What are Complementarians so Afraid of?

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It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to understand complementarianism, because I keep getting “Twitter blocked” by their “strongest” advocates (great way to get your message out there, guys).

I will say this about good ole’ Douglas Wilson – he has not blocked me and I have not gone easy on him or his daughter, so c’mon, feminists, we gotta hand it to him for this.

I hate to admit it, but I have gained a bit of respect for the Wilson family. Of course, I will continue to stand with the victims of their so-called “empire,” but they are the only complementarian “public figures” who have taken the time to engage with me. At least Rebekah Merkle’s smart mouth shows that her parents have allowed her to be human.

So far, I have been blocked by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).

May I just be honest? Even their name makes me cringe; I am not saying they are self-righteous (ahem), but I am saying that the name of their organization is self-righteous.

It is as if they are saying that they have found the hidden formula of “biblical” manhood and womanhood and will counsel us if we will simply sit at their feet and submit to their gender-based hierarchical establishment.

On top of this, I have been blocked by one of their “golden boys,” Gavin Peacock, whose theology is increasingly getting stranger.

When I first reached out to Peacock about his “out-there” theology, he asked me if I wanted to email about it. I said, “No, I want to have a Twitter conversation about it.” I don’t want to sign up for your blog, Peacock; I am simply trying to understand how your patriarchal mind works in 140 letters….Geesh. Ok, maybe he was right to block me. Whatever. Moving on.

I then moved on to a female who writes for CBMW, but I was really nice about my question.  (I am nicer to women. I know it is sexist and I am working on it, so give me a break.)

She wrote a tweet about how she wanted her boys to grow up to be courageous. I simply tweeted something like, “If you had daughters, would you teach them to be courageous like Judge Deborah in the Old Testament?” She never answered and blocked me that day. WHAT?! Why?! It was an honest question.

I genuinely think most complementarians are afraid of strong women who read and understand the Bible for themselves.

I have had complementarian friends tell me that they cannot “like” my Facebook ministry page (find here if you want to “LIKE”…love my plug?!) because the young women that they are mentoring might see and get confused.

I have had complementarian friends who I thought I was close to unfriend me on my personal facebook page. Theology is never worth dumping friends over. Never. But, if you want to be a blogger who writes about stuff that actually matters, you will lose friends.

It is simply the nature of this business that you work 60 hours a week (or more) and make little to no money (HAHA). I laugh to keep from cryin.’ 😉

So, what are complementarians so afraid of? Seriously, I am asking YOU! I have 12 guesses, but maybe I am wrong.

  • That the interpretation of the Bible that they (and their family) have clung to for a long time is WRONG and they don’t want to admit it?
  • That some evangelical feminists might actually love Jesus?
  • That some evangelical feminists might actually believe the Bible to be the inspired, authoritative Word of God and can prove their theology with really great points?
  • That some evangelical feminists may not be falling down the “slippery slopes” predicted, by loosening up on so-called “biblical gender roles?”
  • That some evangelical feminist women actually love men?
  • That some evangelical feminists ARE men?
  • That some men actually want to be loved even more than they want to be respected, and some women may actually want to be respected even more than they want to be loved?
  • That some men actually enjoy being stay-at-home dads?
  • That some women actually enjoy going to work and being breadwinners for their families?
  • That some women are fiercely protective?
  • That some men are more emotionally sensitive than their wives?
  • That some wives want sex more than their husbands do?

Ok, 13 questions. Are they afraid that women and men might actually be human, complex, wonderfully made and unable to fit into ill-fitting boxes (pretty sure that is in the Bible somewhere)?

I could go on, but I don’t want to take all the good ones. So, what is it?

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67 Comments

  • You took all the good ones!! I think they are genuinely afraid that to believe any other way is to dishonor God…and to be logical is very, very bad. Because logical does not equal biblical. ??

    My take away from a dating relationship I was in with a comp (ok, what was I thinking?) is that they DO NOT want to reevaluate their beliefs. They see the entire Bible and world through a complementarian lens and so to reevaluate could bring their house of cards DOWN.

    • Yes, I agree that they see the Bible through the lens of complementarianism – even the Trinity. To let go of this, may feel like their whole house is falling down. Sorry I took all the good ones..LOL.

  • I would say # 1 a fear that what they have believe to be true for so long is wrong. When you believe an interputation of God instead of believing God himself, and the interputation get demolished than you have nothing left. The reality of how you have lived your life becomes more horrific than the lie your living in. You also have to then have to realize the horror of oppression, cruel torture and terrible wrongs and vilolence that has been committed against women by every Christian hero/teacher you have ever looked up to. It would be like saying ‘I believe in God so aliens don’t exist!’ Then if I found out that aliens did exist by irrefutable proof, what does that do to my belief in God after making that kind of an absolute declaration? You ether have God or Aliens but in my mind the two cannot co-exist at all so the existence of one voids the possibility of the other.

    • I think many have built their entire lives on this theology and many women in these camps literally gave up dreams. To admit they gave up their dreams for nothing would be painful for anyone.

  • I think one aspect is that if a comp admits they are wrong, then they will need to repent for previously choosing to interpret Scripture in a way that oppresses people. The truth is no one is required to see something that they do not wish to see, they can continue to claim to simply not see it. We see this in denialism of all sorts of things, you cannot stop me from denying what I want to deny.

    • Yes, I think this a good point. Right now, many complementarians do not want to admit that they are oppressing people in the name of religion. They think they are following the Bible.

  • Excellent question! And good answers! I’ve asked it myself many times. As a former complementarian who often finds himself in complementarian circles, it seems a lot of people I know are afraid that God would be greatly offended if we let a woman preach, teach, pray, etc. Perhaps another question we should be asking is what are we missing out on by not listening to what women have to say?

    • So true. I think we are missing out on so much by not allowing women to preach – she is the other half of the image of God! 🙂

  • I was telling my mom about your blog yesterday and how some of your guests have had horrific experiences under the complementarism umbrella and she was surprised as well. Like wow, really? I was never stunted in my growth of learning the Bible and neither was she. And I think I told you our complementarism was soft at best.

    But it’s not a matter of fear in my opinion, Jory. You are fighting tradition, you are fighting church history, you are fighting couples who have successful marriages under this umbrella. You are fighting a strong tide. Plus, I wouldn’t see it as fear. You and them are sincerely lovers (hopefully!) of the Lord and want to do what is correct. With the current culture fighting against the church some people are genuinely afraid this is the cause (not my words but something I read) and want to combat it.

    It wasn’t until I started to read your blog I could begin to see some of the concerns you had about complementarism and at least that’s something. Even if you can’t spearhead the cultural change in the church you want, (go for it, girl) you can affect individuals and that may be what He has called you for. I don’t know. A little leaven and all that as it’s said.

    Keep it up girl!

    • Thanks for sharing another perspective Parker. It is good to hear the other side of things. I do think complementarians tend to fear lining up with culture. The interesting thing though, is that patriarchy is much more in line with culture when we leave first world countries.

    • One response to successful comp couples is the fact that people are individually unique — that some peoples’ personalities and giftings would line up to make it work. The thing is for others, the personalities and giftings do NOT line up under a comp model and flowed better under egalitarianism.

      • Yes Kevin. I think about this a lot. Seems like men who are natural leaders in the marriage are drawn to comp. theology and seems like women who are natural leaders in the marriage are drawn to egal. theology. However, I think egal. theology leads to freedom for everyone. 🙂

  • Jory, I think male complementarians are, quite frankly, afraid of letting women into positions of leadership. They are men who want to keep the power to themselves. Why they take this approach is harder to say. I’m sure many genuinely believe it is the teaching of the Bible, but that’s because it suits their self-interests. As well as that, I think more than a few are just plain sexist, in that they regard women as inherently inferior to men. This has been the attitude of men throughout history and it’s only just beginning to change.

    I also think your first point (admitting they were wrong) is also very relevant. Evangelicals (of which I am one) love to claim that they know it all and have the right understanding of the Bible. It would be a huge loss of face for someone to accept that they’ve been wrong.

    I don’t like saying all that but I have no other explanation as to why this topic is promoted so strongly within the church, why it generates so much heat, and why so much effort is devoted to attacking egalitarians.

    • “I’m sure many genuinely believe it is the teaching of the Bible, but that’s because it suits their self-interests.” YES TO THIS!

  • I know for some comp men I have spoken with, there IS fear but it is actually a fear of disobedience of God. Their understanding of Scripture requires that they “do” complementarianism even when it is uncomfortable and even seems dumb sometimes. One man told me that if it was up to him, he would much rather function in an egalitarian role, however he has not been able to be convinced of the egalitarian reading of Scripture. He fears that he will stand before God one day and be held accountable for how he led in church and in his home.

    I disagree with this, however, it made me sympathetic to many men who are just trying to live obediently to the Word over their own feelings. I can respect that.

    For some women, I think it is sheer laziness. I’ve had more than a few women tell me that they are glad that God made men leaders because it means that 1) they don’t have to worry about stuff, 2) they aren’t responsible if things go wrong. This one probably drives me crazier than the rest.

  • I think a lot of the fear stems from lies they have believed from an early age. I mean, how scary is it when your parents tell you that unless you obey this verse the way you have been taught, you are outside the will of God and risk your salvation? I believe that if Christians would start thinking, reading and BELIEVING God’s word, their theology and lives would change. It all comes down to who you believe, God or what you have been told.

      • But, I’m afraid it’s a theology that is derived more by listening to a interpretation of scripture, than self deep open minded, God show me the truth of scripture type study. It’s a study that has been handed down generation to generation and simply accepted rather than reading the Bible word for word, front to back. It’s a verse here and a passage there theology instead of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. And I think it’s all the reasons given here.

  • I think they may be afraid of the challenge to the thinking behind their tweets that questions pose. Owen Strachan tweeted a while back that testosterone was on display at the cross. It was my first interaction with him. I simply asked with a genuine tone how testosterone was on display. I was blocked. I have no blog. No real following. I’m not that vocal on Twitter. I didn’t challenge, disagree, or call names. I asked for further explanation. Similar scenario with Gavin Peacock, who followed me first, only to turn around and block me after a question about his tweet.

  • That blocking practice intrigues me too. One of the earliest to block me is a man who subscribes to strict patriarchy (no woman ever gets up to speak in any way at a gathering where men are present). He also spends his time engaging in what he calls “open air evangelism”. When I said women should be allowed to teach and lead just as men, he blocked me. Odd for someone who claims his work is evangelism to then block someone like me who he must think needs the gospel since I am so far off his understanding of God.

    • LOL, I know. It seems strange to block everyone who disagrees with you. I mean, I can understand if they are rude or a pest, but c’mon. We are all adults here. I think. 🙂

  • The answer is no to all those questions. It is a matter of obedience to the revealed word of God and if you then say that the issue is cultural then you are really saying you do not believe that bit of the word of God because it does not suit your purpose. If you then hold to that position then there is nothing to stop you, or people you influence in failing to to believe other parts of the bible even if that is not your intention. I believe that there is coming a day of judgement and we are warned that many will say Lord Lord and he will say I never knew you. There is a risk that one is caught up in feminist issues, sincerely believing you are doing the right thing, only to find out too late that you were wrong. I have not heard the term Complimentarian before and that is probably because I am not an American. However, I need to qualify things and say that the bible tells us to love our wives as christ loves the church. A woman has to feel accepted, not oppressed like big brother is watching over her and if she does then something is seriously wrong. It seems to me that if one is in the army and a soldier is given an order. The soldier knows to obey the order. He does not debate it. In the church is seems God has revealed his will and instead of obeying, we have to have a debate about it so that our will is imposed. One that satisfies our ambitions.

  • I’m not sure where else to communicate this with you so I’ll write here. I was looking at your website and on your “Donate” section, you have a sentence in the photo of the young woman and man holding hands. At first glance my eye visually closed it and read it this way: “Imagine a church where brothers & sisters in Christ equally lead together…” But, reading it again, I realized that the first “r” was omitted from the word “brothers” making it be “where BOTHERS and sisters in Christ equally lead together…”

    Whoops!

  • Frankly, I don’t care what they think. Complementarianism is unbiblical, and they won’t listen to the scriptural evidence. Sorry, they stone the ones who come to you with truth, and then wonder why people are leaving the church. And I don’t give the Wilsons a pass at all, but rather than sling mud and sink to their level, I’d rather they are judged before the Throne. Cast not your pearls, Jory!

  • Complementarian men blocking you for a minor disagreement = throwing a mantrum.

  • Love your 13 questions!

    To be fair, I’ve blocked commenters on my blog–though not on Twitter and Facebook. I engage a bit, but I write a large blog about marriage, and when I get complementarians arguing that men turn to porn because wives won’t put out (seriously, it’s always complementarians arguing that; do they know how creepy that sounds?), I block them because I don’t want people giving Jesus a bad name on my blog. And I get so many non-Christians that I’m afraid of letting too much of this stuff through.

    So I guess they would argue that I’m afraid of them for blocking them, but I’m really just afraid of their horrible witness.

  • I think there’s some cognitive dissonance involved — I have witnessed it happening particularly with this issue. When what you’re saying makes sense but contradicts a long-held belief, it’s easier to simply mute the voice rather than wrestle through that dissonance. It also raises the possibility of “If I’m wrong about this, what other beliefs that I have about God/Scripture might be wrong?” And then, as others have mentioned, there is power at stake. Rather than seeing co-laboring and co-leading as a sharing of burden, it is perceived as a loss of power and that cuts straight to the heart of people’s basest fears.

  • My guess is that they block you because you are a threat to their belief that they know deep know is not as indefensible as they try to make complementarianism to be. I tried really hard to be a complementarian, but being the breadwinner and the only adult consistently being the responsible adult, I’ve had to repeatedly take the leadership role of the household that I was groomed for my whole life. Even as I melted down on my sponsor last night (Hi, I’m Martha, and I’m an alcoholic) saying that I really just want to be taken care of instead of being superwoman/supermom. Sorry, didn’t mean to make that all about me. haha! But, anyway, the wife submitting to her husband without mutual submission breaks down completely when substance abuse is involved and the husband won’t submit to anyone and won’t work and will only keep his word to his fellow party buddies instead of his family. And I will stop rant vomiting now. 😉

  • From a UK and Anglican perspective I find this fascinating. Having worshipped in churches with both men and women in charge the whole controversy seems quite alien. However, it does surprise me to see how many complementarians seem so insecure that they block people so easily. Whatever happened to robust debate.

    • Yes Ian, you would be surprised how women are treated like 2nd class citizens in the evangelical church. It is tragic. Thanks for having our back over in the UK!

  • OR. . . maybe it isn’t fear at all, but an unwillingess to waste time arguing with someone who isn’t really interested in being convinced as much as she’s interested in debunking what she doesn’t agree with. . . we see you coming a mile away and after trying to reason with a few of you, we just get tired of arguing. It doesn’t matter that it’s the first time you’ve come to me, if your the 15th one to come, I’m usually done dealing with you as a crowd even if you as an individual haven’t gotten to take a crack at the bat.
    And, they aren’t the only ones censoring: “Please Note: Comments should not be disrespectful, snarky, off-topic, or overly long. Criticism should be constructive and ongoing harassment and “pest-like” behavior will not be tolerated.”
    By your own admission you are gentler on women then you are on men. . . MAYBE, you have occasionally been disrespectful, snarky, or pest-like?
    I don’t know you, I don’t know the people of whom you speak, this is my first time to this blog, and I had to look up “complimentarianism” because I hadn’t heard the term before, BUT as one who writes unapologetically about controversial topics, I can say, that sometimes I just don’t feel like giving you a platform to voice your garbage. It’s not that I can’t argue your points. It’s that sometimes, I just don’t care to be the one arguing. Sometimes, to do the response justice it takes a comment longer then the original post and *sigh* sometimes I just don’t feel like putting that much effort into dealing with someone who is not really there for a discussion.
    But, if I do. I’ll blow you out of the water. So, sometimes me blocking you is me doing what I need to do to be Christ-like, because my flesh takes special joy in ripping prideful pests apart, and sometimes, when your eye offends you, pluck it out, or when you can’t answer without shredding the other person, you should just take the temptation out of the way altogether.
    So, it may not always be fear that causes you to get blocked.
    It may be that you’re annoying or that your one too many annoying people or that we’re done engaging because we’ve seen that it’s futile to try and convince someone who isn’t questioning or seeking to begin with. And, that just leaves you coming to us to convince us that we’re wrong, and at a certian point we- just like you- say, “I’m not going to see it your way, so the discussion in over”.

    • Also, I have 2 questions that complementarians never seem to answer: 1) 1) Just how much authority are women allowed in the church, the home, and society in general? 2) Since women may not “usurp authority” over men, at what age does a boy become a man?

    • Not Afraid: I do think you are afraid. Afraid our arguments are in the scriptures we give, afraid that someone will finally go with what their God given heart has been telling them and let themselves be free of patriarchy aka complementarianism.

      Your comment shows that you are the one shutting out discussion of ideas and differing theology. It’s not an argument to simply talk and point out in scripture where your view may be wrong, yet you call our view “garbage.” You call talking arguing, and line to line, word for word, I could go on, but your post is self explanatory.

      In the time it took you to write this comment you could have been calmly writing a discussion comment. So yes, you are afraid, or at least wishing feminist Christians were not out there with reasonable scripture and conversation. As for blowing someone out of the water(which I disagree you could even possibly do), pretty well sums up your whole demeanor. So accusing Jory of being what it is obvious you are is what is the word I’m looking for? Disingenuous? Hypocritical? Wrong ?

      Scripture I believe sums up what I believe this way: Men ruling over women was as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, it was not and is not God’s ultimate plan. Christ’s death on the cross did more than give us a way to heaven through salvation, but made all things right. That includes men ruling over women. Scripture? Genesis through Revelation all points to Christ.

    • Not afraid? Then why anonymous? You talk about “what you need to do to be Christ-like” And yet under the veil of anonymity you outright declare her writings garbage, declare that she is a prideful pest AND you assume she is not seeking truth. *sigh* Judge much?

  • 1. I would consider it a badge of honor to be blocked!
    2. I think you would agree that egalitarianism will gain the most ground with those who aren’t already extremists (like members of CBMW). This is meant to be an encouragement because by no stretch of the imagination has your ministry been “blocked” from where it will have the most impact.
    3. My favorite theorhetical fear is that ‘there might be women who want to be respected even more than than want to be loved’ because I am one of them. I would like to see that book shamed for what it is: sociologic pseudo-science propaganda.

    • HEHE, honestly, I don’t care if people block me anymore. There have been times I have been too harsh (because I am human) and I don’t blame them for blocking me. But most of the time, these folks simply can’t handle constructive criticism.

  • Considering that you are guilty of blocking complementarians…of what exactly are you afraid?

    Truthfully, we’re not afraid of you…though I suspect those that have blocked you are simply tired of your vehement crusade.

    • Leslie. I have no problem with people blocking those who are disrespectful. I blocked you on FB because you were disrespectful towards me after several warnings. Consider this another warning. I have no problem blocking you from my blog too.

      People are free to disagree with one another in a fashion of respect.

  • Love this! I’ve lost friends and family friends from my old church for speaking out and saying I don’t agree. I grew up in a church with a strong emphasis in gender roles, hierarchy and complementarianism. I never could fit the cookie cutter role they had in mind. It killed me. I felt like I spent twenty years trying to be someone I’m not and then when I finally did my own research and started writing that I thought they might be wrong many ppl just rejected me outright. I mean at first they tried to change me but when they saw i couldn’t be manipulated back into my role they abandoned me. Quite sad really since I clearly still believe in the core tenants of Christianity!

  • Well, we’re not afraid of you, for sure, but we will warn people about dangerous theology. And for the record, while you may not have blocked me, you have certainly ignored serious questions of mine in the past, so I don’t think it’s quite fair to paint us as the the ones who are doing all the blocking and ignoring:-). I have decided, though, that it’s not the most valuable time to continue trying to regularly engage in this way.

    • What are you questions Sarah? I did not ignore you intentionally. I would be happy to engage with you. Please ask one question at a time because I engage with dozens of people daily and I can’t get to every comment or question. Thanks and God bless. 🙂

      • They were responses to tweets, so I would have to go back through and find them, which I don’t intend to do at this point.

        • OK Sarah. Sometimes Twitter is a hard place to chat, but I really am open to your questions. I can respond easier here on my blog. If you think of a question, please do not hesitate to ask here on my blog or email me at jorymicah@gmail.com.

          I can try to respond on Twitter too sometimes, but it is tougher there due to the short space to write. I am sorry you have felt ignored. Like I said, I get so many questions and comments everyday and it is hard to get to them all.

          God bless. Xo

  • Been looking over a lot of your posts. There’s an interesting quote that fits…

    If your passion sounds like anger…you’re not ready to lead.

    Most complementarians I know do not fear the egalitarians. They have a great respect for God’s Word and desire to follow it as closely as possible. They don’t quote scholars…they quote Scripture as the authority for their conduct. They treat women well, not as 2nd class citizens as you accuse. Complementarian women don’t fear you or regret their “role.” They realize that God gave them their gifts and they are to be used as He designed, not necessarily to suit them (their feelings).

    Most of them are genuinely concerned for your soul. They’ve listened to you…considered your position and are tired of your anger. They’ve let you go. There is nothing more to be done for/with one who lacks respect for God’s Word.

    • The thing is that I am not angry at complementarians; there are actually many complementarians that I love. I am angry at the enemy’s lies and His twisting of God’s Word. Complementarianism is NOT God’s Word. It is a legalistic, oppressive, false doctrine that does not respect God’s Word.

      • What is the objective standard for defining complementarianism as a twisting God’s Word? What is the objective standard for false doctrine? What is the objective standard for oppressive? legalistic?

        You and your feelings?

        Can people use the idea of woman as man’s complement to do wrong? Yes. Does that make complementarianism wrong? No. What God designed is not now, nor was it ever, oppressive toward women…nor can anthropology prove it so. However, people with an agenda, who refuse to understand God or consider his perspective, have assigned their view of “oppressive” to God’s design.

        So why not take a step back…

        You call it legalism…Yet complementarians (men and women) see it as obeying what God revealed. God calls it obedience…and it is an expression of love – I John 5:3

        Jesus said…My yoke is easy and my burden is light – Mt 11:28

        False teachers are those who knowingly teach what is contrary to God’s word (2 Peter 2;1-3)…complementarians teach what is revealed. What changed to make it a false teaching? Feminism.

        Maybe the problem is your context…not complementarianism.

          • “Your doctrine”…interesting…not God’s Doctrine or what is revealed in the Scriptures. That says a great deal…rather arrogant.

            I’ve read your thesis, Jory. You quote a lot of people who quote a lot of other people to justify their position. They don’t appeal to the Scripture for their authority.

            Here’s a thought…why not quit attacking the complementarians. Leave them alone.

            You lack an objective (one that exists outside the thoughts of you or another person) standard to support your claims of:
            – oppressive
            – legalistic
            – false doctrine
            – twisting Scripture

            My prayer is that God will allow you to live to an age where you finally objectively see His perspective on the matter…rather than viewing His Word through your own pain and feelings.

          • Penni –

            You are beginning to attack me, by calling me “arrogant,” which is not permitted on my blog. Consider this your first and last warning. If it happens again, your email will go on my black list and you will be unable to comment on my blog.

            God bless.

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