Sadly, the Church’s long embrace of Patriarchy (male leadership in society), as well as its current entanglement with Complementarianism (a newer watered down version of Patriarchy where the role of leadership in the home and church are designated to males), are a perpetuation of the Fall and its consequence, “HE (man) SHALL RULE OVER YOU (woman)”. As such, they have nothing to do with the New Covenant and the gender equality found in Christ.
To consider how this came about, here, in a nutshell, is an overview of mankind, male and female, their dominion and how they have related to one another in God’s timeline:
The foundation for male and female equality, being joint heirs with joint dominion is found in the very beginning, in Genesis 1:27-28:
So God created man in his own image… MALE AND FEMALE he created them … And God said to THEM,”…fill the earth and SUBDUE IT, and HAVE DOMINION over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:27-28).
Note: nothing is said of gender roles or rank, or roles with rank.
Inequality that exists through so-called male roles of leadership was not in God’s original plan, but is described in Genesis 3:16 as one of the consequences of the Fall.
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and HE SHALL RULE OVER YOU” (Gen 3:16).
History shows that man has certainly done this, even, and sometimes especially, by those in the church.
Note: male rank became the typical default.
Although He worked, and works with us in our brokenness of male dominance, inequality is not God’s original or ultimate plan. In the New Covenant, described in Acts 2:17-18 and Galatians 3:28, we find a restoration to the equality seen at creation:
And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17-18).
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).
Note: nothing is said here or anywhere in the New Testament of spousal rank or church roles with rank.
Male Dominance Preserved by Misinterpretation, Tradition and Man’s Fallen Nature
These doctrines of Patriarchy and Complementarianism come from misinterpreting God’s word and are perpetuated by having become unquestioned tradition for many. Of course, the fallen male nature to want to dominate also helps to entrench these traditions.
As a result of years of indoctrination and bad example, many in the Church have a veil of Patriarchy on their minds that causes them to misread texts like 1 Cor 14:34-35, 1 Tim 2:11-15, 1 Tim 3:1f, 1 Cor 11:3f and Eph 5:22f. Consequently, these texts are used to endorse behavior that is contrary to the Spirit, which is both sad and ironic, because Paul was often teaching against Patriarchy with those very texts.
For a look at those misused texts in context, click on these links:
1 Timothy 2:11-15 – “… I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man…”
1 Timothy 3:1f – “…an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife…”
1 Corinthians 11:3f – “…the head of the woman is the man…”
Ephesians 5:22 – “Wives, submit to your own husbands…the husband is the head of the wife…”
May the joy of God’s original purpose of gender equality, that was lost at the fall, but found in Christ, become all the more yours in your home, the Church and in all of life.