Complementarianism: is it biblical? A study of Genesis 1 and 2 – Part 1
Is complementarianism truly biblical? As far as this writer’s personal studies have led, it is not. When a true student of the Word of God, or the Bible, reads such articles as that written by Owen Strachan, the President of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, who has laid out some of the pillars of his beliefs regarding complementarianism, and then lists supposed Scriptural accounts to back his assertions up, it simply does not bear out. In the first part of his article he covers the controversy regarding Gavin Peacock, a pastor located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada who also believes in complementarianism and who also wrote his own article regarding this subject. However, what will be covered in this article are the points Strachan lists in his article concerning complementarian viewpoints.
In the Bible, God makes the cosmos in Genesis 1, and then he makes man and woman, husband and wife, in Genesis 2. He gives this relationship structure and form. Adam is the head of his wife; his wife is his helper. Eve is created from Adam. Her body depends on his for existence. This is a signal from the very start of Scripture: the position of marital headship given to men is one of responsibility and sacrifice, not ease and self-indulgence (Strachan).
Strachan quotes Genesis 1 and 2, so let us read these Scriptures to see if this is what they say. Verses 1-25 tell of God speaking creation into existence. It is in v26-27 that we first find the beginnings of mankind.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
The only thing in these two verses that Strachan is correct about is that God created man…male and female created He them. No sign of order…no headship…just a simple statement of fact. Plus, He unequivocally states, “Let THEM have dominion…” So, God is the Creator. Exactly what did God create? He created the male and female spirits. How do we know this? The Word that God spoke about His creation: He was going to make mankind in His image. What is God’s image? It is Spirit, as we find in John 4:24, “God is Spirit.” If the age-old argument is to be proffered that the word ‘male’ is first and then ‘female;’ well in the order of things…something has to be first and something must be last when dealing with a list of words. It still gives no authority of placement in these verses. To say so is eisegesis of the worst kind; and what exactly is ‘eisegesis’?
Eisegesis (/ˌaɪsəˈdʒiːsəs/; from the Greek preposition εἰς “into” and the ending from the English word exegesis, which in turn is derived from ἐξηγεῖσθαι “to lead out”) is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that the process introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. This is commonly referred to as reading into the text. The act is often used to “prove” a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda (Wikipedia).
The next chapter of the Bible that Strachan refers to is Genesis 2 and the verses, though not listed, are these:
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
God first created their spirits, but then He put them in ONE body (a foreshadowing of the ONE body of Christ, His church), and then God looked at Adam (meaning, ‘red earth’), and said “I will make him an help meet (Hbw= ezer, a strong help)”; so God took woman’s spirit out of Adam and gave the female spirit her own fleshly body. Adam then said “…she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” As we read this biblical text in Genesis 2, there still isn’t any command of God for man to have ‘headship’ over his wife. It simply is just not there! In verse 24 we read:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
This verse sounds more like commentary from Moses who wrote the Pentateuch, especially since at this juncture there was no father or mother to leave. There would be in the future, but not at this scene in the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, Moses lived in the midst of a patriarchal society and so it would behoove one to believe that as the writer of Genesis, that this would have been the perfect time to have instituted patriarchalism or complementarianism if this truly was the will of God. But as we have just seen, Moses did not institute either biblical worldview when he wrote the very words of God.
So for those who hold the complementarian view and for them to say that the book of Genesis supports ‘headship’ and ‘wifely submission’ are errant in their views because the record of the creation of man by God shows no such thing. Furthermore, there isn’t any commands uttered by God to Adam (who was both male and female at the same time) to engage in any such practice. Neither did God command the now separated man and woman to engage in any such lifestyle.
The first we read about any such possibility is in Genesis 3:16 and yet God is not cursing the woman, but merely tells her that since sin has now entered into their existence, the resulting skewing of their equality will now be that the male Adam will begin to rule over the female Adam. We should now see that this ‘headship’ if you will and forced ‘submission’ leads into the patriarchal system, but it was only introduced after sin entered the Garden of Eden and not before when they were in God’s paradise. So how is this God’s perfect will?
This writer will continue in additional articles to cover this large topic. So stay tuned.