Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. The word “complementary” and its cognates are currently used to denote this view.
For Christians, the role and responsibility for guiding men and women in the church of Jesus Christ, from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the rapture of the church of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:17) is the teaching of the New Testament. Conservative evangelicals usually embrace complementarianism. Conservative Evangelical:
Complementarians argue Paul’s instructions contained in 1 Timothy 2:12 should be accepted as normative in the church today. This… position denies women equal ministry opportunities, irrespective of their sense of calling from God. Complementarians like egalitarians believe that men and woman share some very important spritiual privilidges and blessing in common.
In Galatians 3:28 the Apostle Paul says:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
To say that we are all one in Christ Jesus, is not to say that there is no difference between Jews and Greeks as far obligations or benefits relative to the nation of Israel are concerned. It is not to say that it is not better to be free than it is to be a servant, as far as social and labor status is concerned. To say that men and women are “one in Christ Jesus” is not to say that men and women are capable of doing the same things. Women are phyisically able of concieving and carrying to term and giving birth to children. Men are not able to do any of these things.
Oneness in Christ Jesus must be discovered in other areas of distinction. Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, men and women can be saved because of what Christ did on the cross for them, nothing else was ever done to make possible the salvation of a lost person. They all have that in common. If and when they are saved, it will only be when they put their faith in Christ (see John 3: 15-18). Thet all have that in common as well. With these same groups in mind, those who trust in Christ for salvation, will recieve reward in accordance with their good works and their faithfulness to Christ.
God has chosen to not erase all differences between Greeks and Jews. God has not chozen to elevate all slaves to the privilidges of free men in the greater culture. While believing women have privlidges that believing men do not enjoy on a strictly spiritual level complementatarian believer recognizes and embraces what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 2: 12. In this way complementarian believers are distinguished from egalitarian believers.
Though there may be some notable exceptions, the more theologically and doctrinaly conservative the believer is, the more likely they are to be a complementarian. The more a believer is concerned about leaning culturally egalitarian, the less likelly they are dotting every I and crossing every t. If they are not theologically liberal, theological egalitarians are at least leaning liberal. Thus:
Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God’s sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status.
Complementarian, Chuck Smith Sr. says that:
The only thing that is prohibited here [1 Timothy 2: 12] is the teaching of men and usurping authority over them in spiritual things. That’s the only thing that was being prohibited here by Paul. He is not prohibiting a woman sharing with men. Paul in writing to the Corinthians mentions the women praying or prophesying in a public assembly and he doesn’t come down on them for that. He doesn’t say that that’s prohibited. And “he that prophesies speaks to the church for edification, for comfort, for exhortation” (I Corinthians 14:3), and I see these as areas where women can minister effectively.
Especially with 1 Timothy 2: 12 in mind, complementairan, J. Veron McGee strikes a biblically based balance as follows. That is:
Today there are two extreme positions relative to the place women should occupy in the local and visible church. Both positions use 1 Timothy 2 to support their stand. One group permits women to occupy a place of prominence and leadership in all public services. They have women preachers, teachers, choir directors, and officers. In fact, no position in the church is shut to them. As a result, women are not only prominent, but they are dominant in the church. Some of these women are very capable, have wonderful ability, and are used mightily of God.
Magee continues by telling a story about complementarian Harry Ironside. J. Veron Magee, recalls that:
The late Harry Ironside was once walking with one of his brethren, and they crossed a park where a woman was preaching. His companion said, “Isn’t it a shame that a woman is there preaching in the park!” Dr. Ironside, in his characteristic manner, said, “Yes, it is a shame there is not some man to take her place.” God is using women, especially on the mission field, to do the work that men should be doing.
McGee continued as follows. He said:
When I was a young pastor in Nashville, Tennessee, a tent was put up across the street from my church. The Baptist preacher in town was a good friend of mine, and together we went over to meet the husband and wife team who were going to hold meetings. The wife did the preaching, and the husband did all the leg work. We watched him putting up the tent and setting out the benches and all that sort of thing. He also led the singing. That’s all right if you like it that way, but I don’t.
However, the Baptist preacher and I gave the meetings all the support we could, because they had good meetings and she did preach the gospel. This is an example of the fact that God has used some of these groups who have women preachers in a definite way; but I think, frankly, that He has used them in spite of, not because of, the position of women among them.
The other extreme position on this issue is taken by those who do not allow women any place at all in their public services. You never hear the voice of a woman in public in their meetings, not even in singing. I have had opportunity for good ministry among some of these folk, but believe me, they push their women to the background. I fear that they lose a great deal of talent and that the women could make a marvelous contribution if they were permitted to do so.
In addition, I agree with those who insist that many women bible teachers (who sometimes teach men the Bible) are better Bible teachers than many men are. To me what is most important are Bible believers (men and women) going to permit what God/through the Apostle Paul does not permit? That is, are believers, (men or women) going to permit a woman to teach men or usurp authority over men.