Rebekah Hargraves: Why I’m Neither an Egalitarian Nor a Complementarian

As you have probably already gathered from my recent series on Biblical womanhood, I claim neither the label of “egalitarian” nor the label of “complementarian” for myself. Because our modern-day church culture is one in which you are expected to be either one or the other (with no third option), this may not seem like a possibility. But I assure you that it is. In fact, I personally believe that when you begin to find issues with either side of a debate, the only alternative is for you to refuse both. Otherwise you will inadvertently be saying things about yourself and your beliefs that are not truly representative of what you actually do believe. With that in mind, here is why I’m neither an egalitarian nor a complementarian.

Boxes, labels, and systems are man-made.

Whether it is the label “egalitarian”, “complementarian”, “Calvinist”, “Arminian”, “Baptist” or something else entirely, our boxes, labels, and systems are all man-made. They are not Scriptural. While the beliefs held within each system do have their own set of Scriptures to which they point as being their proof texts, they are still a set of Scriptures which man has taken (oftentimes to the negligence of other passages!) and combined together along with his own viewpoint and wisdom to come up with a system of belief.

Now, please don’t mishear me – this is not being said in a spirit of attack against anyone who adheres to any of these labels (I myself have held to many of them over the years!). Neither am I saying that people who take on labels are terrible Christ-followers or necessarily guilty of manhandling the Word of God. I am also not saying that creeds or catechisms or systematic theologies cannot be helpful or important. What I am saying, however, is that rather than strictly adhering to and following a system of belief, packaged together and labeled by man, why don’t we instead just look to the Word of God alone and believe what it says? That brings me to my next point,

When you adhere to a man-made system, you are far more likely to willingly ignore, explain away, or change passages of Scripture that do not fit into your box, rather than simply allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.

Just ask me how I know this is true! It’s because I have been there, done that, and it was not until I was finally willing to simply accept, study, and bring together all 66 books of the Bible that I more fully understood Biblical womanhood as it is actually portrayed in Scripture and not as how one camp or another wishes for it to be portrayed. Only then did I feel freedom and peace when reading the Word. Because up until that point, I had to wrestle with or ignore or explain away whole passages of the Word because they did not fit into the complementarian framework I espoused for years. The same goes for egalitarianism. Their proof texts aside, there are other passages which egalitarians must reckon with that do not easily fit into their belief system. This is always what logically follows when we care more about upholding our systems than we do simply the Word of God itself.

Said systems are always formed in response to something else and therefore are typically fear-based more than they are Bible-based.

Complementarianism as a belief system began in 1987 with the formation of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, founded by John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and others. It began as a response to evangelical feminism (i.e. egalitarianism) and, as such, I believe went too far into an unBiblical extreme in an effort to forcefully reject some of the negative cultural and church issues brought about by feminism. This happens all the time. Problems are uncovered in one construct or another so, in order to fight it, we run as far as we can in the opposite direction. I’ve spoken about this issue a number of times both in my book and here on my blog, because I’ve made that same mistake myself.

What we ought to be doing instead, however, is simply resting in the Word of God, believing that His Word and His wisdom far surpass anything man could come up with. Rather than reading into it ideas which aren’t there in order to “fight” an issue in our day, we ought to instead simply purpose to be as the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who took everything they heard and then compared it to the Word of God to see if it were true. We need to be diligent and faithful students of the whole canon of Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15) and allow it alone to form the basis of our beliefs – not a belief system of man that we want to uphold if at all possible.

Both complementarianism and egalitarianism are unBiblical.

Let’s first begin with egalitarianism. I am not an egalitarian because egalitarians are of the belief that there are no inherent differences between the genders in how they are to operate or in which responsibilities they are to fulfill. An egalitarian believes that men and women are, more or less, interchangeable in regards to roles and functions in the home and church (something that is clearly rendered false via a brief survey of the Word).

Another reason why I am not an egalitarian is because egalitarianism is just another word for evangelical feminism which, if you have studied the history and philosophy of feminism for over a decade as I have, you know is an oxymoron.

Egalitarians do get a lot right (i.e. I agree with them in their interpretation of Genesis 1:26-28 ,which shows that man and woman were both given leadership, dominion, and subduing responsibilities; I also agree with their emphasis on the unBiblical nature of patriarchy as well as their propensity to point out strong, influential, inspiring women of the Word like Deborah and Priscilla). However, they have enough wrong in their system of belief and are linked to the dangerous philosophy of feminism enough to render me unable to label myself an egalitarian.

Let’s turn now to some of the problems with complementarianism. There are many, but for the sake of time, I will seek to condense it into but a few main points.

The false belief that women are subordinate to men.

I already addressed this issue last week, so I won’t rehash all of it again. Suffice it to say that because the founders of complementarianism continually insist on referring to women as being subordinate, I cannot take on the label of complementarian. To say that an entire half of the human race is lower in rank or position and less important than the other half is no small issue (and yet that is exactly what the founders of complementarianism say: “The order of creation (male created first) indicates God’s design of male priority in the male/female relationship.“). Make no mistake – this affects everything and is, in part, the reason why so many cases of abuse are running rampant in both complementarian and patriarchal circles. When you begin to believe that women are less-than or inferior (even subconsciously), you begin to justify various forms of abuseagainst them. While I’m not an egalitarian, that belief system does have this going for it: there are very few cases of abuse, objectification, or cat-calling of women in that sphere!

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Source: Christian Post