controversial thoughts on complementarianism

listening to sermons by John Piper on gender complementarity. Still working out my views on this.

I was just looking for sermons on Genesis and the rest of the Torah, and came across Piper’s sermons on the opening chapters of Genesis, which happen, in this case, to be on issues of gender and sexuality. I had heard of a controversial sermon by him, involving a guy who defends a woman from being attacked even though she has a black belt in karate … and the first one I listened to happened to be that one (or, perhaps a similar one – he seems to have said similar things at various points). I’ll let you google for more info on the details. As it turns out, I found less to disagree with in the sermon than I had expected.

I consider myself a complementarian, as I think that this is what Scripture teaches. But I’m working out what that means and how to articulate it. It’s not a position that is likely to make me many friends, and this is not ideal.

Something that struck me as incorrect in Piper’s sermon was this: he suggested that complementarianism is not based on any inherent inferiority in the capacities of women, but rather in differing dispositions associated with manhood and womanhood. I disagree – not because I think the first horn of the dilemma is true (that there are natural different capacities for leadership or such), but because it seems a false dilemma. I’m not inclined to base the idea of gender roles on either differing dispositions or on differing capacities, but simply on God’s intention that in the context of particular unions/communities, we choose to function differently, for the good of the whole. I don’t think God’s intention needs to be tied to some kind of natural law out-working, where there is evidence in nature of the intended purpose of relationships; though it is possible that it is also expressed in such a way.

There is more to say here, and perhaps I will develop it and shift my views one way or the other over time. 🙂 I think there is real beauty in differing parts making up a functional whole for God’s glory, and I think it is a profoundly biblical image, but I am exploring it more, amongst many other theological questions in my spare time.

A nice point I hadn’t picked up before is the possible symmetry between the ‘framework’ structure of Gen. 1, where things are ordered into complementary pairs, and the pairing of male and female.

A question remains for me about the nature of the ‘image’ of God, namely the relationship between its constitution and the creation of humans as gendered beings.

All interesting stuff. If anyone happens to read this and strongly disagrees, feel free to let me know – I am open to correction, from one and all.


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