Marriage Roles

Marriage roles are an important topic but I believe we can discern from the Bible what God intends for us. We are going to look at several different views. Here I summarize three of them from Wikipedia, namely Complementarianism, Biblical Patriarchy, and Christian Egalitarianism. I will then explain the differences.


Complementarianism is a theological view held by some in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,[1] that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. The word ''complementary'' and its cognates are currently used[by whom?] to denote this view. For some of those whose complementarian view is biblically-prescribed, these separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the Church,[2] with the notable exception of the leadership role of the deaconess, in many Christian denominations.[3] It assigns leadership roles to men and support roles to women, based on certain biblical passages. One of its precepts is that while women may assist in the decision making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the purview of the male in marriage, courtship, and in the polity of churches subscribing to this view.

Contrasting viewpoints maintain either that women and men should share identical authority and responsibilities in marriage, religion and elsewhere (Egalitarianism), or that men and women are of intrinsically different worth (a position usually known as chauvinism, usually male, although female varieties do exist).

Biblical Patriarchy

Biblical patriarchy (also known as Christian patriarchy) is a set of beliefs in evangelical Christianity concerning marriage, the family, and the home. It sees the father as the head of the home, responsible for the conduct of his family. Notable adherents of biblical patriarchy include Douglas Wilson,[4] R. C. Sproul, Jr.,[5] and Douglas Phillips. Notable publications include Patriarch magazine and Above Rubies.[6] The biblical patriarchy movement has been said to be "flourishing among homeschoolers".[7]


The "Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy" published by Vision Forum advocates such beliefs as

  • God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine.
  • God ordained distinct gender roles for man and woman as part of the created order.
  • A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector.
  • Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres.
  • Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a "keeper at home", the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home.
  • God's command to "be fruitful and multiply" still applies to married couples.
  • Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world.
  • Both sons and daughters are under the command of their fathers as long as they are under his roof or otherwise the recipients of his provision and protection.[8]
  • According to Rachel Held Evans, the biblical patriarchy movement is "committed to preserving as much of the patriarchal structure of Old Testament law as possible."[9]

    Differences with Complementarianism

    Biblical patriarchy is similar to Complementarianism, and many of the differences are only ones of degree and emphasis. While Complementarianism holds to exclusively male leadership in the church and in the home, biblical patriarchy extends that exclusion to the civic sphere as well, so that women should not be civil leaders[10] and indeed should not have careers outside the home.[11] Thus, William Einwechter refers to the traditional Complementarian view as "two point complementarianism" (male leadership in the family and church), and regards the biblical patriarchy view as "three-point" or "full" complementarianism (male leadership in family, church, and society).[12][13] In contrast to this, John Piper and Wayne Grudem, representing the Complementarian position, say that they are "not as sure in this wider sphere which roles can be carried out by men or women".[14] Grudem also acknowledges exceptions to the submission of wives to husbands where moral issues are involved.[15]

    Christian Egalitarianism

    Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of the moral doctrine of egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons are created equally in God's sight—equal in fundamental worth and moral status. This view does not just apply to gender, but to religion, skin colour and any other differences between individuals. It does not imply that all have equal skills, abilities, interests, or physiological or genetic traits. Christian egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ; have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.[16]

    I know this may be confusing to some. Christian Egalitarianism is fairly easy to understand. Both genders have equal roles and ministries. This is not the Biblical model and few adhere to this. Complementarianism and Biblical Patriarchy are similar. The main difference is that Biblical Patriarchy "extends that exclusion to the civic sphere as well, so that women should not be civil leaders and indeed should not have careers outside the home." Most adhere to Complementarianism within Christianity and less to Biblical Patriarchy.

    Labels can be difficult when they are not clearly defined. My wife and I believe our marriage roles align with Scripture. My wife views me as the head and leader of our family, and resposible for it's wellbeing in every way, including spiritually. My wife views herself as my helper (Genesis 2:18) and the head of the home (1 Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:5). My wife works as she has a wonderful position in her company which she enjoys, and she works to the glory of God. Before we got married, I was an entrepreneur and owned a few companies, but decided to leave that role when we got married. We planned on having children and we felt I should stay home with the children and work from home while she continued her work. We are still in these roles and neither of us have regrets. At the time of this writing I stay at home with our daughter while my wife works, and I have work that I am doing from home, in addition to this website.

    I believe it is important for every couple to define their roles and maintain them within a Biblical framework. I believe that could include the wife working or the husband staying home. I have roles and resposibilities at home including taking out the trash, doing dishes, cleaning and vacuuming, cooking, etc. I maintain the home, fix things, etc. These are not set in stone and both my wife and I do some of these things, which is fine as long as both contribute and complement each other. Neither spouse should feel like they are doing more.

    I think it helped us to take pre-marital classes at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale which had a section called "Roles, Expectations and Responsibilities." The focus of this section was discussing the seven basic needs of a husband, the seven basic needs of a wife, and we rated ourselves based on those. I believe when our focus is love for our spouse and meeting their needs, the roles and responsibilities we assume will come naturally based on our gifts and abilities. I believe God can guide in this as well.


    1. Karin van Nieuwkerk. Women Embracing Islam: Gender and Conversion in the West. University of Texas Press. Retrieved 2007-12-31. "Secular feminists in Muslim societies demanded full equality in the public sphere, calling for access to education, work, and political participation as part of women's self-development and the empowering of the society in the decolonizing process. Within this feminist framework women accepted the notion of complementarity in the private sphere, upholding the notion of male predominance, regarded as benevolent predominance in the family. They called upon men to fulfill their duties, protecting and providing in ways that upheld the rights and dignity of women."

    2. Wright, N.T. (4 Sep 2004). "Women's Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis.". Retrieved 12 Jul 2010.

    3. Blomberg, Craig; Markley, Jennifer Foutz (1 November 2010). Handbook of New Testament Exegesis. Baker Academic. p. 53. ISBN 080103177X.

    4. Wilson avoids the term "patriarchy" but, in his book Federal Husband (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999), he argues that a husband as "federal head" assumes responsibility for his wife's spiritual condition.

    5. Highlands Study Center Squiblog

    6. 21st Century Patriarchs

    7. Joyce, Kathryn (2010-05-01). Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8070-1073-0.

    8. The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy

    9 Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master", p. 51.

    10. Should Christians Support a Woman for the Office of Civil Magistrate?.

    11. Called to the Home — Called to Rule.

    12. Men and Women and the Creation Order, Part 1 - Vision Forum Ministries

    13. The Palin Predicament Resolved - Vision Forum Ministries

    14. John Piper and Wayne Grudem, "An Overview of Central Concerns," in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), 89.

    15. Wives Like Sarah, and the Husbands Who Honor Them 1 Peter 3:1-7.

    16. Padgett, Alan G. "What Is Biblical Equality?" Priscilla Papers, Summer 2002: 16:3 Padgett is professor of Systematic Theology at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.

    SOURCE - Wikipedia, accessed on April 9, 2014

  • © Todd Tyszka
    Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, you do not make more than 500 physical copies, and you include the following statement on any distributed copy:

    From Todd Tyszka. © Todd Tyszka. Website: Email: [email protected]

    For web posting, a link to this document on our website is required. Any exceptions to the above must be formally approved by Todd Tyszka.