Equal but complementary

Some people think that to be an egalitarian means you don’t believe in any differences between male and female. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in my studies just this week, I discovered that the term “complementarian” was first used by egalitarians! Why? Because though they believed in the full equality of male and female, they recognised they were not the same, they complemented one another. Unfortunately, hierarchalists or patriarchalists (the terms are interchangeable), commandeered the word.

Scripture tells us that God made them male and female. Different, but equal. Each unique. Each needing the other. Both in God’s image. Far too much is read into the text when complementarians say that because Adam was created first he has the greater role or authority (anyway, surely, the account in Genesis 1 takes precedence over the enlarged account in Genesis 2). Eve, was made ezer kenegdo (the term used in Genesis), of “a strength equal to” Adam. Not lesser, not weaker, not under, nor secondary, but a corresponding partner. Together they were to steward God’s creation. As Rabbi Schlomo Riskin puts it, “We cannot partner with a lesser being whom we subdue.” They, were to have dominion, not just the man.

Anything other means that a woman derives her identity from the man. That she is there to serve him. That she is a lesser being. This falls way short of the teaching of scripture as a whole. Sure, the fall and the curse have corrupted things, but that doesn’t mean they should be the norm. Paul says, that in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male and female since we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). We make much of the first and second clauses, little of the third. The new creation is not only about reconciliation but restoration, a restoration to God’s original intention.

To find out more please see my book, Exploring the Role of Women in the Church – available across Amazon.

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