Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


Monday, December 10, 2007

Assumptions, Ezer, and the Pyramid Game

As a non-complementarian, I would like to share something complementarians teach that I do not see as being either Biblical or logical. Perhaps a complementarian can help explain the concept below better for me.

"On the other side of the paradox, the woman is the man's helper. The
man was not created to help the woman, but the reverse. Doesn't this
striking fact suggest that manhood and womanhood are distinct and
non-reversible? Doesn't this make sense if we allow that, while the man
and the woman are to love each other as equals, they are not to love each other in
the same way? The man is to love his wife by accepting the primary
responsibility for making their partnership a platform displaying God's glory,
and the woman is to love her husband by supporting him in that godly

So was Eve Adam's equal? Yes and no. She was his spiritual
equal and, unlike the animals, "suitable for him." But she was not his equal in
that she was his "helper." God did not create man and woman in an
undifferentiated way, and their mere maleness and femaleness identify their
respective roles. A man, just by virtue of his manhood, is called to lead
for God. A woman, just by virtue of her womanhood, is called to help for

(Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1991, Chapter 3, p

I will freely share that I believe the argument above is founded on deep underlying assumptions.

First, it assumes the concept that "help" implies the absence of leadership on the part of the helper. Help is seen as a subordinate helping a superior.

Secondly, it assumes that the "help" needed was that of assisting Adam as he did his work.

But help (ezer) does not con notate subordination or the absence of leadership. The English word, "helper," certainly does infer a support role, but the Hebrew word, ezer, emphatically does not (unless we say that God takes up a subordinate role when He flies on the wings of the wind to ezer/help mankind). In fact, Hebrew men seemed to think the word indicated warrior-like qualities, certainly not subordination, as they seemed to enjoy naming their sons with the word!

Also, to shoot another assumption in the foot, the above quote assumes the kind of help Adam needed---that woman was made to help Adam with Adam's unique task (as a subordinate helps by assisting a superior officer). But where in the text do we learn that Adam's problem is that he needs a secretarial staff?

We know from Genesis 2 that God said the problem was that, "It is not good for man to be alone."

The help of the woman, then, it seems would solve the problem of aloneness. That much we can infer from Scripture without being in danger of assuming something that is not in the text. CBMW's assumption of the problem, unfortunately, is not supported in the text but something that must be read into it.

Also, assuming that the work was Adam's and that the woman was there to assist him in his calling is not only an assumption, but it also ignores Genesis 1:28, where the calling of God was given to both male and female, not to one gender alone.

The real question is then what is it that makes us assume these things? Why do we automatically assume that "help" is subordinate? What is it in us that is always seeking rank and position, jostling for place, trying to figure out who's on top ('cuz Lord knows, someones gotta be or how can we have functioning relationships...right)? We humans are always looking to scale the pyramid and/or maintain everyone elses place on it so that they won't threaten us by rising.

Jesus showed us what to do with a higher rank: He came and ezer-ed us, let the creation He'd formed from dirt nail Him onto one of His own trees. Jesus showed us how to view a higher status position: He poured out that others might live.

But Ortlund, the author of the chapter quoted above, says,

"It is the word "helper" that suggests a woman's supportive role...
Subordination is entailed in the very nature of a helping role." (p.104).

By this logic, we can "prove" that Jesus is subordinate to humanity. After all, He took on the role of a subordinate by helping us, didn't He?

I have a request: when speaking in terms of "facts," let's try to stick with the Bible. Sure, we will grapple through whether or not man was made to be superior in rank to woman, and there's good Scriptural argument on both sides, proving that in this argument, how we are interpreting said Bible is key. I realize we all have to interpret at some point, interpretations that we may never all agree on, but it's important that we maintain a posture of humility, taking great care that we present our underlying assumptions as assumptions, not Biblical facts.