Complementarian Men Want The Devil to Have Their Wives and Children

This quarter I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of women’s ordination. I’ve been studying the Pastoral Epistles with the completely awesome David Downs who is an experienced hand at exegeting them. His preferred method is to have us read articles from a wide variety of perspectives and deliberate on our own before ever we enter a classroom discussion (he has designed the assignments to facilitate this reflection). We choose which articles to review in depth, and for some reason all the articles I chose had to do with women in the Pastoral Epistles. Not even counting my past experience with the issue, I have seen the arguments about these letters discussed and rehashed multiple times. One argument that has been presented by complementarians really leaves me scratching my head. The internal logic of the thing is so bizarre as to seem alien.

The idea is based on a reading of 1 Timothy 2:13-14 which views the reference to the primacy of Adam as indicative of his resistance to Satan’s temptation and the inherent susceptibility of women to the wiles of the Devil. This weakness in the face of demonic temptation and the encroachment of heresy is programmatic for women everywhere and reflects an inherent quality that is essential to their gender. Therefore, they are not to be in positions of authority over men or deception and heresy will enter the church. However, 2 Timothy makes clear that women have been powerful and apostolically approved teachers of children (through reference to Timothy’s education ), so complementarians tend to view ministry to children as ordained by God for women. Ministry to other women also gets a free pass since 1 Timothy 2:11-12 only mentions men.

If we think about this proposition logically, it’s disturbing foolishness becomes apparent. Children, by their very nature as immature human beings who most likely lack the robust reasoning of adults, are incapable of exercising good discernment in the case of theology. This is why generally children accept the beliefs of their parents until they are mentally developed enough to make their own decisions. Furthermore, in this scheme of things, women are inherently deceivable; they exhibit a theological gullibility rooted in the creation story. So why on earth would God or complementarians want women to teach those most likely to be swayed by any heretical notions or demonic influence exhibited by the weak female teacher? It doesn’t make a lick of sense to subject the most easily influenced to those most likely to be warped. In the words of Gutenbot: DOES NOT COMPUTE.

  17 comments for “Complementarian Men Want The Devil to Have Their Wives and Children

  1. June 6, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Other than Schreiner in the first edition of Women in the Church (but not in the second!), which contemporary, respectable complementarians argue that?

    • Ashleigh
      June 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Andrew, here is an example from an article by James Andrews at the CBMW website (

      “4) For all their remarkable attributes, the Bible suggests females are inherently more susceptible to spiritual deception than males.

      “This conclusion always stirs a hornet’s nest, but the quarrel is not with me. The Apostle Paul cites Eve as the archetypal female who in her seduction exemplified this vulnerability. That fact in itself is an all-sufficient reason to disqualify women as church leaders inasmuch as doctrinal integrity is crucial to the preservation of the faith.

      “Was it by accident the cunning Serpent approached Eve rather than Adam? Did not Paul say Adam himself was not deceived (he simply rebelled) but Eve indeed was?[19] Does this susceptibility presuppose some original imperfection in the female makeup? Hardly. Rather, it illustrates God never intended one size to fit all.

      “In life the qualities that suit us for one role are often the very traits that disqualify us for another. That phenomenon is not a manufacturing defect; that is just a design difference. An 18-wheeler may be terrific for cargo transport but it is terrible as the family ‘car’.”

    • Ashleigh
      June 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      Also on their website by Stephen Clark (

      “The man and the woman take part in the transgression in different ways. The woman, who is not in the company of her husband, is the first to be tempted. Most commentators have seen this as significant. The more common view holds that she was tempted first because she was more vulnerable to deception than the man.(2) While not exactly taking this approach, the New Testament writers and many of the early Fathers see as significant the fact that the woman was deceived and not the man. Although the Genesis account does not state with any clarity the reason why the serpent began by ‘beguiling’ the woman, the New Testament accurately notes that the Genesis account attributes some importance to the woman’s being deceived first.(3)”

      The footnotes are as follows:
      “2. Some commentators have understood Satan’s approaching woman first as a result of her sexual attractiveness and his desire for her. See Hanson, Studies in the Pastoral Epistles (London: SPCK, 1968) pp. 65-77. On woman as more appealing, see Trible, p. 256. The more common and more likely interpretation involves seeing some sort of heightened vulnerability on the part of woman. E.g. von Rad, pp. 87-88; J. Bailey, “Initiation and the Primal Woman in Gilgamesh and Gen 2-3,” Journal of Biblical Literature, (June 1970) p. 148; E. Stein, “The Vocation of Man and Woman According to Nature and to Grace,” In Writings of Edith Stein, ed. Hilda Graef (London: Peter Owen, Ltd., 1956) pp. 105-106; Benno Jacob, Genesis, The First Book of the Bible (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1974), p. 22.

      “3. Some recent feminist writers have asserted that because scripture states no specific reason for why the woman fell first, nothing whatsoever can be said about or based upon this point. Several points in regard to this question are worthy of note. First, the New Testament makes no claim that woman fell because she was more vulnerable or more deceivable. (The significance of this point will be considered more fully in Chapter Eight, which discusses the passage in I Timothy 2.) Secondly, the Genesis passage does seem to give some indication that there is a significance to the fact that the woman fell first. Her dialogue with the serpent and her fall are presented much more fully than the man’s fall. In view of this, it appears a bit rash to state that there is no significance to the fact that the woman fell first. Thirdly, most commentators, both traditionally and at the present time, hold that there is something in the author’s mind concerning the woman’s greater vulnerability. The manner in which the narrative is presented would seem to point to something in this regard, although such an opinion derives more from a feel for what is happening in the text than from anything explicitly stated therein.”

    • Ashleigh
      June 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      If CBMW is posting articles on their website that (1) imply women are more easily deceived and (2) acknowledge that many other complementarians also hold this interpretation, it is obviously not such a minority position that none hold to it today.

      I find it amusing, actually, that you’re noting that some scholars (like Schreiner) may have either changed their views or decided to articulate them differently over time. I expect much of why this would be the case is to avoid egalitarian counter-arguments about women’s gullibility in this text being based on their lack of education. At CBMW, I also found several articles addressing this egalitarian counter-argument from the perspective of, “Well, we can’t prove that that wasn’t the situation back then… and you might be right that all women aren’t prone to heresy today… so, whatever. Fine. We’ll drop that part of our argument. But it doesn’t matter if women aren’t more vulnerable, anyway! Paul just says ‘Eve was deceived’! Our new ground is Eve was deceived, we have no idea what that has to do with women in Paul’s day OR ours, but it doesn’t matter because Paul said it, so there!”

  2. June 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I was going to comment on this, probably say something along the lines of how brilliant it is, but then I got distracted by more important things: What does it mean to be in Ashleigh’s blogroll rather than Jeremiah’s? My hermeneutical sensibilities are failing me on this one.

    • Ashleigh
      June 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm

      Is there something less prestigious about being on my blogroll, Daniel? :-(

      I claimed you for two reasons:

      (1) I’ve known you (a bit) longer.
      (2) I didn’t have anyone else to link to, and my list looks really sad. I needed to at least have you to link to in order to decrease my blogroll patheticness rating by a couple points.

      I explain my lack of sites to link to in this way:

      For some reason women don’t blog as much as men, and when they do, they tend to have more blogs that are more personal/about life rather than about ideas. Hence, I don’t have many friends with blogs I felt it’d be appropriate to link to.

      Then on top of that, I don’t participate much in the male-dominated “biblioblogging” world (time, not knowing those people, not knowing as much as I feel I must to cleverly engage in many of those conversations, and yes, feeling like the only woman is probably a factor), so I also don’t really have many blogs of that sort to recommended.

      Jeremiah, on the other hand has tons of these blogs he visits, so he has many links. And my list looks sad in comparison. (It’s like in a wedding where there are seven bridesmaids and only three groomsmen, and you’re like, wow, that guy must have no friends…)

      I barely was able to come up with four blogs I find interesting, so I had no choice but to add you to my list.

  3. June 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm


    Schreiner is the person I remember stating this explicitly, but I swear both Kostenberger and Grudem allude to the idea. I’ll have to chase down exact citations for you when I have the chance.


    It means you have a bad memory! I told you about this when I was in your Mark Exegesis class. When we decided to split Blogrolls we both wanted you on ours, but I thought it would be weird to have it twice. So Ash claimed you.

  4. June 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    I recall the wonder of landing on Ashleigh’s, but not the martial squabble that was the cause. Fair enough. Carry on. But don’t ever tell me I have a bad memory again, Jeremy, or else I’ll see what I can do about having your grade changed from that Romans course you took with me.

    • Ashleigh
      June 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Is the “Jeremy” part of a joke?

      • Ashleigh
        June 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

        Oh, I am stupid.

  5. Ashleigh
    June 6, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Jeremiah keeps telling me not to post new comments but to simply delete the ones I already posted, but I figure you’re getting them all through email anyway. It’s like when people post offensive things on facebook, realize it was wrong, then delete them, but you just go to your “Facebook” email folder (which has 8000 unread messages, but is handy for this one purpose, at least) and see what they said. There is no point in deleting. So I am just correcting.

    I was also going to post to let you know that having “no choice” but to add you to my blogroll was a joke, but Jeremiah told me this was too many posts and that I should edit my original instead. But rather than making that correction—which again, wouldn’t matter if you’re reading these in your email anyway—I told Jeremiah not to boss me, and I am comment on this anyway. Especially given the original subject of this blog post, I think that was an appropriate response to his demanding principles of Internet etiquette.

    • Ashleigh
      June 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Er, and that post was supposed to be in reply to my “I’m stupid” post. That’s the only way the first paragraph makes sense.

      The problem there, btw, was that I didn’t think about Romans vs. Mark. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that…

      • June 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

        This whole string was awesome, Ashleigh. I’ve literally been laughing out loud (not just emoticoning LOL).

        I am perfectly happy to be on your list, which is clearly a more elite group.

      • Ashleigh
        June 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm

        It is definitely a more elite group! Only 4 links (besides my own blog)—that is almost as selective as Duke!

      • June 6, 2011 at 3:17 pm

        Also: Alex hasn’t blogged in like 6 months. Can you take down the link to his blog so that it’s even more elite?

      • Ashleigh
        June 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm

        Holy crap, Daniel, you’re right! Shows how recently I’ve been over there. (Not very.)

        Here’s the deal: I’m willing to remove inferior blogs which do not get regularly updated (besides my own); however, I would like to replace them with additional blogs worthy of the honor of standing besides yours. Any suggestions? Help me bulk up my list a bit, and I will rid my blogroll of the offending site, thereby doing my part to punish your brother for not blogging Barth. (Something I promise I would have done myself, had I not started a thesis. Promise!)

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