• Christian Gender Complementarian Analogies Do Not Work

Christian Gender Complementarian Analogies Do Not Work

Christian gender complementarians sure are fond of using analogies to support their views. Never mind that their analogies do not work, some are meaningless to some people, and some are arguably heretical.

One of the most favored analogies complementarians employ – to bolster their claim that they believe “women are equal to men in value or worth, just not in role” is to do something like say, “A private in the Army has as much inherent worth as a General, he just doesn’t have as much authority.”

Sometimes, complementarians will patronizingly compare a wife, a marriage, to a boss and employee relationship, in order to make a point that the husband (the boss) may have the “final say” over the wife (the employee), but they are both equal in value as persons.

The problem with such comparisons is that they are based in temporary situations that can change.

Someone who has joined the U.S. military can attend officer training school and shoot from a lower rank to a higher rank.

Even if starting at the bottom of the pile, whether we are talking a military or civilian occupation, and employee who shows dedication, talent, and skill – and possibly one who receives additional education – can be promoted. Today’s mail room subordinate can theoretically be tomorrow’s  C.E.O.

In the world of complementarianism, however, a woman is forever stuck in the same role, the same level, no matter how talented she is, or how dedicated or educated.

A woman’s position under complementarianism is always and forever determined by the biological sex she was born into, which is (sorry to the liberals who support transgenderism and gender fluidity), unchangeable. This is sexism. This is not fair. It’s not godly.

It would be similar to insisting that all pastors, teachers, leaders or “tie breakers” in a marriage dispute, must have white skin and no people of color may ever hope to move forward or take on new responsibilities. (Such a view would be unfairly limiting a person based on a trait he or she was born with: skin color.)

Not only is this complementarian thinking in regards to women similar to racism, but others I’ve seen elsewhere online have said they are reminded of Hinduism’s caste system, where a person is forever “stuck” into the caste they were born into- no amount of skill, talent, or education can change that, either.

This is all very contrary to the American ideal where the U.S.A. is thought of as the land of opportunity, and a person can achieve anything she sets her mind to.

Furthermore, all this complementarian fascination with marriage and male headship and wifely submission is quite meaningless to people, especially women, who are divorced, widowed, or who have never married.

I cannot, as a never-married lady, relate to all these analogies complementarians like to dabble in about comparing God’s relationship to Christians with a man being married to a woman.

This brings me to the new complementarian tactic of comparing marriages to the Trinity.

Complementarians believe in something that was at one time referred to as ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son), which I think some of them have since taken to refer to by another term, what, I do not recollect.

I suspect complementarians dragged this moldy old ESS view out of the closet to combat the first problem with their “role” view I mentioned above: their view is not consistent biblically or I think even logically, so long as they base a woman’s lifelong subordination to a male spouse upon some in-born trait (i.e., her biological sex).

Out of the Christians who believe in a Triune God, the complementarian marriage fixation doesn’t make much sense.

How does one go about comparing a human relationship of two people (husband and wife) to a deity consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It doesn’t match. What does one do with the Holy Spirit in this view? He’s just chopped liver, I suppose.

The “Jesus eternally submits to the Father” belief complementarians posit also dovetails in with a bizarre, unbiblical tendency complementarians have, which is to promote what I like to call a Pink and Blue Christianity, or, a Pink Jesus for women and a Blue Jesus for men to follow, but that may be a subject I will put in a separate post.

If you are a complementarian, I kindly ask you to please stop using the example of a comparing a General to an Army Private, or a Skipper to a First Mate, a employee to a boss, in order to convince critics of your view that you honestly value women, you merely feel women should not hold certain jobs in a church or marriage.

None of these roles you complementarians cite to support your position are applicable, since in real life, a person can be promoted on the job, if they work hard or receive a college degree. If a person applies herself on a secular job, it is theoretically possible for her to be promoted from subordinate to a supervisor above her current boss.

In order for this analogy to be fully applicable, complementarians would have to admit that if a woman feels called, or attends seminary, or has the talent and dedication, that she too may one day aspire to become a preacher, or an equal to a husband in a marriage.

The only thing preventing Christian women from being preachers, leaders, and full equals in marriage, are complementarian misinterpretations of the Bible and these wonky analogies.


Further reading for interested parties, other sites: 

Subordinationism: Some Major Questions

The Doctrine of the Trinity and Subordination

“And to be quite specific, rather than supporting the permanent subordination of women in the church and the home, the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity suggests exactly the opposite.”

The Trinity and the Eternal Subordination of the Son (CBE, cached version)

A Brief Overview of the Development of Eternal Subordination of the Son Doctrine: What You Must Believe to Fully Embrace the Danvers Statement


More on this blog:

Gender Complementarian Trinitarian Analogies Do Not Work

Christian Gender Complementarianism, Lists, Rules, and Over-Promises

Gender Complementarianism Does Not Adequately Address, or Address At All, Incompetent, Loser, Or Incapacitated Men

The Semantic Games of Gender Complementarians

Why Arguments Against Women in Ministry Aren’t Biblical by Ben Witherington

Yes, Complementarianism Infantilizes Women – and the Complementarian Tie-Breaking Vote Doctrine

The Shifting Goal Posts of Complementarianism Show How Bankrupt It Is

Housework, Dirty Dishes, Complementarianism and Personal Anecdotes

Christian Gender Complementarianism is Christian-Endorsed Codependency for Women (And That’s Not A Good Thing)

Even Warm and Fuzy, True, Correctly-Implemented Gender Complementarianism is Harmful to Women, and It’s Still Sexism – Yes All Comps (Refuting “Not All Comps”)

A Response to the Complementarian ‘The Beauty of Womanhood Essay’ by Abagail Dodds

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5 thoughts on “• Christian Gender Complementarian Analogies Do Not Work

  1. There’s another prospect that the complementarians don’t like to admit; a general in an army can be court-martialed and lose his authority. A captain can lose the confidence of his crew as well as his position. I believe that some men should not and ought not be given authority over others – men, women, children, employees, because it’s in their nature to abuse authority in every context. They don’t like to admit that some men shouldn’t lead – they just say that the women in their lives have to submit harder and try not to make him upset.

    • @ Jamie Carter

      Excellent point! May I edit the original post to quote you on that (giving you credit, of course). If you say yes, I hope I remember to edit the post to add it.

      I still sometimes see the occasional gender complementarian using this argument, even in 2017 (the one about a Private in the Army vs a General). You’d think they’d give up on it, but it’s out there. I think most of them have been moving to the ESS tactic, though.

      • Certainly.

        Some complementarian teachings exist in a vacuum, it seems. They get used over and over again in isolated bubbles that never really get called out or challenged because anything that isn’t complete agreement is often not permitted. I’d expect to continue to see it pop up for quite some time.

      • Right – because they put men on the “Christ” side of the metaphor and women on the “Church” side, a man not marrying is like Christ who never redeems his church, or a church that’s never been redeemed by her Christ. But they forget that such men often mess up the metaphor and turn it into something ugly, forcing their will as if they’re a godlike being to whom their wives owe their total submission.
        But some men aren’t abusive, yet the way they live out their gender roles inherently robs women of their dignity. I remember one complementarian couple in my church who obeyed the Bible literally – especially when it came to the teaching that women must be silent in church. On Sundays, you’d never hear the wife utter a word – her husband would do all the talking and she stood quietly behind him, looking down. When I think about “equal but separate” roles, this couple makes me realize that if complementarianism was fully fleshed out into a systems of rules about who could do what when, it wouldn’t be good for anyone.

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