Complementarity Without Hierarchy

I face-palm myself when questions like this come up, “Are you a ‘Complementarian’ or an ‘Egalitarian’? “ Perhaps it is just me, but I hate questions that only offer only two opposing answers. Choose either A or B, they say. May I just choose the C – Christ?

I just don’t like labels, since a label doesn’t always mean what we think it means. A term can mean a lot of different things to different people. “Biblical manhood and womanhood”, for instance, can mean a lot of different things to different people. People also often misrepresent people. A “complementarian” is often portrayed as an outdated and conservative man that hates women. On the other hand, an “egalitarian” can be misunderstood as a rebellious and liberal person who does not read the BibleLittle is done to build up the body of Christ.

If I really have to describe my view, though, I think I’d borrow Gordon Fee’s words that, I believe in “complementarity without hierarchy”.

I believe that the relationship between a husband and a wife should be an image reflecting the relationship between Christ and the Church. I stand by every word of Ephesians 5:22-33. I believe in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female, can and ought to exercise their gifts to build up the body of Christ and serve their neighbour.

I do not, however, agree with any form of hierarchy, for Eve was taken out of the side of Adam,

“and the LORD God built that which he had taken from the side of the man into a woman and brought her unto the man.” (Genesis 2:22)

Out of his side. She was in him; she was not put underneath him to be stepped upon, as Matthew Henry once spoke so beautifully,

“Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” – Matthew Henry

That, to me, is what a “complementarity without hierarchy” looks like. I also echo with Roger Olson’s words,

“God created us male and female and we need each other. That’s true complementarianism.” – Roger Olson

Olson also stated that, “As anyone who has read my blog consistently for a long time knows, I am steadfastly against so-called “complementarianism” as it is taught by leading conservative evangelicals. In a truly godly marriage there is no need of it. And it reeks of male resentment, fear and desire for control. On the other hand, I’m no fan of feminism. Of course, much depends on what “feminism” means, but far too often these days it means implicit, if not explicit, belief in female superiority and requirement for men to become like women in order to be acceptable. It too often means the total obliteration of masculinity (I’m not talking about “machismo,” but non-threatening male ways of relating).” 

Once again, one term can mean a lot of different things to different people.

Anyways, here you have my view: complementarity without hierarchy. Our earthly marriage should reflect our marriage with the Lamb. Both male or female should exercise their gifts to serve the Lord, the Church, and their neighbor. Eve was taken out of the side of Adam. God created us male and female, and we need each other. 

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