Gladly Complementarian: in which I open a can of worms

Recently, I read one of Preston’s posts at A Deeper Story. One of his posts was the first post I read at A Deeper Story, and I quickly began following both Preston’s blog and A Deeper Story. In this post, Preston writes about the tension he feels in his life when it comes to gender roles. I am absolutely grateful for thoughtful, deep posts about important topics, and am incredibly thankful that the grace and mercy the cross allows for different and incomplete (or non-concrete) views on important topics. I began typing up a response, and it quickly grew too long to post as a comment, so I decided to post it here instead.

While I openly confess to be completely Complementarian, I think I would frame it much as Preston has. I believe when we think of gender roles, we need to keep in mind one word: design. The question isn’t whether men and women CAN do the same things (or at least some of them), but whether they were DESIGNED to do the same things. I absolutely hold that men are to lead homes and churches, not in an overbearing dictatorship, but sacrificially giving themselves up, as Christ did for the Church, because that is the way God DESIGNED it to be. Yes, women do lead in some churches. I’m not referring to deacons, because we have Scriptural support for women being both deaconesses and prophetesses, but I’m speaking of elders and lead pastors, which Paul seems to speak clearly against . But, the question we have to ask is whether this is God’s design, or whether He is giving us GRACE while we go against His design. Laying out this framework would take volumes, to say the least another blog post, and I don’t feel this is the direction I should take now.

My concern is how this affects women working vs staying at home. Complementarianism doesn’t mean that men are to work and women must stay home. This means that men are to work and women are to do what is best for the family when it comes to deciding whether to work or be a stay at home mom, and that decision is not solely theirs, because they are one with their husband and are commanded to follow his lead (and, yes, I know, that goes against the grain of what most of us want, but so does all Scripture at first). We can’t argue against Paul’s command in Ephesians 5 for wives to submit to their own husbands (not men in general). We can argue whether or not that was a cultural command, against relevance, etc. But then we are arguing about the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, not about the command Paul gave. Neither of those debates would be a fruitful discussion here.

I think part of why this rubs against us is that we have elevated the corporate world as the most important piece of culture, and relegated taking care of the home to something best suited for nannies, maids, and grandparents who don’t work anymore. Now, I thank God for nannies, maids, and grandparents, because I know there are people who truly NEED people to serve in this way, and it is a blessing to them. But, at the same time, we need to consider whether the family should be considered less important than the corporate world. To be sure, no one would vocalize that, but we act on it when we rage against the idea that women should be at home taking care of the kids. “What do you mean I’m supposed to stay home and take care of the kids?! I can work just as well as any man!?”

I would say that’s true, absolutely. I know women who I have worked with, women who I have worked for, and women who I have been glad to have work on a team I lead. Yet, I think we have lost the value that family really has when women (and men) give this type of response. Because, in all honesty, I can find someone else to answer tech support calls, be a nurse, or even be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. True, some women may be able to do that better than men, and better than other women. So, the company may suffer some for not having those women in the corporate world. Big deal. That cost isn’t nearly as high as having to find someone else to raise my future kids because my future wife is adamant about climbing the corporate ladder. Men, women, it just isn’t worth it.

Now, I will add this: I see no issues with women working in general, as I’ve hopefully already articulated well enough. If a woman wants to work, and can do so and still be there to raise, support, love, and nurture her children when they get home from school, then by all means, do so. We need to work to regain the primacy of the family over the corporate world. This applies to men too. If I spend 80 hours a week working to climb the corporate ladder and neglect to be there physically, mentally, and emotionally for my family, then I’ve completely failed and all my effort at work is in vain because the purpose of work is to provide for the family. What use is having food on a table with an absent father or mother?

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