In this series of posts, we’ll look at some of the terms used to try and capture what we believe and value. Words have meaning, but divorced from context they could be misunderstood. Understanding how words are defined and used is essential, so this week we’ll look at a fairly new theological word: complementarianism.

What is complementarianism? Like most “isms” it describes a set of beliefs. It was coined recently to describe the biblical idea that men and women have equal dignity and value before God, yet men and women have distinct and complementary roles in the home and in the church. The opposing view, egalitarianism, views men and women as equal in value and roles. For example, egalitarians support both men and women serving as a pastor in a church, whereas complementarians understand Scripture to reserve the role of church leadership to qualified men (1 Tim 2:12-14).

To be a complementarian means that you are going against the grain in today’s society. To believe in certain roles for men and women that the two cannot share seems so foreign today. Complementarians are accused of degrading women and viewing them as less valuable than men. But those accusations are not sustainable. Consider the trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. All 3 persons of the trinity are equal in value and dignity yet they each serve in different and complementary roles. It is not degrading to Christ when he submits to the Father and does the Father’s will. It does not follow that because Christ serves a different role than the Father that he is somehow less valuable. The same applies to the roles of men and women.

It is important to remember that both men and women get their worth and value because they are both made in the image of God and they are both heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.Genesis 1:27

Click the “Distinctives” category below for more posts in this series.