Theologically speaking, a complementarian stands in contrast to an egalitarian. These take very differing views on the roles of men and women in the home, church, and in some other settings.
The complementarian position:
Men and women are both fully human, that is, both equally reflect God’s image (Gen 1:26-27)
Men and women are co-heirs of the grace of life (1 Pet 3:7)
Men and women are assigned differing roles in the family and the church.
1. Men and women were not created simultaneously. God delayed the creation of Eve, not only to create desire in Adam, but to establish roles in the relationship. (1 Tim 2:13)
2. The Fall introduced much more complexity. Not only would it create selfishness in general, but fallen masculinity and fallen femininity would manifest differently. At least two perverted forms would be the female desire to control her husband, and the male desire to dominate and rule harshly. (Gen 3:16)
3. The plain reading of several texts leads us to these conclusions regarding male and female relationships in the home and church.
1) The husband is the head of his wife, which means he is to exercise authority in a loving, sacrificial way (Eph 5:25-30, 23)
2) The wife is to submit to her husband, showing him respect, even if he is not worthy (Eph 5:22-24, 33, 1 Pet 3:1)
3) Pastors/overseers/elders are to be men (1 Tim 3, “the husbands of one wife”).
4) Women are not to teach the public assembly, for in so doing, they take a place of authority, which requires that all listening submit (1 tim 2:11-12) This also forbids publicly objecting to what is taught from the pulpit (1 Cor 14:34). Does this forbid all teaching? No – Colossians 3:16, Tis 2:3-4; 2 Tim 1:5
5) Therefore, the teaching is inseparably bound up with the second prohibition – the exercise of authority. i.e. the Bible forbids woman teaching in a pastoral capacity.
6) Women, like men who not called to the pastorate, and younger people, can take up every other form of ministry in the local church.
7) Manhood and womanhood are distinct callings. They share many roles in life. But their differences call for distinct outworking, particularly in the home, and in the church. To that end, Christian parents ought to affirm and grow biblical femininity in their girls, and biblical masculinity in their boys.
In other settings, masculinity and femininity should be worked out so as to honour our distinctive callings.
“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”
“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.” – John Piper
Objections based on Cultural Norms
Some object that the biblical commands were tied to a cultural situation in Paul’s day and are not applicable to our situation.
Cultural patterns do play a role in shaping our view of male and female roles. Several things must be said about culture.
1) Culture is not neutral. It is the incarnation of a worldview, and can be more or less true.
2) Some cultures are better than others. The closer a culture represents Biblical norms, the better it is.
3) Sin affects every culture.
4) Common grace affects every culture.
5) Some cultures have been shaped by special grace.
The Graeco-Roman culture that Paul wrote in had both elements of common grace and sin. There were perversions of manhood & womanhood, and good examples. There was both abuse of women, and the equivalent of ‘feminist’ movements. Nothing in Graeco-Roman culture leads us to believe that Paul’s instructions were bound to that culture alone. After all, he grounds his instruction in the order of creation, and as a response to the Fall (1 Tim 2:13-14)
This also answers the objection of those who say that salvation reverses the situation, to where role distinctions no longer occur. Paul tells us that the roles themselves, not their abolition, were partly a way of responding to the Fall, and of seeking to restore pre-Fall harmony. Furthermore, Paul writes his instructions on marriage, assuming that his audience is Christian, and says that these roles (not merely the biological differences) are what become a picture of Christ and the church.