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Topics: Complementarianism, Cultural Engagement, Public Square

Complementarianism as a Movement

March 9, 2015



By Grant Castleberry

Monday, March 9, 2015

For the last 30-years, complementarianism has been a movement.  Where is it headed in the near future, especially as it concerns manhood, womanhood, and marriage?


Complementarianism as a movement found its genesis in the late 1980s when complementarian leaders realized that they needed to clearly articulate and defend what the Bible teaches on biblical manhood, biblical womanhood, and marriage. The movement has been sustained now for almost thirty years.

That being said, I have recently been thinking about the future of the complementarian movement in twenty, thirty, or even fifty years. I hope and pray that in fifty years there will be a solid core of complementarian leaders, churches, and institutions that are passionate about God’s design for men, women, and marriage. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say that such a committed, core group of complementarians would be the orthodox anchor of the evangelical church. The reason I say this is because I think that only biblical complementarianism preserves the proper gender distinctions of biblical manhood, biblical womanhood, and biblical marriage, which will be the foundation needed to anchor the church throughout the next half century and beyond. If that is to be the case, I think these things will happen along the way.

The Goodness and Importance of God’s Design

The first defining characteristic of the complementarian movement over the next fifty years will be complementarians who are passionately gripped by the goodness of biblical complementarity in marriage. These complementarians will not be ashamed about what they believe to be God’s good design for human flourishing, but will instead champion complementarianism, both in their personal lives and public ministries. Over and against the culture’s perspective on sexuality and marriage, they will model biblical masculinity and femininity, because they have tasted and seen that the Lord is good in his design for gender and marriage. These complementarians will be driven by:

  1. Understanding that the marital relationship, rightly ordered, is a gospel issue. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians that our marriages are meant to point to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the way that a husband lovingly gives himself up for his wife and in the way a loving wife respectfully submits to her own husband’s authority, all under the banner of Christ (Eph 5:22-31).
  2. God’s design for marriage, between a complementary distinct man and woman, is meant for our good and flourishing under his lordship, and not repression and unhappiness (Gen 1 and 2). It is this type of marriage that God has designed for the training and development of children (Eph 5:22–6:4).
  3. A hope and trust in the Word of God. Most importantly, complementarians will hold fast to complementarianism because they believe it is biblical, and their hearts and minds are gripped by the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16).

Unwavering Complementarianism

Speaking of a commitment to the Word of God, I also believe that the complementarian movement will be sustained over the next fifty years by unwavering, uncompromising complementarians. These complementarians, based on the theological convictions I just mentioned, will refuse to give up or modify their beliefs.

I recently read a short statement by Dr. Tom Schreiner, where he said that the publishing conundrum of complementarianism is that the theological foundation has largely already been written, and since complementarians are not modifying their theological commitments, there is not as much new foundational, theological material to be written. Schreiner is surely right and happily so. I think many complementarian authors have now turned their attention to writing books and articles fleshing out the implications and applications of complementarian doctrine rather than developing its core doctrines.

The point I am making is that historically over the past thirty years, complementarians have not modified their doctrine. They have remained committed to the original Danvers Statement, in as much as they have believed the Danvers Statement correctly espouses what the Bible teaches.

The same must be true going forward. The reason this must be the case is because the complementarian movement has always been a doctrinal movement. In other words, the movement at its essence has been to teach and persuade the church that the Bible teaches the complementarian view of men, women, and marriage. Thus, to radically diverge from or compromise complementarianism’s core beliefs is to compromise the movement altogether.

A Myriad of Different Leaders

Finally, I think if we look back in fifty years upon the complementarian movement, we will see different types of leaders who were pioneers of the movement. We will see:

  • Pastors that boldly and courageously proclaimed the truths of biblical complementarity amidst great opposition. Without pastors pioneering the movement, complementarianism will be dead in the water. The good news is that I think many of these pastors are either already in place or are coming into pastorates right now prepared to lead for biblical complementarity.
  • Alongside these bold pastors, we will see women teachers , who have been just as courageous and who have not shirked back from teaching women (Tit 2). These women will not only have modeled biblical womanhood, but will have diligently and accurately taught the Scriptures to women. From the commitment I have seen from so many young complementarian women both in the church, in seminary classes, and already writing in various books and blogs, I am incredibly optimistic that God is raising up many young female complementarian leaders that will teach the women of the future.
  • Every movement must be sustained by institutions, because institutions are what trains the leaders, who will flesh out the ideas of the movement. In fifty years, I think we will have seen gifted and brilliant complementarian institutional leaders. They will be leaders that put complementarianism at the forefront even if the academy thumbs their nose at them. They will be leaders with vision, foresight, and strength who are able to speak into the culture and into the lives of the young people whom they are training.
  • Serving alongside them we will have seen brilliant complementarian scholars who were competently able to articulate the beliefs of complementarianism from an academic perspective. Together with the institutional leaders, they will have trained the future generations of complementarian leaders. These scholars will also have written much of the academic, complementarian literature and will have put their academic reputations on the line in the process.
  • Going out from us will have been numerous complementarian missionaries who have labored to teach the incredible truths of God’s Word on manhood and womanhood to people whom have never heard it. These missionaries will not only be the models for complementarity in marriage to the people they encounter across the world, but they will help new Christians in various cultures flourish in their relationships. In many ways much of the recent progress of complementarianism has been global as Christians across the globe are just now getting complementarian resources in their hands. With prominent complementarian mission leaders like Dr. David Platt and our own Gavin Peacock leading in this sphere, I do not see this trend changing anytime soon.
  • I think we will have seen great writers who have gripped the hearts and minds of so many through the books and articles they write. Like Elisabeth Elliot and John Piper, many of these writers’ influence will last long into the future.
  • Finally, we will see myriads of men and women who worked a job, raised a godly family, owned a business, served in their communities as doctors, lawyers, business owners, construction crewman, and teachers and were committed to God’s design for men and women all along. These men and women will have been godly Christians who have caught the complementarian vision and lived it out everywhere from the playground to the business meeting. They will be the ones who have modeled complementarianism for the next generation.

There is not much more to say other than it is time to get busy. It’s time for complementarians to understand our gifting and boldly pursue God’s call on our lives for the honor of God, the declaration of the gospel, and the flourishing of our marriages and churches.


Grant Castleberry is the Executive Director of CBMW.  He and his wife GraceAnna, and their three children, live in Louisville, KY.  You can follow him on Twitter @grcastleberry.

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