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What is Complementarianism? (by Geoff Ashley of the village church)

 

What is Complementarianism?

SUMMARY: While being absolutely equal in personhood and dignity, man and woman are distinct in their roles in the home and church. This position is to be distinguished from both ancient patriarchy that often neglects the equality of the sexes and egalitarianism which neglects the clear Scriptural role distinctions

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.Genesis 1:27

The Village Church is complementarian in our understanding of manhood and womanhood.1 To put it most succinctly, we believe that while being absolutely equal in personhood and dignity, man and woman are distinct in regards to roles in the home and church. This position is to be distinguished from both ancient patriarchy which often neglects the equality of the sexes and egalitarianism which neglects the clear Scriptural role distinctions.

Scripture dedicates much space to the affirmation of the equality of men and women in regards to worth, nature and substance. This means that man and woman are essentially, naturally and substantially equal before God and each other. Any interpretation of the biblical text must be free from misogyny or unwarranted and naïve assumptions of male dominance or superiority. This is made clear in such passages as:

Although man and woman are equal, it is not true that there are no commanded role distinctions. Rather, the Scriptures teach that we each have proper roles in the home and church. It is our belief that confusion of these roles will result not only in a sinful application of the biblical text, but, consequently, the loss of joy in our pursuit of Christ.

Distinction within the home revolves around the idea of the headship of a man over his wife. This headship is not to be exercised as dominating and oppressive authority, but rather servant leadership. Such a pattern is seen in the following passages:

The husband is called to serve and sacrifice for his wife as an expression of his love for her. At the same time, the wife is called to submit to and respect her husband as an expression of her love for him. In this way they complement each other. Though equal, they have distinct roles in their homes.

Likewise, man and woman have some level of distinction within the context of the church. The texts upon which these distinctions are based include:

As we understand the issue, there are certain contexts in which women are not allowed to teach (1 Timothy 2:12). This prohibition cannot be universal however as Paul specifically calls for older women to teach younger (Titus 2:3-4). Indeed, we even have an example of a woman teaching a man in the story of Priscilla and Apollos (Acts 18:26).

In addition to the above, we also recognize that women are not to be put into the positions of ultimate authority within the context of the local church. As we are elder-led, we therefore restrict eldership to males who meet all of the pertinent qualifications (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1).

Though space will not allow for us to address all of the concerns related to this issue, we would like to comment briefly on the position which claims that all of the Scriptural role distinctions are cultural in nature. According to this interpretation, any alleged distinctions in the text are merely a result of or concession to the surrounding patriarchal culture. Therefore, as times and cultural mores change, so should our application of the relevant Scriptures.

In response, it is interesting to note that the divinely inspired authors of Scripture do not argue from the perspective of culture. Rather, they argue for role distinctions on the basis of Christ’s relationship to the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3), His relationship to the church (Ephesians 5:22-25), creation (1 Timothy 2:12- 131 Corinthians 11:8-9), the fall (1 Timothy 2:14) and law (1 Corinthians 14:34). Suffice to say that such grounds for Paul’s argument go well beyond the cultural bias position. The distinctions in role are grounded in who we were created to be and who we are and are a reflection of our relationship to our Creator.

Given this very brief overview of complementarian theology, it behooves the reader to familiarize him or her self with the material presented in the various supplemental materials mentioned above if they have any questions.

© 2007 The Village Church. All rights reserved.


Footnotes

1 See also the teachings and “The Role of Women” by Matt Chandler and “A Theology of Manhood and Womanhood” by Geoff Ashley.

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