What does the phrase “Complementarian” mean, and why does it matter? It might be helpful to first look at a few definitions of the word complementary:
a) Something that completes or makes perfect; either of two parts or things needed to complete the whole; counterparts;
b) Combining in such a way as to enhance or emphasize the qualities of each other or another.
This description of “Biblical Complementarianism” then, comes from Mary Kassian, who was part of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1987 where this stance was defined as a response to a growing cultural rejection of Scripture’s teaching on manhood, womanhood, and marriage:
Essentially, a complementarian is a person who believes that God created male and female to reflect complementary truths about Jesus. That’s the bottom-line meaning of the word. Complementarians believe that males were designed to shine the spotlight on Christ’s relationship to the church (and the LORD God’s relationship to Christ) in a way that females cannot, and that females were designed to shine the spotlight on the church’s relationship to Christ (and Christ’s relationship to the LORD God) in a way that males cannot. Who we are as male and female is ultimately not about us. It’s about testifying to the story of Jesus. We do not get to dictate what manhood and womanhood are all about. Our Creator does. That’s the basis of complementarianism.
John Piper, who led the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, adds this:
So complementarians resist the impulses of a chauvinistic, dominating, and abusive culture, on the one side, and the impulses of a sex-blind, gender-leveling, unisex culture, on the other side. And we take our stand between these two ways of life not because the middle ground is a safe place (which it is emphatically not), but because we think this is the good plan of God in the Bible for men and women. “Very good”, as he said in Genesis 1.