Karen alerted me on Facebook to an interesting discussion taking place on a few different blogs and asked what I thought. As I was reading through all the relevant articles, I decided to just start jotting down some thoughts here as I was going.
Here are the articles I read although I am only going to interact primarily with the first two and their comments:
A New Wave of Complementarianism from Practical Theology for Women
New Wave Complementarianism: A Question and a Concern from Kevin DeYoung
Some Clarifications About NWC and a Response to Kevin DeYoung’s Question from Sometimes a Light (Don’t miss her story about a conversation with a man about Jesus and Sarah. Words fail.)
My first thought is that I’m glad this is being discussed. I’ve been raising these same questions for a few years now as has Karen and others. This little blog I do in my spare time is full of links to articles, posts and such that point out the serious problems within the complementarian establishment. The evidence is there for all to see.
The complementarian establishment has done a poor job of understanding what is going on around them. I don’t know if they are denial, busy or what. But there are so many people who have been asking legitimate questions and raising the warning flags for years now. The response has been to minimize, ignore or (in the most extreme cases) demonize those who ask questions.
I think perhaps finally over the past six to twelve months I’m starting to see the realization dawn amongst some of them that perhaps they really do have to listen to people who are asking questions.
Here are some random thoughts I jotted down as I was reading. I’d love to do a detailed and carefully structured response, but my life doesn’t allow it at this time. So in random order…
People consistently point out the problems stemming from the complementarian teachings but the complementarian leaders pooh pooh the comments and concerns. Their consistent reply is “But that’s not what complementarianism is.” Somehow they seem to totally miss again and again that that is what complementarian is on the ground. The complementarian name has been taken over by people who are loudly advocating for all manner of things. What the complementarian establishment believes complementarianism is is NOT what many people think complementarianism is. They have a serious marketing problem on their hands.
If TGC, CBMW and so on won’t police their own, others will do it for them. I don’t know if these men are afraid of each other or if they are afraid of being removed from the inner circle or what. But there have been some really outlandish and downright scary things preached, written and promoted by men in these circles. And no one calls them out on it. At least not publicly. And publicly is where it needs to happen if they are writing things that are confusing people or leading them astray.
I’m really surprised I haven’t read something about it being shameful for women to bring all this to light. Because I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of these men will deeply resent having to respond to these women. Some of these men clearly want to drive the agenda and discussion. To have women forcing a point to which they must respond does not fit well with their ministry paradigm or their view of the proper way things should be done in a complementarian world.
The cry of “That’s not what I meant” by popular complementarian authors doesn’t cut it. If you make your living leading other Christians through your preaching, teaching and writing, then it is your responsibility to make sure you are clearly articulating your view. When people continually call out these same leaders for the things they have written or said that leave the door open to all kinds of problems, they need to man up and own their words. They need to clearly articulate what they do and DO NOT mean instead of saying that people are misunderstanding them. If you make a living as a communicator, then communicate. If you feel called to lead people, then lead them. If people don’t understand your leadership, it is your problem not theirs.
There is a reason I have Complementarianism and Neo-Reformed Complementarianism in the sidebar. They are not the same thing.
The issue of women being deacons may be downplayed in RBMW and by the CBMW, but I think that is a mistake. The issue of women being deacons is a key issue for many women, including increasing numbers of complementarian woman. The argument for women deacons is very strong. But many (most?) complementarians will not embrace it because they view it as the slippery slope to women being elders. Not embracing women as deacons seriously undermines the complementarian stance in the mind of many.
There are complementarian leaders who are arguing that complementarianism = patriarchy. This sends up red flags for many Christians. Again, I don’t know if the complementarian establishment is just naive or not in tune with what is going on around them, but the patriarchy thing is a big deal and it isn’t going to go away.
The cognitive dissonance is a huge deal. I think this may especially be true of younger women who are in healthy marriages with men who are their best friends. Marriage is very different for recent generations than it was previous ones. Women are constantly told from the pulpit that they are subversive usurpers and that everything wrong in a marriage can be traced back to the woman not submitting. Then they look at their own marriages and they see NOTHING of this. The incessant and unrelenting focus on women submitting or else they will destroy their marriage (and the church and civilization as we know it) makes no sense to them (or me).
Lastly, the internet has opened dialog in ways never possible before. It’s really hard to demonize the egalitarians when you interact with them online and have pleasant discussions with them. When you realize that many of them are deeply committed to the Scriptures and long to follow Christ faithfully so they can hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,” all of the sudden you realize that maybe the questions they are asking are honest and come from a heart deeply committed to Christ. Making all egalitarians out as the enemy to be appeased (as DeYoung put it) is truly an insult to the brothers and sisters in Christ who take this view.