Complementarians tell me that the pre-fall gender roles was glorious perfect headship and flawless submission. They tell me that sin distorted them. Men still had headship, but they were harsh or passive. Women still had to submit but they were usurpers or doormats. Then Jesus turned back the curses and restored the roles. Men had headship that was neither harsh nor passive. Women had submission that was neither doormat nor usurper. Which means that the New Testament pattern must be exactly what the pre-fall state was like.
So Before the fall, Adam was neither harsh nor passive, he exhibited Christ-like servant leadership as he made the decisions and had the final word on all matters. As the spiritual leader, Adam would teach Eve the one commandment and lead prayers. Eve was neither a doormat nor a usurper, but perfectly submitted to Adam’s leadership as the Church submits to Christ. Because Eve was not the spiritual leader, she would silently listen to Adam as he expounded on profound spiritual things. One day, as A&E were walking, a serpent came up to them and asked: “Is it true that y’all must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Before Eve could answer, Adam took charge of the situation and said, “This is a rather suspicious serpent. I was there when I named all the creatures and I know for a fact that the serpent I named couldn’t speak. What’s more, it looked different – it was another color. I’m the head and I say we ignore this pitiful creature.” Eve was accustomed to always agreeing when Adam said that he was the head, so she submitted to his decision. From that day forward, whenever the talking serpent spoke to them, they’d run from it in the opposite direction. In time, they had many sons and daughters who all grew up in the garden. When it came time to marry them off to each other, Adam would explain to his sons what perfect headship was and Eve would explain to her daughters how to be perfectly submissive. Because no one ever sinned, Christ was never born because no one needed saving. No one ever died either. Every now and then God would walk through the garden and see how people just kept on multiplying. “If this keeps up, I’ll have to build a bigger garden to hold them all! What I wouldn’t give for a world with a little more action! Maybe a chance to cause some natural disaster or send out my army to slaughter thousands of enemies. I wonder – what if I start over and instead of hard-wiring their free will to the context of their gender roles I just let them have completely free will? What’s the worst that could happen?”
Maybe it’s not an accurate representation, but that’s the problem with reading the post-Resurrection concept of headship into pre-fall Genesis; it just doesn’t work. You can’t have Christ-like servant leadership if Christ is never born to exemplify it, and the picture of marriage as a representation of Christ and the Church’s relationship also falls flat without Christ or the need for a Church for him to marry. If Eve is never deceived, then the rule that woman must not teach or lead never gets written. The reality that Christ represents is not a restoration of the original pattern, but a replacement. I know why Complementarians are desperate to hang onto the idea of pre-fall headship; because through the teaching of creation order, the idea that men have authority over women depends upon the idea that God gave Adam authority over Eve while in their perfect, sinless states. Even in the sin-tainted ancient world, they continued to carry on the pattern of men having authority over women; every priest, prophet, king, adviser, and head of house-hold were men who had authority over the women in their lives. Paul happily confirmed that yes, men are the heads of their women, so the pattern remains intact for thousands of years. It doesn’t occur to them that the idea of people ruling other people is the problem. It was the problem on race lines, it was the problem on class lines, it was the problem wherever problems were problematic. Why they think that one gender ruling over the other won’t be a problem is beyond me.
I suppose they might say “The Bible says it won’t be a problem.” Which is what we thought about slavery until we realized that it’s not in human nature to be biblical about how we go about it, how it was immoral for one person to own another, to decide for them what they will do, and how badly people had been treated because they were inferior. It’s not in our nature for one gender to rule over the other with any greater degree of success just because it’s Biblical. You remember Herod’s temple? Did you know that it didn’t fully match what the Bible described? It added on a few sections, a court of the Gentiles, a court of the Women, among others. Where do you think the early church met? Somewhere only Jewish men could meet? Somewhere Jewish men and women could meet? Somewhere Jewish and Gentile men and women could meet? Solomon’s colonnade was a place where men and women both Jewish and Gentiles could gather, they had equal access. Today men and women ought to have equal access, but that’s only a dream so long as doors remain shut to women in Christianity.