Simply stated, this debate pivots around roles that men and women play in the church and in marriage. One side says there should be no role distinctions (egalitarian) while the other side says there should be a hierachy of roles that influence leadership and submission (complementarian). One of my goals in this blog is to clarify the arguments on both sides of this controversial issue and to invite thoughtful dialogue from both sides. It helps me orient my own view in the context of the wider spectrum of thought and the interaction helps all of us grow in our personal convictions. I also enjoy seeing what I can learn about people in general by the nature of their responses (What do people seek? What do they react to? What emotions drive their reactions?) My visit last week to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting in Washington DC stirred this particular debate because we heard opposite views voiced by intelligent and spiritually mature people supporting their views from the Bible.
When it comes to our understanding of gender roles, the battle lines are often clearly drawn between the “traditional” complementarian view and the more “progressive” egalitarians. In the ongoing debate about male headship, most evangelicals—male or female, married or single—have chosen a side and can defend their position with some degree of skill and persuasiveness.
The Complementarian position is held institutionally by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood whose executive director is Randy Stinson. The egalitarian position is held institutionally by Christians for Biblical Equity Dr. Kevin Giles being a prominent spokesperson for this position. I met Dr. Giles last week and was struck by what a gracious gentleman he is, even though I do not hold his position. Notice that both sides base their views on the Bible. This is a good example of why I believe the Bible is not intended to be the final “handbook” word on all matters of human life. The best summary of each position I know of is by Bruce Ware who delineates the arguments, their biblical support, and the objections from the other side.
I have noticed that most reactions to either view are based on implications of a statement rather than an internal weakness. For example, many argue that the complentarian view allows for male dominance, domestic violence, and the notion that women are second-class citizens. I think this kind of reaction is emotionally based on fear and does not address the basic point.
Let me know your view.