Spring 2001 

Vol. 1   Num. 4


Complementarianism, What Is It?

Generally we expect a term to be descriptive.  When something complements, it supplements, adds to, completes, balances or functions as a counterpart.  Defined in this way and used to describe the relationship between male and female, it is quite accurate.  The observation that men and women complement one another as they work and relate together offers an important reason why no area should be dominated by only one gender. (1)   

Up until a few years ago the term was used by egalitarians—those who believe men and women are equal in substance, value and function.  Now, if someone claims to be a complementarian, they are saying that roles in life are defined by our gender.  In this view, women are destined by God’s design to be subordinate.  It is simply patriarchy with a new and more acceptable name.  

One of the most dangerous things about complementarianism is that it sounds good.  In fact, to complement does not mean to be in authority or have power over.  But, don’t be fooled!  In the complementarian dictionary, it continues to mean that men rule and women serve.  They see these as biblical “roles” ascribed purely on the basis of gender.

Complementarians come in a number of shades.  There are those who advocate male supremacy in all areas of society including work, church, and home.  These are easy to recognize.  There are those that limit their hierarchical position to church and home. And there are those who advocate full freedom to move in God’s giftings in all areas yet place husbands as authoritative heads in their home.  This is the most subtle heresy of all.  It reminds me of the scripture from Jeremiah 6:14, “They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.”

This most recent complementarian view ignores the fact that “God’s complementarian plan is not based on gender, but on gifts, talents abilities and calling that He—not patriarchal culture—has determined.”(2) The gifts and callings of God are neither limited nor determined by gender.  We must not be deceived.  While complementarians have yielded some ground, their basis remains patriarchal.  As Elijah once said, "How long will you hesitate between two opinions? “If the LORD is God, follow Him…”(3)

  1. I realize only women can have babies, but I can’t think of another exception.
  2. Hyatt, Susan, In the Spirit We’re Equal (Dallas: Hyatt Press, 1998), 246.
  3. 1 Kings 18:21 NASV.
What’s Happening on the Web? 

Covering and Authority by Kluane Spake is presented as an additional and expanded view of the article on Covering found in the Fall Newsletter of God's Word to Women.  Running a second article on the same subject indicates our opinion as to its importance. 

Lessons 27, 28 and 29 from God's Word to Women by Katherine Bushnell

To a Man – From a Woman 

I feel crushed, cast down, buried alive,
Burned on your funeral pyre while you yet live.

I am sad because you would sentence me to subservience;
Because you would have me smile always and never talk;
Because you would have me sit at your feet, obey your voice and call you my Lord;
Because you would control my world, my actions, my days, and say it is because you love me.

I am sad because you hide behind our God.
You say you are theologically correct,
But in essence, your hermeneutics are faulty
And your exegesis is poor, if it even is.

You deceive yourself.
You would control me because you do not feel secure in being you.
You reinforce your ego at the altar of my sacrifice.
You say, it is the godly way,
And yet God does not act so.

You would keep me in your shadow,
Encased in your personality, which is bondage to me, but more comfortable for you.

You do not fathom the chains you wrap around my ankles. 
Surely you do not, or you would stop.

You would define my place,
Censor my words and consume my talents.

Most of all, you would deny me my calling,
My responsibility to answer to my God.
Do you honestly think our society would run more smoothly if I functioned totally under you thoughts and ideas?
Should you be pleased if I had no thoughts?
Then buy a computer and design your own program.
Clone a robot.

Let me be me.
Respect that I, too, am made in the image of God
Understand that I have hopes and dreams, and a need to know more than just the confines of your world.
Believe that I will love you and admire you and respect you, just for being you.  
Know that I need your strength, your presence, and yes, even your weakness.
You want my devotion.
Then refrain from squashing me under your thumb.
I am resistant under force.
Oppression sows seeds of bitterness in my soul, which are difficult to weed out.

 I do not desire to be discordant.
I desire to walk in harmony.
Let us walk together,
Under the rule of Our Lord

1.  Hyatt, Susan C.  A Biblical Theology of Womanhood for Spirit-Oriented Believers.  (Regent University, D.Min. Dissertation, 2000), 20-22.

This poem was written by a seminary honor student after her professor shook his finger in the face of a fellow woman student and shouted, “Don’t argue with the Bible!…you had better get it straight!  As a woman, you must submit to man.  God made him head over you.”

 Two conferences that you may want to consider:


  The Global Celebration for Women—Houston-- Sept 19-21, 2001 

Christians for Biblical Equality International Conference Dallas—June 22-24, 2001 

We encourage you to forward the newsletter to those that you believe would be interested. 


Is it God’s Order?

by Pat Joyce   

When I became a Christian, I had no idea what constituted a Biblical lifestyle, so I looked to the “experts.”  They said that God’s way was a chain-of-command structure with the husband as the authority in the home and the pastor and elders as authorities in the church.  At first, I did not question but attempted to conform while I agonized with the Lord over my rebellious nature.  Over time, I noted that all those in authority were male and wondered why the God, who I knew loved me, appeared to favor men?  Didn’t He create me?  Was I of less value because of my gender?  Why was it that deep down, even after years asking God to change me, I still could not accept the second-class status assigned to women?  Is patriarchy God’s design, God’s order?  This question is so fundamental.

We know that God does not approve of discrimination.  Yet discrimination against women is inherent in patriarchy.  The system that I encountered was patriarchal to the core.  “Any espousal of patriarchy is an espousal of male domination.  The very definition of patriarchy presents a male-dominated and male-controlled society and therefore means a philosophy of male supremacy.” (1)

With these thoughts in mind, let’s look at the Biblical record.  To start with, we need to remember that the Bible is full of violence, betrayal, selfishness, immorality, idolatry, and unbelief--a seemingly endless list of sinful acts   It also presents the thoughts and philosophies of our fallen nature along with His truth. We must learn to discern the 

difference.  We need to realize that scripture includes true records of false ideas.  Just because it is in the Bible does not mean that God approves.  

A limited look at the Old Testament record shows that, in general, women were under the control of their father or husband who considered them as their possessions.  They were denied education, and they could not inherit. Women's lives were expendable in order to protect men, and polygamy was acceptable.  Only men had the right to divorce, and women were mainly valued for producing male heirs.  

In contrast, when the Holy Spirit came to Mary, there is no record that He asked her father or Joseph first.  The mere fact that Jesus spoke to women broke with the tradition of His day.  Jesus taught the Samaritan woman and commended Mary for ‘sitting at His feet’ to learn, an expression that indicates that she was a disciple!  In Luke 11:27-8, He rejected the idea that women were baby machines.  In Mathew 19, Jesus opposed the double standard for divorce.  He pointed out from Genesis 2 that divorce was not God’s plan but a concession that He had allowed Moses to make because of their sin.  Then, Mark 10:12 adds,  “and if she herself divorces her husband…” which overrode the Jewish tradition that a woman couldn’t institute a divorce since she was the man’s possession along with the concept that women were property and that polygamy was acceptable. (2)

After His resurrection, He could have appeared to one of His male disciples at the tomb.  However, He chose to appear first to a woman, Mary Magdalene, instructing her specifically to go and tell “my brothers.”  His actions forever proclaim to her and to Christian women after her that their commission is not limited to a women’s ministry.  

The early church did not embrace patriarchy, teaching that both male and female are created in the image of God.  The scripture shows men and women moving together to spread the gospel.  The few scriptures that seem to limit the ministry of women stand in stark contrast to the whole of the record.  In the last few years, traditional understanding of a woman’s “place” has become even more suspect as scholarship has provided accurate translation and interpretation of these passages. (3).  

So what went wrong?  As Christianity spread through the Gentile world and a second generation of Christians emerged, equality and freedom slowly faded. Replaced by the traditional male domination that filled secular society, Greek philosophy and pagan customs made their way into Christianity.  The church adopted the secular governmental structure of the Roman Empire.  Clergy separated from laity, and women were barred from this new ministerial class. (4) The supernatural gifts of the Spirit, so present in the early church, were stifled; and the Dark Ages fell on the church.  

The attitudes of the early church fathers were molded by pagan ideas that women are evil, inferior, unequal and unclean. (5)  These concepts along with Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy influenced how they interpreted Scriptures as they applied to women and male/female relationships.  Their writings birthed traditional theology, which generally displaced Jesus' teaching about women. (6)

While the reformation began the return to Christ’s doctrine, it remained patriarchal.  Biblical interpretation “continued to be skewed by misogyny, hierarchical worldview and the perennial influence of Greek philosophy.”(7) It is interesting to note that in revivals sprinkled through the last two thousand years, the status of women is consistently elevated. (8) Could this be the leading of God’s Holy Spirit?  

Cultural norms around the world today are definitely patriarchal, particularly in developing nations.  Even in developed countries, male primacy, while not as blatant as it was even twenty-five years ago, is still clearly present in society and in the home.  The results are devastating.  

As for the church, “the traditional theology of womanhood is unequivocally patriarchal, ascribing to women an inferior condition, a secondary importance, and a subordinate status.  Consequently, under authoritative male headship, ‘covering’ and control, women have at the best of times been ‘honored’ as second-class citizens.  They have been dominated, marginalized and occasionally patronized while men have been elevated.”(9)  

There is no place for patriarchy in the kingdom of God.  It is a human institution based on a fallen sin nature.  Patriarchy's fruit is deplorable and can never be part of the kingdom.  It’s time to acknowledge it as sin and throw it out.  Christ has restored access to God for all who will come to God through Him.  We know we "all are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise,”(10) and the promise does not discriminate.

  1.  The name for the social organization and set of beliefs that grant and sustain male dominance over women and children is patriarchy. Definition from Kroeger, Katherine Clark and Beck, James ed., Women Abuse and the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996),  16.
    Hull, Gretchen Gaebelein, Equal to Serve, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998),  83.
  2. Trombley, Charles Who Said Women Can’t Teach?, (South Plainfield: Bridge Publishing Inc, 1985),  223.
  3. See for a list of books in this area.  Unfortunately, most Christian bookstores refuse to stock writings that contradict the traditional position.
  4. Hyatt, Susan, In the Spirit We’re Equal, (Dallas, Hyatt Press, 1998), 49-64.
  5. Schimdt, A. J. Veiled and Silenced, (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1989) 
  6. Hyatt, Susan, The Spirit, The Bible and Women, (Dallas: Hyatt Press, 1999), 42.
  7. Ibid, 48.
  8. See Hyatt, Eddie, 2000 Years of Charismatic  Christianity, (Dallas:  Hyatt Press, 1998)
  9. Hyatt, Susan C.  A Biblical Theology of Womanhood for Spirit-Oriented Believers. (Regent University, D.Min. Dissertation, 2000), 11
  10. Galatians 3:27-28, NKJV.  It should be noted that  “sons” may be translated "children."