Why Complemegalitarianism Doesn’t Work -- By: Kevin DeYoung

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 15:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: Why Complemegalitarianism Doesn’t Work
Author: Kevin DeYoung

Why Complemegalitarianism
Doesn’t Work

Kevin DeYoung

Senior Pastor
University Reformed Church
East Lansing, Michigan

From time to time it’s wise to re-visit the arguments for male leadership in the church and in the home. First, because the cultural pressure is decidedly against complementarianism. We need our spines stiffened by Scripture more frequently than we realize. And second, because there may be readers (or those you know) who struggle with this issue and are looking for help. There may even be mild egalitarians open to being persuaded.

That is why I would like to review some of these arguments by examining what John Stott says about the issue in chapter 12 (“Women, Men and God”) of his book Issues Facing Christians Today (4th ed.; Zondervan, 2006). I choose John Stott because: (1) I have the utmost respect for his ministry and general handling of the Scriptures, and (2) I know solid evangelicals who find his mediating, not-quite-egalitarian-not-quite-complementarian view very attractive. As a general rule, when Stott speaks, evangelicals should listen. So if anyone could present a strong case for women elders and pastors, or something less than full blown complementarianism, surely John Stott could.

But in actuality, a close examination of Stott’s exegesis shows just how weak the middle-of-the-road position (not to mention the egalitarian position) really is.

Framing the Debate

Stott frames the gender debate, as he frames most debates, as an opportunity to find the golden mean between two extremes. On the one hand, women have long been oppressed by a male-dominated society so we must try to “understand their hurts, frustration and even rage” (325). In other words, we must listen to women. On the other hand, we must listen to Scripture too. The goal is to avoid denying the teaching of Scripture just to be relevant while also avoiding insensitivity to the people most affected by these issues.

Of course, every Christian should eschew insensitivity. That’s a fine caution. But when Stott goes on to quote approvingly (for two pages) several feminist authors, while also bemoaning the fact that there aren’t enough women in Congress, you get the distinct impression that Stott is going to try hard to make sure Scripture is not too offensive to those with feminist sensibilities. Because Stott sets out to steer a course between Scripture and women’s pain, he commits himself to avoiding any conclusions that might add to that pain. Whether this middle path is the right path remains to be seen.


Stott, with typical clarity and organizational skill, focuses on “four crucial words” (327). The first ...

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