Dare #17 Journey – Is a Label Messing Up Your Marriage?

Right now, there are just two choices: Egalitarian and Complementarian.

Here’s what they mean, according to their own writings:


  • We believe in the equality and essential dignity of men and women of all ethnicities, ages, and classes. And we recognize that all persons are made in the image of God and are to reflect that image in the community of believers, in the home, and in society.
  • We believe that men and women are to diligently develop and use their God-given gifts for the good of the home, church and society.

— Christians for Biblical Equality[12]


The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

— Article XVIII. The Family. Baptist Faith and Message 2000

And here’s what the problem is – on paper (or on screen) it appears as if both speak to what is true and discussed in the Bible.  Where the problem appears, however, is in the discussion of the following areas:

  • a wife’s submission (Ephesians 5:23),
  • mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21),
  • mutual respect (1 Peter 3:7 for husbands to respect their wives, and Ephesians 5:33 for wives to respect their husbands),
  • preaching by women (1 Timothy 2:12, 1 Corinthians 14:34),
  • the husband being “the head” of the wife (Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3) and accountable for the family by God (Genesis 3:9, 11, 17),
  • and women’s roles in the family (Titus 2:3-5)

Because here’s how the writings play out sometimes in extremes, regarding both sides:

Egalitarian – wives don’t have to submit or respect, and the husband is not accountable to God for the family, women can and should preach in all circumstances, and a woman or man can lead, be the primary parent, or not. The marriage is focused on friendship, and there’s an equal division of work, depending on gifting, not gender.

Complementarian – husbands don’t have to respect, mutual submission does not exist, women should not preach or teach or have any authority (some say in business or ministry, or even writing) over men, the husband is in charge, women should be about raising their kids and caring for their homes while the husband works. The marriage is often focused on supporting whatever the husband is doing.

Here’s what I think both sides are afraid of, based on what I’ve read:

Egalitarian – that people will be oppressed or abused if there is authority in relationships (non-equality).

Complementarian – that homosexuality and pedophilia will become accepted by the culture if women are perceived as “not under authority” of the husband.

Given that scholars on both sides have extrapolated to completely negate or over-promote authority, submission, and roles within marriage and the church, I think we’ve twisted Scripture into a new law, because neither of these words are in the Bible, and the way things play out for the people writing about them are a little off base.

I’m not going to start pointing out who says what and debating the merits or issues with each point, because if I wanted to argue with those bloggers, writers, scholars, I’d take it up with them, instead of assaulting them publicly.

I realize I’m speaking in generalities. Hope that doesn’t make you crazy.

And you’ll notice that neither “camp” really wants to talk about head coverings, although some complementarians require them. And some complementarians do not allow their girl children to attend college. For real.

And some egalitarians say women should not respect or submit to their husbands. For real.

And I have a problem with taking PART of the Bible and applying it to mean what we want it to, ignoring other parts of what is written.

Regardless, here’s what I believe…

The Bible is a living document – and the Word speaks into my life moment to moment, depending on what is needed at that time. I also believe the Scripture is 100% true.  I also think Dr. Larry Crabb, theologian and psychologist is accurate when it comes to submission. I also believe I’m not a good fit for either camp.

So I’m coining a phrase. 


It already exists in reference to the “whole foods” movement.

I have an additional definition in mind, however.

And I believe it represents what God’s created and what the Word tells us.


noun \ˈhōl-ə-ˈter-ē-ən\

: complete or full : not lacking or leaving out any part of biblical truth as it applies to marriage

: having all of the Bible verses about marriage



Want to join me?

I hope you do! We’ll continue exploring these things as we travel through The Respect Dare this year.

In the mean time, you might enjoy some of these posts as you read up on what we’re doing, and where I’m coming from:

How Grace and Submission Work Together

How Silence is Can Be a Good Thing

What Submissive Wives are Not

If you have tweens, teens, or twenty-somethings  you should totally follow Debbie. If you enjoy storytelling, read Dare to Respect, the novel about 6 women who take the Respect Dares. Like us on Facebook follow us on Twitter as @NinaRoesner.  Come join the discussion!

Love to you,


If you want to explore ways of getting your tweens, teens and twenty-somethings to share in the household responsibilities, read With All Due Respect










Women who’ve read Dare to Respect can’t stop reading until they reach the last page!