Aimee Byrd and I would dearly like to withdraw our claim that gender differences are ‘irrelevant to broad swathes of our lives.’ Unfortunately, as Cardinal Newman might have said, ‘Withdraw it? We claim we never said it!’
Any reading of the exchange to which David Talcott refers would make it clear that Aimee Byrd and I made one central point and that was not to claim that gender makes no difference. What we did argue was that the kind of complementarianism advocated by John Piper and company, focused as it is almost exclusively on issues of authority, hierarchy, and submission between the sexes, leads to horribly complicated micro-management and confusion once it is extrapolated to the whole of life. The evidence? That there is so much agonizing over how women should give travel directions to men who are lost, whether women should lift weights in the gym, how a housewife should relate to the mailman, etc. To those unfamiliar with the evangelical discussion on this, yes—these are things which have been raised as serious questions. I leave the reader to decide on whether my use of the term ‘silliness’ was appropriate or excessive.
But to be serious: To say that one disagrees with John Piper (and perhaps David Talcott) on complementarianism is not necessarily to say that gender makes no difference. It is thus unnerving that such seems now to be how such disagreement is immediately understood. And that is another part of the problem with evangelical complementarianism: It is in danger of becoming simply a reactionary movement, defining itself over against feminism, and apparently seeing any criticism of the party line as a fundamental betrayal of the cause.
For those worried about my views on the significance of gender differences, sexuality etc., I refer you to my previous First Thoughts posts passim. For Aimee’s, check out her book, The Housewife Theologian, which has a whole chapter on the matter. And the fundamental challenge we posed to the organized evangelical complementarian movement still remains unanswered: Where does their version of evangelical complementarianism end and patriarchy begin? Reading the various critical responses to our initial posts, I have a sneaking suspicion that I now know what the answer is.
Carl R. Trueman is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.