The posts on the egalitarianism vs. complementarianism issue have been very good. The most important thing I can add to the discussion has already been added.
I’m a complementarian, but I won’t attempt a thoroughgoing defense of it here. A very good defense of what I would call a very soft complementarianism has already been made at TTC. Instead, I’m just going to make a few useful points which, as it happens, tend towards supporting the complementarian view.
First, we should remember that, given the authority of Scripture, it only takes one biblical passage to guarantee that a position is correct.
Now I’m not aware of a lot of passages that can plausibly be interpreted as supporting egalitaranism. (Several of the more plausible candidates, such as Galatians 3:28, have already been ably addressed at TTC.) But quite a few passages can plausibly be interpreted as supporting complementarianism.
So here is the second consideration: It seems that the burden of proof is on the egalitarian to show that Scripture does not support complementarianism.
Third consideration: Egalitarians should be very careful trying to read Ephesians 5 as promoting their view. Paul says in verse 21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV 1984). Many assume this command is both universal and symmetrical: Every Christian X must submit to every Christian Y, and vice versa. This is a lovely reading, and something very like it is a correct reading of Philippians 2.
But I don’t see how this could be a correct reading of Ephesians 5. Does it even make sense for masters to submit to servants, and how could Paul, who knew the Torah so well, command parents to submit to their children?
Fourth, don’t confuse a refutation of the “doormat theory” for a promotion of egalitarianism. Preferring and laying down one’s life for another is not the same thing as submitting to that person. Christ does this for the Church (Philippians 2), but this doesn’t mean He submits to her; it only means he loves her.
Saying that sacrificial giving equals submission is at best a confusion of categories. At worst, it borders on blasphemy because it suggests that God submits to us created beings.
Fifth, let’s remember that all Christians are under the authority of God and Scripture. If women are to submit to their husbands, it is for the sake of Christ, for whose sake also husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. That is no easy job, for the Cross is no picnic. The Bible tells us all to submit to God in some way that makes us uncomfortable.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)
Dr. Mark J. Boone is a teacher and researcher in philosophy, especially the history of philosophy, primarily the ancient and medieval eras, writing his dissertation on Saint Augustine. Dr. Boone is the Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Forman Christian College. Mark is an occasional book reviewer for the journal Augustinian Studies and has written articles dealing with Plato, William James, theology and the arts, and religious epistemology. In some of his precious little spare time Mark makes animated cartoons based on famous speeches and dialogues in the history of philosophy, available on YouTube and Vimeo under the username TeacherofPhilosophy.