Complementarian Beliefs: Tackling the What and Where of the Problem

I am long overdue for wrapping up this series, and I apologize for the longer than expected delays if you are following this. But in this blog I will offer one more critique for egalitarians, and prayerfully, I will finish up in one more blog with some meaningful suggestions that I can offer to any woman who finds herself struggling between her natural egalitarian tendencies and submitting to the authority of Scripture on the matter.

Now, if you have read Christian’s for Biblical Equality’s statement, you will immediately recognize the emotionally-heavy language this is used throughout the document. You will read about “devices designed to make women feel inferior for being female” and “becoming the perennial loser” and even freedom from what they believe is “unbiblical ‘traditionalism’”. And to think about these things like any normal person, I don’t believe that any woman wants to see herself as being inferior just because of her sex or always feel like she has to give up everything about her life just to fit the mold of what history and tradition say a woman should be. Basically, no woman wants to feel oppressed, and you surely don’t want to feel oppressed by the Bible and its teachings. So the question comes down to this: How do you deal with the thing that is seemingly oppressing you and forcing you to do and become someone you are not?

Short Story

Growing up, I was the middle child sandwiched between two brothers. We lived in the country, and outside of school, we spent most of our days playing outside. I enjoyed most of the adventures my brothers and I went on, and we had a lot of fun. But I HATED being a girl! I couldn’t stand it. I hated wearing dresses, and I especially abhorred the tights my mom made me wear during those hot Virginia summers. I didn’t like ribbons in my hair because I thought they looked stupid. I hated getting my hair done at all, and training bras were the bane of my existence. If you couldn’t figure it out, I just wanted to be a boy like my brothers.

In my opinion, their lives were far better than mine! Haircuts took 10-15 minutes, and all they had to remember was run a brush over their heads in the morning. They got to wear pants or “dress shorts” to church (I despised them for those dress shorts). They never got in trouble for playing or showing up a little dirty. They could play contact sports (my mom wouldn’t let me try out for the football team). And overall, they seemed to have far more freedom in their life than I did as a girl. I hated the difference, and I wanted to be a boy. I even told my mom that one day….I’m guessing she didn’t take that well. But it was how I felt, and I continued to feel that way as I grew up. Even with having crushes on guys, I just hated having to be “feminine”. And I wasn’t sure what it would mean for my future (i.e. would I actually get married, would I want to get married, would I have to change and be more “ladylike” in the future, etc.), but I knew I just didn’t like it at all.

Addressing the Conflict

The internal conflict with my feelings was always there because I was raised in the church. I read the Bible. I saw Christian women, and even as a child, I had a general sense of what was expected of me as a female. I just didn’t like it, and eventually, I realized I had a major problem. Let me bring in this excellent quote from Dr. Al Mohler:

Most Americans believe that their major problem is something that has happened to them, and that their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution. What the gospel says, however, is that we have an inner problem that demands an alien solution – a righteousness that is not our own.

I soon realized that my problem wasn’t being female and getting the short end of the stick. My problem was that I didn’t like God. I felt like His way of designing and ordering things was really unfair. I didn’t understand why He had to make male and female different and then say that they are of equal value in His sight. I felt like men got all the perks, and I didn’t understand why He would make women deal with periods, childbirth, and not being in charge at all. It just didn’t seem fair to me. But as I would read my Bible, I kept coming across passages like Job 38-41, Isaiah 40:13-17, Isaiah 55:6-9, and my favorite, Jeremiah 17:5-10 (verses 9-10 are below):

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.

Eventually, I realized that my problem was my own sinful heart. I needed to change. And the more I thought about these things, the more I realized that I had always had problems with things I read in the Bible throughout my life. There were lots of things that I didn’t think were always fair, but I knew that they were right to do because God had commanded them. And my reasoning finally came down to the question of what made being a woman and embracing my God-designed role any different than any other command I had ever learned and obeyed from Scripture. I reasoned that there was no difference. Even if my feelings were stronger, there was no difference, and I still needed to obey.

Coming Around Full Circle

So let’s come back around to the question presented at the beginning: How do you deal with the thing that is seemingly oppressing you and forcing you to do and become someone you are not?

First, you must identify the thing that is opposing you. As Christians, one of the main opposing forces we must fight against is sin (aside from Satan and the world). We also know that sin has penetrated to the very heart of our beings, and it affects every single area of our lives, including the way we think about things. Yet, our Christian duty is to strive and fight against sin all the days of our life. This leads me to my critique of the egalitarian position.

In explaining their position, egalitarians never addressed the root problem of sin. They didn’t address the fact that sin has affected each of us, nor did they consider how sin has affected their own attitudes, predispositions, feelings, and willingness to obey the Word of God on the matter of the roles of men and women in marriage. Egalitarians rightly determine that the whole Bible is “the liberating Word”, but they have failed to rightly identify what the Word is actually liberating them from. As Christians, we cannot get around the fact that sin exists, and we are totally depraved because of it. The difference between us and the rest of the world is that we have been set free from the slavery of sin to become slaves of righteousness (Consider Romans 6 – I would read the whole chapter).

In answering the question, the final thing you must consider is whether or not you should succumb to the thing that is trying to oppose and change you. When it comes to sin, we are obviously exhorted to stand firm against it and not yield to it many times in Scripture. But when it comes to the matter of the roles of men and women in the marriage relationship, the assignment of the roles and the responsibilities attached to the roles were predetermined by God. The Bible is clear on the matter. You only continue to fight against it if you are not willing to accept it. But as Christians, we are called to accept the teaching of the Bible as truth from God for our lives today.

But then you may ask: Why should I allow the Bible to change me when God accepts me for who I am?

And in response, I can only say that you are sadly mistaken. We have a Savior, Jesus Christ, because God no longer accepts us for who we are. He is too holy to accept us poor, miserable, sinful creatures. And Christ came, lived, died, and rose so that we could partake in His perfect righteousness and be able to stand before God while not facing the eternal wrath and judgment that we are due. So yes, the Bible is extremely liberating for the believer, but the thing it liberates us from (that is, the dominion of sin) is not something we naturally want to be freed from (consider Romans 6-7). And yes, the Bible will force you to change, to become someone you are not. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are being conformed to the image of Christ, as Romans 8:29 tells us. And in the language of Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, we are constantly exhorted to “put off” our sins and old manner of living and thinking and “put on” the deeds of righteousness, pursuing holiness and godliness in this life. Oh yes, as Christians, we are forced to change all the time, and we do well not to resist the work of the Spirit of God in the matter.

Ultimately, we will all face moments when we have a problem with something we read in Scripture. I mean, the Word of God is offensive. It tells us the truth of our condition…a truth we out rightly reject and often delude ourselves in denying. But it is still the truth. And as Al Mohler pointed out, we can act like the rest of the world and believe that the things outside us, including the Word of God, are the real problems. And we can even make up in our own hearts and minds the proper solutions for remedying these things and ‘liberate’ ourselves from these problems. But ultimately, we have internal problems that can only be remedied by God alone. With these thoughts in mind, I challenge my egalitarian brothers and sisters to consider the weighty problem of sin in their own beliefs and perspectives on the roles of men and women in marriage and in their willingness to accept the plain teachings of Scripture.

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