Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” ― E.F. Schumacher link
This afternoon, an incredible document was released by Dustin Kensrue who has resigned from Mars Hill. I am planning on doing a post on this fascinating document on Friday. Good night! Things are declining rapidly and Mark DeMoss' PR firm appears to making some serious missteps. Could I be wrong?
In my opinion, complementarianism has an Achilles' heel. It is the same weakness that is inherent in the term "church discipline." That weakness: a lack of a standard, commonly accepted definition. As our readers know, I do not believe that church discipline should be applied until the rules of the game are spelled out a priori. In one church, discipline may be imposed only for adultery. In another, it could be applied for "sinfully craving answers" or asking uncomfortable questions about the pastor's salary.
The Complementarian Conundrum
That same problem is inherent in complementarianism. Some churches let women read the Scriptures out loud; others do not. What does it look like when a pastor claims than men should be head of the family and women helpmeets to their husband? Pastors like Owen Strachan have said that men who allow women to work are man fails while others have no problem with wives who work. Dorothy Patterson and Mary Kassian, two self proclaimed leaders of the complementarian movement, claim that women can work outside the home, have babysitters for the kids along with house cleaners and cooks and still be complementarian. I know some pastors who claim they are leaders of their family when it is evident that the wives are running the show and paying lip service to this undefinable concept.
The Wayne Grudem Fail
Therein lies the problem and, deep down inside, many theologians know it. Wayne Grudem caused a brouhaha when he attempted, and in my opinion, failed to adequately define why he thought some roles were allowed for women and why some were not. Frankly, his paradigm made absolutely no sense to me. But, perhaps that is me. We wrote about that here. Here is one excerpt.
I find these rankings unbelievably insulting to women and missionaries.
Writing a commentary on a book of the Bible for men and woman (14) is a greater responsibility than writing a study Bible for women alone (16).
Bible teaching to college students (10) ranks higher than Bible teaching to women (17)!
Working as a missionary in another culture (22) ranks far lower than teaching a home Bible study (9) or teaching a junior high school class (19). Yeah, tell that to the martyrs!
Mark Driscoll's Gender Rhetoric
Mark Driscoll has become well known for his disturbing comments addressed to men and women about their roles. We have written extensively about this. Here is one post. Driscoll, who is known for his Mickey Mouse T shirts and necklaces reminiscent of pukka shells, blames the wife for "letting herself go.
…"It is not uncommon to meet pastors' wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness," Driscoll wrote. "A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband's sin, but she may not be helping him either.’”
He also believes that God has designed "roles" for women that will save them. In that same post
“Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture.
He has also made fun of men who he deems to be effeminate, meaning they do not fit his ideal of manhood.
Serious gender disagreements are now seen within evangelicalism.
Today, the Washington Post posted an article about the growing gender battle within evangelicalism called U.S. evangelicals headed for showdown over gender roles. It makes my point.
Mark Driscoll, a Seattle mega-pastor and author known for his raw, macho take — “Sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the 40 percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks,” is among his well-known quotes — said on Aug. 24 that he would step down temporarily from his multi-state 14,000-member ministry amid charges of abusive behavior toward subordinates and inappropriate use of money, among other things. And last week,conservative Christian figure Mike Farris wrote that it is time to push back on an “un-Biblical view” of gender roles. “Subservience,” wrote the Virginia-based leader of the national home-school movement, “can never be justified by Scripture.”
Mike Farris, well known in conservative homeschool circles claims he has changed his mind about supporting patriarchy after watching the scandal develop in the ministries of Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips, both strict complementarians. Although this following statement will seem modest to most of our readers, it represents a shift in thinking by a hardcore patriarchy supporter.
In an interview Tuesday, Farris said dramatic social change has left more Americans pushing for explicit answers to the questions: How do I run my marriage? How do I raise my children so they turn out well? The more conservative part of evangelicalism has pushed to the right, he said.
“The patriarchal view has moved dramatically such that men in general should be dominant over women in general,” he said. “That’s neither Biblical nor wise. What the Bible says about gender roles is more modest.”
It would seem wise for outspoken complementarians to remember that they are following on the heels of Driscoll, Gothard, Phillips and others. They are losing in the court of evangelical opinion. This is evident in the amount of money being donated to Christians for Biblical Equality(CBE) versus The Council of Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) which we wrote about here.
Alastair Roberts and the "violent" priesthood introduces even more confusion into the matter.
Recently, Alastair Roberts wrote a eyebrow raising article on the type of men that God calls to be pastors. This garnered some controversy since he appeared to be channeling the gender controversies of Mark Driscoll. To be fair to Roberts, I am sure he did not mean to evoke this comparison. At the same time, he needs to be aware that Driscoll, for better or worse (much, much worse), has irrevocably affected the conversation. Therefore, he should not be surprised about he pushback that he received.
Here is my working assumption. Since complementarianism is as much of a human construct as any other view of gender, some of its expressions will be based in American cultural expectations as opposed to actual Biblical mandates. Just like the fatal flaws found in Grudem's 83 rules for gender roles, those flaws are seen here. The reason is clear. It is very difficult to define specific rules for gender roles. The moment we have to say "I don't know what it looks like for you but I know what it looks like for me," the battle is lost.
1. Only men can be pastors since women pastors jeopardize the faith.
I believe that support for women in priesthood is contrary to scripturally-informed reason and reflection upon reality and society, not just detached Bible verses. I believe that male dominance in power and authority in society isn’t just something biblically authorized or mandated—it isn’t just that women lack permission—but is an inescapablefact that God has established through his creation. Even when egalitarians seek to avoid it, it continues to reassert itself in their midst. I believe that the very tenor of the Christian faith is jeopardized by women priests.
2. Women should not be marginalized.
While I hold certain things in common with such as Piper and Grudem and my position is definitely complementarian in principle, I have some fairly far-reaching criticisms of complementarianism as most understand it. I believe that it unjustly marginalizes women within the life of the Church and society in many and various ways and tends to devalue them. I believe that women need to exercise far more prominent roles in the life and teaching of the Church, not just as a matter of permission, but as a matter of necessity. I disagree with the typical complementarian emphasis upon hierarchical frameworks for our understanding. I don’t share the understanding of the Trinity that often comes along with it.
3. Our culture has defined what the church perceives as "leadership."
Consequently, the skills that we look for from our ‘leaders’ are principally academic, management, and counselling skills. Of course, if this is what we are looking for, we will easily find them among women, often to a much greater degree than among men. Women can be incredibly gifted theologians, exegetes, teachers, guides, counsellors, managers, and directors. These skills are incredibly valuable in the life of the Church and should be recognized and affirmed and exercised in the life of it.
4. Leadership in the Bible has a military perspective.
Practically every one of the major figures in Scripture wielded a weapon and shed blood, or took life in other ways. While many want to argue that Jesus is some exception to this, in terms of which the whole pattern is redrawn, this is not the case. Alongside the images of Christ as the one led silent like a lamb to the slaughter, the New Testament presents us with the prominent image of conquering Lamb, who crushes his enemies.
5. The Bible is "written by warriors about warriors."
The Bible is largely written by warriors and about warriors. These were men who made life and death decisions, who knew that the pull of pity could be very dangerous.
…The shepherd who loves his sheep and tenderly carries them in his bosom must be prepared and equipped mercilessly to fight the wolves, the bandits, the thieves, the bears, and the lions. He must be prepared to lay down his life in their defence.
6. Shepherding involves violence.
In another post, Andrew Wilson focused on Roberts' thinking on this matter.
The true leader in Scripture needs to have the nerve to hurt people and is often called to do just that. Practically every biblical leader was called to take life as part of their vocation and most were marked out as men of violence when God called them. People like the Levites or Phinehas were set apart for special service precisely on account of their willingness to perform radical acts of violence in God’s service.
…The biblical shepherd is, like our conception of the shepherd, a figure who is gentle, nurturing, and protective of the flock. However, a large proportion of the biblical images of the shepherd focus upon the shepherd as a figure of conflict and violence, someone who protects the sheep by killing wolves, bears, and lions, who fights off thieves, bandits, and rival shepherds, who lays down his life for the flock.
7. However, priests are no better than others in the church.
In a strange inversion of values, some Christians seem to have the notion that being a priest somehow means that you are greater than others.
8. Men fight and women don't-generally
…men are generally more powerful, physically stronger, more combative, and that they naturally possess a greater drive and aptitude for the exercise of dominance and mastery
…Although women can and have fought and killed in exceptional, extreme, or fortuitous circumstances—a few such incidents are recorded in the Old Testament (e.g. Judges 4:21; 9:53)—the normalization of women fighting and killing is quite contrary to biblical and Christian values.
9. God has been reduced to a maternal figure.
We have reduced God, displacing images of God as Judge, Sovereign, Ruler, King, Avenger, Father, and Lord. Instead of a fatherly authority that stands more over against us, we want a more cosy, maternal figure, still ‘authoritative’, but in a considerably weakened sense.
10. Maternal identity means that all women must be protected…by men.
Women are associated with the most intimate bonds and communion of society. Every woman, by virtue of her sex—irrespective of whether she is married or has children—is the bearer of a maternal form of identity.
11. Discipleship must be viewed from a soldier's perspective.
We have reduced discipleship from the uncompromising and costly loyalty expected of the soldier to a looser appreciation of Jesus as a moral guide.
12. Guardian men empower women
The empowerment and valuing of women—an imperative for any Christian church—will best be served, not by putting women in the office of guardians of the Church, but when we appoint strong guardians for the Church who are committed to empower and value women, to hear their voices and to recognize their gifts.
13. The Christian message is attenuated without a male priesthood.
With the loss of a male priesthood—or, more particularly, with the loss of a masculine priesthood—we have attenuated the reality of the Christian message. We have no effective symbolization of the authority of God within our churches. When that goes, all else is enervated.
14. If CS Lewis said it, it must be right, right?
I doubt there is a bigger CS Lewis fan than me. On our @bidgod Twitter account, I send out either Bible verses and CS Lewis quotes. I have read most of his works and reread a number of his books on a regular basis.
However, we must remember that Lewis was not only a Christian but he was a man of his time and culture. Women wearing shorts, women running corporations and women fighting in the military would have been shocking in the early 1900s. During Lewis' time, biracial marriages would have been taboo. Segregation was acceptable, not only between races but between social classes. Just a century before, slavery was acceptable, even amongst Christians. In spite of my admiration of Lewis, I'm afraid that the Bible does not back up the following quote. Battles are ugly because humans are killing one another, regardless of gender.
as C.S. Lewis once sagely observed, battles are ugly when women are involved—suddenly, everything becomes much more personal, because men hate seeing women hurt)
Complementariansim is ill defined and this leaves a vacuum that will be filled by theologians and pundits trying to come up with reasons that men must be in charge. This can lead to Biblical interpretation by desperation.
Take the violence argument proposed by Roberts. Violence was a part of a culture in which people lived and died by the sword. Could it be that God called men out of violence to show them a new way? Remember, Jesus told Peter to put away the sword when he was on his way to the Cross.
Instead, Roberts comes out sounding like an echo of Driscoll who once said
“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” –
The reason complementariansim doesn't sell (besides its cumbersome name which most people misspell) is because it doesn't make much sense to the evangelical culture at large. In other words, anyone can do it anyway they darn well please and then claim they are being complementarian.
In the coming year, we will continue to look at the flaws in complementarian theology. The fatal flaw, stated once again, is this.
Except for limiting the role of pastor to men, complentarianism is not definable in any practical sense.
To say "What it looks like for you might not be what it looks like for me" is a cop out. Complementarianism is a role without an understandable job description.
Lydia's Corner: Zechariah 4:1-5:11 Revelation 14:1-20 Psalm 142:1-7 Proverbs 30:21-23