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Topic: Complementarianism

What Lies Beneath ‘The Grand Design’?

March 6, 2016


Next month, April 2016, Christian Focus is publishing a book I co-authored with Owen Strachan. It’s called The Grand Design: Male And Female He Made Them and it is an introduction to biblical complementarity. What lies beneath The Grand Design? Read on.

On January 5, 2015 I was working late preparing a message on marriage for the annual winter conference at the church where I pastor. Just before I went to bed I tweeted out a few thoughts that I was going to include in the message. I thought nothing more of it. However, the next morning I awoke to a torrent of Twitter abuse. Some of the national papers in the UK had reacted adversely.

The notifications came in waves and did not stop for 24 hours. I was called “a sexist pig”, “a moron”, “a misogynist” and many other unprintable things. And although this was mainly from a secular public there were many abusive comments from those who professed to be Christian. My Twitter feed was hit over 1 million times that week.

Why the big deal? Well here are the tweets:

“God’s design for marriage in male and female headship and submission is complementary not competitive.”

‘Wives: one of the primary ways you are to respect your husband is by gladly submitting to and encouraging his leadership.”

“Husbands: one of your primary duties in loving your wife is to feed her with the Word of God daily”

You see I hit on the current hot topic: biblical sexuality and particularly the complementarity truth about men and women in marriage. It was straight out of Ephesians 5 and the beauty of headship and submission. I didn’t set out to create a storm. I simply stood (and still stand) on the Word of God as authoritative, inerrant and sufficient for all things especially such fundamental, creation realities like manhood and womanhood. Yet we live in an age where these foundational truths are being ignored and rewritten according to what fits with our fallen desires. And so we even call good evil and evil good as our culture morally crumbles around us.

In every age Satan wants to attack the authority of God’s Word because he hates God’s glory. It was that way from the beginning (Gen. 3). In our day this one verse in particular is where the Word confronts the culture and what Satan wants to undermine.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27)

The sheer beauty of binary sexes created in the image of God with complementary physical and functional differences is thrilling. Yet this verse has been trampled in society and downplayed in the church.

This is why I am so thankful for the humble, bold and visionary leadership of Owen Strachan, the President of CBMW, and who invited me on as Director of international Outreach. Owen is also an extremely gifted teacher and writer and when he asked me to co-author The Grand Design with him, I jumped at the opportunity.

Let me give three reasons why we wrote the book:

ONE: We want to lay out the truth about manhood and womanhood and to proclaim that this is what the Lord says. And that should be enough. The Creator’s Word is always enough. But we also want to proclaim that his Word is good and beautiful. We simply want to show that his design for men and women is indeed grand. It is about his glory in creation (Gen.1: 27), redemption (Eph. 5: 31-32) and consummation (Rev. 19:7-9). It also reveals something about his triune nature (1 Cor. 11:3). So complementarity is not a tertiary issue. We want people to be thrilled with God and his divine design.

TWO: We also want to be a clear, encouraging and helpful voice to the church. This book is theological, practical and pastoral. It is not abstract it is accessible. We need to be clear on these issues in the days ahead and help Christians work it out in their lives as single or married in the home, church or workplace. These are the issues that will test churches and prove their faithfulness (or not). And, in an increasingly gender-neutral society, these are the issues that the church must live out. We have to be able to defend and display the truth about complementarity.

THREE: We want to show that complementarity is a mission moment for the church. It is the point at which the battle for God’s authority rages most in a secular world. The UK Twitter storm was indicative of the heat this topic receives. But to avoid engaging with the culture here is to relinquish a gospel opportunity. We want souls won for Christ and human beings to flourish. We want men and women to find their identity in Jesus and his Word. We want marriages to display the gospel. We want to vividly draw the lines and contours of masculinity and femininity. And gospel redeemed biblical manhood and womanhood in the home and church and workplace sets forth this attractive counter culture. So we desire to affirm the equality of the sexes, delineate the difference and celebrate both. That is the tone of this book. And that is the tone of CBMW’s 2016 T4G pre-conference where Owen and I will be speaking next month, along with complementarian leaders like John Piper, Alistair Begg, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and Kevin DeYoung.

Make no mistake it will cost a person to be Christian in our day. It always has. Jesus tells to expect it (Matt. 5:11-12). The Apostle Paul echoes the sentiment (Acts 14:22). The history of the suffering church bears witness to this truth. It cost me as a Christian footballer in different ways throughout my 18-year career. It will cost all of us in various ways: reputation, family, friends, career, and money. It might also mean public vilification in big and small ways. In some countries Christians fear a raised fist. In our day it is a raised eyebrow or trial by Twitter.

In all of this, there is one thing I have learned more deeply over the past year. The Word of God is rock. And the Word of God works. Complementarity is both true and good. I took a few hits in the press as a footballer but nothing quite like that of January 2015. However, the Word of God is worth it! It always is. Honor it and he will honor you.

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