Russell Moore: Will Complementarianism Survive the #meToo Movement?

Russell Moore complementarianism

Russell Moore often addresses cultural movements and hot-button issues. With the #meToo movement showing no signs of losing steam, Moore addresses the question of whether complementarianism will survive the movement. His argument: Biblical complementarianism will. Hyper-complementarianism won’t (and shouldn’t).

The Difference Between Hyper-Complementarianism and Biblical Complementarianism

“What we’re seeing now is a sifting between a hyper-complementarianism and a biblical complementarianism,” Moore says on his Signposts podcast. The distinction is important because hyper-complementarianism leads to things like women being silenced.

Hyper-complementarianism emphasizes the distinctions between men and women beyond what the two sexes have in common. While biblical complementarianism acknowledges the distinction between men and women, it emphasizes the fact that we need each other—that we cannot properly function without each other. Further, Moore explains a biblical complementarian believes men have a unique role to lead—not toward their own self-interest, rather away from it for the good of the women and children in their care. In other words, they are called to lead toward self-deprecation and sacrifice. Hyper-complementarianism, on the other hand, lends itself to male dominance.

How Does Complementarianism Compare to Egalitarianism?

Speaking of the lessons #meToo and #churchToo have taught us, Moore says, “There is no ideological safe harbor.” Meaning, both egalitarians and complementarians are grappling with the ways in which the big C church has mishandled women and their claims of abuse. “It seems the apocalypse—the revealing of things that were already present but hidden—that’s taking place has happened across the board… It’s impossible to say, ‘You are the ones to blame and over here that’s not happening.’”

And yet, some are asking if the #meToo movement will usher in the end of complementarianism. The debate over egalitarian and complementarian readings of Scripture has been re-engaged. We have a tendency, Moore says, to react to the controversy over the interpretation of Scripture by polarizing it. We divide Scripture into “ours” and “theirs” camps. Egalitarians will point to Galatians 3:28 to make their arguments, while complementarians will speak from 1 Timothy 2. But this is a wrong view of the whole word of God, Moore says, and one that will only serve to divide us further.

There is a ditch on either side of the egalitarian/complementarian debate. Carrying an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture further than roles for men and women in the church will cause some (not all) egalitarians to affirm homosexuality. On the other side, carrying a complementarian interpretation of Scripture further will cause some complementarians (not all) to affirm male domination.

What Complementarians Get Wrong

Moore then goes into the things complementarian churches often get wrong or miss the mark, so to speak.

1. Emphasizing a corporate (as in economic business) analogy rather than the analogies the Bible uses of body and family. Using this analogy as the male as the head (the CEO) and the rest of the body being the staff or employees, we are very far off what Paul was teaching about marriage. Moore says what Paul was emphasizing was not who should have the agenda, but rather a “seamless” moving together that is similar to Christ and the church moving together. In this relationship, there isn’t a constant struggle over who is in charge.

2. Saying only men should lead. Moore encourages his listeners to think about the role of men and women in light of other giftings or roles Scripture talks about. For instance, if a person has the gift or been called to the role of evangelism, that doesn’t mean that his or her neighbor who has a different gift can’t (and shouldn’t) evangelize. In the same way, a complementarian husband shouldn’t say “I’m the only one who leads” or “I’m the only one who sacrifices.”

3. Failing to emphasize the household of God. This goes back to Moore’s point about the CEO/staff analogy. Because of the household reference Paul uses, Moore encourages us to think of men’s roles in the church as that of a father and women’s roles as a mother. To say that men are to be pastors, Moore argues, is not to say men are called to be in charge. It’s to say that men are called to fathering.

4. Being a tad pharisaical. Some complementarians have become ”more intent on defining ourselves over and against the other…that we have sometimes done exactly what the religious leaders in Jesus’ time were doing to the law: taking the law and building all sorts of hedges around it so that they could be at ease knowing there was no way they were going to violate it…” The way this plays out in some complementarian churches is not allowing or not encouraging women to take any positions of responsibility to deter them from taking the wrong positions.

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Megan Briggs
Megan Briggs is a writer and editor for ChurchLeaders.com. Her experience in ministry, an extensive amount of which was garnered overseas, gives her a unique perspective on the global church. She has the longsuffering and altruistic nature of foreign friends and missionaries to humbly thank for this experience. Megan is passionate about seeking and proclaiming the truth. When she’s not writing, Megan likes to explore God’s magnificent creation.

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