I think that it’s always good to Define the Terms. Sometimes words have different meanings in different contexts, or even among individuals. Here is what I mean when I use certain words and phrases throughout this blog.
The Broken Curse
In Genesis 3:14-19, God cursed the world because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience after they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Some people assert that only the snake and the ground were cursed and humans were simply told what the world would be like now that there was sin and shame and fear. I don’t contest this; but for simplicity’s sake, I call that entire situation the curse. Regardless of what we call it, this passage contains the statement of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey God. One of these consequences was that Eve’s husband would rule over her. I believe that when Jesus died and rose again, He broke the curse. Jesus Christ removed the previously inescapable power of these consequences from our lives.
We try to reduce the pain of childbirth; we try to reduce the difficulty of work; we must also join the sacred work of God in trying to reduce the ruling of men over women.
The New Testament is filled to the brim with commands and examples to give ourselves up for each other – to humble ourselves and lift each other up – to give up power and serve. This extends to Christian marriage. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus (or Paul) tell husbands to lead wives. Nowhere do they tell wives to follow husbands. Instead, Paul and the other apostles repeatedly tell their congregations that all the brothers and sisters must submit to each other, including husbands and wives.
Jesus ushered in a New Kingdom – the Kingdom of God in our hearts here on Earth. Joy!
I believe that every set of people God puts together complement each other in strengths and weaknesses. But there is a view in Christian culture that men are called by God to be leaders and women are called by God to be followers. Always. Complementarians believe in strict gender roles and that women are barred from certain roles in the church and in the home. They believe that God will not gift or lead women in certain ways (where they place the limitations varies wildly from person to person). Men are always the ones with (at least final) authority.
There is a spectrum within this belief system. Some are “soft comp,” which means that in a marriage, the husband only has 51% of the final say, and some soft comp people even believe that women can hold some positions of authority in the church. “Hard comp” people generally believe that a woman should never work outside the home. She must go from her father’s house to her husband’s and she must ALWAYS live under the authority of a man. She may not, of course, ever have any authority of any kind in a church. Sometimes she may not even speak at all in front of the church body. This hierarchical, patriarchal system sometimes even extends to adult male children, who must remain under their fathers’ authority until the patriarch dies.
At the extreme end, complementarians believe that Christians must believe that the Bible teaches this hierarchical view of gender relations in order to understand the gospel. Some believe that people are not really saved unless they embrace the hierarchy (often called biblical order). Disturbingly, this view was even asserted at a conference in 2016 by leaders who are loved by many mainstream Christians.
Egalitarians believe that God makes people as individuals, and He gifts us and leads us each, regardless of whether we are men or women. They believe that the Bible clearly teaches this. They believe that there are no roles within the church or home that women may not fill if the Holy Spirit leads her. They believe that all Christians are called by God to submit to each other in love. Always.
Most egalitarians believe that there are many, many healthy ways to live a marriage and that it is up to each husband and wife to decide what works for them, under the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Egalitarians often sound like (or identify with) feminists. This is not because they believe that women should be in charge of men or take over the world. It’s because they believe that women should take their rightful place beside men in leadership.