Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘complementarian’


While I was in a Presbytery meeting our denomination “dropped” the study report on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church that is going to be presented at General Assembly this June. I’ve seen some very critical statements about this report. I wonder if we are reading the same report. I am not done reading it, but so far I’ve found it to be edifying. In light of that, let’s look at the first chapter which serves as an introduction.

The report begins by laying out their commitments and affirmations that form the presuppositions of our denomination and this study report.  This includes:

  • Confessional commitment to the complementarity of men and women.
  • The full dignity of men AND women as created in God’s image.
  • The Scriptures teach that eldership is comprised of qualified men (they embrace this “humbly and happily”).
  • Marriage should display mutually-edifying complementarity.
  • Male headship is to be expressed in sacrificial love to his wife.
  • It is expressed when a wife “welcomes her husband’s headship with respect”.

This means they are laying out the boundaries, biblical and confessional, that exist for our denomination and this study. The purpose is not to examine things outside of the boundary markers, or to change the boundary markers. The purpose is to examine questions that lie within these boundaries. Within these boundaries there are some differences of opinions. Another way of saying this (as I’ve said before) is that complementarianism is not a monolithic movement. There are a continuum of views that exist within the bounds of biblical and confessional complementarianism. These are the differences in view. The goal was not to ordain women elders as some have asserted (and have intentionally or unintentionally stirred up fear).

At least half of the adult membership of the church are women. How they can serve, and how we can empower them, are important questions to ask if we actually want to see them serve God to the fullest as God permits.

They note that in BCO 9-7, both men and women may be appointed by the Session to assist the diaconate in their work. There are elders in the PCA who think that the PCA should permit women to be deacons. Some others favor an office of deaconness which supports the diaconate particularly in its ministry to women. Some see this as a position, not a church office. Others have an unordained diaconate so women may be deacons. So, recognizing these big differences in opinion we ought to consider the question more carefully.

“The committee is not recommending any Book of Church Order changes.” page 2, line 44

Historically they note that the PCA was formed during a time in which the women’s rights movement was popular, and many denominations, including the PC (US), were beginning to ordain women to the office of elder (including teaching elders). The PCA affirmed complementarianism then and still does now. However, “members and ministers are asking how to equip, encourage, and utilize women in the church’s ministry in ways that are consistent with our confessional and theological commitments to complementarianism.” This, I think, is a worthwhile project.

I recently saw some of the Overtures that have been made to the upcoming General Assembly. One is Overture 3 from Westminster Presbytery which calls for the dismissal of the study committee. The report responds to this overture recommending that GA answer it in the negative. It deals point by point with the objections (except that it has reported disturbed the peace in Westminster Presbytery which was vague- are they fighting among themselves or just in existential agony because we’re considering how women may serve within the boundaries of our biblical and confessional commitments?).

One idea put forth by the Overture is that it is improper for women to serve on voting committees since this might involve “having authority over men.” I’m confused. Don’t women vote in congregational meetings? While we don’t recognize it as a court, congregational meetings function like a court and decisions are made by vote, like whether or not to call a particular man as teaching elder. Additionally, as the Study Report notes, committees made recommendations that must be voted on by the Assembly. It has no authority, the authority lies with the Assembly to approve or deny the report  and its recommendations.

To summarize: this report is addressing questions within our denominational boundaries, and not trying to make us PC(USA)-lite. This study committee was properly called, and women may serve on such a committee.

May God use this process to further the purity, peace and prosperity of the Church (and churches) through this process.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »


I’ve been a bit busy with a number of things. Time to resume my brief interaction with Women in the Church (2nd edition). It is a compilation of essays on 1 Timothy 2:9-15 edited by Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner.

We pick up with chapter 3, which is A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12 by Kostenberger. In some ways this is an admission that the passage is not easy to understand, at least not as easy as some people pretend. Grammar and syntax don’t make for exciting reading, but without them were are awash in a sea of subjectivism. Even with them, things are not as clear cut as we’d like (enjoy the mess of sola scriptura, which is another post I’m thinking through).

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man;1 Timothy 2

He summarizes the syntax as:

(1) a negated finite verb + (2) infinitive + (3) oude + infinitive + (4) alla + infinitive

That settles it, right?

The syntactical battle is about whether “teach and exercise authority” are talking two separate activities, both of which are prohibited, or if they refer essentially to an office which encompasses teaching & authority: being an elder?

He notes that Payne argues that the oude “connects the two infinities” teach and exercise authority “in order to convey a single coherent idea” or a hendiadys. Payne seems to take this as “I do not permit a woman to teach in a domineering manner.” But he’s not the only one who believes it is a hendiadys, and others take it in a manner focused on the teaching office (like Kathy Keller). You can hold to Payne’s grammar but still hold to a strongly complementarian view instead of relativizing it away as culture or addressing a problem particular to Ephesus.

Moo argued against Payne’s view, concluding that while closely related, the teaching and authority are distinct. Much of the “blood” spilled in complementarian circles is over this difference. The grammar is not as clear as we would like, perhaps.

Kostenberger does mention some weaknesses in Payne’s argument. For instance, “Payne only studies Paul” and a more comprehensive study of NT authors would have been helpful. Kostenberger mentions this, in part, because the authorship of 1 Timothy is in dispute (by some). I don’t think this is a good reason, and gives some ground to liberal views of authorship. Payne also studies its use even when joining nouns, not just verbs. Here he wants Payne to narrow his focus, where before he wanted him to broaden it. So, more biblical authors but only when joining verbs. 3rd, Payne didn’t study uses of the negative, just the positive. More importantly, as noted above, he assumes that the 2nd infinitive means “to domineer” rather than to exercise authority. As a result of this assumption, he thinks they are too far apart in meaning to be used in a coordinating manner. So, one is subordinate to the other. Teaching becomes subordinate to authority. (I suspect it is, but not with the meaning of domineering- consider the women in 1 Cor. 11 who prophesied in public worship which Kostenberger doesn’t seem to bring into the discussion). It is important to note that none of the common translations use domineer, but rather to exercise authority or have authority.

21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” Acts 16

The closest parallel to the syntax is Acts 16:21 which uses the same construction. He notes 2 patterns: either both activities or concepts are viewed positively, or they are viewed negatively. They are not mixed: one positive and the other negative.

“‘Accepting’ and ‘practicing’ do not carry negative connotations in and of themselves. However, due to circumstances indicated in the context, ‘being Romans,’ the exercise of these otherwise legitimate activities is considered ‘not lawful’.”

Similarly, to teach is considered positive generally. There is nothing in the context to indicate it should be negative. Therefore, to have/exercise authority is also positive. Payne’s argument for “domineer” has some serious problems.

“Framed by the inclusio … at the beginning of verse 11 and at the end of verse 12, there are two corresponding pairs of terms: “learning” in verse 11 corresponds to “teaching” in verse 12, and “full submission” in verse 11 relates to “having authority” in verse 12. The writer first expresses his desire for a woman to learn in full submission. Conversely, he then registers his prohibition of the opposite, a woman’s teaching or being in authority over a man.”

Kostenberger then pummels us with a series of extrabiblical examples. It got wearisome here. In his summary he notes how other scholars have interacted with the syntax. His bottom line is that these 2 infinitives are to be taking positively and as separate ideas.

The 4th chapter is by the other editor, Schreiner, entitled An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15: A Dialogue with Scholarship.

It should be appreciated that Schreiner (who advocates for women deacons in another setting) admits how emotionally charged this issue can be. “Those of us who support the complementarian view on this question must bend over backward to love those with whom we disagree, and to assure them that we still hope and pray that God will bless their ministries…” We should not, however, “leap over the evidence of the text” to justify any practice.

He notes that 1 Timothy is not intended to be a doctrinal treatises but is correcting abuses introduced by false teachers in Ephesus. Egalitarians take this to mean there is nothing normative here. As Schreiner notes, “If we were to claim that documents written to specific situations are not applicable to the church today, then much of the New Testament would not be applicable to us either…”.

He interacts with the Kroegers and Sharon Gritz who think the instruction in view is limited to an influx of women who were influenced by the cult of Artemis and exalted Eve. Their views seem to require a large amount of reading into the text. Philip Towner proposed a type of over-realized eschatology similar to that in Corinth. This would mean women are completely emancipated from men, not only in terms of the curse but also in terms of creation. These women were influenced by various heresies.

“They may have believe that the resurrection had already occurred, and thus the distinctions between men and woman were erased since the new age has dawned.”

But we recognize that the false teachers in Ephesus were at least partially men, this theory begins to crumble. Paul would just be addressing them with the other false teachers he tells Timothy to silence and warn. Something more is going on here.

He then addresses their adornment in verses 9-10. Men and women are different, and different issues appear when they gather. The men are apparently prone to anger and arguing in prayer. The women were apparently prone to adorn themselves in an inappropriate way and try to teach the men. He recognizes, unlike Kostenberger, the role of women in 1 Corinthians 11 during public worship services. They were able to pray out loud (and not simply reciting prayers with everyone), though he doesn’t mention prophesying. This leads him to wonder if this refers to women in general or wives in particular. Gordon Hugenberger argues that it refers to wives. Schreiner notes the use of these terms for husbands and wives in Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Peter. He forgets that they are also used at least some of the time in  1 Timothy 3.  I do agree with Schreiner that while possible, their use for husbands and wives here in 1 Timothy 2 is unlikely.

He notes that some egalitarians like Alvera Mickelson tie the clothing with the teaching. In 1 Cor. 11, we see that women are to pray or prophesy with their heads covered. They seem to argue that here in 1 Timothy 2 the problem was that women were teaching men without the proper clothing that was linked to submission to their husbands. This doesn’t seem to fit the instructions about either the clothing (avoiding extravagance) or teaching/authority. The issue there is not revealing clothing, but clothing and hair that displayed their wealth and created boundaries between economic classes which should see themselves as one in Christ (see James 2). This was actually a common issue addressed in the Greco-Roman world. In light of other admonitions against sexual immorality, women (and men) should not dress in ways meant to stir up lust in others (and express their own lust). This doesn’t mean we have to have rules about hem length and all that jazz.

“Virtually every word in verses 11-12 is disputed.”

We should affirm that women are to learn. Women should not be indifferent to theology or discouraged from its study. They will also teach in a variety of contexts. The controversy is about which ones they cannot. Paul addresses the manner in which they learn “quietly and with all submission” rather than stirring up a ruckus. “We should not separate submission to what is taught from submission to those who taught it.” He thinks 11 and 12 are chiastic in structure as did Kostenbeger.

A Learn

B Quietly and in submission

A’ Not teach

B’ Nor exercise authority

“It is clear from the rest of the Pastoral Epistles that the teaching in view is the public transmission of authoritative material.”

He thinks the prohibition is not absolute, but was probably given because some women were teaching both men and women when the church assembled. Timothy being taught by his mother and grandmother doesn’t violate this, nor did Priscilla teaching Apollo along with Aquila. Mutual instruction is not excluded. What is prohibited is “the authoritative transmission of tradition … such authoritative teaching is usually the function of the elders/overseers, and it is likely that Paul is thinking of them here.”

Paul’s rationale is not the fall, but creation. It is not an aspect of the curse which is reversed in Christ’s redemption. Unfortunately, on page 106, there are some statements that need to be clarified regarding the Son’s submission. It is unclear if he is advocating the Eternal Submission of the Son or recognizing Christ’s submission as Mediator. Those are very different.

Schreiner then delves into the “saved by childbearing” passage. He notes that child bearing is transcultural as well, and rooted in creation. It is a permanent difference between men and women. Redemption affirms rather than denies or throws off ordained roles. It doesn’t mean that women must be married to be saved. Or that they must bear children. It would mean that they not reject these roles unnecessary (rather than by providence). So he offers a slightly different understanding of this passage then I am used to.

He concludes with some caveats, While he stands by his interpretation he recognizes it is not the “definitive and final interpretation of the passage.”  He summarizes it this way:

  • Women should adorn themselves with good works, not ostentatious or seductive clothing.
  • Women shouldn’t take a teaching role to themselves when men and women are gathered at corporate church gatherings.
  • Women should learn quietly and submissively.
  • Women are prohibited from teaching with authority because of the created order.
  • The events of Genesis 3 confirm the necessity of male leadership.

“Our problem with the text is in the main not exegetical but practical. What Paul says here is contrary to the thinking of the modern world.”

 

Read Full Post »


With the upcoming release of a updated NIV (already available online), the whole gender-inclusive language issue rears its ugly head again.  This morning I was reading my NLT and was curious about their inconsistent use of Messiah in the New Testament, so I looked up their principles of translation in the Introduction.

In the New Testament, the Greek Work Christos has been translated as “Messiah” when the context assumes a Jewish audience.  When a Gentile audience can be assumed, Christos has been translated as “Christ.”

Yet, in James 1 which is written to Jewish Christians, they used Christ.  Hmmm.  Why do translations inconsistently transliterate rather than translate names & titles?  Aside from that interesting bit of curiosity, I spotted the section on Gender-Inclusive Language.  Here’s some of what they say:

“The English language changes constantly.  An obvious recent change is in the area of gender-inclusive language.  This creates problems for modern translations of the ancient biblical text, which was originally written in a male-oriented culture.  The translator must respect the nature of the ancient context while also accounting for the concerns of the modern audience.  Often the original language itself allows a rendering that is gender inclusive.  For example, the Greek word anthropos, traditionally rendered “man,” really means “human being” or “person.”   A different Greek word, aner, specifically means a male.

I guess the question is “to what degree is the Scripture reflecting culture and to what degree is culture a reflection of creation principles?”  Their example is a good one.  The language has the capability to be clear, and we must honor that.  We must also remember when women are included/assumed in a general statement like “brothers.”  Most people have no problem with recognizing that and saying “brothers & sisters”, though their use of “Christian friends” is problematic.  It takes the text out of the context of the Church as God’s household and it’s members as adopted sons (and therefore heirs).  This is an example of the danger that happens with some attempts of gender-inclusive language.  It can strip the text of its context and lose meaning (as well as impart unintended meaning).

Overall, I think the NLT does a good job.  There are places a wince a tad.  But the translation is very readable (which I really can’t say for the ESV though I am using it more often these days).  I like it for a devotional Bible, but I’m not comfortable using it to teach or preach.  Yes- there is a significant difference in my mind.

Last week I began to read The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.  In his preface, John Frame acknowledges that some women (and men) may be unhappy with his book and why he did not use gender-inclusive language (in the mid-80’s).  I find some of his arguments important for today with a much more important text- the Scriptures.

He starts with a caveat of sorts:

My practice does not reflect a belief that women cannot be theologians.  Quite the contrary.  For according to this book, everyone is a theologian!  I do believe that only men are called to the teaching eldership of the church, but the interest of this book is wider than that.

This distinction is important, and often lost on the “all or nothing” egalitarian crowd.  Women are also theologians.  All Christians are theologians (the question is whether they are good or bad theologians).  Theological study is not beyond the capacities of women.  They are fully capable of learning theology.  In 1 Timothy 2, where Paul famously forbids women to teach or have authority over a man he also says they should learn!  Learning, and teaching others (aside from men) is both encouraged and necessary.  Complementarians are often falsely accused of thinking that women are dense or incapable of ‘doing theology’.  Patently untrue.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


I finally put my thoughts and impressions of the PCA General Assembly, comparing it with the ARP Synods I have attended.  I’ve been scanning reports from other denominational meetings.  While I may not be thoroughly pleased with the denominations I’ve worked with (why should I?) there are some that I would have a most difficult time.

The PC (USA) General Assembly has just gotten started.  And it was an interesting beginning to say the least.

The sermon and infant baptism focused on the future of the denomination – but not before the assemblage faced east, west, north and south while praying for the Holy Spirit to come and watching people in animal costumes march up the aisles and wander through the worship space.

Elder Fern Cloud of Dakota Presbytery led the call to worship at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly’s opening worship ceremony Sunday morning, which included interpretative dancing and four processions of flowing banners led by animals such as buffalo and eagle.

Reminiscent of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, people dressed as skunks, rabbits and wolves paid homage to the area’s Native American heritage to the sound of a rhythmic drum beat and flute.

One hot issue for them (yet again) is the G.6, or The Fidelity and Chastity Standard for elected office in the denomination.  The female ruling elder who was elected moderator had this to say about the rule that required officers to either be faithfully married (heterosexual) or celibate if single:

“I have been a strong advocate of removing G-6.01016b (the fidelity and chastity standard for elected officers) from the Book of Order. I think it is a stain on the Gospel. I think it does not carry out the inclusivity that we need. And as a lawyer I think it’s pragmatically stupid because it means that we lose many faithful and committed people just because of their sexual orientation.”

A stain on the gospel?  Didn’t Jesus have something to say about adultery and porneia?  They stain the gospel, not fidelity and chastity.  This may finally be the year that the PC (USA), which has half the members it did when I was born, goes down the same road that the Episcopal Church (US) did.  They’ve been trying for years- it is important to be cutting edge you know.  With the floodgates open, the moral conservatives have largely departed.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


Women’s Ministry in the Local Church has been in the chute for awhile.  I’ve been reading it here and there.  Part of what that says to me is that the book did not captivate me.  It was solid, but not spectacular.  With so few resources on women’s ministry from a complementarian view, this is an important and helpful book to read.  It is helpful for pastors to know what they should be envisioning for the women’s ministry in the local church.  It is important for women’s ministry leaders becasue it is so easy to get off course, or buy into the tenets of feminism that have captivated our surrounding culture and infiltrate the church in many ways.

“Women discipling women is not just a program- it is the covenant lifestyle of redeemed women.”  I could not agree more whole-heartedly.

This book covers the big picture items with chapters on The Need, The Motive and Foundations.  It moves into the elements of women’s ministry: Submission, Compassion, Community, Discipleship and Scripture.  As a result, it is helpful in training women’s ministry leaders.  And we need more leaders discipling women in solid biblical ministry.

Read Full Post »


A review of this book by Sarah Sumner is long overdue.  I have hesitated in doing this even now.  But with all the talk of the complementarian-egalitarian conflict resulting from the Together For the Gospel conference and statement, this seems like a good time.

At first glace one might think “This must be a well-written and well-argued position”.  Afterall, it has a forward by Phillip Johnson, and blurbs by Dallas Willard, Harold O.J. Brown and such an evangelical legend as Carl Henry for Pete’s sake. 

I was given my copy by a person who wanted to justify her theological shift and practice.  I guess sometimes we see what we want to see, because I don’t think this book delivered the goods.  My copy has tons of red ink.  I am tempted to say that she benefitted from evangelical affirmative action because the scholarship found in this book is questionable to say the least.  I could not disagree more with the blurbs on the back or the content within the binding.

What’s wrong?  It is not (just) that I disagree with her.  Her exegetical work is weak.  Very weak.  She seems ignorant of basic things: using the historical-grammatical method to develop the original meaning to the original audience and then make the adjustments for changes in time, circumstance and audience.  She blanketly applies instructions to a young pastor to all Christians.  She is focused more on the ‘meaning of a word’ than the grammer and how it is used in the context.  For instance, “head’ is used earlier in Ephesians in the context of authority, not source.  She must provide a solid reason for the meaning to change in a similar context (since submission is a matter of authority, not source).  She does not offer a compelling rationale.

She also seems ignorant of the basic Reformational principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, using the clear texts to interpret the unclear texts.  And just as frustrating is her refusal to apply “good and necessary inference”.  Actually, that is quite convenient to her case because she can write that a man is never commanded to lead his wife.  That would be a good and necessary inference of both the command to the wife to submit to her husband, and more importantly, the husband imaging Jesus who surely leads His bride, the Church.

She also relies heavily on strawpeople (I’ll be gender neutral for a moment).  She does not paint complementarians fairly, but they come off sounding like ignorant, controlling beasts.  She uses extreme arguments: “unless we believe that all women are subject to the authority of all men.”  The text flatly denies such a contention, and all complementarians I know (including me) deny such a contention.  A woman/wife is to be subject to her own man/husband.

All in all, I found this to be a poorly researched, poorly reasoned and poorly argued book that somehow tries to be neither complementarian nor feminist.  In fact, it misrepresents the teaching of Scripture.  I don’t know her heart, but I do know the human tendency to argue in such a way as to justify our own practice.  This is a book to justify the Willowcreek Association’s position on women in pastoral ministry, from which she benefitted.  But Men and Women in the Church does the Body a disservice.

Read Full Post »