Last month I was given the opportunity to take a course in Christian Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theology Seminary under the direction of Dr. David Nelson. One of the course requirements was to complete a research paper on an area of interest within the field of the course. I chose a topic from a suggested list in the syllabus: Sex-Roles and the Plan of God. I wanted to explore the heated discussion of egalitarianism and complementarianism with a specific look at how this conversation applies to a women’s ministry within the home. Though a brief sketch in this debate, I urge women to journey with me this week through the paper. There are numerous practical implications for both sides of the debate.

I choose to write this paper primarily to become a better mother and wife. This topic plays out as much in theology as it does in the home. If you are not familiar with the terms complementarianism and egalitarianism- that is ok, it will be explained! Even if this paper is a little technical, it is just as applicable to a stay at home mom, or any other woman. Please take this opportunity to become a student of the Scriptures and learn more about what God has instructed for us in His word.

Please, feel free to leave a comment with questions, encouragements, or critiques. Please remember to be loving and Christlike should a differences of opinion occur in the comments.

Monday, Part I: An introduction and overview of Egalitarianism.

Tuesday, Part II: Implications for Egalitarianism.

Now Presenting, Part III:

Complementarianism debuted as a Christian reaction to egalitarianism’s attempt to re-interpret gender roles from a new and varied perspective. As cited earlier, Ware offers an overview of complementarians’ basic tenets summarized in three points: created equality of essence and distinction of role, fallen disruption of God’s created design, and restored role differentiation through redemption in Christ.[1] The first point, created equality of essence and distinction of role, summarizes the equality of male and female in value, but their distinct roles given by God prior to the fall. Ware clarifies the first point by stating,

Male and female were created by God as equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature, but also distinct in role whereby the male was given the responsibility of loving authority over the female, and the female was to offer willing, glad-hearted and submissive assistance to the man. Gen. 1:26-27 makes clear that male and female are equally created as God’s image, and so are, by God’s created design, equally and fully human. But, as Gen. 2 bears out (as seen in its own context and as understood by Paul in 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Tim. 2), their humanity would find expression differently, in a relationship of complementarity, with the female functioning in a submissive role under the leadership and authority of the male.[2]

This point emphasizes the husband’s leadership over the family and the wife’s joyful submission to follow his biblical headship. The second point, fallen disruption of God’s created design, describes the effect of the sin on gender roles. Genesis 3:15-16 demonstrates that man and woman will have a mutual hostility concerning their roles. The woman will desire the authority given to man, and the man will either respond righteously or abusively. The third point, restored role differentiation through redemption in Christ, shows how Christ’s death on the cross wholly affirms the male/female roles in the home and church given by God prior to the fall and created design of hierarchy. As the church submits to Christ so also should wives submit to their husbands and should not obtain teaching roles of authority in the church as modeled in the creation account. It is within this framework that complementarianism continues to respond to egalitarianism as well as biblically define the practical roles for women’s ministry within the home and church, as displayed from their theology of man.

Complementarians present a different biblical interpretation to gender roles; as such, there are different implications for marriage, family, and the church from the view espoused in the egalitarian position. The primary conclusion from this overview claims within the home and church male and female roles are specific to those given by God’s unique design. John Piper and Wayne Grudem define these roles by saying, “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships. At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”[3] In creation God designed men and women with distinct identities which complement each other as demonstrated in the home and church. Consistent male leadership is evident from the Old Testament as well as particularly in Israel. Ware comments, “From the Garden of Eden on, God has called out men and held men responsible for religious leadership. Think of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve sons of Jacob as heads of the twelve tribes of Israel, Moses, Joshua, David, the male priestly order, the prophets to Israel and Judah, etc. Clearly, God purposely called out and intended to work through male leadership in Israel.”[4] These biblical Old Testament examples demonstrate God’s affirmed plan for biblical male headship despite the effects of the fall. The precedence of male leadership displayed in the Old Testament is further validated through Christ’s selection of the twelve male apostles. Though women may have been capable to be apostles, Christ chose men for this elevated leadership position pertaining to Christianity. This selection demonstrated a gender limitation for the office of apostle. In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul affirms that creation ordinance, For Adam was formed first, then Eve, for specifying gender roles within the church and home.[5] The commands in the New Testament that Paul lists for women (namely submission to her husband and non-leadership positions of teaching in the church) and men (namely, to initiate loving leadership in protecting and providing in the home and assuming leadership positions within the church) are not a culturally bound, but God’s creative purpose for men and women given in Genesis but intended for all humanity. This universal creation mandate for gender roles is not affirmed by egalitarians as will be shown in the following brief critique. This critique will also demonstrate how complementarianism is a more biblically accurate account of the issues concerning this topic.

Tomorrow will discuss why complementarianism is a more biblically accurate account of the issues involved in gender roles, Thanks for reading!


[1] The thoughts and ideas of this paragraph are taken from Ware, 4-5.

[2] Ware, 4.

[3] John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), 35-36. For more development of these distinctions see chapter 1 of Piper and Grudem’s book.

[4] Ware, 8. The thoughts and ideas of this paragraph are taken from Ware, 8-9.

[5] Grudem, 66. The thoughts and ideas of this paragraph are taken from Grudem, 66-67. See also 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6 (Grudem, 82).

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