(Part 2) Complementarianism: It’s About Design

After yesterday’s blog and seeing the attention that the subject of complementarianism received, I thought it best to write a sequel. Here goes.

Complementarianism – The theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and person-hood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage…”

At the end of the day it must be God’s Word that governs each of us. Important issues such as marriage and family are being discussed all the time by a plethora of agencies, departments, news and religious organizations. On top of this, every individual has their own opinion of what is right and wrong.

My question for both the supporters and opponents of the view of complementarianism is, what is your source? Who is feeding you the information that forms the opinion you stand upon? Of course there are always flaws in any institution that involves humans, and yes, even on the issue if complementarianism you will find imperfect people who fall short of the glory of God. It’s our fallen nature. But that’s when we return to the bedrock truth of the Bible; the only constant in our world; the truth that takes you back to the source of all things, God.

Not everyone will see eye to eye on this, and in fact, the folks who get the most bent out of shape on the issue are likely the ones who take issue with God’s authority in the first place. Marriage and family are both institutions invented by God – for man – and therefore are spiritual issues to be spiritually discerned. So unless the Spirit of God is present in a person’s heart, unless that person is born again, he or she will always take issue and strongly oppose those who stand for such truth.

Design over Right

Complementarianism is about design, not rights. The right that something either does or doesn’t have should be of second importance to what it was designed to do.

When God created Adam and Eve they were the first edition, if you will, the original print hot off the press of God’s infinite and perfect mind. What He made in that instance is the starting point for the questions, “What is God’s purpose for man and woman, and what is their purpose in marriage?”

The creation story of Genesis makes no mention of rights at all.  God did not bring Adam and Eve together in holy matrimony to say,  “Adam and Eve, you’re the same in every way, with the same design and the same strengths, so figure it out.” He gave clear instruction from the beginning that there were innate differences between them that when submitted to God would breath life into the marriage.  God created man perfectly in His own image to reflect something that no other creature can. He brought Adam and Eve together in marriage to reflect something that no other institution can. In Genesis we see a uniquely made man and a uniquely made woman, both with distinct and beautiful differences, and both with distinct and beautiful, God-made designs that complement each other, and together reflect the image of God.

It’s All About God

Paul instructed Titus to teach the older woman to “train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:4-5)

Peter instructs husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

Paul’s or Peter’s teaching concerning marriage and family is neither sexist nor discriminatory. Their concern is clearly the heart of God and upholding His purposes in the functionality of life. They did not fear offending one sex or the other with these instructions, but feared rather that either one might ignore the sound doctrine that had been taught since Genesis, and as a result, have suffering marriages and weak Christian lives.

One could look at Paul’s words in a negative light and say “he advocates for women to only work from home, never have a career, to suppress their dreams and blindly obey the commands of their husbands.” And although that is certainly one viewpoint held in this world, it was not Paul’s. It was about harmony. It was about surrender to God’s design. There are times that within God’s will a woman is obediently working a career, supporting her family and following her dreams, but when done in the name of “I can do everything a man does”, rather that seeking to be submitted to God and her husband ‘as to the Lord’, it is dysfunctional. Paul’s teaching was about training and teaching an attitude of life for women from an early age that will not honor God’s holy Word.

Peter’s teaching to husbands was equally ALL ABOUT GOD. A husband’s unwillingness to understand his wife and value her seems to have a direct connection with the outcome of his prayers. This means that God is finely tuned in to the husband’s treatment of his wife; how he lives with her, listens to her, honors her words and values her place. The words, ‘weaker vessel’, are probably among the hardest to swallow, but the true meaning behind Peter’s words is not about weakness at all, but strength. Strength in design. In other words, honor her the way God intended, otherwise your marriage, your life and all of society will suffer because of that imbalance.

Clearly there is much much more to say on this issue, but no matter what you say, let it derive from God’s word. Seek that God would be glorified in your view of marriage, and more importantly, how you live with, love and honor your spouse, complementing each other as you submit to God’s design.













One response to “(Part 2) Complementarianism: It’s About Design”

  1. I’m not sure the idea of design fits the available data. Consider the Tabernacle and the Temple – page after consecutive page, chapter after chapter is devoted to both their construction and use – down the tiniest detail. In comparison, Complementarianism seems haphazardly put-together, with sections of verses from all over the place: 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3 … some of them are referring to the Greco-Roman household codes (Haustafeln) as well as slavery. This is God’s design for all time? Have we irrevocably destroyed the design by rejecting slavery as immoral? Does this design hold up when sin destroys it’s function – like if a man gets drunk on his own power/authority and become abusive – does the design being maintained become more important than the safety of everyone else? Now me, I don’t see these verses as a prescription for how families ought to pattern themselves until the end of time, they are a description of how families were supposed to pattern themselves to look like they’re obeying to Greco-Roman codes on the outside, but destroy them from the inside out by undermining the flawed structure they were based on. I think Paul recognized that in his day and age of hard-core patriarchy, the best he could hope for was to teach the believers how to be soft-core patriarchalists, hoping that one day they’d graduate to be even softer complementarians, until one day they could be more along the lines of egalitarians. That’s the ‘trajectory’ side of Scripture – that every action in the Bible is a ripple in a pond meant to move us from where we were to where we ought to be one wave at a time. Which is why slavery was not meant to last forever and neither are many of the family structures the Bible describes from the past, not prescribes for the future.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: