 3:16 as their proof text, partly due to a faulty translation of the Latin Vulgate by Jerome. For a fascinating historical account, see Susanna Krizo’s book, When Dogmas Die, esp. Introduction and Chapter 1.
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1991 edition, page 410
- An exception is the ungodly Persian King Xerxes in Esther chapter 1- not the role model they wanted I am sure.