Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Understanding Complementarianism

The Gospel Coalition has posted links to a recent conference on the topic of Complementarianism, with lectures and panels featuring Bob Yarbrough, professor of New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, and D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

The plenary recordings are available at the following links:
The Cultural and Ecclesiological Landscape  (Yarbrough)
Hermeneutics: A Biblical Framework (Yarbrough)
Creation and Re-Creation: Male and Female in the Image of God, the Fall, and Redemption (Carson)
Family: Husbands and Wives, Love and Submission, Christ and the Church (Carson)
Church: Teaching/Authority in Context of 1 Timothy 2 (Carson) [Q&A transcript excerpt]
Leadership in the Local Church and a Theology of Pastoral Care (Yarbrough)
Panel Discussion: Equal in Essence and Dignity, Distinction in Roles: The Home
Panel Discussion: Full Use of Gifts within God's Ordained Structure: The Church
Concluding Comments [PDF] (Carson and Yarbrough)

It seems that both of these speakers are addressing some key concerns that I've had for some time regarding the defense and advocacy for complementarianism (at least in the blogosphere). For instance, Yarborough offers five theses concerning the climate in which we believers now live and minister:
  1. We're hurting.
  2. The "complementarian" term needs a redo.
  3. Redo would mean blessed repentance and the good works and better practices that the gospel received would bring.
  4. We live in a time of dizzying and sometimes intimidating negative change.
  5. The crises and evils of our time can be overstated.
He follows up on numbers 2 and 3 by elaborating the following points, which need to be better communicated within our own circles:
1. 'Complementarian' has too often meant 'You can't.'
"[God] assigns us to serve him best in the sweet spot of the personhood he saw fit to confer on us. It's not about 'You can't,' but about where and how Scripture says we all best will. We're not so much talking about restrictions as how God designed his grace and love proclaimed in the gospel to flourish. . . . There's a difference between well-advised limits and odious restrictions."
2. 'Complementarian' has too often meant catering primarily to men.
"Women generally read more than men, tend to be more linguistically apt than men, and a lot of preaching frankly undershoots women's literary, intellectual, and even theological levels."
3. 'Complementarian' has been a cover for oppression of women.
"Men have escaped confrontation and church discipline while women are left vulnerable and exposed."
4. 'Complementarian' has been wed with Americanism. (think Ozzie and Harriet)
5. 'Complementarian' has not always been robustly biblical enough to repel licentiousness. (focusing on one or two verses, rather than building out from all of scripture)
6. 'Complementarian' has been used to justify juvenile and boorish behavior.  
"[True] complementarianism encourages a delightful synergy of cooperation, of mutual respect, of . . . promotion of women and their God-given interests and skills and responsibilities." Too often, however, the term "produces suspicion, defensiveness, exclusion, or indifference."
7. 'Complementarian' has been used to justify male aggression, laziness, and refusal to love and serve in marriages.
"A feature of our cultural and ecclesial landscape is warped, bastard expressions of male malfeasance garbed as complementarian. These expressions are smug and an accessory to evil. . . . Women must deeply feel that male leaders are on their side, making decisions with their concerns on the table.


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