Suzanne McCarthy on Complementarianism

Suzanne McCarthy on Complementarianism

Suzanne McCarthy has been blogging on complementarianism over on the Better Bibles Blog. I have been following her posts with interest, and I would like to commend them to my readers. The entries to date are: Modes of Communication I, Modes of Communication II, Modes of Communication III. Suzanne obviously doesn’t subscribe to the “snazzy but inaccurate title” school of thought–just tell them what you’re talking about. 🙂

I’ve written about this topic a few times myself, largely out of my frustration with the number of women I see in the church who are gifted and called from my observations and yet are not being used to their full potential. Even amongst those who claim to affirm leadership roles for women in the church there is often an inertia, or perhaps a sort of default that suggests that women must be exceptional to be in leadership.

What Suzanne has done in these last several entries is point out some of the inconsistencies in how one applies the complementarian position, and I think she makes some good points. I’m not sure I’m going to get the time or the tolerance any time soon to read her complementarian source material.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that the key here is that the wrong principles are being used. We’re setting up the category of “women” as a spiritual entity, with a prescribed set of spiritual roles. That ignores the reality that while women and men are truly different–and I’m not egalitarian in the sense of saying women and men are somehow interchangeable!–women differ from women and men differ from men as well.

The principle I would suggest is that we observe both the men and the women, as well as our children and young people, and simply choose for leadership roles those whom God has gifted for those roles. If we do so honestly, I think we will find that God is, in fact, calling many women to leadership and wonderfully gifting them for it.

When we ignore the call and gifts of God, we’re putting God in a box and we are a barrier to the building of the kingdom. Let’s not do that!

3 thoughts on “Suzanne McCarthy on Complementarianism

  1. Henry, you said:

    The principle I would suggest is that we observe both the men and the women, as well as our children and young people, and simply choose for leadership roles those whom God has gifted for those roles. If we do so honestly, I think we will find that God is, in fact, calling many women to leadership and wonderfully gifting them for it.

    I totally agree with this as well as your final paragraph, Henry. And I think many complementarians would agree with you. Where they would differ is that they would say that God may give a woman the gifts of teaching or administration, but those gifts must not be used in a way that Scripture prohibits. They view the writings of Paul about two local congregations, at Corinth and Ephesus (the epistle of 1 Tim.), as having “clear” commands that prohibit women from teaching men, at least in church assemblies. They view those comments as being normative and timeless. As you know, there are exegetes attempting to be just as biblical who do not understand the verses in question as do complementarians. And some people who take Scripture seriously view Paul’s comments as being geographically and temporally localized, written to specific church situation which were experiencing problems.

    It seems to me that if God had intended women never to have teaching or administrative roles over men, he would have included more and clearer commands on the topic. I would think Jesus would have addressed the issue as well as New Testament writers other than Paul. And I would think that God would have included commands on the matter where so many other commands have been listed, in the Levitical laws, and other places in the Hebrew Bible. That’s what it seems to me, logically. But I understand the devotedness to the “literal reading” of the biblical text of complementarians, even though there are such few passages on the matter and the ones that are there have exegetical issues. It’s the same issue that underlies your post about LaHaye and a “literal” understanding of the book of Revelation.

    Unfortunately, I think that this period of time in church history may be viewed as one in which conservative Christians wrestled over what roles women can have in the home and church. I personally think there are more important issues facing the church today, but some view this issue as of bedrock theological importance, determining who will truly follow the teachings of the Bible, no matter what contemporary culture calls for.

    Thanks for writing on this topic.

  2. Wayne said:

    I personally think there are more important issues facing the church today, but some view this issue as of bedrock theological importance, determining who will truly follow the teachings of the Bible, no matter what contemporary culture calls for.

    Thanks for your comment, Wayne, and I think I want to underline a couple of things. While I feel very strongly about the role of women in church leadership, and believe that leadership roles for women are mandated by the core of the gospel message, I also believe people can honestly disagree. I don’t want my passoinate beliefs on this subject to be read as implying that complementarians are stupid, dishonest, or evil. Just as with Revelation, there are honest, well-educated, well-intentioned, spiritual people who are striving to obey God, but who have multiple points of view, and we’re going to have to live with that, and debate the issues as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    The tone of your comment is absolutely appropriate on this, and I hope that more of the debate can sound like you do! 🙂

  3. I was raised in a traditional world. It is called complementarian, but it is not; the true word is patriarchy. There are levels of patriarchy. It can start out soft, but eventually it usually hardens. “Soft” patriarchs can be horrified at domestic abuse, never equating it with the patriarchal structures of society and church. The thing that all levels have in common is that men rule, women obey. It is because of that that I find patriarchy unscriptural and particularly inconsistent with Genesis 1:26 and the Gospel message.

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