DISCLAIMER: The following only represents the views of the author and does not reflect the views of Island ECC.
(Continued from Part 1)
At the heart of complementarianism is Genesis 2.18-25, which is further grounded in Genesis 1.26-28. Raymond Ortlund Jr. says, “one way or the other, all the additional biblical texts on manhood and womanhood must be interpreted consistently with these chapters. They lay the very foundation of biblical manhood and womanhood.” Genesis 1.26-28 establishes that God created mankind in His own image for the purpose of ruling creation. Verse 27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
First, Genesis 1 grounds the entire debate with the understanding that both male and female were created in the image of God. Thus in essence they are equal and both given the purpose of ruling over the created order. Genesis 2 adds a paradox to this creation account: “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2.18). So in response God makes a suitable helper for him in the form of woman, and it is from this verse that the role of headship and helper are given to men and women respectively. Therefore the leadership of men over women was never a social construction, but instead a divine construction before sin even entered the world. Other supporting scriptures build on this concept in Genesis 2.
Therefore the leadership of men over women was never a social construction, but instead a divine construction before sin even entered the world.
Parallelism Between Marriage and Church Leadership
There is substantial scriptural support for the headship of husbands and the submission of wives in the Bible. However, is the same mandate given to men and women in the church? The complementarian position would answer in the affirmative, justifying its claims by citing 1 Timothy 2.11-15, citing 1 Corinthians 14.33-35, and merging the discussion about marriage roles with the discussion about gender roles in the leadership of the church. Those two proof texts will be discussed at length when addressing the egalitarian point-of-view. The purpose of this section is to challenge the notion that when Paul was speaking of marital relationships he was also mandating a hierarchical male-dominated leadership in the church.
One of the main reasons complementarians put forward in defense of a complementarian church structure is that the family is to serve as the model for the church. “The correspondence between the family and community goes to the heart of how the early Christians understood their life together. If the life of the Christian people is lived as a family rather than as a social institution, the same roles are needed in both family and community.” (Stephen Clark, Man and Woman in Christ, 69)
The assumption here is that the early church largely existed in the home, and whatever hierarchical roles existed in the home must therefore exist formally in the church. Even though such a claim is only supported by scriptural inferences, one must question whether the early church portrayed in scripture was prescriptive or descriptive. A prescriptive view of Acts would argue that the book of Acts lays a blueprint for how a church should run. If that is to be understood, then the Christian church has to start reforming its practices. Consumer-based attractional churches must be replaced by intimate house churches! On the other hand, a descriptive view of Acts would argue that the book of Acts simply described the reality of the church within that historical context. If that is to be understood, then a mandate for the submission of women in the church is without grounds. My opinion is that a descriptive view should be taken.
The assumption here is that the early church largely existed in the home, and whatever hierarchical roles existed in the home must therefore exist formally in the church. Even though such a claim is only supported by scriptural inferences, one must question whether the early church portrayed in scripture was prescriptive or descriptive.
A more substantial defense of complementarian leadership is that there are numerous familial terms used to describe relationships within the church community. “The many family terms used in relation to the church suggest that the church bears some resemblance to social structures and practices.” (Judith TenElshof, The Complementary Model of Church ministry, 314) For instance, God is our Father, we are his children (1 John 5:1-5). Jesus Christ is our brother (Romans 8.29) and we are to regard one another as brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers (1 Timothy 1.2). To classify our relationships with one another in such a familial way leads one to see the church as a family, and if the church is a family then again the same hierarchical roles must exist.
However, it is possible that the relationships described serve a representative purpose rather than a literal purpose. In other words, we are not literally blood relatives with one another (although we do share in the blood of Christ), but the intimacy represented in those familial relationships are the standard by which we are to relate to one another. Therefore while we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, are described in terms commensurate of the family, it by no means indicates a functional reality within the church. Instead the functional reality of the church, specifically with regard to leadership, is laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 in the description of elders and deacons.
In summary, while the complementarian model of marriage has been substantially proven in scripture, its model of church leadership has not. There is considerable leeway to see a stark distinction between the mandates for marriage and the mandates for leadership. It is best to view the model of the early church and the new classifications of relationships as a high calling toward greater intimacy between Christ-followers rather than a prescription for how the church is to be run. By removing the marriage dictums from the discussion about church leadership, we can now directly address specific passages about the conduct of women in the church. This is what we will do in Part 3.
… while the complementarian model of marriage has been substantially proven in scripture, its model of church leadership has not. There is considerable leeway to see a stark distinction between the mandates for marriage and the mandates for leadership.