Complementarianism does not bring God’s promised Joy

This was meant to be a blog solely for my book reviews, I told myself about two years ago. I wanted to read books, review them online and then reach for my next read on my TBR pile. After all, I was a reader and that’s where my heart lay. 

But then came the tv show reviews. And then came recipes. And now I feel like although this is a blog that I do mostly dedicate to my increasingly large reading pile, I do feel myself writing about other things that I am passionate about, like certain tv shows that pull on my heart strings and certain recipes that made me want to reach for forth and fifth portions. And so I feel like I need to write about an issue that I don’t feel like I can be silent about any longer.


For those of you who don’t know, I am a practicing and passionate Christian. But before I scare any readers off, I also should say that I am also a passionate liberal and feminist. In fact, when talking about a certain – let’s say delicate topic of gender equality at church – I fall squarely in the category of being an Egalitarian. If you’ve never heard of Egalitarianism, read this great article here which easily sums it up. But basically, it’s the belief that there are no assigned “roles” for men and women at church which are assigned by gender, but rather that our gifts and roles are given to us as a gift by the Spirit with no discrimination as to whether we are male or female. 
And let me tell you, it is an absolutely beautiful truth that opened by eyes up about a year ago. It perfectly harmonizes with Scripture – yes, even those really horrible “sexist” passages (that aren’t actually at all sexist if you take into account the history, culture, context and language that they are all written in) and is actually better in sync with the grace and freedom-filled message that Jesus brought us than some of the watered-down patriarchal sour juice that certain traditional churches want to serve us as “the Truth” while all it does is hurts people – women and men. 

Now I’m not here to argue hermeneutics, doctrine or Scripture. In fact, there are a bunch of fantastic websites that have great resources that dig right into the Greek language and perfectly summarize the historical context that made certain biblical writers write about certain issues. Here is a list of them if you want some in-depth studies: 

No, I’m here to just ask you to lay aside all of your prejudices in spite of certain passages or ideas or stereotypes for just one moment and have you think about the kind of joy the life that God wants for us gives us. 

Being a believer is never easy, that’s true and sometimes we do face hardships and we’re not “happy” in the worldly sense of not always getting what we want (like a new car or a new job) and we do always struggle with our selfish voice in our head that tells us to rebel against God’s ideas of love and forgiveness. But even in the deepest struggles we might have with our “happiness”, God’s plan for us can still give us joy. If we’re not called for a certain job or a certain path, then we know that God’s plan for us is still so much better and we can rest in His peace and still experience that godly joy.

In fact, the entire premise of the New Testament is how we are to go about going back to the pre-fall condition of man, with God being in an intimate relationship with us and going back to that love-filled harmony with fellow humans. We are to strive for that. And while Complementarianism can bring certain amounts of joy – like for example if a woman and man are built and gifted for those kinds of roles – but I don’t think that Complementarianism, especially in the way that traditionalists want to enforce it, will ever have the effect of giving us that God-given joy that we as believers are promised.

Now I’m not in any way gifted for teaching or leading, so I can’t speak for others as well as a woman who is actually called could. However I can imagine that if a woman is called by God and gifted and equiped by the spirit to lead, and she has this urge to step up and fill that role – not out of some urge to domineer people, like certain traditionalists would like you to believe about women who are called into leadership – then she will never find that joy and peace if she is squarely stomped on and told to back down from that calling and told to “know her place”. 

How can women bask in the joyfulness of the freedom that God’s salvation brings them, when they are still enslaved by some invisible “power” that men have over them? Even if this is only enforced in a very loose way (such as, the husband only has the final say in crisis situations), this is still a toxic idea that hangs over their heads and has women question things such as her value and strengths. 

And here’s the deal: No matter how you want to twist your words or how you want to sugarcoat them. No matter how often you emphasize the equality between men and women before God, as soon as you insert a universal hierarchy based solely on what gender you are born with, there automatically isn’t any equality in worth anymore, no matter how you try and turn it. That isn’t joy. Even if you find yourself in position where you are called for and love filling that traditional role God has given you, if it isn’t based on God’s plan for you personally, based on your strengths, weaknesses, passions, desires and gifts but on some crude hierarchy that is forced on you, then that isn’t freedom anymore. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of women who have found joy in filling complementarian roles, true godly joy. I’m not denying that it is a way of living out your life which can be very satisfying and joyful for many people, and we should never ignore that. But fact of the matter is that this isn’t the truth for all people. And the truth is that this doctrine doesn’t bring joy to a lot of people. Joy that God has promised us. 

So has God really promised us joy and freedom? YES!  

“You will make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-24975A" data-link="(A)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the people.” (Luke 2:10, ESV) 

“These things I have spoken to you, <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-26699A" data-link="(A)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>that my joy may be in you, and that <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-26699B" data-link="(B)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>your joy may be full.” (John 15:11, ESV) 

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28282B" data-link="(B)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>of righteousness and <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28282C" data-link="(C)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, ESV) 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28842A" data-link="(A)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>the Spirit of the Lord is, there is <sup class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-28842B" data-link="(B)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>freedom.” (2 Cor. 3:17, ESV) 

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, ESV) 

“For <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29147A" data-link="(A)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>freedom Christ has <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29147B" data-link="(B)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>set us free; <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29147C" data-link="(C)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29147D" data-link="(D)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>a yoke of <span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-ESV-29147E" data-link="(E)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>slavery.” (Gal. 5:1, ESV)
Now please note the above verse. We are freed from slavery. What is slavery? It is the condition of being under someone’s authority on the basis of who you are and in which state you were born into (poverty, a slave, etc.). It is also being in a state of being owned by someone. Both are defining conditions of women (being “owned” by their fathers and husbands, and being under the authority of someone simply for being born a woman!). And we are FREED from that! 

God’s promises clearly include a state of joy (not happiness, which is different). And if you would take a good look around you, it’s easy to see that the complementarian teaching does not bring joy to each and every person. And like I said above, I’m not talking about a temporary state of unhappiness that is characterized by a rebellious heart or a temporary sadness that is caused by certain circumstances that God allows, but an actual absence of joy and peace. And to me, that clearly shows that complementarianism is not God’s true Will for women.  




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