The subject of gender roles is a topic that is very blurred in today’s society within the culture, the home, and the church. Many people either contemplate what they believe and why they believe it or even what they should believe in general. A question that is somewhat neutral across the board is whether or not men and women are equal or if one is superior to the other. For those who do not look to Scripture for truth though, it is reasonable for them to assume that they either equal or superior to the opposite sex. However, for those people who do look to Scripture for truth the question is different. The question is, being created equally, how do gender roles differ for a male versus a female?
There are two substantial perspectives when it comes to this controversy and they are the complementarian and egalitarian views. The complementarian view is the non-feminist outlook, while the egalitarian view has the feminist mind-set. Men and Women Equal Yet Different by Alexander Strauch is a book which has a purpose to “state and defend the complementarian viewpoint.” This book uses an abundance of scripture as its foundation of supporting the complementarian view, which is the view that says men and women are created equally yet have different gender roles. This book critique includes a summary of the contents of this book as well as an evaluation of its content.
Alexander Strauch begins his book by telling the reader about an interaction that he once had with a college freshman, Tom. Tom came to Strauch explaining that he was confused about the roles of women and men in the church. Strauch began by trying to get Tom to first understand the controversy so that he could then begin to dig deeper into the issue. He goes on to inform his readers that the egalitarian view is the feminist view which declares that men and women are completely equal in every area; that there are no distinct roles for each sex. Continuing, he informs his readers that the complementarian view is the view that holds to the concept of truth which says that men and women are created equally but have distinct roles for each gender. “The gender debate is not an abstract, impersonal, doctrinal controversy. It touches directly on our humanness, our sexual identity, our ministry opportunities, the marriage relationship, family life, and life in the local church. It raises fundamental issues regarding fairness and justice, the influence of secular culture on Christian thinking, the correct methods for interpreting God’s Word, the leadership of our churches, and our faith in God’s Word. It is an emotionally charged controversy that divides churches and denominations worldwide.”
One of the first things introduced after Strauch gives insight on how to understand the gender role debate is that Jesus Christ appealed to the creation account. In Genesis 1:26-28, Moses writes about how man is created in the image of God. The word ‘man’, in these verses is meaning both man and woman. It refers to mankind as a whole. Genesis 2 is the scripture that is the foundation of the equality between sexes but is specific about the differences as well. Egalitarians, however, repudiated this passage and the role of headship as well as the supporting roles of each sex.
Another area that Strauch brings up in his book in defending the complementarian view is that Jesus Christ appointed male leadership for His Church. Two major points that back this fact up are that Jesus had to be man and also that Jesus appointed twelve male apostles. Part three of Strauch’s book focuses on the instructions that Jesus Christ gave on marriage. 1 Peter 3:1-7 emphasizes submission and understanding. One crucial point in this passage is that women are to be submissive to their husbands. “The word submission can hardly be used in our culture without misunderstanding and strong disdain. It is loaded with negative, provocative connotations, yet submission is a biblical word and a Christian virtue. We cannot avoid it.” In this passage of scripture, Peter also gives the role of the husband to his wife which is to understand and honor her. This portion of the book also looks at Ephesians 5 and Titus 2. Titus 2 specifically is about how a woman is to love her husband and children and take care of others, teaching others to do as she does. Ephesians 5 focuses more on how to wife is to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.
Through His apostles, Jesus Christ also taught gender equality and role differences in the Christian Community. Submission and leadership in the church family is supported biblically in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. This particular portion of scripture talks about the prayers of men and the way that women should dress. “If mean are supposed to be the heads of the family, they must also be the heads of the community. The community must be structured in a way that supports the pattern of the family.” Strauch’s final argument for his readers is to take courage and to stand strong in their faith. He informs them to do this by staying faithful to Christ by continuing to diligently studying the Word of God. Strauch also encourages fellow followers of Jesus to not give up on those who may struggle to stand on this truth of the complementarian view as well as not giving up on the feminist.
This book was definitely beneficial to me. I am a believer in the Word of God and a follower of Jesus Christ. I do support the complementarian view that men and women are created equally, yet have different role distinctions. However, it is easy for me to just jump on this bandwagon of believing this specific view on gender roles because I grew up in Christianity. This book has helped me to understand more about this controversy and has deepened my understanding of why these roles between men and women are so crucial and important, especially in the Christian faith. It was so helpful that Alexander Strauch used scripture for his basis, but it was also enlightening to understand more of the egalitarian and feminist view on gender roles as well. This was important to me so that I could see both sides of the issue and also so that when a time comes when I have to have conversations about this with certain people in ministry, I will be able to argue for my position biblically, knowing both sides and not just my own.
Some questions that I have about this book are how does one go about reaching a feminist? Do I go directly to them or do I wait for them to approach me? At one point do I intervene and how do I start the conversation with them? Overall though, Strauch did an incredible job on presenting this biblical information in an very understandable and deep way. I am a firm believer in the teachings of Ephesians 5 and Titus 2 for what they really are. As a woman in ministry, I am to look to the Word of God for what my distinct role is as I serve Him.
In conclusion, I recommend this book to both male and female; to both feminist and complementarians. I believe that it is very important to know truth as a whole, but even more so issues such as gender roles. As a follower of Jesus, this concept of gender roles is so important for us as we grow in Christ, live our lives day to day, as well as when we reach others. We must know that we are all created in His image, but also that we each have beautiful, distinct roles that He set aside for us each in order to fulfill the ministry He has called us to.
 Strauch, Alexander. Men and Women, Equal Yet Different: A Brief Study of the Biblical Passages on Gender. Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth, 1999.
 Strauch, Men and Women Equal Yet Different, 5-6.
 Strauch, Men and Women Equal Yet Different, 45.
 Strauch, Men and Women Equal Yet Different, 74.