The Complementarian Counterfeit

Complementarianism is a counterfeit doctrine, an unbiblical compromise between the false doctrine of egalitarianism and the true doctrine of Biblical patriarchy.  The sad truth is that in many ways’ complementarianism is more dangerous than egalitarianism, because complementarianism proports to uphold the biblical doctrines of male headship and woman’s submission where egalitarianism unequivocally denies these doctrines.

You have to look very close at the teachings of complementarianism and biblical patriarchy, like two bills, to really see the differences between the two teachings. 

Origins of Complementarianism

Complementarianism was started as a reaction to the false teachings of egalitarianism.  The term “Complementarian” was coined by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in 1988. 

According to John Piper, who was one of the council’s founding members, complementarianism was born out of an effort to address the error of “the negation of gender differences” by egalitarians.   

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), an egalitarian organization, lists these egalitarian principles on their website:

“We believe that women and men are equally created in God’s image and given equal authority and stewardship of God’s creation.

Patriarchy (male dominance) is not a biblical ideal but a result of sin.

Patriarchy is an abuse of power, taking from females what God has given them: their dignity, and freedom, their leadership, and often their very lives.

While the Bible reflects patriarchal culture, the Bible does not teach patriarchy in human relationships.

Christ’s redemptive work frees all people from patriarchy, calling women and men to share authority equally in service and leadership.

The unrestricted use of women’s gifts is integral to the work of the Holy Spirit and essential for the advancement of the gospel in the world.

Followers of Christ are to oppose injustice and patriarchal teachings and practices that marginalize and abuse females and males.”

So, as you can clearly see from the list of egalitarian doctrines above, egalitarianism was an all-out assault on the biblical practice and doctrines of patriarchy. Christian egalitarianism was simply a rebranding of feminism for Christian consumption.

While the CBE helped to organize and codify their doctrines in the late 80’s, these doctrines had already been spreading within churches long before that time and this is what prompted the formation of the CBMW.

The CBMW issued the famous “Danvers Statement” in 1987 which included the following key statements below in response to egalitarianism:

“Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).

Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin (Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor 11:7-9).

The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16).

    In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.

    In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.”

So, if you look at the two statements above, it is very easy to see two primary differences between egalitarianism and complementarianism. 

Egalitarianism completely denies the biblical concept of gender roles, while complementarianism appears to affirm it.

Egalitarianism completely denies the biblical concept of male headship while complementarianism appears to affirm it.

But while complementarianism proports to be the genuine article when it comes to the biblical view of gender roles, upon closer examination we will find that complementarianism is actually a counterfeit doctrine of biblical gender roles.

The Complementarian Abandonment of Patriarchy

Egalitarianism was not the only reason complementarianism was formed. In an article entitled “God Created Man Male and Female – What Does It Mean to Be Complementarian?”,  John Piper explains that complementarianism was designed to take the “middle ground” between what he and other Christian leaders saw as “two kinds of errors” in the churches.  The first error which we have already addressed was egalitarianism.

But then there was a second error that complementarianism was designed to address.  And that error, from their point of view, was male domination of women in society, the church and the home.  They believed the terms “traditional” and “patriarchy” were linked with male domination and “the history of abuses of women personally and systemically”.  And it was because of this, that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood decided that a new term must be coined to replace “traditional” and “patriarchy” in regard to the discussion of gender roles.  So, they coined the term “complementarian”.

Complementarians Limit Male Headship to the Home and the Church

If you look closely at the Danvers Statement from the CBMW, you will notice that they only speak of “headship” in the home and “limitations” on women’s roles in the church.  In other words, the Danvers Statement only recognizes male headship in the spheres of the home and the church but it does not recognize male headship in society.

In 2008, when John McCain was running for President with Sarah Palin as his running mate, John Piper tried to fill in this large void left by the Danvers Statement.  In his article entitled “Why a Woman Shouldn’t Run for Vice President, but Wise People May Still Vote for Her”, Piper wrote the following:

“My convictions about the implications of manhood and womanhood for political life are nuanced and rooted in Scripture. They are also complex and controversial. So they don’t fit blogs well. But I’ll try. The gist is this:

I think that the Bible summons men to bear the burden of primary leadership, provision, and protection in the home (Ephesians 5:21–33) and in the church (1 Timothy 2:8–15). Add to this that these texts (and others, like Genesis 1–3) build their case not on the basis of culture (which changes) but on the basis of God’s design in creation (which does not change).

Therefore, I am not able to say that God only speaks to the role of men and women in home and church. If our roles are rooted in the way God created us as male and female, then these differences shape the way we live everywhere and all the time…

These and other teachings in Scripture incline me to believe that manhood and womanhood are not mere social constructs. They are rooted in God’s design for creation. They are meant to shape culture, not merely be shaped by culture…

And I certainly do not think all of my conclusions should be codified in law. It should not be illegal, in this fallen age, for a woman to be President of the United States. Christ does not implement his revealed will in this age with guns and fines. But all human government (rightly) enforces its laws with guns and fines. So law is not the way to deal with this issue. Christians should not crusade in this fallen age to pass laws to forbid women from the Presidency.”

As you can see from the statement above, complementarians while holding strong to the fact that male headship is God’s design for the home and the church, tend to get a lot more wishy-washy about male headship outside the home and the church.

Look at the way Piper couches his language as if he is sorry that it appears that God’s design might prohibit a woman from becoming President or Vice President.  But then of course he quickly states that he does not believe God’s design of gender roles should be “codified in law”. 

Complementarians Dismiss Patriarchy as a Cultural Rather than Biblical Concept

In the Numbers 30:3-5 we read the following:

“3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;

4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.

5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.”

Complementarians deny God’s design of the social classes of men, women and children and instead embrace the false humanist social classes of “adult” and “minor” that were invented by John Locke in the 17th century.   They believe that once young women reach adulthood, they have the same autonomy as men to determine the course of their lives and that fathers have no right to override the decisions of their daughters once they reach the social class of “adult”.

Complementarians dismiss Numbers chapter 30 and its prescriptions regarding Patriarchal order with fathers being able to override their daughter’s life decisions and husbands being able to override their wife’s life decisions.   They see the commands of Numbers 30 as well as other examples of Patriarchal order in the Old Testament as temporary and “cultural” and only specifically apply to the theocracy of Israel.

Complementarians Fail to See the Moral Law of God in the Civil Laws of Israel

Exodus 22:16-17 provides a good example of the blindness of complementarians to the moral law of God found in the civil laws of Israel.

Complementarians deny that the right given to a father in Exodus 22:16-17 to allow or refuse his daughter’s hand in marriage to a man was lasting moral law, but rather they teach that it was temporary civil law which was done away with in the New Covenant.

The reason their interpretation of this passage is flawed is because they fail to see that many civil laws in Israel also contained the moral law of God.  In other words, many civil laws of Israel handled the punishment or reparations to be made for violating God’s moral law.

Below is a breakdown of the moral law and then civil reparations to be made for breaking God’s moral law in Exodus 22:16-17:

God’s Moral Law: “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her”

God’s Civil Reparation for the theocracy of Israel: “he shall surely endow her to be his wife”

God’s Moral Law: “If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him”

God’s Civil Reparation for the theocracy of Israel: “he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins”

So, if we separate the moral law from the civil reparation for breaking that moral law, we can see there are two moral laws presented by God in Exodus 22:16-17. 

The first moral law presented is that God does not allow sex outside of the covenant of marriage. 

The second moral law we see in Exodus 22:16-17 is that of a father’s right to allow or refuse his daughter’s hand in marriage. When a man and woman have premarital sex, they have both sinned not just against God, but also against the woman’s father.  The woman has sinned against her father by giving away that which was not hers to give and the man as well has sinned against her father by taking that which was not his to take.

Complementarians Teach That Male Domination Was A Result of the Fall

Complementarians actually agree with Egalitarians in their belief that male domination was a result of the fall.  In his article “Manhood and Womanhood: Conflict and Confusion After the Fall” , John Piper wrote “And when sin has the upper hand in man, he will respond in like manner and with his strength subdue her, or rule over her”.  And in another article entitled “Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 1“, Piper stated that a husband’s “headship is not a right to control” and a wife’s submission to her husband should not be “coerced” but that it must only be submission that is “free and willing”.

Complementarians and egalitarians say that the word “shall” in the phrase “he shall rule over thee” is not God’s command for husbands to rule over their wives, but rather God predicting that sin would cause men to dominate their wives.

But the complementarian position fails to take into account God’s command to Cain in Genesis 4:7:

“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

The parallels between Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7 cannot be denied.  In both instances God commands that the person should rule over the other person who is trying to control them.  In the case of Cain, God personifies his sin nature as a man that is trying to control Cain.  But God commands that Cain should rule over that man.  And in the same way God says in Genesis 3:16 because of the corruption sin wives would try to control their husbands, but that husbands must rule over their wives.

Complementarianism Teaches a Limited form of Submission for Women

In his article entitled “Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 1“, Piper states the following:

submission is not slavish or coerced or cowering. That’s not the way Christ wants the church to respond to his leadership and protection and provision. He wants the submission of the church to be free and willing and glad and refining and strengthening”

Piper uses three key words which he says are the opposite of Biblical submission and those are “slavish”, “coerced” and “cowering”.  So, let’s look at each one.

A Wife’s Submission is to Surpass that of a Slave

I have previously written an article entitled “8 Biblical Differences Between Wives and Slaves” which details the differences between the wives and slaves in the Bible.  The difference could be summed up as follows.

Biblically speaking, wives and slaves are both owned by masters (Exodus 20:17, Deuteronomy 22:22, 1 Peter 3:6).  Both slaves and wives are told to obey their masters in everything except if they are told to sin (Ephesians 5:24).  Wives are told that their bodies are for their husband’s sexual satisfaction and use (Proverbs 5:18-19, Romans 1:27).  A wife’s submission to her husband is to be even greater than that of slave to their master because her husband has the right to the sexual use of her body for his satisfaction.

So, if a wife’s submission to her husband as her master is to be greater than that of the typical master/slave relationship what is the difference between a wife and slave? The answer is found in the Biblical requirements for husbands in regard to the treatment of their wives.

A husband is required to love his wife as his own body, and to provide for her needs as he would his own body (Ephesians 5:28-29).   He is to be willing to lay down his life to save his wife (Ephesians 5::25).   A husband is responsible for the spiritual discipline and teaching of his wife. A husband is required to give his wife sexual access to his body (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).  A husband is required to allow his wife to enjoy the fruit of her labors (Proverbs 31:31).  None of these things were required of masters toward their slaves.

The Danvers Statement says a woman’s submission is not about “servility” and Piper said in the statement we are examining now that is not “slavish”.  And both of those statements are completely wrong.  Biblically speaking a wife’s submission to her husband is to surpass “slavish” or “servile” submission because unlike slaves, God has created wives to serve their husbands with their lives (1 Corinthians 11:9).

A Wife’s Submission Can Be in Response to Coercion

Piper’s assertion that a woman’s submission is to not come as a result of coercion from her husband is directly refuted by Christ’s statement to his churches in Revelation 3:19:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

While it is true that Christ wants his church to freely submit to him, the fact is that Christ will receive submission from his church based on him using coercive means just as God used coercive means with his wife Israel to compel her submission.

And since we know that a husband is to model his love for his wife off Christ’s love for his church and that the wife is to model her submission toward her husband off the church’s submission to Christ – we can rightly say that complementarianism again is absolutely wrong on this.  A wife’s submission can Biblically be coerced from her husband.

A Wife’s Submission is to be Cowering

Piper’s assertion that a wife’s submission does not involve cowering is again directly refuted by the Bible in 1 Peter 3:1-2:

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”

Women should absolutely fear their husbands in both the sense of showing reverence toward them and also fearing discipline if they disobey.  Cowering is a Biblical aspect of a woman’s submission to her husband.

Conclusion

No one would argue that there were not abuses committed against women both by individual husbands as well as systematically by various cultures. And even in post-feminist cultures like America today, some men still abuse their wives.  But that does not mean we throw out the baby with the bathwater.  We can as Bible believing Christians uphold God’s order of patriarchy and at the same time call out the abuses of patriarchy where they occur both at the individual family level as well as the larger cultural systematic level.

In regard to the term “traditional” as it relates to gender roles.  We can uphold traditional and cultural values that do not conflict with the Word of God and especially those which match with the Bible and at the same time set aside some traditional values our culture may have that conflict with the Word of God.

Hebrews 9:1-10 shows us that only the civil prescriptions for punishments or reparations for breaking God’s moral law as well as the ceremonial laws are set aside in the New Covenant.  But the moral law of God remains.  That means we are still under the moral law found in both the Old and New Testaments.

And contrary to what complementarians and egalitarians teach, it is not a sin for a husband to dominate (rule over, control) his wife, but rather it is a sin for him NOT to dominate his wife. 

In the complementarian view, a husband may only lead his wife by example or suggestions to her, but he may never lead her by commanding her or seeking to control her through coercive methods.  And it is precisely because of the denial that male domination of woman is God’s command, that complementarianism teaches a hollow and weak form of male headship and female submission in the home.

When it comes to the doctrines of the Bible concerning gender roles, there is no “middle ground” and no room for compromise with egalitarianism.   Complementarianism is a counterfeit doctrine of male headship and female submission.

Christian Egalitarianism’s rebellion against male authority

An underlying root problem with Christian Egalitarianism is a belief system that is completely at odds with Biblical authority. Christian Egalitarians believe they are simply rebelling against male domination and oppression of women, but in reality they are rebelling against the design and authority which God has established.

The Bible establishes many different types of Authority

We are to submit to our civil authorities

“13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

I Peter 2:13-14(NASB)

We are to submit to our Church authorities

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not [b]with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”

Hebrews 13:17(NASB)

We are to obey our employers

“Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;”

Colossians 3:22(KJV)

Children are to obey their parents

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”

Ephesians 6:1(KJV)

Wives are to submit to and obey their husbands

“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:24(KJV)

We obey God, when man’s rule conflicts with God

“We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Acts 5:29(KJV)

This issue of authority is one of those areas where the fallacy of Christian Egalitarianism can be clearly seen. We understand that countries, states, cities, churches and businesses need leadership. There must be a chain of command for these organizations to properly function. In each of these areas, there are executives to give direction to the organization and settle disputes.

But Egalitarians say, in perhaps the most foundational of all human groupings, that of marriage, there is no head, no leader. For them it is a partnership of equals with no one to set the direction, or settle disputes. They have no problem with the Bible telling us to submit to our government authorities, or our managers at our jobs. Christian Egalitarians would certainly not have a problem with the Biblical teaching that children should obey their parents.

But when it comes to wives submitting to and obeying their husbands, they are ready to reinterpret or remove those passages, and deny any authority within marriage.

I believe the reason for the rejection of male authority in the home by Christian Egalitarians is that it hits them where they live. Governments can (and should) only exercise limited authority, as well as our employers and churches. But in the home, if the Bible is read at face value, the women is to submit to her husband in “everything”(Ephesians 5:24).

This scares people, such authority could be abused. So they deny it and say no one should have to be under such absolute authority of another human being, or so they think.

It must also be pointed out here that no human authority has absolute power.  Not a king, not a president, not a governor, not an employer and not even a husband.  Each human authority has it’s sphere of power and responsibility and its limits.  Only God has absolute authority.

For instance a husband while being his wife’s head, cannot order his wife to break the  speed limit.  That is a law set by the civil government, and it is within their sphere of authority to make such a law. A husband cannot order his wife to cover up him committing a murder or raping or abusing people as these things violate both the laws of God and the laws of man.

If a husband is physically abusing his children or his wife or is asking his wife to violate the laws of man (as long as those laws don’t violate God’s law or usurp the boundaries God has placed on all authorities) or the laws of God then she has not only the right, but the responsibility to resist him and go to his authorities(whether civil or church) for them to exercise discipline upon him.

A wife has the right to be freed from the tyranny of husband who physically abuses her or her children or threatens her life or the life of her children.

See this post I wrote on this subject “Does the Bible allow divorce for physical abuse?”.

What they do not realize is, man’s authority over woman is not meant to crush her, but to protect her, just as God lovingly but firmly leads us as his people.

I hope that Egalitarians reading this will prayerfully reconsider their beliefs, and truly think them through from a Biblical perspective. God gives us authority for our good, not for our demise.

Only by submitting to God’s authority in all areas of our life, whether they are civil authorities, church authorities, our managers at work, as well as the authority that God has established in the marriage and in the home can we truly find peace and be pleasing to God.

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Why does the Bible call Woman the Weaker Vessel?

Why does the Bible call Woman the Weaker Vessel?

potter-making-clay-jug-s

In my last post in this series on Christian Egalitarianism I alluded to the Bible calling woman “the weaker vessel”.

I understand that when we say “weaker” that seems like an insult to many women. But God’s Word does not see it that way:

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

I Peter 3:7(KJV)

Most people are instantly drawn to the word “weaker”, but let’s first look at the word “vessel”. We need to understand that as human beings we are born into “vessels”. Our souls are equal, but our vessels are not. Our vessels are made for different purposes.

Consider the similarities and differences between this minivan and then the military truck next to it.

photodune-1783948-silver-van-s Military truck

Do we think that a person driving a minivan is any less than a person driving this tough military truck? Of course not, it is only the vehicle or “vessel” they are driving.

In the same way that a minivan is made to carry a family, women have vessels that are designed by God to carry and care for children. Just as this military truck is made tougher for hard work, and it will take a much bigger beating than a minivan, so too a man is built stronger and tougher than a woman, and his body is built for work, as opposed to caring for children.

But just as man and woman are both human beings, both of these are automobiles.  Just as a man and woman both have hearts and lungs and almost all the same organs(except for reproductive organs), both of these vehicles have engines, transmissions and tires that make these vehicles move using the same basic principles.

But would anyone be insulted if someone told them their minivan was not as tough as this truck? Of course not! Each vehicle is built for a very different purpose, just as God has built men and women’s bodies for very different purposes.

Many commentators have tried to go out of their way to say here in I Peter that “weaker” does not really mean “weaker”, but that is exactly what it means in the Greek. But also notice that God calls husbands to honor their wives as weaker vessels.

What God is saying is this – “Men I want you to recognize that your wife is not as strong as you, both emotionally and physically. You need to be considerate of those qualities, and appreciate those qualities for the many ways they help her to be a good wife and mother. Don’t belittle her for being weaker or more fragile than you, but instead honor her position as your wife and the mother of your children.”

I truly believe this is the truth that God is trying to communicate to husbands, if we take I Peter 3:7 literally, as we should.

Speaking of the “weaker vessel” some Christian Egalitarians have tried to say “ezer” actually means “power” or “strength”. While it may take on that meaning in certain contexts we must also understand that words take on different meanings within their context, and we have to look as a whole to see if women in the Bible are presented as symbols of strength and power.

When Barak begged the prophetess Deborah to go with him into battle she said:

She said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh.”

Judges 4:9(NASB)

She did not want to go, and when she said the honor would not be his, but that God would hand their enemies “into the hands of a woman” this was meant as a slap in the face to the Barak and his men.

“O My people! Their oppressors are children,

And women rule over them.

O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray

And confuse the direction of your paths.”

Isaiah 3:12(NASB)

When God said through the prophet that Israel’s oppressors were children, and women ruled over them, that in no way conveys that women were symbols of strength and leadership. It was a slap in the face to Israel, to say they were so weak that children oppressed them, and women ruled over them.

While God praises many godly women in the Bible, women are never presented as symbols of strength and power in the Bible. Instead the Bible emphasizes the love of women as well as the compassion and care that women do so well.

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Christian Egalitarianism’s rebellion against male authority

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Why did God make woman so opposite of man?

Why did God make woman so opposite of man?

CompareManWoman

In my last post in my series on Christian Egalitarianism, we showed why I believe KENEGDO in Genesis 2’s “help meet” means that woman was made “opposite or different” than man.

Just look around you today and you will see our culture trying to minimize or deny the significant differences between men women, both physiologically and psychologically. They deny God’s natural design and order as Paul speaks about in Romans 1:

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Romans 1:18-20(NASB)

How can anyone say with a straight face that men and women are equal outside of their common humanity and their souls? Let me remind you of these differences I stated in the last post:

Men have external sex organs Women have internal sex organs
Men’s bodies are built for strength and endurance(they have more muscle mass, tougher skin, more red blood cells and experience less pain because have fewer pain receptors in their skin) Women’s bodies are built for beauty, comfort and caregiving and they are more sensitive to pain than men are.
Men are systemizers Women empathizers
Men have tougher skin Women have softer skin
Men see less colors Women see a broader range of colors
Men have faster reflexes and can track moving objects better Women are better at multitasking
Men are competitive Women are cooperative
Men are task oriented Women are relationally oriented
Men are risk takers Women are more cautious

 

It can be “clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Romans 1:20) that women and men were designed for very DIFFERENT purposes and roles. To deny this is to deny a self-evident truth.

I believe based upon Romans chapter 1 that we as Christians should not stand silently by as groups claiming the Christian name, seek to minimize or deny God’s distinct design of and his roles for men and women. We should be angry at such a perversion of God’s purposes, just as he shows he was angry when men perverted what he had made.

As an American, I believe in the right of every person to believe what they will. But as a Christian we are called to defend the truth, and call out false teaching where we see it. Most Christians, and especially Bible believing Pastors, need to stand up and call out this teaching for what it is – heresy pure and simple.

I believe the answer to why God made woman so opposite from man can be found in this verse:

“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

I Corinthians 11:9(KJV)

We can see from both Genesis 2 and I Corinthians 11 that God created woman for man. When we understand this principle, then we understand that God created a helper for Adam, who was not just his mirror opposite, but someone whose opposite attributes would complement Adam.

Adam needed someone who would be able to bear and care for his children, he need someone to care for his home while he hunted and worked the fields. God not only made woman with the natural ability to become pregnant and after birth be able to feed the child from her breasts, but he also gave woman the emotional ability to empathize and work with children in a way most men are incapable of doing.

A woman should never be mocked for being emotional (as some men do), because this a gift from God which enables her to be the perfect mother, as well as great caregiver to the sick and elderly.

But God did not just give women breasts for feeding children, he gave them breasts for the pleasure and comfort of man. Human females are the only mammals who have constantly protruding breasts, even when they are not pregnant or nursing children.

Because men are so visually wired by God, he made a woman’s body for beauty, not for toughness and endurance the way a man’s body is built.

But besides these practical differences, God also created woman for spiritual and symbolic reasons. God created man in his image, to exercise God’s leadership, provision and protection qualities. But man needed a person, not just some animal, which would allow him to exercise these traits. Woman was perfectly designed by God to fulfill this role as the recipient of man’s leadership, provision and protection, and to provide him with the perfect helper and companion.

God could have made men and women much more similar than he did. He could have made women just as strong, and with the exact same nature and abilities, but he did not. God purposefully made woman weaker and more fragile (both emotionally and physically) than man, so that she would need his leadership, protection and provision.

In my next post in this series on Christian Egalitarianism, I will talk in more detail about the Bible calling woman “the weaker vessel”.

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Why does the Bible call woman the weaker vessel?

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What did God mean when he called woman a help meet for man?

What did God mean when he called woman a help meet for man?

wife gives her husband a meal 

Previously we discussed Egalitarian beliefs surrounding the word “Ezer”. This word is used in the Hebrew language that the Old Testament was originally written in. Most English translations of the Bible translate the Hebrew word Ezer as “helper” or “help”.

Ezer occurs 21 times throughout various Old Testament books. In most of these instances, Ezer is referring to God as man’s “help” or “helper”. Here are a few examples:

“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help [EZER] and my deliverer ; O LORD, make no tarrying .”

Psalm 70:5(KJV)

“My help[EZER] cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:2(KJV)

In both of the above passages, as well as most of the other passages where Ezer is used, we can see that Ezer seems to be referring to help coming from God. However there some passages where Ezer does not refer to God’s help, but to man’s help.

Isaiah 30 is a prophesy talking about Israel looking to Egypt for help, but this would be a futile attempt according to the prophet:

“They were all ashamed of a people that could not profit them, nor be an help[EZER] nor profit , but a shame, and also a reproach.”

In this case, EZER is referring the fact that the Egyptians would not a “help”, or EZER, to the Israelites.

So while most instances of EZER refer to God’s help, it sometimes also refers to men helping other men. But for the Egalitarian, the most important use of EZER in the Bible comes at the very beginning, in the creation account when God created woman:

“20 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help [EZER] meet [k’enegdo] for him… And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

Genesis 2:20-23(KJV)

The Egalitarian interpretation of Ezer from Genesis chapter 2

Below are some typical Egalitarian interpretations of Hebrew word Ezer:

“Ezer is used 20 times in the Old Testament: seventeen times to describe God and three times to describe a military ally or aide. “Help” or “helper” is an adequate translation, but English has different nuances than the Hebrew does. In English “helper” implies someone who is learning, or under a person in authority. In the Hebrew “help” comes from one who has the power to give help—it refers to someone in a superior position. That is why God can help Israel: he has the power to do so. God helps Israel because they do not have the power to help themselves.”

Source: http://www.cbeinternational.org/blogs/does-it-really-mean-helpmate

“Adam was regarded by his Creator as incomplete and deficient as he lived at first without the benefit of a proper counterpart. He was without community. God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). So, as Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 expressed it, “Two are better than one….” Accordingly, in order to end man’s loneliness, God formed “for Adam [a] suitable helper” (Gen 2:18)-or at least that is the way most have rendered the Hebrew word ‘ēzer.

Now, there is nothing pejorative about the translation “helper”, for the same word is used for God, but it is also variously translated as “strength”, as in “He is your shield and helper [=strength] (‘ēzer)” in Deuteronomy 33:29; 33:26.

But R. David Freedman has argued quite convincingly that our Hebrew Word ‘ēzer is a combination of two older Hebrew/Canaanite roots, one ‘-z-r, meaning “to rescue, to save,” and the other, ģ-z-r, meaning “to be strong,” to use their verbal forms for the moment.”

Source: http://walterckaiserjr.com/women.html

 

A Complementarian response to the word “Ezer” in Genesis chapter 2

The Bible tells us that woman was created as an EZER KENEGDO, or a “help meet” for man. Modern translations often translate this as “helper suitable” for man. For Egalitarians this phrase is one of the cornerstones of how they interpret the entire Bible as it relates to God’s intention for men and women.

Let’s first address the “Ezer” in the room. I agree that “help” or “helper” does not always mean the person doing the helping is a subordinate. For instance, maybe someone is new cashier at a store and they need their manager to come over and “help” them with something that does not make the manager any less their authority because he is helping them.

So when God called Eve Adam’s helper, that in and of itself did not mean she was his subordinate. Ezer does not refer to position, it refers to function. The person helping someone may be an authority, an equal or subordinate.

But what is the full context surrounding the “help meet” of Genesis chapter 2? Context and Scripture interpreting Scripture are critical. While “Ezer” does not tell us Eves position (as an authority, an equal or a subordinate) to Adam, the surrounding context DOES tell us her position.

In Genesis 2 Adam names the animals, an act of authority given him by God. Then he names his wife “Eve”, another act of authority.  In the Scriptures while mothers sometimes named their children as Leah did with Issachar(Genesis 30:18) we see that fathers always had the final say in naming and sometimes overrode the names their wives gave to their children as in this case:

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.”

Genesis 35:18 (KJV)

So when we look at mothers naming their children – the naming of their child was in essence a suggestion which had to be validated and finalized by the father.  The father always had the final say in the naming of a child because of his authority over both his wife and his children.

Furthermore, in Genesis 3:16 God said:

“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

Egalitarians are quick to say that Genesis 3:16 proves that Adam and Eve were meant to be equal originally, and that him ruling over her was only because of sin in the garden and was temporary until Christ came, this where they try and use Galatians 3:28 to say Christ “restored” what they believe was the original equality between men and women:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:28(KJV)

The problem with the Egalitarian interpretation of Galatians 3:28 is that it written by the same Apostle Paul who wrote these words:

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. “

I Corinthians 11:3(KJV)

“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:22-24(KJV)

And one of Paul’s fellow Apostles (Peter) wrote:

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbandsEven as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

I Peter 3:1 & 6(KJV)

So in one passage Paul says there is no male or female in Christ, yet in all these other passages he says men are the head over women, and wives are to be in subjection to their husbands. Some Egalitarians have actually said Paul was simply being inconsistent with his own teachings – a direct attack on Biblical inerrancy.  Others explain away the phrasing in these passages, write parts of them off as scribal additions that were added many years after the Apostles died.

So going back to Genesis 3:16 where God said Adam would rule over Eve, he also mentioned Eve conceiving children in pain. It is clear from the context that “the pain” was the curse, not Eve’s ability to bear children. So it is an incorrect interpretation of Genesis 3:16 to say everything in it, including man ruling over woman is all part of the curse.

In fact Ephesians 5:22-24 shows that man’s ruling over woman is meant as a beautiful picture of Christ ruling over his Church, not as part of the curse of sin.

So if Galatians 3:28 does not get rid of God’s distinct roles for men and women, what is it referring to?

When we look at Galatians 3:28 in it’s larger context, we can see what is really is talking about:

“7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith…

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:7-9 & 26-29(NIV)

Rather than obliterating God’s gender roles as Egalitarians suggest Galatians 3:28 does, it is a statement referring to the oneness of all those of faith from Abraham to Christ.  We are all the children of faith, if we believe as Abraham did. God fulfilled his promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed by his seed(Christ).

So spiritually speaking, there is no difference between a man and woman, a Jew and a Gentile, a slave or a free man, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  However physically speaking, while we live in this world these differences still exist. You have to write off a lot of Scripture to say this passage gets rid of God’s divinely created gender roles.

What does KENEGDO mean in Genesis 2?

But what does KENEGDO really mean? This word when transliterated is “Neged” and generally means “in front of, or opposite to”. We can see other usages of this word these passages:

“Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite [Neged] him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”

Joshua 5:13(NASB)

“I will set no worthless thing before [Neged] my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me.”

Psalm 101:3(NASB)

“There is no wisdom and no understanding And no counsel against [Neged] the LORD.”

Psalm 54:3(NASB)

Nothing in KENEGDO translates to a “helper equal to man” as Egalitarians often preach. Nothing in KENEGDO means equality.

I believe the best interpretation of EZER KENEGDO is “a helper who is man’s opposite”. That translation makes a lot of sense when you really think about how God made man and woman as I have mentioned many of these differences on this site many times.

Look at all these opposite attributes of men and women:

Men have external sex organs Women have internal sex organs
Men’s bodies are built for strength and endurance(they have more muscle mass, tougher skin, more red blood cells and experience less pain because have fewer pain receptors in their skin) Women’s bodies are built for beauty, comfort and caregiving and they are more sensitive to pain than men are.
Men are systemizers Women empathizers
Men have tougher skin Women have softer skin
Men see less colors Women see a broader range of colors
Men have faster reflexes and can track moving objects better Women are better at multitasking
Men are competitive Women are cooperative
Men are task oriented Women are relationally oriented
Men are risk takers Women are more cautious

I could go on with the many ways that men and women are indeed opposites, but you get the point.

But then you have to ask the question, why did God make woman so opposite of man? Was it just to give some variety to the world? In my next in this series on Christian Egalitarianism post we will discuss some reasons why God made woman so opposite of man.

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Why did God make woman so opposite of man?

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What did God mean when he called woman a help meet for man?

Patriarchy is Biblical in society, not just the home and church

Open Bible, with textured granite background.

I was raised in mostly conservative Baptist complementarian churches. I even researched my complementarian views in my early 20’s (along with everything else I believed). I questioned many things, read many comparative religion books as well as writings on equal rights and feminism in particular.

I came to the conclusion that the complementarian teaching I had learned was not only Biblical, but logical as well. I believed and saw that science confirms that man and woman, though they are both human, are designed with different purposes in mind. I believed (and still believe) that freedom within the bounds of God’s laws and commands makes for the best society. God’s designed society with order. Headship in marriage and in the church gives society that order.

I believed the best place for a woman was to be in the home, but I did not believe it was wrong for a woman to pursue an education and then a career. I did not believe it was wrong for a woman to be in leadership positions of business, politics or other places of society.

That was almost 20 years ago for me (as of the time of my writing this paper). What I did not realize is that I like most Complementarians had left some big questions unanswered.

  1. How can a woman pursue an education and a career without neglecting her first duty to her husband, her children and her home?
  2. How can a woman be in a position of authority over men, even in society? She can never be her husband’s authority, he is always her authority, Biblically speaking. She can never be her father’s authority either.   So for instance if a woman were to become mayor of the city she and her husband(or father) lived in, or governor of the state, they lived in, or President of the country they lived in – she would in essence be in authority over her husband – how could this be right or acceptable?

Then I came to realize that the complementarian views I had been raised with came about to soften the Bible’s teaching on the headship of man in society as feminism in American took root and these teachings became unpopular.

I realized that the complementarian beliefs that limit male headship to only the home and church were inconsistent with the Scriptures. God did not limit man’s authority over woman to only the church or the home, he meant for it to be present in the home, the church and society at large.

It is clear that God has designed a consistent pattern of authority to be followed in this world:

God the father is the authority of God the Son

God the Son is the authority of man

Man is the authority of woman

This does not change in this world. When God creates a new heaven and new earth, then this authority structure may be altered, but for now it remains.

I will talk on female prophets in another article but I will simply say this for now. A prophet does not always carry the same authority over others, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. Deborah did not want to be in any authority position over men, they asked her to go with them into battle because they lacked the courage God expected of them. She even said to their shame that God would give their enemies into the hands of a woman. Deborah did not sit at the gates of the cities or go into the cities exercising authority over the people, the people simply came to her for advice as she sat under a tree outside the city gates.

Never once do we see Deborah defying her husband or taking authority over him. Never once do we hear Deborah crying for women to have equal rights with their husbands, or to be given more positions of authority in their society.