Complementarianism. Isn’t that a great word? It represents one of the most hated Biblical doctrines in our modern world. Mark Driscoll was reviled for believing in this doctrine long before he was taken to task for being too vulgar.

Complementarianism is the doctrine that men and women are different and that God has provided for them different and complementary roles to play in the church, the body of Christ. Where this doctrine meets resistance in our culture is in its requirement that only men lead the church in the role of pastor/elder.

You can see why the secular world we live in despises this doctrine. What is much less understandable is why ostensibly Christian people would deny this Biblical doctrine. See, for example, this article by Mary Zeiss Stange.

It is a truth so familiar as to have become cliché: Women are the driving force behind organized religion. They fill the pews, they bring their children into the fold. The Pew data help make sense of these facts. But the same data highlight the cruel irony that in far too many religious contexts in this country, women remain second-class citizens.

Another of the findings of Pew’s 2008 Religious Landscape Survey was that, among people who pray “more than seldom,” a significant proportion across most religious groups say their prayers are regularly answered, at least once a week or once a month. This religious demographic was not broken down by gender.

But it is fair to assume that, given women’s greater likelihood to pray at all, a sizable number of these supplicants are women. It is equally fair to assume that, if religious equality is what they are praying for, many of them are going to have to wait a while longer.

emphasis added.

That last sentence gives her game away. Number 1, she assumes that complementarians don’t have “religious equality.” This is because her definition of equality is completely secular. In other words, she judges “religious equality” by the purely secular metric of “advancement opportunity.” Number 2, she assumes that christian women might be praying for something, her vision of “religious equality”, that is on its face contrary to God’s word and therefore sinful.

Here is Dr. Al Mohler’s response to Professor Stange.

Thus, this article gets right to the heart of the issues at stake. Professor Stange writes from a recognizable point of view. She sees equal access to leadership as integral to genuine equality for women. If any office in the church is limited to men, women are treated as unequals. Following her logic, this pattern can only be explained by prejudice and intractable tradition — thus the stained-glass ceiling as a religious form of the so-called “glass ceiling” that has limited the role of women in other sectors of society.

Professor Stange points her argument toward the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention as examples of denominations that illustrate the “stained-glass ceiling.” She does recognize that both the Roman Catholics and the Southern Baptists base their understanding on theological commitments, but she sees this pattern as rooted in prejudice that should be overcome.
Completely missing from her analysis is any concession that God might actually have ordered this pattern of leadership restriction for our good and His glory. Her perspective on the issue is fundamentally secular in approach. In this view, where men alone can hold positions of authority and responsibility, prejudice must be the cause and access to these positions for women must be the solution.
Nevertheless, those who believe that the church is an institution established by Jesus Christ and who believe that the Bible is our sole final authority for belief and practice must obey what the Bible teaches. This means that we must also follow the pattern set out in the Scripture as the pattern set out by God himself.

Men and women are indeed equally created in the image of God, equally in need of the Gospel, and equal in terms of salvation. Both men and women are called to lives of discipleship, service, and witness. Mary Zeiss Stange is surely right when she suggests that churches depend upon the dedicated service and faithfulness of women. But this does not mean that the pattern for the church set forth in the Bible is to be rejected in light of current conceptions of gender equality. Those who believe that the Bible is indeed the inerrant and infallible written revelation of God are obligated to perpetuate and honor the pattern of leadership ordered within the text of Scripture.


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