This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Discuss Biblical and theological support for concept that Bible teaches equality between sexes.

Moderator: Metacrock

Post Reply
User avatar
KR Wordgazer
Posts: 1410
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:07 pm

This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by KR Wordgazer » Fri Dec 19, 2008 3:36 pm

The way I see it, there's a self-contradiction inherent in complementarian thinking. It goes like this:

Women are equal to men because God created men and women in His image.

God mandated that women be restricted to roles that are subordinate to men.

God designs things to fill their purpose.

If God restricts women to only subordinate roles, then God designed women to be subordinate to men.

If women are subordinate by design, then men are designed to rule women.

Therefore, women are not equal to men.




Complementarians will reply that the equality is in value only, not in roles and function. As in...our souls have equal value before God, but we were created to have unequal roles.

But what they don't understand that what they are saying is fundamentally self-contradictory. They need to carry out their thinking to its logical conclusion.

Children are equal in value, but not equal in function-- because of their youth and level of development. In development and understanding, children are not equal to adults. Everyone will acknowledge that. But for women to not be equal in function means that there must be something in their nature which renders them incapable of functioning equally with men-- just as there is something in children's nature such that they can't function equally with adults. Children, however, will grow out of it. Women won't.

Either God designed women and men equally, both in God's image-- or He didn't. But to say He did, but also didn't, is a contradiction in terms. Complementarians don't seem to understand that.

If it's fundamentally illogical for two ideas we hold to both exist at the same time, then only one can be true, or neither-- but not both. So the Bible can't be saying both that women and men are equal, and that they're not. If complementarians want to choose that the Bible says God designed women from the beginning of creation to be less than men-- then they need to choose that. But they need to cut out the nonsense that women are stilll equal with men.

The other idea-- that the Bible says God designed women and men equally in His image, so the verses that appear to say otherwise are being misread-- is the one egalitarians choose. But complementarians need to stop making the mistake of thinking that those verses, as they are reading them, don't lead to the conclusion that women are not equal in design. Maybe if they realized that, they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss scholarly, alternate readings that do result in women and men being shown as equal.

Complementarians say that the issue is about women wanting to be men-- or that the issue is about traditional gender roles. But those are really just smokescreens to hide the real issue. The issue is whether men and women are created equal, or not. And that's why it's so important.

User avatar
Gwarlroge
Posts: 575
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:37 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by Gwarlroge » Fri Jun 04, 2010 10:02 pm

KR Wordgazer wrote:The way I see it, there's a self-contradiction inherent in complementarian thinking. It goes like this [when tricked out with symbols ;) ]:

(1) Women are equal to men because God created men and women in His image. (Premise)
(2) God mandated that women be restricted to roles that are subordinate to men. (Premise)
(3) God designs things to fill their purpose. (Premise)
(4) If God restricts women to only subordinate roles, then God designed women to be subordinate to men. (Premise: follows naturally from (2) and (3))
(5) If women are subordinate by design, then men are designed to rule women. (Premise, implied by the definitions of design and subordinate)
(5') Therefore, if God restricts women to only subordinate roles, then men are designed to rule women. (follows from (4) and (5)
(6) Therefore, women are not equal to men. (Modus ponens: (5'), (2))
Logically valid!
Complementarians will reply that the equality is in value only, not in roles and function. As in...our souls have equal value before God, but we were created to have unequal roles.

But what they don't understand that what they are saying is fundamentally self-contradictory.
How can men be equal to women while ruling women? How can a man be more authoritative than a woman, and yet be the same as her?

We should probably distinguish how men and women are equal if they are both created in God's image. Obviously they differ in anatomy, which entails that they differ in other respects.

...I think that we should probably base this in Trinitarian theology. The fact of God's trinity (or triunity?) should imply that beings made in his image will distinctively echo that particular attribute. This does not mean that you and I are each three persons: although God is omniscient, we only know in part.

For example, I know very little about the Trinity, so I am likely to commit a heresy before we finish this thread. Nevertheless, it seems that authority, submission, relationships, etc. will all need discussing.
Children are equal in value, but not equal in function-- because of their youth and level of development. In development and understanding, children are not equal to adults. Everyone will acknowledge that.


Yes. Likewise, boys are equal to men in intrinsic moral value (if we take that view--it might not square with Calvinism ;) ); but in function they differ. We all agree that boys should not go to war or get married.

(Here comes the potentially heretical part :( )

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God, but the Son did not descend onto the Spirit after He was baptized.
If it's fundamentally illogical for two ideas we hold to both exist at the same time, then only one can be true, or neither-- but not both. So the Bible can't be saying both that women and men are equal, and that they're not.
We have to distinguish between the senses of the word "equal." How are they equal in God's image? How might they be unequal?
The other idea-- that the Bible says God designed women and men equally in His image,


Men and women are equally created-in-God's-image; we want to find out whether this implies that they are equal in authority or roles.

...Aaand thus beginneth a stream of logic-chopping posts. I need to give you and Metacrock (or M) credit for actually having a stance on this; I only have a prejudice which comes from my parents, G.K. Chesterton, and certain Calvinists. :oops:
Last edited by Gwarlroge on Fri Jun 04, 2010 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Gwarlroge
Posts: 575
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:37 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by Gwarlroge » Fri Jun 04, 2010 10:23 pm

Or, even less to the point, the husband's ruling appears to be an effect or curse of the Fall (Gen. 3:16). I wonder how this relates to the rest of Scripture--to Ephesians 5, to Revelation, to the Song of Songs.

And then we have questions of man and woman's purposes before and after the fall, and during the ages to come.

I could learn a thing or two from you, KR, about how to read the Bible as a (true) story. :!: :| :idea:

User avatar
Gwarlroge
Posts: 575
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:37 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by Gwarlroge » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:45 pm

Whoops. I just read some comments on Doug Wilson's blog that make me think I was wrongheaded on this issue. The most interesting one was this:
lewsta wrote:When the Genesis account tells that man is made in God's image, male and female, what that describes is that, in order to faithfully represent God in man, two [sexes] are necessary.

User avatar
KR Wordgazer
Posts: 1410
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:07 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by KR Wordgazer » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:53 pm

Gwalroge wrote:
I could learn a thing or two from you, KR, about how to read the Bible as a (true) story
Thank you, Gwarlroge. :D

In terms of Story then-- the grand Story of Scripture (in which the characters are God and humanity)

1. Creation in God's image
2. Fall and the corruption of that image in the created
3. Establishment of covenant community into which to bring the Messiah
4. Redemption and restoration through the Messiah
5. FInal culmination in humanity's restored re-creation

Note that in being created in God's image, the man and woman were both given the same authority-- to rule the rest of creation. No word is breathed prior to the Fall, of one of the humans ruling the other human. The woman is described, in the literal Hebrew, as the man's "facing-him-strong-help." The word "help" is the same word used countless times throughout the Old Testament of God being Israel's "help." There is no subordination. The one human by himself needed help. He was given an equal partner to rule beside him.

Were there different "roles"? The Bible doesn't speak in terms of "roles." It never says, "this is the woman's role, that is the man's role." The curse brought patriarchalism, in which the woman turned towards the man and the man ruled over her.

In the covenant community of Israel, though patriarchy is the norm, God breaks into the human pattern from time to time by choosing women for giftings and even leadership. Differing roles for men and women are assumed, but never commanded by God.

When Christ comes, he continually involves women in his teachings, in his ministry, and in proclamation of his truth. (He chooses 12 male disciples because he knows the world won't listen to women-- but then makes it clear to the disciples that they need to listen to women by giving women the message of his resurrection.) Throughout the New Testament letters, women are spoken of in positions of leadership.

There is no place in the Scriptures where man and woman are mapped to different Persons of the Trinity in relation to one another. The man is mapped to Christ in Ephesians 5, but specifically in reference to when Christ "gave himself" in submission to death for the church. The authority of patriarchs over their wives, children and slaves is assumed by Paul and his readers, but Paul's specific instructions concern the "giving of self" by husband to wife, fathers not "exasperating" children, and masters understanding that they have a Master in heaven and "doing the same things" for their slaves (ie, service), as their slaves have just been asked to do for them. In short, Paul's teachings work within the patriarchy to bring about a new dynamic in which the original, pre-Fall equality of men and women begins to be restored.

In the final culmination in Revelation, the Church is referred to as a "kingdom of priests," not "a kingdom of priests and their wives." Women and men alike have full "priesthood" in the glorious Bride of Christ.

(PS. Please be careful of Doug Wilson. He teaches that a man's wife is like a field that the man has the right to plant anything he likes in. He teaches that the husband is like the walls of a house with the women and children together inside, and the man is the one who makes all the decisions what gets in through the walls; the wife is granted no properties of adult self-determination whatsoever. I have talked to women who have endured incredible suffering from the following of Wilson's teachings. Please be careful.)
Wag more.
Bark less.

User avatar
Gwarlroge
Posts: 575
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:37 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by Gwarlroge » Sun Jun 06, 2010 5:54 pm

This post is really too long.
KR Wordgazer wrote:Thank you, Gwarlroge. :D
No problem. Credit was given where credit is due. (I think you may be the first person I ever came across who treated the Bible as a true story--besides J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, maybe.)
The woman is described, in the literal Hebrew, as the man's "facing-him-strong-help."
Is this what the KJV calls (IIRC) "an help meet for him," or am I thinking of someplace else?
The word "help" is the same word used countless times throughout the Old Testament of God being Israel's "help." There is no subordination.


Granted.
The one human by himself needed help. He was given an equal partner to rule beside him.
I had a knee-jerk comp reaction to this--sorry. :( However, I should ask why we assume the partner to be equal.
Were there different "roles"? The Bible doesn't speak in terms of "roles." It never says, "this is the woman's role, that is the man's role."
In Genesis 2:15, we learn that God put Adam in the Garden "to till it and keep it." Likewise, he curses the ground and says that Adam will eat bread "by the sweat of his brow" until he [Adam] dies (Genesis 3). Women obviously perform the special function of childbearing (and I feel really gross to treat it so quickly as a "special function" to be performed). Besides that, I will grant you that "roles" (as in "traditional gender roles") do not appear in Genesis 1-3, and as far as I know they aren't mandated anywhere. A woman could do any vocation but a few--military service comes to mind.
The curse brought patriarchalism, in which the woman turned towards the man and the man ruled over her.
Agreed, although I wouldn't call that patriarchalism. -- It is a part of patriarchalism, but not the whole thing.
In the covenant community of Israel, though patriarchy is the norm, God breaks into the human pattern from time to time by choosing women for giftings and even leadership.
Correct.
Differing roles for men and women are assumed, but never commanded by God.
Right.
When Christ comes, he continually involves women in his teachings, in his ministry, and in proclamation of his truth. (He chooses 12 male disciples because he knows the world won't listen to women
Not sure about that last part, although even the disciples wouldn't listen to women sometimes.
--but then makes it clear to the disciples that they need to listen to women by giving women the message of his resurrection.)


True.
Throughout the New Testament letters, women are spoken of in positions of leadership.
Phoebe! And true.
There is no place in the Scriptures where man and woman are mapped to different Persons of the Trinity in relation to one another.


Absolutely right. I just wondered (at too great length) whether some sort of Trinitarian explanation could be given for why God created two sexes or why God ordained marriage.
The man is mapped to Christ in Ephesians 5, but specifically in reference to when Christ "gave himself" in submission to death for the church.


Agreed because true.
The authority of patriarchs over their wives, children and slaves is assumed by Paul and his readers, but Paul's specific instructions concern the "giving of self" by husband to wife,

And wife to husband, though that one is usually brought up first. (Oddly enough, it shouldn't be. Kinda sad. -- BTW, I'm sad about some very flippant "discussions" of the "submission" verses, not about complementarianism.)
fathers not "exasperating" children, and masters understanding that they have a Master in heaven and "doing the same things" for their slaves (ie, service), as their slaves have just been asked to do for them. In short, Paul's teachings work within the patriarchy to bring about a new dynamic in which the original, pre-Fall equality of men and women begins to be restored.

In the final culmination in Revelation, the Church is referred to as a "kingdom of priests," not "a kingdom of priests and their wives." Women and men alike have full "priesthood" in the glorious Bride of Christ.
Hmm. Noted.
(PS. Please be careful of Doug Wilson. He teaches that a man's wife is like a field that the man has the right to plant anything he likes in.


I dunno about that.
He teaches that the husband is like the walls of a house with the women and children together inside, and the man is the one who makes all the decisions what gets in through the walls;


That doesn't sound too bad, as long as he makes sure to "keep their best interests in mind" and as long as he chooses righteously.
the wife is granted no properties of adult self-determination whatsoever.


I dunno about that, either. If you mean self-determination as in, Pursuing a career outside of "the home," then maybe.
I have talked to women who have endured incredible suffering from the following of Wilson's teachings.


Or the misfollowing of them, or their husbands...?
Please be careful.)
I shall, God willing.

User avatar
KR Wordgazer
Posts: 1410
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:07 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by KR Wordgazer » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:57 pm

I should ask why we assume the partner to be equal.
Because Genesis 5:1 says that God made them male and female and called them BOTH "Adam" (human beings) until Adam gave Eve her new name (he did that after the Fall). Because there is not a hint of inequality in the passages before the Fall, unless someone reads their prior assumptions into it. Because the woman was taken out of the man's side, of his own substance (if I take a lump of cookie dough and break a piece off of it to make it into two cookies instead of one, could the cookie I broke off be inferior in any sense to the cookie I broke it from? They are exactly the same substance). Because God gave them both the command to "fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion." Because "helpmeet" actually means "help facing him" -- not "help under him" or "help over him." Because "help" doesn't carry any sense of subordination, being the same word used of God as "help" to his people.

It's not an "assumption" that the partner is equal. It's right there in the text.
Wag more.
Bark less.

User avatar
KR Wordgazer
Posts: 1410
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:07 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by KR Wordgazer » Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:08 pm

Gwarlroge, as for Douglas Wilson, believe me that I'm not slandering the man himself-- but I am thoroughly objecting to his teachings on male supremacy, particularly in marriage. As to the question of whether the problem might be merely a misapplication of his teachings, I point you to the personal testimony of one woman who calls herself "Journey." In the linked post she links to an actual teaching of Wilson's and explains how it affected her life.

http://nolongerquivering.com/2010/01/13 ... y-journey/
Wag more.
Bark less.

User avatar
Gwarlroge
Posts: 575
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:37 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by Gwarlroge » Sun Jun 06, 2010 9:11 pm

KR Wordgazer wrote:
I should ask why we assume the partner to be equal.
Because Genesis 5:1 says that God made them male and female and called them BOTH "Adam" (human beings) until Adam gave Eve her new name (he did that after the Fall). Because there is not a hint of inequality in the passages before the Fall, unless someone reads their prior assumptions into it. Because the woman was taken out of the man's side, of his own substance (if I take a lump of cookie dough and break a piece off of it to make it into two cookies instead of one, could the cookie I broke off be inferior in any sense to the cookie I broke it from? They are exactly the same substance). Because God gave them both the command to "fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion." Because "helpmeet" actually means "help facing him" -- not "help under him" or "help over him." Because "help" doesn't carry any sense of subordination, being the same word used of God as "help" to his people.

It's not an "assumption" that the partner is equal. It's right there in the text.
All right! Seems solid to me.

...And really, "help" never implies something about authority. If anything, a weak person needs help from a stronger one!

[EDIT: If that seems way too glib: well, I hope it's not. It takes time to overcome a prejudice; and as I said, my views on marriage etc. are prejudicial. This discussion marks the first time I seriously argued (or picked nits) about Biblical evidence for and against.]

User avatar
Gwarlroge
Posts: 575
Joined: Thu Jun 05, 2008 4:37 pm

Re: This is the real issue: Egalitarian v. Complementarian

Post by Gwarlroge » Sun Jun 06, 2010 9:40 pm

Journey wrote:Because when you are married to the abusive man, the Biblical patriarchy books and speakers blame it on YOU, since sweetness and submission are supposedly the way a godly woman “cures” her husband’s bad behavior. “Don’t you know, if you are sweet and submissive, you’ll have him eating out of the palm of your hand?”
Oh dear. I really hope this is not the case. I know it is possible for a Christian wife to win her unbelieving husband to Christ by means of a holy way of life; hence those verses in 1 Peter. But to say that submissiveness will cure an abuser or "make him eat from the palm of your hand" is either foolish or controlling.
But then, when you finally LEAVE the abusive husband, they still blame it all on YOU, shocked that you put up with abusive behaviors for so long. “I mean, come on, doesn’t everybody know that when it crosses the line into abuse, you are supposed to get help right away? Why did you stay? What was wrong with you, that you couldn’t tell it was abusive?”
Now this is very sad, and sadder because it happens. It may even happen in most cases, regardless of who is abused.

...As for the Douglas Wilson part at the end, I saw nothing wrong with it. Assuming that patriarchy is right and good, it's striking that a man should be responsible for the spiritual condition of his household. The gentleness required of him in negotiations (or commandings, what have you) is very surprising.

And if the Wilson stuff is true, then an abusive man who "uses God to get what he wants" will never get what he wants. It's sad that his family must also suffer, but (again) if Wilson's view is true, then that's the way it goes.

Oy vey, it's almost enough to discourage me from marrying! :?

Post Reply