I’m sure there are many things on which our complementarian brothers and sisters would score an “A”, but on one subject, I believe they would not do so well, and that is biblical mathematics.
I’m not talking about the stuff like trying to figure out who is 666 (I guess maybe it turned out not to be Gorbachev, after all), or working out that verse 119 of Ps 119 is the dead centre of the Bible, or even allegations about any so-called “Bible Code.”
No, by “biblical mathematics,” I’m referring to the way the key facts of Christianity just add up differently than in worldly thinking. So Jesus tells us “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Bad maths by anyone else’s reckoning…but great theology (it couldn’t be better theology, coming straight from Jesus!). But it doesn’t seem to gel with the insistence in complementarian ideology of men being first in everything. Be cautious of insisting always to be the first, or the greatest, or the more powerful…that is to operate in a worldly framework, opposite to one of true Christian spirituality. Sure, complementarians will try to insist that is not what their theology teaches…but that is how it invariably works out. The man serves God in a greater way, he is the holder of all the power in church and home…invariably, he simply matters more. Quite the opposite to Christ’s teaching.
In marriage, the Bible tells us, the “two will become one.” Again…not the way worldly mathematics works, but a powerful description of the way a Christ-centred marriage will work. Notice that it doesn’t say that “one will become subsumed into the other,” which seems to me a better understanding of a patriarchal marriage, where the wife often gives up her opinions, leadership and strength. But each partner in the marriage comes together in one of the great mysteries of life to become one flesh.
This, of course, leads us to think about the Trinity; God the three in one. Notice that it’s not “God the 1, 2, 3,” with each person having a different level in the hierarchy, like three athletes standing on a different level on the Olympic podium. Just “God the three in one,” co-equal, a picture of perfect unity and perfect harmony.
And as for complementarian mathematics…well, they often quote “equal but different.”
Well…equal how, exactly? “Equally saved,” they might answer, but it seems that equally saved does not make people equally holy. Holiness is not just “not doing bad stuff.” It is the practical application of discernment and wisdom in how we live our lives and who we are on the inside. If all Christian women are, on account of being women, more easily deceived than all Christian men, then we are clearly less able than men to use wise discernment to aid in our sanctification, so our salvation surely leads to a lesser degree of sanctification than men are capable of achieving.
Well then, what about “of equal ontological value in the eyes of God”? If all people of a particular race or culture are said to be of equal ontological value with those of another race or culture, but one group were only permitted to be unskilled, manual labourers, rather than doctors, lawyers and teachers, then clearly, the ontological value of those people would be less than that of the others. Few would accept this kind of logic in talking about race, but many sincere believers seem to accept this without question when applied to gender discussions.
We learn about “equal to,” “greater than” and “less than” in primary school mathematics. Three can never be “equal to” 17. Twelve will never be “less than” five. Men and women will never be “equal” when they are simultaneously treated as “different.” We may have our differences (such as our biology), but in one of the greatest examples of biblical mathematics the New Testament has to offer, Galatians 3:28 promises that regardless of gender, race/ethnicity or social status, we are “all one in Christ Jesus.” Not “equal but different,” but rather, “different but equal.”