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Women, IQ and complementarianism

July 18, 2012

I am going to be completely predictable. Can’t help it. Having lived my entire life with the teaching that women are not logical enough to make their own decisions, I feel it! There was even a poor chap who visited my home blog a while ago and insisted for about 100 comments that he knew men were more logical than women because he was more logical than his wife.

So …. here is the Raven’s test. It is a test of non verbal logical reasoning. This is the test which Jim Flynn used to compare the IQ of men and women, and found women have pulled up alongside men. (A little past actually, but I am trying to be too polite to say that. It’s meaningless.) Here are a few details,

The author of the study, James Flynn, a New Zealand-based researcher known as an IQ testing expert, said that over the past century, women have lagged slightly behind men in IQ testing scores, at times by as much as five points. But now, Flynn said women have closed the gap and even inched ahead in this battle of the intelligent sexes.

“Over the last 100 years, everyone in the developing world has been gaining about three IQ points, but women have been gaining faster,” Flynn told ABC News. “This is the result of modernity. In every country where women have an equal chance of modernity, women have caught men [in IQ testing].”

Flynn has not yet published the results of his study, saving that for a book he will publish in September. But he told ABC News that he collected data from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Estonia and Argentina on scores on a standard IQ test, called the Raven test. Each country tested at least 500 men and 500 women, most between the ages of 15 and 18, Flynn said.

Now here is the basis of complementarity of men and women, first, according to Wayne Grudem,

This explanation seems to me to best suit the wording in 1 Timothy 2:14. Paul is saying that women should not teach or have authority over men in the congregation of God’s people for two reasons: (1) Because God gave Adam a leadership role when He created him first and Eve second (v. 13), and (2) God gave men, in general, a disposition that is better suited to teaching and governing in the church, a disposition that inclines more to rational, logical analysis of doctrine and a desire to protect the doctrinal purity of the church, and God gave women, in general, a disposition that inclines more toward a relational, nurturing emphasis that places a higher value on unity and community in the church (v. 14). Both emphases are needed, of course, and both men and women have some measure of both tendencies. But Paul understands the kinder, gentler, more relational nature of women as something that made Eve less inclined to oppose the deceptive serpent and more inclined to accept his words as something helpful and true.

To say this is not at all to say that men are better than women or that women are inferior to men. That would be contrary to the entire biblical testimony. But if in fact God has created us to be different, then it is inevitable that women will be better at some things (in general) and men will be better at other things (in general).

To take an obvious example, women are better at bearing and nursing children than men (for men cannot do these things!). This does not make women better than men, but it does make them better than men at some things. Similarly, because of their size and strength, men (in general) are better boxers and wrestlers and football players, for no women are able to compete against men at a professional level in these sports. This does not mean that men are better than women, but they are better at some things than women. Similarly, academic achievement tests regularly show that women (in general) are better than men in verbal skills, while men (in general) are better than women in mathematical skills and skills having to do with spatial concepts. While there are numerous exceptions, these things are true of men and women in general, and they say somethingabout our nature. Similarly, men tend to be more aggressive and to gravitate toward positions of leadership and dominance, and women tend to be more relational and to gravitate toward community and cooperation. These things are neither “better” nor “worse,” but they are different. In the same way, it seems that 1 Timothy 2:14 is saying that men are better suited for the task of governing and of safeguarding the doctrine of the church. This does not mean that women could not do this task, and do it well, at least in certain cases. But it does mean that God has both established men in that responsibility and has given inclinations and abilities that are well suited to that responsibility.

Yet we must be cautious at this point. We should not say, “Since Paul’s reasoning is based on different general tendencies in men and women, there will be some unusual women who can be elders because they don’t fit the generalizations but reason and relate more like men.” We should not say that because Paul does not say that; he prohibits all women from teaching and governing the assembled congregation, not just those with certain abilities and tendencies.12 And he does so first because of the order in which God created Adam and Eve (v. 13), and second because he sees something in Eve that is representative of womanhood generally (v. 14) and therefore applies broadly and in principle to all women as they are representatives of womanhood as well. Grudem. Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. page 73.

And according to Tom Schreiner,

God’s order of creation is mirrored in the nature of men and women. Satan approached the woman first not only because of the order of creation but also because of the different inclinations present in Adam and Eve. Generally speaking, women are more relational and nurturing and men are more given to rational analysis and objectivity…appointing women to the teaching office is prohibited because they are LESS LIKELY to draw a line on doctrinal non-negotiables, and thus DECEPTION AND FALSE TEACHING WILL MORE EASILY ENTER THE CHURCH…” (pg. 71; quote itself taken from Thomas Schreiner’s “Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, pp. 145-146). (Upper case thanks to this post.)

Can we be friends now? Now that women are not, as a group, less capable of logic, rationality and objectivity, can we stop telling women that they are “too emotional.” Maybe this will free men up to express more emotion – hey, if logic and emotion can inhabit the same human body without displacing each other, maybe we don’t have to fear it, mock it, or whatever. Let’s be relational and rational – together.

Let’s communally ditch the ideas that women are less logical, and, while we are at it, have less need for respect than men, and are given less responsibility for their own families than men. Let’s ditch these really bad ideas.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2012 7:32 am

    The funny ironic fact is that the men who claim that men are inherently more logical than women make their claim based, not on logic, but on emotions. These men behave more like babies than as grown ups, more like soldiers awed by Goliath than like Samuel who saw something in little David.

    I’m not mixing metaphors. I am getting at another sort of prejudice other than sexism, and that other prejudice is heightism or height discrimination. (My logical daughter was just discussing this with me last evening).

    Here’s from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink:

    Or what if the person you are interviewing is tall? On a conscious level, I’m sure that all of us don’t think that we treat tall people any differently from short people. But there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that height–particularly in men–does trigger a certain set of very positive, unconscious associations. I polled about half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list–the largest corporations in the United States–asking each company questions about its CEO. The heads of big companies are, as I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone, overwhelmingly white men, which undoubtedly reflects some kind of implicit bias. But they are also virtually all tall: In my sample, I found that on average CEOs were just a shade under six feet. Given that the average American male is 5’9″ that means that CEOs, as a group, have about three inches on the rest of their sex. But this statistic actually understates matters. In the U.S. population, about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or over. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent. Even more strikingly, in the general American population, 3.9 percent of adult men are 6’2″ or taller. Among my CEO sample, 30 percent were 6’2″ or taller. The lack of women or minorities among the top executive ranks at least has a plausible explanation.

    Long before Gladwell so recently published these results of his poll, people all over the planet had been discriminating by skin color (i.e., the whiter the better) but also by height (the taller the more esteemed). Babies tend to discriminate so, as a Harvard study led by Lotte Thomsen shows:

    “Traditional kings and chieftains sit on large, elevated thrones and wear elaborate crowns or robes that make them look bigger than they really are, and subordinates often bow or kneel to show respect to superior humans and gods,” says Thomsen, a research fellow in Harvard’s Department of Psychology and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Copenhagen. “Many animals, like birds and cats, will puff themselves up to look physically larger to an adversary, and prostrate themselves to demonstrate submission, like dogs do. Our work suggests that even with limited socialization, preverbal human infants may understand such displays.”

    And then among men, even white men, there’s this unconscious competition when we’re born a particular height. When we’re Napoleon or other short but still white guys, then we find ourselves having to act out. When we’re tall, then we find ourselves privileged as Goliath was and as taller sons of Jesse were chosen before David the shorter fellow:

    All of this stuff is irrational, prerational, emotional. Babies and men tend to act the same when we discriminate. Very ironic when we call people, women like Lotte Thomsen for example, less rational.

  2. July 18, 2012 9:24 am

    Very interesting information. Even without such data concerning logic testing of men and women, I would not be willing to say that women are less logical than men. Testing is a tricky science with a history of often bias. Nevertheless, this information is very useful to me if I need to try to convince someone else who insists that woman are less logical. Glad you can wade through the writings of Grudem so I can get pieces of this sad logic. I don’t have the stomach to spend the time to read the garbage, but since so many are influenced by it, it really is necessary to refute.

  3. July 18, 2012 9:37 am

    I’m just a little tired of dear old Adam and Eve.

    Paul prohibits women from teaching because Eve ate the fruit at the snake’s recommendation. Yet he doesn’t prohibit men from teaching even though Adam ate the fruit at Eve’s recommendation. He was just as easily persuaded as Eve was. Worse, actually: she listened to a magical being, while he was swayed by someone who could give him sex. I guess not much has changed after all.

    Gays can’t marry because God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Of course, if there was only Adam and only Eve, and they only had three boys, then the boys had to sex up their mama and have babies, and at least some of them need to have sex with each other, and…{shudder} So intergenerational incest that produces children is blessed, but that gay stuff is too icky to contemplate.

    The world has been mired in a self-concept of personal brokenness and worthlessness because we’ve been taught the doctrine of Original Sin, a stain that condemns us to Hell unless we believe and act the way our teachers want us to. It may be all Eve’s fault, or Adam’s, but it is we who bear the guilt and the eternal burden. Thanks, guys.

    I’m ready for a new myth. Something that will begin to heal us as individuals and as a people. I’m ready for a myth that is about equality and wholeness and empowerment and joy and fulfillment, not failure and redemption and more failure and oppression.

  4. July 18, 2012 12:02 pm

    And the answer to the puzzle at the top is 5, isn’t it?

  5. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    July 18, 2012 12:38 pm


    I don’t know the answer to this one – that is why I posted it. I waffled between 2 and 5 but I can’t claim to be very good at this stuff. Perhaps someone else will come along and confirm your answer.

    I am ready for a new myth also. That is why I am fascinated by the language of benefactors – it has nothing to do with reproduction and so on. As an over 50 woman, I am not up for reproductive sex or whatever the term is.

    The gospels and Acts should provide more than enough narrative on friendship partners, on companionship across and between genders, loving support and community. And these books don’t get into the other details.

    But the power of myth is amazing. How can we dislodge the primal myth of Adam and Eve, which causes so much agony on every side?


    I have a draft post on Blink. Yes, the influence of prejudices is powerful! I didn’t want to post about the shortness prejudice as someone close to me is short and I don’t blog about my family. There it is. But Blink was a stimulating read, lots of food for thought.


    I did once read the books by Grudem, first when one of them was first published, and misery just washed over me when I read it. But since then, with his later books, I engage in the exegesis, able to research his citations and find out how he has manipulated them, and rewritten the bible. Now I just use a search tool in a pdf, and don’t actually read more than I have to.

    I am still stunned that Grudem’s systematic theology is used anywhere. This is the book which claims that inasmuch as God is our ezer he is our subordinate, all this because ezer must mean “subordinate help”.

  6. July 18, 2012 1:07 pm

    Re: the puzzle, think of the outside loops as positive numbers, and inside loops as negative numbers. In each row, adding the first two yields the third. (+3) + (-4) = (-1); (+2) + (+1) = (+3); so (+5) + (-3) = (+2), which is answer #5.

    One way to dislodge the myth of Adam and Eve is to keep pointing out that it is, in fact, a myth, not historical or scientific fact. Myth doesn’t mean untruth, but it does mean it’s a symbol story that conveys a message beyond its literal meaning. Once we set it in that realm, we can see whether that myth still serves us, and if it does not, then we can be free of it.

  7. July 18, 2012 1:49 pm

    Just for the record, among my little group of friends, one woman is the most logical person I’ve ever met, but is also among the most empathic; a second woman has never (by her own admission) entertained a single logical thought; a third speaks with brutal honesty but isn’t terrific with sequential reasoning; one man is extremely logical but frequently allows his emotions to get the better of him; another man isn’t much of a logician but is incredibly nurturing and doggedly faithful to his beliefs; and I wear my heart on my sleeve but usually subordinate it to logic and clarity of thought. So which of us is superior to the others? For it really is a question of superiority and inferiority. You can’t say with one breath that women are not inferior and merely have other roles to fulfill, then say with the next breath that you “don’t allow” women to teach (or at least teach men!), or that they shouldn’t speak in the congregation.

    Now, if doctrinal fidelity is the chief determinant of what makes a good teacher—one of the most absurd arguments I’ve ever heard, frankly—then I’d say my illogical female friend is the best since she refuses to listen to anyone else. Surely the least analytical people, the ones who don’t think about the weakness of one particular doctrine or the illogic of a certain belief, are more doctrinally faithful than those whose brains are able to see the flaws in the teachings that have been handed down to us?

    My frustration is that people seem to cherry-pick which values they declare are eternal and unchanging and which are temporal and limited and culture-based. Either the Bible is a rulebook that we must rigidly obey today (in which case I have several people I would like to nominate for stoning), or it’s not.

  8. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    July 18, 2012 1:56 pm

    Thanks for the analysis of the matrix. That was the method I used, but allowed some visual cue to suggest that 2 might be better.

    Of course, this discussion about women is illogical. Would we want a leader who has no relational concerns, who is not committed to the health of the community? Can’t imagine. And to a certain extent some of these men want to maintain the status quo of “man over woman”, so they simply call the status quo “doctrinal purity” and voilá there you have it, “men are for doctrinal purity.”

  9. July 24, 2012 11:57 am

    The study is false advertising. It’s not comparing the aptitudes of MEN and WOMEN–it’s comparing BOYS and GIRLS…..”between the ages of 15 and 18″….of course girls, on average, will come out on top. They start developing earlier. Many boys haven’t even hit puberty by the age of 15, while most girls have. Most girls have finished puberty at 18; many boys still have some growing to do.

    I’m not saying men are smarter, or women are smarter….just saying that if you’re going to say that WOMEN have higher IQs than MEN, then please test fully-developed WOMEN and MEN.

    I have an inkling that the author just wants to make money off a book that panders to our modern notion of “men bad, women good.”

  10. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    July 25, 2012 2:31 am


    I am sure that you read my reaction to all of this. I wrote “It’s meaningless.” In my view, your comment is not a reaction to either the study or to my assessment of the study. However, you may be right that the author wants to make money off a book. You make him sound like your average author.

  11. August 6, 2012 11:57 pm

    Let’s communally ditch the ideas that women are less logical, and, while we are at it, have less need for respect than men, and are given less responsibility for their own families than men. Let’s ditch these really bad ideas.

    Suzanne, I entirely agree. The basic error here is to assert a reason that is not in the text of the Scriptures. Whether the difference actually exists between men and women, it’s not the logic of the Bible when it insists upon differences in role.

    That is, however, surely a different complaint than that of claiming that what Jesus’ Apostle wrote was actually incorrect? Opponents of complementarianism ought to be careful at this point that they’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  12. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    August 7, 2012 12:10 am

    Some do indeed claim that scripture teaches that men have more need for respect than women. I have read many books that claim that men need respect and women need love. This is also, according to some, based on Eph. 5:31. Of course, this ignores the command elsewhere to honour (respect) one’s wife. And many complementarians claim that men are more rational than women. This is very common.

    But I don’t know exactly what you base the subordination of women on, so I will let that rest.

    In my case, the baby is long gone, done away with, and only the bathwater is lingering. I cannot overemphasize how terrible it was for me to live in the heartland of the complementarianism.

  13. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    August 7, 2012 12:12 am

    Perhaps you would like to read some of my posts on the trinity. In the search box enter “ETS” to get all the posts. I am writing about the doctrinal basis of ETS. What does it mean to say that the Son is equal in power to the Father.

  14. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    August 7, 2012 12:29 am


    Your blog won’t allow me to comment again so I can’t respond there. Thanks for dropping in.

  15. August 9, 2012 10:53 am

    Suzanne – this is off the subject, but I just noted a blog series you might want to know about here

  16. August 9, 2012 12:24 pm

    I think the answer is ‘1’. The diagonals and pairs of verticals and horizontals then all add to 8.

  17. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    August 15, 2012 12:15 pm


    Thanks! I will follow Ken Schenk’s series on Grudem.

  18. Megan Glavin permalink
    December 11, 2021 10:18 pm

    @ac….I realize your post was left back in 2012, but studies show that for most people, IQ scores remain stable over time, with baseline testing beginning at age 11 in this study. So saying boys mature slower than girls is not an adequate explanation for girls having higher IQs. However, I am NOT saying girls are smarter than boys. I would rather us stop fighting over who is smarter in the church….but maybe it’s time we give women credit for their talents in the church and in society? My niece has an IQ that is higher than 99.5% of the entire U.S. population. She grew up as a sweet, submissive and very obedient child. But she also took advanced placement classes starting in middle school. She got a full college scholarship based on her intellect.


  1. Suzanne McCarthy: No more crankypants! | BLT

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