Together for the Underestimated Gospel – Panel – Complementarianism: Essential or Expendable?

Piper: Danvers Statement, we tried to articulate a vision of how men and women are equal in the image of God and yet complement each other in their differences best when the differences are seen and recognized in society, the church, and family and not minimized. We also decry the abuse or belitting of women, so we wanted to distance ourselves from that. So it came up in one of our meetings that we call it "Complementarianism," as men and women complement and one another, so we hope to steer a Biblical path between the nulifying of those differences and the domination of women. Women are not to be doormats or absent minded.

Host: Egalitarianism had been around in Evangelicalism since its beginning. Why did the Danvers Statement and Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood happen in the 80s?

Piper: I don't remember culturally but personally I was teaching at Bethel and there was a rise of aggressive feminism. And so I felt the need to respond.

Russell (Chairman of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood): What I fear is that we have people who can check off the complementarian box but aren't actually living that out. We need to define what a complementarian marriage looks like. I have had in recent years new situations. A woman came to me and said that her husband wanted to become a woman, not that he wanted to leave her but just that he wanted to become a woman.

Greg: Functional egalitarianism among the young people I council is really all over the place. Young men think there is no difference between egalitarianism and complementarianism until there is a decision where there is disagreement.

Host: Why is this essential?

Piper: It's not essential to be saved. But once you move beyond that level, there are serious implications. Hermenutically for the Gospel, it is significant. If you do the hermenutical gymnastics necessary to avoid complementarianism, there's a high risk of getting the Gospel wrong. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. If you say there is no head in marriage, then you are saying there is no head (Christ) in the church. It is written on male and female hearts to malfunction long term, even if ministry is currently now successful.

Greg: In order to get to an egalitarian position, you have to bring into your hermenutic some bad DNA that will eventually work on other texts as well.

Russell: When the US Military went into Iraq, you saw a statue of Saddam being torn down. Marriage is designed to show you Christ in the church. God creates Adam to have someone like him to be taken from him. Adam didn't just need someone to be with but someone to complement him. It's not a question of whether or not we will have male headship, it is the quality of male headship that we will have. Complementarianism is not saying "Women submit" but "Wives submit yourself to your husband." She is refusing to submit to men generally. She is submitting to her current or future husband.

Host: Guys are going one of three ways. One is that guys are leaning into complementarianism. Two is that guys say we're going to backburner this. Three is guys who begin to question the issue itself.

Russell: I think there's a fourth path: hyper-masculinity and femininity. When people embrace this issue, they are forced to become counter-cultural in this society. When you see that man who is working two or three jobs so that he can provide for his wife and children, when you see that woman who isn't working so that she can pour into the next generation, you're seeing something that looks increasingly strange to the outside culture. In our printed materials we seem to say the supermodels shall inherit the earth.

Greg: When you're the pastor of a local church, it's impossible to backburner the issue. You have to make decisions about who will teach, read, and lead on a regular basis. I think we tend to mess up when we frame the conversation in negatives, in terms of what women cannot or should not do. I begin by saying there are many ways that women are to be serving in the church and list what those are. And then, yes, I'll say there are a few things women are not supposed to do in the church, and that shouldn't be offensive to us, because that is what God set out in the Scripture.

Host: Is there an acceptance or embrace of this message in our culture?

Piper: I talk to pretty conservative places, so it's not a fair sample. The answer is yes. It's different with young people today than it was in the late 80s. THese guys have churches full of young, articulate, flourishing women who are embracing complentarianism. Can I answer your other question? There's a line of continuity between simple homespun egalitarianism and gay marriage. Using the "There is neither male nor female" passage in that way ends there. The question that egalitarianism has never been able to answer is that when a child asks what it means to grow up to be a man or woman, it won't do to talk about plumbing, because that's not your personhood. And you can't just talk about courage or humility because the child will say, no, I mean a man and not a woman. If you can't give some idea of complementarity, it won't work.

Host: You just segued into an important conversation. There are some folks here who don't buy into complementarianism.

Russell: First, you have to deal with the Biblical texts. There are some texts specifically addressed to men and women. So you have to deal with those texts. I think you also have to deal with actual Biblical complementarianism, not a caricature of it. When Jesus is giving himself up for his Bride at the Cross, his Bride doesn't want him to. Peter tries to defend Jesus.

Greg: I think the objection that I run into from the young people I try to pastor is a misunderstanding that role between men and women speaks to dignity. No, God given role does not speak to dignity. Within the context of equal dignity, God has every right to give out roles.

Piper: I'd start with Ephesians because I think that's the clearest. It carefully walks through, beautifies marriage. It's what every woman wants, a man who will lead her and respect her, and be strong for her. Then I'd go to 1 Timothy 2. The two things that a woman is prohibited from (teach and have authority), is what distinguishes an elder from a deacon. Walk through the 8 or 9 evidences in Genesis 1-3 about the differences in role.

Posted at 9:58 AM on April 11th, 2012

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