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What do we mean by Complementarianism?


Harshit Singh: Brothers, at EIC we say that we are complementarian. We subscribe to complementarianism. That sounds like a mouthful - a big word! What do we mean by it?

Stephen David: When we say we are complementarians, we say that we believe that God has made man and woman

in his own image and they both are equal in value, worth and dignity.

Harshit Singh: Can you say that again? This point–I think it's very important for our hearers to understand and know what we believe in. Just this section.

Stephen David: Again, so when we say that we are complementarians, we mean that we believe that God has made man and woman equally in his image and that both have equal value, dignity and worth in the sight of God according to the word of God. But at the same time we also believe that God has given men and women distinct roles. They are equal in value and dignity but they are not equal in the roles that God has given to men and women. Which means in the family, the husband is the head of the family, and in the church …

Harshit Singh: Hang on… That's a bit too much. This is 2022. What are you saying? Can you say it again?

Stephen David: Yeah, whether we are in 2022 or 2000, maybe 52 … whatever it is, we are bound to abide by Scripture because Scripture is universal. Scripture transcends culture and time. And no matter whatever generation we are living in, we are ultimately responsible to submit to the authority of Scripture. So God has ordained right when he created. It is not something that is modern. Even in the creation, we see that God has made man the head of mankind and he called both male and female “man.” So, it is something in creation, all through the history of the world, all through the history of the church, and we are no different today from what God has revealed to us in the world.

Harshit Singh: Okay so equal but different. Do you want to talk more about the different distinction?

Vineet Sasane: First of all I think Genesis 2 comes to mind and it says that she was made and she was presented to him and it's face to face, suitable to him. And at the same time she's called a “helper” in that passage. But when we dig into that word helper which is azer you know it's not a demeaning word, but it's a it's a word that really shows us how important women are in family lives, in the church life because that word azer is ezra or God is the helper of his people. God is not ashamed to call himself azer, the helper of his people and that same word is used for the woman. And so we even as married men we know uh even when we have to go somewhere we understand how much value, and how much we need our wives and what a crucial role they play. So it's not a demeaning thing, it's just showing their importance and value in our lives/

Nathan Eda: And having said that, the application of these truths does not automatically lead to male domination or male chauvinism. It is clear even in the ethos of the New Testament especially Ephesians chapter 5 “Wives submit yourselves to your own husband as you do to the Lord.” So it's a worship thing, it is a matter of worshiping the Lord for how he made us and for the purpose that he made us. And husbands then are called to in 5:25 to “love their wives,” and here's the thing, “just like Christ loved the church” and he expands on that saying “and gave himself up for her.” And so the male domineering thing is not a direct result of complementarianism as it's often been told. It is actually a biblical way of showing how this relationship between these gender roles work for the glory of God and for our good. This is for our good. This is for our holiness that we stick to these complementarian ideas.

Harshit Singh: So we reject male chauvinism, oppression of women. You've talked about family primarily, but what about church? How does complementationism show out show itself in the context of the local church?

Vineet Sasane: I mean I think the same principles apply in the church, not based on culture where paul was writing. But again it traces back to Adam and Eve and Adam being created first and Eve later. So even in the church then, women, godly women, they are called by the grace of God to embrace a posture in consistency with the created order then. But having said that every spurgeon had a mother, a godly mother. Every Wesley had a Godly mother, so it's not that women have absolutely minimal role or some kind of secondary role. What a amazing role they have in terms of nurturing the children at the early stage in their life and instilling godly values and supporting their husband and creating that godly atmosphere in the house.

Harshit Singh: So in the house…  Tell me help us to think more about the church. How does it play out in the local churches?

Stephen David: In the local church it is very clear in the Scripture that you know God has ordained only men to be the elders/ pastors/ shepherds of the church. And paul said very clearly in 1 Timothy chapter 2 that “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” and she need to rather be submissive so we understand clearly from the Scripture in the book of 1 Timothy 2 and also from 1 corinthians and throughout the Scripture it is very clear to us that God has ordained men to be the leaders and teachers and women have a great ministry at the same time. They can minister to women right? I see that especially in india. we have more women than men in the churches. So their ministry is great. They can disciple younger women, they can disciple women who are new to faith they can encourage one another. and even they can minister to children. and bring them up in the fear and the knowledge of the gospel of Christ

Nathan Eda: To add to that, the the mandate for women to submit in the church is not a way to keep them out of leadership. So it is not a cultural argument. It's actually rooted in the creation order. In first Timothy chapter two he says “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man she must be quiet for” and that's the cause “Adam was formed first then Eve.” So the creation order gives us a basis a foundation for why women should submit. And similarly, Paul talking to Timothy says “I am reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Louis and in your mother Eunice,” both women instilling solid doctrine in Timothy as they as they try to help the local church.

Harshit Singh: See, I'm from a smaller town, Lucknow, I mean I work with a Hindi church. This teaching kind of it's acceptable I mean maybe, but you guys work in Mumbai, Pune, mega city of Hyderabad. How does this play out? Does this gender role distinction, I mean can you actually put in your practice? Can you actually do it?

Nathan Eda: So piggy backing off of the previous question which was like the about the Reformed ideal Reformed tradition, we said it was based on the authority of Scripture. And so whether or not pragmatically is it going to work or not is is really not up to us. We remain faithful to the Scriptures, and try to apply it as best as we can with the covenant community. Now that doesn't mean we apply all of Scripture perfectly where all of our churches I would agree with I think we would be are progressing towards becoming more biblical in our understanding and application. So it doesn't matter in some senses whether you're in a small town of Lucknow or a main city like Hyderabad. What matters is the word of God. And we want to honor God and love God and glorify God in all that we do and so we're gonna apply it, apply the Scriptures in our context.

Stephen David: And added to that, you know. wherever you are, whether you're in a tribal place or rural place or in urban, salvation is required for all people. And at the same time salvation, for those who are saved sanctification is also required. So what we are discussing about is an issue of sanctification, where we become Christ-like in exercising Christ-like leadership at home and in the church as men. And also women exercising Christ-like submission to their husbands in the family and also to men in the church. So, wherever you are, we are obligated to submit to the authority of the Scripture although the city's feminism is very rampant but we are not called to follow feminism or the culture. We are called to stand for the truth and fight for the truth, and see that people submit to it.

Vineet Sasane: It is a challenge though because somebody said the hardest mission is submission! But in Ephesians 5 it's linked to the Spirit dominating our life, and in colossians 3 “as the word dwells in us richly.” So it's a long process. A young lady may come into our congregation with all kinds of ideas and baggage, but by the grace of God and by the teaching of the word, and by the filling of the Holy Spirit, as the whole church grows in in understanding and comprehending together the love of Christ, that will begin to change so many perspectives and ways of looking at things and you know there is a unlearning and learning by the grace of Christ. So we also have to be patient, I think, as paul says in second Timothy 4:2 “with all patience.” But there is great hope in the power of the word and the Spirit to even help our women grow in this area, no matter which city we stay in.

Harshit Singh: Just very quick, I mean not trying to be devil's advocate, but some people might say well these are full middle-aged middle-class men speaking about  women submitting in families and the church. Of course it's in their interest! How do you respond to that?

Nathan Eda: Well, in some ways, if we're going to look at authority as advantageous, I think the reason we do that is because bad authority has been applied in many streams of our society–Bad male authority. And I think it's a response against that, and when we see that Christ is our authority, and and we do things for him and for his glory, none of this is about us–it's about the glory of God; then I think our motivation can be seen. Our motivation is not that we want to be the authority because it is overwhelming to want and exercise authority. It is a great uh great accountability, it's a great way of responsibility. I think it is, for us it is a matter of–we want to honor God and his word and so that's why we want to follow this this structure or this this thing complementarianism that he set up in the Scripture. So that's how I’d respond to you.

Harshit Singh: Okay so, a few more quick questions. Can women work? I mean out of the home?

Stephen David: That's a good question. I believe that women can work outside of home, but her primary calling is to work at home and manage her household. We see that in Titus, we see that in Timothy, where Paul emphasizes on women being busy at home and managing her household. We see Proverbs 31 women doing business, buying fields, and making profits out of it. But at the same time Proverbs says that she rose up while it is still night and makes and  provides food for the household. So Proverbs 31 woman is a perfect balance of working and at the same time providing and meeting the needs of the household because of which the husband and the children call “Blessed are you for your great work!” So her primary calling is to work at home, but at the same time she can work outside home but it is not a mandate for her. But it is a mandate for man to work and be the breadwinner for the family.

Harshit Singh: So we are not saying women cannot work, but you have to be very careful how you choose your career. I brought that up knowing that Sister works so it's a great example for us. So that was one thing. Next question: Can women be pastors?

Vineet Sasane: Absolutely . . . not. I mean having been in the pastoral ministry for quite some time now, at least a decade, I can see the the wisdom of God in the Scriptures and it's not that women are not capable, but I think it's the design, it's the clear teaching and understanding of the Scriptures for them to be more of a receiving role in the church. However, one illustration comes to mind, I think in the book of acts where I think it's Aquila and Priscilla and uh the mighty Apollos he is mighty in the Scripture, but Priscilla doesn't you know kind of in a public setting teach but the Bible says both of them in a private setting they gave him further instruction about the truth and I kind of see Priscilla next to her husband there and she also agreeing and giving some kind of suggestions and the way in which it may have been done it  would have been in a respectful way, and so there are various things that women can do in the church. But God and his wisdom has asked men– godly and gifted men to lead in the church to add.

Stephen David: And to add to what Vineet said, I would like to also mention that women are not called to pastors, but at the same time I would like to tell that men cannot pastor well without the support of women. Their ministry is so tremendous in the church–discipling other women. And that's what we see in Titus chapter two, when he said that you know, “teach the older woman” and then he speaks about younger men and then older women he says that older women should be discipling younger women in the church. He didn't tell Titus to do that. So without women I believe men find it very difficult biblically to pastor the church and their prayers are required, their discipling of other women is required, and their contribution is immense.

Nathan Eda: And it is. The divine design, when it functions the way that the Scripture wants. Your home yeah and your church looks like what the Lord wants it to look like. It actually helps us in our growth in Christ-likeness. It's not just a Theology or a doctrine that we hold to. It it actually helps us in our sanctification.

Harshit Singh: So as you close, can you very quickly explain the word complementarian.

Nathan Eda: So it's with an ‘E’ and not an ‘I,’ and so what that means is we work together with our different roles and functions. We work together the way that God has–divine designed as I said it– designed it. Because it is a scriptural mandate on how the home works. That's what we mean by complementarianism.

Harshit Singh: So no place for oppression, exploitation, male chauvinism. There's no place for that, but equal value, equal worth in God's eyes, and Jesus died for men and women, and we will be in heaven co-heirs, but different roles in the family, home and at church. Thank you brothers for helping us think through this.  [I’m]very grateful. Thank you.

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