Complementarian Issues of Nomenclature and Doctrine

1) Nomenclature

To quote Shakespeare, “What’s in a name?” Many evangelicals claim the name complementarian. I have myself identified that way since the time I first became aware of the term about fifteen or so years ago. For many who identify as complementarian, they use it simply to mean that they are not egalitarian. They believe that Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5 and on male-only elders in I Timothy 3 transcend time or culture and remain relevant for today. However, I have come to realize that the term complementarian was coined by a group of people with a very specific agenda related to evangelical feminism. The outworking of some of their agenda has been seen in the recent debate on the Eternal Submission of the Son. I personally have some big differences with those who founded the conservative complementarian movement and would love for there to be a different word to identify non-egalitarians.

Except that I believe in complementary genders in the image of God.

I did some research on the term complementarian, and I was fascinated to note that while the term complementarian was coined by those who founded the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the concept of complementary genders had a long history of being used and valued by egalitarians long before the Danvers Statement.

One of Giles’ observations is that what we now have — in the reality of this debate — is hierarchical-complementarians (those who use the term “complementarian” today) and egalitarian-complementarians (those who are called “egalitarians” today).  Both believe in complentarity of the sexes:

Because God made humankind man and woman (Gen 1:27-28), virtually all theologians agree that man and woman complete what it means to be human; the two sexes are complementary. Man alone or woman alone is not humanity in its completeness. Since the earliest descriptions of the evangelical egalitarian position in the mid-1970s, egalitarians have unambiguously affirmed the complementarity of the sexes. …

Grudem, in his 2006 book, Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism, tells us how his side came to use the words, “complementary” and “complementarian.” He says the first time those arguing for a hierarchal relationship between men and often used the word “complementary” was on November 17,1988, in the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s founding document, the Danvers Statement. He says, that as far as he knows, “it had not been previously used in this controversy.” It had indeed, as I will show below. In the Danvers Statement, the stance taken is not called the “complementarian” position. Grudem tells us that he and John Piper, in editing the 1991 symposium, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, “coined” the term “complementarian” as a self-designation of their position. In other words, they invented it. In this book, the editors admit that, in designating their understanding of what the Bible teaches on the sexes the “complementarian” position, they were seeking to establish a new term for what had hitherto been called the “traditional” or “hierarchical” position. From this point on, virtually every book written by an evangelical in support of the creation based subordination of women has designated the stance taken as the “complementarian” position and constantly spoken of the man-woman relationship as “complementary.”

I find this history interesting and validating. For I have long resonated with the idea of complementary genders while being subsequently uncomfortable with how that vision has played out practically through the writings of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It is good to know that historically, the discussion wasn’t between one group who thought there was 100% parity between men and woman and another who believed God created complementary genders. You can believe in complementary genders without identifying fully with the group who claims to be the “flagship organization for the complementation movement”, the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

2) Doctrine

The other concerning thing for me has long been the manipulation (in my humble opinion) of Scripture and theology to fit the perceived ills of evangelical feminism by those who coined the term complementarian. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have been clear on my strong belief that we can not write off large swaths of New Testament teaching on gender just because we feel like it limits us as women, which I believe many evangelicals do. I have strong push back for evangelical feminists who would deny the importance of Paul’s epistles in particular. But God forbid I manipulate Scripture to validate my concerns with the more liberal position. And, frankly, that is exactly what happened, starting with Susan Foh’s admitted reinterpretation of Genesis 3:16 in 1975.

“THE current issue of feminism in the church has provoked the reexamination of the scriptural passages that deal with the relationship of the man and the woman. A proper understanding of Genesis 3:16 is crucial to this reconsideration of the Biblical view of the woman.” Susan Foh, The Westminster Theological Journal 37 (1974/75) 376-83

Reexamination. Reconsidering. Prior to Foh’s concerns with evangelical feminism, Genesis 3:16 was never interpreted to mean a woman would have a desire against her husband to manipulate or rule over him. It makes no sense that God would speak something to Adam and Eve at the Fall that the Church would not understand until the problem of modern evangelical feminism, almost like the curse was non-existent for women before we suddenly came to understand the real problem during 2nd wave feminism.  That is, frankly, ludicrous.  I’ve written a long article here about why I think Foh was wrong in her interpretation of Genesis 3:16 and how it has harmed women in the Church.

According to CBMW’s history page, Foh went on to have a crucial founding role in CBMW, and her new interpretation fit nicely with their agenda. The thing is that she didn’t need to reinterpret Genesis 3:16 to support Paul’s writings as constraining the Church for today. She found a convenient way to pin the issue of evangelical feminism on a woman’s rebellious heart but at the expense of the perspicuity of Scripture and a historic understanding of the passage.

I’m deeply disturbed and have been for some time with conservatives employing liberal methods of coming up with new interpretations to fit a modern cultural issue. This has been brought to light again with current debate on the Eternal Subordination of the Son. This doctrine too was not on the radar of 20th or 21st century theologians until Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem, also both founders of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, brought attention to it in … you guessed it … response to evangelical feminism. I’m not sure exactly when Ware and Grudem began to focus on Eternal Subordination of the Son. Grudem wrote about it in his Systematic Theology in the mid 90’s, While there seemed to be theologians talking about this doctrine in history, Ware and Grudem are the first (that I can find) who highlight it in conjunction with gender roles in the Church.

Ware and Grudem seem the first to popularize this doctrine linked to gender (as early as Grudem’s 1994 Systematic Theology). And, again, their discussion of this doctrine is a RESPONSE to evangelical feminism.

Ware, like Grudem a past President of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, has contributed numerous journal articles and book chapters to scholarly complementarianism. His book on the Trinity entitled Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Crossway, 2005) shows the necessary linkage between authority-submission relationships in the Godhead and authority-submission relationships in the church.

Grudem and Ware have unapologetically set gender relationships as the frame for their handling of ESS. In the book, One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (co-edited by Ware with essays by both Ware and Grudem), Grudem introduces the topic with the essay: “Doctrinal Deviations in Evangelical-Feminist Arguments about the Trinity.” In Grudem’s book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (2004), his first chapter in response to evangelical feminism teaches that the “equality and differences between men and women reflect the equality and differences in the Trinity.” Ware, Grudem, and the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on which they sit fundamentally link their understanding of ESS and Trinitarian relationships to gender.

In conclusion, the nomenclature issue isn’t really an issue in my opinion. But it does help to understand why so many more people resonate with the idea of complementary genders than with the specifics of complementarian application that the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood supports. But the reinterpretations of Scripture, in my opinion, are a massive issue. They reframe the spectrum of debate on women’s issues in the Church from liberal and conservative to liberal and another kind of liberal. We can’t play lose and fast with Scripture to fit our agenda. Liberals can’t. But conservatives can’t either.  This is clearly the case with the reinterpretation of Genesis 3:16, and I’m concerned it may also be the case with linking ESS to gender (and not just marriage) as well.

I don’t know what this means for the future, but I will say these things again and again here on this blog because I think the clarity of Scripture is a precious thing and the old doctrines are still worth fighting for. “There is nothing new under the sun,” the author of Proverbs wisely instructs us. And we don’t have to manipulate Scripture when we think we are facing some new issue in our culture. The Church for the most part has been there and done that. And the Bible is sufficient at each recurrence of old problems.  We could have had the same reclamation of orthodox doctrine around gender in our denominations without the doctrinal/hermeneutical gymnastics some have used to make their point.

44 Responses to Complementarian Issues of Nomenclature and Doctrine

  1. David J. July 18, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    “It makes no sense that God would speak something to Adam and Eve at the Fall that the Church would not understand until the problem of modern evangelical feminism, almost like the curse was non-existent for women before we suddenly came to understand the real problem during 2nd wave feminism. “

    Respectful disagreement here.

    I recall that shortly after your 2012 post on this topic that someone (I think at TGC, so probably Kevin DeYoung or Tim Challies, or perhaps at Desiring God) responded to your post with evidence that Foh's interpretation was not novel in church history. If you know what I'm talking about, I would be interested in your response to that rebuttal (or if you responded back than, just direct me to your response). If not, don't worry about it because I know I'm not being specific enough about the rebuttal or its source.

    But as for this current post: I am not a theologian, but I have been married (and divorced); have observed dozens if not hundreds of marriages among friends, fellow church members, family, co-workers, etc.; have attempted to help with several troubled marriages as a church leader; and have spent a lot of time examining Scripture on male/female and especially husband/wife relationships. I find it impossible that the Church (or Adam and Eve and their progeny) wouldn't have understood, long prior to second wave feminism, the problem Foh described in 1975. I am not being flippant, though I may be politically incorrect: any married man in the Church would have noted the problem in his very real, everyday married life. (Even the man married to the (rare) woman who did not manifest the problem in her marriage would have been well acquainted with other husbands who weren't so fortunate.) In other words, at least on a practical level, what you call Foh's reinterpretation of Gen. 3:16 can't be novel in Church history because it accords so well with what nearly all husbands will have seen in their own marriages. (I'm not saying wives are the sole or even the primary problem in marriages; husbands are equally depraved, equally at fault, and have their own typical sins.)

    I'll duck now.

  2. Wendy July 18, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    I don't remember seeing historical evidence in DeYoung's post, but I'll try to look back and find it. Foh didn't appeal to historical evidence that I can remember and is up front in her language of re-examination and re-interpretation.

    No need to duck, David. I don't deny that many women control and manipulate in relationships and homes. But I argue in my Somewhat Scholarly Analysis of Genesis 3:16 that it is because of their straightforward desire for affirmation and identity from their husbands that their husbands are unable to provide them. It's not the problem described in Genesis 3:16 but women's sinful coping mechanism for the real problem. We treat symptoms, guilting women for manipulating or control when we don't understand and accurately address the true heart issue.

  3. The Music Student July 19, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    Foh admits directly in her paper that the traditional interpretations of “your desire shall be to your husband” are all of some kind of desire the woman has for her husband: She cites Clark's Commentary and John Calvin among those having such a traditional view. Matthew Henry is another commentator who held the traditional view. John Chrysostom, an early church writer, also interpreted Genesis 3:16 as “Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will be your master.” It is interesting to me, reading these commentators, that they all see the curse as the moment when the woman lost her equal status with the man. They talk about how the dominion was given to both man and woman. They may read a little chauvinist in our modern eyes, but they do not make the mistake modern complementarians make, which is to claim that the woman was created subject to the man before the Fall.

  4. Barbara Roberts July 19, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    In her 1975 paper “What is the Woman's Desire?” Susan Foh did refer to some earlier commentators' interpretations of the woman's desire in Genesis 3:16.

    David J, in his comment above, says he can recall that someone (maybe Kevin DeYoung, or Tim Challies, or someone at Desiring God) gave evidence that Foh's interpretation was not novel in church history.

    I have read pretty widely on this issue, studied Susan Foh's paper over and over again, and checked many of the references she gave in that paper. It is true that she referred to some previous theologians' interpretations of the woman's desire.

    But while Susan Foh did refer to views held earlier by others, her interpretation was indisputably novel — it had not been argued before.

    No one before Foh had argued that the syntactical and semantic resemblances between Gen 4:7 and Gen 3:16 meant that we should use sin's (Satan's) desire to control the will of Cain as THE TEMPLATE for understanding the woman's desire for her husband.

    David J, I invite you to read my article “What is the woman’s desire? How Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 fed steroids to abusers. (Pt 1 of 2)”

    Here is a link to my article:

  5. Wendy July 19, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    Thanks, Barbara. That is my understanding as well.

  6. Gail Wallace July 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    I so appreciated this! I was raised in a Baptist tradition that ordains women and so women in church leadership was just a given growing up. No Christian egalitarians I know have ever taught men and women were the same, so it has been frustrating to see this accusation made over and over by CBMW. It is precisely because of the differences that we believe both men and women are needed at all levels of church leadership. As Ron Pierce says, we believe in complementarity without hierarchy. A side note – as you probably know, the male pronouns in English translations of 1 Timothy 3 are not in the original manuscripts – Paul used inclusive language (except for the phrase “husband of one wife” which was an expression that meant monogamous) and there is historical evidence that women served as elders in the early church. But that's another topic!

  7. Gail Wallace July 19, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    I so appreciated this! I was raised in a Baptist tradition that ordains women and so women in church leadership was just a given growing up. No Christian egalitarians I know have ever taught men and women were the same, so it has been frustrating to see this accusation made over and over by CBMW. It is precisely because of the differences that we believe both men and women are needed at all levels of church leadership. As Ron Pierce says, we believe in complementarity without hierarchy. A side note – as you probably know, the male pronouns in English translations of 1 Timothy 3 are not in the original manuscripts – Paul used inclusive language (except for the phrase “husband of one wife” which was an expression that meant monogamous) and there is historical evidence that women served as elders in the early church. But that's another topic!

  8. Anonymous July 19, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    I always appreciate your careful analysis.

    May I offer some gentle push-back here? “I have strong push back for evangelical feminists who would deny the importance of Paul's epistles in particular.” By and large non-hierarchicalists do not down play the importance of Paul's epistles but interpret some circumstances he addresses as situational. Non-hierarchicalists, like myself, do not believe Paul was prescribing the institution of social hierarchies. My husband and I do not have to fabricate a gender hierarchy to be faithful to the tenor of Jesus' teaching or Paul's application of Christian ethics in a specific historical context.


  9. David J. July 19, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    I appreciate your response, Wendy.

  10. Barbara Roberts July 19, 2016 at 11:45 pm #

    Gail Wallace, your side note is correct. Philip Payne is the best author on that topic. He spent nearly 40 years studying the NT passages relating to men and women and he says that the male pronouns in most English translations of 1 Timothy 3 are not in the original Greek but have simply been inputted by the translators. He says that the CEV give a better translation of that chapter, but even so the CEV is not really all that great at rendering the gender neutrality of the Greek.

    I agree with you that 'husband of one wife' was an idiom in Greek that meant something like 'a man who only has eyes for one woman', in other words, a man who has upright sexual morality and who would therefore never be a philanderer, an adulterer or a man who allows himself to casually or secretly lust after any woman who was not his lawful wife. Which, by the way, would certainly rule out from leadership any man who habitually indulged in porn!

    I discussed that idiom in my book Not Under Bondage, because 'husband of one wife' has been often misunderstood.

    Typically, people have claimed that 1 Tim 3 says a man cannot be in church leadership if he has remarried after being divorced. That claim, I believe, is wrong, because it's based on a faulty understanding of the expression 'husband of one wife'.

  11. Barbara Roberts July 19, 2016 at 11:47 pm #

    ticking the box to be notified of further comments 🙂

  12. Wendy July 20, 2016 at 12:00 am #

    Thanks, David.

  13. Wendy July 20, 2016 at 12:03 am #

    I understand, Angie. I am actually writing a book coming out in the spring where I talk about this idea. My conviction is that we are not free to interpret passages to not be applicable today due to situations of the time unless those situations are addressed in Scripture itself (like meat offered to idols).

    • Angel August 25, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

      Can’t wait to get my hands on your new book about these ideas!

  14. Anonymous July 20, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    A little nuance, if I may? I didn't say principles weren't applicable, but that Paul isn't prescribing that 21st century American couples concoct a hierarchy resembling ancient marriages any more than his instructions to slaves requires employees fabricate the relationship dynamic in 1st century slavery. There are imperatives to the 1st century audience that we do not interpret as applicable today, except possibly in principle, i.e. greet one another with a holy kiss which is not rescinded elsewhere. No doubt you will address this in your upcoming book, and I look forward to your thoughts.


  15. Wendy July 20, 2016 at 1:37 am #

    Thanks, Angie. I don't think you'll be satisfied with my thoughts in my book, but if we make each other think, there's that. 🙂

  16. Wendy July 20, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    That's interesting about the pronouns. I think the limitation comes primarily from the verses right before I Timothy 3 where Paul specifically limits women from teaching with the authority that he outlines in the next verses on elders.

  17. Wendy July 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    Barbara, my understanding of the “husband of one wife” phrase is the same as yours. He's a “one-woman man.” Which would rule out Donald Trump. 🙂

  18. Tamie July 20, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Yep, the argument that egalitarians don't see gender differentiation is an outrageous and ungenerous distortion. As Gail says, it's often because of the difference between men and women that egalitarians want to see women in all layers of leadership – because they bring something different to the table! This is where we must be good listeners, choosing to interact with what egalitarians are actually saying, which is really just saying we ought to be good neighbours, and exercise love for our brothers and sisters.

    Adding to Angie's comment above, I really think the crux of this argument is about how we understand the place of hierarchy. If Paul is taking the hierarchy of the culture at the time of the early church (paterfamilias, etc) and re-imagining it in gospel terms, what do you do if you're culture is non-hierarchical, or considers itself non-hierarchical, or is in flux. Are you then required to institute hierarchy as the God-given order for relationships between men and women, or are you free to consider how you might take your culture's cultural paradigms around relationships and re-imagine them in gospel terms?

  19. Wendy July 20, 2016 at 11:09 pm #

    I don't think it's the hierarchy of the culture that's at play personally because of the analogy of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5. I think headship and submission in today's Christian marriages are supposed to remain as a testimony, a living image, of Christ's sacrificial love for the Church and the Church's trusting commitment to His mission. I like to think of submission as sub-mission, joining in the mission of another in support. I think a lot about Priscilla and Aquila and love to talk with couples who share a mission together.

  20. Tamie July 21, 2016 at 3:40 am #

    Are you a non-hierarchical complementarian, then Wendy? (Not sure how anything with the prefix 'sub' is not hierarchical at some level, though I understand your emphasis is on the 'mission', not the 'sub'.)

  21. Tamie July 21, 2016 at 3:51 am #

    … and are you suggesting that our relationship with Christ is somehow non-hierarchical?

  22. Barbara Roberts July 21, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    Hi Wendy
    you said ” I think headship and submission in today's Christian marriages are supposed to remain as a testimony, a living image, of Christ's sacrificial love for the Church and the Church's trusting commitment to His mission.”

    In my experience and observation, there are gravely troubling consequences that stem from that notion that marriage is a 'living image' of Christ's love for the church.

    Let me explain. The notion that marriage is meant to “display” or “portray” Christ's love for the church has been pushed by John Piper and many of his acolytes. This teaching, this notion, has had terrible effects on victims of domestic abuse.
    Victims hear it like this: if a person leaves or divorces their spouse, this will be a sin because it's giving the wrong picture of Christ's love to the world.

    The idea of the 'display value of marriage as an evangelistic tool' places incredible burdens on victims of marital mistreatment.

    I strongly reject all the idea that one of the purposes of marriage is to display God's covenant-keeping love for his church.

    In Ephesians 5, Paul draws an analogy between Christ's love for the church and what the husband's love for his wife should be like. Paul's teaching is directed to the husband: love your wife as Christ loved the church. Paul was saying to Christian husbands: Don't put yourself first! Put your wife's wellbeing before your own comfort, just as Christ put the church's wellbeing before his own comfort.

    The point of the analogy is to challenge men: to tell male converts that they need to DROP their assumptions of male privilege. They need to treat their wives with unselfishly motivated love, consideration and respect, rather than have an attitude of male superiority and seeing their wives as having lesser value.

    So Wendy, I don't have a problem with people like you finding inspiration from the analogy between Christ's love and the marriage-relationship. But I do have a big problem with people saying that marriage 'displays' or 'portrays' Christ's love for the church.

    The 'display' value of the analogy only pertains to one thing: It illustrates to husbands how they ought to love their wives.

    As soon as we talk about marriage having a display value to the world, we are inadvertently going to lay horrible burdens of unwarranted guilt on victims of marital abuse.

  23. Wendy July 21, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    Tamie, no, I think I would fit your definition of hierarchical, though I don't think of it that way. I think Christ has an authoritative role of course with the Church, and I think husbands similarly do with wives, though their authority must submit to God's and other's.

  24. Anonymous July 21, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    This is the DeYoung article from 2012.

  25. David J. July 22, 2016 at 6:20 am #

    Thank you, Anonymous. So DeYoung did cite a 16th century commentary that apparently takes the same tack as Susan Foh on Gen. 3:16. And Claire Smith (whose essay was posted at TGC with an essay by Wendy as “countering perspective[s]”) saw the same real-life evidence I mentioned above (and that I agree is not a primary interpretive argument): “We might also add that it makes sense of much of our experience, but, of course, that's a secondary matter. . . . Not only does it accurately describe a universal human experience that long predates feminism—-the conflict of men and women going back to the Fall—-but it also, as we have seen, best reflects the linguistic, literary, and theological considerations of this part of God's Word.” Smith's interpretive arguments still make more sense to me.

    And, meaning no disrespect at all, I'm concerned that the “new wave complementation” interpretation of Gen. 3:16 makes the sin being discussed a lot more socially acceptable. It's idolatry? Ah, well, we're all idolaters one way or another, aren't we? It's TOO MUCH love for the husband? Ah, well, that's kind of sweet, actually, isn't it? Much less objectionable to us humans than what boils down to a propensity for rebellion, I think. (And now, having used the word rebellion, I may in fact need to duck.) I'm not aware (though that may not mean anything) of any parallel movement to prefer an interpretation that would similarly soften “and he shall rule over you.” We husbands have no choice but to own up to our propensity, as a group, for abusing our position/authority, and that seems to me to be correct also.

  26. Barbara Roberts July 22, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    David J, it sounds to me like you have assumed that when God said to the woman in Genesis 3:16 “your desire shall be to your husband” He was talking about woman's sin — that the woman's desire must necessarily be sinful.

    And Wendy, I put the same question to you. How can you be sure that God was pointing to the SIN of the woman? How can you be sure that her 'desire' was denoted as sinful?

    I would like to challenge this presumption of yours. What grounds do you have for assuming that Genesis 3:16 is saying the woman's desire would be sinful? Have you just leapt to that conclusion without having real grounds to do so?

    Could it not be true that God was telling the woman that she was going to desire her husband's love, forgiveness, protection, cherishing and respect — but that her desire would (typically) not be met because her husband would have a tendency to lord it over her, disrespect her, put himself first, be insensitive to her needs and wishes, etc.

  27. Barbara Roberts July 22, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    David J
    Please do not misrepresent what DeYoung said and what Johannes Brenz said.

    I don't have a copy of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture which (according to DeYoung) documents that “Johannes Brenz (1499-1570) wrote about 'when women aspire to dominate their husbands in running the household” in his commentary on Genesis 3:16.”

    Because I don't have that book, I can't say whether or not DeYoung's report is correct. But let us assume that DeYoung has correctly reported the words of Johannes Brenz: i.e., “when women aspire to dominate their husbands in running the household.”

    Those words of Brenz are NOT claiming that Genesis 4:7 is the template for interpreting the woman's desire in Genesis 3:16. So Brenz is NOT a precursor of Susan Foh's notion. Foh was offering a brand new and distinctive interpretation of the woman's desire by saying that we ought to understand the woman's desire for her husband as being the same as sin's desire for Cain in Genesis 4:7.

    David J, I urge you to read Foh's paper carefully, and to also read my article about Foh's interpretation feeding steroids to abusive men which I gave you a link to above.

  28. Tamie July 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    Thanks Wendy. I've become interested in the notion of hierarchy living in a place where it's viewed positively, but also because it's a way that egalitarians commonly describe complementarians. So I think it's up to us to either show how hierarchy is good, or explain how what we're doing isn't hierarchy and why.

  29. Wendy July 23, 2016 at 12:35 am #

    That's kind of neat to me, Tamie. I've been so long in a place where it's viewed as oppressive, it's refreshing to hear of other experiences. I know personally that I love and appreciate my dad, willingly accept that he's the head boss around here, and have benefited greatly from what I jokingly call his benevolent dictatorship. He loves us, we love him, he values us, we value him. Hierarchy works well in my little world.

  30. Wendy July 23, 2016 at 12:40 am #

    Yeah, I can see what you are saying, Barb. I don't think it necessarily is sin. I think it is initially just that, desire. And where it goes is in a negative direction after the fall, but the hope in Jesus is that through the gospel, that need is met and transformed in a different way.

  31. Tamie July 23, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    Yes, it's a fascinating aspect of Tanzanian theology to me too! I tried explaining to a friend here this week about how patriarchy is viewed as inherently oppressive in Australia and she thought that was pretty ridiculous! 😉

  32. Anonymous July 24, 2016 at 1:05 am #

    I do not have access to the book Kevin DeYoung was quoting from, but this blogger did have access:

  33. Wendy July 24, 2016 at 5:35 pm #

    Barb Roberts made a comment that isn't showing up, but it shows that DeYoung has misrepresented Brenz. There is NO historical evidence of Foh's interpretation. David J, I'd be interested in your response.

    From Barb:

    The quote from Brenz makes it clear that Kevin DeYoung was wrong in saying that Brenz's interpretation of Genesis 3:16 was in line with Susan Foh's interpretation.

    For those who aren't going to bother looking up the Brenz quote, I'm pasting it here:

    Woman’s “Corrections” Johannes Brenz:

    “Now let us attend to the cross – or what they call the 'corrections' (for so they call the works of satisfaction that are customarily imposed on sinners for the sake of correcting their lives) – that God imposes on the woman. … There are two parts to a woman’s cross. One concerns conception and childbirth. This includes all the sorrow, all the labor, all the worry and anxiety of bearing and raising children. …

    “The other part of a woman’s cross is subjection to the man’s authority. This is a great cross. Just as the woman, if she hadn’t sinned, would have given birth not only without pain but even with great joy and delight, so also she would have been equal to the man in the administration of things, though the man would always have been head of the woman. But now, having sinned, she is subjected to the will and authority and domination of the man. Accordingly, God not only imposes this cross on the woman … but also establishes this order in the public administration of things, so that the man may be the ruler and the woman would be under the man’s authority. “

    (page 164 – 165 Gen. 1-11, Thompson, John L. Inter Varsity Press 2012.)

    • David J. August 26, 2016 at 1:47 am #

      Sorry for the delay, Wendy. Here’s my attempt at a response to Barb Roberts’s comment: The Brenz excerpt Barb quotes is not the same passage that DeYoung found in the Reformation Commentary on Scripture. DeYoung quotes that commentary as quoting Brenz having written about “’when women aspire to dominate their husbands in running the household’ in his commentary on Genesis 3:16.” The Brenz phrase quoted by DeYoung doesn’t appear at all in Barb’s excerpt (because it doesn’t appear at all in the Suzanne McCarthy post that Barb links to). Instead, per Suzanne McCarthy, the Brenz phrase quoted by DeYoung is “from another passage by Brenz based on his personal observations of real life and a discussion of Deborah and the Amazons.” (Nice to know, I think, that Brenz’s personal observations of real life line up with mine.) McCarthy doesn’t say specifically what passage Brenz is commenting on with his quoted line — is it the section of Judges dealing with Deborah? Or is it in fact Gen. 3:16? Not
      having access to any of these sources, there’s no way for me to know, or to know how fair is DeYoung’s use of the quote. (Adding another layer of complication, DeYoung appears to have been quoting the commentary’s description of Brenz’s statement, so who knows how accurate or fair their treatment was.)

      While I’m here, a few other follow-up comments. First, I don’t think anyone has responded to my point earlier that there appears to be a contradictory approach in the New Wave’s interpretation of Gen. 3:16. The phrase regarding the woman’s desire for her husband is taken as a mere statement of a neutral (or even positive) fact, while the phrase regarding the husband ruling over her is taken (correctly, I think) as a negative statement about men’s subsequent sinful propensity. If the verse is reciting men’s sinful propensity, wouldn’t it make much more sense (and be more internally consistent) if the same verse were also reciting women’s sinful propensity (to seek control)?

      Second, there’s also been no response to or engagement with Claire Smith’s TGC post that I cited above as a “countering perspective” to Wendy’s analysis.

      Barbara, I did not “misrepresent what DeYoung said and what Johannes Brenz said.” You may not agree with my understanding, but that doesn’t mean I misrepresented anything. I’d appreciate your holding off on such accusations. Thanks.

    • Wendy August 26, 2016 at 6:35 am #


      A few quick things before I run my kids to school. I like to think that I did engage with Claire Smith’s article since we together wrote point/counterpoint articles at TGC at the same time! I know I tried to engage in the comments after my article as well. I didn’t comment on her article because I didn’t want to dominate her post negatively.

      As for Brenz’s observation, I agree with it! And yours. Many women do sinfully try to usurp and control in their homes. But he is clearly not saying that is what Genesis 3:16 says, which is the major point here. That is sometimes a by-product of Genesis 3:16 but it is not the essence of the woman’s root problem. Her root problem is a sinful, often idolatrous (and I have pretty consistently called it sinful or harmful) turning toward man who exploits and oppresses her in return. The answer is for her to turn toward God so that her needs for affirmation and identity are met In Him. Then she can stay engaged with the man as the helper God intended.

    • David J. September 15, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

      Wendy, I’d be interested in your thoughts on the ESV’s revisit of its translation of Gen. 3:16 (from “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” to “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you”), as discussed at by Denny Burk at Reformation21:


    • Wendy September 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm #

      The short answer is that it’s very troubling. I note that the primary way Denny defends the translation is to appeal to broad interpretive leeway. The problem is that is not consistent with the ESV’s own “essentially literal” “word-for-word” translation philosophy. I have a longer post coming though.

    • David J. September 15, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

      I figured you would. Thanks.

  34. Barbara Roberts July 26, 2016 at 1:50 am #

    Thanks for making my comment visible, Wendy. I've no idea why it didn't show up. But it's probably something to do with how I fumble around Blogger. I'm very au fait with WordPress, but Blogger confuses me…

    For those who may be wondering, I copied the Brenz quote from this site:

  35. Helen Louise Herndon August 25, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    I realize this is digressing from the rest of the conversation, but I was struck with this sentence: “Man alone or woman alone is not humanity in its completeness.” Do they complete or do they complement? A nuanced difference. As the sentence stands, it lends itself to interpreting that a single man or single woman, either always single, widowed, or divorced may not be considered complete? Is that the intent of that statement?

    • Wendy August 25, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

      Note that it is “not humanity in its completeness” or not fully reflecting all aspects of the image of God that humanity as a whole was created to image. It doesn’t really matter whether you are married or single. In general, God created two genders in His world because two genders were needed to fully image Him, at least in the way He intended Himself to be imaged. Although I think relationships between the genders image out aspects of His character, in general, whether the two genders know each other or not, God is more fully imaged out into creation by both genders existing than a single one. Hope that clarifies.

  36. Helen Louise Herndon August 25, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    I left a comment and question earlier today. Was I too late?

    • Helen Louise Herndon August 25, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

      Sorry, I somehow missed my comment and your response.