Sexual Complementarity, Part 1

The Pursuit of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Listen to the rest of this seminar:


Seminar Notes

  1. Why Does the Issue Matter? Setting the Stage in Culture and the Church?
  2. The Danvers Statement of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
  3. Nine Evidences in Genesis 1-5 that Man's Leadership Is an Order of Creation Not a Result of the Fall
  4. The Restoration of Loving Complementarity in Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7
  5. Answers to Objections to Submission
  6. What Does "Saved Through Childbearing" Mean?
  7. Six Thoughts on Men and Women in Ministry According to the Bible
  8. Five Reasons Why I Stand by this Distinction in Role Between Men and Women


1. Why Does the Issue Matter?
Setting the Stage in Culture and the Church

The Secular Feminist Impulse

Here's a quote from social historian Jerry Z. Muller (of Catholic University of America) to give you a handle for understanding the way the words "gender" and "sex" are being used in academic women's studies around the country:

The influence of lesbianism is perhaps the prime reason for . . . an increasing focus on “gender,” defined as the social and cultural construction of sexual identity. The key assumption behind such work is that while men and women are biologically differentiated . . . the characteristic qualities of maleness and femaleness are largely artifacts of culture, and arbitrarily imposed cultural constructions at that. The emphasis on the relative importance of "gender" as opposed to “sex,” then is intended to challenge the assumption that differences between men and women are either natural or immutable (“Coming Out Ahead: The Homosexual Moment in the Academy,” First Things, Aug./Sept., 1993, No. 35, p.19).

In other words, in contemporary feminist usage “gender” refers to what we are by social conditioning and “sex” refers to what we are by nature, and the shift in focus from sex to gender more and more assumes that maleness and femaleness, at the root level of personhood, are negligible realities.

Already in 1972 Charlotte Bunch argued like this:

Heterosexuality separates women from each other. It makes women define themselves through men; it forces women to compete against each other for men and the privilege which comes through men and their social standing... Lesbianism is the key to liberation and only women who cut their ties to male privilege can be trusted to remain serious in the struggle against male dominance (Quoted in Muller, “Coming Out Ahead,” p. 18).

The Tragedy of Feminist Agnosticism: Paul Jewett

The ground-breaking book among evangelicals in the last 20 years, was a book by Paul Jewett called Man as Male and Female (1975). In it he set the pattern to be followed for two decades. He said, on the one hand, “Sexuality permeates one's individual being to its very depth; it conditions every facet of one's life as a person.” But, on the other hand, he says that he shares the uncertainty of those who do not know “what it means to be a man in distinction to a woman.” He confesses that “all human activity reflects a qualitative distinction which is sexual in nature.” But then he says, “In my opinion, such an observation offers no clue to the ultimate meaning of that distinction. It may be that we shall never know what that distinction ultimately means” (Man as Male and Female, pp. 178, 187f.).

The Tragic Feminist Call to Be... Sex Blind

Gretchen Gabelein Hull writes, “Biblical feminists lovingly ask the Christian community to abandon artificial role playing and to be sex blind in assessing each individual's qualifications for ministry” (Equal to Serve, p. 128).

...and Gender Leveling

And Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen expresses her confidence that the Bible's “main thrust is toward the leveling, not the maintenance, of birth-based status differences” (Gender and Grace, p. 235).

The Damage

I think James Dobson is right when he said, “Feminist resistance to making manhood and womanhood significant in behavior and role determination is partner to some of the most painful social and spiritual issues of our day” (Focus on the Family, May, 1993, vol. 17, No. 5, p. 7).


2. The Danvers Statement of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
(December 3, 1987, Danvers, Massachusetts)

Rationale

We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:

1. The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;

2. the tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;

3. the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;

4. the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women;

5. the growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality;
6. the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family;

7. the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness;

8. the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;

9. the consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity;

10. and behind all this the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture.

Affirmations

Based on our understanding of Biblical teachings, we affirm the following:

1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God's image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood.

2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order and find an echo in every human heart.

3. Adam's headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall and was not a result of sin.

4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women.

In the home, the husband's loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife's intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.

In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and sin inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

5. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women. Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community.

6. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse.

In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands' authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands' leadership.

In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men.

7. In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission – domestic, religious, or civil – ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin.

8. In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries. Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God's will.

9. With half the world's population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless lost people in societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world.

10. We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly destructive consequences in our families, churches, and the culture at large.


3. Nine Evidences in Genesis 1-5 that Man’s Leadership Is an Order of Creation Not a Result of the Fall

1. The creation of man and woman equally in God’s image but with a representative leadership function implied for the man

Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

2. Man is created first, then the woman

Genesis 2:7, 18

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being . . . Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

3. Man is given the moral teaching for governing the garden to pass on to the woman

Genesis 2:15-17

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

4. Woman was created “from man” and presented as a helper “fit for him”

Genesis 2:18-23

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

5. Man names woman

Genesis 2:23

The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

6. The serpent undermines the roles ordained by God and draws Eve and Adam into a deadly role reversal with God and each other

Genesis 3:1-6

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die."' The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:17

Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.”

7. God calls the man to account first, not the woman

Genesis 3:7-9

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"

8. The Curse of “Desire” and “Rule” show the futility of role corruption

Genesis 3:16

To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you."

Genesis 3:16b

And for your husband will be your desire, and he shall rule over you.

Genesis 4:7b

And for you will be its desire, and you shall rule over it.

9. God named man and woman “man”

Genesis 5:1-3

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a sonin his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.


4. The Restoration of Loving Complementarity in Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7

A Definition of Headship

The divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, loving, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.

Primary Responsibility

Both words are crucial: primary, not sole; and responsibility, not rights. Burden-bearer, not boss.

Leadership

Implied in the concept of the husband as “head” of the body. (Contrast with the notion of “head” as source.)

Implied in the corollary that the wife is to “submit.”

It follows also from the fact that Christ was the leader of his disciples and is the leader of the church who submits to him as a leader.

Note: servanthood does not nullify leadership; it defines the method of leadership.

And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-27)

Protection

Implied in the death of Christ for the church to save her from the destroying effects of sin. His death for her was not merely a demonstration of sacrificial love; it was a love because it protected and saved (Ephesians 5:23, “Savior of the body”; 5:25).

Provision

Implied in the nourishing and cherishing that Christ does for the church, his own body, is an analogy of what the husband is to do for his own body, his wife (Ephesians 5:29).

A Definition of Submission

First what submission does not mean

1. Submission does not mean agreeing with everything your husband says.

1 Peter 3:1

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of themare disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.

2. Submission does not mean leaving your brain or your will at the wedding altar.

1 Peter 3:1

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of themare disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.

3. Submission does not mean avoiding effort to change your husband.

1 Peter 3:1

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of themare disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.

4. Submission does not mean putting the will of the husband before the will of Christ.

1 Peter 3:1

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of themare disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.

1 Peter 3:5-6

For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

Genesis 18:12

Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

5. Submission does not mean that the wife gets her spiritual strength mainly from her husband.

1 Peter 3:1,6

In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of themis disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives. . . Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

6. Submission does not mean acting out of slavish fear toward the husband.

1 Peter 3:6

Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

Concluding Definition of Submission

Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. Submission is an inclination of the will to say yes to the husband's leadership and a disposition of the spirit to support his initiatives.


5. Answers to Objections to Submission

What if the wife is more competent?

Would you still think a man should assume the responsibility of leader if he is less competent than his wife?

Answer: Yes. Competence in skills is not the issue. The differences between essential manhood and womanhood are the issue. That a woman may be better at a skill than a man does not alter whether he can and should assume primary responsibility for leadership, protection, and provision in the home.

Leadership is essentially assuming the burden of a pattern of initiative. The initiative itself may call for the wife to exercise her competencies in places and ways that the man may be deficient. Example: Reading during devotions that he initiates. Doing the math in the checkbook balancing, which he cares about and is diligent to oversee, lest the family come into financial difficulties.

What about mutual submission?

The most common objection to the picture I just painted of loving leadership and willing submission is that verse 21 teaches us to be mutually submissive to each other. "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ."

So one writer says, "By definition, mutual submission rules out hierarchical differences" (Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles, p. 154). In other words, if mutual submission is a reality between husband and wife, then it's a contradiction to say the husband has a special responsibility to lead and the wife a special responsibility to support that leadership and help carry it through.

Answer: It is simply not true. In fact, the writer who said that mutual submission rules out all hierarchical relationships shows that it’s not true a page later when he says, "The church thrives on mutual subjection. In a Spirit-led church, the elders submit to the congregation in being accountable for their watch-care, and the congregation submits to the elders in accepting their guidance” (p. 155). On page 251 he even says that "the congregations submit to their leaders by obeying . . ." In other words, when it comes to the church, he has no trouble seeing how mutual submission is possible between two groups, one of whom has the responsibility to guide and the other of whom has the responsibility to accept guidance.

And that's right. There is no contradiction between mutual submission and a relationship of leadership and response. Mutual submission doesn't mean that both partners must submit in exactly the same ways. Christ submitted himself to the church in one way by a kind of servant-leadership that cost him his life. And the church submits herself to Christ in another way by honoring his leadership and following him in on the Calvary road.

So it is not true that mutual submission rules out the family pattern of Christ-like leadership and church-like submission. Mutual submission doesn't obliterate those roles, it transforms them.

Does “head” really mean leader? What about “source”?

One other common objection to the pattern of leadership and submission is that the term "head" does not carry the meaning of leadership at all. Instead it means "source," somewhat like we use the word "fountainhead" or the "head of a river" (Bilizikian, pp. 157-162). So to call a husband the head of his wife wouldn't mean that he is to be a leader, but that he is in some sense her "source" or her "fountainhead."

Answer: There are long studies to show that this is not a normal meaning for the word head in Paul's day. But you'll never read these articles because they are too technical. So let me try to show you something from these verses that everyone can see.

The husband is pictured as the head of his wife as Christ is pictured as the head of the church, his body (see vv. 29-30). Now if the head means "source" what is the husband the source of? What does the body get from the head? It gets nourishment (that's mentioned in verse 29). And we can understand that because the mouth is in the head, and nourishment comes through the mouth to the body. But that's not all the body gets from the head. It gets guidance because the eyes are in the head. And it gets alertness and protection because the ears are in the head.

In other words, if the husband as head is one flesh with his wife, his body, and if he is therefore her source of guidance and food and alertness, then the natural conclusion is that the head, the husband, has a primary responsibility for leadership and provision and protection.

So even if you give "head" the meaning "source," the most natural interpretation of these verses is that husbands are called by God to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership and protection and provision in the home. And wives are called to honor and affirm the husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.


6. What Does “Saved through Childbearing” Mean?

1 Timothy 3:15

But women will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with discretion.

1 Timothy 2:15

Yet she will be saved through...

1 Corinthians 3:15

...though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

The curse of Genesis 3

Genesis 3:16

To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children.”

Faith

Romans 5:1

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Love

1 Corinthians 16:22

If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.

Holiness

2 Thessalonians 2:13

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through holiness by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Romans 6:22

But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in holiness, and the outcome, eternal life.

Discretion

1 Timothy 2:1-2, 8-15

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet (hsu,cion) life in all godliness and dignity . . . Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet (hsuci,a|). For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith and love and holiness with discretion.


7. Six Thoughts on Men and Women in Ministry According to the Bible

1. All Christians, men and women, are ministers (Ephesians 4:12). No one is off duty. All of life should have a radical orientation around the work of the kingdom.

2. Ministry is the stewarding of grace through gifts for the demonstration of love and the upbuilding of faith and the ingathering of God's elect. 1 Peter 4:10 is a crucial text for me in this regard: "As each has received a gift, use it as stewards of the manifold grace of God." (Cf. also 1 Corinthians 12, which stresses that all is to be done for the edification of the church.)

3. All spiritual gifts (not offices or roles) are given to women and are to be used for the good of the church, the reaching of the lost, and the glory of God.

4. The office of elder/overseer/pastor is the responsibility of spiritual men who aim to equip the saints for ministry through teaching and oversight. 1 Timothy 2:12 says that this teaching and authority is the unique responsibility of men and not women.

5. The difference between elder and deacon is the role of teaching and governing (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9) so that the easiest way to apply 1 Timothy 2:12 is to say that the elders of a local church should be men.

6. But the real action – the real ministry – in a healthy church is what is happening by the power of the Spirit through the gifts of the Spirit in the small groups and the informal times of ministry to one another with words of knowledge and wisdom and gifts of faith and healings and miracles and prophecy and discernment and mercy and teaching and exhortation and prayer, etc.


8. Five Reasons Why I Stand by this Distinction in Role Between Men and Women in Ministry

1. Because the sense seems plain to me and not terribly complicated in 1 Timothy 2:12-13.

2. Because this fits with the overall picture of complementarity in Genesis, Jesus' ministry, and Paul's and Peter's teaching on marriage.

3. I have never seen any other texts that contradict this meaning. What the other texts do (like Galatians 3:28 and Acts 2) is refine our applications and protect us from abuses.

4. The aim of the New Testament is to redeem sin-distorted relationships between men and women. But it redeems them by removing the distortions of headship and submission, not by leveling all distinction in role.

5. Since I see this distinction in the Bible, I believe it is good for women and men, and for our society as a whole, and for the glory of God.

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