Chrysostom the Complementarian

September 25, 2006

John Chrysostom ("golden-mouthed"), bishop of Constantinople (from 398) and "Spurgeon" of the late fourth and early fifth century, known for his deep respect for Christian women (as witnessed, for instance, in his beautiful letter to Olympias) has this to say about Christian wives both loving and respecting their husbands in Ephesians 5:33 –

"How, one may say, is there to be love when there is respect? Love is most powerfully present when accompanied by respect. For what she loves she also reveres, and what she reveres she also loves. She reveres him as the head and loves him as a member of the whole body. God’s purpose in ordering marriage is peace. One takes the husband’s role, one takes the wife’s role, one in guiding, one in supporting. If both had the very same roles, there would be no peace. The house is not rightly governed when all have precisely the same roles. There must be a differentiation of roles under a single head."  (Homily on Ephesians 20:5.33)

I think it’s time that Randy Stinson and CBMW establish the complementarian hall of fame in Christian history, and I’m nominating Chrysostom! Here, as the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (IVP) on this passage observes, Chrysostom is saying "The household cannot be rightly ordered or governed on the basis of undifferentiated roles, wherein each voice claims absolute parity without respect for functional differences."