What is complementarianism? Egalitarianism? Is one biblical? Unbiblical? Read on!
- NASB & NIV—“suitable for him”
- ESV—“fit for him”
- HCSB—“his complement”
The literal translation actually means “opposite or contrasting.” Men and women were designed to fit in all ways. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. When a husband and wife become one flesh at their wedding, they perfectly complement each other. Together, they become something stronger and more magnificent than they could be alone. The strengths of each compensate for the weaknesses of the other:
- When a husband thinks about his wife, he should see her as God’s suitable companion for him.
- When a wife thinks about her husband, she should see herself as God’s perfect fit for him.
We should give thanks to God for His wonderful design and do everything we can to fulfill the roles He has given us as husband and wife. One of the best ways to do this is by embracing the different roles and responsibilities He gave men and women.
What is egalitarianism?
Egalitarianism is the rejection of the different roles and responsibilities. Egalitarians believe God does not have separate and distinct plans for men and women. They see them interchangeably. Homosexual marriage, transgenderism, and bisexuality are simply extreme forms of egalitarianism.
The Scripture most cited by egalitarians is Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Using the verse to support egalitarianism takes it out of context because it deals with salvation. Everyone, whether Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, or female is saved by grace through faith apart from the law and works (Galatians 3:1–25). If Paul were saying men and women are identical in terms of responsibilities, he would be contradicting numerous Scriptures he wrote outlining the differences between the genders.
Bible scholar James Fowler explains:
Egalitarian assertions are based on false premises. [Identical] responsibilities and authority produces the chaos of no one having ultimate authority or responsibility. The egalitarian premises of socialistic communism are unworkable. Identity, value and worth are not found in gender function, but in a personal Being beyond ourselves.
What is complementarianism?
Complementarianism, on the other hand, teaches that God has separate and distinct responsibilities for men and women. This allows them to balance and support each other. Complementarians recognize the gender roles in Scripture are meaningful. When embraced they promote spiritual and emotional health that allows people to reach their God-given potential.
Genesis 1:27, 5:2, and Mark 10:6 state:
God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
The emphasis is not on God’s creating people but on His creating two different types of humans. One male and one female. The rest of Scripture reveals the distinct plans for each. Although men and women equally share God’s image and together have dominion over creation, God designed them differently in order to accomplish His purposes.
A poor criticism of complementarianism
Egalitarians claim complementarianism is chauvinistic. One gender is supposedly superior to the other. But a difference in roles and responsibilities doesn’t mean a difference in value. Two people can be different and equal. Men and women can have the same significance while not being identical. God’s very nature supports this in that there are three different Persons with distinct roles, but there is still equality.
In our day, many say there is no real difference between men and women. This makes sense if we are the result of mindless evolution, but the Bible says “male and female He created them.” To God, the differences between men and women are not accidents. Since He created them, the differences are good and meaningful. One of the saddest signs of our culture’s depravity is the amount and the degree of gender confusion today. It is vain to wonder if men or women are superior to the other. A man is absolutely superior at being a man. A woman is absolutely superior at being a woman. But when a man tries to be a woman or a woman tries to be a man, you have something inferior.
The real tragedy with egalitarianism
We can’t expect unbelievers to agree with God’s Word and accept complementarianism. The real tragedy is when Christians hold to an egalitarian view. They see no differences between men and women’s roles in the home or the church. Such individuals may not condone such outright sins as homosexuality and transgenderism, but they indirectly support these agendas by denying the gender roles and undermining God’s Word.
Just as men are needed in the home and the church in crucial ways, so women are needed in the home and the church in crucial ways. But the way each gender is needed is different. We must maintain the distinctions between men and women if we are to obey God’s Word.
- Were you taught a complementarian or egalitarian view of marriage? If egalitarian, are you willing to reserve judgment and openly receive what the Bible teaches about distinctions between husbands’ and wives’ roles and responsibilities? Why or why not?
- In what ways has egalitarianism influenced Western culture?
- Considering what you read about complementarianism, how would you refute the egalitarian assumption that a difference in roles and responsibilities implies a difference in equality, importance, or value.”
- In what ways do you and your spouse complement each other?