Aaron Renn interviews Denny Burk on complementarianism

Still here. Working on some longer more practical posts, so I haven’t been AWOL totally.

Aaron Renn (The Masculinist) interviewed Denny Burk (current president of CBMW) on complementarianism. Wanted to throw this out there for people who haven’t seen it.

I’ve been pretty critical of complementarianism in the past as mentioned in several posts. Complementarianism’s “intelligent submission” debunking, Modern Complementarianism weasels, Relational archetypes and more insight into the false godliness of complementarianism theology, Complementarianism – holding to a form of godliness but denying its power. These are only some of the few at least.

Aside from looking at the distinctions between egalitarians and complementarians, Denny distinguishes between hard and soft complementarians. “Soft” meaning that these people only see that there should be no female leadership in the family or the Church but women can pretty much do everything else. On the other hand, “hard” complementarians — of which he is one — see the innate differences between man and woman in creation (e.g. 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Timothy 2 referring to creation order) as not just applying to leadership but should affect one’s whole worldview of the roles of men and women in the Church.

Denny also talks about the fact that the soft complementarian position will likely devolve into more soft and then overt egalitarianism (e.g. feminism) as it’s not rooted in anything the Bible actually says. In other words, if you’re not standing for truth you’ll likely be swayed away from it as the culture becomes more hostile to Christian positions.

Credit where credit is due in that he seems to agree with the positions that I and many others have touted here by standing on the Truth of the Bible.

Aaron and Denny note at the end it seems like some (a lot? many? most?) pastors and Churches don’t give advice that facilitates that they actually believe in a complementarian theological position but instead they tend to give advice that tends to jive with the wider culture. Aaron points out that theme of “servant leader” is pretty much just about serving to most Christians without the leadership/authority. Denny agrees but points out that the serving is not the issue (after all Jesus served), but it’s the lack of authority that is the issue not the serving. Aaron counter points out that in most cases what happens is the inverse: it is the the authority who should get to decide how to serve (e.g. Jesus wanted to wash the disciples feet, Peter didn’t want Him to do that for Him initially).

Unfortunately, they acknowledge that this is a problem, but they didn’t really give any particular time to talk about potential solutions.

The biggest issue that I think that Denny did not understand or at least contemplate is that Jesus’ authority is directly tied to love and service. The main point that I continually bring up is the “happy wife, happy life” mentality where the husband gets cajoled by pastors and other Church leaders into thinking that if his wife is happy he’s doing a good job of loving and serving her. This cannot be further away from the Truth.

As I’ve gone over a zillion times, the purpose of Christ’s sacrificial love is for the purpose of sanctification not happiness. If a husband is tying his headship/authority/leadership to making his wife happy instead of serving God and wanting his wife to be more holy then that is making an idol out of his wife’s feelings.

In any case, I’d be interested in a follow up podcast to see what practical advice Denny Burk would recommend to Churches, pastors, and fellow Christian husbands and wives to live out Biblical headship. That’s where the true rubber meets the road.

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9 Responses to Aaron Renn interviews Denny Burk on complementarianism

  1. princeasbel says:

    I listened to the interview, and I’m surprised at the depth of Aaron’s knowledge of complementarianism and how it began and how it influenced Mohler.

    The main objection I have with Denny is how he and others like him keep dodging the key objection raised by feminists and egalitarians toward complementarianism; That is, if headship in marriage does include heirarchy, authority, and wifely submission (as Denny affirms), then that means the husband can tell his wife what to do and she has to do as she’s told. That’s what riles the feminists and egalitarians, and it would be nice if someone in the CBMW would have the guts to admit that’s what the Bible teaches, and to tackle this issue directly. But, none of them ever will.

    I think the reason they can’t even go there is because they would have to decide whether to affirm the blunt, unvarnished truth about Godly headship, or to continue to do what they’ve been doing since the beginning, and deny that biblical truth to avoid resembling those EVIL patriarchs who abused women somewhere at sometime. I have to wonder, do they still not see it yet? Can they still not comprehend that it’s the feminists and egalitarians that have thoroughly rotted out our culture, sexually speaking? Or is it the patriarchal boogeyman that haunts their nightmares so much that they just can’t see anything else?

    It’s frustrating to say the least.

  2. Anonymous Reader says:

    Or is it the patriarchal boogeyman that haunts their nightmares so much that they just can’t see anything else?

    Well…here is another essay by Burk on complementarianism you may find interesting.


    I do believe that having constructed this kinder, gentler alternative that splits the difference between feminism and Teh Evil Patriarchy(shriek!), there is a pretty substantial buy-in on the part of CBMW members to “make it work”. Unfortunately their model is inherently flawed, so the will be tinkering with it endlessly.

    Guess I should listen to the interview, but frankly I am not looking forward to it. Podcasts annoy me. I prefer a transcript.

  3. @ princeasbel

    That’s pretty much my qualm with it.

    No practical advice. No affirmation of authority which carries the weight of being able to tell your wife to do something.

    Like Dalrock noted about chivalry, calling women out “feels wrong.”

    Same with affirming male headship and the ability to use authority to, as the late ZippyCatholic pointed out, create a moral obligation.

    Of course, they would also point out that Jesus told the disciples and His followers to do different things… so there’s still the dichotomy there.

  4. Anonymous Reader says:

    Well, because it’s here on Deep Strength, I shall attempt to view / listen to the interview.

    Argh. Barely a minute into the vid and Aaron Renn uses the term “gender” to mean “sex”. This may be difficult… but I shall endeavor to persevere.

  5. Anonymous Reader says:

    Pretty interesting around 50:00 or so when Renn downloads a tiny spoon of the manosphere reality onto Denny Burk and the reaction is — Burk doesn’t know about any of it. It’s all new to him.

    Especially interesting is when Renn mentions the “servant leader” bit, and Burk gets a bit defensive. Maybe he knows more than he’s letting on.

  6. princeasbel says:

    I must have missed that bit about servant leaders. That being said, Burk may or may not know more than he’s letting on. If he does, then his next approach is simple. Follow the example of men like Tim Bayly and resign in protest. He could follow in the footsteps of Norman Geisler, a man who resigned from The Evangelical Theological Society back in 2003 even after attending for 44 years. The thing about Tim Bayly is he was one of the founders of the CBMW, but eventually, he could see the hatred complementarians have for patriarchal authority, and had enough. If Tim can do it, so can Denny.

    P.S. Tim Bayly in recent years has gone the complementarian route, which is a tragedy. Just pointing out that in his better years, he had what it took to call out complementarianism for the poison that it was and is.

  7. princeasbel says:

    One question I would have asked Denny would be how he justifies the CBMW’s statement on abuse: https://cbmw.org/about/statement-on-abuse/

    We believe abuse can be defined as any act or failure to act resulting in imminent risk, serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of another person.
    We condemn all forms of physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse.

    This definition of abuse is so broad that there’s no way a husband could avoid “abusing” his wife. Denny needs to be challenged on this, especially since he isn’t a hard or soft complementarian, but a narrow complementarian. What is “narrow” about such a ludicrous, feminist definition of abuse?

    If anyone interviews Denny in the future, they need to be prepared to ask him so more hard-hitting questions. Aaron commended Denny for coming into (I think) the lion’s den by being interviewed by him, but frankly, this interview was a friendly conversation with zero confrontation. I would recommend Aaron be prepared to turn up the heat if he brings Denny on again.

  8. Anonymous Reader says:

    Thanks for the link. It appears the CBMW is fully on board with 1980 radical feminism in the form of the Duluth Wheel. Probably they would assert that they have no choice, given the US Federal guidelines on “abuse”. However it is not actually honest to equate “death” and “emotional harm”.

    Note how Denny Burk was surprised to learn that in the US 70% of divorces are filed by women. I suspect that this “position on abuse” is not carefully thought out, but they fear women, so…I also seriously doubt they condemn all forms of verbal abuse, but as you note that would be a good issue to dig deeper.

    Denny Burk would probably not care for a “dialog” like this. But there are men who choose to live with it.

  9. @ princeasbel

    One question I would have asked Denny would be how he justifies the CBMW’s statement on abuse

    That would be a good point.

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