How are men and women to relate to each other in the church and home? That’s the question at stake when discussing complementarianism and egalitarianism. It can be a contentious issue, and many people don’t have all the facts about both sides.
No matter what you believe, the most effective way to find out what God’s plan is for gender roles definitely is not to engage with opposing viewpoints rationally and honestly—it’s to express outrage that anyone believes differently than you do.
That important point covered, we hope this definitive guide contributes to your ammunition the next time you’re in a raging argument on the subject.
Complementarianism: One day while drinking beer and watching college football, a Christian man in Nebraska demanded his wife bring him buffalo wings and another six-pack—and the ideology began to spread like wildfire. Complementarian beliefs almost immediately spread across the land, from churches and seminaries to remote compounds in Texas.
Egalitarianism: Peter the Apostle attempted to open the door for his wife while walking into their favorite seafood restaurant in Galilee, and she punched him right in the face for this horrifying act of misogyny. She cut her hair short and launched the egalitarian movement right then and there. You go, girl!
Complementarianism: Because of innate, God-given differences that are good, men are vastly superior to women and are therefore their masters in all aspects of life. Thus, men and women have different but “complementary” roles at home and in the church, such as men doing everything of any importance and women doing chores and being quiet.
Egalitarianism: The belief that there is no distinction between the roles of men and women in the church or society at large—we’re all just one giant, happy, genderless blob. The slightest suggestion that men might be gifted differently than women is anathema, and the offending party shall be drawn and quartered, per the bylaws of the United Egalitarian Council.
Complementarianism: John Piper (we think—can anyone confirm?), John MacArthur, Paul the Apostle, Mark Driscoll, Conan the Barbarian.
Egalitarianism: Joan of Arc, anyone who believes there’s such thing as “The Patriarchy,” any girl in your Bible classes probably.
Complementarianism: The Brady Bunch, The MacArthur Study Bible, Braveheart, UFC Fight Night.
Egalitarianism: HBO’s Girls, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Communist Manifesto.
Complementarianism: Only if you believe in exegesis.
Egalitarianism: For best results, use the TNIV.
How to spot a follower
Complementarianism: The complementarian’s wife is usually walking five full steps behind him with her eyes downcast (this is law), wearing a floor-length dress and an Amish-style bonnet. He’s got a few John Piper books tucked under his arm, which he forces his wife to read aloud if she fails to have supper ready when he gets home.
Egalitarianism: Watch for dangerous signs like a shaved-head egalitarian wife paying for dinner or driving while the husband rides in the front seat and does his hair and make-up. A woman reading the Bible for herself, WITHOUT asking her husband what it means, is also a dead giveaway.
There, now you know the most important differences between complementarianism and egalitarianism. You’re welcome!
Which system do you subscribe to? Let us know by leaving a comment on our Facebook page! (If you’re a complementarian woman, make sure to get permission from your spouse first. Likewise if you’re an egalitarian man.)