I Am (Still) A Complementarian
July 27, 2016
My good friend, Todd Pruitt, recently wrote a post in which he gave several reasons why he no longer considers himself a complementarian. I must admit, there is much in Todd's article with which I agree. I share his concerns about the way in which the term complementarian has been sometimes been "freighted with unacceptable doctrine." Additionally, I have found the recent debate on the Trinity to be both helpful and insightful. Theology is ultimately a study about God; and, if we miss the mark on who the Triune God is then everything downstream from it (and everything is downstream from it) is ultimately affected. The doctrine of the Trinity must be carefully defined and defended. I also agree with Todd about the necessity to be Confessional. I spent several great years on staff with a large parachurch campus organization. I ended up leaving because I couldn't handle the pragmatic and progressive ways in which the Bible was being treated by many of those with whom I labored. Then I read Carl Trueman's The Creedal Imperative and breathed a sigh of relief. I learned that there was someone who could actually articulate, in an intelligent fashion, the rationale for the angst I was feeling. We had handled the Scriptures as if they were no longer wedded to the traditions of the Church Catholic. There was no place for the historic creeds and confessions of the Church. Consequently, the interpretation of Scripture could swing wildly, depending on the particular needs of the moment. Though often well-intended, the organization with which I served was developing policies and strategies that were simply unbiblical. The Creeds and Confessions of historic Protestantism serve as the guardrails for our interpretation; and, as Todd pointed out in his recent post, our denomination holds to a Confession of Faith and a Book of Church Order that addresses a myriad of issues affecting the church today. The pilgrim path Christians must navigate today is perilous and treacherous. Now is a time when I am especially grateful to be hemmed in and protected by these guardrails. I, too, am Confessional. But I am still a complementarian. While I share Todd's concerns about the Trinity, I think there is still much value in the term complementarian. I don't think we should jettison it just yet. Let me explain by way of analogy. I am a Presbyterian. Sometimes when I speak to people about being a Presbyterian there comes a point where I have to say, "I'm not that kind of Presbyterian." In the minds of most people, the term Presbyterian is equated with the liberal mainline denomination. Perhaps there will come a day when I think it necessary to ditch the term "Presbyterian," but I'm not there yet because it still describes who I am. There is still greater benefit than liability in using the term. It might require some explanation, but the term is still valuable enough to keep it. I don't believe that the term complementarian has become so synonymous with the doctrine of the Son's eternal subordination to the Father as to be rendered useless. With our culture's continued march toward sexual anarchy, the term complementarian still helps explain what the Bible teaches about men and women. And it does so by standing together with other brothers and sisters who labor to teach a Biblical understanding of sex and gender. The church's united articulation of what means to be made, male and female, in the image of God is crucial and one of the principle battlefields for the hearts and minds of the lost. The prevailing culture is striving to convince us from our elementary schools and up that there is no real difference between male and female other than a social or personal construct. Yet the Scriptures affirm that our being male or female is part of our created nature. The distinction of the two sexes honors the way in which God has made us in His image. It is through these two sexes that God has ordained for the propagation of all mankind. Societies are constructed of the building blocks of families. If this is true, then our maleness and femaleness goes beyond the doors of the church and the doors of the home. And it would be beneficial for the church to have language to address this and to defend it from attack. I think complementarian succinctly addresses this void, even if imperfectly. Might the term need clarification? Absolutely. Will we need to make some distinctions? Probably. Might there come a day when I feel the need to abandon it? Possibly. But to the vast majority of people who are familiar with the term, it describes one's view on what the Scripture teaches regarding male/female roles. While some high profile proponents of complementarianism have arguably adopted a non-Nicene view of the Trinity, the usefulness of the term complementarian has not completely passed. Broadly speaking, the term still addresses what the Bible says about men and women in their respective God-given roles and less so an aberrant view of the Trinity. And our sexually confused world needs to hear clarity about what it means to be a man or a woman in the world and in marriage. The challenges of the day, therefore, compel me to still consider myself to be a complementarian.