Monday, April 23, 2007

What does Egalitarianism Mean? What does Complementarianism Mean?

Egalitarians rightly argue that both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, however inaccurately affirm that Adam’s role as the head is a result of mankind’s fall from grace. Furthermore, they would profess that women no longer have the obligation to submit to their husbands because Christ came to this earth and established a new covenant. Egalitarians have to reinterpret many passages of Scripture concerning a women’s role in the church to fit their view (Eph. 5:21-22; Col. 3: 18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Ultimately, this view must be rejected for it elevates a women’s experience above the authority of the Word of God.[1]

Complementarians argue that both Adam and Eve were equally created in God’s image, but that Adam’s role as head of the home was established before the fall, and is not a result of sin (Gen 2-3). Women are created equal in essence yet different in function. Complementarians believe that a wife should graciously submit to her husband’s servant leadership, care and protection (Eph. 5:21-22; Col. 3: 18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7). Even though there are some qualifications for women in church life, the many valuable ministries of women far outweigh the few restrictions Scripture imposes.[2]

[1] Peter Schemm, Class Notes presented for the Class: Christian Theology 1 T3000B at Southeastern Theological Seminary, Fall 2005 (100 out of 135).

[2] Ibid., 104.


Cheryl Schatz said...


You said: "Furthermore, they would profess that women no longer have the obligation to submit to their husbands because Christ came to this earth and established a new covenant." Actually I am wondering how many egalitarians you have talked to. I do not believe this nor have I read from egalitarians who have said this. Instead egalitarians believe that submission is a Christian thing not just a "woman" obligation. We are to submit to each other in love and to submit to those in the body of Christ, because other's in the body cannot teach us or use their gifts with us if we do not submit.

There are many Baptists who are questioning the complementarian viewpoint. Wade Burleson a wonderful Southern Baptist Pastor has presented a good article on his blog written by another Baptist Pastor. You can find the blog post here
posted on Thursday April 19, 2007.

It is good for egalitarians and complementarians to dialogue and understand each other. We are all members of the body of Christ and need to have love and compassion for one another.


Emily Wallace said...

Cheryl, thanks so much for visiting my site. The statement in question is, in my opinion, a consistent representation with what is found in several Egalitarian texts, such as Recovering Biblical Equality (Pierce/Groothius) and Beyond Sex Roles (Belzekian). The notion that submission is mainly a Christian thing derives from an improper interpretation of Gal. 3:28. I understand that many Baptists are questioning the Complementarian viewpoint, and it is healthy to do so.

However, the complementarian viewpoint had been the dominant viewpoint of the church up until the modern feminist women's movement of the 1950's-60's, so complementariansim is more a recovery of biblical truth then a new fad.

Furthermore, I'm sure that Pastor Burleson is a wonderful pastor, however, just being wonderful does not necessarily mean that one is correct in his theological conviction. Also, just because I am a complementarian does not mean that I do not have love and compassion for one another. In fact, I feel that by upholding the role that God has given me as a wife and a Christian woman, I am effectively portraying the analogy of Christ's love for the church, which submits to him. This analogy is found throughout Scripture.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Hello Emily,

Actually I do not know exactly what Pastor Burleson believes as he has opened his blog to the discussion but says he is learning and listening.

I think that learning and listening to both sides of the argument is a good thing to do. I have found that refuting cultists is almost impossible without first understanding what they believe. That is the ministry that God has called me to. I help those who have been caught in a cult to understand correct biblical doctrine and come free in Christ. I do not discriminate against men who come to my bible studies because scripture has not asked me to do that. In fact scripture shows me that discriminating against anyone is not a good thing. What I have is freely given to anyone who has need to learn.


Emily Wallace said...

Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being in a cult before. That’s a new one! I want to say as nicely as I can that I am not in a cult and if I am then so are two of the largest seminaries in country. I do believe that women can pray in church because Scripture does not forbid it. However, it does forbid women to teach or to have authority over men in a church setting.

You may have the spiritual gift of teaching. Therefore, I would think that you should teach…women. Scripture never commands women to teach men. In fact, it explicitly states not to and grounds its reasoning in the created order. Therefore, this cannot be merely a cultural stipulation. Maybe you’ve bought into the lie that a person’s function (teacher, pastor, etc) equals that person’s worth. However, somewhere down the line society has equated one’s position as being synonymous with one’s self-worth. God created men and women equal, yet different. We are equal in Him because we were created in His image. We are different in function by DESIGN. Why would God create man and woman to have the exact same function? God has clearly created man to be the spiritual leader of the husband/wife relationship and the church. This is the heart of the Gospel as it portrays Christ as the husband and his church as his submissive bride.

The reason this is an emotional issue is that women don’t like to be told that they can’t do everything that men can do. God has created men not to be able to bear children by design. The main problem is that our men are lazy and don’t step up to the plate so women have taken over. Women are told that they are to do everything (clean the house, raise children, work 40 hour weeks, and now lead the church). What are men supposed to do? Just work and watch television?

I’m curious as to where you have studied theology and your method of interpreting Scripture. There is a difference between interpreting Scripture in a legalistic way and a natural reading of the text.

Even though I am outspoken about this issue (because it hits at the heart of how God created us) this issue for me, is not a hill on which to die. My primary mission in life is not to go around trying to convince people that complementarianism is the right way. My main mission in life is to know Christ and his Word and to make him known to all nations. I really do think that Satan tries to tempt Christians to get caught up in matters that really do not have eternal significance…such as this issue. I want to focus all my time and energy on glorifying and having the best relationship with Jesus as I can and spreading the Gospel. Because I want to glorify him I try to stick with what His word says in its natural reading and context.

Caitlin P said...

Emily, I think of you often when I think about Complementarianism.
In my background as a Christian, I was raised more liberally on this viewpoint in the churches I attended. I had never actually understood this until I went to a SBC church and started Southeastern. But then I had a big problem with what I saw as the outpouring of being a complementarian. And this is just my experience, I am not saying these are the general circumstances.
As a woman who grew up in a household where education was of utmost importance and a mother telling me "be what you want and don't get married until after college" (which I didn't do anyway), I have a hard time when I hear women saying they don't like to read or don't want to get an education. Though, now I feel that is okay (except the reading part). But when I went to Southeastern I encountered many couples that we got to know intimately where the husband was a demanding and "knowledgable" teacher and the wife didn't even try to learn or anything and just did as she was told. And trading recipes was more important than an actual spiritual conversation. I felt sick to my stomach so many times.
The ironic thing was that many women worked for their husbands to go through school (which is fine), but then they had no say in anything and were stepped all over (in my opinion) by their husbands.
So then I started reading Grootius because of the examples I saw.
I agree with you. I cannot deny the Bible when it says we need to submit to our husbands, etc. I cannot deny the complementarian view. What I can deny is the way it is shown in our world sometimes. You hit the nail on the head when you said sometimes the problems are that the men need to not be so lazy and do some things. But they also cannot be dominating lords.
The reason I think of you so often is that you were the first married woman I met who went to the seminary (besides my sister). I was SO impressed with you and Charlie, how you both worked and strived together, and how you desired to learn. I always enjoyed hearing your opinions in SS class and I desire with all my heart to go to seminary as well, just when the magically funds appear.
I think you have done a marvellous job of showing what it means to be an educated, loving, submissive wife and want to thank you for your example. It has helped my heart (even though it's not about the heart) become more clearer of what a complementarian relationship can look like with a smart woman.

Emily Wallace said...

Wow, thanks so much for your response. When I first got to seminary, I had so many emotions when I first heard this view. I was confused about a lot of things, but going over passage after passage of Scripture on how a wife and woman should be, they really did pierce my heart. I kept on reading, “rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
1 Peter 3:4 NKJV. A gentle and quiet spirit is something that I am always working on because I feel like I naturally do not have a gentle and quiet spirit. In fact, most of what the Bible commands, I believe, is given because we naturally do what we should not because of our sinful nature. God knows that women are prone not to have this gentle spirit because of the Fall. God’s Holy Word tell me that this is precious in the sight of the Lord.

I also had a hard time in seminary finding wives who were passionate about knowing their Savior. I think that these women did not make it a priority because most of them were working and trying to be the best moms they could be, and the priority of knowing God and making him known suffered. Often, of course, money was very tight, and then they did not have time to talk to their husbands about theological matters (I actually think that most of the wives were clueless as to what complementarianism actually was. But, maybe it was different in the college.) Nevertheless, I just want you to know that your passion for knowing your Savior is obvious and contagious. It was and still is a blessing to talk to you. Just keep following hard after our Savior, even when the wonderful gift of a baby takes up all your time and energy. Just keep on thinking about making his name great and loving Him with all your heart, as well as loving other people, and the proper place of your role as a wife and mother will be obvious to you. Thank you again for your passion and for your comments.

Cheryl Schatz said...


You said: "Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of being in a cult before." I didn't say that you were in a cult. I only explained to you what I do in ministry and that I teach men in my ministry.

You said: "Scripture never commands women to teach men." Scripture does command us to make disciples and it does tell us not to discriminate. When men come to me to learn, should I discriminate against them?

You said: "God has clearly created man to be the spiritual leader of the husband/wife relationship and the church." There is no teaching in scripture that says that the man is to be the "spiritual" leader of the wife. Please show me such a verse.

Instead scripture says that we are all to grow up and mature so that we can make godly decisions for ourselves. I do not need to have someone between God and myself. My husband and I are one in flesh and united spiritually but he does not tell me what to do spiritually by taking authority over me. Why should he? God talks to women too.

It saddens me a great deal to see that women have bought into the lie that God has forbidden godly Christian women from teaching correct biblical doctrine to men. Women are pressured and forced to discriminate against men and refuse to teach them when men need the wisdom and biblical insight of women too. We all need each other.

Take care,

Emily Wallace said...


How do you interpret this passage?

"22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30because we are members of his body. 31"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Eph. 5:22-33. That was written by Paul.

or this:

"1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you[a] of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." 1 Peter 3:1-7. That was written by Peter.

Or another Pauline epistle:

"Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them." (Col)

The term I used, spiritual leader, was a term taken, not literally, from these passages. I guess I should have used the terms, 'head,' submit' and 'respect.' You and your husband are one flesh, as you said. Likewise, there can only be one head of one flesh. Anything with two heads would be considered a freak. Therefore, the question we should ask ourselves is, "Who is going to be the head of the relationship?"

Again, I'm just trying to glorify God in all that I do. I do not need to be able to teach men doctrine to justify my gift of teaching. do you explain this?

"For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God." 1 Cor. 11

A systematic study of these four major passages of Scripture bear witness to themselves about the headship of the husband. Paul affirms all that he writes as teaching "sound doctrine" in Titus 2, therefore anyone who disagrees with Paul is guilty of not teaching sound doctrine, according to him.

What this debate boils down to is interpretation of Scripture. I remember asking you earlier what method you used.