Yesterday The Gospel Coalition released an article entitled “4 Dangers for Complementarians,” written by Gavin Ortlund (Find Here). I appreciate that Ortlund is encouraging complementarians to self-assess, but I am afraid he has only touched the surface of how dangerous complementarian theology is.
Ortlund shares that he grew up in a healthy complementarian family, which can most certainly happen. Likewise, I grew up in a healthy egalitarian family, in which Christian love and ethics were beautifully displayed. In fact, my egalitarian parents have been happily married for 38 years. Further, my husband and I who are egalitarians, will be married for 7 years this February.
Therefore, it is evident that egalitarian marriage can be just as godly and beautiful of a design as complementarian marriage.
I would even argue that many complementarians who claim to have a complementarian marriage, have an egalitarian marriage in actuality (and visa versa). So obviously, deep down, this conversation is not about marriage, as both egalitarian and complementarian marriages can be a beautiful testament to Christianity .
What this conversation is actually about is how complementarian theology has damaged the Body of Christ as a whole, and continues to do so.
Here are the actual 4 dangers of complementarianism:
The Gospel Coalition is notorious for making statements such as, “The truth is offensive,” as if they have figured out God’s divine plan better than all other Christians who are skillfully and faithfully studying the Bible. Ortlund even writes, “Of course, many people will disagree with complementarianism—often quite vehemently—no matter what we say or do. But the truth is offensive enough without our help.”
This is a prideful statement. Ortlund leaves no room for complementarianism to be wrong. He has put complementarianism on the same level as the Bible – the written Word of God. This should send chills down our spine, as complementarianism is theology (the study of God), not God, and not the Bible itself. Complementarianism is a manmade doctrine, which means it is flawed to some degree.
Complementarians continue to interpret the Bible in such a way that limits God’s daughters in how they can serve the Kingdom. Often, they can be children’s pastors, but they cannot be youth pastors. They can sing God’s message as worship leaders from the stage, but they cannot preach God’s message as teachers from the stage. They can be famous preachers that write Bible studies, books and lectures (that both men and women learn from), but they cannot be teaching pastors or elders at their local churches.
To make matters worse, seminaries that are associated with complementarianism admit female students and take lots of their money, fully knowing that they will never be considered for higher level jobs within local churches. This fact in itself should keep us up at night, as the Church is contributing to the national debt, caused by seminary student loans, young female ministers simply cannot pay back.
Complementarianism suggests that female ministers can either work with children or with other women, but the facts are that many female ministers do not feel called to work with children and paid women’s pastors are typically only found at mega churches, making these jobs rare and highly competitive. To make matters worse, untrained pastor’s wives are given honorary titles and platforms, while trained and called female ministers are unable to find jobs, a voice, and a purpose.
Complementarianism empowers men, the already powerful. This began as a way of motivating “lazy” men to grow up, take responsibility, and be better husbands and fathers. Overtime, however, this type of power goes to one’s head. Ephesians five is about husbands laying down their cultural privilege and physical power, in order to love and empower their brides. The passage speaks nothing of husbands taking authority or making final calls for the home or local church.
When we give power to the already powerful, we set up a breeding ground for all sorts of abuse. When we tell flawed men that they are literally “like Christ” to the women in their lives, girls and women are in trouble. The truth is that men are simply human and have historically been prone to abuse girls, women and each other. Even if we train men to be “godly men,” their depravity will come through to various degrees.
Complementarianism has claimed to have found “true biblical manhood” and “true biblical womanhood,” and no Christian wants to openly question what is “biblical.” In the evangelical church, this is like questioning God Himself. Therefore, men and women who sense deep down something is wrong with complementarianism are afraid to speak up and break free.
Complementarianism is based on hierarchies and order. This creates fear among both men and women, as no one dares to get out of “God’s order.” The truth is that God is love and God is a good parent. There is no fear in God.
God is not a drill sergeant type of parent, who doesn’t permit His daughters to sit at elder tables and preach the Bible from the pulpit. Gender cannot define our unique giftings and callings. Plenty of women throughout Scripture and church history demonstrated strong leadership abilities, over both men and women. There is freedom in Christ to be who we are uniquely destined to be.
Ortlund himself states,
In the Bible, women are involved in ministry in many different ways. Just to pick out one example: many women throughout the Old Testament were prophets (Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and so on), and in the New Testament the gift of prophecy is clearly given to both men and women (Acts 2:17-18, 21:9, 1 Corinthians 11:5). In our complementarian settings, do we seek to accommodate anything like this example?
The truth is that complementarianism does not have room for female prophets, because a modern-day female prophet looks a lot like a preacher, blogger, evangelist, teacher and author whose words do hold authority over both men and women because they speak for God.
Female prophets are rising up everywhere and calling out injustice in the Church. We can only pray that God will give The Gospel Coalition eyes to see and ears to hear.
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