Friday, June 08, 2018

Complementarianism Is a Good Word that Has Been Hijacked to Wrongly Mean Authoritarianism

I am a person who believes the Bible. Every word of it points me to Jesus Christ. The Bible is our canon (ruler) for life and death, for the Scripture reveals the Truth, and you shall know the Truth, and He shall set you free.

But the Bible is often poorly interpreted.

For example, many modern evangelicals read prophecies in the Bible and wrongly interpret them to be about the "end of the world," and don't realize that these biblical prophecies are vivid, Hebrew apocalyptic writings foretelling the end of Old Covenant Israel (A.D. 70 and the destruction of the Hebrew Temple), and the inauguration of God's New Covenant with the world.

If you confuse the end of the Old Covenant with the destruction of the earth, then your theology and church practices will be more about a coming Kingdom than about the transformative change you can bring to this world by living out the principles of Jesus Christ in this world.

Another example of poor interpretation of God's Word is the belief that God created man in His image, but that "the woman was made for man." Therefore, a woman must always be "under the umbrella of protection" of a man (father, husband, pastor, etc.) for the man has "authority over the woman" like God has authority over His creation.

I'm not making this up. People really believe this to be a biblical concept. Listen to how Southern Baptists on the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood explain this male inherent authority:
Sin has produced in woman an illegitimate desire to usurp the rightful authority God gave to man (Gen. 3:16), God has worked in Israel and in the Church to establish male-headship as the consistent and approved pattern for religious and home life.
This unbiblical and warped view of inherent male authority would be the primary reason I could never join a church or pastor a church where such views were considered biblical. If the leadership of a church believes "only males have authority over people," then that church will be just as dysfunctional as a homosexual marriage. You may like it and be comfortable with it, but you won't give birth to new Kingdom people. You'll grow your church by stealing members from other churches. All-male leadership churches, like nature, aren't designed to procreate.

Male authoritarianism is antithetical to the teachings of my Savior, the Apostle Paul, and the rest of the New Testament:
"The wife does not have authority over .... but yields to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over ... but yields it to his wife. (I Corinthians 7:4). 
There is to be a mutual submission between men and women in the Kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

Consistent authoritarians like Paige Patterson believe it is an indication of a wicked society when women have positions of authority over men. That belief in male authority is properly called male authoritarianism or patriarchalism.

It's not New Testament. Not even close. Hierarchal patriarchs believe women are permanently subordinate in the family, the church and should be subordinate in culture. Only when God's plan is ignored will a woman ever be in a position of leadership over males.

Complementarianism is a good word. But it's been hijacked by authoritarians.

Complementarianism means:
"The full-orbed image of God cannot be understood without both the male and the female. The two genders complement one another to represent the image of God."
In Scripture, God will often liken Himself to a female, and we are the fruit of His womb.

Why does the Creator do this? Because His image is stamped in both the man and the woman, characteristics of both the father and the mother, and you can't get a full and true sense of God without both sexes. 

Therefore, in the home and in the church...
"Men and women bear the image of God and are only limited in Christ's Kingdom, His church, and the Christian family by character, experience, ability, and giftings of the Holy Spirit."
Most Christians intuitively know that Jesus Christ empowers His people to serve regardless of gender, but those who wish to restrict women do so based upon just a handful of verses, ignoring the clear teachings of Jesus Christ and the rest of the New Testament.

"But what about I Timothy 2:9-15?" object conservative male Christian leaders.
Answer: Jesus Christ sets women free to serve as He gifts them, and any restrictions of women in the home, church, or society is built on a misinterpretation of this text. 

"But what about the specific prohibition on women in  I Timothy 2:15?" object conservative male Christian leaders?
Answer: That prohibition is to "the" woman known by both Paul and Timothy and illustrates a specific, pastoral prohibition for a particular church instead of a universal prohibition for all churches. 

But what about I Corinthians 14:34-35? object other conservative male leaders?"
Answer: Those two verses are teaching that women SHOULD be teaching and prophesying in the church as they are gifted by the Holy Spirit.

So I'm a true, biblical complementarian because I accept the teachings of Jesus Christ and reject the false teaching of the inherent authoritarianism of males. Men and women - both genders - complement one another and reveal the full image and character of God.


Anonymous said...

Per Star-Telegram reporter Sarah Smith: “Patterson has withdrawn from delivering the #SBC18 convention sermon. Story to come.”

Wade Burleson said...

Saw that post. I commend PP for his wise and helpful decision.

Anonymous said...

I have a grassy knoll theory that the event is not at the THE Grassy Knoll but a grassy knoll.

Wade Burleson said...

Excellent point anonymous - I will "edit" the "the" to an "a."


BTW - I have done much research on site at THE grassy knoll over the years and in the warehouse, and my friend Rex has sent me an incredible book that basically confirmed everything I've thought.

What I find even more fascinating about THE grassy knoll is that President Trump promised the release of all "classified' material related to the Kennedy assassination. He is a President - whether you like him or not - usually does what he says.

However, he was CONVINCED by the intelligence community NOT to release the materials.


I'm of the opinion that the CIA played a very heavy role in the assassination. That's one of those questions I look forward having answered when we are outside of time in the resurrection.

Robert Hutchinson said...

My wife once asked me why I thought she liked flowers so much. I told her for the same reason I like volcanoes, it's part of the image of God within her. Those may seem like extreme complements of one another, but there's this group of islands out in the Pacific formed by volcanoes that have some of the most beautiful flowers you've ever seen. Hawaii wouldn't be Hawaii without both.

Wade Burleson said...


I love the analogy.

Wade Burleson said...

The only tweak I would give to your excellent analogy, Robert, is this:

"I know some men who love flowers and some women who love volcanoes. Therefore, we must be careful that we don't shoehorn men and/or women into boxes of our own creation."

The image of God in both the male and the female may manifest in different ways.

But again, I love the analogy.

Robert Hutchinson said...

Totally agree, Wade.

Tamara said...

Thank you for the short and Biblical rejoinders to the "clobber verses".
And a great way to discern whether someone is really wrestling with these verses or is just provoking a tired argument they've already had many times with many people.

Gary said...

"All male leadership churches don't procreate spiritually."...."ALL"????

Wade Burleson said...


Good point. That sentence was poorly written. I changed it to reflect a better understanding of what I believe about churches who insist on all-male leadership.

Jack said...

I don't think Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles, and therefore, I don't think the bible speaks with one voice on matters of gender roles.

I think it's clear in the Pastorals that the church was modeled after the Roman household, which includes hierarchy.

In Paul's undisputed writings and in the teachings of Jesus, it's impossible to arrive at anything like "complementarianism." If anything, they are radically egalitarian for the time.

What annoys me the most about these so-called "complementarians" is that they constantly obfuscate the role of women in the bible. I read an article by Paul Carter on TGC where he attempts to say Deborah probably was not a judge, obviously to get around the real issue of authority.

Debbie Kaufman said...

"Complementarianism means:
"The full-orbed image of God cannot be understood without both the male and the female. The two genders complement one another to represent the image of God."
In Scripture, God will often liken Himself to a female, and we are the fruit of His womb."

Yes. This is important to note I think for two reasons: 1. The word has been hijacked by those who totally misinterpret scripture and this leads to the abuse we have just seen in our denomination and other denominations who hold this far right view. 2. I find some egalitarian women to be male bashers, I think unintentionally, which is the same as misogyny in the Patriarch view. Not all egalitarians are like this.

Both genders need to be held high and respected. Women should be a part of the church, a part of the board(more than 2 women to 12 men), and listened to as we also have wisdom to impart and many of us know scripture, having studied deeply for many years. That should be taken seriously. I literally applauded the words Beth Moore wrote when writing on her studying of scripture in the open letter.

Christiane said...

Hello Wade,
I agree with THIS:

""The full-orbed image of God cannot be understood without both the male and the female. The two genders complement one another to represent the image of God." In Scripture, God will often liken Himself to a female, and we are the fruit of His womb.
Why does the Creator do this? Because His image is stamped in both the man and the woman, characteristics of both the father and the mother, and you can't get a full and true sense of God without both sexes."

And from the women of my Church there is expressed a similar reflection:

" . . . the latter part of the book of Isaiah contains one of the most explicit references to God in female imagery in the Hebrew Scriptures:
“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (66:13).
The God who is comparable to no likeness can be imaged as birth-giving woman and loving mother as well as victorious warrior and compassionate father.
Using the full range of images enables the mysterious goodness of God’s ways with us to be realized ever more profoundly." (Elizabeth Johnson)

Now I can understand Debbie's use of 'complementary' more fully. The term was truly co-opted by the patriarchists who have mis-used it to belittle and harass women in the Church.

Bob Cleveland said...

All I know is that a wife who submits to her husband as unto the Lord, and whose husband who lives with her grants her honor as He prescribed, as a weaker vessel, in an understanding way, and loves his wife as Christ loved His church, seems to work.

Christiane said...

Hello Bob Cleveland,

But the day comes, when the strong one may be the 'weaker' vessel and medical concerns reverse 'rolls' so that 'in sickness and in health' takes on a vital meaning and the wive's role is one of being the strong one who serves for a time.

My own thought is that Christian marriage is not so much about fixed 'roles' as committing to facing the challenges of the future as a couple who will be strong for one another in times of need. Bob, I know this from experience. Both my husband and myself have had to be 'the strong one' for the other this past year.

I think 'love', particularly married love, has an element of commitment to serve unselfishly, either to other, as each particular need arises. The young, newly married in-love husband and wife will, if they are committed in this way, find that the long years of mutual caring deepen and solidify that love in ways that bespeak of 'cherishing'. :)

Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Christiane: No trouble here ...

We speak from the experience of hubby having prostate cancer, demonstrable via PSA test but not findable in scans. And who has rather bad arthritis that required an RFA in my neck yesterday, as blocks no longer work.

And a wife who has had 5 episodes of breast cancer, and also has lived with a 2017 broken shoulder (when I learned grocery shopping and laundry). But we still try to model our lives after what God suggested in the NT.

And we've been married 59 years as of last March (Friday the) 13th...

Christiane said...

Bob, you definitely understand.
Hope that procedure helps your neck. You have my prayers.

I don't know your circumstances, but if there are any 'therapy pool' settings near you, the heated water may help both of you to cope better.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to me that when I was in the SBC I was taught Gen.3:16 was a mandate for how things should go forward after the fall. What is best and don't argue with it.

Now in another denom I am taught, more accurately I believe, that it is descriptive of what would happen after the fall. Not prescriptive.

And that just as men mitigate the fall--even farming with air conditioned tractors to avoid the sweat of their brow--we can also mitigate the fall's effect on husbands and wives by following Jesus.


Wade Burleson said...


"I am taught, more accurately I believe, that it is descriptive of what would happen after the fall. Not prescriptive."


Aussie John said...

Bob and Christiane,

After 57 years (last March) of marriage I totally agree :)

For both of us all the early years were a training process for these more difficult times.

Wallace H. Rowland Jr. said...

I was a student at Southwestern when Dr. E. Earl Ellis taught 1st Corinthians. He was a world renowned scholar. He was the scholar that other scholars contacted when they had questions concerning 1st Corinthians.

I remember Dr. Ellis being concerned about how church leaders viewed the role of women in ministry. He believed that many woman were being restricted from fulfilling their calling and gifting’s. He felt this limiting was due in part to the misinterpretation of Scripture. It was a memorable day when this seminary class arrived at 1st Cor. 14:33-35. Dr. Ellis taught on this particular passage and ALL the related passages for many hours.

He talked about the historical, the cultural, the canonical, the occasional, the etymological, and the grammatical and probably other contexts of this passage. As always, he would remind us, that before you can understand what the Bible means; one must first know what it is saying. One must first do biblical theology before you even attempt systematic theology. He also lamented that many of his peers came to the Scriptures bringing their minds, but, did not wait on the Holy Spirit to teach.

I will never forget the moment when he translated the Greek word ‘GUNA’ as ‘wives’ instead of ‘women’ in verse 34. It seemed as though I could hear the sound of air being sucked out of the room. Then when the implications of such an interpretation became clear, that air came rushing back into the classroom. Some folk got very emotional. Dr. Ellis was so humble, kind and gracious.

Dr. Ellis even spoke of Bibles that translated ‘GUNA’ as wives in this verse. But, I don’t remember the specifics very well, so I won’t comment. I was probably suffering from shock myself.

The reason I share Dr. Ellis’ interpretation of 1st Cor. 14:34 is due to one of his several applications. In my mind he was saying— if anyone wanted to teach or preach that ALL women should be silent in a church assembly; that expositor would have to use a different passage of Scripture!

For those who remember that great, gracious champion of biblical theology, you probably remember his frequent and humble qualification, “. . . but again . . . I hold the minority view!”



Anonymous said...

Wade--perhaps we agree more than disagree. Some see the role of senior pastor as restricted to men, see that as unfair, and want women elevated to that status.

I see the whole concept of senior pastor as most currently use the term--the ceo, the vision caster, the theologian in chief, the authority and ruler of the local church--as forbidden to all.

If men are claiming and filling an office the Bible forbids, women are not being elevated if allowed to join the club. Men who want to rule are, I believe, sinful in that regard. For women to strive for that status is like fighting over who sits on the right and left of Jesus. They are not being elevated, but stooping to the level of sinful men.

Better by far for both men and women to obey:)

Time was while there were not women preachers in my neck of the woods in SBC churches, women held pretty much every role but that and deacon. Then came the day our then "pastor" decreed a woman bookkeeper could keep on functioning as church treasurer in so far as doing the job, but an untrained man would sign the paperwork as if he did it.

Left that church shortly thereafter. Now at my current church the "pastor" is a servant, not ceo. For that reason women are allowed to serve as "pastor". I am not completely on board with that for reasons stated above, but it does make sense that women as well as men can be servants. Even a fundy can see that does not make her in authority over men if the office is not one of authority but of servanthood.

Our recent attempt at finding an SBC church failed in part because neither my husband nor myself could stand my being treated either as invisible or with silent but evident disdain if I acted like a full grown adult. Simply attending a service he chose to skip was evidently getting out of my place.

Bah. Our very conservative Wesleyan fold sees us both as adults. And expects all of us to be servants.


Jerry Schultz said...

While I agree that inappropriate restrictions have been placed on women that exceed what is taught in the New Testament and you make some good points, I was a bit surprised that

You said: "Complementarianism means: "The full-orbed image of God cannot be understood without both the male and the female. The two genders complement one another to represent the image of God."

It's a common position. But Jesus, who was Single, is called "the image of the invisible God," in Colossians 1:15. Hebrews 1:3 declares "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His nature..." Since Jesus, a single person, is the perfect image bearer of God, I think it is more appropriate to view BOTH believing men and women as complete imagers of God.

Wade Burleson said...


I understand from whence you speak.

However, there is a uniqueness to the Son of God that no other person possesses. In HIM “all the fulness of the Godhead bodily dwelt.”

Rex Ray said...

Jerry Schultz,

I clicked on your picture and thought for a minute I’d run into Wade’s blog, but then I saw this (below). Was this woman’s counselor her pastor, and is it true?

Consider the approach of this counselor described in the Christian Counselor’s Casebook by Jay Adams: “Clara comes to you stating that she has filed for divorce on the grounds of mental and bodily cruelty.
Clara returns for the third session. “I tried to get him here but he had other things to do”, she begins. “You know what his other things are, of course. I told you all of them.”
“I don’t want to hear such charges behind Marty’s back”, you respond, “This continuing hostility toward him, even though you told him you forgave him, seems to indicate that you made little or no attempt to bury the issue and start afresh. I don’t think that you understand forgiveness. You…”
“Forgive him! You know there is a limit. After he has beat me, and his drinking away our money maybe, but when I came home and found him in my bed with that woman, I can never bury that! He is just an immature, immoral, animalistic pig”, she declares.
You tell her that it will be necessary for her to change her language about her husband and that you are here to help but not to save her self-righteous attitude and listen to her ever-increasing charges against her husband.
“Why are you siding with him? I’m the one that belongs to this church!” She breaks into tears.

Rex Ray said...


Long ago, we belonged to a church that had about 500 in attendance. I learned Becky Castle, our new youth counselor (had a degree from SWBTS) salary was so low she had money problems. When the youth ate out, she took a sack lunch.

I complained to the pastor but his reply was, “She’s just a girl.”

Her money problem ceased when we switched our money from the church to her. She never knew where the letter came from.

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray: FYI...I, too, belonged to a church with about 500 in attendance. When a new female missionary, not married, was added to the missionary budget, she was told by the Baptist mission board she was with (GARB, not Southern Baptist) that she wouldn't need to raise money for an apartment or a house. She could just rent a room in a house because she was a single woman. She replied that her home and her hospitality was an important thing to her, and she wanted a house, and so, indeed, that's what happened. She remained single throughout her missionary years (forget what country), and I recently saw that she has married. Both she, her husband, and their home are lovely! I was stunned to hear the response the pastor gave you about Becky Castle, but apparently this is nothing new, huh?

Victorious said...

Her money problem ceased when we switched our money from the church to her. She never knew where the letter came from.

Way to go, Rex! That post made me so happy!

Michelle Krabill said...

“...that church will be just as dysfunctional as a homosexual marriage.” I know several same sex marriages that are far more “functional” than many heterosexual marriages.

Tamara said...

Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

All I know is that a wife who submits to her husband and whose husband...loves his wife as Christ loved His church, seems to work.

Please don't be offended, but I fail to see what verses that give specific instruction about the covenant relationship found in marriage have to do with Wade's article and this general discussion in any way.

I am married to one man, not all the men in our church.
Women are systematically denied the opportunity to serve God and the church according to their God-given gifts and His calling....and the Ephesians verses get thrown in as support for the "complementarian" teaching that women, in toto, must submit to and be under the authority of men, in toto.

Could you explain, please, what your comment meant in relation to Wade's article. which did not speak of marriage?

Ed Dingess said...

The most laughable section of this post is found in his translation of 1 Cor. 7:4: "The wife does not have authority over .... but yields to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over ... but yields it to his wife" So says this author. But is this what Paul actually wrote? Nope.

The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 1 Co 7:4.

This isn't a text in the entire NT that teaches that men should submit to their wives...ANYWHERE. This is the sheer ignorance with which we have to deal in the church today. The incompetence is mind-boggling.

Victorious said...

This isn't a text in the entire NT that teaches that men should submit to their wives...ANYWHERE

Ed, you mean besides 1 Cor. 7 that clearly speaks of mutual authority, mutual agreement in decisions regarding abstinence, and the same marital distractions encountered by both husband and wife when serving the Lord?

Or perhaps you forgot Ephesians 5:21? Submitting to one another....or did you think a husband should be exempt from submission?

And for your convenience, you will find here a list of 59 verses advocating mutual treatment and behavior to every member of the body of Christ..male and female alike.

And last but not least, please provide ONE scripture that commands husbands to be the authority over his wife... Thanks!

Christiane said...

For Ed Dingess

the great patriarch Abraham was instructed by God to listen to his wife Sarah at a crucial moment in Biblical history

"Listen to everything that Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." (from Genesis 21:12)

A small matter? Inconsequential? No. This is a very important time in 'salvation history' when the great Matriarch Sarah is given credibility by God to be heard, as God commands her husband (Abraham) to listen to her.

Because of the import of the occasion, I would think male hubris should take a seat and recognize that God will use whom He will and also recognize that God's intervention gives far more credibility to His choice of messengers to be used at critical moments in salvation history.

Killing women as 'messengers' is not something God has done, no. It is the result of 'male' self-worship, and that idolatry has no place in the Church. Even Our Lord chose a woman to announce to the apostles that He has risen.

Don't go to the Bible to look for back-up that women are not to be reckoned as instructors and messengers by God. The truth is there in Genesis and in the NT. God did not distain women or see them as inconsequential, no. It took the sinful pride of male hubris to create a culture of male idolatry.

Rex Ray said...

Ed Dingess,

Are you a ‘promoter’ of 1 Timothy 2:12 ? “…I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.”

If Paul had said his statement was true about women because the cow jumped over the moon, we’d all laugh at him.

I believe his reasons were almost as bad:

1. Based on seniority: “For God made Adam first, and afterwards he made Eve.” (verse 13)
God chose David who was the youngest of eight sons. (1 Samuel 16:12)

2. Based on who caused sin: “And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result.” (verse 14)

Paul wrote: “So you see, just as death came into the world through a man…” (1 Corinthians 15:21) “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death…” (Romans 5:12)

I don’t believe Paul knew what he was talking about in 1 Timothy 2:12.

Doug Martin said...

Alan Cross has an insightful article that is worthy of perusal.

Christiane said...

Hey there, REX RAY

Hope all is well with you.

Christiane said...

Hello Doug Martin,

thank you for the link to Alan's post.

Alan is someone who draws deeply from the well of the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

Why did you cut 1 Corinthians 7:4 to exclude the word "body" which shows that it is only about sex, where the husband and wife must submit to sex, instead of withhold sex? You cut a word out of the Bible to make your unbiblical point. That is the sign of a false teacher.