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Inconsistent Complementarianism: How the Cultural View of Head Covering Undermines Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

In this video we compare 1 Corinthians 11 with 1 Timothy 2 to show that both headcovering and male eldership are grounded in the creation order. We also show how Complementarians who hold to the cultural view of head covering inconsistently interpret these two Scriptures. We share our concern of how this undermines Biblical manhood and womanhood.

Jeremy Gardiner

Jeremy is the founder of the Head Covering Movement and the author of Head Covering: A Forgotten Christian Practice for Modern Times. He is a member of Fellowship Baptist Church and a student at Moody Bible Institute. He lives in Alberta, Canada with his wife and five young children. Jeremy is also the founder and operator of Gospel eBooks, a popular website that provides alerts for free and discounted Christian e-books.

Comments

Jamie Carter
Reply

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Complementarianism isn’t my cup of tea. We already know that in heaven there will be no marriage, there will be no male headship, no male elder-ship, no male authority, or female submission; and there’s no word as to whether or not there will be head covering in heaven. So to me Complementarianism is an imperfect, dark glass through which people are trying to catch glimpses of light. It’s a poor shadow and shallow substitute for the reality of heaven that exists in a fallen world where we have to live day in and day out. In other words, I’m all for giving up this cultural complementarianism – I’m just not going to wait for heaven to get here to do it.

That’s why egalitarianism appeals to me, I see it as practicing what heaven will be like now so that by the time I get there, I’ll have it perfected. By the time all my sisters in Christ worship as priestesses alongside their brothers in heaven (1 Peter 2:9), they’ll have practiced it a little on earth. Gender roles made sense for 1st Century Judea (because patriarchy was the cultural norm), but they’re a stumbling block to modern westerners (as we live in an increasingly egalitarian society). I think it’s not inconsistency among complementarians to accept this, but practicality. Even they see that their teachings are harder to maintain in a world where both and women must hold down a job and both men and women must raise their children together – taking on the very same duties. It is true in their homes and churches – where wives are increasingly leaning into the leadership of their very own ministries because they know full well that their husbands are incapable of doing it all by themselves.

Mandy
Reply

To Jamie’s comments; we must be careful not to press our humanistic thinking into what we want or don’t want here on earth. God’s thinking, HIs law, His pattern over-rides our personal preferences or desires. He has established the perfect pattern of male and female roles here on earth and I will not push them aside because I want to live how I perceive life will be like in Heaven. “Practicality” to our human minds is just that…human. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” Trust God’s pattern, submit to it, and you will be rewarded.

Jamie Carter
Reply

1 Cor. 7:8-9; “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Matthew 19:11-12; “But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked—or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.””

Why would God create a pattern and then create people that do not fit that pattern but to show that every rule has it’s exceptions? What is the gender role of a single individual whom God does not call to married life?

Mandy
Reply

God’s laws and precepts aren’t only for the married. If one is single they are still amenable to God’s pattern and instuctions. 1 Cor. 11:3-4 says every man and every woman. This passage is not just for those who are married. Headship is not only to be honored by those that are married, but by everyone. Married men or married women are not the onle one’s subject to the headsip principle. The same goes for 1 Tim. 2:9-14 and 1 Cor. 14:34. These passages are for both single and married alike. While one may choose to be married or single, they still must obey His pattern and are still subject to the headship and par of the creation order.

Jamie Carter

I don’t see how that can work. The gender role for women is basically to submit to the gender role for men, which is to exert authority. You’re telling me that even single men get to be in authority (over whom?) and single women get to submit (to whom?). I’m told that single women submit to their father – that assumption is flawed as fathers do not live forever and most generally do not live as long as their daughters do. In which case they are left without a ‘head’. As for the men, having them be in authority over others seems as if you’re implying that all men get to have authority over all women, in which case all women must submit to all men. What about Christian daughters of unbelieving fathers? It seems that it just doesn’t work in that scenario either.

Mandy

Male spiritual leadership is what God patterned in His church. Submission in the church is something that cannot be changed by the changing culture in which we live. Culture does not over-ride God’s law. I sure don’t want to meet the Lord having pushed my personal agenda that reflects our sad disobedient culture rather than submit to what the Bible has instructed. It can work. God is perfect and so is His pattern.

Jamie Carter

That’s the oddest thing. In this pattern, every male spiritual leader in the home has a female counterpart that they work together with to manage their family. But in the church, there are no female counterparts for the male spiritual leaders to help manage God’s family? That’s not a pattern, but two isolated teachings with a similar premise based on male spiritual leadership. For it to be a pattern it has to be consistent and repeat itself. The only agenda I see here is one that side-lines all women as spectators who get to cheer on the men who are the ones that are allowed to play the game.

Mandy

The woman in Proverbs 31 is not a spectator at all. She is a wonderful counterpart to her family as well as society. Women are equal in the Lord and have the same blessings in Christ. Our roles are just different. They are not less than man’s just different. I leave you with this verse and hope you will see how Christ himself was humble in his earthly role and did not think that he was a “spectator” who could only “cheer” God from the sidelines and was not “allowed to play the game.” Please read Philippians 2:5-7. Christ portrays the proper attitude we are to have in our God given roles. I hope you will “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Blessings.

Jamie Carter

The Proverbs 31 woman as well as Lydia seemed to do a lot of things that modern Christians would say is the ‘man’s role’ – they conducted business, they owned property, and they even had people working for them. The problem is that I don’t see this ever in any church I’ve gone to. None of the women in those churches hold down jobs, conduct business, buy fields, or anything like that. In my high school youth group, every single meeting one girl would volunteer to pray and she’d be told that she can’t because the boys have to lead prayer. I see different ‘roles’ but I don’t see any equality.

Mandy

This is an excellent study about the role of women in the church. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/169-womans-role-in-the-church I have seen wonderful Godly women conduct business in a very similar manner as the woman in Proverbs 31. My mother was one of those women, but I have also seen many other women do the same over the decades that I have been a Christian. If the young ladies are not allowed to lead prayers while the young men are present in your youth group then I commend your youth leaders for following the biblical example of male spiritual leadership. If the young ladies are having trouble with the idea of not being allowed to lead a prayer then I believe this article will be very good for them in helping them understand why God has designed His church this way. Blessings

Jamie Carter

So I take it you believe that by being male, a person’s spiritual authority is automatically superior to that of a female? It doesn’t matter in the least that the girl who volunteered knows the Bible the best out of all of them? That the boy that knows the Bible the least out of them is the one called upon to lead prayer? Let’s save Christianity some trouble and just forbid all women from praying at all then.

Mandy

Please read the article. If you want to balk at the authority of God’s written word that will be on you in the end. I pray you will allow yourself to see the answers to all your questions in God’s word. Blessings.

Jamie Carter

I’ll read it – but you’ll have to explain to me which Bible verse says that single women cannot lead a prayer while single men are in the room because it violates male spiritual leadership.

Mandy

Once you read it you will understand. The last three sections will answer your questions but I recommend you read the entire article as it gives a complete analysis of women in the Bible. As a point of clarification, male spiritual leadership has nothing to do with someone being single or married. It is for every male and female, regardless of their marital status. Hope this helps.

Jamie Carter

I just finished reading it – and I noticed a few suppositions that aren’t supported by some of the things that I’ve read. Junia, for example, is a woman’s name and she served in a leadership capacity with the apostles. Crysostom even wrote of her: “To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the
apostles – just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were
outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed,
how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even
deemed worthy of the title of apostle.””
Another thing is that basing it on Adam and Eve doesn’t really support their case. Eve was deceived, but Adam was not and yet he disobeyed the one commandment from God – isn’t that usually referred to as rebellion? Eve was no rebel. Which of these two things are worse – being tricked to break a rule or not being tricked and breaking the rule?
How then, do you get around what 1 Corinthians 11 says about women and prayer? Do you only let women pray who wear a head covering? For the vast majority of the church head coverings – and the symbol thereof, are a thing of the past. It doesn’t make any sense to ‘enforce’ part but not all of it.

Mandy

Eve new what God had instructed because she told the serpent what God had said. She knew. Adam’s fall was letting woman lead him. They were both rebellious and disobedient. Adam needed to lead in the garden and he failed. The covering is not a symbol of the past. It is entirely a New Testament instructions, just as the Lord’s Supper and baptism are New Testament instructions. Eve was not amenable to the plan of salvation any more than we are amenable to animal sacrifices. The new covenant spoken of in Hebrews 8:8 and in Col. 2:14 articulate a new covenant which we are subject to. The principle of headship goes back to creation. Instructions have changed from dispensation to dispensation, (ie. animal sacrifices) and we must follow New Testament principles and instructions. Women pray tacitly when the men are leading us in prayer in worship services. I also pray during the Lord Supper and anytime the church goes to the Lord in prayer. I lead prayers in the Sunday school class I teach and with other ladies when we meet together. Women do not lead in the worship services we pray with the congregation. The head cover does not give you the authority to pray out loud or lead other men. The head cover is sign (v. 10) of submission to the headship. If men OR women worship with their head covered/uncovered it is a dishonor to their head. This is why this instruction is for both men AND women. It’s not just for the woman. The headship must be honored by BOTH genders. I have yet to see a Christian man who balks at the idea of having to submit to his head (Christ) by taking off his hat. Women’s lib has been horrible to the cause of Christ. Be careful not let our culture (the world) influence your thinking toward these biblical principles and instructions.

Jamie Carter

The woman mentioned something about not touching the fruit – did God tell the man that? No, he did not. This leaves two possibilities – either the man told her that God told him not to touch it or she came up with the idea that God had said not to touch it. I wonder which is the case.

God spent a lot of time talking about the animal sacrifice system, who, what, why, when, where, how – he didn’t miss a detail. It must have been very important. The Bible doesn’t have a similar passage explaining male spiritual leadership. God didn’t sit the man down and explain to him in the Garden of Eden that he was supposed to be the leader, how he was supposed to lead, when he was supposed to not lead, why he was supposed to lead, or anything like that. I guess it must not have been that important.

My church never explained dispensations – so I have no idea what they are or how they are relevant. The thing is, we’re a hatless society for the most part. Women don’t wear pillbox hats and men don’t wear fedoras everywhere they go. So it’s kind of hard to say ‘men don’t balk at taking off their hats’ – most men don’t wear hats to balk at taking them off in the first place. Women don’t wear hats either, so it’s easy to see why they balk at being told they have to wear something.

Being treated differently is a big thing in our society. It wasn’t that long ago when ‘Separate but equal’ was the law of the land in terms of racial segregation. We learned then: “We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of
“separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are
inherently unequal.” Complementarianism says “Equal but different” the problem is that it is carried out in an inherently unequal way. Because you’re in the midst of that, you might not see it. Look with the eyes of an outsider who is often excluded and you’ll see it differently. You might not draw this parallel, but there are many who do.

Mandy

Seems you have already made your mind up and come to your own conclusions. There is no reason to continue our discussion since your mind is set on your own course of thinking. It seems that your not searching for the truth and I don’t want to argue so I am signing off now. Blessings

Jamie Carter

And may you be blessed as well.

John D.
Reply

What version did you quote for Matthew 19:11-12? That is the most twisted translation I have ever read.

Jamie Carter

The Message – which is a paraphrase, not a direct translation. Most of the time it’s all too easy to see the word ‘eunuch’ and think – well that’s cultural and there’s no trans-cultural meaning to it. This paraphrase captures the meaning behind Jesus words – that marriage is a gift that isn’t for everyone.

John D.

Wow, that is so backwards. Jesus is saying that celebacy is an option for some, “only those to whom it has been given”. The gift here is for celebacy…not marriage.

Jamie Carter

Singleness is a gift for some, and marriage is a gift for others – let’s not go around opening each others’ gifts.

John D.

You’re claiming God creates exceptions quoting the “Message” translation and misrepresenting the truth by saying that “every rule has it’s exceptions”. Nowhere in those quotes does it say that God made an exception to gender roles. The gender role of a single individual is no different than married. In the context of head coverings, marriage doesn’t even come into the picture. “Husband”, “wife” and “marriage” aren’t even mentioned in 1 Cor 11.

Jamie Carter

In the ancient Greek, the word for ‘man’ was the same word for ‘husband’ and the word for ‘woman’ was the same word for ‘wife’. When 1 Cor. 11 refers to the man and the woman, it’s referring to Adam and Eve – who are husband and wife. They could not have conceived of a time when people would put off marriage or not get married altogether. Statistically, single individuals outnumber all of the couples in the world (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/26/us/26marry.html?_r=0). I think Jesus’ words were proved true that not everyone was going to get married now more than ever. The problem is that the ‘gender roles’ teaching are also ‘married role’ teaching because the words are interchangeable, but when people are not married then they cannot fulfill gender roles. Or would you have no difference between the way that married and unmarried Christians are to live? How are single men to lovingly servant-lead the wife they do not have? No one has explained to me how all males are supposed to exercise authority over all females in a way that is consistent in all stages of life, single and married. How are single women to submit to the authority of the husband they do not have? Likewise, no one has explained how all females are supposed to all males in a way that is consistent in all stages of life, single and married. One thing I read suggested that single women were not supposed to submit to single men, but ought to defer to them in mixed gender group settings. The problem is that the definition of the word defer includes the word ‘submit’. I see that a lot in complementarian materials. The lack of consistency isn’t just in what you bellieve women must wear, but pretty much everywhere else.

John D.

Jamie… I have a feeling there is nothing I can write to you that would convince you otherwise about this teaching.

Jamie Carter

There is a saying that you can’t win them all, but I’d like to think that I provide a balance. In the movie World War Z, it was explained how Israel saw the zombie plague coming and was able to stand against them – when nine men agree on something – it is the duty of tenth man to investigate the matter and to operate on the assumption that the nine men are wrong. The Roman Catholic church had a position called a Devil’s Advocate for a similar purpose. Sure, it’s fantastic for everybody to agree – but where does that get you? It creates a blind spot where people tend to ignore weaknesses in their translation and get lazy in how they frame their arguments because they all agree that they’re right. I’d rather disagree even if it makes your side stronger and you personally better at answering questions. I’m just like my grandfather that way. I did put ‘devil’s advocate’ on my user profile from day one – so if anybody clicked around to find it, they would have been warned that I cannot be convinced. But for the sake of argument, would you have done half the research you have to answer me in all this time had I agreed with you in everything?

Just this week, John Piper wrote an article that says: “To the degree that a woman’s influence over a man, guidance of a man, leadership of a man, is personal and a directive, it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order.” He was referring to life in general and answering why he believes that a complementarian woman should not pursue a career as as a police officer. Even other complementarians are pointing out the flaws in his logic. When he and other complementarians resort to double-speak and fail to speak clearly to these issues, they lose the respect of outsiders and all of their related teachings such as on head coverings are seen as less worthy of serious consideration. That’s what worries about this whole thing. Relying on this guy’s teachings could very well do your side more harm than good.

John D.

Jamie… hardly anybody believes in head covering.. why do you think you’re the lone “10th man”? The only side I’m on is God’s…. Do you feel like God is asking you to fight against the head covering movement?

Jamie Carter

In terms of this website, few disagree. I know I’m not the only one, but many times I’ve seen answers posted without a balancing viewpoint. To me, it feels like everyone here is pro-Republican using pro-Republican materials to recruit more Republicans. So they ignore any valid criticism of the Democrats. So many here are pro-Headcovering using pro-Complementarian teachings to make more pro-Headovering Complementarians. In the process any valid criticism of the Complementarian teachings from the Egalitarian point of view is usually outright ignored. An unbalanced Christianity is a dangerous Christianity. I see it when God’s daughters are denied the use of their gifts and when God’s sons are pushed into areas that God hadn’t meant them to be in because it ‘fits’ Complementarianism but ‘fails’ what God’s principles were and are.

Sara June Thompson
Reply

Christ will always be in a role of submission to the Father in Heaven. We don’t know exactly how we will be in Heaven, just that there will be no marriage. But the Bible gives us God’s rules for life here on this earth and we need to obey them. Just because our society has gone in a more and more ungodly direction is no reason for Christians to follow this bad example. We must obey the Word of God, including about head covering.

Jamie Carter
Reply

And Christ will always be just as much God as the Father and the Holy Spirit are – our God isn’t three – but one. He is in submission unto himself and in authority unto himself in a way that doesn’t work for humans.

Centuries of humanity tried gender roles, biblical manhood and womanhood, and even head covering. What was the results? Patriarchy – no vote for women, no rights for women, no education for women (for they were all manly things). This was while Christianity was the dominant religion that basically controlled the superpowers of world back in their day (well, Europe and America).

And now that the world is moving toward equality, Christians suddenly realized that they’re supposed to be counter-cultural and they push for those things even more so. I think the world is calling us out on our behavior showing us the inconsistency of the teachings and the fruit that it resulted in.

So we couldn’t be counter-cultural when Patriarchy was the norm, but now that egalitarianism is the norm, then complementarianism is the ideal.

Kinuko H
Reply

Dear Jeremy, I watched this video and I was impressed! Your argumentation is very convincing and clear. I wish many complementarian friends would watch this youtube. (I also placed this video on my Japanese blog.) Thank you so much for making this wonderful video. from Kinuko

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