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I’ve noticed a pattern in complementarianism where the core sin of life is considered to be the violation of so-called gender roles. It is the original sin, or the paramount problem, above all others. Let me offer some examples.

In a past blog post, I refer to an article about the church of Thyatira in the book of Revelation. This article was from the publication of a Bible school that I truly respect, and it was actually a helpful article – except for one thing. The source of problems in Thyatira was a false teacher that happened to be female and she was referred to as Jezebel. The article made the primary problem the false teacher’s sex rather than her false teaching! The article pointed out first, that this woman was Jezebel like (in reference to OT Jezebel) and may have been improperly using her husband’s authority as her own. Secondly, she was teaching and leading men, even though the Bible does not permit this (1 Tim. 2:11-12). And the 3rd problem was the actual false teaching. Read those sentences again. Don’t miss it.

The actual false teaching is the lesser issue!

Huh? That is not even logical in my opinion.

A large, influential church in my area has exceptional expository preaching but they are unfortunately strict in their complementarian theology. Because their preaching is so good, my spouse and I will download sermon series to listen to on road trips. Recently we downloaded a series that we thought would not involve gender roles, but surprise (or perhaps no surprise) gender theology came up. Genesis chapter 3 was discussed and it was emphasized that the core sin was that Adam failed to lead, and Eve improperly stepped out of her position under the authority of Adam.

Really? That is the core sin that led to the Fall of humanity?

I thought the core issues were…pride, wanting to be like God, listening to Satan rather than God, and simple rebellion or disobedience. God gave them a command to not eat of a certain tree, and they disobeyed. They fell for the wiles of Satan. They were tempted by the desire to become more like God. Again, do you see the point I am attempting to make here?

The violation of so-called gender roles is elevated to be the primary issue.

It is imposed upon the text and overrides the actual core issues.

There are no gender role commandments given in Genesis chapters 1 and 2.

In a blog post that recently came to my attention, a similar thing can be observed. This is one of those “discernment” blogs that unfortunately gives discernment a bad name. (Because discernment is, in reality, a good thing.) I don’t even bother to engage or attempt dialogue in these situations. I have multiple problems with the approach of this post, but note that the primary issue is that Priscilla Shirer teaches men. And it is all downhill from there for the blogger:

“Every female Bible teacher I know of who unrepentantly instructs men also teaches other doctrinal error….If a woman is supposedly knowledgeable enough about the Bible to be in the position of teaching and authoring, yet doesn’t understand or obey such a basic biblical truth, what does that say about the rest of her knowledge of the Bible? How can you trust that anything else she teaches you about the Bible is accurate and true?”

Sigh.

After the said post, a video link is offered to show an example of Priscilla Shirer preaching to a mixed sex audience during a chapel service at Dallas Theological Seminary. This made me giggle. I’m a DTS graduate. (So is Priscilla Shirer.) DTS is a complementarian seminary, and certain egalitarians attack DTS for their complementarian stance. But this blogger is critical because DTS is not complementarian enough. DTS just can’t win – attacked by egals and comps alike!

To move on…

I personally perceive this obsession with or elevation of gender roles to be a result of the curse.

In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, there are only 2 authority structures: God over all creation, and man and woman’s joint authority over the earth. Their dominion was directed towards creation, and not toward each other. Harmony characterized the relationship of Adam and Eve, not tension or intention of overthrow, as they were to co-rule the earth as God’s representatives. There is nothing in Genesis 1 and 2 to indicate that Adam was the responsible one, the leader, or authority figure.

While man indeed emerges as ruler in Genesis 3, this is the sad result of their sin and their ensuing judgments. Patriarchal tendencies are deeply woven into the fallen nature of our world, but is certainly not an ideal to be followed or emulated.

In Christ, men and women are to move beyond the curse and be an example of relationships that have been redeemed. The theme of Scripture is the redemption of humankind and the reversal of the effects of the Fall through the work of Jesus Christ.

Philip’s daughters prophesied. Lydia was the prime mover in getting a church started. Phoebe served as a deacon. Priscilla taught theology to Apollos. Priscilla and Aquila were a dynamic duo in the early church, with Priscilla appearing to have the dominant ministry and leadership skills. Although there is some dispute, many respected scholars believe that Junia was a female apostle (Rom.16:7). In Romans 16, Paul greets nine women. Five of the nine are referred to as co-workers and some are praised for working very hard.

The church and Christian marriage should be a model of the new order of things as men and women serve in partnership based on their spiritual gifting and not based on their gender. Let’s not move backwards. Jesus warned us not to be obsessed with authority. When we are obsessed with gender roles, we are, in essence, basing our lives on the judgment “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 

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