Egalitarian vs. Complementarian

Many bloggers are posting these days in the notion of egalitarian christians versus complementarian christians. One question that I have is if either view completely follows Scripture. Both sides say that they take the Scriptures seriously. Both have texts that they turn to. But there are issues. Let’s turn to one passage in particular.

Ephesians 5 is one of the major problem texts of this debate. On the egalitarian side, there is a focus on 5:21 as the controlling verse for the rest of the passage. This statement is true. However, plenty of egalitarians will move to an irrelevant point and say that they must be considered equal. This technically is the fallacy of missing the point, which is submitting to each other as believers, and is most specifically about reflecting Christ in Philippians 2 and serving those who might be considered under you. Yes, this verse is the controlling generalization, but the egalitarian argument must try to understand what it truly means, which might also have something to say about our position.

The other position is the complementarianism. It rightfully claims that the woman is said to submit and the man to love, but practices silence on the verse before or dismisses it as irrelevant (this also is practiced in relation to other parts of Pauline letters and narratival books also). This, in and of itself, is not being perceptive of the entire scope of Scripture and shows a negative use of proof-texting. Another problem is that the burden of proof is usually shifted to the other side, which is not good argument. The entirety of Scripture has much to say to this side and raises serious questions about God’s will for equality and women. (I have also heard the comment that most egalitarians suffer from families with controlling mothers. Thought this is possible, it side-steps the conversation on the Bible, a move that is fallacious and disgusting in my opinion.)

Romans 15:8 and 16:1 indicates how Christians should view hierarchy. Christ is recognized as the head, but the word used to describe Christ is a servant in 15:8 is in either a feminine or neuter form. I contend that it is feminine due to the same usage found in 16:1.  This implies that leadership is not a gender specific reality in the kingdom of heaven and points more to a familial sense of leadership, but only in the sense found in Luke 3, which declares God as father over humanity. This points to Jesus being the firstborn and the only true King, but also points to Phoebe, a woman, being an adoptive member of the kingdom and the one speaking before the congregation by sharing this letter. It also implies that she shares a certain aspect of the role of Christ, which is a servant. And as we all know servant hood is the model for leadership in the Kingdom.

The third way is better. It is a way that might accept someone as egalitarian or complementarian, but only if they commit to a higher basis of love and submission. Both sides in this model must accept the others personal conviction, while allowing the Church to abide by something that might be better a Biblical model. It also seems that in moments of tension, we must try to err on the side of grace, like Jesus, and not err on the side of legal dogmatism, like the religious leaders Jesus opposed.

And most of all we must follow Christ and live with each other in light of the following verse:

“Submit to each other in reverence to Christ.” – Ephesians 5:21

How do you practice submission in your family, Church, and World? Is it Biblical? Does it reflect the Spirit’s leading? How should you change in light of Christ?