Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

When I was a teen, I loved Christian youth camps. But there was one thing that I did not care for: It seems most camps, had, on one particular day, The Lesson. That one where somebody who is not afraid of the topic tells us we are not supposed to get sexually active, and why this is harder for boys, and how girls should be careful how they dress …

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mixed messages

Once more, I read one of those: “Complementarians are NOT like this, you characterize us wrong” articles. But they always sound like: “We would NEVER advocate for playing music loudly! We only say people should crank up the volume! We do NOT advocate for disturbing the peace, only that your neighbors should always hear your music! We are against noise! We only say that music should not be played at a low volume, and that you should buy quality speakers that could handle a lot of sound. Oh, and some people who do not read this blog also plays music loudly, so it is not my fault if my fans do. Nobody hates loud music more than me.”

To quote this article:

Myth #1: Complementarianism is obsessed with male authority.

…Complementarianism… in reality focuses on … God’s … binary design where the husband’s leadership is exercised through love and servant leadership and women are included as significant participants in the church’s mission. A biblical perspective of the male-female relationship in the church’s ministry doesn’t picture a man wielding authoritarian leadership…
Myth #3: … Because of [complementarianism’s] affirmation of male leadership and authority…

What I see: “We are not obsessed with male authority, only with male leadership! And we affirm male leadership and male authority!”

Love, servanthood, and women included as significant participants are the egalitarian focus (too). The thing which makes them complementarian as opposed to egalitarian is, indeed, their focus on male leadership.

Whether he calls it leadership or authority or both, it comes down to telling others what to do. Leadership could be beneficial at times – if I do not know the way out of a forest but my guide does, I would let her (or him) lead. However, complementarians never explain the real difference between their leadership and lording it over her. What kind of leadership is no wiser than the one being led, but does not act on the power or right to give orders? What kind of leadership is loving and beneficial when the leader knows no better than the follower?

Myth #2: Complementarianism confines women to the home
… but these roles are to be lived out by God’s grace and are freely entered by a woman as instructed by Scripture… her divine calling [is] in relation to her husband and children. In Paul’s letter to Titus, women are called to be “workers at home” and to love their husband and children. We believe that the joy and work of women’s lives will be best lived out as she centers herself primarily on her family and in her home.
… complementarianism is not ruling out that women ever work outside the home. In fact, it’s commonly acknowledged that the married woman of Proverbs 31 was active in the community while still being centered in her home… Overreactions are common, however, such as insisting that women may engage in any activity outside the home with virtually no or minimal concern for God’s specific creation purpose for each gender. This is contrary to biblical teaching and deeply problematic.

What I see: “Complementarian women are not literally confined to the homes, but every step away from their homes, husbands and children is  a step away from God’s creation purpose for them.”
I never met anyone who claimed that complementarians literally chain the ankles of bare-footed, pregnant women to the kitchen table, so this message tells me exactly what I already know about complementarians.

Myth #3: Complementarianism leads to domestic violence and spousal abuse.
… implicating complementarianism with domestic violence is based on a misconception of what complementarianism in fact teaches regarding the true nature of male authority … It should also be noted that abuse of women is in no way limited to one side of this debate…
So, the charge that complementarianism insufficiently condemns or unwittingly condones or can lead to domestic violence and spousal abuse is manifestly untrue. Recent complementarians have gone on record to state unequivocally that they strongly condemn and oppose any form of domestic violence and spousal abuse. In their “Statement on Abuse”1 adopted March 12, 2018, which follows earlier, similar statements, the board of directors of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the principal complementarian organization, writes, “We condemn all forms of physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse.”

What I see: “We are against abuse! Only, we leave out that abuse is tied to controlling the partner, and that our teachings indeed want men to control lead women. We recommend the controlling, we shame men for not controlling well and women to not accepting control leadership.”

Also, a charge is not “manifestly untrue” if what happened was not your true intention. If “complementarianism leads to domestic violence and spousal abuse” only when misunderstood, it is still true that the message was a factor.

Myth #1: …
Complementarianism, the myth goes, is tantamount to being anti-women or anti-women-in-ministry with the intent of keeping women out of positions of leadership in the church, the corporate world, and the political sphere…

Myth #4: Complementarianism only limits women’s access to the pastoral office.
… the biblical teaching on gender is much more thoroughgoing and profound than a singular negative stipulation would convey, … in other contexts where the teaching of Scripture or the exercise of spiritual leadership occurs, this should be carried out by qualified men… It is the teaching and ruling authority that leadership roles entail that is at issue here.

…The full-orbed creation mandate for man and woman, and its implications for masculine and feminine identity and roles, should be a concerted focus of attention from the pulpit and be upheld in our churches as beautiful, worthy, and desirable…

What I see: “Complementarianism is not like being anti-women with the intent of keeping women out of leadership. It only keeps women out of leadership. It is beautiful and worthy to keep women out of leadership, not anti-women.”
How is it not anti-women?
“Because we say it is not anti-women!”

Myth #5: Complementarianism can and should be culturally compatible…
It is sometimes alleged that complementarianism is advocated out of traditionalism or conservatism regarding men’s and women’s identities and roles… it is doubtless true that some hold to complementarian teaching because of underlying traditionalism or conservatism… mischaracterization of complementarianism as merely traditional… try to accommodate their teaching and practice to the culture …  complementarianism… is profoundly countercultural, if not culturally unacceptable.

What I see: “Our teaching is not compatible with any tradition or culture, not even traditional or conservative culture, but some hold to complementarian teaching because of their traditionalism or conservatism.”
If it is incompatible with traditional or conservative culture, how do people manage to be conservative/ traditional and complementarian?

Myth #1: …the beauty of complementarity within God’s purposeful and beautiful binary design … Myth #2: …the joy and work of women’s lives… part of his blueprint for the man’s and woman’s mission on earth to be lived out together for his glory… Myth #3:.. God-honoring marriages among complementarians… exhibit the beauty of God’s complementarian design in practice. Myth #4: …The full-orbed creation mandate for man and woman, and its implications for masculine and feminine identity and roles, should be … upheld in our churches as beautiful, worthy, and desirable…God’s glorious plan for them… Myth #5: …complementarianism in all its glory and truth…joy of living and teaching God’s design for man and woman…

What I see: “Complementarianism is beautiful, I tell you! And true, and glorious, and worthy, and desirable, and joyous, and did I mention beautiful?”
Neither Köstenberger nor other complementarians ever explain how men leading women, women not being encouraged to use their gifts outside the home, denouncing only some aspects of abuse, women not teaching, and living in a way the culture notices as regressive is beautiful, true, and glorious.

Do complementarians even know that they contradict themselves?

Don’t you sometimes wish you could help people understand you better? Or at least, when disagreeing with you, engage your actual arguments and not straw man versions of them? Today, I want to draw little pictures to help with understanding a much-misunderstood point about egalitarians. Please share these pictures with those who misunderstand.

1) A common misperception of egalitarians
Rebekah Hargraves demonstrates this incorrect idea when she writes “Why I’m Neither an Egalitarian nor a Complementarian”(May 18, 2018):

“I am not an egalitarian because egalitarians are of the belief that there are no inherent differences between the genders in how they are to operate … An egalitarian believes that men and women are, more or less, interchangeable in regards to roles and functions in the home and church.”

Similarly, in “a marriage made in hell” (October 15, 2018, on the “Desiring God” website), Greg Morse writes:

“[H]omofunctional marriage” consists of two different sexes that function identically… [They become] interchangeable…”

common misperceptions 1

This is not what egalitarianism means! To explain where this perception comes from, we first need to remember what complementarians say.


Complementarians believe in gender “roles” and hierarchy: They see one slot that all women should fit into, then another slot which all men should fit into. My diagram below has the male slot somewhat bigger because the “role” of leader and decision maker offers a lot more wriggle room. Referring back to the first diagram, we could say that complementarians see the group of women on the left of the picture, and then assert “They are interchangeable, I see no difference.” They then look right and see the men, and say: “They are interchangeable, I see no difference.

common misperceptions 2


Egalitarians tear down and throw away the molds with slots. We do not force people to fit through one-size-fits-all-women and one-size-fits-all-men slots. Those who think of life as fitting into a slot are horrified when they hear this: “No more separate slots for men and women? Wait, should we all fit into one slot, then?”
But egalitarians do not erect a new mold at the spot where the other two was torn down – we encourage everyone to live out their own gifts.

common misperceptions3

We want to break down gender roles exactly because men and women are not interchangeable:

When things are interchangeable, nobody agonizes over which one is chosen: It doesn’t matter at all which teaspoon in the set of six is used most often, and which one found its way to the back of the cutlery drawer.

* If there were no inherent differences between husband Peter and wife Pamela, it would really not matter if he is the final decision maker on everything. His decisions on everything would be from the same perspective as hers, equally wise and equally right for her too. But a marriage could use two capable decision makers because each has its own strengths and knowledge.
* If there were no inherent differences between Rob and Rita’s parenting, it would not matter if their children spent 100% of the time with Rita and none with Rob. Rita would have been everything to them Rob could be. Still, it is preferable for both parents to be involved in child raising, because the father has qualities the mother does not.
* If your congregation has two people called by God to preach, Jill and Josh, silencing Jill would hardly be an issue if Jill and Josh were interchangeable. You would hear all the sermons from Josh you could possibly hear from Jill. But because Jill is not Josh, because she hears from God in other ways and is interested in other areas of scripture, you may miss out.

common misperceptions 4


Two weeks ago, I reached a small milestone: The ripe old age of 45. When I was 10, I thought 45 is old! Then again, it was older than my parents were at the time. Maybe 45 qualifies me as an “older woman”, maybe it does not.

Lady interviewing someone for a survey

From Getty Images

However, I think it is finally time to teach a text in which the Bible calls older women to teach (urge, in this particular translation) younger ones:

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. – Titus 2:3-5

What this passage does not teach:

Many women were taught an interpretation of this text which is not in there. So, we will start with what it does not say. For that, compare these two quotes, and then see if you agree with me which one is like verse 4 : Read the rest of this entry »

When the church talk of wives submitting to husbands, they tend to quote Paul and Peter, the writers of Eph 5:21-24 and 1 Peter 3:1 respectively.

So, to see what these apostles meant with submission, we could look at how they lived, and compare that to their words.


Artwork of Peter preaching, which he sometimes did in defiance of authorities.

How Paul lived out their submission Read the rest of this entry »

The Bible calls wives “the weaker vessel” in a sentence to instruct husbands. Many people, including me, have discussed what the text means, going deep into New Testament Greek in some cases. Today, let us ditch the Greek for now, and look at the plain meaning of the text.

To get this plain meaning, see what is ordered in this sentence: Read the rest of this entry »

A recent viral blog article starts with the question: “Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men?” It also features this meme:37179936_226232844685466_4568783955179864064_n

(I wonder if the blogger made sure the pretty young woman in her meme meets these criteria, but I digress.) Neither tattoos nor debt is centrally important in her article, and even virginity is only an example of what the writer is really on about. Read the rest of this entry »

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