Both the complementarian and the egalitarian positions ultimately must stand or fall based on their interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Both sides agree that male and female were created alike, with the same human nature, both created in the image of God with equal dignity and value; but was it God’s intention for there to be distinction in role or was it not?

One basic rule for the interpretation of Scripture that is adopted by the majority of evangelicals is that Scripture must be allowed to interpret Scripture. In other words, where an issue is dealt with in obscure places and then again in clearer places, we must allow the clearer revelation to interpret the less clear. Also, it is standard hermeneutical practice among evangelicals to allow the newer revelation to give clarity to the older (since Christ is the mystery proclaimed in the OT, but revealed in the NT, which has implications for everything!).

This issue is a good place to employ this helpful rule. While scholars may debate the validity of seeing a distinction in role in Genesis 1-2, the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has already given us a clear and authoritative interpretation. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Paul argues that women must not teach or have authority over a man in the local church, and he cites Genesis 1-2 as his rationale: “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Lest we think this was an appeal only relevant in a particular situation in a particular local body of believers, Paul uses the same logic again, in 1 Corinthians 11. In this passage he argues that within the kingdom of those redeemed in Christ (therefore, among those spoken of in Gal. 3:28), “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of a wife is her husband”. His defence of this position is drawn from the same text in Genesis, and he says “man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” To these passages must be added Ephesians 5:22-33. In this glorious text, the apostle looks back at the “profound mystery” of two becoming one flesh, which is spoken of in Genesis and says that the original human marriage is patterned after the loving authority-submission relationship of Christ and his bride, which God had purposed to establish from before the creation of the world.

In these decisive passages, where Scripture interprets itself, we are able to see clearly that it was God’s intention for there to be a distinction in role, including a loving authority-submission structure within marriage, and therefore within the local church. Many other details of many other arguments from both sides could and should be examined where time and space allow, but here it suffices for us to know that the testimony of Scripture is on the side of the complementarians. Throughout the Bible, from creation on, through the fall and ultimately through redemption, God has testified that he has a plan for male and female, equally created in his image, equal in essence and value, yet distinct in their roles in the home and in the church.