Thursday, April 26, 2012


Patriarchalism, Complementarianism, Egalitarianism, big words all ending in "ism," but do they have anything else in common? Not much! Unless you count the fact that each group has Christians, both male and female, who hold to one of them as the popular title of their particular point of view about what the bible teaches concerning the roles of men and women in family life, church life, and even society at large. 

The end result of a couple of them is a kind of male gender authority that is said to be God's plan for the ages. If these three words are unfamiliar to you at present, trust me, they will not be for long. They define what may be one of the major issues facing Christians today in the theological realm.

What follows is a bit of what I trust will be a fair and non-condemning description of each of these differing views of male and female roles with emphasis specifically on how male authority is seen in scripture. Ultimately, I'll give my view and why I hold it. 

I going to simplify this post by using abbreviations instead of the three rather long words each time they're mentioned. So from here on it will be the battle of the Pats, the Comps, and the Egals with winner take all. 

First the Pats. [Patriarchal] They hold to what they believe to be a God-assigned role of authority for the male head of the family without question. In fact, they see the father/husband to be something of the Prophet/Priest/King of the family structure with much of the responsibility, power and prominence that go with each of those roles to be inherent within being__the man. 

The Pats believe that the male head of the family unit is the final word on any issue where a decision must be made. There may be some disagreement within the family members, but he has final word. They usually see this role of the male to be not only for the family, but for the church and society at large as well.

The Comps [Complementarian] would hold to the same view of the male role without it necessarily being for society as a whole. But it is certainly true for the home and church in the Comps mind. They also would generally be less likely to have a rigid control in place, being more open to the gifts and personality of the wife. In fact, it would be more of a complementary aspect of the marriage that they would wish to emphasize. But that would have to be without any loss of the final decision responsibility and power of the man as husband and father. Thus, the coined name, Complementarian.  

Because of the similarities of the first two however, I will address them as one, yet will in fairness, as earlier promised, try to point out a few minor differences along the way. 

The third group, Egals, [Egalitarian] will be examined by itself in the next post.

It would only be fair to say that both the Pats and Comps would agree that, while the husband is to love the wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, God has simply divinely appointed the man as the one to have final decision making responsibilities as has been described. The Comps would more likely hear the wife's advice and input, but if there is disagreement, both Pats and Comps would see the man is to have God-appointed decision-making responsibility in that moment. The wife's role, in both systems, is to graciously submit and obey any final male decision that is made.

All of this is determined to be true because of the Ephesians 5:22-25 passage that establishes the man as the "head" over the wife [meaning boss] as Christ is "head" over the Church. Add to that passage the 1 Timothy 2:12 verse that establishes [as they see it] the eternal principle that the woman can never have authority over the man in any situation, and you have male authority established. [Remember the distinction of society at large being exempt for most Comps.]

There are other 'Logical' arguments used by Pats and Comps that they believe give some further biblical basis for this view, but those arguments don't count very much in the final analysis from my perspective. For example, they say since all the original 12 Apostles were men it follows logically that women should not be leaders.  My problem is if you continue that argument for a moment you will be faced with the logical fact that all of those men were Jewish and all had, as much as we can know, been circumcised. I think you get the picture. The fine line of where logic ends doesn't make for the best of arguments. But I digress.

If a woman is single, both Pats and Comps see this headship found in the woman's father or some male who is older and is responsible for her welfare. When she marries, that is then transferred to her husband. All this is seen as the God-ordained authority structure firmly established in the home and family.

You will not be surprised that this has profound ramifications in the local church. Pats and comps say that the 1 Corinthians 14:34-40 passage indicates that the submission of the woman already found in the home in Ephesians 5, is found to be true in the church as well. 

So much so that, in the Pats case, a woman is not allowed to read scripture, lead in prayer, or teach, except children and other women, and in some churches, women are not allowed to be present for business discussions and if they are present, no questions would be permitted at all. 

The Comps would be less rigid for sure, but would not permit a woman to have a leadership position in church over men or to teach men. Neither would allow for a woman to hold the office of deacon or pastor/elder. Additionally, the role of the man in the family is given to the pastor or elders of the church as well.

Pats and Comp proponents, while quick to point out that the scriptures show all this to be correct and true, would just as quickly acknowledge that women are of equal value in the eyes of God with men. But God has simply appointed different roles for them within the family and church. 

To be truly biblical they believe the same must be held to in our day in truly Christian families and churches. After all, the scriptures never change. Culture may, but not the bible.

In fact, Comps and Pats find it amazing that anyone who says that they study the scriptures could ever come to a position that disagrees with their male/female point of view. 

Clearly, they believe that those who do hold to a different opinion___and I'm referring to the Egals now___whose view of scripture and male authority we've not yet addressed, but when we do it will be found to be fundamentally different than the Pats and Comps___ are theological liberals who have embraced today's culture and live by political correctness rather than endorse what is clearly God's biblical roles for men and women. 

Are the Pats and the Comps correct in their opinion about Egals? Do Egals follow culture with a total disregard for scripture? 

We shall see next time.

Paul B.


Off The Cuff said...

Bro. Paul,
I am eager to respond to your last two questions. However, I will refrain and await your next post. Having read your previous entries, I expect that I will be pleased with your answers.

Have a great day.
God Bless!

Aussie John said...


Thank you for this, as it will be very helpful to a very dear brother whose wife is influenced by the Pat. teaching coming through a branch of the home schooling movement.

Of course :),I'm pleased that it supports what I've attempted to share with him,as well.

Looking forward to the next part.

Paul Burleson said...

Off the C,

You certainly don't need to wait to respond. Whatever you wish to say about any one of the views is perfectly legitimate. Say away. I'd love to hear from you.

Aussie J,

If this can help with your friends I'll be more than pleased.

I'm interested in any information or insights you will have on it as I am with O the C.

Off The Cuff said...

In the book of Genesis, the book of beginnings, there is a very narrow window through which we can view creation before it was infected with sin. It is exciting to read about each day’s creation and the Creators proclamation that “It is good.” It is especially exciting to read about the creation of mankind on day six, and the proclamation that it is very good. Looking through that narrow window of time before sin entered the world we can see a perfect picture of the kind of relationship that God intended for a man and a woman.
• Mankind was made in the image of God. Each gender bears some qualities of His image but it is together that his image is most clearly reflected.
• God created mankind to be different but without division. In the beginning God revealed the plurality of his nature (Let Us). The plurality of mankind’s nature is reflected in gender (male and female.) We readily see, in the nature of God, the absence of strife and division. Therefore, there should be no strife or division in the relationship between a man and woman. Strife and division is clearly the result of sin.
• God created mankind, and even though it was a two-step process, God made it very clear that the two should become one. Adam indicated that he understood when he said, “She is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”
• God placed mankind (אָדָם ) in the garden to tend to it. Before sin, there was no separation of labor, purpose or role. Eve was a “help meet” to Adam, and likewise, Adam was a “help meet” to Eve.
• Before sin entered the world both Adam and Eve stood equally in the presence of God, neither one before the other.
• Before sin entered the world Adam and Eve stood in the presence of each other in innocence without shame.
When sin entered the world it destroyed all of the above. Christ came in order to redeem and restore us from the ravages of sin. How can we proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior while clinging to and justifying the destruction that sin brought to the relationship between man and woman? Our goal as Christian men and women should be to strive for the ideal that is so clearly demonstrated in that narrow window before sin entered the world. Neither a Patriarchal mindset, nor a Complementation mindset accomplishes that goal. Only when the two can, once again, become one will God’s image be restored in mankind and He will once again pronounce that “It is very good.”

Paul Burleson said...

Off the C,

Tucked among all the fine points of your comment is this one point that will..A- give a hint as to my own stance on this issue and ..B- cause me to say I could not agree more...

."Neither a Patriarchal mindset, nor a Complementation mindset accomplishes that goal. Only when the two can, once again, become one will God’s image be restored in mankind and He will once again pronounce that “It is very good.”

Good stuff Off the C. Thanks.

Aussie John said...


Apparently there are something like 234 different isms. Every one of them represent a philosophical, political or moral doctrine or a belief system, which is one reason I believe that the belief system of many who claim to be Christian has degenerated into being a mere ism (Christianism).

In my opinion the terms you are speaking about, which have become the subject of much debate on the web, and the pet subjects of some who regard themselves as experts on each position, have become a part of the degeneration previously mentioned. They have become a point of doctrine which either includes a person to,or excludes them from being a faithful member of the Body of Christ.

That in itself has caused me to avoid discussing the matter because the Scriptures make no such division.

My opinion is that the Patriarchalism of the Old Covenant, which is a form of social organization in which a male is the family head and title is traced through the male line, as amongst the Old Covenant people.

It has no place in the life of a New Covenant people who, both male and female, have a common Father revealed in our Saviour, the Lord, Jesus Christ, who is the sole Head of the Family of God.

The latter fact, in my opinion, eliminates any need for discussion about the other two, each of which have some salient points; e.g. men and women do have complimentary roles, but this does not compromise, in any way, that in God's economy of things they are absolute equality in all things, as asserted in Galatians 3.

Bissy said...

Lovin your blog! I'm going to start following your blog, hope you do the same!

Rex Ray said...

AH! The old age discussion of different view-points on what the Bible says, means, and the BIG question if what is said is TRUE.

With the background of “In youth we learn; in age we understand.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, lets look at SOME scripture.

For example, did Peter know ‘everything’ at Pentecost, or did he learn truth with age?

At Pentecost, did he believe Jesus died for Gentiles, or was it after God gave him a vision?

At Pentecost, Peter said, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. THEN you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NLT)

Peter was still a “youth” in learning WHEN a person became a Christian and received the Holy Spirit, but later he “understood” after seeing Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit BEFORE they were baptized that baptism was NOT required to be saved as some Christians teach.

With that said, and since the hour is late, I’ll pull a Paul Burleson and say more is coming with the scripture that he referenced.

Rex Ray said...


First scripture:
“For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. For husbands, this means love your wives just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. (Ephesians 5:22-25 NLT)

Let’s see; I could hire someone (wife) to work for me and they would obey (submit) to my wishes.

But if I hired someone who would lay down their life for me (bodyguard); how much MORE would that someone submit to me?

With this thought in mind, this scripture is saying the same thing as the preceding verse that the Pats and Comps ignore”

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Second scripture:
“I do not let women teach men or have authority over them.” (1 Timothy 2:12 NLT)

If the ‘proof’ of a statement is FALSE, then the statement is FALSE.

Paul’s proof:
Verse 13: “For God made Adam first…”

HUH? Where in the Bible is the rule that God always chose by seniority?

Verse 14:
“And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan.”

Another huh? Paul was right---Adam wasn’t deceived—he sinned deliberately and blamed Eve. Since God didn’t accept Adam’s thinking, why would he accept the same from Paul?

Just to show Paul’s thinking is in a rut, his next verse says:
“But women will be saved through childbearing…”
Nuff said for now.

George Stone said...

I cannot agree with anyone who supports the idea that anything in Scripture is "in a rut" or errant in any way. The truths of Scripture do not "blossom" from less to more truth, all Scripture is God-breathed and has final authority. Lastly, our treatment of another person, whether male or female, should center around the truth of the gospel. If marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ and his redeemed bride, then husbands and wives won't be as concerned with their rights and positions as they will the reflection of the beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kristen said...

Rex, I don't think the problem is Paul. But I think that you have shown quite clearly that the complementarian way of interpreting the passages is indeed in contradiction to other things the Scriptures, and even Paul himself, say elsewhere. Unless Paul had a personality disorder or couldn't think coherently, or constantly changed his mind throughout his letters, the complementarians are misunderstanding Paul.

George Stone, I don't think the Bible teaches that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church. Instead, a specific picture of Christ doing a specific thing for the church, is being held up as a picture our marriages are to follow: and that something is laying down His power and position in order to raise the church up to be glorious. Even so were first-century husbands, who were absolutely in power over their wives, to lay down their power and position and raise their wives up.

Here's a link to the first part of my series on the subject, if you're interested:

Paul Burleson said...


I've been away in Little Rock Ark and have not been active on this post needing to put up the new one yesterday after I returned.

I've just read the comments some of you left and Kirsten was gracious enough to answer. I need say nothing further. She said it well.

Please go read her blog and do it regularly. I do it almost daily and if she doesn't write a new one for a few days I get to read the one she has up several times. It's worth the time spent. You'll find it here...

Thanks Kirsten.

Rex Ray said...

George Stone,

I agree all Scripture is God-breathed, but I disagree that all words in the Bible are Scripture.

Since God cannot tell an untruth, any untruth in the Bible is not from God.

More than once Jesus said he did not know that only his Father knew. I don’t understand how that ‘worked’, but an example is (John 16:32 Holman)

“Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me along. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”

George, you probably agree that Jesus was referring to Calvary, but was his Father with him?

If God was not with his Son at Calvary, then Jesus believed an untruth. The truth was revealed by “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?


Thanks for your words and your post. I agree that first-century husbands were in power over their wives.

Even today where in the world are women treated as equals with men? Baptist Churches? Ha

When Billy Graham’s daughter was asked to speak at a large gathering, over a hundred men turned their chairs backwards to show their protest because she was a woman.

Our association does not have one woman as a deacon. Hmmmm

When Martha asked Jesus to send Mary to the kitchen, most Baptists don’t comprehend the answer that Jesus gave put women on an equal status with men.

Kristen said...

Paul, you are sweet! But I only have time right now to update my blog once a week! Please don't expect more-- I've got two teenagers at home and a nearly-fulltime job.