Since I’m going to be talking about romantic relationships a lot on this blog, I think it is important to address the different perceptions of gender that exist among Christians as a sort of framework for future posts, and where I come in on that debate. To be clear, I don’t think one’s perception of gender is a salvational issue, but how I view gender has certainly informed the views I’ve developed regarding romantic relationships. Since this is not a salvational issue, I don’t expect you to go away questioning your faith because you disagree with me, nor will I question my faith because I disagree with you.
I have been exposed to three views concerning gender in Christianity: egalitarianism, patriarchy, and complementarianism. According to Theopedia, egalitarianism ” is a movement based on the theological view that not only are all people equal before God in their personhood, but there are no gender-based limitations of what functions or roles each can fulfill in the home, the church, and the society.” Conversely, complementarianism “is the theological view that although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere” (Theopedia). It is harder to nail down a definition for patriarchy (in other places known as Biblical patriarchy). Wikipedia says patriarchy “sees the father as the head of the home, and responsible for the conduct of his family,” and I think that is fairly accurate. I would add that traditionally in patriarchy, the woman’s place and purpose are in the home.
All three of these belief systems are more like spectrums: people vary in degrees of liberalism and conservatism in all of them. Because of this, there are fringe groups between egalitarianism and complementarianism and between complementarianism and patriarchy. (But never between egalitarianism and patriarchy – they are pretty much opposed).
I was raised on the borderline of complementarianism and patriarchy, but as I’ve developed my own convictions about gender, I am squarely complementarian.
Unlike egalitarians, I do not believe that God created males and females to fulfill the same roles in life. As a woman, my fundamental design is different from that of a man – physical, emotional, spiritual – and therefore my purpose is also different. My purpose may include anything God has laid on my heart to do, but rest assured, God does not call anyone to do anything outside of His revealed will (the Bible).
Unlike those within patriarchy, I do not believe I am a lesser being because I am a woman, more susceptible to temptation and sin and thus incapable of making my own decisions. Granted, I have made bad decisions in my life, but that’s not because I’m a woman; it’s because I’m human. Nor do I believe my father or future husband will be held accountable for my faith. I have the same access to God as any man and am responsible for my own response to Christ’s salvation and following Him.
What does any of this have to do with romantic relationships? The way we look at God’s design for gender will inevitably determine how we look at authority. How we look at authority will determine how we look at potential mates.