Does ontology beget function? It seems to be a basic question but one that our society has become completely confused about, largely because it is embroiled in the heresy of Enlightenment religion and all of its gnostic assumptions.
I've been engaging a supposed Reformed group on FB lately concerning gender roles. It's a self-described Reformed Marriage site where people can supposedly go and get marital advice from a Reformed perspective. As you can imagine, as many FB groups, all sorts of people belong to the group and most of them think they are Reformed. Part of this is that one's views of gender roles are secondary to the Reformed faith because they are secondary to orthodox Christianity. As I've said many times before, I don't think sanctification is a secondary matter, and a different view of gender roles than that of the Bible will produce, not the image of Christ, but an image of the devil.
What is worse, however, is that I have had countless women on that page now tell me how they believe in patriarchy and then proceed to give me egalitarian and complementarian views of gender roles in both argument and attitude. Obviously, there is some confusion here. So, without further ado, let us look for a definition of each term, all while understanding that categorization isn’t as nuanced as it possibly can be and that there will be overlap between them.
Feminism - feminism comes is such a variety of forms that it is impossible to nail down with a single definition. However, I do think it is often misunderstood by Christians when they present it in terms of a more radical third wave feminism that looks to raise women up in powerful positions by taking men out of them. Feminism, at its root, is simply egalitarianism. It wasn't necessarily a movement that looked to exalt women over men but rather to exalt women to equality with men. People are offended when they are called feminist but most people in our culture, including many conservative Reformed women, are still influenced by its core anthropology, which is by nature a gnostic one (more on that in a minute).
Egalitarianism - As stated above, egalitarianism is simply the assumptions of common feminism, as opposed to the more radical types. We might even just call it soft-feminism, although, again, soft feminism is probably just feminism. Egalitarianism, although seeing some differences in biology between men and women, assumes an essential sameness to the core humanity of both. Because of this core humanity, men and women should be allowed to do the same things and given the opportunity to do whatever the other can do within their respective biological limitations of course. Egalitarians don't believe men can have babies and whatnot, but they do believe that they should be able to hold the same jobs, trade off making decisions since no one is in the lead by virtue of their gender. At its core assumption, egalitarianism shares the gnostic assumptions of feminism because it does not think that biological gender should limit one's role in family, church, or society. We are all the same on the inside seems to be the assumption. It's just these bodies that trap us in certain positions and if men are good men they will not allow the flesh prisons of a particular gender to limit what roles a person can play in these spheres. Society, the church, the family should be open to a woman's leadership just the same as a man's since we are essentially spirit creatures in flesh bags rather than being so essentially different in the types of humans we are that our roles be defined by our biology. Egalitarians love to quote verses like Ephesians 5:21, "Submit to one another out of the fear of Christ." "See," they'll say, "Scripture wants everyone to submit to one another. So we take turns. He leads this time. I lead next time. Or we just try to come to a mutual decision before one of us has to yield to the other." Of course, that is not what the verse means. The Greek word ἀλλήλων is not always reciprocal, and in fact, when it can be understood as distributive in the context, it should be. Here the "one another" does not mean "all groups to all groups," or "all genders to all genders," but instead, "this group (i.e., women, children, slaves) to this group (i.e., husbands, parents, masters). Another example of this distributive use is in Revelation 6:4, where men kill ἀλλήλων "one another." That does not mean they all stood in front of each other and shoved swords into one another simultaneously. It just means that this guy killed that guy and some other guy killed yet another guy, etc.
In any case, egalitarianism misreads texts this way because they see gender roles as an effect of the fall that trapped women in an oppressive relationship under the man simply because she has the weaker meat bag than he does. Now that Jesus has come, she can ascend to her true self in the spirit and should not be limited by her biologically fallen prison, and any men who still assert their physical superiority in order to display their authority are evil. It's just sheer jerkiness to use your biology to lord over another when we are all the same thing underneath. Again, this is all pure gnosticism. Men and women are only different on the outside, in their flesh, but their true selves are spirit and the same as the spirits of men. In essence, if egalitarians really thought about it, there is no good distinction in gender unless its a distinction without a difference. All gender distinction either has only to do with physical limitations of a fallen body or is merely a societal construct made by wicked men who seek to oppress women.
Complementarianism - This is the one I actually wanted to get to. This is the one that will stir the pot. Complementarianism, as it is often expressed today in its soft form, is simply egalitarianism and feminism in its assumptions but wants to be faithful to the technical teaching of Scripture so that it adopts the idea of roles. The problem is that these roles have no basis in a differentiation of ontology. Men and women are essentially the same things in the spirit, their true selves, but since they have a limited body given to them, and since God says so, we must limit them where Scripture says we have to, but only there and nowhere else. We don't need to see roles in everything like serving in governmental roles, careers, even teaching in church as long as she isn't a head pastor. Complementarians often don't realize that they have adopted egalitarian assumptions about gender until there is a split among them and the harder complementarians that I would categorize as patriarchal are cast in horrible lights by those they thought as allies.
Patriarchy - patriarchy is the idea that fathers, i.e., mature men, rule. Notice, I did not say that they should rule but that they do. It is simply a biological fact that men have power due to their superior strength alone. That means that any power they give, even if we become a completely feminist culture, is them allowing feminists to rule. And they would have to allow it because they have the power. If I let my kid boss all the other kids around, including me, I'm still exercising my authority because I am the one who allows it or can stop it at any moment. There is no way to escape patriarchy. The question instead is which patriarchy is a good one, and I would argue that the Bible should be the rule of that. Biblical patriarchy looks like some others we can see throughout time, but obviously with a different emphasis. Fathers have the final say, but if they are wise and just, they will accept input in order to be informed and seek to protect and provide in the best way they can for all of those under them. They will be guided by the Bible and be accountable to it. They should use their power for the benefit of those under them and never for harm ("harm" being defined by the Bible, not our psychologically manipulative culture).
But this is the important distinction between patriarchy and these other three: Biological gender distinction is not only a good, it determines roles even in a prelapsarian world because a male and female are two different kinds of humans, not the same kind of human in two different bodies. A woman should not rule over men because it is fundamentally contrary to her nature as a female human, and if she ignores this, she will become a distorted human being, a golem rather than one who is conformed to the image of Christ in her respective gender. The same goes for the man. The man isn't just some lucky spirit who got the jackpot of being put in a male body. He is a male human by nature, spirit and body, through and through. He is made to rule because he is made to protect and to provide for. That's who he is. She is made to come under his leadership as his helper in childbearing and childrearing because she is made to be a wife and mother. It is who she is. Her God-given biology is a mirror image of her God-given spirituality. In other words, the spirit and the body are one, not separate things where one is true humanity and the other the shell that imprisons it and its potential. The bodies of men and women enable their potentials as they are the tools created specifically by God to express who God wants them to be in their spirits.
As you can probably tell, I think biblical patriarchy has a biblical anthropology and the other views above have an heretical one. I, therefore, do not think this is some secondary issue. It is heresy and sin to advocate any view but the biblical one above.
In fact, the distance between the three views of feminism, egalitarianism, and complementarianism can easily be seen by posting numerous statements by Church Fathers and Reformers on the subject. And that is what I did in the group. And the complementarians, who said they believe in the roles, hated them. All of these great theologians, acknowledged even by these people, were seen as primitive and disgusting in their biblical views of patriarchy that roots the roles in the creation of the man and woman and not simply in the fall or even in some good divine plan that has little to do with the actual eternal nature of the man and woman.
Now, you may say, "That doesn't sound like what I believe and I'm a complementarian, etc." But I would ask you this. Can women be as good at counseling men as men? Can they be as good at teaching men as men? Can they lead men as good as men? Can they protect, teach, lead children and other women as good as men? If you think so, you've assumed what I've stated above, and I say that knowing that women can teach, protect, and lead children and other women. They just can't do it as good as men can because their natures aren't male, which is the nature made specifically to do those things. She can still do these things in her own way, in her femaleness, but it will not be as good. A woman can protect a child from an intruder in the home, but a male would be able to do so much better. A man may be able to feed a baby or pattern nurturing behaviors in his children, but a woman can do it better. That's because their roles aren't assigned because of the fall. They're not assigned simply because God just wanted to take two of the same human beings and make them do different things. They're assigned in accordance to what a male human and a female human actually are in their essential nature. That is the anthropology of patriarchy. Women are weaker in things that the man is stronger in and vice versa. Hence, a woman shouldn't be a leader of men in any sphere, not just the specific ones God mentions. She shouldn't do the things that men do in any walk of life, not just inside a church building or behind a pulpit. Likewise, a man should not do what a woman should be doing, although it is more difficult to take on her biological assignment when it comes to childbearing because it is so obvious that he is not made in any possible way to fulfill it. But don't worry. I'm sure technology will come along and do it for him so that he believes that he can do her role just as it came along and gave her all sorts of aids to create the delusion that she can fulfill his.
And that is what proves that the three first options are false and only the patriarchal view is reality. Women either need a man to give them his power or they need technology to function in the man's role. Whether a gun, or birth control, a machine, etc., the woman needs something to be added onto her nature, something unnatural to her, whether a man or technology, in order to function in that role. That proves that it is not her role because it is not a natural outworking of her ontology.
This doesn't mean women aren't as smart as men or as valuable as men, etc. What it means as they aren't as smart and valuable as men for the tasks of men in the same way that men aren't as smart and valuable as women for the tasks of women. And it should be that way. Now, of course, we live in a fallen world where both men and women are fools and sinners in their own tasks. But we are talking about the goal for the Christian marriage and not looking to accommodate the fallen state as our standard.
In any case, although the above analysis lacks nuance and I'm sure more could be clarified, it serves as a general commentary concerning the hidden assumptions of these groups and as a reason as to why the three first groups will quickly band together as one in order to attack the latter. Peace and righteousness, however, are found in becoming what God has made each person to be, and that cannot be found apart from one's ontology, physical and spiritual, but in embracing it as who we truly are.
"I want to be a flower," the oak tree said.
"As yellow as the sun and cardinal red."
"But flowers are not oaks," said God to the tree.
"If you were a flower, you simply wouldn't be."
"You'd be another you, and would never really see
That if you were you and a flower, you'd want to be a tree."