Complementarianism for Dummies
Last week a reporter asked me to define “complementarianism.” She didn’t know what it meant. And that’s not entirely surprising.
“Complementarity” is a word that doesn’t appear in the Bible, but is used by people to summarize a biblical concept. It’s like the word “Trinity.” The Bible never uses the word “Trinity.” But it’s undeniable that it points to a Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Though the concept of male-female complementarity is present from Genesis through Revelation, the label “complementarian” has only been in use for about 25 years. It was coined by a group of scholars who got together to try and come up with a word to describe someone who ascribes to the historic, biblical idea that male and female are equal, but different. The need for such a label arose in response to the proposition that equality means role-interchangeability (egalitarianism)—a concept that was first forwarded and popularized in Evangelical circles in the 1970s and 80s by “Biblical Feminists.”
I’ve read several posts on the internet lately from people who misunderstand and/or misrepresent the complementarian view. I was at the meeting, 25 years ago, where the word “complementarian” was chosen. So I think I have a good grasp on the word’s definition.
In this post I want to boil it down for you. In emulation of the popular “for Dummies” series of instructional books, I’ll give you a “Complementarianism for Dummies” primer on the intended meaning of the word.
You can read the whole thing here.