A Test for Complementarians

Complementarians exist in a dizzying array of contradictory views on women in ministry, from arguing that it is unbiblical for a woman to drive to church (as that is the man’s designed role) to the view that women can serve in any role but two in the church, the Sr. Pastor and the head elder. It is therefore next to impossible to criticize any one stance because there will always be a complementarian who points out a straw man.

I have heard it said that it is obvious that men and women are created for different leadership roles in the family and church, and I have been thinking about what that might look like and how it might be tested.

If something is obvious, then the claim is immediately understood once all of the relevant facts are known. For example, if I tell you that John is taller than Mary and Mary is taller than Fred, it becomes obvious that John is taller than Fred.

Similarly, if it is obvious that women and men are designed for different roles, then we should be able to identify those roles immediately once all the facts are known. It seems to me that there are some roles that are uniquely and obviously assigned to men or women based on their gender.

For example, if you hear that a baby has been born, you can be sure that it was a woman who gave birth. It is obvious because the facts of the matter are that women are uniquely designed to be pregnant.

Here is the challenge to complementarians, some of whom who argue that women are obviously unfit to speak authoritatively, based on 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. Below are two statements. If it is obvious that women are unfit to teach in church, then it should be obvious whether the statements were made by a woman or not. Perhaps only one of them was made by a woman, perhaps they both were, or perhaps they were both made by men. It should be obvious which.

Open theism disagrees with the idea of the future being exhaustively determined in the sense that it is made to happen in a certain manner according to God’s decision. Hunt argues that though God might indeed know the future exhaustively, it does not follow that he had to determine it all. Thus, there are aspects of the future that God himself did not determine – free agents did – but he still knows about it. In fact, Boyd experiences less human free agency in Scripture with open theism than those with a simple-foreknowledge view. To Boyd, if God knows about a future action, he has also determined it, whereas the simple-foreknowledge view holds that same action to be only epistemically known by God and not necessarily caused by him.

Since one cannot gather an understanding of morals from observing humanity or creation, where do they come from? They have to come from outside humanity and creation. To use other words, morals transcend humanity and the universe. Are they there by chance? If that was the case, we would be able to ignore morals for there would be authority behind them, and we could do as we pleased. Nor would chance morals explain the feelings of obligation to do something we “ought” to do, or the feelings of guilt when we know we have done something wrong. Since these universal morals carry this seeming weight of obligation/guilt, they must come from a source of authority. This implies a lawgiver. A lawgiver implies intelligence. And again, we are back to a transcendent, intelligent source – God. As Koukl says, “Moral laws suggest a moral law-giver, one who communicates his desires through his laws. He expects his imperatives to be obeyed.”

Surely a good complementarian should be able to tell the difference, right?