Gospel Coalition Haiku

Why does a complementarian organization promote a congregation that belongs to a communion that ordains women?

Here‘s an explanation of complementarianism’s importance from TGC poobahs:

Probably all of us who share The Gospel Coalition’s vision to renew our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reform our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures have been asked, “So why is TGC complementarian? Are you saying only those who uphold male leadership in the home and church believe the gospel?”

If you’ve ever wondered and asked the question yourself, we hope you’ll watch this video featuring TGC founders Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper. Keller opens with a hermeneutical argument about what sometimes happens when we apply arguments in favor of egalitarianism to biblical passages that relate directly to the gospel. He also explains why TGC’s confessional statement and theological vision for ministry go beyond basic gospel doctrines to include such issues as gender roles. As Piper explains, TGC wants to say things that protect the gospel, display the gospel, and release the gospel for human flourishing. And our current age demands that believers model and argue the biblical case for Christ-like headship.

“We live in a culture where for the last 30 or 40 years, the collapse of the meaning of biblical masculinity has not produced a beautiful egalitarian society,” Piper observes. “It has produced a brutal masculine society.”

Here‘s a profile of puff piece on Hope Church, the largest Presbyterian Church in the nation (even larger than Redeemer NYC) that avoids questions about gender by featuring the topics of race and ethnicity:

The principles were solid: Churches should reflect their neighborhoods, and relationships are a good way to show God’s love to the unchurched. But the results were decidedly monoethnic congregations.

Within 20 years, Hope was the largest church in Memphis, regularly drawing 7,000 worshipers each weekend. But in a city that was nearly 60 percent black, less than 1 percent of them were African American.

At first, Hope reflected its neighborhood. The city to Hope’s south—Germantown—was 93 percent white in 2000, and 90 percent white in 2010. But its county—Shelby—fell from 47 percent white in 2000 to 41 percent white in 2010. And Cordova, the small suburb where Hope sits, dropped from nearly all white in 1988 to 68 percent white in 2010.

So Strickland and Morris set out to do what had never successfully been done before—to convert a white megachurch into a multiracial congregation.

They’re doing it.

Today, one out of five people who attends Hope is black. Of the 106 staff, 18 are nonwhite—including the senior pastor. The congregation sings hymns, contemporary Christian, and black gospel. Members work in predominately black, underresourced neighborhoods in north Memphis together through Hope’s community development corporation. They attend biannual three-day urban plunges and regularly spend eight weeks eating dinner with someone of another ethnicity.

Here’s the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s statement on women’s ordination (Position Paper, 1984):

Thus, while some churches may ordain women and some may decline to do so, neither position is essential to the existence of the church. Since people of good faith who equally love the Lord and hold to the infallibility of Scripture differ on this issue, and since uniformity of view and practice is not essential to the existence of the visible church, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church has chosen to leave this decision to the Spirit-guided consciences of particular congregations concerning the ordination of women as elders and deacons, and to the presbyteries concerning the ordination of women as ministers.

It is in this context that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church states in its Book of Govern-ment, Chapter 6, titled “Rights Reserved to a Local Church” that “The local church has the right to elect its own officers” (6-2). This right is guaranteed in perpetuity.

Does this mean that race trumps gender?

Advertisements

Neo-Calvinists Ordain Women, New Calvinists Don’t

[corrected] Molly Worthen deserves credit for trying to explain the difference between neo’s and News in the context of wives, husbands, church officers and complementarianism:

“It’s like we opened up a blister, and we’re getting story after story. I’m frankly shocked,” [Marie Notcheva Darlene Parsons] said. “I would say that I’m getting word of new stories once a week, (from churches across the country) and they’re all tied to this Neo-Calvinist movement that’s become more popular.”

Molly Worthen, an assistant professor of American religious history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, refers to this as a Calvinist revival that has been taking place primarily in Baptist and evangelical churches since the ’70s and is continuing to spread into other churches to this day.

“It tends to refer not to the historic ethnically Dutch (Calvinist) church,” she explained. “It tends to refer more to conservative evangelicals, often southern Baptists who have chosen this as a way to support certain theological and social points.”

Worthen, whose studies served as the basis for her 2013 book “Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism,” said that churches in this movement of religious thinking often promote conservative “separate but equal” gender roles.

“There’s a lot of pressure for women just to accept things and accept the authority of men,” she said. “In the context of marriage and the context of the church, the man is the head.”

Worthen also said these churches tend to settle personal matters, such as marriage or abuse counseling, inside the congregation, rather than reaching outside the church for help.

When you start inspiring with every square inch, it’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

That’ll Work

How to have a happy marriage:

First, divide all the work of running your family – from job to shopping to doing the dishes to feeding the dog — into three categories: Paycheck Work; House Work; and Childrearing Work. With scrupulous honesty (men, this means you!), calculate how many hours per week each of you spends doing these things; then add the two totals together. For instance, if Husband’s numbers are 45 hrs + 5 hrs + 10 hrs = 60 hrs total, and Wife’s are 40 + 21 + 21 = 82, then the combined total family work hours = 142. Now divide your individual numbers by the total to get the percentage of total work that each of you does: in this case, 60/142 = 42% (He), and 82/142 = 58% (She). Finally, multiply your respective percentages by two. The resulting final percentage compares you with the theoretical full contributor. Think of it as the percentage person your family setup is requiring you to be — or allowing you to be. In my hypothetical case, for instance, the husband is 84% of a fully contributing person, while his wife is 116%.

Is this part of Roman Catholic social teaching?

Punching Above His Weight

Another example of draping yourself in Calvin’s mantle on women but not on heretics:

This misquote actually drives directly at the heart — directly at the heart — of the current discussion of sexuality. When the dust settles on the Trinitarian debates, even if that time is years away, the church will still have to work out her theology of sexuality. In the Reformed world, Calvin’s own view will be one that carries weight.

And, Calvin thought sex meant something in civil society.

Serious Reformed men who differ from this view should be honest that their views are innovations explicitly rejected by our fathers in the faith.

What if our fathers in the faith put us at odds with the Founding Fathers? This weekend is a good time to consider.

A related consideration is recognizing it may be time to walk on our own in civil society and not rely on those Protestants who still held out for Constantinianism. Medieval Europe is not the standard for Christian reflection about civil society. The Bible is. And it’s hard to find Peter or Paul invoking Moses to correct Nero.

(And don’t even go to Calvin’s views on the Trinity. Nothing to see there.)

Now More than Ever We Need Women to Shoot!

So imagine the following scenario:

You are at a holiday office party. Conversations are flowing as swimmingly as the beverages. You notice out of the corner of your eye a person who seems to be bulkier than usual. You look over and see this person taking off a back pack and removing from it an automatic hand gun. He starts to shoot. Your wife, who is registered for “open carry,” prefers to keep her Sig Sauer P220 in her purse. She proceeds to remove her handgun and shoots the gunman just as he fires his first two rounds. Her shot does not kill but it does incapacitate the assailant. You call the police. The party breaks up but no one dies.

Consider the scenario that Harry Reeder proposes so oddly close chronologically to the shootings in Southern California:

It’s late at night. I hear the glass in the door downstairs breaking, the door opening and then footsteps. I turn to my wife and say “Honey, someone is breaking into our home downstairs and since I know you are willing, why don’t you go downstairs and see if you can overpower him? By the way if he maims you or kills you don’t worry! I have two daughters who are brave enough to follow you and risk their life to protect our home while I remain here safe.”

Reeder uses this case to argue against women in the military:

The unbelievable reality is that the men of this nation now allow politically correct elected officials in general and a President in particular (along with the elite self-appointed culture-shapers pontificating while shielded in the media and the academy) to institute policies which send our wives and daughters, not into the military to use their unique skills and abilities to enhance our armed forces, but into combat units to protect our Home(land) while they (and we) remain safely tucked away in our rooms. Forget for the moment the obvious arguments of how ignoring gender differences will inevitably force the adoption of inadequate training regimens, lowered physical and combat readiness standards, the redefining of combat protocols, inevitable sexual mayhem and a loss of combat unit efficiency which will cost lives (documented by a Marine Corp. study- more on this in Pt.2). Yes, I am aware of the claim that combat zones are now defined differently. But hand to hand combat, dragging a 200+ lb. comrade to safety, carrying 85 lb. support equipment, etc. has not and will not change.

But why couldn’t the first scenario work to argue for women in the military? If women may carry weapons for self-defense, how far removed is that from defending the homeland? And if women can defend themselves and their kin here in the United States, why not overseas (one reason is that we should not have so many troops overseas, but that’s a different question)?

But arguably the biggest question of all, why do you bring up biblical arguments against women serving in the military now when many Americans feel threatened by terrorists?

Timing is everything.

Why Does Complementarian Rhyme with Egalitarian?

A little while back Carl Trueman pushed back on the empasis by some gospel co-allies on complementarianism. Carl concluded this way:

This is not the only awkward question one might ask: for example, which is more unacceptable to a Baptist – a woman preaching credobaptism or a man preaching paedobaptism? But that is for another day. In the meantime, do not misunderstand me: I do write as a convinced complementarian and a member of a church where no elders or deacons are – or can be — women, though none of them are – or can be – Lutherans, Baptists or Dispensationalists either. It is thus not complementarianism in itself to which I object; I am simply not sure why it is such a big issue in organisations whose stated purpose is basic co-operation for the propagation of the gospel and where other matters of more historic, theological and ecclesiastical moment are routinely set aside. If you want simply to unite around the gospel, then why not simply unite around the gospel? Because as soon as you decide that issues such as baptism are not part of your centre-bounded set but complementarianism is, you will find yourself vulnerable to criticism — from both right and left — that you are allowing a little bit of the culture war or your own pet concerns and tastes to intrude into what you deem to be the most basic biblical priorities.

This seemed smart then and still seems so. My only quibble is with the word “complementarian” itself. Some say it is like the Trinity, a concept derived from Scripture but not actually used. Well, the same goes for “hierarchical” or “patriarchal.” Those are words that are much more likely to be derived from biblical teaching about society but are apparently offensive to gospel co-allies who don’t want to look odd to the watching world. The hierarchies assumed in Scripture, wives submit to husbands, slaves to masters, and believers to emperors, are hardly the social arrangements we take for granted in the United States after the democratic revolution inaugurated by Andrew Jackson. But they do resemble the ones that the Reformers, Puritans, and early Presbyterians took for granted. Just think of the language of “superiors, inferiors, and equals” from the Shorter Catechism’s discussion of the fifth commandment.

The logic of hierarchy and patriarchy is not something that I am going to defend, myself. The little missus and I have reached a level of concord that most observers would call an egalitarian arrangement. I have no stones to through from the windows of my glass house. I do have the shield of two-kingdom theology, though, which allows me to have my cake (egalitarianism of a kind at home) and eat it too (hierarchicalism and patriarchy of a kind in the church).

Still, I do think the Gospel Coalition’s rallying behind complementarianism is troubling. It resembles the version of Calvinism that traffics among the young and restless — lots of talk of divine sovereignty, not so much about limited atonement. After all, that biblical teaching and those Reformed creeds can sound reactionary to modern ears and we don’t ever want to sound extreme — as if believing in a God-man who died and rose again and will come again is moderate.

What is particularly troubling about the Complementarian w-w is what it seems to do to the church. For instance, in Mary Kassian’s “Complementarianism for Dummies,” she writes that complementarians don’t want to be traditional (which is surprisingly close to not wanting to be conservative):

In our name-the-concept meeting, someone mentioned the word “traditionalism,” since our position is what Christians have traditionally believed. But that was quickly nixed. The word “traditionalism” smacks of “tradition.” Complementarians believe that the Bible’s principles supersede tradition. They can be applied in every time and culture. June Cleaver is a traditional, American, TV stereotype. She is not the complementarian ideal. Period. (And exclamation mark!) Culture has changed. What complementarity looks like now is different than what it looked like 60 or 70 years ago. So throw out the cookie-cutter stereotype. It does not apply.

Well, if the culture has changed, shouldn’t the church? And if the culture now puts women into roles of authority, why shouldn’t the church also do so? In fact, the Gospel Coalition recently asked two women to exegete and interpret Scripture for its general (including male) audience. I am personally a great affirmer of the idea that non-ordained women can do whatever non-ordained men can do. But for an organization with ecclesial ambitions, allowing women to teach the Bible seems to put TGC on the road to women’s ordination (which is where some think their star allies are walking).

To come back to Carl’s point, if complementarianism lacks the deal breaker significance of the gospel, so too does women’s ordination. At the same time, the lesson of communions like the Christian Reformed Church is that distinguishing peripheral matters from central ones is not so easy. The ordination of women was not the line in the sand for all conservatives in the CRC. But it was indicative of a general unease in the denomination regarding teachings and practices that had been part and parcel of the church’s Reformed identity but now looked burdensome after a move out of immigrant quarters into suburbia. It is one thing to be prophetic about the environment. It’s another altogether to be so about relations between men and women.

So while complementarianism is not as big a deal as the gospel, the way you treat complementarianism may be indicative of how big the deals you are willing to make.

P.S. I wonder if Keller and Piper really do agree on complementarlianism, especially when it applies to the church and to marriage. This video has a certain poignancy to it that makes me wonder if the folks at Redeemer Church would invite Piper to lead a seminar on women’s role in the church.