Egalitarians often complain: ‘When you complementarians claim that women and men are “equal but different”, you really mean “unequal and different”.’
This is a charge that must be taken seriously.
But what says Scripture?
In Gen 2:18, ‘the woman is called the man’s helper; not the other way around. From a fair reading of Genesis 2, it doesn’t seem that male-female roles are reversible.’ (Kostenberger, AJ & ME, God’s Design for Man and Woman.
In their commentary on Genesis 2:18, Bruce Waltke and Cathi Fredricks, while affirming the essential equality of the man and the woman, suggest that role of the latter as ‘helper’ to the former does imply a certain structure of relationship. The man was created first, then the woman (cf 1 Tim 2:13), and the woman was created to be the man’s helper, not vice-versa.
Elsewhere in Scripture:-
- In the OT a woman may serve as a prophetess but not priestess;
- The relationship of the Godhead is Father, Son, Spirit (not Parent, Child, Spirit);
- In the NT the apostles were all men;
- As presented in 1 Cor. 11:3–16, the wife is to the husband as the husband is to Christ and as Christ is to God;1 Peter 3:6 reminds women that Sarah called Abraham “master” in her self-talk (Gen. 18:12).
As the Kostenbergers state, it is a fallacy to assume ‘that subordination necessarily implies personal inferiority. It does not. For children to be entrusted to their parents’ care, for example, doesn’t mean they’re inferior persons. Neither are employees inferior to their bosses because they report to them.’
But although Scripture describes (prescribes?) a certain order or structure to the relationship between men and woman, they have, as Waltke and Fredricks emphasise, complete equality before God:-
‘Women pray directly to God (Gen. 30:1–2; 1 Sam. 1:9–14; 2:1–10), participate in sacrifice and ministry (Lev. 12:6; Luke 8:1–3), are Nazirites (Num. 6:2; 1 Cor. 7:32–35), parent with equal standing before the children (Lev. 19:3; Prov. 1:8; 31:26), receive and communicate divine revelation (Gen. 25:22–23; Ex. 15:20; Judg. 4:4–7; 2 Kings 22:13–20; Isa. 8:3), and serve and minister in the church (Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, Euodia, Syntyche—diakonos, synergos, apostolos, Acts 21:9; Rom. 16:1–3, 7; Phil. 4:2–3).