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Posts Tagged ‘male headship’


I’m currently working my way through Genesis 2 for Sunday.  In his Epistles, Paul bases male headship in marriage & the church (aka complementarianism) in creation.  But there is more going on than that.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, complementarianism teaches that men and women are equal in dignity but different in role or function in the home and the church.  This, sadly, is a relatively unpopular position.  But this shouldn’t surprise us since much of what the Bible teaches us offends the flesh.

Genesis 1 is the starting point with regard to our equal dignity.  “God created man (humanity) in his image; male and female he created them.”  Men and women are both made in God’s image, sharing in dignity.  Most people can accept the equal part (aside from those rejecting the notion we are made in God’s image).  The equality is not an issue.  This fundamental equality is also in view in Galatians with regard to salvation- “in Christ there is neither male nor female.”  He lists some other statuses that separate people.  The idea is that neither is more worthy of salvation than the other.  Neither has an advantage when it comes to Christ.  It does not mean that all distinctions disappear such that they cease to be men and women.

In Genesis 2-3 we see the following things which point us toward there being a complementary difference between men and women which includes male headship.

Adam Eve NT Parallel Text(s)
Created first X 1 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Timothy 2:13
Given the initial command X
Created for the other X 1 Corinthians 11:9
Sinned first X 1 Timothy 2:14
Whose sin condemned humanity? X Romans 5:12ff
Addressed 1st by God after sinning X
Cursed for “obeying/listening to” the other X

We see that though they are equal, God held Adam accountable for obeying Eve.  He addressed Adam first because Adam was humanity’s representative.  Paul uses this to explain how all of humanity fell into sin, and how people are saved through the 2nd Adam, Jesus.

We see that Adam needed help to fulfill the Creation Mandate (Gen. 1).  He gave Adam a wife instead of a pet.  He gave Adam an equal to complement him, to do the things he could not do alone.  While both men and women share the Creation Mandate (to fill, subdue and rule the earth) they emphasize different roles.

Both are needed to fill, but women (generally speaking) are more nurturing.  Moms stay home far more often than men because they are physically and emotional better suited for it.  Yes, they subdue and rule at home and outside the home.  Men are better suited physically and emotionally for subduing and ruling than filling.  Yes, men have parental responsibilities too.  But staying at home with children would drive me crazy far quicker than it does CavWife.  Struggling at work takes are greater toll on a man than struggling at relationships.  The opposite is true for women.  This is part of how we balance each other out.

One key passage is from Ephesians 5.  There we find that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Marriage mirrors the gospel.  Husbands reflect Christ and wives reflect the Church.  Husbands lead- sacrificially!  Wives submit to their own husbands (not men in general) as the Church submits to Christ.  There is no role reversal.

This is a mystery, Paul says.  That means it is only something that we know because it has been revealed to us.  Marriage, including covenant headship, is was originally designed to be a picture of the gospel.  It was not societal construct for Paul, and certainly not oppressive.  It was a picture of the liberating, restorative gospel.

Covenant headship is not some out-moded way of thinking.  It is a biblical way of thinking, and a gospel-centered way of thinking.  Christian feminism and egalitarianism undermine the gospel by taking away God-given boundaries and roles.  In 1 Timothy 1:8-11 reveals the relationship between sound doctrine and sound living.  Sound (healthy) doctrine conforms to the gospel and produces healthy living.  Unsound doctrine departs from or distorts the gospel and leads to unsound living (sin).  When our marriages and churches no longer portray part of the gospel through male headship, the gospel is distorted and unsound living is the inevitable result.

As a result, complementarianism is not a non-essential doctrine.  It is a gospel-doctrine.  It should be believed and defended as rooted in creation and redemption that we might better understand the relationship between Christ and the Church which the gospel creates.

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One of the interesting things I’ve been observing lately is how complementariansim can be misrepresented by both advesaries and advocates.  Both can view the complementarian “movement”  as monolithic- all of them believe the same thing.  They have some basic foundational tenents which make them complementarian.  But some people think THEIR understanding is the only view of complementarianism.

What Complementarians Believe in Common:

  • God created men & women in His image: they are equal in dignity.
  • They differ in roles, complementing one another, but work together to achieve their God-given mission: fill the earth and subdue it.
  • Men are the covenant heads, or representatives, of their families.  This is founded in creation, and not a result of the Fall.  It is often corrupted because of the Fall.  They represent the family before God, and are held responsible for the welfare of the family.

This view is founded upon a few facts of biblical data.  First, Adam was created first.  Second, Adam received God’s instruction and he was supposed to communicate that to Eve.  Third, though Eve sinned first, sin and death entered the world and corrupted humanity because of Adam’s sin (Romans 5).  Oddly, when God describes Adam’s sin in Genesis 3, he says “you listened to/obeyed the woman.”  They reversed the creation order, to their peril.  This sets the pattern in the rest of Genesis, when husbands listen to/obey their wives without seeking God, bad things happened.  When Abram finally asked God about Sarai’s plan, he said it was what Abram should do.

This creation order is not removed in Christ, but reinforced (Ephesians 5).  Wives are told to submit to their husbands (not men in general), while men are to sacrifice for the well-being of their wives (not abuse their role for selfish means).

  • Men are also the leaders of the church.  Elders in God’s household are men, not women (1 Timothy 2-3).  Women have meaningful and important roles, and fulfill them under the authority of the Session just as a wife has a meaningful role under the headship of her husband (Proverbs 31).

These are the beliefs that all complementarians hold in common.  Feminists lump them all together.  But we see some prominent complementarians disagree on secondary issues.

(more…)

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