Back in the seventies and eighties, the culture war was strong. Many questioned what had previously been assumed truths. Christians were questioning settled doctrine, especially ones concerning authority in the church and family.
Concerned older men and women lamented their failing culture. Kids were talking back. Divorce rates were rising. Homosexuality, teenage pregnancy and abortion were all growing more common. Everything seemed to be falling into chaos.
A small group of men and women met together to consider how they could fight cultural influences in the church. They decided it was a *worldview* problem.
They realized people were reading the Bible through the lens of a false worldview and that’s why the structures in the Bible sounded foreign to them. But God was a God of order! And if the culture would only follow his design, things would be back to normal again. Sure, God saved us by grace, but the world worked better when we obeyed Him.
They decided the main cultural force fighting against God’s design was feminism. It was the feminists who aborted babies and neglected their children and husband. It was the feminists who wanted to get rid of traditional gender roles, thereby confusing gender and encouraging homosexuality. It was the feminists who pushed for “no fault” divorce. They knew exactly who they needed to respond to while building their Biblical paradigm.
But how to get people to listen? In a culture of grey, squishy morality and identity, they needed clear definitions and roles. But they needed to make it winsome and beautiful. They couldn’t just give people the law. They had to explain the reason behind the law.
They focused on questions like, “Why is being is being a pastor limited to men? Why do wives need to submit to their husbands?” “Why is homosexuality wrong if it’s not hurting anybody?” They explained that God designed and gifted us specifically for our gender role. Men and women had different natures, different ontologies. Men were designed to be leaders psychologically. Women were designed to be affirmers and encouragers. Men were to provide and protect and women were to encourage those traits in worthy men. It was who they were and if they fought against their real identity, such as a woman leading a man, no matter the age or competency, society would suffer.
Women were told that part of affirming men was making sure they didn’t emasculate them. If a man, for example, asked directions, the woman should answer in a respectful, submissive tone. Single men in the church should make all the decisions when they went on a date and should look for ways to lead the single ladies in the church. Ladies should affirm these decisions and follow the lead of worthy men. If both genders followed their roles, which of course, followed their true psychological natures, society would flourish.
So, they had decided that what men and women choose to do with their life should be deeply rooted in their core identity, and gender was integral to this core. They had a psychological need to live the way they were designed, not just in their body, but on the inside. Gender wasn’t only about your body and it was important to be true to it. Gender wasn’t just something you *were*, it was something you had to choose to *do*.
This group had come to a new insight in the Genesis narrative – one that was unique in church history. When God told Eve she would desire Adam, but he would rule over her, He meant she would desire to rule over him! They compared curse of Eve with God’s conversation with Cain. Just like sin desired to have Cain, but he had to dominate it, in like manner women would desire to dominate their husbands (like a serpent in waiting) and their husbands would dominate them. They did not believe the husband *should* dominate, but they saw it as a common outworking of the woman’s controlling nature. There would be constant conflict between the identities. It would be all about power and the woman would usually start it.
Their conclusion was that men needed to lead and women to follow in order to have a healthy society, but women would always desire to buck that system, throwing culture into chaos.
Anyone familiar with the therapeutic tendencies of Postmodern culture, the influence of Maslow’s Hierarchy, the belief that gender is our core identity, or the Postmodern insistence in breaking people up into monolithic identity groups and then analyzing through power structures, can surely see the irony of this little group fighting valiantly against our American culture.
Another Postmodern tendency they share is that of using subjective feelings to define words. Anyone who has read Lewis’s “Men Without Chests” will know what I mean.
Postmoderns build definitions this way all the time.
“I feel like a woman,” says the man, and so he is. Subjective feelings dictate objective reality. The Complementarians seem to share this same magic. Here’s an example from a well known Comp leader when asked whether he’d listen to a woman speak about the Bible in a non pastoral role:
“I felt that woman on the radio was becoming more and more an authority to me, so I stopped listening.” Notice authority is defined based on subjective feelings and not in any objective ability to follow through with discipline of any kind. This trick allows for another Postmodern specialty – equivocation. Now he can apply all the verses about women and authority any time he has an uncomfortable feeling and he no longer needs to listen!
So, Complementariams have a tendency to psychologicalize Biblical roles in our therapeutic age.
They redefine words based on personal feelings.
They break men and women up into monolithic identity groups and put them against each other in a never ending power struggle – in an age where social Marxism is everywhere.
They put a heavy emphasis on a Maslow-ish self actualization by writing an enormous amount on how to properly live within your gender identity, with the assumption it is your core identity. Not even being a Christian is core because you are either a man Christian or a woman Christian right down to your soul.
None of this prove them right or wrong. I do think it’s ironic how very Postmodern the culture fighting group is.
Maybe the main focus should never have been on worldview. It’s so easy to dismiss an idea using ad hominem circumstantial when worldview is the focus. If we are not careful, worldview thinking can easily devolve into mud-slinging identity politics.
“That can’t be what the verse means. That’s what a feminist would say!” or “Your friend has been abused by her husband? I’m not listening to that. Bringing up abuse is a feminist tactic!” or “I can’t be a pastor because I’m a woman?! Are you from the dark ages? Do you just hate women?”
These are not arguments. They are insults and if we don’t realize that all world views have virtues and vices and all of us have blind spots, we may inadvertently trade in one faulty worldview for another. We become reactors rather than thinkers. I believe *reacting* is exactly what this group is doing, and it’s because they are reacting, they are accidently taking on the very premises and categories of the culture they endeavor to fight.