Sexual Complementarity

Session 2

The Pursuit of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

The Danvers Statement, I think is the next thing your booklet after the previous message. Let me give you a little background here, and then we’re just going to walk through it as a summary of complementarity. The Danvers Statement was drafted by me, and then reviewed by a committee and published, and it has been used as the main statement of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which you can go to online. It’s an excellent website. And if you want to know the counterpoint — Evangelicals for Biblical Equality — you can type that into Google and you’ll see their website.

The two countering evangelical views are both there on their websites. Evangelicals for Biblical Equality is the more feminist side, and Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is the complementarian side. I’ve been on this from the ground level and drafted the document. It got refined by a committee, and now it’s still used. This does represent where I am, because I wrote it, and not much was changed after I wrote it.

Danvers Statement

Here we are at affirmations in the Danvers Statement. I think there are 10 of them. Based on our understanding of biblical teachings, we affirmed the following. This is a little brochure, and you can download it from the website of CBMW if you want it. This tries to summarize what we believe about sexuality and complementarity:

First, both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood.

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

Third, Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the fall and was not a result of sin. That’s what we’re going to take up in just a few minutes, and try to defend that from the Bible.

Fourth, 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 inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

You can see what I mean by distortions. Those distortions are not the way God made us to be — that’s what sin does to the complementarity of headship and submission.

Fifth, 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.

Sixth, 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.

Seventh, 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.

Do you follow that? When you call for submission to pastors, submission to husbands, submission to policemen, submission to governors, submission to an employer, or submission to a teacher in school — any of those overarching roles of authority and submission — none of them trumps the absolute authority of Jesus in your life.

So if a husband, a pastor, a teacher, policeman, or a governor says, “Sin,” you say, “No” whether you’re male or female, because you have a king. Your king is your absolute authority, not your husband. Your king is your absolute authority not your teacher, your policemen, your president, or anybody on earth. Jesus is the Lord of your life. And then, in freedom, 1 Peter says that we go back into the authority structures of the world and we become the best students. When I send my little girl off to Hope Academy, I pray for her regularly every morning and say, “Lord, make Talitha a very deeply respectful student for teachers and deeply loving to her fellow students.”

We have authority structures. She should be one way with students, and she should be another way with teachers. I want her to make a name for Jesus by being the most respectful, submissive, supportive, obedient, and fully compliant student. But if that teacher said, “I want everybody here to recite out loud, ‘Gay men, gay women, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women are equally right in their behaviors.’” I think she should say, “Excuse me, but I can’t say that because it’s not true.” And I hope she’d say it in a submissive way. Jesus is her Lord, and the Lord sends her into authority structures.

We should keep the speed limit because God sends us into authority structures as Christians. We should stop at stop signs and we should pay our taxes. We should fit the structures. That’s the way the Bible thinks about us. But if they put up a speed sign that says, “You must go 90,” then we wouldn’t obey it because it would be taking peoples’ lives too lightly.

Eighth, 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.

Here’s where I’ve gotten into some of the hottest situations. I went to Gordon Seminary one time and delivered a series of lectures on manhood and womanhood. We had a Q&A, and the women went to the microphones, and the first one that came up was livid and said, “Who do you think you are, telling me what God’s call on my life can be? Are you God?”

This is why the Danvers Statement says, “both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries.” She said, “I feel called by the Holy Spirit to be a pastor. You’re not God; God is God.” Now, I’ve learned a lot of things in my years of debating people like this. There’s some helpful things to do, and there are some unhelpful things to do. An unhelpful thing would be to say, “I just believe the Bible and you don’t. The Bible is objective, and I don’t think we should let our subjective states govern what it means, but let it define which of our subjective states are valid.”

Instead of that, I’ve learned to do this: If you were to stand up now, and some of you may be in this condition, and say to me, “I feel called to do something that you don’t think I should do. What should I do about that?” I would say, “I do not want to question your call. I want to question your read of the accuracy of the call. In other words, could it be, not that you’re uncalled or that God hasn’t moved in your life and stirred you up to love ministry, but that you’re interpreting the nature of the ministry differently than the way the impulse is working. You think it’s a call to be a pastor, but could it be that there’s an avenue along which those impulses of love and the gift of teaching could be exercised in a biblically appropriate way that isn’t this?”

I don’t want to stand up to that person and say, “I know you’re not called.” I just want to say that biblically, this person needs to rethink the avenue along which you believe the call is rightly exercised. That has gotten me out of trouble.

They don’t necessarily agree that they’re doing it wrong, but I have at least affirmed — and I really do believe this — that God works in the heart of women to give them a passion for ministry. In fact, I think all women should have a passion for some kind of ministry. I just think there are some boundaries in the Bible that show what that should be.

Ninth, with half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those 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.

Usually, the women who get bent out of shape at me in seminaries are women who have targeted a specific role, and they think that for me to call that role into question is to call their life into question. And I want to say, the possibilities of need-meeting in this world are endless. If I say, “I don’t think women should be elders,” and a person says to me, “Well, what can they do?!” I would point out all the ministry opportunities there are in the world. In the book What’s the Difference? I have a two-page-table at the back with about 100 ministries that men and women may join, because those needs are endless.

If you have a heart for lost people and a heart for suffering people, you have a legitimate job somewhere in the world, male or female. You don’t have to watch soaps all afternoon, I promise. In fact, I hope you don’t do that any afternoon.

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

Biblical Basis for Male Headship

It might be helpful to give some definitions before I launch into the Genesis defense that male leadership was taught before the fall, or was instituted by God before the fall.

The Meaning of Masculinity

This is my effort to state an answer for the ten-year-old, which will have to be unpacked big time because some of these are big words for a ten-year-old. When I’m thinking, “I have to have an answer for what it means to grow up and be a man and not a woman, and grow up to be a woman and not a man,” these are my answers. And then I unpack them phrase after phrase in that book. Here’s the definition:

At the heart of mature masculinity…

I’ll stop there to say that the word heart is intended to signal that this is not an exhaustive definition. I’m just saying Paul Jewett is partly right. This reality of male and female is imponderably deep. There’s no way I could begin to presume I know what it is to be woman or man to the core. These are mysterious and glorious things that I don’t think we can fully put into words. I just don’t think we’re left helpless in getting at the heart of what it is. That's why I use the word heart.

At the heart of mature masculinity, there is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships with a woman.

A husband, a pastor, a son, and a mailman don’t relate the same way to the woman who answers the door. The husband kisses her. The son runs to the kitchen and says, “Can I have a snack?” The woman answers the door to the mailman and says, “Thanks for the package. Don’t kiss me.”

There are ways that men are men with women who are not their wives, nor their parishioners, and it changes based on the relationship, which is why it’s so difficult to put into words. Is there a way to be a man with a woman that I pass on the street differently than if I were a woman? Or what about talking to a person on the telephone? These are delicate issues with nuances, feel, and ethos, and in the end, manhood comes out.

Meaning of mature femininity.

At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.

You’d have your work cut out for you to explain that to an eight-year-old, but you can. When I pray with my little girl, who’s 12 now, I regularly pray this: “Lord, grow Talitha up into a mature, godly, strong, intelligent woman who can discern in the men around her, who would be worthy of being her spiritual leader. Amen.”

Do you see what that builds into her? It builds in the fact that I want her to have a character about her, and I want her to know that the way she relates to a man in marriage is that he’s her leader. Therefore, choosing him is hugely important. How easy it would be if you just forgot all that and said, “He just has to be handsome, make a good living, and be nice to me.” When you add this component, women have their work cut out for them. And of course, men do too.

I pray, “Lord, I won’t control this in the end. I know I won’t. It’s not that kind of culture.” There’s a culture where you can buy a husband or somehow make the marriage happen, but not this one. That’s not going to happen. She’s going to choose this man, not me. And so my work is being done now at age 12. It won’t be done then. And I just pray that she will have a freeing disposition about her to affirm, receive, and nurture — that’s a huge word in this definition — the strength and leadership of worthy men. She’s going to have to discern the worth of a man and navigate the appropriate premarital relationships, and then move into one where she will gladly receive his leadership.

Nine Evidences of the Goodness of Male Leadership

In this section, I’m governed by the kinds of responses I’ve gotten over the years for affirming male leadership in the home and in the church, and for affirming the female support for that leadership called submission. Many people say that is a result of the fall. They would say, “You’re not presenting what ought to be. You’re presenting what is, and shouldn’t be! This whole hierarchical thing came in with the fall and is part of the curse. The passage says, ‘Your desire shall be for him and he shall rule over you’ (Genesis 3:16), and you’re telling me that’s right?”

My response to that is to look at my Bible and ask if there is evidence in Genesis 1–5 that this whole issue of male initiative, responsibility, protection, and leadership was ordained by God before the fall. Or, on the other hand, is there no evidence that male and female before the fall were somehow related like that? That’s where we’re going in the time that remains in this section. These are nine pieces of evidence in Genesis 1–5 that man’s leadership is an order of creation, not a result of the fall. It’s part of the fabric of the way God set it up when it was good.

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

See if you agree with that. Genesis 1:26 says:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

My suggestion here is that this doesn’t prove anything, but it seems to point in the direction that this use of the word Adam, or man, to define them suggests that man has a certain defining role or priority of being there to define the relationship.

2. Man was created first, and then woman.

This is what Paul picks up on in 1 Timothy 2:13. Genesis 2:7 says:

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Then Genesis 2:18 says:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

This points to the fact that God faces a choice: He could create them simultaneously out of the dust, or he could do it in some order. He could make the woman first or the man first. The fact that he creates man first contemplates that the woman is complementary to the man. He needs a helper. That order is significant to the Apostle Paul. To me, it points in the direction that men have a certain role to lead. Man goes ahead in creation, and man will be going ahead in leadership the rest of his life.

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

Before she’s on the scene, God says to him in Genesis 2:15:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God gives that mandate to the man, and we never read of God saying it to the woman. The assumption would be: “Make sure she knows this, because this is dangerous. You don’t eat of that tree, and that’s your charge. You have been told this and you’ll be given a woman soon. Make sure she knows.”

4. Woman was created from man and presented as a helper, suitable or fit for him.

This is drawn out by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:9–10. Genesis 2:18–23 says:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

The two things I’m drawing out here are that, first, she came from man. He was the origin. Instead of God creating both at the same time from the soil in some kind of parallel fashion, he created man first and then took the rib out of the side of man. But the context of how he does that is also very important. For Adam, there was no helper suitable for him, so the Lord God created a woman, and then he had a helper suitable for him. The word helper is significant, I think. It’s a partner to join you in the vision God gives you, in order to help you realize this vision.

If I use that argument with some, namely that she’s created as a helper for him, the response comes back, “God is called a helper. So maybe helper mean she’s the leader, she’s the stronger one, and she’s the superior. Now I regard that kind of response as really cheap. I understand at one surface level why a person might say it, but on a more reflective level, it just seems unworthy of a thoughtful scholar. And here’s why.

Of course God is called a helper of his people. The difference is that there’s a context here; there’s a flow of thought. The statement, “It’s not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him,” makes you ask, what kind of helper is he talking about? The first thing he does is go to animals. He’s not looking for a God here. He’s looking for help for Adam. Now this may at first seem very demeaning. Animals, and then woman. But there’s a point to it. The point is: “This is the kind of help I’m thinking about. You need help.” And then he goes through all the animals, and the point is: They’re totally the wrong kind of being.

But it does point you in the direction that he’s thinking. And then he says, “We’re not going to deal with animals here who were made out of nothing or out of the ground. We’re going to go right into you and take part of you. And I’m going to make what you’re going to call bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. This is woman. This is like you. Same nature, same essence as person in the image of God.”

And the point is: She’s not an animal. She’s in a totally different class than an animal, and the reason God went through animals first was to make crystal clear that’s not what he was bringing to Adam. He was bringing him one like himself. But the fact that he did it that way shows that he was not bringing him a superior. The whole realm of thought is one coming alongside, being an assistant, and helping him make things happen.

5. Man names woman.

Genesis 2:23 says:

Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
   and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
   because she was taken out of Man.”

It just seems to me that naming is a significant leadership function. If you name somebody, you have some kind of leadership. We named our daughter Talitha. I named our house and put it on the inside of the mailbox. We named Dusty, our new dog. Dusty didn’t name us, Talitha didn’t name us, and the house didn’t name us. It seems this points in the direction of some kind of leadership.

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

This is right at the heart of what Paul, I think, was wrestling with when he said, “It was not the man who was deceived, but the woman who was deceived” (1 Timothy 2:14). Watch this, see what you think. Genesis 3:1 says:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman…

That action was an assault on God’s order. I used the illustration with the high schoolers a little while ago that if a colonel in the U.S. Cavalry 200 years ago rode up to a group of Native Americans, and clearly one, because of his regalia, is the chief, and the others are his support. Then the Colonel rides up and he brings his horse right in line with the second guy, and totally ignores the chief and says, “I’d like to deal with you. We have a treaty to offer.” That’s what’s going on here, I think. And the reason I think so is because I think Adam is there. I don’t think he’s on the other side of the garden. I think he’s right there. And I think that way for two reasons. First, Genesis 3:6 says:

and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

It doesn’t say that he showed up. It just says that he was “with her.” Adam was there. And over in Genesis 3:17 it says:

And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
   and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
   ‘You shall not eat of it,’…

Role Reversal

What does it mean that Adam’s listened? What does this listening refer to? She never said a word to Adam — in the text anyway. He was just listening. He was just wimping out. That’s my read. He’s right there. And both of them, I think, at that moment sinned. I think the fall happened before the fruit was eaten. The serpent comes to her and subtly, craftily, makes her the spokesman and she bites. He subtly, craftily ignores the man and puts him in a role of watching and he bites. And they both go down together as Satan assaults God’s order. Let’s read the rest of Gen 3:1–6:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”…

Eve is already using language that shows she feels like God is a meanie and Adam is not correcting her. He’s not. He watches this woman going down, and he’s going now with her by his passivity. The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die.” We want to yell, “Adam, talk! The whole world is coming down.” The passage continues:

The serpent said to the woman, ’You shall not surely die. God knows on the day you’ll eat of it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and she ate, and she also gave to her husband with her."

There’s not the slightest indication that Adam showed up and had to be persuaded, as if she tricked him. They got tricked together. So when Paul says the woman was deceived and not the man, I think he means the devil targeted her for his direct deception, and thus undermined the role and structure of male leadership and female support for that. And from the moment he did that, it came apart. The application of 1 Timothy is that if you start putting women in the role as teachers and authoritative leaders in the church, the same thing will happen. I want to be careful here. It might mean what historically it has been taken to me, namely, that women are more gullible. It might mean that, over in 1 Timothy 2.

But as I read this, Adam is not doing his job. And he doesn’t have to be rationally persuaded to eat. He’s crashing and burning at the same time as Eve. He’s just watching it happen passively. And she’s doing the engagement with the deceiver, and in that sense she is the deceived one most directly. My interpretation of this is that Satan knows what I’m trying to prove, and he hates it; namely, that before the fall, God had established man as the leader and woman as the helper who was going to link arms with him, and in her very gifts and skills, partner with him to get the job done in the world. Satan sees that and says, “I’m going to ruin that and bring the whole world down with it.”

7. God calls the man to account first.

This is one of the clearest pieces of evidence. Some of the others are more vague. They’re just little pointers, but cumulatively they have a great effect, I think. This one does all by itself. This is once the fall has happened. Genesis 3:7–10 says:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.

That’s what happens when sin reigns. You become self-conscious and ashamed because there’s a dissonance between what you are and what you present yourself to be. The coherence and integrity of life has been shredded by doing what you know you shouldn’t have done. And now what once was so innocent, so clean, and so pure becomes, “Oh, I’m naked.” The passage continues:

And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And 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. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”

So the woman is the initial spokesman, seemingly drawing Adam in, and God does not operate on that priority. He turns it right around when he calls them to account and he goes to Adam first.

He says, “Where are you, Adam? I have an issue with you, Adam.” If you were Adam, you might say, “You got an issue with her,” which is what he did say — “You gave me this woman.” But God wouldn’t have it. I’ve said it a dozen times in the last 25 years: If Noël and I are having a problem, and one of us is sinning, maybe it’s Noël this time, and she’s messing up the family because of her hardheartedness or whatever, and Jesus knocks on the door, and Noël goes to the door and opens it, I believe what Jesus would say to her is, “Hello, Noël. Is John home? I need to talk to him. I’ll wait. Go get him.”

Now why would he do that? It’s her problem isn’t it? No — I’m always accountable in this family. I’ve got to take steps to fix everything. I have no rights, whatsoever, to back into the corner and say, “My wife has a problem and she can fix it,” or, “My wife has issues and this is not my fault.” Jesus won’t have it. He’s going to say, “Come here. Now, before we deal with Noël, I want to know what you’ve done. Tell me how you’ve worked on this. Have you prayed? Have you been reading your Bible. How have you been treating her? Is this coming out of any need not being met in Noël?”

He would walk through a long list with my role as leader in this family, before Noël got addressed, to make sure I have taken the kinds of initiatives I should have taken in this family, if possible, to head that off. When he’s done and I’m on my face repenting, then he’ll go to Noël and deal with her. That’s what he does. He says, “Adam, where are you?”

8. God puts a curse of resistance on the roles they have.

This is complicated. Put on your thinking cap. Genesis 3:16 says:

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing.
   In pain, you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
   and he shall rule over you.

Now, a lot of people historically have taken that to be a mandate, as if to say that sin is going to make her hot for her husband, and the man is going to come down on her with authority. And so, from that perspective, authority is built into the fall. It comes from the fall. So for me to make a case that authority is rooted in the pre-fall created order, they would say it goes against this verse.

I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. I don’t think it’s a mandate at all. I think this is a curse that shouldn’t happen. She shouldn’t do this, and he shouldn’t do this. And here’s why I think it means that. What is the desire spoken of in this verse and the rule? There is a parallel in Genesis 4:6–7:

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

That language is so close I feel like it cannot be an accident. It comes in Genesis 3:16, and then it comes again in Genesis 4:6. In Genesis 3:16 it’s addressed to the woman, and in Genesis 4:6 it’s addressed to Cain. What’s the meaning?

God tells Cain that sin is crouching at the door like a lion. It’s desire is for him. This cannot be sexual attraction. This lion doesn’t want sex. He wants to rule. He wants to own you, consume you, and be dominant over you; he wants to conquer you. I think that’s what that means. The statement “your desire will be for your husband” means that her desire will be to control him. It’s not going to happen. For Cain, he says it shouldn’t happen, and in Genesis 3:16 he says, “You shall rule over that.” That is going to happen, and it’s a curse.

Two things are going to happen that shouldn’t happen. That’s what the result of sin is. First, she’s going to desire to be like sin crouching at the door to always be controlling this guy, and he being the stronger, is going to use his strength to either to just go passive, watch TV, drink beer, and have chips, and then want sex at 10pm, or he’s going to smack her around. God has a better idea. That’s a curse. That’s not a mandate. That’s not what ought to be.

9. God named man and woman man.

I think this is why it’s good for men and women to have the same last name, and for it to be the man’s name. Genesis 5:1–2 says:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.

Those nine pointers suggest to me that before the fall, God had the idea that there should be a primary responsibility for the leadership of man.