Complementarity Without Hierarchy

“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

This is one of those topics that often polarizes people : “Are you a ‘Complementarian’ or an ‘Egalitarian'”? You are often expected to answer either A or B. “I am a conservative.”; “I am a liberal.”; “I am a calvinist.”; “I am an arminianist.”; “I am pro- house church”; “I am pro- instituional church”. But there is a C. Christ.

Moreover, a term 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” mean a lot of different things to different people.

Even sadder is that, people often misrepresent people. A “Complementation” is often said to be outdated and too traditional: “He hates women”, says the“Egalitarian”. On the other hand, an “Egalitarian” can be misunderstood as rebellious and too liberal: “She doesn’t respect the Bible”, the “Complementation” argue.

All these fights have done nothing to build up the body of Christ.

So what do I think?

Well, I think I’d borrow Gordon Fee’s words that,

I believe in a “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 no longer 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 neighbor.

I do not agree with any form of hierarchy. I have yet to see a Christian disagree that Adam and Eve was the first picture of marriage in the Bible. Well, 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. Borrowing the same quote from Matthew Henry once again,

“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 echo similarly with Roger Olson’s words,

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

However, 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).” So again, a term can mean a lot of different things to different people.

But anyways, 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. 

In my own experience, I have seen many examples that brothers and sisters are still able to serve in joy and submit to one another in love in the same church despite their disagreement on this issue. In the current church that I am a part of, too, men and women are able to exercise their gifts fully even though outwardly, it may seem have a hierarchal form to some. But it really doesn’t. My bottom line is, if you are really not happy with how the relationship is being played out in your local church, then leave with conviction and gratitude. Respect the “Complementarians” or the “Egalitarians” or the “Complementegalitarians'” that you disagree and their convictions in love, because they are your brothers and sisters in Christ.

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