Man and Woman at Creation: A Critique of Complementarian Interpretations -- By: Christiane Carlson-Thies

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 18:4 (Fall 2004)
Article: Man and Woman at Creation: A Critique of Complementarian Interpretations
Author: Christiane Carlson-Thies


Man and Woman at Creation: A Critique of
Complementarian Interpretations

Christiane Carlson-Thies

Christiane Carlson-Thies has been a CBE member since its founding in 1987. She lives with her family in Annapolis, Maryland, where she is self-employed as a telecommunications consultant. Her biblical perspective is shaped by two years of study at the Toronto-based Institute for Christian Studies. Many of the ideas in this article were first presented to a D.C.-area CBE study group where she led a discussion on the complementarian theology of creation. A previous article, “Hermeneutics in Pink and Blue,” was published in Priscilla Papers, Fall 2002.

The complementarian1 conviction, that women are under male authority and therefore must be excluded from (some) positions of leadership, rests in no small measure on their interpretation of God’s eternal, created order as established in Genesis 1-2. However, when the complementarian exegesis of creation is given close scrutiny, substantial—indeed fatal—problems are revealed at the very foundation of their framework.2

In Genesis 1 and 2 we discover God’s perfect, pre-fall intentions for the world and all its creatures, including God’s intentions for human identity and human purpose. When we know what something is (identity) and what it is meant to do (purpose or calling), we have the basis for knowing our proper expectations of, and obligations toward, that “something.” Thus, only when we have grasped the created purpose and identity of humanity as male and female are we able to make faithful judgments about the many normative questions facing us today. What do the creation texts reveal? And what light do they shed on whether or not a universal, fixed exclusion of women from (some) leadership reflects God’s perfect intentions for womanhood?

Understanding gender roles: Difficulties in the complementarian starting point

One major difficulty with the complementarian treatment of the creation account is that they do not read it on its own terms, but interpret it through their understanding of New Testament restrictions upon women’s leading and teaching.3 Here is how the point was made in an article for the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: “From Paul, it is clear that the early chapters of Genesis provide significant teaching for our understanding of gender roles. It is Paul who leads us to reconsider the familiar stories of the early chapters of Genesis for the importan...

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