Authoritarian verses Complementarian

My Things That Undermine the Complementarian Position post got WAY more attention than I expected. I want to return to some gospel-centered parenting topics that are more in line with the lectures to myself that this blog normally represents. But I read some other articles last night that I think add to the discussion of complementarian problems and distinguish what is and is not healthy submission. Hopefully, this will be my last post on this subject for a bit.

Bob Bixby at Pensees analyzes the Biblical story of Ananias and Sapphira.

“The tragedy is that because Christians don’t view submission in lesser unions as subservient to the ultimate union, the Church today is afflicted with child abuse, extortion, prideful division, and immorality. The same apostle who said, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13) also said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). I think that Peter would say to wives today, “Yes, be subject, but didn’t you read what I said? For the Lord’s sake.” This precludes meekly standing by with knowledge about your husband that no one else has when he is lying against the Holy Spirit in the face of the Church. Be the Church, lady, and expose the lie. 

Or die with your man. 

It’s hard to believe that Peter would ever want a women to be a Sapphira. I’m persuaded, however, that the Church today has many an Ananias who counts on his Sapphira to prop up the lie.”

And Andy Naselli writes of Abigail here. Andy and I don’t agree on everything, mutual submission in particular, but I respect him and have learned from his study on the subject. His exploration of Abigail was very interesting to me.

I talked about Peter’s words to wives when their husbands sin here (particularly the problem of deluding ourselves from acknowledging their sin because we are too threatened by the consequences) and about the serious issue of wives allowing or sometimes even enabling abuse of either their children or themselves here.

All these qualifiers have to be in place to distinguish healthy submission in the image of Christ from unhealthy authoritarian practices in the image of Satan. I am glad to see this discussion growing.

10 Responses to Authoritarian verses Complementarian

  1. Tamie March 5, 2012 at 3:10 am #

    Another example of growth in this discussion: Doug Wilson applied it to porn and sexual sin recently – he even mentions Abigail as well.

  2. Wendyy March 5, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    I really struggled with The Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson. All obligation with little gospel. So I've shied away from reading much of the Wilson's stuff. But people change, including authors, so I probably should check that out. Thanks for the link.

  3. Tamie March 5, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    Yeah, I haven't read much of their stuff at all. In fact, this might be the first! (I just clicked on it after a friend linked to it from FB.) Arthur reckons DW normally has a pretty stream-of-consciousness style which I think is true of this post.

    I'm not sure I like his application. I think a wife being brow-beaten (Wilson's words) into watching porn with her husband is in a different category to Sapphira….

    But I thought his closing paragraph was getting at the right sort of sentiment.

  4. carole March 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    Any time we lose focus of the Gospel, of being heirs, and instead substitute a list for doing we get ourselves in trouble. I feel like the complementarian roles stuff is too often obsessed about. It's actually focused on more than simply longing to be rooted in Christ, focusing on the Gospel message and how that transforms us (and reminds us that nothing that we do can transform us). I am tired of the roles stuff and am sorry that the word submission has become so tainted that I can't use it in my own vocabulary without great hesitation.
    Thank you for posting the link to Bob's analysis. I found it extremely helpful.

  5. Angela March 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    In our Girl's Nights we studied last week and will be studying submission this week – I would be keen to hear your thoughts on our studies:

    I would value your feedback!

    Lots of Love

  6. Luma Simms March 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    Wendy, last night Geoff and I started listening to Don Carson and Bob Yarbrough give talks for EFCA's conference: “Understanding the Complementarian Position: Considering Implications and Exploring Practices in the Home and the Local Church”

    Here's the link for anyone interested:

    I'm sure they'll have some of those up at The Gospel Coalition site soon since all of Carson's stuff is on there.

    I love Carson, I just have to say it. Both Geoff and I really respond well to his sermons/lectures. We love the way he communicates, his robust theology, and we love that he infuses everything with grace and the gospel(which we have been starving for). We love his sharpness and clear thinking and communicating. And we love the way he meets us intellectually. We both have needed that for SO long.

    Coming out of an Authoritarian/Patriarchy season (7 years), we both agree that the reason we swung so hard and far toward Patriarchy was due mostly to me coming out of feminism and being gripped with the fear that I had ruined our children and our home, etc. Added to that was a fear of grace, the sloppy teaching we grew up with, and a lack of a robust and intellectually strong understanding of the gospel. As we look back now, it was a time of darkness, our home was filled with fear, rules, and a lack of joy. Carson is SO right when he says that the words we use are important because they could lead to a gradual error in our theology (in response to a question about terms like “head of household” “spiritual leader” etc.).

    All that to say that after you've spent time being immersed in heavy obligation with very little gospel well….the spiritual awakening and renewal is like a taste of heaven. I don't know how often over the last number of weeks and months I've cried during or after a Carson sermon. I PRAISE God that he does not leave us in darkness!!! Okay, now I'm getting a bit excited. 🙂

    I just love your blog Wendy! 🙂

  7. Wendy March 5, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Luma, thanks for the link. I'm listening to one of the sessions now. I love D. A. Carson.

  8. Justin March 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Recently a pastor whom I respect very much came close to endorsing the Authoritarian position, and it scared the whole church. They rose up as Bereans and challenged it with a good hermeneutic, and it seems he repented and dropped it. Ironically, it is the desire to hold to a literal rendering of Scripture that almost lead him there. Hyper-literalism, more like. Wendy, thanks for posting this – timely and helpful.

  9. Flyaway March 7, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    Thank you for this discussion it was most helpful to me.

  10. Becky March 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    I own Doug Wilson's book, Federal Husband, and believe me he's worth shying away from!!

    I really enjoyed your post on the things that undermine complementarianism. “Complementarian” and “egalitarian” both have such negative connotations for me that I can't bear to identify with either at this point in my journey.

    The complementarianism you describe is much more in line with Scripture and I don't find myself repulsed by it. I spent a decade immersed in the unhealthy popular view of complementarianism and it crippled me and my marriage, hence my extreme reluctance to continue identifying myself as a complementarian. You give me food for thought. Thank you.