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Soft Complementarianism or No Complementarianism? Part 1

May 21, 2009

I am reading through the soon to be released title by IVP Marriage at the Crossroads: Couples in Conversation About Discipleship, Gender Roles, Decision Making and Intimacy  by William and Aida Spencer and Steve and Celestia Tracy (Set to be released June of 2009).  What interested me was that the Tracy’s defined themselves as “soft” complementarians.  My initial question was What is “soft” complementariansim opposed to?  Hard complementarianism?  It became very clear that the Tracy’s are opposed to the complementarianism set forward by CBMW, specifically Wayne Grudem.  

Steve Tracy, in the chapter on “Headship” quotes Grudem saying, “every single decision large or small… whether we have reached agreement or not the responsibility [authority/power] to make the decision still rests with me [as the man].  Thus male headship makes a difference in every decision that a couple makes every day of their marital life” (This quote is taken from Wayne Grudem, “Key Issues in the Manhood-Womanhood Controversy, and the Way Forward,” in Biblical Foundations for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Wayne Grudem, p. 38).  Tracy argues that this sort of complementarianism leads to many evangelical leaders espousing a husbands headship to mean

A wife must never try to change her husband’s and should passively accept his sin, must obey him even if it violate her conscience and sense of God’s leading, is to follow his mission and dreams (not her own), should be quiet or just say “sure” when she disagrees with him, and should submit even to his sinful behavior that might lead to her or her children to be sexually abuse (p. 60).

Therefore, since a view of headship like above can lead to very sinful conclusions, it cannot be biblical.

There are two very disappointing things about the section of Steve Tracy’s chapter on “Headship”.  First, Tracy takes Grudem completely out of context of his argument.  Grudem is talking about headship; he is talking about decision making; he is talking about the man’s responsibility.  Yet, Tracy takes no effort in displaying Grudem’s great pains in explaining that it is the man’s responsibility to make the final decision before God.  So then, it is not as if men get their way whether the wife agrees or not, as Grudem explains, but that the husband must make his decision before God at the end of the day, even though there may be disagreement.  Grudem also goes to great lengths to show the dangers in erring in husbands being too passive or too domineering.  The effect of Tracy quoting not even two complete sentences of Grudem is that Grudem’s intentions are distorted, only fitted for Tracy’s argument.  You can read the entire chapter here to read Grudem’s argument in its entirety.  

Second, Tracy only footnotes that Grudem would not agree to some of these conclusions that many have taken from his words.  Not only is it only footnoted, but at the end of a very long footnote in which Tracy first references another work of his and mentions Grudem’s association with CBMW.  Tracy never remarks as to who these “evangelical leaders” are that are making these wild conclusions from Grudem’s words, nor does he make any good effort to ensure his readers that Grudem would never affirm any of these conclusions (not just “some” as Tracy alleges).  

Tracy makes no substantive argument against Grudem’s actual words, but only to those who make sinful and delirious conclusions from them.  This is sloppy argumentation and slander.  Grudem’s words were carefully manipulated to support the agenda of Tracy’s chapter.  A poor way to discuss your point.  

While this is only a small portion of the book, I couldn’t help but address Tracy’s poor use of Grudem’s words.  Not a great way to begin.

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