In 1984 the SBC passed a resolution restricting the office of pastor to men. Al Mohler, at the time a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was “hurt, outraged and stunned.”
To put this in context- there was no Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at the time. The seminary he attended taught that women were qualified to be pastors. He was young and it can be difficult to see that all the professors you respect are not handling the Scriptures correctly on such a matter (especially when the culture affirms them). Mohler led a protest of the resolution, buying an ad in the local newspaper.
A year and a half later, Mohler would be a campus host to visiting theologian Carl Henry. Mohler had read a number of Henry’s books and admired him. While showing him the campus, they discussed theology.
“With the insouciance of youth and with the stupidity of speaking more quickly than one ought, I gave him my position,” Mohler recalled. “He looked at me with a look that surprised me, and he simply said to me, ‘One day this will be a matter of great embarrassment to you.’”
Mohler reports quickly heading to the library and reading every book he could find on the topic. In studying the Scriptures, he discovered he was wrong and Carl Henry was right.
“I had to come face to face with the fact that I had just picked this up,” he said. “I had just breathed this in, and I just capitulated it out without checking it according to the Scriptures. By the way, going to the Scriptures, it doesn’t take long. It wasn’t like I embarked on a lifelong study to discover what Scripture says on this. It didn’t take long at all.
“And I realized that Carl Henry was right, that one day I would be very embarrassed about this. When I saw him the next morning, well, I was already in a different world.”
Mohler today is a committed complementarian.
And now, the rest of the story.
It would appear that Carl Henry went in the opposite direction as Al Mohler. In 2003, Sarah Sumner released her book Men and Women in the Church. It was a book that argued for an egalitarian approach to the Scriptures and ministry. She was very critical of the work Piper and Grudem did for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The book was praised by many including Dallas Willard, Harold O.J. Brown, Jim Burns and Carl Henry.
“This book is a tribute to Sarah Sumner’s academic devotion and puts to good use her theological training. Her analysis is fresh and much on the mark. Helga and I are praying that her ministry will have a great and holy impact.”
I didn’t share his opinion of her work (I found a number of weakness in her arguments from an exegetical and logical basis), nor her conclusions.
This prompts me to wonder who will be embarrassed before the throne of Christ. I don’t mean to imply that either will be condemned on the basis of this issue. But one will be revealed to be right, and one wrong. That they apparently switched views makes this a most interesting thing. It is a story that should move us toward humility- sometimes our views will move in unexpected ways for either the better or the worse.