Seeing as how I’ve been giving some really broad, yet really brief overviews of theological positions this week (dangerous at the best of times, but necessary just about always), I thought I’d continue with that pattern but on a different issue.
So, we approach again the gender debate. Are women free to take any office in the NT church, or are they restricted by their gender? Are men more valuable than women? Did God create men & women with difference in roles, or is that result of sin or some construct of society? Does redemption in Christ undo gender distinctions? These are just some of the numerous questions involved in the gender issue.
Despite how some argue, there are only two positions on the issue of women in ministry in the local church: one is either a complementarian or an egalitarian. This is so because it must be decided, Is being a woman (just having this gender) a disqualifying factor at some point for some positions of ministry or is it not? Regardless of where one draws the line, as soon as a line is drawn, one becomes a complementarian at some level. What follows is a brief sketch of both the egalitarian and complementarian arguments.
Egalitarians argue for created equality. Adam and Eve were created as equals, both alike in the image of God; there was absolutely no distinction between them other than gender. They have functional equality as well, both given responsibility to rule of the creation. As a result of the fall, however, human relationships have been subjected to disorder and falsely established and wrongly motivated hierarchy. Sin introduced disorder into God’s creation, and the result of the curse of God was that man would “rule over” woman, but woman would “desire” man (Genesis 3:16). The perceived supremacy of male over female in relationships, in the world at large and throughout history is a result of the fall and the resulting disorder. However, now that we are in Christ, and because of the redemption that he has accomplished, “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). This means that the relationship of equality in essence, function, and relationship has been completely restored. Differences have been obliterated and females, like males, are encouraged to pursue all areas of ministry in the local church.
Complementarians, just like egalitarians believe that Adam and Ever were alike created in the image of God, and that both are of absolute equal value. Complementarians, however, see a distinction in role between male and female, even in the Garden of Eden, before the fall. This is shown in several ways: Adam was created first, then Eve; Adam was given the command and the primary responsibility for the care of the garden; Eve was created to be Adam’s helper; and, the fact that Adam was the one to name Eve. That there was a distinction and overall distinction greater than that admitted by egalitarians is demonstrated by the apostle Paul’s use of the Genesis texts in places like 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. For the complementarian, the fallen disruption of God’s created design is perceived differently. Where there was loving leadership and glad-hearted submission before, Adam’s desire is to “rule” (that is, by force of power, not lovingly) over Eve, while Eve’s desire is “against” (that is, with evil intent, to subvert and rule over—see Gen. 4:7) Adam. Complementarians argue that there is true role restoration in the redemption that Christ accomplishes, but it is not of the nature envisioned by the egalitarians. Rather, it is a reestablishment of the loving headship-submission relationship of Adam and Eve, which was designed to prefigure the relationship of Christ with his bride (Ephesians 5:22-33). That this is a restoration of the relationship as it was in Eden is evinced by 1 Timothy 2:8-15.