I have spent a lot of time and energy on this in recent weeks. I thought I would state a few things I think and believe, and then it is my intent to move on. These are random thoughts.
1. Gender issues will be key in the future of the SBC, but likely won’t be a huge issue in Birmingham.
If the Mother’s Day Homilicaust had kicked off earlier, we might have gotten a spate of resolutions, but I doubt this will dominate the meeting. Abuse will be the issue this year, not gender issues.
2. Complementarianism is becoming a meaningless term.
It is actually a noble word – men and women were designed by God with different roles that fit together in such a way as to complement (make each other better) one another. But it is being rendered meaningless by multiple definitions.
- It covers such widely divergent views. People who are essentially patriarchal and those barely a hair’s breadth from egalitarianism label themselves as complementarians.
- There is no standard definition. Inerrancy has the Chicago statement. But complementarianism tends to be in the eye of the beholder. Most people define complementarianism as “What I believe about men and women” – there is a tendency toward subjectivism.
3. This debate has been carried out mostly on Twitter, a poor place for substantive discussion.
Sorry, son. (My eldest is an R&D guru at Twitter.)
Twitter lends itself to hot takes, mob mentality, epithets, grandstanding, and overreaction far more than it does to reasoned biblical discussions.
4. There has been far too much labeling and name-calling and far too little exegesis and exposition.
“We need to have this discussion.” I’ve heard that often and I agree. But we need to have serious, biblical discussions and not the discussions we are having.
I have had people from both sides of this debate trying to convince me that “they started it” and that the greater offense was on the other side. Honestly, is that how Christian debate is carried out? Does that sound like mature Christian communication?
5. One side in the debate has been all too quick to throw out the term egalitarian and the other side has been equally quick to use the term misogynist.
If you call a person who believes that only men can be pastors an egalitarian, you are being inaccurate, perhaps dishonest. A misogynist is one who abuses or oppresses women, not one who disagrees with your interpretation of difficult passages on gender. It is poor form to abuse the term that way.
Our rush to label the other side in this debate has not been a high and holy moment.
6. Gender issues are a mirror, revealing our character and commitment.
The world is moving in a direction that runs counter to everything the Bible teaches about gender, marriage, and sexuality. This will be a huge test for the church. We cannot both remain faithful to God’s word and popular in this world. We will have to choose to please our Lord or our culture.
7. The temptation to mold to culture is not new.
When our culture was patriarchal, when it valued men as superior and treated women as property, when the mistreatment of women was justified and covered-up, we justified that culture from Scripture. The church has always tended to mold itself to the sinful culture and deceive itself that it was being biblical. We are now compromising in a different direction, perhaps, but the compromise is not a new thing.
8. Key passages in the Bible about gender issues are consistently rooted in God’s creative acts and in that which is eternal, not culture.
It would be nice if we could simply say, “That was then but this is now.” Sound exegesis doesn’t allow for that.
9. There are still huge cultural issues in the gender passages, especially as it relates to the church.
The structure, worship patterns, habits, and yes, culture of the church are so different now, so foreign from the first-century church that there are going to be issues as we try to translate what the Scriptures say to what we do.
If I asked Paul, “Should a woman stand behind the pulpit?” he would ask, “What is a pulpit?”
All I am saying here is that the cultural cannot be completely dismissed.
10. Doctrinal humility and theological precision are not inimical.
I have spent many hours studying the Bible to formulate my eschatology and hold a position that many of you ridicule. I believe it is the position that best matches the biblical evidence, but I think anyone who says that they are absolutely certain beyond any doubt that their position is the only correct one is probably more dogmatic than the Bible warrants.
I have spent a lot of time studying the passages on gender in the Bible and formed a position I am comfortable believing and preaching; one my church practices. It is within the parameters of the BF&M 2000. However, I am not convinced by anyone who pontificates that their view on some of these passages is the only possible interpretation. The fact is that some of these passages have some issues are not easily resolved.
Study hard and form a position, but accept the fact that someone who loves Jesus and the word may come to a slightly different position than yours.
Humility is not weakness.
NOTE: This does not apply to the fundamental doctrines. On those, we are settled and do not compromise. Inerrancy The sovereignty and Triune nature of God. Jesus as the God-man. His penal substitutionary atonement. Here we stand. And as Baptists, we stand on our denominational distinctives.
But we also admit that we are still on a journey to all truth and haven’t achieved it yet.
11. The Boy Who Cried Wolf was Baptist
- “That is what moderates believe.”
- “You are reversing the CR.”
Warnings like this have been circulated as long as I’ve been a part of blogging. I remember one angry blogger who tended to call anyone who disagreed with him on anything a moderate. These accusations have been, in my humble but correct opinion, consistently false.
Both Beth Moore and Owen Strahan stand within the boundaries of the BF&M 2000. Their views diverge but neither one crosses our confessional boundary, from what I can tell.
If we keep crying wolf on every issue we will lose credibility when real issues come along – and they will. Liberalism has not gone away and it has not given up. Satan has been sowing disrespect for the word of God since the Garden of Eden. There are going to be actual times when the authority and sufficiency of God’s word are at risk.
If we keep claiming that the authority and sufficiency of God’s word are threatened every time someone disagrees with our doctrinal system, we are crying wolf and we all know how that story ends.
12. A healthy Baptist polity, valuing local church autonomy, solves many of our problems.
I was annoyed during the abuse discussions when people spoke of local church autonomy as if it were our enemy. It is a cherished Baptist conviction and while it does complicate some things, it solves many others.
I have close friends who disagree with me on key issues. So, I follow my convictions at my church and they follow theirs at their churches. We can cooperate under the banner of the BF&M 2000 to accomplish greater work in North America and around the world. If a church strays too far from our common core convictions, we can decide to withhold or withdraw fellowship from that church.
I am allowed to seek to influence the convention and other churches that my convictions are correct, that following my idea would be helpful. You can do the same. But the obsessive desire for control that some demonstrate is not necessary is we have a healthy sense of local church autonomy.
I can influence you but have no need to control you. I can cooperate with people even if I do not agree with them on all things.
13. We REALLY need to read our Bibles.
It is odd how intense we can get about passages in the Bible on gender roles, on soteriology, on other issues, but when someone raises passages such as 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4, and other passages about unity, forgiveness, grace, and such things, we simply ignore them.
Honestly, if we simply operated in the grace of Jesus Christ, walked in love, believed the best about one another, refused to call names – all those silly, squishy things – heaven would rejoice.
When you see how we treat one another on social media the mystery of our dwindling numbers is less of an enigma. The lack of the fruit of the Spirit and the evidence of the works of the flesh is telling. I do not say this as a judgment on others – I struggle with this as well.
But let’s not bother to call out for God’s blessing and revival if we refuse to conform to Christ. We cannot walk in willful sin, curse one another on Twitter (yeah, I know, they started it) and then expect the blessing of God.
So, that’s my random thinking. You can have at it. I am getting ready today to leave for Birmingham and won’t be around much to engage comments.
Have at it.