Male and Female Complementarity, Part 4

G05B0065 Continuing from the last post in this series…

“Male and female, while fully equal as the image of God, are nonetheless distinct in the manner of their possession of the image of God. The female’s becoming the image of God through the male indicates a God-intended sense of her reliance upon him, as particularly manifest in the home and community of faith.”

– Bruce Ware, Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God

Also note:

“… a God-intended sense of her reliance upon him (the male), as particularly manifest in the home and community of faith.”

Personally, I think God intended male and female to rely on Him.  But if Ware’s talking in terms of human relationships, why doesn’t he say something more along the lines of: “… a God-intended sense of her partnership/collaboration/alliance with him?”

And why is this alleged “reliance” upon the man “particularly (emphasis added) manifest in the home and community of faith”?

If we’re going to advocate a female “reliance” upon the male anywhere, why confine or relegate it “particularly” to the home and the community of faith?  Why not go whole hog?  Why not also apply that in the corporate boardroom?  At school?  The workplace?  The PTA?  The bank, library, bakery, athletic field, military, college campus, Congress and the courtroom?  Why is this “reliance” upon the male “particularly” manifest at home and in the community of faith – and doesn’t this sound a whole lot like spiritual apartheid?

While we’re on the subject, kindly explain how women can own their own businesses, meet payrolls, serve as corporate presidents and CEOs, make decisions, serve as mayors, governors and prime ministers, be elected to Congress and run for the presidency of the United States, but when they set foot inside their front door – or inside the door of a church – they’re consigned to Suzy Homemaker-isms, staffing the nursery, serving cookies and pouring lemonade?  Nothing wrong with any of that, but… What does Ware do with the fact that neither list of spiritual gifts noted by Paul in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12 for “equipping the saints for the work of service” and “building up the church” are gender specific?  This includes the gifts of pastor/teacher/shepherd/leadership.  Are these gifts male-only until a female “becomes” a possessor of the image of God –as determined by …?  Then she can exercise her gifts?  Who decides?  When?  How?

Can of Worms?

… Since we’re on the topic of “image of God” and gifts, etc., we might as well open this proverbial “can of worms” and  “go whole hog.”  So while we’re on the topic, let’s dive in with another question: Does the intentional exclusion of capable Christian women from church leadership constitute “spiritual abuse?  (Click here for another definition.)


Be careful here.  Even raising the question may be enough to cause some to grab a handful (or truckload) of stones.  But hold on a minute.  Just think it through a bit more….

While you’re at it, check out The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen.  In Chapter 9 (p. 113), they note that:

Using rank, position, status, or title as a sole basis of spiritual authority reminds us of the maddening attitude concerning the role of women in the church, a residue, we believe, of the old Hebrew system of governing.

In Israel, the criteria for leadership and authority was based on three things.  The first criterion was age: You had to be old.  Second, gender: you had to be male.  And third, race: You had to be Hebrew.  Obviously, it was a great system for old Hebrew males.  In that system, you didn’t have to be right, wise, gentle, discerning, Spirit-directed, or godly.  If you were a young Gentile woman, it wouldn’t matter if you were… You didn’t have authority because you didn’t fit the external criteria.

But consider Acts 2.  the Holy Spirit came and blew that system to pieces when the prophesy (sic) of Joel was fulfilled at Pentecost: “I will pour forth My spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.  Even upon My bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit” (vv. 17 – 18.  Emphasis in original.)

In the new covenant, then we see that Jesus established a new basis of authority.  It was no longer age, gender, or race.  It is now based on the evidence of the Holy Spirit within you…

Johnson’s and VanVonderen’s book is not a treatise on gender theory or gender roles.  However, isn’t it intriguing that an entire section of a book on “spiritual abuse” discusses the topic in tandem with the role of women in the church?

Now, before anyone goes off half-cocked, just hold on a sec!

It Might

Are we suggesting, implying or otherwise insinuating that the deliberate, intentional exclusion of Christian women from church leadership in favor of the “Good Old Boys Club” (an exclusively male hierarchy) can always be called “spiritual abuse”?  Not at all.  There may be other considerations and  factors in play.  However, if the deliberate, intentional exclusion takes place within the context of a heavy-handed, autocratic, top-down church hierarchy and the effect – intentional or not- is to marginalize, trivialize, wound, restrict, stifle, suppress or otherwise disrespect – it might.  (Click here for a “Spiritual Abuse Profile”.  Visit the top nav bar for more, including a list of resources on the topic.)

What do you think?

Stay tuned for Part 5.


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