The 2010 Together for the Gospel conference is on right now as I write this article. The conference this year is called The Unadjusted Gospel and according to J. Ligon Duncan III’s blog post on CBMW’s blog, complementarianism is a necessary testimony of the Gospel that cannot be denied or the witness of the Gospel is damaged. While the T4G conference is affirming The Unadjusted Gospel, at the same time they are continuing in their pattern to adjust the Gospel to add in complementarianism.
Instead of seeing Christians united on the Gospel while having charity and grace on the non-essentials, the T4G conference has once again chosen to separate from other Christians over non-essentials and made complementarianism such a necessity that it is introduced as the fulfillment of Biblical teachings that make this doctrine essential as a witness to the Gospel.
My question is, how can godly pastors go along with this addition to the Gospel calling it The Unadjusted Gospel? Isn’t there any out there who have a twinge of shame at the division that is caused by such an adjusted Gospel?
J. Ligon Duncan III writes:
We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the church, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.
We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ’s kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.
Duncan gives four reasons why complementarianism is included in their doctrinal statement. His first point concerns the authority of Scripture.
One, the denial of complementarianism undermines the church’s practical embrace of the authority of Scripture (thus eventually and inevitably harming the church’s witness to the Gospel). The gymnastics required to get from “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” in the Bible, to “I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” in the actual practice of the local church, are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God.
May I suggest that Duncan’s point #1 makes the church a laughing stock to the world. While the T4G men turn a blind eye to the fact that the English term “exercise authority” is a strongly disputed meaning in the lexicons for authentein, they also fail to mention that Paul never once gives men permission to authentein anyone making a male authority in the church non-existent by this passage in 1 Timothy 2. These men also fail to explain why the complementarian adjusted doctrine allows for authority of women in government. If after all it is as claimed to be a prohibition instituted at creation, then how could God allow for any woman to have functional authority?
Many godly complementarian men supported Sarah Palin’s run for Vice President never once blinking an eye about the apparent contradiction. This has been a cause of ridicule as the world sees the gospel presented as a rule about women not having any functional authority in the church but allowed to have unlimited functional authority in the world with no explanation of what happens when the two worlds collide or why God turns a blind eye to government. What happens if a Christian woman were to become President or Vice-President? Can it be denied that she has authority, and what will happen with that authority in the church?
Does holding a non-complementarian view devalue the authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God? The Scriptures are not devalued in solid, mature egalitarian Christians. May I also suggest that the complementarian adjusted Gospel makes God to be inconsistent and part-time prejudiced. How sad that men have allowed this secondary doctrinal issue to come into the realm of the Gospel. Is this not a shame to the church and where are the men who should be speaking up about this?
Duncan also suggests that one cannot have a view of Biblical inerrancy and hold to egalitarianism as one or the other eventually wins out. This charge appears to assign a heresy label on egalitarians – hardly a loving action toward brothers and sisters in Christ. This blog (WIM) is a testimony to a strong view of inerrancy existing side by side with an egalitarian view.
Duncan continues with his second reason why complementarians must be included in a doctrinal statement and why the T4G conference sees this as an issue of the Gospel:
Two, and following on the first point, the church’s confidence in the clarity of Scripture is undermined, because if you can get egalitarianism from the Bible, you can get anything from the Bible. Paul may be excruciating to read aloud and hear read in a dominant feminist culture, but he’s not obscure in his position! In 1 Tim 2:11-12 he says, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” Elsewhere, in 1 Cor 14:34-35, we find the confirming parallel to this previous pronouncement: “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.”
In this second reason of Duncan’s, I would like to suggest that it again shows an inconsistent and embarrassing view of the Scriptures by saying that women are not allowed to speak in the church for they are to be silent, and then allowing women to sing, pray, read the Scripture and talk to one another! And the fact that these men cannot point to a single place where the Scriptures state such a Law that women are forbidden to speak in the assembly and must keep silent, has become another embarrassing failure when their own women are not silenced at the door. While holding to inerrancy, they have failed to hold to proper interpretation of the inerrant Scripture so their view is so inconsistent that complementarian churches all over the US look to a complementarian P.O.P.E. to make magisterial decisions on what women can and cannot do in the churches. CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) regularly takes the position as P.O.P.E. to give out their own wisdom regarding a revealing of the mind of God on these un-addressed Scriptural issues. So while holding to inerrancy, they actually find themselves going beyond the Scriptures which is an unfortunate fall-out of complementarianism.
J. Ligon Duncan III continues:
Cultural cooption of the church’s reading of the Bible robs the church’s ability to speak prophetically to the culture and to live distinctively in the culture, which in turns undermines the church’s Gospel witness.
I would suggest that it is the complementarian failure to properly explain all the contradictions in their position that make the Bible seem a confused creation of man rather than an infallible work of God that actually undermines the church’s Gospel witness.
Point three is raised that creates a false equating of equality of male and female with Enlightenment thought.
Three, because the very ideal of equality championed by egalitarianism (whether secular or Christian) is a permutation of a particular strand of Enlightenment thought, and because this particular ideal of equality is actually alien to the biblical anthropology and ethic, whenever and wherever it is read into the text of Scripture and its principles are worked out consistently, there is a competition with a biblical view of manhood and womanhood. For instance, try to find this view of equality in Genesis 1-it’s just not there.
Duncan’s third point is one of the most embarrassing points that defies us to find equality in Genesis 1 when there is nothing but equality there!
Genesis 1:27–28 (NASB)
27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Consequently, commitment to evangelical egalitarianism opens the door for two competing but incompatible ethical norms and ideals within the individual, family and church. If the egalitarian impulse wins out, the church is compromised precisely at the point where paganism is assaulting the church today. For, as Peter Jones has brilliantly demonstrated, paganism wants to get rid of Christian monotheism by getting rid of the Creator-creature distinction. And one way paganism likes to do that is through gender confusion-hence, the bi-sexual shaman, the sacred feminine, goddess worship, etc. Paganism understands that one of the best ways to prepare the way for pagan polytheistic monism over against the transcendent Creator God of the Bible is to undermine that God’s image in the distinctiveness of male and female, and in the picture of Christ and the church in marital role distinctions, and in the male eldership of the church. Egalitarianism is just not equipped for that fight, and in fact simply capitulates to it.
So Christian egalitarianism is like the bi-sexual shaman and pagan goddess worship? How embarrassing to complementarians to describe their brothers and sisters in Christ this way. It is a very weak point to equate physical differences in the sexes (which we agree with) with spiritual differences and then to attach it to bi-sexuality and charge egalitarians as capitulating to sexual sin! If the complementarian position was such a strong position taught by the Scriptures, our dear brothers in Christ wouldn’t need to charge their evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ with such inaccurate and slanderous accusations. How embarrassing for Duncan and T4G to take such a warped and slanderous view of brethren in Christ. This kind of argumentation does nothing to present a solid and unified Gospel to the world. Rather it presents an adjusted Gospel that is made to suit the prejudicial views of these men.
Duncan’s last point equates discipleship with gender distinctions. Apparently, there are male ways to follow Jesus and female ways to follow Jesus:
Four, when the biblical distinctions of maleness and femaleness are denied, Christian discipleship is seriously damaged because there can be no talk of cultivating distinctively masculine Christian virtue or feminine Christian virtue. Yes, there are many Christian ethical norms that are equally directed and applicable to male and female disciples, but there are also many ethical directives in the NT enjoined distinctly upon Christian men as men and Christian women as women.
Duncan speaking for T4G determines that only complementarians can produce godly Gospel discipleship:
We need masculine male Christians and feminine female Christians, and that kind of discipleship requires an understanding of and commitment to complementarianism. Hence, denial of complementarianism compromises Gospel discipleship.
How embarrassing to the complementarian movement to insinuate that one cannot be a godly Christian disciple without being a complementarian.
The ungodly attacks against brothers and sisters in Christ done through separating from us insisting that only complementarians can be faithful in believing and presenting the Gospel is an affront to God who commanded us to love one another. For complementarians to use the precious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as a way to separate from other Christians is really inexcusable.
I would like to ask my brothers and sisters in Christ to rethink this issue. Have you been guilty of damaging the witness of the Gospel by using secondary issues as if it is a primary issues of the Gospel to separate over?
WWJD? (What would Jesus do?)
J. Ligon Duncan III:
For these reasons and more, I think we were right to “deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.”
The Apostle Paul:
Ephesians 4:2 (NASB) with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
John 13:35 (NASB) “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”