I want to get off of this whole discussion on women as soon as I can because there are other things I want to blog about. But, since I've stepped in it, I guess I'll have to stay until I can pull my foot out.
Complementarianism is, in one important sense, central and not peripheral, primary and not secondary. Complementarianism is the view that God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood but different yet complementary in function, with male headship in the home and believing community being understood as part of God’s created design. By claiming that complementarianism is in some sense central and primary, please consider what I am and am not here claiming. I am not saying that Scripture’s teaching on an all-male eldership in the church, or male headship and wifely submission in the home, is central and primary doctrinally. No, I would reserve doctrinal primacy for such cardinal Christian beliefs as the triune nature of God, the substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and Christ’s literal and physical return to earth one day yet future—doctrines, that is, that impinge on the very truth of the gospel itself.
This is not to say that male/female complementarity does not relate in important ways to these central doctrines. Indeed, the Trinity, for example, models equality of essence with differentiation of roles, which equality and differentiation are mirrored in man as male and female. And the substitutionary atonement was carried out by one who submitted freely to the will of His Father, thus demonstrating the joy and beauty both of authority (the Father who sent) and submission (the Son who obeyed).
But, while biblical complementarity is connected to central Christian doctrines, it is not itself central doctrinally. This is why I believe it is wrong to charge evangelical egalitarians qua egalitarian as heretics. While I believe egalitarians err greatly in their rejection of male/female equality of essence and differentiation of roles, so long as they hold central doctrinal beliefs (as those mentioned above), differing here is not in itself a departure from orthodoxy.
In what sense then is biblical male/female complementarity central and primary to the Christian faith? I believe this doctrine is central strategically in upholding the Christian faith within a culture all too ready to adopt values and beliefs hostile to orthodox and evangelical conviction.
So, did you catch that? The issue is central strategically, not doctrinally. Whaddaya think?
The flying of the fur may now commence.
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