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Male Headship or Servant Leadership? Yes.

November 21, 2023

Editor’s note: The following essay appears in the Fall 2023 issue of Eikon.

In this essay, I take aim at a false antithesis pertaining to God’s purposes and calling for men. For true masculinity to be pursued and attained, we must not fall prey to a false antithesis, which wrongly posits an either/or in place of a both/and. As D.A. Carson asks and answers:

So which shall we choose? Experience or truth? The left wing of the airplane, or the right? Love or integrity? Study or service? Evangelism or discipleship? The front wheels of a car, or the rear? Subjective knowledge or objective knowledge? Faith or obedience? Damn all false antithesis to hell, for they generate false gods, they perpetuate idols, they twist and distort our souls, they launch the church into violent pendulum swings whose oscillations succeed only in dividing brothers and sisters in Christ.[1]

We could easily and legitimately add the following questions to Carson’s fine list: Which shall real men choose? Courage or gentleness?[2] Nature or cultural customs (stereotypes)?[3] Male headship or servant leadership? It is this last false antithesis I take on in this essay. Of course, the correct answer for each of these questions is: yes. As fallen human beings, we are liable to label masculine virtues as vices or to label male vices as virtuous. And as Carson does well to draw out, the damnable lie at the heart of such false antitheses breeds violent pendulum swings that divide the body of Christ. It seems to me that in the broader evangelical world, the common cycle relating to gender and sexuality (and more specifically for this essay, masculinity) debates, is a swing toward an egalitarian or narrow complementarian view on one side of the false antithesis, which is met by an equal and opposite overcorrection by the biblical patriarchy movement,[4] leaving evangelicals with whiplash and blame toward the other side for the injury.[5] In what follows, the “camps” of egalitarianism, narrow complementarianism, broad complementarianism, and biblical patriarchy provide a conceptual framework through which I will think through the false antithesis of male headship and servant leadership. I will begin by unpacking the historical movement from egalitarianism to complementarianism to biblical patriarchy in evangelical circles, arguing that broad complementarianism is closer to biblical patriarchy than it is egalitarianism or narrow complementarianism. I will then make the case as to why I find broad complementarianism the more viable label for conservative evangelicals to rally around in the last section of this essay.

Before I interact with other positions, let me put my cards on the table. I am convinced the root error in many (if not all) reductionistic presentations of masculinity is that the good, true, and beautiful are treated like a buffet rather than a full course meal. Manhood is indeed good, true, and beautiful, and therefore ought to be revered and celebrated as a crucial component in God’s good design for human flourishing. When this is not the case, men will plague society as domineering despots or apathetic abdicators. The question is not whether men will lead, but how? True to my complementarian leanings, I contend that rather than compete with one another, male headship and servant leadership complement one another, such that apart from both, true masculinity cannot be attained in theory or practice.

I am a broad complementarian, which means that I understand there to be a covenantal headship given to men in both the church and home. Furthermore, since grace restores nature, and in no way abrogates it or cuts against the grain of God’s design, the call for men to lead has necessary implications beyond the church and home. In other words, male headship in the church and home is a reflection of created order being restored, therefore it would be unnatural for egalitarian principles to ground the broader society. God’s gracious covenantal arrangements correspond with nature, meaning they are not arbitrary but fitting with who he has made men to be and what he calls them to do. This is not to suggest that all men are the head of all women, as the covenantal headship of men over women is limited to the husband and wife relationship, and the church under its male pastors/elders. What this means is that natural law or created order as it relates to the relationship between men and women in society does not speak with the applicational specificity that Scripture does regarding male headship in the church and home.[6] So, prudential reasoning and epistemic humility are required as to how we ought to apply the principle of male headship beyond the church and home. But let me be very clear, we must affirm and honor nature/created order in our reasoning and in our application via cultural customs for human flourishing to occur.[7] With my cards now on the table, it is time to engage others.

Egalitarianism, Complementarianism, and Patriarchy

Increasingly, egalitarians are charging complementarians with being patriarchal, and the biblical patriarchy movement is charging complementarianism with being functional egalitarians. This is due in part, I believe, to the reality that complementarianism has situated itself “between” egalitarianism and patriarchalism, not because we complementarians are attempting to be the perfect mean or “third way,” but because we find tendencies in these other movements to denigrate or reject good aspects of masculinity. This may be best evidenced by how egalitarians reject male headship; they and some narrow complementarians then confuse servant leadership for male servitude, and in response the biblical patriarchy crowd scoffs at servant leadership and doubles down on male headship.[8] I find there to be evidence of the false antithesis being wrongly affirmed in each of these reflexes. I by no means think that real and perceived abuses of male headship invalidates it as a principle. I also do not cede servant leadership to those who abuse it.[9]  Glad affirmation and promotion of all that God calls men to is the aim. Using two good doctrines/principles as a proxy war is not the way forward.

Egalitarians see male headship as a product of sin, not as a good component of God’s created order. Increasingly, to reject male headship, egalitarians are forced to not only denigrate the clarity of the created order,[10] but even more brazenly, Scripture too, by speaking of God’s Word as though it is an irreducibly cultural artifact.[11] In so doing, egalitarians undermine the reality that the Bible’s calling for men to lead in the home, church, and society is a reflection of nature. In other words, male headship cannot be summarily dismissed as merely an arbitrary and now-outmoded social construct of a bygone era. To reject male headship as a principle is akin to rejecting the institution of marriage on the false grounds that it is a mere social construct, because both are revealed in Scripture to be pre-fall/sin realities, both of which are ordained by God and called “good.” Mature Christians, whose powers of discernment are trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil, will recognize the feminist-egalitarian spirit of the age we live in as evil, and not partner with the works of darkness (Heb. 5:14; Eph. 5:6–12).

On the other hand, there is a growing trend to advocate for “biblical patriarchy” or “dominionism” in the Reformed sector of the evangelical world. Now, there is more agreement between a broad complementarian such as myself and the biblical patriarchy movement than with egalitarianism and even narrow complementarians. As Kevin DeYoung rightly argues, “The biblical vision of complementarity cannot be true without something like patriarchy also being true.”[12] What he means by this is that the reality of male headship in Scripture is inherent to complementarianism. Thus, if there were a scale with egalitarianism labeled as a 1, and biblical patriarchy a 5, broad complementarianism would not be a 3 right in the middle (a narrow complementarian would be a 23), but a 4, closer to patriarchy than to egalitarianism. The suitability of men and women for one another as affirmed in creation and redemption is hierarchical pertaining to their roles and calling. To not affirm this, DeYoung suggests, is to choose anarchy over God’s good design.[13] He is correct. As Herman Bavinck rightly explains, “Authority and obedience, independence and subordination, equality and inequality, correspondence and variation, unity of nature and diversity of gifts and callings—all these have been present in the family from the very beginning, and in no sense came into existence as a result of sin.”[14] This logic is grounded in a right reading of Genesis 1–2 and is affirmed in Paul’s clear teaching in places like 1 Timothy 2:12–15 and 1 Corinthians 11:7–12.

In fact, this is why I think egalitarian critiques of complementarianism (not to mention the increasing number of narrow complementarian critiques of broad complementarianism), tend to conflate patriarchy with broad complementarianism.[15] These critiques are both right and wrong in their conflation. Right, because broad complementarianism readily affirms the fatherhood of our Father in heaven. As Kyle Claunch explains regarding Ephesians 3:14, “Paul is stating here that fatherhood in creation (‘in heaven and earth’) derives its name from God the Father, to whom Paul and all faithful Christians bow the knee.”[16] In other words, the first person of the Trinity is properly referred to as Father and the covenantal headship of the man over his household analogically reflects this glory. To seek to “dismantle the patriarchy” as someone like Beth Allison Barr or Amy Peeler do,[17] undermines an orthodox understanding of the Trinity and kicks against the goads of God’s design for men and women in creation.[18]

Where Barr and others who wrongly equate complementarianism and patriarchy are mistaken, though, is that complementarians tend not to take up the label of patriarchy as it pertains to God’s calling for men and women due to the negative historical connections of pagan patriarchy, the confidence with which patriarchy extends male headship beyond the church and home without clear scriptural warrant,  and because we sense in biblical patriarchy a temptation to overcorrect against the feminist/egalitarian impulses of our day. As DeYoung explains, “There is nothing to be gained by Christians reclaiming the term patriarchy in itself. In fact, reclaim is not even the right word, because I’m not sure Christians have ever argued for something called ‘patriarchy.’”[19] In other words, the biblical patriarchy movement runs the risk of being a modern overcorrection in response to feminism and narrow complementarianism. Just because the word “patriarch” is used in Scripture as a descriptor, does not mean it is the ideal term to capture God’s calling for men and women in the church, home, and society, or that it entails the patriarchy (cf. Josh. 14:1; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 7:4).[20] While it is irrefutable that Scripture describes heads of households as patriarchs, patriarchy is a loaded term popularized by Kate Millet in her screed against what she labels “patriarchy.” In Sexual Politics she defines “the patriarchy” as male political dominance and the institutional exploitation of women.[21] Prior to second wave feminists weaponizing the term patriarchy as a label for misogyny and oppression, one is hard pressed to find any evangelical using the term positively to capture God’s design for men and women in the church, home, and society before Russell Moore in 2006.[22] Therefore, “biblical patriarchy” is a new movement intentionally taking up a byword and wearing it like a badge in reaction to the feminist spirit of the age.

What is in a Name? Broad Complementarianism and Biblical Patriarchy

So, both complementarianism and biblical patriarchy are recent conservative evangelical movements that have formed in the midst of egalitarianism making inroads in the church. If it is indeed the case that broad complementarians are closer to biblical patriarchy than egalitarianism and narrow complementarianism, to the point where we are often considered to be a part of the patriarchy by those to our left, should we just eschew the label and join team patriarchy? I think not. I am convinced there is much tread left on the tires of complementarianism for the road ahead. Broad complementarians find a pre-fall biblical word (such as complementary/suitable from Genesis 2:18) to be a better term in principle for speaking of manhood and womanhood. Having a broader umbrella term under which we can situate the fullness of God’s purposes and calling for men to lead and serve in the church, home, and society is preferable. Moreover, when John Piper and Wayne Grudem coined the term complementarianism in 1987, it was in large part so that conservative Christians could set the terms of the discussion, and not be backed into affirming a label too monolithic and/or laden with cultural baggage – like the term patriarchy.

However, the biblical patriarchy movement is not wrong in its judgment that some expressions of complementarianism have a fly in the ointment. Sadly, even a biblical word or concept can be abused. This sentiment is expressed well by Doug Wilson when he contends, “The emphasis placed on servant leadership in recent decades has produced a soft complementarianism, one which adopts egalitarian assumptions for most of human existence, but which tolerates a modified pretend hierarchy in the two places where our trained exegetes have not yet hammered out a plausible workaround for us.”[23] To put a label on it, the sense I get is that those voicing frustration with the principle of servant leadership are reacting to a narrow complementarianism in the church and home, which is functionally egalitarianism in camouflage. Wilson and others who advocate for patriarchy are rightly, in my estimation, picking up on the fact that by denying the reality of male leadership in toto (as egalitarians do) or in broader society (as narrow complementarians do in denying the fittingness of male leadership beyond the church and home), many evangelicals are standing on thin ice and have effectively rendered male leadership little (or no) more than a product of Bible verses.[24] Thus, “servant leadership” becomes an attractive workaround for those wishing to avoid the scandal that male leadership is a natural good that is baked into the created order and therefore rightly permeates all aspects of human society.

Such cases are indeed misguided at best, and shameful at worst, but the abuse of a principle does not necessarily invalidate the use of said principle, especially when that principle is clearly promoted in Scripture — as servant leadership is.[25] The church’s head, the Lord Jesus Christ, in his earthly ministry exemplified servant leadership (Mark 10:35–45; John 13:1–17), and any man who rules well will be marked by a propensity to serve those under his charge like Christ.[26] In reacting to the misapplication of servant leadership, biblical patriarchy proponents must be careful not to whip the pendulum towards men in authority “lording over” others (Mark 10:42). Jesus is quick to distinguish between servant leadership and despotic lordship. This is why I use the false antithesis of male headship and servant leadership from the outset of this essay, because it aids in getting behind the labels to the ideas and principles at play.

My personal read on what those like Wilson, Zachary Garris, Michael Foster, and others who represent the “biblical patriarchy,” “masculine Christianity,” or “dominionist” movement(s) are calling men to be and do is not that far off from what I am advocating.[28] So, I do not want to exaggerate the differences here between the biblical patriarchy crowd and what I as a broad complementarian affirm. But I want to be clear and careful not to deny or denigrate the principle of servant leadership in reaction to perceived and real misapplication of this doctrine by other evangelicals. In fact, I largely agree with Andy Naselli’s conclusion: “I think both labels are fitting. Complementarianism emphasizes that God designed men and women to complement each other; they are not interchangeable. Patriarchy emphasizes that God designed fathers to rule; God designed both complementarity and hierarchy. But what matters most is not the label but what we mean by it.”[29]

That being said, I do find that what emerging advocates for biblical patriarchy tend to mean in taking up the label is to distance themselves from complementarianism and even servant leadership, such that servant leadership is mocked as the wimpy complementarian compromise,[30] and the response is to affirm “father rule” over complementarity. Even worse, some in this movement make blanket and at times baseless charges against complementarianism, alleging that we reject nature and the created order, or that our movement is grounded in Marxism, etc.[31] These emerging voices in the biblical patriarchy movement are violently swinging the pendulum to the harm and division of the body of Christ.[32] And to be clear, so as to avoid the charge that I am doing the same in return, it is not patriarchy as a principle I reject, nor do I think these outrageous charges negate the good questions and challenges the biblical patriarchy movement raises. I often resonate with the concerns expressed by those in the patriarchy camp. Rather, because patriarchy is not a term used by Christians throughout history in defining gender roles, and due to its inherent limitations (“father rule” is a rather monolithic term), I find it prudential to speak of “equality with beneficial differences,”[33] and one such beneficial difference is that male leadership[34] is an inescapable reality grounded in nature. Again, broad complementarianism affirms that it is more clarifying to include male headship (and yes, father rule) as subsets of the complementary ways in which God creates men and women for one another.

This tendency in biblical patriarchy to emphasize one good principle over and against another seems endemic to embracing a term in reaction to widespread cultural rejection. It is easy to wittingly or unwittingly imbibe vices associated with masculinity if one makes a practice of reveling in every label the world deems deplorable  — or by taking the opposite position of whatever other Christians perceived to be to the “left” embrace. In so doing, they can become a caricature which lends itself to a deformed masculinity. It seems to me that if the biblical patriarchy movement applied the same hermeneutic of suspicion to patriarchy that they apply to complementarianism and servant leadership, they would be just as hesitant to embrace the former label as they are the latter two. Therefore, I find they are prone to falling for a false antithesis in reacting against the egalitarian/narrow complementarian pendulum swing. Put differently, if complementarity and/or servant leadership are to be heavily scrutinized or even rejected due to abuses and/or misapplication, then how can the “father rule” of patriarchy not fall by the same standard? Are we to believe there are not just as many if not more examples of this principle being abused than with servant leadership?

When Piper and Grudem rejected terms such as patriarchy, hierarchicalism, or traditionalism in coining complementarianism, it was because they were convinced it was the most fitting term. I agree with them, and share DeYoung’s perspective that there is nothing to be gained from wearing the patriarchy badge,[35] especially if by embracing biblical patriarchy one is predisposed to look derisively upon the principle of servant leadership. I do not want to react to the errors of others in choosing a label, but instead aim to embrace all the Scripture teaches. I find broad complementarianism fits the bill. Now, egalitarians are just as militant against complementarianism as they are patriarchy, so I do not make this case from the posture of wanting to win friends and influence people on the left. The reason I believe broad complementarianism is preferable is for theological clarity and to avoid overcorrecting into a false antithesis. I find that broad complementarianism allows us to embrace the fullness of God’s intentions for men in the church, home, and society, without the baggage associated with the label patriarchy, overextending the covenantal aspects of male headship in the church and home into the societal sphere in ways not warranted in Scripture, or this reactionary posture towards servant leadership.

In short, there is no choice between male headship and servant leadership put forward in Scripture; real men will lead and serve — and I find broad complementarianism best allows for us to hold these truths together in theory and practice. If by “biblical patriarchy” one intends to communicate essentially what I and others mean by broad complementarianism, then in the spirit of the Fellowship of the Ring, may evangelicalism have our sword, bow, and ax, and may we not wield them against one another.[36] This is why Naselli’s earlier comment is so important: what matters most is not the label but what we mean by it. My personal take is that some of these more outlandish charges made by emerging biblical patriarchy voices against complementarianism are not representative of the whole movement, and with recent books like Rosaria Butterfield’s Five Lies For Our Anti-Christian Age advancing biblical patriarchy, more conservative evangelicals will be open to the label. Again, if what one means by biblical patriarchy is that male headship is part of God’s good design for the flourishing of the church, home, and broader society as a reflection of the created order, and that godly men will be marked by servant leadership as they follow Christ, then both broad complementarianism and biblical patriarchy are fitting labels indeed. And for the sake of unity and clarity, then, I would humbly suggest that we all agree to call ourselves complementarians, with all the necessary nuances and qualifications offered in this essay.


Deformed masculinity results from affirming a false antithesis. In so doing, two complementary aspects of manhood are wrongly made out to compete with one another inherently. When it comes to principles such as male headship and servant leadership, we must be quick to celebrate and affirm what God calls good. Simply put, we cannot pick and choose what aspects or characteristics of masculinity we prefer and leave the others aside, or reject principles of biblical masculinity due to ways in which other professing Christians may abuse such doctrines. Falling prey to a false antithesis on masculinity is a surefire way to become a caricature and overcorrect into error as we swing the pendulum violently the other direction. Instead, we ought to hold to all the Bible calls good, allowing God’s Word to have its sanctifying effect upon us, de-caricaturing us by conforming us into the image of Christ.[37]

Michael Carlino is the Operations Director for CBMW and is a PhD student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

[1] D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 234.

[2] For an excellent treatment of this false antithesis, see Andy Naselli’s essay: “Are you a Gentle Man?” American Reformed, last modified August 7, 2023,

[3] For more on this false antithesis, see Joe Rigney’s essay: “What Makes a Man — or a Woman?: Lost Voices on a Vital Question,“ Desiring God, last modified September 9, 2020, Also, see Steven Wedgeworth, “Good and Proper: Paul’s Use of Nature, Custom, and Decorum in Pastoral Theology,” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 2.2 (Fall 2020): 88–97.

[4] The biblical patriarchy movement is headlined by men like Doug Wilson, Michael Foster, Zachary Garris, and is often (though not always) connected to a strong continuity view of the Old and New Testaments, such that proponents are often postmillennial and/or theonomic.

[5] While I find that egalitarians/narrow complementarians tend to reject/undermine the principle of male headship, the biblical patriarchy movement tends to undermine the principle of servant leadership in their reaction to egalitarianism/narrow complementarianism.

[6] One simple way I seek to communicate this reality is that while I use the language of “male headship” as it pertains to a husband’s relationship to his wife, or even how the Bible speaks of men leading in the church as a reflection of nature for God’s household, I use the language of “male leadership” when referencing the prudential application honoring nature/created order outside of the church and home, since we are then moving outside of the category of federal or representative categories. What I am getting at here is captured well by John Piper when he laments, “We have developed a theology and a cultural bias that continually communicates to men: You bear no different responsibility for women than they bear for you. Or to put it differently, we have created a Bible-contradicting, nature-denying myth that men should feel no different responsibility to protect women than women feel to protect men. Many have put their hope in the myth that the summons to generic human virtue, with no attention to the peculiar virtues required of manhood and womanhood, would be sufficient to create a beautiful society of mutual respect. It isn’t working.” “Do Men Owe Women a Special Kind of Care?” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 4.1 (Spring 2022): 80–87. Positively, we must affirm that grace restores what sin seeks to destroy, and one takeaway of this reality is that men ought to joyfully take upon ourselves the burden of ensuring the protection of women, as this is rooted in the very nature of manhood.

[7] Joe Rigney’s captures what I seek to get at here well when he argues, “Special revelation has linguistic priority over general revelation…In saying that Scripture has a linguistic priority, we are not saying that nature is obscure or unclear…So general revelation includes both the fixed natural order as well as human minds to discern and express the import and implications of that order. But that process takes time and effort and maturity, and therefore, Scripture, by giving us God’s revelation in human language, is more direct, even if both Scripture and nature are clear.” “With One Voice: Scripture and Nature for Ethics and Discipleship.” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 2.1 (Spring 2019): 26–37.

[8] For an example of a patriarchy/dominionist type doubling down on male headship over and against the servant leadership model, see Bnonn Tennant’s argument in this essay: “Servant leadership transforms leadership into subservience,” It’s Good to Be a Man, last modified May 9, 2019, See also Michael Foster and Bnonn Tennant, “The Compromise in Complementarianism,” Discipleship and Dominion, last modified November 26, 2019,

[9] The fundamental distinction between a narrow complementarian and a broad complementarian is that the latter understands male headship to be natural, or rooted in created order, such that male headship has application not merely (or narrowly) in the church and home, but also (broadly) in society too. For more on the distinctions between the two, and why Broad Complementarianism is the way forward, see Kevin DeYoung’s “The Beauty of Broad Complementarianism,” Christ Over All, last modified March 29, 2023 (original talk given on April 2, 2019),

[10] For an excellent argument on the intelligibility and normativity of male headship in both nature and Scripture, see Joe Rigney’s essay, “Indicatives, Imperatives, and Applications: Reflections on Natural, Biblical, and Cultural Complementarianism,” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 4.1 (Spring 2022): 28–36.

[11] As Beth Allison Barr argues, “There isn’t enough evidence to know for sure what was going on in Ephesus—although disruptions caused by the ‘new women’ movement and/or the influence of the cult of Artemis are both plausible (Gupta summarizes these well). What we do know for sure is that Paul is calling out women who are exercising inappropriate teaching authority (very possibly connected to false teaching). We also know that cultural norms would have yawned at Paul telling women to sit down and shut up.” For more of her argument that Paul is not speaking universally to all women in 1 Timothy 2, but only some women in Ephesus who were lacking in self-control, see her essay, “Part II: Episode I–How Do I Understand 1 Timothy 2?,” Marginalia with Beth Allison Barr, February 12, 2023,

[12] Kevin DeYoung, “Death to the Patriarchy? Complementarity and the Scandal of ‘Father Rule,’” Desiring God, July 19, 2022,

[13] DeYoung, “Death to the Patriarchy?”

[14] Herman Bavinck, The Christian Family, trans. Nelson D. Kloosterman (Grand Rapids: Christian’s Library Press, 2012), 115.

[15] For more on this increasing egalitarian and narrow complementarian conflation, see my essay “Endless Repackagings of Egalitarianism: Four Important Book Reviews,” Christ Over All, last modified March 27, 2023,

[16] Kyle Claunch, “On the Improper Use of Proper Speech: A Response to Ronald W. Pierce and Erin M. Heim, ‘Biblical Images of God as Mother and Spiritual Formation,’” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 5.1 (Spring 2023)): 69–77, “ For further development of the Fatherhood of God, see Claunch’s extended treatment of this very topic in this edition of Ekon: “Theological Language and the Fatherhood of God: An Exegetical and Dogmatic Account.”

[17] See Denny Burk’s review of Peeler’s work in his review essay, “Should We Call God Mother?” in this edition of Eikon.

[18] The irony is that while egalitarians are quick to point out that some complementarians have held to ERAS and are thus outside of orthodoxy, the combined forces of Stephen Wellum’s argument in his essay “Does Complementarianism Depend on ERAS?: A Response to Kevin Giles, ‘The Trinity Argument for Women’s Subordination,’” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 5.1 (Spring 2023): 60–67 and Claunch’s in “On the Improper Use of Proper Speech” turn such arguments on their head. A complementarian like myself, in agreement with Wellum and Claunch, can readily affirm classical theism and christology, and see male headship as a reflection of the fatherhood of God over creation, and Christ’s human nature as the connection point for headship and submission, not the eternal relations of the Father and Son. As Wellum explains, “When Scripture does unpack the relation between husbands and wives as analogous to Christ and the church, and how God as the head of the incarnate Son (1 Cor. 11:3) is analogous to human relations, it is not in terms of the eternal relations among the persons, but more in terms of the incarnation and the divine economy. The main warrant for complementarianism, however, is Scripture itself, starting in creation and culminating in the new creation.” “Does Complementarianism Depend on ERAS?,” 65. On the other hand, the preoccupation Peeler and others have with egalitarianism reverses the logical flow of what is proper of God and what is analogical, which leads to the following unbiblical and unorthodox conclusion: “In full alignment with the biblical text, God may be called upon metaphorically as Father just as God may be addressed metaphorically as Mother.” Women and the Gender of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2022), 102.

[19] DeYoung, “Death to the Patriarchy?”

[20] DeYoung puts it well, “It’s not a term you’ll find in Christian confessional statements from the past. It’s not a term you’ll find employed frequently (or at all) in the tradition of the church as it defends biblical views of the family, the church, and society. As a conservative, Reformed, evangelical Christian, I applaud the vision of ‘equality with beneficial differences’ and stand resolutely opposed to all forms of domination, exploitation, and oppression.” “Death to the Patriarchy?”

[21] See Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016).

[22] Russell Moore, “After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians are Winning the Gender Debate,” JETS, 49/3 (September 2006): 569–76,

[23] Doug Wilson, “The Great Servant Leadership Mistake,” Blog & Mablog, September 3, 2018, “

[24] Narrow complementarians may object to being equated with egalitarianism as it relates to their application of servant leadership. However, both hermeneutically and functionally, I find narrow complementarianism to be a way station for egalitarianism. As Denny Burk argues, “The narrow complementarian position seems inherently unstable and tilted toward an egalitarian framing of nature. It adopts some of the same exegetical conclusions of egalitarians. It minimizes differences in design that ground the biblical prohibitions on women teaching and exercising authority over men. Indeed, it renders the prohibitions arbitrary and without foundation in nature, for women and men can function interchangeably in ministry. The long-term prospects for this position are not encouraging.” “How To Turn Complementarians into Egalitarians,” Denny Burk, last modified May 18, 2021,

[25] Some advocating for biblical patriarchy readily admit this point. For example, Doug Wilson argues that “we must start by acknowledging that the mistake was not manufactured out of whole cloth. There is such a thing as a biblical servant leadership…There is such a thing as genuine servant leadership, but for it to be genuine, the servant part has to be real and the leadership (lordship) part has to be equally real.” “The Great Servant Leadership Mistake.”

[26] Aaron Renn recently wrote a longform critique of servant leadership as defined by some leading  complementarians. While I find that he paints with too broad a brush, as it is not representative of all  complementarians, Renn does make the insightful point that when it comes to servant leadership, we have to be careful to not fall into another false antithesis, in which we make the concept of the man in authority nourishing/pleasing himself out to be at odds with serving the interests of those under his charge. I find myself largely in agreement with his assessment of how many evangelicals speak of servant leadership as male servitude in which authority is replaced by service. I am convinced  the uneasiness with which many evangelicals speak of male authority is due to how much our sensibilities are shaped by our culture, which leads to undermining authority via service in an unbiblical manner. I am grateful Renn does affirm the reality that servant leadership is a self-evidently good concept. We must be careful though, in critiquing the abuses of the principle, to not poison the well against the principle itself. See Aaron M. Renn, “Newsletter #81: The Problem With Servant Leadership: Evangelicals promote a vision of masculinity so bleak, no wonder men don’t want to sign up for it,” Aaron Renn, October 16, 2023,

[27] For more on Foster, see Garrett Walden’s review of It’s Good to Be a Man: A Handbook for Godly Masculinity in this edition of Eikon.

[28] To this list, I would add Rosaria Butterfield, who in her recent book Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age (Wheaton: Crossway, 2023), promotes “biblical patriarchy” as one antidote to the feminist age we find ourselves in. She writes, “Biblical patriarchy protects women by giving a wife a godly man as ‘head’ to love and protect her; a daughter, a godly father; and a single woman, a church to protect her,” Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age, 188.

[29] Andy Naselli, “A Review of Rosaria Butterfield’s Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age,” American Reformer, September 1, 2023,

[30] For an extended diatribe against the complementarian compromise regarding servant leadership, see Rich Lusk’s “The Danger of Servant-Leadership,” Kuyperian Commentary, last modified December 23, 2020, See also See Michael Foster and Bnonn Tennant, “The Compromise in Complementarianism,” Discipleship and Dominion, last  modified November 26, 2019,

[31] See Doug Wilson & Michael Foster, “How Complementarians Fall Short,” Canon Press, Youtube Video, 3:59, com/watch?v=STt4H6Gsnno. Despite Foster’s claims to the contrary, when one takes even a cursory glance at the Danvers Statement, they find language like this in the second affirmation: “Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).” The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “The Danvers Statement,” last modified November 1988,

An example of the baseless, absurd, and even slanderous allegation(s) made by some patriarchy types to the effect that complementarianism has marxist roots, can be found here, as Eric Conn and Joel Webbon allege: “Complementarianism Was Forged In The Fires Of Marxism | John Piper, Carl Trueman, & Amie Byrd,” Right Response Ministries, Youtube Video, 7:21,

[32] This charge also reveals either ignorance and/or misunderstanding of Grudem and Piper’s original arguments. See Piper’s essay, “Danvers, Nashville, and Early Complementarianism,” Eikon. Volume 2 (2022): 28-33.

[33] The language of “equality with beneficial differences” comes from Piper and Grudem, as they argue: “If one word must be used to describe our position…we prefer the term complementarian, since it suggests both equality and beneficial differences between men and women.” Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 15.

[34] The careful reader may note the intentional shift I make here from “headship” to “leadership” when I get outside the covenantal context of the home. As I mention in the introduction, due to the fact that Scripture does not teach a federal headship or covenantal representation between all men and all women, but limits such headship to the church and home, I use “leadership” to distinguish between prudential application of nature/created order as it pertains to men and women in society, and the specific covenantal accountability a husband or pastor/elder has over those under their charge.

[35] See DeYoung, “Death to Patriarchy?”

[36] To be clear, I am arguing that the error of replacing servant leadership with male servitude is a bug, not a feature of complementarianism. Just as a man lording his headship over his household is a bug, not a feature of biblical patriarchy. I am genuinely convinced that the biblical, theological, and cultural instincts of broad complementarians and the biblical patriarchy movement are not that far apart. And it is my sincere hope that proponents in both movements would not talk past one another as we paint with broad brush strokes in denouncing one another. May the pendulum swinging stop, so that we could unite around glad-hearted promotion of all that God calls men to be and to do.

[37] When I claim that we are to be “de-caricatured” and conformed to the image of Christ, I do so from the perspective that “Christlikeness” is not androgynous. Therefore, while both men and women pursue Christlikeness, we do so in engendered ways. According to Paul, a husband pursuing Christlikeness will manifest itself in his headship over his wife in which he washes her in the water of the word, cherishing and nourishing his bride (Eph. 5:25-26; 1 Cor. 11:7-10). A wife who is pursuing Christlikeness will submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ, and as Christ in his human nature submits to the will of the Father (Eph. 5:24; 1 Cor. 11:3; John 6:28; 8:29). For more on this, see Jonathan Leeman’s interaction with Michael Bird in his essay “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—Or Christlikeness?,” 9Marks, last modified March 20, 2020,

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