Thursday, April 19, 2012

Complemetarianism in Action

Basically, complimentarianism is the belief that men and women have gender roles in the church.  Egalitarianism is the belief that men and women are completely equal when it comes to gender roles.  The former can be misinterpreted as misogynistic (right word?), but here is a complementarian's view on marriage regarding a question I've wondered about before - what should a man, who believes he's called by God to a ministry, do when his wife is NOT on board with the ministry:

You are called to a self-sacrificial headship in your marriage.  This means you love your wife, and you do what’s best for her, even to the point of crucifying your own ambitions, your own callings, and even your own life (Eph. 5:25-30).  Don’t put your wife in the situation in which she must choose between loyalty to you and fidelity to what she believes.  If that means serving the Lord in some way other than the pastorate, so be it. Your marriage is more important than your ministry.

Russell Moore

Pretty strong.  Agree?


  1. Interesting topic. I found an online article that makes a case that the scriptural order of priorities is: God, spouse, children, parents, extended family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and then the rest of the world.

    I don't know that I even agree with that order, but perhaps that should be a topic for it's own discussion.

    At any rate, I've never seen a Christian person make a case that anything should come before God. Everyone always says "God first, then spouse/family/(whatever)".

    But then you have people like Russell Moore here. And James Dobson Sr. At one time, Dobson was the most highly sought after evangelist in the country. His waiting list was 4 years long. But when his 16 year old son became defiant with his mother, Dobson Sr cancelled all 4 years worth of engagements and stayed home and mentored his son.

    Now that sounds very noble, but is it scriptural? Is it putting God first? I mean, you and I have no way of knowing whether or not Dobson's evangelism was a calling from God, but if it was.....then wouldn't it stand to reason that it was wrong of him to walk away from that when his son began acting out? When Russell says "If that means serving the Lord in some way other than the pastorate, so be it"...that sounds to me like WE are picking and choosing how WE will serve God. Is that right? Scriptural? I mean, don't get me wrong, I think we do that all the time....but I'm asking if it's right. Aren't we supposed to be doing what God wants us to do?

    1. That's exactly what I struggle with when I consider this kind of topic. Doesn't God supersede any other interest? Or is God's interest in the marriage ABOVE any other ministry. To me, it's a little like the arguing if you should kill Hitler if you had the chance. Does that make sense?

  2. This is where I wish someone smart, like Micah, would chime in.

    I think at some point we have to examine God's general will and God's specific will. We know that God's general will for EVERY husband is that he sacrifice for his wife and love her as Christ loved the church. We know that God's general will is for every father to raise up his children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

    What we often don't know is God's specific will for you or me. Does He want me to be a missionary? Does He want you to be a pastor? His specific will varies from person to person as He has a different plan for each life.

    Let me pose this question: is God's general will more or less important than His specific will? Or equally important? This may be the crux of the entire debate right here.

    If God's general will is more important, then it would be hard to argue with Moore's statement above. If God's specific will is more important, then anyone called by God to the pastorate would be in disobedience if they left that calling...for ANY reason. Right?

    And if both general and specific will are equally important, then what do you do when they conflict?

    1. Good comments and questions.
      I like your comparison of general and specific will.

      Several things:
      1) Ideally, I would think God would confirm His specific will in both the husband and wife. It would be possible that the husband 'believed' he was being called, but was incorrect - and the wife felt no confirmatory calling. It seems it would also be possible that he IS being called but the wife is not in tune with this. However, I think there's something potentially dangerous and un-God-like happening when you decide that your ministry is more important than your marriage.
      2) As far as a priority between the two: I don't see God's specific will EVER over-riding His general will. That would be a sign that God is contradicting Himself, which would be wrong.
      3) Part of the list of things we've been looking at in the mens group - that qualify an overseer or deacon - and that identify a mature christian man - state that he is to have his house in order. That doesn't mean there are no problems. But I think it would include your wife being on-board with your ministry. How could you effectively minister if she's resentful/angry/divisive/competitive with your 'ministry'. I think a sense of peace about the decision would be important, which you certainly wouldn't have if your wife was against it.

      This is a very interesting issue. I think it could be fleshed out much more. I tend to think I agree with Moore on this, even though it 'feels' wrong to me naturally. That's interesting all on it's own.

  3. Also, what if you weren't a pastor or minister, but your wife just didn't like the church? Should you change churches because she's not happy? And what if you feel the reasons she's not happy are related to her own issues? What if you believe the church is 'family', and nothing short of heresy from the pulpit should divide you from it, but she doesn't feel that way at all? These may be more common issues.

  4. Good questions. What if a couple were both unsaved when they got married, then some time later the husband got saved, but the wife remained hostile toward the gospel and "the things of the church". This saved husband would obviously want to be serving the Lord in his church, but what does he do if he constantly gets grief from his unsaved wife about his service to the church? The bible doesn't allow for divorce in such a case unless the unbeliever leaves. How does that man live his life, torn between God and wife?

    1. Yeah, that's turning it around, cause that passage talks about the WIFE winning the HUSBAND to the gospel through her submission. Would the same apply in reverse? This brings in the issue of whether submission is mutual.

    2. Regarding your earlier comment about Dobson - that obviously worked out in Gods will. I think Dobson jr. Became a force in the evangelical community far beyond what his was.

    3. •what his dad was

  5. to respond to this :)

    Lots of things I'm thinking but I'll start off small I think.

    I believe that in America, we get so enamored with God's "specific will" that it tantalizes our thoughts so much that we spend very little time digging into God's general will, that we miss out on both.

    I also believe that God's specific will is always contained in his general will.

    I think it is extremely rare that God would ever call someone to minister so much that their family/marriage disintegrates. There is the principle of being faithful in the small things first, then you have ability to be faithful in the big things. Now, that doesn't disqualify someone who doesn't have a family at all from the ministry, but it does place the priority on the family.

    Now some examples of specific conflicts I know of -

    Jesus saying "whoever doesn't hate father, mother, sister, brother, etc. is not worthy of being my disciple" - This is about the primacy of knowing Jesus and being with Him. IF your family is keeping you from God, then you have to choose God. I don't think this has anything to do with ministry though, because some other issues are at work here first.

    The verses where Paul is talking about the unbelieving husband with the believing wife - I'd say those go both ways. I think the main reason it was written the way it was is because the wife was most likely to be in that situation culturally. But it would imply a double standard if taken to only be valid in the specific situation...just a thought, would have to look into this more.

    If your wife just doesn't like the church/specific one you're at, etc. it may be time to dig into some Bible study on the topics that apply. What is the church? What is it about? Who is the church about? What if "I'm not being fed" at this church? (then you should be feeding yourself and helping to feed others) - See passages on spiritual milk and meat, and also do a search for "one another" statements in the NT :)

    On a personal note, what does it profit a minister if he reaches the world yet loses his own family and their souls. I believe the dad and parents are ministers to their own family first. That doesn't guarantee the children or spouse will always respond correctly or have a real relationship with God - there is such a thing as humans having free will - but if someone's ministry is the focus of their child/spouse hating God then you should definitely be dropping back and focusing on the family. Odds are good there are some unhealthy habits going on that are causing the resentment, as most ministers today are workaholics or do a horrible job of setting boundaries and communicating well with their families.

    My two cents for now ;)

  6. Yes, my concern about the wife not liking the church is the 'consumer' mentality. What am I getting? How are MY needs being met? What programs are appealing to ME? I'll just shop around til I find them. Plus the idea that things will improve in a different surrounding, the grass is greener over there. Maybe the issue is you, not those around you. Maybe the fact that you recognize a problem means God wants you working on that, rather than complaining about it, or leaving the church over it. That's maturity.

  7. One more comment (sure, just 1).

    I think the part of Moore's statement I had the most difficulty with was this: Don’t put your wife in the situation in which she must choose between loyalty to you and fidelity to what she believes.

    What exactly does that mean in the context of ministry? Is he saying the wife's 'belief' about something - whether right or wrong - should trump your own? Are you supposed to be able to lead as a husband by deferring to your wife in matters that are disagreed upon?

    I get the fact that being a 'servant leader' is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, but in this case, it seems it could also be counter-productive. Or is he saying the only way to lead is through building cooperation and confidence and setting up the health of the marriage as the highest goal? And that whether or not your wife is right or wrong about an issue isn't the main concern.

    When I think of Christ and the church - the church (as a man-made and man-run institution) isn't right frequently. Christ doesn't abandon her. He presents her spotless before God. But at the same time, He doesn't disregard sin, or condone wrong behavior.