Several weeks back there was a bit of a dust-up in conservative Reformed Protestant circles over the following simple question: Does being a man or a woman have any ethical significance for the way we live together in civil society? Despite the success of feminism in radically reworking gender roles over the past half century, conservative Evangelicalism has maintained a modest conviction that our sexuality has ethical import. Certain New Testament passages compel conservative Evangelicals to maintain that women should not be pastors and that the husband is in some way the head of the home. The group of Evangelicals who hold to this, which readers will quickly ascertain is simply a boringly normal version of the historic Christian and Jewish teaching on such matters, are commonly called Complementarians. In their view, men and women are distinctive complements to one another rather than identical and universally interchangeable parts.
But, this teaching about the importance of our sexual nature as male and female is generally limited to two distinct spheres (home and church), and generally limited to the barest of convictions (that a man ought to be in the position of headship). Thus far goes the resistance of conservative Evangelical Protestantism against the onslaught of feminism.
Beyond this lies a parting of ways. Some Reformed Evangelicals argue that we cannot go further and develop a broad theological view about the nature of manhood and womanhood. So, Aimee Byrd writes that there is no “biblical manhood and biblical womanhood filter” that our ethical questions need go through. In other words, when asking the question “should I do this?” or “should I be like that?” it makes no difference whether you are a man or a woman. You do not have a male or female nature that would offer you guidance on your basic ethical questions about what kind of person you should be and what kinds of activities you ought to engage in.
On this view, our sexual nature simply does not have that kind of significance. So, Dr. Carl Trueman writes that Complementarianism “lost its way when it became an all-embracing view of the world and not simply a matter for church and household.”