T4G Panel 1: Complementarianism
John Piper, Greg Gilbert, and Russell Moore; moderated by Ligon Duncan.
Piper and Grudem were part of writing the Danver’s Statement. The term “complementarian” was coined at a breakfast meeting in 1986.
Piper was teaching at Bethel College between 1974 and 1980. Speakers coming to chapel were increasingly aggressive; Virginia Mollenkott called their view “obscene.”
Moore is concerned that “complementarian” can be a box to be checked, but still conforming to the pattern of this age. We have to deal with things like gender reassignment surgery—something that someone like Martin Luther never had to deal with!
Gilbert sees a lot of functional egalitarianism.
Why include this issue at a conference called “Together for the Gospel?” Why highlight it when it divides us?
Piper: A really good question. You don’t have to be a complementarian to be saved; it’s not essential at that level. But what are the implications of not following through with what Ephesians 5 or 1 Timothy 2 seem to see? The issues hermeneutically for the gospel are significant. You have to do hermeneutical gymnastics, and sooner or later you’ll get the gospel wrong. If you say “there is no head” and “there is no submission” you cancel out the visible gospel in marriage. If you deny that men should be the leaders, it’s going to malfunction in the church. It’s written on the heart to malfunction longterm when complementarianism is not put into practice.
Gilbert: In order to get to an egalitarian conclusion you have to bring in some bad DNA that corrodes the authority of Scripture until you get to the heart of the gospel.
Moore: Ephesians 5 says marriage is a mystery designed to show you Christ and the church. God creates Adam to have someone taken like him who is different from him and they become one flesh. To strike at that, you tear apart the image of the gospel. The question is not male headship—but what kind of male headship we will have. When we have a male headship unhinged from the gospel, women and children are going to be hurt. If we don’t show self-sacrificial male headship, then it will be satanic to the core.
Duncan: (1) Some guys lean into complementarianism; (2) other guys backburner this; (3) others question the issue itself, wondering if we have baptized something traditional.
Moore: There’s another category: (4) hyper-masculinity—more Nimrod than Jesus of Nazareth or Joseph.
When people embrace this issue, they become counter-cultural. It looks gloriously strange. We need to stop mimicking the culture—even in the kind of pictures we put in our publications (“the supermodels shall inherit the earth”).
Gilbert: When you’re the pastor of a local church it’s almost impossible to backburner the issue—who is going to teach? You better have some well-formulated thoughts. It’s possible to mess up by framing it purely in terms of negatives (what we can’t do). We should talk about women serving in every way in the church that the Bible commends—though there are certain roles God has reserved for men in God’s wisdom.
Duncan: Where do you see the receptiveness of this message?
Piper: I talk to pretty conservative places. It amazes me the difference between the 20s/30s crowd today vs. what he saw in the late 80s. Now you have guys here (like Chandler, Platt, DeYoung) who embrace this and have thousands of gifted women who love this.
The question egalitarians have never satisfactorily answered for me is: If you’re raising an 8 year old girl, and she asks, “What does it mean to be a woman and not a man?” or a boy says “to be a man and not a woman?” You can’t just speak instead of plumbing (that’s not personhood), and you can’t just speak about virtues (because that doesn’t differentiate). They can’t answer this. Piper tried to answer this question in What’s the Difference?
Duncan: Not everyone who comes to T4G is complementarian. Some are willing to be persuaded that this is biblical and important.
Moore: You have to wrestle with texts like Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 2. You also have to deal with complementarianism—what it is, and not just its caricature. It’s not “woman, get me my chips.” But “what is in the best interest of my bride and my children, dying daily to self?” Jesus in washing his disciples’ feet leads lovingly and gently with words, not in passivity or total sovereignty.
Gilbert: I want to demonstrate biblical masculinity and use words if necessary—so I want to yield my time to Dr. Piper!
Difference of role does not denigrate dignity.
Piper: I’d start with Ephesians—that’s the clearest. A woman should submit to her husband; a husband should be the head. Even if one can’t prove that kephale means head (by doing what Grudem can do by looking up 3,000 uses), and one tries to make it mean source—what it still turns out to be is the source of protection, provision, and leadership. It’s what every woman wants: to be loved and respected.
Then I’d go to 1 Timothy 2: teaching and having authority are the two things that distinguish between elders and deacons. They should be men. And Paul grounds it in creation.
Then go back to Genesis 1 and 2. Why does God set things up this way with given directions to Adam? Why is Adam so passive instead of protecting her from the tempter?