“So, a church that is heavy on truth, low on compassion, should also evaluate what errors exist in their ‘truth’. Because if you get truth right, you will get love right.”
~Abigail Dodds, From Empathy to Chaos:
Considerations for the Church in a Postmodern Age~
On his blog, Letter & Liturgy, Samuel D. James wrote an article called A Complementarian Crisis with the subtitle, “The Biblical vision of gender offers real joy and flourishing. The question is, do we?”
Last summer I wrote a few blog posts for the purpose of verbally processing my way through my own growing uneasiness regarding the topic of biblical gender roles, and more specifically, the doctrine of complementarianism.. You can find those thoughts here, here, and especially here. At that time I was still wanting to hold on to the title “complementarian”. I wanted to make sure the complementarians knew that just because I was questioning some things, it didn’t mean I was distancing myself from them. I believed complementarianism was the truest truth based on the Word of God.
James writes, “As someone who is solidly convinced that the Bible teaches complementary gender theology over and against both secular feminism and Christian egalitarianism, the complementarian spectacle has not been pleasant of late.”
First and foremost, this statement tells me something about Samuel D. James. He takes the Bible seriously, and God’s Word is his ultimate standard of truth. Here is where we agree, as I, too, share this conviction. It is also in this statement, however, where I believe James reveals an error in his thinking. He says that he is “solidly convinced that the Bible teaches complementary gender theology OVER and AGAINST both secular feminism and Christian egalitarianism…(emphasis mine)”. Here is where he and I differ.
In 1 Corinthians 2:2-3, Paul writes,
“When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
As Christians, the new nature of our posture is not one of being over and against any person, people, or ideology. Anytime we place ourselves over and against any person, people, or belief system, we have erred.
My sister recently had the chance to talk with a missionary wife who serves with her husband in dangerous parts of the middle east. My sister asked the wife what her thoughts were and what churches taught over there regarding gender roles in the home and church. The wife responded very simply saying, “It must be nice to have the luxury to debate these issues.” The Christian men in their communities were warring with ISIS. While the men were either being killed or called away from home, it was the women who were left to run the households and keep the work of the churches going.
Perhaps that seems like a dramatic example, but these examples are helpful in shining a light on the narrow perspective of complementarianism or any of the “isms” we find ourselves attached to. The complementarian crisis is a first world problem. I don’t mean that to sound heartless, or to deny that the first world also needs help, but middle eastern Christians are not losing sleep over whether or not Beth Moore is sinning.
Paul resolved to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. In our first world problems, over these past forty or fifty years or so, more than a sane and thorough understanding of manhood and womanhood, the Gospel has been the biggest casualty in all this.
Complementarianism has serious problems. We could talk about ESS, sexual abuse issues, or faulty interpretations of Genesis 3:16. What I see as its biggest problem, however, is the inability to move or budge. Samuel James says he is solidly convinced that the Bible teaches complementary gender theology over and against both secular feminism and Christian egalitarianism…”. My return question for Mr. James is “Does it?”