A Fear of Whales

A long time ago I wrote an article about Calvinism and Arminianism (Free Will and Predestination) where I argued that the debate itself was theologically valuable, and that the reason it was able to persist so long was that both points held truths that the other missed.

I argued at the time that the same could be said for other great debates, but until today I haven’t followed up on any of them.

I want to crack open Egalitarianism V Complementarianism today, which is the theological debate about gender roles. On the lay level this is summed up in the question “Can women be pastors?” but on a scholarly level it has much broader implications.

Complementarians say that while Women and Men are equal, they have differing and complementary roles. Leadership roles are reserved for men, and support roles are better suited to women. Egalitarians argue that this is prejudiced, and that in Christ we are given the freedom to do whatever it is that God made us and called us to do regardless of gender.

As was the case before, these two points are mutually exclusive. Only one can be true, (or they are both wrong). But as previously, both hold truths about God which are deep and valuable and difficult to understand apart from the doctrines.

Egalitarians see God the creator as fair, and Christianity as progressive. After all, justification by grave is the first and only means to holiness that is utterly egalitarian, helping people of all races, classes, and genders equally. Christianity is a libertarian religion that calls us to throw down the shackles of slavery that formerly held us back and be who we are, only moreso, in Christ. This message is central to the heart of Christianity, and our adoration of the savior who defied all societal, and religious expectations.

As something of an egalitarian myself, I’m often struck by how wooden the interpretation of the bible is among my more conservative brothers. It seems to me that Jesus was far more interested in people than he was in rules.

The complementarians however will point out that they don’t disagree with any of that (they just don’t emphasize it). However, equality cannot and should not be assumed to mean sameness. “Yes,” say the complementarians, “the genders are equal under God, but they are also different, and any 7th grade anatomy book should make that obvious. Women should not be made to function as men in order to achieve equality anymore than men should be asked to bear children.”

There are disappointing societal structures that have been built which assign prestige to masculine roles, but the problem is not the roles, it’s the structures! And these should be done away with so that when I look at a women, and I see that there are elements of my spirit, my body, and my whole self that are different from hers and I would not assume that makes her inferior, but instead, that those differences make her “other” or “holy” a oasis of femininity to be protected and cherished for what it is.