Recently, I read an article entitled “6 Things Egalitarian Marriage is Not“, which was posted by The Junia Project. If you haven’t been exposed to what “Egalitarianism” is, it is simply, one way of describing spousal roles and their relation to each other. The term comes from the French word “egal” meaning equal. The Egalitarian describes the husband and wife to be equal in their value as individual people and equal in the roles they perform. I don’t agree with this understanding, but there are a couple of things to commend The Junia Project for. First, they confess to believe in a high view of Scripture: the Bible is God’s Word, perfect and authoritative for our life. Second, they believe in the triune nature of God: God is three persons, Father, Spirit, and Son. Lastly, they believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven and salvation is through repentance and faith in him.
I hold to the view of “Complementarianism”, which affirms that men and women are equal before God, equal in the image they bear, equal in worth and dignity, but have separate and distinct roles that complement each other. In reading Robin Rhine’s article that I mentioned above, I found places of agreement and places of disagreement. Some of these disagreements don’t make me think she isn’t a Christian, but it does persuade me to think she hasn’t grasped the correct view of gender roles and marriage the way the Bible describes it. Here are some points of disagreement:
- The Male Headship Role as a Post-Fall Reality. Rhine doesn’t make this point in her article, but The Junia Project believes this to be true. This point directs our attention to Genesis, which is a great place to get a foundation for understanding gender roles and marriage. Genesis 2:19-20 describes that God gave the command to man to name all the animals. The job of naming is something that in Hebrew literature is a sign of authority, leadership, and, as I would like to call it, headship. God named Adam to show God’s headship over Adam. So the created order of headship follows as God, to man, to woman and then to living creatures. All of this is from Genesis 2. The headship order is in effect before the fall of Genesis 3. God rules over man and man rules over women, but this isn’t at the expense of treating women as unequal in the worth that they have or the image they bear. Paul appeals to the created order in 1 Timothy 2:13, which shows the leadership role of man over woman because man was created first.
- Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16: There is no doubt about that this passage is difficult to interpret. Rhine establishes her interpretation of this passage by saying, “Egalitarian marriage is not the removal of a covering, but the affirmation of Jesus Christ as the ‘covering’ and the Lord of all those who have chosen to follow Him.” It’s bad to allegorize the covering that Paul is speaking about as Jesus. You should interpret this covering to be a literal covering that the people, who Paul was addressing, would have worn in that day. I don’t support an interpretation that says we should practice the cultural custom of which Paul is speaking to, but the principle should be practiced. The principle is that women should be subject to their husbands headship (v. 3) by showing even outwardly that they are in submission to their husbands, who is the head. Christ represents the head of the Church, just as the husband is the head and leader of his wife (Ephesians 5:23).
- Egalitarianism Promotes Kingdom Work. Rhine seems to make the point that Egalitarianism and/or Egalitarian marriage is something that is meant for the Kingdom. Rhine puts it this way saying, “Egalitarian marriage is not a way of living that’s meant to be feared. It is a way to live that is meant for the Kingdom.” My understanding of marriage, which I believe to be Paul’s and Jesus’ understanding, is that husbands are to represent Christ in their marriages as way of portraying the gospel. Women aren’t excluded from this work of picturing the gospel, but their contribution to it isn’t the same as the way the husband contributes to it. Woman are to submit (Ephesians 5:22) and in submitting they contribute to the picture of the gospel; this idea of marriage is presented when the Kingdom actually comes. Revelation 19:6-10 pictures the Kingdom coming and the consummation of this Kingdom by the marriage supper of the Lamb. Christ, who is the head and leader, marries his Bride, the submissive Church. What better way to be apart of Kingdom work by picturing marriage the way God has intended marriage to be! The husband lovingly leads his wife, who graciously submits to him because of his great leadership. This is why we serve Jesus, because he is a great head who we can trust his leadership. Jesus is worthy to submit to because of the great sacrifice he has shown for us on the cross!
More (free!) resources about the view I hold can be found here.