The foundation of the dispute between egalitarians and complementarians is the creation account found in the book of Genesis. How each side views the creation of woman defines the view of woman throughout the rest of scripture.
Even before God created the woman from the side of the man, God spoke words that define who the woman is and her purpose.
Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
There are three things here that stand out.
1. The man alone is “not good”.
2. The woman was created as a “helper” for man.
3. The woman was to be “suitable” for man.
The man’s creation alone is said to be “not good” out of all of God’s creation. The man had a need that God was going to meet for the man through the creation of the woman. The word “helper” in Hebrew does not suggest a subordinate role, as the NET Bible translator notes say that
In the Bible God is frequently described as the “helper”, the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs. In this context the word seems to express the idea of an “indispensable companion.”
The last thing that we can see from God’s words is that the woman is to be “suitable” for man. Again the NET Bible translator notes say:
The Hebrew expression literally means “according to the opposite of him.” Translations such as “suitable (for)” (NASB, NIV), “matching,” “corresponding to” all capture the idea…The man’s form and nature are matched by the woman’s as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond. In short, this prepositional phrase indicates that she has everything that God has invested in him.
The Hebrew word for “suitable” has the meaning of “in front of” as well as “corresponding to”, so we see that the woman was created with everything that God has invested in man plus she has what he doesn’t have so that she is able to provide what he needs, thus in the literal word translation, the verse says:
And-he-is-saying Yahweh Elohim not good to-be-of the-human to-be-alone-of-him I-shall-make for-him helper as in-front-of-him.
Unfortunately some have taken God’s words and have twisted them to re-define the woman as a needy being instead of the one who meets Adam’s need. How is this re-defining accomplished? Complementarian leaders teach that:
1. The woman “needs” a leader who will make decisions on her behalf.
2. The woman “needs” a spiritual leader/priest who will represent her to God and who will also represent God to her.
In essence by making the woman a “needy” human being, if she is without a man to meet these “needs” a woman would not be able to fulfill her God-given “role” and without a husband or a spiritual leader/priest to interpret God’s will to her she is not even able to minister fully to other women. This puts women in a secondary or inferior spiritual “role” so that her place of teaching is inferior to the man’s.
While many complementarians are willing to admit that women are allowed to teach the bible to other women, when this belief is carefully examined, they have to admit that a woman’s teaching is inferior to a man’s teaching. By making a woman “needy”, some complementarians have gone so far as to teach that a woman can never be the best spiritual mentor even for another woman. John MacArthur teaches that the deepest and greatest spiritual source for a woman will always be a man:
Her significance in the world is then only through following the man’s divine direction:
Whether complementarians want to admit it or not, this in essence teaches that a woman is spiritually inferior to a man. She cannot provide the deep spirituality that a man can and a woman who has women mentors is missing something spiritually unless she has a man providing bible teaching to her.
What this does is leave a woman as needy – needing a man to provide for her spirituality. But this is not biblical. A woman has everything that man has spiritually and nothing is missing. Paul responded to men who thought that women were to be excluded in the giving and receiving of God’s word. Paul said:
1 Cor. 14:36 What? Was it from you that the word of God went out? Or did it come to you alone?
Paul is saying that the word of God has not come to men alone as the Judaizers taught. Women too are to learn because God’s word is given equally for them. The practice of many Jews to exclude women regarding learning of God’s word is not God’s way. In the same way, Paul says that God’s word did not go out from men only. God has also used women to spread his word speaking through them as prophet, judge and teacher.
In the next post we will look at the other assertion that says that woman is “needy” in that she needs a “priest” in the home to represent her to God.