By Bob Allen
Rightly applied, male headship and wifely submission is good for women, Southern Baptists’ top spokesman for moral concerns said at a recent conference on “complementary” differences between the sexes.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said at a recent national gathering of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that gender is “an issue of spiritual warfare.”
“When the Scripture tells us that God created man … as both male and female, this has to do with a mission that God is giving to humanity, a mission that needs both male and female in their sameness and in their differentness in order to carry it out,” Moore said.
“The devil is opposed to that mission,” Moore said. “The devil is opposed to that image of the gospel that he sees embedded in what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman and what it means for the man and the woman to be in that one-flesh union.”
In a speech delivered April 8 and recently posted online, Moore said people sometimes mischaracterize “complementarians” as believing that women are to be submissive to men.
“Complementarianism never teaches that women are to be submissive to men generally,” said Moore, former chairman of the CBMW board of directors. “Everybody is to be submissive to some authority, and the Apostle Paul says wives, be submissive to your own husbands as to the Lord.”
Correctly understood, Moore said, complementarianism should lead women to be skeptical of illegitimate authority. “A woman who is submissive to her own husband is by definition not submissive to other men who would seek to have her, who would seek to lead her,” he said.
“The problem you and I are facing in our culture now is not really that we are facing an egalitarian culture when it comes to gender,” Moore said. “There is an illusion of egalitarianism in the culture around us. The reality is a pornography culture where the sexual availability of women is exploited for the desires of men.”
“The reality is a world in which just blocks from here sometime this afternoon there will probably be a young woman standing in the rain waiting for a man, a boyfriend, a husband, a father, to come and pick her up after an abortion he insisted upon,” Moore continued.
“The world outside is not egalitarian. The world outside is a patriarchy of the most pagan kind. And who is harmed? Women and children.”
Moore said the Bible does not teach that women are to be doormats to a worthless husband.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ that comes in and creates a kind of new order creates the kind of manhood that isn’t seeking its own privilege but is pouring itself out as Christ loves the church for wife, for children,” he said. “It creates the sort of womanhood that isn’t a passive doormat but the sort of womanhood who, like our Lord’s mother, Mary, listens to the voice of God, is submissive to right authority, but stands and wrestles against principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”
Moore said the gospel picture of what it means to be men and women is that of a head and a body.
“This isn’t intended to be an ongoing conflict,” he said. “It is intended to be a perfect concert as Christ and the church, one flesh.”
“What does that look like? The headship of Christ is not self-seeking privilege. The headship of Christ is a crucified authority. And the submission of the church is not unthinking passivity. The submission of the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the Book of Acts.”
Moore said modeling such relationships in the home and church “is not easy in a fallen, demon-haunted world.”
“Complementarianism cannot be a prosperity gospel of the X and Y chromosomes,” he said. “This is not a matter of simply saying once you understand what it means being a man, once you understand what it means to be a woman, then everything is easy and in place from then on. Being a man, being a woman, being one flesh, being a church, means carrying a cross. It means wrestling demons. It means spiritual warfare.
“But ultimately, through the resurrecting power of Christ Jesus and his Spirit, it is indeed the best way to live.”