For the past few days, the Internet has been losing its collective mind over a series of events:
- Beth Moore publishing an open letter on the misogyny she has experienced in evangelical churches while in ministry.
- A discussion on whether it is biblically acceptable for wives to divorce their husbands in cases of abuse.
- A Southern Baptist leader objectifying a teen girl in one of his sermons…and also encouraging a woman to stay with her abusive husband.
All of these events have a single root: Complementarian dogma. This brand of theology teaches that man is God’s highest creation; women were simply made to be “helpmeets,”or servants (not what helpmeet means, by the way). Sin further solidified this order by proving women are more rebellious, more easily deceived, unfit to preach, and in need of “godly” male leadership. Anyone who steps outside of this “God-created order” risks physical and spiritual disaster.
And it’s bogus, y’all. In fact, it’s more than bogus. I’ve come to believe Comp dogma is actually a form of blasphemy that’s circulating in our churches today. Here’s why:
- It says the sin of Eve is greater than the work of Christ.
Jesus paid it all, yet women must continue to “pay” for Eve’s sin by being denied full inclusion in God’s Church. Somehow, the blood of Christ can wash away all of Adam’s faults, but can’t seem to get rid of this particular stain.
2. It claims that God is incapable or unwilling to fully forgive women.
God got so mad at Eve for her disobedience that He decided to hold it against the entire female species. Forever. But, somehow, that poses no conflict with the Bible’s redemption message.
3. It encourages abuse because it paints women as inherently lesser beings.
Any time in history that one group of people has claimed that another group is spiritually, culturally or genetically inferior, violence has ensued. Every. Single. Time. Claiming that women are incomplete or potentially dangerous without male leadership means that men will seek to oppress and control them, period. You can preach patriarchy-lite and say that men are commanded to love their wives, but the underlying message that women are inferior will always bring out the worst in otherwise good men. Every. Single. Time.
A bad tree bears bad fruit.
4. It assumes a woman’s call to ministry is always wrong, while a man’s call is always right.
Because conservative leaders are constantly hyping the need for male leaders, any guy who stands up and claims he’s been “called to preach” is automatically taken under wing. Rare is the committee that will closely examine a male pastoral candidate to determine whether he’s going into ministry for the right reasons and whether he has the proper training and character. Hey, he’s a man. That’s all they need to know!
Meanwhile, we’ve got people like Mark Driscoll starting churches because they want to be “famous,” sell a lot of books, and tour the evangelical speaking circuit. And we wonder why our churches are oozing with sex scandals and domestic violence. Many church leaders can’t be bothered to “look for the fruit” because they’re too preoccupied with what pastoral candidates have in their Fruit of the Looms.
In short, Comp dogma ignores the fruit of the Spirit in all women and the critical shortcomings in many men. This isn’t biblical by a long shot.
5. It assumes the command to preach the gospel was only given to (and heard) by Jesus’ (11) male disciples.
We know from the gospels that several women followed Jesus. They financially supported his ministry, witnessed his miracles, listened to him teach, stayed by the cross during his crucifixion, testified to his resurrection and waited in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit. So why do we assume these women weren’t present when Jesus gave the Great Commission? The gymnastics some theologians go through to deny this is truly astonishing. Some have gone as far as to claim that the command (and the required infilling of the Holy Spirit) really was reserved for those 11 male disciples, and that the mission to “tell the world” died with them. Absurd!
6. It claims that the Holy Spirit’s calling and power is limited by gender.
This puts comp dogma squarely in blasphemy territory. Some pastors try to claim that the Holy Spirit will never grant a woman the gift of preaching; others say the Holy Spirit will grant it, but women can’t fully use it. So that means either 1) the Holy Spirit is self-limiting or 2) God would tempt a woman to sin by giving her a gift she isn’t allowed to use.
The Bible says God gives us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers…but women are only “biblically” allowed to do two out of the five. Maybe. If John Piper allows it. He’s still deciding.
7. It requires twisting or ignoring A LOT of scriptures.
For all the conservative preachers who claim they’re “just being biblical” by denying the full inclusion of women, there’s a lot of picking and choosing of Scripture that’s required to support comp theology. For starters, they’ll insist on a “plain, literal reading” of 1 Timothy 2:12 that’s beyond examining any context, but will study Greek under a microscope to “prove” Paul didn’t give female ministers equal esteem in Romans 16.
How bad is it? Well, a couple of years ago, a few dozen Reformed scholars got together and produced their own translation of the Bible that skews the interpretation of Scripture toward the complementarian view. That translation is the ESV, which is being promoted as the most “faithful” translation of the Bible in today’s churches and seminaries.
Wayne Grudem, editor of the ESV Bible (and co-founder of the ultra-conservative Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), has gone so far to prove comp theology that he invented a doctrine to claim Jesus is eternally subordinate to God in the Trinity…just like women are subordinate to men in marriage.
To call that troubling is putting it mildly. When your doctrine becomes superior to your deity, you’ve lost the plot.
And this is why I will no longer darken the door of any church that promotes complementarianism.