Equality in whose eyes?
One of the problems with the definitions that complementarians provide is that the definitions aren’t complete enough on the surface to reveal the underlying hierarchical nature. However, when one pushes to get the answers to some difficult questions, the picture becomes a lot clearer. The clearer picture shows the complementarian stand to be a male bias inside the pretty outer package of complementarian wording. However, when the veil is pulled back, a contradictory view is shown which views an inequality in God’s design of humanity. In addition, their man-made restriction is also placed on God Himself in how He is allowed to express Himself through half of humanity. Let me give a few of examples of the pretty package and then we will dissect the statements. The examples are all from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).
Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons… (from http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Articles/The-Danvers-Statement )
God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. (from http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Articles/What-Should-Be-the-Husband-s-Role-in-Marriage )
And lastly 1 A. under the Summary of the Complementarian Position:
Male and female were created by God as equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature … (from http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Articles/Summaries-of-the-Egalitarian-and-Complementarian-Positions )
These statements do seem to be a pretty package, affirming women as equal, however, I would like to point out something that many people miss when they read these statements. The complementarian position says that the male and female are equal before God in value and worth but note that they do not say that women are equal before mankind in value or worth. They are only equal before God. However even in their equality before God, there is a serious issue.
In what way are men and women equal in dignity and worth before God? According to CBMW, it is only in salvation that men and women are equal before God.
…In sum, this verse explains the new status of believers as sons of God and the means by which every believer attains that status, through faith in Christ….Cottrell points out that the question is not whether any of these can be saved, but how they receive salvation… Simply put, the pattern for inheritance under the law was Jewish free males.In the New Covenant, however, something far better than an earthly estate is in view; “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” (Gal 3:28). Paul’s point in (Gal 3:28) is that everyone who receives the inheritance of salvation receives it the same way and experiences the same justifying results-union with Christ. (from http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-8-No-1/Galatians-3-28-Prooftext-or-Context )
According to CBMW, it is our adoption as sons of God with the inheritance = our salvation. Our equality starts and ends with the CBMW understanding of Galatians 3:28. However, CBMW fails to give the full view of inheritance found in Galatians 4:1 where the inheritance of God’s adopted “sons” is defined as “owner of everything.”
Galatians 4:1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything,
By equating salvation as ending with sonship, and thus restricting sonship to our salvation, CBMW fails to recognize that the inheritance includes the rights to all that God has (owner of everything) with the restriction only in the age of the “son,” not the “gender.” Therefore the inheritance goes far past salvation and into the issue of ownership. Does God’s women “sons” have a right to the ownership of God’s spiritual gifts too? Of course, because the inheritance goes beyond salvation to the ownership of everything! If CBMW wants to withhold ownership of God’s estate from women, then they are saying that women have to stay as children while only men are allowed to be mature sons. An interpretation of the separation of God’s “sons” by gender cannot be established from the text.
The next restriction that CBMW establishes is of God’s Holy Spirit as the gifts that God gives are now gender-based through the classification of roles. In their understanding, roles are assigned as gifts to one gender alone. Spiritual equality then is limited to access to God and an equal standing before God, not an equal ability to receive God’s gifts or to receive an understanding of God’s word.
Third, even if one grants that equality is in the text implicitly, in the sense that if we are all “in Christ” we are all equal, then it can be understood properly only as a “spiritual equality” that describes equal access to God and an equal standing before God, not an equality of (gifts). (Found at http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-8-No-1/Galatians-3-28-Prooftext-or-Context )
In this understanding of “equality,” God is restricted in the work that He can do through women. His Holy Spirit cannot operate through women in the same way that He operates through men. He cannot gift women equally nor can He give an understanding of God’s Word to a woman without going through a man first. In the complementarian understanding, God has great limitations on what He can and cannot do through women.
I find this limitation of God incredible! In communication with CBMW several years ago, I was told that God does not give a break-through understanding of His Word to a woman. If a woman teaches or writes something that has not been first taught by a man, her insight into the Scriptures cannot be correct. Think about that! God cannot connect with a woman like He connects with a man because God’s understanding in His Word comes only through man.
So while women can reach up to God in an equal way with men, CBMW’s understanding is that God cannot reach down to his female “sons” in an equal way as He does with men. In essence, God is limited in reaching others through men alone. Men then take the insight in God’s word to women and women may act as an “echo” to repeat the insight from the men to others who also cannot have direct communication from God.
God is no longer Sovereign except through the agency of men. Women then must receive their instruction through men because they have no permission to receive from God directly. God simply cannot come directly to a woman and provide her with a unique and insightful understanding of the Scriptures that has not been first delivered to a man. The complementarian view gives an extremely restricted view of God’s ability to communicate with women.
CBMW may say that women have equal value and worth in the eyes of God, however, in reality, their actions disprove this claim as they believe that God cannot communicate insights from his Word directly to a woman without going through a man. Women then are not of equal value as men in God’s eyes if we are to believe the complementarian view espoused by CBMW. The understanding hidden behind their words make their claim that women are equal in value and worth to God is a hollow claim.
The next issue is whether women are equal in value and worth in the eyes of men and women (humanity). While claiming that God doesn’t see women as second-class citizens, CBMW’s restrictions on women definitely sets women up as second-class citizens regarding their value on this earth in the eyes of both men and other women.
In the complementarian view, women teachers must have less value and worth to other women than the value of men teachers, since only men receive from God directly:
While women teachers have less worth than male teachers to other women, it is a whole different ball game when compared to men teachers in the eyes of men as students:
Since men believe that women are forbidden to teach them, the value of women teachers does not just have “less value” to them as men teachers. In reality, women teachers end up with “no value” to the men themselves when men believe the complementarian position that tells them that they have no personal need for women teachers at all.
On the CBMW website where CBMW has answered questions on the Danver’s Statement (the statement which defines complementarianism.) Wayne Grudem makes some very arrogant claims that he makes:
I think it is an indication of God’s favor that the statement has had no change of wording, nor have we felt the need to change the wording, for the entire twenty years it has been in existence. It has served as a “standard” by which people could evaluate their faithfulness to the biblical teaching on this matter…
If CBMW had not published the Danvers Statement in 1988, there would be not one “complementarian position” in the evangelical world, but hundreds, resulting in much confusion, and enabling evangelical feminists to criticize the most offensive expressions rather than having to deal with a responsible, biblically balanced statement that affirms the equal value of both men and women and their differences in roles according to Scripture. (Found at http://www.cbmw.org/Journal/Vol-12-No-2/JBMW-Forum-Q-and-A-on-Danvers-Statement )
Apparently, the Word of God alone is not “clear” on the issue of the “roles” of men since there is only confusion when following just the Bible. Apparently, it is only with the help of CBMW and its “Danvers Statement” that one can understand the role of men and women and have these roles clarified. This height of arrogance rivals that of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have stated in the past that reading the Bible alone will take men into darkness, but reading their Watchtower literature will take men into the light of God’s word!
The world has long held that women are valued far less than men. Does complementarianism bring men and women to a place of equal value? Absolutely not! Women cannot be equal in value to God when it is taught that God cannot equally communicate His truth to them. Also, women cannot be equal in value to men who are taught to see women teachers as unnecessary “echoes” totally unneeded for the edification of men. Women then are a secondary class of Christians relegated to “helping” men teach other women who also cannot hear from God directly but must follow men into the kingdom.