I have to say this at the very beginning of a post like this. I am an inerrantist and about as conservative as a person can be. In my church, the primary offices are reserved for men. I am not sure of the terminology but I believe the Bible teaches a complementarian relationship between men and women. Equal at the cross and in value to God, we have different roles and responsibilities at home. I am comfortable with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 statement on the doctrine.
I am sick and tired of complementarianism, paternalism, egalitarianism, and such matters dominating the discussion of the SBC. It is, I believe, a fruit of the accusations of liberalism being made by certain groups who falsely state that the SBC is being taken over by the left. To bolster those views, they have to find a bogeyman, and “women preachers” is one of the best. Anyone who does not share their interpretation of complementarianism is outed as liberal, egalitarian, a supporter of women preachers, and the witch hunt continues.
I believe that the SBC’s online discussion of this topic is driven by hysteria, false accusations, and a desire to arouse anger and gain political power. While we have varying complementarian positions among us, and there are a few who do not ascribe to the BF&M, the “Women in Ministry” position is not the problem it is made out to be. This is a false controversy stirred up for political reasons and I am tired of it.
There are a half-dozen or so passages in the NT about the roles of men and women. They matter. There are about 250 (a preacherly estimate) passages on love, unity, gentleness, kindness, and such things.
There are more passages warning pastors/elders/leaders about being quarrelsome, argumentative, and divisive than there are about women preachers. Yet we make the issue of women preachers a fundamental of the faith while we look the other way as false accusations are leveled, as women in the SBC are verbally assaulted and savaged, and as the Body of Christ is divided. How can we not conclude that the motivation for this is NOT doctrinal or theological, but evidence of ungodly attitudes toward women? To be clear, I believe complementarianism is biblical, but the aggressive inquisition cannot be motivated strictly by biblical concerns when so much Scripture is being ignored in its pursuit.
When we focus so much more passion on enforcing wifely submission than husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, what does that say? When many of our leaders, for decades, have actively sought to hide and cover over pastors ABUSING the sheep while also publicly and aggressively enforcing the submission and silence of women, what does that say?
How can that be theologically motivated? How can that be godly?
Brick Walls and Picket Fences
I wrote a book that is about to be released in an updated version called “Brick Walls and Picket Fences.” It is one version of what is called doctrinal triage. Some resist the notion, but we all practice it. It is helpful here.
Brick Wall doctrine (sometimes called first-order truth) is that which is necessary to the faith. The response here is to build a brick wall of separation between those who hold the doctrine and those who do not. If someone denies the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the blood atonement, and several other key doctrines, they put themselves outside the community of faith.
Picket Fence doctrine (secondary or second-order truth) is that which defines a particular community within the community of faith. We are Baptists and we hold to certain distinctive beliefs that we consider biblical but also recognize are not necessary to salvation. Can someone be saved without being baptized by immersion? We are free, as Southern Baptists, to define our community but not to define the faith of Jesus Christ.
There are other levels of doctrine that do not come into play here. Some doctrine (for instance eschatology) should neither define the faith nor the denomination. There are other things, which Paul called “disputable matters” – issues of food and drink that were matters of conscience. Our concern here is for the first two levels.
- If we do not stand strong and united on the matters of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3) then we compromise the faith.
- If we seek to enforce denomination distinctives as essentials of the faith, we divide the Body of Christ.
I believe that the Bible teaches that God created us male and female (and wasn’t confused about it.) I believe that we were created physically complementary, spiritually complementary, and socially complementary. In divinely ordained institutions (home and church), there is absolute equality before Christ and the cross but differentiation of roles.
I do not believe that this doctrine is a “Brick Wall.”
There are a lot of people who love Jesus and do not agree with what I believe. I think they are wrong and should reexamine Scripture. Often, I think they are reacting to hypocrisy they have seen in the church (it is so prevalent) or abuse they have been subjected to (also prevalent). I do not see how you can read the half-dozen passages that deal with this topic and come to an egalitarian view.
However, I know that some do. We are all in different places in our walk, in our study of the Bible, and in our spiritual growth. No one should have their fidelity to Christ questioned because they do not agree with my view (or yours) on these texts.
I believe THESE things.
1. There is a complementarian continuum and dogmatism is arrogant.
I was once pretty adept at Greek and Hebrew, though no one ever swooned at my scholarship. I have studied each of the half-dozen passages in some depth and come to a view I believe is faithful to Scripture. I also know this – these passages have some questions to them. Anyone who says they have these passages figured out 100% is arrogant.
- The head-covering thing in 1 Corinthians 11 – you can study that until you lose ALL your hair.
- “Women will be saved through childbearing.” I have an idea about that, but c’mon man. 100% sure?
- Let the women keep silent in the church. Again, I have a theory that makes sense to me, based on context, but 1 Corinthians 12-14 is a hermeneutical minefield.
There was an arrogant and angry commenter on here during the last discussion saying, “These truths are clear and evident.” Really? Conservative scholarship for 2000 years begs to differ. There are many questions left to interpretation.
2. We are a confessional convention of churches.
The framers of the BF&M 2000 were not theological imbeciles. They left wiggle room because they wanted Baptists to have theological wiggle room on some issues (not for dancing, just for disagreement and discussion). They wanted the BF&M to allow Calvinists and non-Calvinists to partner for missions. They wanted people of all eschatological stripes to cooperate in obedience to the Great Commission.
If they’d wanted to define the complementarian debate to satisfy one interpretation, they could have. They did not. CBMW has every right to seek to establish its view of complementarianism, but it is not the official view of the SBC.
The complicating issue here is that the BF&M (and other confessions) are not imposed on autonomous churches, just our entities. A church can cooperate with the SBC while not fully complying with the BF&M on certain issues. Generally, if a church has a female senior pastor, it will be disfellowshipped, but historically, having staff pastors who are women or female deacons has not crossed that line.
We are a complementarian convention. Those who reject complementarianism completely should probably realize they are no longer part of us. We should realize that there is a ranger of views that are still complementarian.
3. Local church autonomy is a Baptist value.
We are a convention of local churches, not a hierarchy run by the Executive Committee. My church can interpret the Bible and the BF&M one way, while Dwight McKissic’s church can go another. Technically, any church not in compliance with the BF&M could be “disfellowshipped” – a motion not to seat their messengers or a referral to Credentials. We’ve defined three special categories of violation, though prosecution has been spotty on these.
- Approval of homosexuality (ordaining homosexuals or allowing active, unrepentant homosexuals into membership) – this has been enforced.
- Racism – spotty enforcement
- Abuse of women or children – enforcement by Credentials has not been consistent or exemplary.
- A woman as senior pastor – enforcement by associations has been fairly consistent.
- To this point, we have not disfellowshipped churches for having females associates, female deacons, or allowing a woman to fill the pulpit from time to time (an uncommon, but long-standing Mother’s Day practice).
The local church has the right to decide how it will practice complementarian doctrine within the boundaries of our shared confession.
Conclusion: We are not fighting over complementarianism but over control. Certain groups want to enflame us with the notion that liberalism abounds and that we are “moving left.” I am not moving left, but I am seeking to conform to Christ and his word. That says a LOT more about my heart and my reactions than it does about “Christic manhood.”
- As long as it is open season on women who do not toe the line with our views, we have a problem.
- As long as we trumpet ONE half of complementarity (what women should do) and ignore the other half (loving men, serving women as Christ did the church), the motives of complementarianism brouhaha are suspect.
Doctrinal purity is a good thing. But when we emphasize a part of Scripture as if it is ALL of Scripture, we err.
Our discussion will NOT be another rehashing of complementarianism. All such comments will be drawn, quartered, shot, and sent to the Russian front. If you want to comment, read the post and respond to what I wrote.