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.

Wednesday, Part III: An overview of Complementarianism.

Thursday, Part IV: Why complementarianism is a more biblically accurate account of the issues involved in gender roles.

Now Presenting, Part V:

Dorothy Patterson in her work, The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective laments the implications of full equality given to women. She says, “Bearing a new liberated identity, many women have devoted themselves to ambitious busyness everywhere but in the home.”[1] G. K. Chesteron affirms the negative effects of equality by saying, “[Feminism] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”[2] This escape from the home is ironic when considering God’s idea of the home. Carolyn Mahaney clarifies God’s beautiful design for women. She says, “The Scriptures speak of women and godly femininity are infused with dignity and purpose. The God who created femininity has a beautiful purpose and plan for women.”[3] This plan is primarily displayed in the home within the roles of wife and mother. In Genesis 2:18 women receive their role from God. It states, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.’” God created Eve in order for her to complement, nourish, and help Adam in the role God has assigned to him. This universal truth is to be likewise modeled in evangelical women today. Though marriage is not the only facet wherein femininity is expressed, single women can allow men to practice servant leadership and when appropriate, affirm this masculine initiative. Femininity is practically displayed (when appropriate) by asking questions, disagreeing respectfully, as well as volunteering counsel. In marriage, femininity is practically displayed by nurturing, affirming, and supporting one’s husband as a joyful helper. As wives, it is useful to ask realistic questions to determine whether one’s actions are aligning with God’s design for femininity.  These questions can include: “Do I care for my home in a way that helps my husband or serves me? Do I manage my time in a manner that assists my husband or serves my own agenda? Does the way I serve others support my husband or promote me? Do I ask for my husband’s input before committing myself to a plan? Am I oriented to him and the work to which God has called him?”[4] Women are also uniquely created to bear life. A woman’s body is different from a man’s in that it can sustain and deliver a child. Femininity is expressed by joyfully accepting each season of childbearing as well as cherishing and supporting children as an undeserved gift from God. Single women are also able to display a nurturing heart towards children. A few examples include: “When you babysit, you are giving expression to your femininity. When you take an interest and reach out to other people’s children, you are displaying your God-given femininity. When you tutor children or sponsor a needy child internationally or volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center or build relationships with your nieces or nephews, you are bearing fruit in this area.”[5] These actions honor God and are a blessing to others. These are a few practical ways to express biblical femininity within the home, but God granted women liberty to biblically express this role with endless possibilities.

Through a survey of the origin of egalitarianism and its basic tenets, a response to the issue of gender roles is displayed through their affirmation of created equality, fallen disorder and hierarchy, and restored equality through redemption in Christ. The direct implication of these principles enable women and men to assume any role in the home and church regardless of sex, only limited by their skill, abilities, and personal choice. Complementarianism differs from egalitarianism in that their basic tenets claim that men and women are equal in worth, value, and dignity but have differing roles within the home and church. The direct implication of this statement also differs from egalitarianism in that male and female roles within the home and church are specific to those given by God’s unique design. There is much debate among evangelicals on this topic; as such the discussions should be made knowing that both parties are brothers and sisters in Christ who affirm the faithfulness and inspiration of Scripture. The contention should not result in a neglect of addressing the critiques of egalitarianism as it affects marriage, family, and the church. Thus, the primary critique surfaces in egalitarianism’s foundational declaration to give full equality to humanity. A full equality of humanity destroys the God-given roles assigned to male and females and causes identity problems among younger evangelicals as well as attributing to the homosexual agenda. A secondary problem concerns egalitarian’s faulty approach to hermeneutics, enabling equality to be the thrust of the theme of the Scriptures. The theme of the Scriptures should instead be assisted by the hermeneutical circle. These concerns within egalitarianism ultimately show that full equality for men and women is more limiting to women than God’s original design at creation. The creation account reveals the woman’s role is to be a helper to the man. This is practically displayed within the home through a wife’s nurturing, affirming, and supporting her husband and through single women accepting the biblical servant leadership of men when appropriate. Biblical femininity is also displayed through accepting a nurturing role towards God’s gracious gift of children.

Check back in tomorrow for further resources on this topic, Thanks for Reading!

[1] Piper and Grudem, 365.

[2] Carolyn Mahaney, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore & Janelle Bradshaw. Copyright 2009 Girl Talk Blog. [accessed 23, July, 2010]. See also G.K. Chesterton, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, vol. 4, 440.

[3] Nancy Leigh DeMoss, ed., Becoming God’s True Woman, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 24. The thoughts and ideas of this paragraph are heavily dependent on this source, 24-30.

[4] DeMoss, 28-29.

[5] Ibid., 29.