Beware of sneaky complementarianism

I have a habit at Twitter (yes, I’m putting all Twitter pastors on notice!) of checking out an individual’s church page (if they have one) before accepting a friend request. In one particular case this past week, I did my usual routine: I investigated a potential church page where I found the church’s mission statement. When you prepare to follow someone at Twitter, egalitarians, please check their church’s mission statement or “statement of faith.” Many have a statement or two with the words “complementarian” or “egalitarian” within them. It’ll save you a lot of time, headache, and heartache up front to know who or what you’re dealing with. We have our “What We Believe” page here at The Essential Church, and we’re always adding to it in order to maintain precision in our biblical convictions. If we haven’t covered something yet, don’t worry: we’ll get around to it.

Eager to follow this individual who pastored a church, I read the church’s Statement of Faith. And that’s when I ran into some sneaky complementarianism: the church’s Statement of Faith claimed that the office of elder is reserved for men, with the biblical passage being that of Titus 1. You may not find this interesting: after all, Titus 1 is in the Bible (which makes it biblical), and churches often quote specific passages of Scripture that appeal to them. Perhaps the church chose the passage that they’ve read or studied or meditated on most often. And yet, what I find interesting is that the church in question did not quote from 1 Timothy 3, a passage that, as we’ve seen, is gender-inclusive and not gender-exclusive.

So, why then, did the church choose Titus 1 over 1 Timothy 3, a passage that provides more information about the church offices of Pastor and Deacons? It may just be a theory I have, but I smell sneaky complementarianism.

I’ve always held a belief that Christians don’t do systematic theology too well. We don’t know how, in biblical interpretation (hermeneutics, they called it back at seminary), to take passages on a subject, place them side by side, and come out with a proper doctrine that does justice to both verses without undermining one or the other. Let’s take John 6:44, for example: Calvinists have said that “no man can come to Me unless the Father draws him” means that the Lord only elects certain people for salvation; and yet, if God so loved the world that He gave Jesus for it (John 3:16), then where does the rest of the world, the “non-elect” as Calvinists would say it, fit in?

If God only draws some, then why send Jesus to die for all? What would be the point of Jesus dying for those who can never be saved in the first place? Calvinists can’t answer this without doing a grave disservice to Calvinism and an even bigger disservice to sound logic. Believe me, I’ve studied Calvinism for over a decade now and I’ve read all the illogical statements one could find. If there’s nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes says, another ten years won’t change anything on that front.

And the same failure in systematic theology with regard to soteriology (the study of salvation) is the same one that’s brought to the women in ministry discussion. The church in question took Titus 1 because it also discusses women being taught to be workers at home and to be respectful to their husbands, etc., which is all fine and good if you’re a wife who has those responsibilities. But where does Titus 1 speak to single women, for example? It doesn’t.

1 Timothy 3, on the other hand, does argue for women (read: not wives, but women) in ministry: Paul does the unthinkable when he takes the diaconate, a place only reserved for men in Acts 6, and gives women a place and a role as Deacons in 1 Timothy 3:11. And yet, the church didn’t choose 1 Timothy 3 but Titus 1 because they believe Titus 1 would serve their agenda best — as if to say, by choosing Titus 1, they could just eliminate 1 Timothy 3 from the Bible. News flash: even with the church choosing Titus 1, 1 Timothy 3 is still there!

God’s Word does not contradict, and the Holy Spirit, who breathes out Scripture, tells us exactly who God is. So, if the Lord is for women in one passage, He’s for women in all passages, including Titus 1. What this means is that women are to be faithful to their husbands and the home in Titus 1, but that 1 Timothy 3 also tells women to be “faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:11) while still giving women a place in church leadership and ministry. In other words, being faithful at home doesn’t exclude a woman from being faithful in church leadership, but rather, is the basis for it (1 Timothy 3:5).

The real agenda of this church hit home when the church said that elder positions are reserved for men. The phrase in question? “Husband of one wife,” which they took to mean “male.” As I’ve shown in the work on 1 Timothy 3 (see gender-inclusive link above), the phrase is not male-specific but gender-inclusive, especially when you consider that Paul tells women in 1 Timothy 3, after calling them to office in v. 11, to “be the husbands of one wife” in verse 12.

Some could say that this church didn’t mean any harm, that it is propagating a heartfelt belief. But at this point, it looks to me to be a case of sneaky complementarianism: abandoning the main passage on church leadership (1 Timothy 3) in favor of a passage that endorses women at home with their husbands (Titus 1)? And then, to not attempt to wrestle with the major biblical passages and mention it in the Statement of Faith? Nah, something’s up. There’s an agenda behind the statement, and I think we all know what it is.