By Hannah Saxe
I understand the theological view I present in this letter is not that of Asbury, but my theological difference with the school has been one of the most beneficial parts of my time here. Asbury has challenged me to truly search Scripture for the basis of why I believe what I believe. Over the past three years, I have had respectful conversations with students who differ from me due to a mutual understanding or willingness to understand the other’s viewpoint.
Before a true conversation between two theological views can happen, there must be an honest understanding of both sides. Unfortunately, I have witnessed instances on campus where the viewpoint of complementarianism has been grossly misunderstood and misrepresented. In order to have respectful conversations about this topic, I want to present what a Scriptural complementarian view truly is and is not.
The definition of complementarianism that I’ve gleaned from Scripture is this: The view that men and women were created, before the fall, equally, yet different with unique skills and roles.
A complementarian view is not a command to all women to submit to all men. The command “women submit to men” is not found in Scripture. It is not an oppression of the gifts God has given women. God gifts all women in many different ways, evidenced by the numerous examples of Godly women in Scripture and throughout history. He does not place men and women into some box that diminishes their individuality.
Submission is not a unique command to wives but is a Biblical theme. We as a church are all called to submit to authority (1 Peter 2:13-18). This is not a submission without discernment. We are never called to follow another authority over God, but need to hold what they say against the truths of Scripture. Submission is not a blind following rather it is following authority with discernment.
The Bible was radical at its time in the way it addresses women. 1 Timothy 2:11 is not a culturally specific oppression of women but a freedom given by God. In Biblical times, women were not allowed to listen to preaching. This verse is a liberation of women telling Timothy to “let them listen” and is no different than the reality that men are called to listen respectfully to teaching. It is not the view that women should not be involved in ministry.
It is not a one-sided relationship. The idea that a man makes all decisions for the household without any concern for his wife is not complementarianism. Complementarianism does not decrease the value of womanhood. Acknowledging that men and women are created differently and therefore have skills in different areas is not to say that either gender is better than the other.
Rather, complementarianism is a command for wives to submit to their husbands. It also commands husbands to love their wives. In Ephesians 5, Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ, and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Genesis 3 explains that men and women will not act in accordance to this command. Our curse, therefore, is women will desire to have authority over their husband, and men will want to rule un-lovingly over their wives.
Complementarianism is an encouragement for women to use their gifts in ministry. Women are called to be involved in the church and the spreading of the gospel. The only position they are not called to is that of an elder (I Timothy 2:11 – 3:7). This view is an exaltation of the beautiful way God has created men and women.
Marriage is a union between man and woman that magnifies and appreciates their God-given roles. Complementarians believe that God has created each gender with different roles that work together to form a team. Just as the church body could not function if all members were eyes (I Corinthians 12), a marriage cannot fully function when both members are vying to hold the same responsibilities.
Much like other issues in Scripture, this stance has been taken out of context and misunderstood. Yes, there are people who have used the view to justify abuse along with many other sinful acts, but that’s exactly what they are: sin. They are the results of living in a fallen world and not a reflection of the true view found in Scripture.
I recognize that this letter cannot address all facets of this topic, but I hope a basic understanding will spur respectful conversations around campus and encourage you to search for the Scriptural standing behind your viewpoint.