As I mentioned in the beginning of this series, impetus for beginning to investigate both the beliefs and current trends of Calvinism was the extreme beliefs regarding gender roles and the backlash of other Christian leaders and indivduals speaking out against those beliefs.
New Calvinists strongly believe in complementarianism, the belief that each gender have different and complimentary roles and that the Bible specifically delineates each role. Many Christians are what is considered “soft-complementarian”, believing that men and women have equal roles, but in marriage if there is a disagreement where a compromise cannot be reached, the husband makes the decision. New Calvinists, however, tend to bring gender roles to an extreme in completely rejecting women’s ordination, believing that females should only be homemakers and males should be out of the home in the workforce, women should not be in the military, or police force.
While Church history, as well as history in general, has been full of prohibitions of women in religious leadership and general sexism, Calvin himself was fairly liberal for his era regarding the role of women in the church. For example, he allowed women to publically preach if no trained men were available. I didn’t see a direct link to why complimentarianism was such a cornerstone of New Calvinism. Many Calvinist churches are egalitarian and many Arminian Churches are complementarian and vice versa. Why does New Calvinism stress gender roles* when main Calvinist theology says very little about it, especially when New Calvinist cordially disagree with each other on beliefs as diverse as infant vs. adult baptism and the cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit?
When the Common Loon asked in this post the question why the New Calvinists Insist on Complementarianism or if one could be a New Calvinist without insisting on strict gender roles Kevin DeYoung at the Gospel Coalition wrote this answer. While I think his answer is well thought out and calm, he mostly lists the reasons he believes in complementarianism, instead of answering the question of what in New Calvinism’s belief structure compels them to believe in complementarianism versus egalitarianism.
As I struggled to pinpoint a reason within the theology, I believe I have come up with at least a partial answer. First, New Calvinists are not concerned with God being fair. When one asks why someone couldn’t be a pastor of a church just because they were born with a vagina rather than a penis, one is questioning the fairness of that belief. A New Calvinist would probably state that God preordained the roles and isn’t concerned with fairness. God is God and he can do what he wants. The second reason has to do with God’s sovereignty. God created someone male or female; therefore He has equipped them to fulfill the duties of their given gender. The third reason is an emphasis on creating Christian culture rather than living as Christians in the culture that we are in. The Gospel Coalition has been especially effective in permeating the Christian Evangelical sphere, and I often see blog posts shared by friends who would never define themselves as New Calvinist.
That brings me to why I find this trend so disturbing. While Evangelicalism began with the Methodists in the 1730s and describes a movement that emphasizes being born again, biblical authority, the death and resurrection of Christ, and social activism, it is almost now fully eclipsed by an emphasis on privileged white 50’s type gender roles, anti-gay rhetoric, and Republicanism. Instead of the voices of women and men being heard with equal amounts of respect such as in the churches of the Holiness Movement (one of the leaders in both early Evangelicalism and early Feminism), we are hearing almost exclusively from men who are mostly white, mostly privileged, mostly Western. Instead of being known for our social activism during natural disasters such as the help from the Salvation Army, Evangelicals are becoming known for being judgmental and unsympathetic when well known New Calvinist call these the wrath of God.
Even more disturbing is the trend within ourselves as Evangelicals to forget the diversity of belief within ourselves instead only hear one voice. Instead we should be regarding ourselves as a diverse part of the church body. As the institute for the Study of American Evangelicals says, “look at evangelicalism as an organic group of movements and religious tradition. Within this context “evangelical” denotes a style as much as a set of beliefs. As a result, groups as disparate as black Baptists and Dutch Reformed Churches, Mennonites and Pentecostals, Catholic charismatics and Southern Baptists all come under the evangelical umbrella, thus demonstrating just how diverse the movement really is”.
*some would say traditional gender roles, but that is somewhat of a fallacy due to what has been a role for a male or female has been defined differently in each culture and each time period throughout history. There simply is no standard universal or traditional gender role.