O. J. Simpson Is Not a Complementarian: Male Headship and Violence against Women -- By: Russell D. Moore
JBMW 12:1 (Spring 2007) p. 2
O. J. Simpson Is Not a Complementarian: Male Headship and Violence against Women
Does the interpretation of the fifth chapter of Ephesians held by the church for over nineteen centuries turn men into wife-beaters? Some critics of male headship argue that it could, and it is time for complementarians to listen to their warnings. When we do, we will understand that only a historic vision of self-sacrificial male headship can provide the revelatory framework for a Christian response to the abuse culture.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, made headlines in recent months when he suggested that masculine God-language could lead to the abuse of women and children by “empowered” predatory males. The Archbishop’s concern is hardly novel. In 1998, journalists Steve and Cokie Roberts opined that the Southern Baptist Convention’s inclusion of Ephesians 5 language on husband/wife roles in the denomination’s confession of faith would “clearly lead to abuse.” Moreover, leading egalitarians, including respected New Testament scholar I. Howard Marshall, have warned that a complementarian vision of sex roles could fail to provide the theological resources for the church to oppose spousal abuse by men. Against this backdrop, there also appears the so-called “soft complementarian” within some evangelical circles, who insists that he believes in male headship but takes a “mediating” position because he opposes abuse—as though the “hard complementarians” exegete Scripture to
JBMW 12:1 (Spring 2007) p. 3
allow for abuse. What are we to think of this? Is biblical patriarchy in danger of producing a generation of ESV-quoting O. J. Simpsons?
Complementarians should welcome this discussion. Our egalitarian interlocutors who raise the issue are asking the right questions. They are not suggesting that all—or even most—complementarian Christians beat their wives, any more than we are suggesting that all—or even most—egalitarian Christians are secretly transvestites. What they are suggesting is that the so-called “gender issue” is about more than who can teach whose Sunday school class. These convictions about creational differences—or the lack thereof—translate into real life consequences, consequences with spiritual, psychological, and even physical aspects. Egalitarians are also correct that the widespread physical, emotional, and psychological abuse seen in our culture today—and in previous generations—is indeed the result of a twisted view of manhood and womanhood.
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