Faithful shepherds stand in the gap...

We all know what it is to play warfare in mock battle, that it means to imitate everything just as it is in war. The troops are drawn up, they march into the field, seriousness is evident in every eye, but also courage and enthusiasm, the orderlies rush back and forth intrepidly, the commander's voice is heard, the signals, the battle cry, the volley of musketry, the thunder of cannon--everything exactly as it is in war, lacking only one thing...the danger.

So also it is with playing Christianity, that is, imitating Christian preaching in such a way that everything, absolutely everything is included in as deceptive a form as possible--only one thing is lacking...the danger

-Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon "Christendom" 1854-1855, translated with an introduction by Walter Lowrie, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1956) p. 258.

Addendum: Wednesday evening, March 8, Bryan Chapell and I met together to discuss this recent series of posts. After our discussion, here are several clarifications and corrections that I believe need to be made. I have made them here, at the top of the post, because it would be difficult to weave them into the post itself in a way that would call attention to them sufficiently as corrections.

First, it is unclear that the paragraph beginning, "The whole things is a tempest in a teacup" is not my judgment, but rather a hypothetical construct of what the average member of the PCA might have thought to himself.

Second, I refer to "the Covenant/Redeemer/Reformed mantra, "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do." Bryan told me that this is not his position and that he speaks against this position as an adequate representation of the Biblical perspective. This is an encouragement to me.

Third, Bryan rehearsed his actions in response to the chapel time in which Diane Langberg spoke, and clearly my own summary of those actions is not accurate. Here is an accurate record of what happened:

When General Assembly convened that summer and the time on the agenda arrived when President Chapell was asked to give an answer for what had happened on his watch, President Chapell told the assembly:

That Diane Langberg had been told ahead of time what the standards were for her speaking during the chapel time;

That after she spoke at Covenant Seminary, Diane Langberg received a letter reminding her of the standards, and expressing concern that those standards had not been followed; and

That the administration of Covenant Seminary met with students to explain the situation and to assure the seminary community that what had happened was not according to the standards they were committed to upholding.

Since I implied Covenant Seminary was not upholding the PCA position in its response to Diane Langberg's chapel time, I regret this inaccuracy and now believe Covenant's response was good.

Some wonder how I could accuse prominent teaching elders of the Presbyterian Church in America and the institutions they lead of sympathizing with the egalitarian, feminist cause? Don't I know the PCA's reason to exist is tied at the heart to opposing these ideologies? When a group of mainline PC(USA) churches left their own denomination for a more conservative one back in 1983, wasn't it necessary for them to found the new denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, precisely because the PCA wasn't willing to compromise on women in office? And isn't the same reason behind our present failure to bring into the PCA many churches currently departing the PC(USA) train wreck: that these churches and their pastors are determined to enter a denomination that allows their women to serve as pastors, elders, and deacons?

So, as a denomination we've paid our dues. We've seen the cost of our convictions, and haven't wavered. What on earth am I thinking, then, to accuse our seminary and its president of being allies of the egalitarian, feminist ideology?

It's a fair question, although I have no confidence I'll be able to answer it to the satisfaction of more than a few because the heart of the answer is tied up, not with specific arguments about Scripture's teaching about sexuality, but rather its teaching concerning the nature of pastoral ministry.

Several years ago, Covenant Theological Seminary had a woman preach in chapel. When it was reported within our denomination, it scandalized a number of presbyters across the country...

Many asked questions like, "What was this--a woman exercising preaching authority over our young men preparing for the ministry? How did this happen? Is our seminary president asleep at the wheel?" And so forth.

Although I had no part in the controversy, I watched keenly from the sidelines because, being older, my memory goes back several years, now. Specifically, I remembered that a few years earlier a friend of mine had left Covenant being disillusioned over the lack of heart there for opposing feminism. And more specifically, he was scandalized by Covenant allowing women to preach in Covenant's chapel. I encouraged him to stay, thinking he was overstating his case. But he declined to take my advice and transferred to Greenville Seminary. Thus I watched this later battle carefully, having been skeptical in past years but now wondering whether I may have been wrong in being dismissive of my friend's earlier accusations against Covenant.

So I was a close observer as Covenant's president, Bryan Chapell, came to our denomination's national general assembly to defend his institution and leadership against the charge of being lax in upholding God's truth concerning sexuality.

At the time, most people likely thought something along these lines:

"The whole thing is a tempest in a teacup, a rather unfortunate slip-up in administrative oversight of the chapel program combined with a woman who, in her zeal for God's Word, overstepped the bounds of biblical propriety. When she was invited to speak in Covenant's chapel, someone likely failed to remind her that it was a lectern they were asking her to fill, not a pulpit. This is a mistake anyone could make, isn't it? All that's needed is a slight course correction."

General assembly convened that summer and the time on the agenda arrived when President Chapell was asked to give an answer for what had happened on his watch. President Chapell expressed shock and disappointment that anyone would seriously question Covenant's commitment to biblical sexuality, proving his point by holding up a stack of books written by Covenant men that, he said, made the seminary's commitments on this issue unequivocally clear. And the visual image of these books was the heart of his defense.

Quick, now: off the top of your head, what authors and titles were in that stack of books President Chapell held up as proof of the courage of Covenant men in fighting against the feminist and egalitarian enemies of God's Word? Remember, it was a stack, so one or two volumes won't cut it. You ready with your list?

Well, speaking only for myself, I have no list, no pile of books to hold up that have been written by Covenant men in defense of the biblical doctrine of sexuality. And this is significant because I served as Executive Director and a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for a number of years. During those years I spoke in a wide array of forums including parachurch groups on secular campuses, seminaries, Bible colleges, Christian colleges, and individual churches. Those speaking and preaching engagements provided me many opportunities to recommend books, yet I never recommended a book written by a Covenant man. Why?

Because the world is filled with both secular and Christian books and articles on servant leadership, but who can find a book that teaches women not to use their femininity to manipulate their husbands, but rather to give themselves to the tough reality of biblical submission--what Scripture refers to as "a gentle and quiet spirit?" Where is the book warning Christian wives against fomenting rebellion in the home, against using their children to emasculate their husband, against husbands ceding the leadership of their family to their wives, against wives giving themselves to work outside the home in such a way that they have neither time nor energy to serve their husbands? And the list could go on for quite some time.

Without question, there are husbands who refuse to take out the trash, clean up the kitchen, change the baby's diapers, provide for their family, treat their wives with dignity, and die to their own desires for the sake of their wives and children. Without question these sins must be corrected and rebuked by faithful pastors and elders.

But also without question, this is not the most common problem in the evangelical and reformed church today. Speaking from many years of observation of our culture, as well as personal pastoral care, I say without hesitation that the breach in the wall needing our attention today with regard to marriage and family issues is not just chastity in singleness and fidelity in marriage, but equally the connection between sexuality, authority, and submission; the authority of husbands over their wives and the submission of wives to their husbands. Husbands need to be taught how to exercise the authority over their wives that God wrote into the man/woman relationship when He created Adam first, and then Eve; and when He announced that the meaning of that order of creation was that Eve is called to be Adam's helpmate and to submit to him "in everything": and on their part, wives need to be taught to be daughters of Sarah, calling their husbands, "Lord," as Sarah called Abraham; and to realize that when they rebel against their husbands, they are rebelling against God Who Himself established their husband's authority over them.

These are the biblical doctrines under attack today, and anyone with the slightest discernment can see that seminary professors, Titus 2 women, elders, and pastors who understand their calling will focus their efforts here. Church officers are soldiers, and the soldier is tested at the breach in the wall.

The world is filled with articles and books and lectures and posters opposing authoritarian leadership and celebrating servant leadership. And generally, the theme is biblical as it points us to our Lord Who came, not to be served, but to serve. The world is also filled with books and articles and lectures and sermons directly denying, or damning with faint praise, the authority of husbands over their wives. So where is God's servant needed?

Years ago, I read The Company of the Committed by Elton Trueblood in which he pointed out that it's the mark of wisdom to fight the battles of today, rather than the battles of yesterday. Well, we all know where today's battle is. It's as plain as the nose on the end of our face. Those who don't see it will never see it, unless the Holy Spirit intervenes with them. They don't see it, not because it's not plain and clear, but because they refuse to see. Remember our Lord's words, "He who has ears, let him hear"? Remember the old saying, "There's no one so deaf as the man who doesn't want to hear"? In other words, when we look at shepherds who can't see the breach in the wall, who don't notice the thief coming in over the wall; who can't recognize the fearful bleating of the mothers with their lambs; the problem is not their eyes or ears, but their heart. They lack the heart of a shepherd.

Now am I saying that men mentioned in prior posts and comments on this blog lack the heart of a shepherd? Well, yes and no. Bear with me a minute.

It seems obvious from Scripture that all of us grow through rebuke as well as encouragement, correction as well as instruction. So is there some reason to think that national ecclesiastical leaders have matured beyond needing such ministry? Is there a point in our lives where, by virtue of age and elevated position, we cease needing to be rebuked ourselves, and are raised to the status of only being the giver--never the receiver--of rebukes? Was this true of the Apostle Peter when he sneaked across the dining room, exchanging the company of the Gentiles for that of the Jews?

Speaking for myself, I regularly receive correction and rebuke from my mother, brother, wife, daughters, sons, fellow elders, older women of our church, other pastors, and the civil authority. I praise God for surrounding me with faithful brothers and sisters who serve God by giving me what I need. You think I'm kidding? Ask them.

Every shepherd is perpetually on the edge of going bad; turning from faithfulness to unfaithfulness. But every shepherd is also within a heartbeat of returning to faithfulness because of receiving and taking to heart rebukes the Holy Spirit lovingly sends him through another pastor, his wife, a fellow presbyter, the ass he rides, or even a blog. That the sheep under this shepherd would not understand such rebuke is no surprise; we don't teach our sheep to sit in judgment on their shepherds.

But the shepherds should take heed to themselves and their flocks, knowing "the time will come when they (our flocks) will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." Shepherds are commanded, "...be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:3-5).

The real proof that, while right for a time, I've become wrong concerning the leaders I've criticized, would be that they never again utter such a pathetic canard as "a woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do," but rather that they become known for their sermons and books and articles opposing the sexual anarchy that absolutely permeates our culture and churches. But more, that by God's grace the time comes when, because of their faithfulness in the gap, with the Apostle Paul they too will be able to take off their shirts and show us the brand-marks of Jesus.

Shepherds who show zeal for opposing male chauvinism within the church, but lack any zeal for opposing egalitarian feminism and female rebellion, are culturally brain-dead, at best. At worst, they have decided to avoid standing in the gap precisely because the gap is the place faithful soldiers die. But can we repent, and turn again to our Master's commands and promises concerning those who faithfully guard His sheep?

Let's remember the Apostle Paul's charge to every minister of the Word and Sacrament, and plead with God to make us love His appearing:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:1-8)

Comments

this Sabbath is off to a good start.

The following article about preaching in a postmodern culture was recommended to me a while ago. Those who aren't acquainted with it probably should be.

http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9505/articles/hauerwas.html

And here's a sermon by Dabney on women preachers from 1879 that still seems relevant.

http://www.biblebb.com/files/RD-001WP.htm

Thank you, Tim, for this excellent encouragement. Judging by the lack of comments, it looks like you have made your point. I pray that my fellow readers will actually take all of this to heart. The advance of God's kingdom depends on it.

I know I am being un-PCA here, and a bit repetitive, but after reading Hauerwas, and Bayly, I am slightly depressed. The problem with modernity, and even post-modernity, is not that we have become "normal nihilists", but that we have become "normal materialists". The Gnosticism that permeates modern education and theology is so pervasive and such poison. I ask you, would an African Anglican bishop talk like Hauerwas, as he explains the gospel? The gospel is not about talk, but about power. And there is no power in separating the head from the heart. The danger, Rev Bayly, lies not in the creeping feminism of our culture, and its siren song of tolerance and equanimity, debasing as it is of fecundity and maternity. No, the problem is that we have let our heads get disconnected from our bodies, we have denied the bodily resurrection, we have not discerned the body of Christ, we have accepted the disordered as normal, we have eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We have spiritualized Christianity, and intellectualized our faith. In Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov", Alyosha finds his faith rooted in the soil of Mother Russia. And while we smile at such irresponsible theology, we find no shame in etherializing ours as in "multi-faith presidential prayer breakfast". We have separated the body from the spirit, the engine from the fuel, the motor from the power, and we wonder why feminism (or modernism, or universalism) has such attraction? The Reformation complained that the eucharist offered the believer only the wafer and not the cup, but today we offer neither. We are running on fumes.

Rather than talk about post-modernism, or the erosion of Biblical theology, what we should be doing is developing post-materialism. The rest will take care of itself.

Great post! On a similar note, I have always held to a complementarian position but the position was only a "said position." I had read the books and preached the sermons. I had said everything right but the reality was lacking in my life for the first couple years of my marriage. It took my marriage nearly ending to wake me up and realize that my practice revealed my true theology. Though I flew the complementarian banner, lived the egalitarian deception. I know little of Chapell but I can say I had a stack of books once too and it meant nothing when the rubber met the road.

Rob, you made some good points. Spot on, that. I have sensed a sort of "gnosticism" as well.
It is "we believe the truth and teach the whole counsel of God." What was left unsaid was the follow up of, "and that is enough." It is as if because we have the right facts about God, that makes us "righteous?" It is interesting isn't it? We can have the right facts about God, but not the right tempers about God. I suppose Satan is the extreme example of that.
There was certainly wonderful teaching, biblical leadership structure, biblical preaching and I saw generosity financially; but it was all so "clean." Instead of dirt under our fingers, they were manicures. Where was the "fleshing out" of our faith? The teaching, sermon and conference seemed to be an end in and of itself, and not to equip the saints for the work of the kingdom.

Spot on as well on materialism. It is certainly one of our "high places" that need to be demolished with extreme prejudice.

Just wondering, Tim ... does your wife call you "Lord"?

After scanning through some your posts on feminism from the last several months, as well as the comments related to those posts, I find myself deeply troubled about the future of the PCA. Do you sense that ultimately the denomination will (1) galvanize in a direction of complementarianism, (2) strike a compromise that would allow complementarians and egalitarians to minister in unity, or (3) create a schism that would amount to an exodus of egalitarian sympathizers???

A good book that speaks to women is The Excellent wife by Martha Peace. There's a companion book written by a man called The Exemplary husband. Being a woman I haven't read it so don't know what it is like.

Pat,

I'd be interested as well to hear what Pr. Tim would say. As one who's watched very carefully and constantly to the poster-child of the comp/egal conflict within an American ecclesial communion, I would say this as to the possibilities you inquire about:

"Galvinize in a direction of complementarianism:"

This is always a possibility, of course. It has happened twice in the past 50 years, and the "presenting heresies" were something other than sexual ethics and roles in marriage, family, church, and society. In the 1970's the Missouri Synod Lutherans recovered their communion from heresy, focused in their flagship seminary. In the 1990's the Southern Baptists recovered their communion from the creeping heterodoxy, though by the time they were successful, several of their institutions of higher learning were irretrievably lost to the liberals.

Someone inclined to be pessimistic about the PCA would point immediately to the fact that "gender issues" were among the reasons the PCA was formed in the first place, and, as Pr. Tim has pointed out, one of the reasons they remain institutionally separated from other Presbyterian groups who happily ordain women contra Paul's express Apostolic directive against this.

Said another way, one of the key reasons for the existence of the PCA in the first place is now obviously in serious dissolution. Why, therefore, can anyone be optimistic that the PCA itself will not undergo serious dissolution over the next generation. The PCA's future pastoral leadership is sitting in Covenant's classrooms, and they have been sitting there for some time now, classrooms where egalitarianism is insidiously claiming credibility and where complementarianism is damned with faint praise.

"Strike a compromise that would allow complementarians and egalitarians to minister in unity:"

No way.

First of all, the compromise you suggest is one that would have prevented the PCA from coming into existence in the first place (see Pr. Tim's earlier blog on this point).

Second, if egalitarianism is the doctrinal toxin that Pr. Tim and others claim that it is, why strike a compromise with it? You point up another reason I tend to be pessimistic here -- you see no reason to imagine a compromise between truth and error. I expect that a lion's share of those who claim to be complementarian in the PCA imagine the same thing.

"Create a schism that would amount to an exodus of egalitarian sympathizers:"

History shows us that this is the most likely scenario with one adjustment: it will be the complementarians who exit the PCA, not the egalitarians. Again, look at the latest case study for this eventuality: the Epsicopal Church. The battle for the property of traditionalist congregations is officially underway since yesterday, when the Diocese of Virginia (the historic home of Anglican Christianity in America) filed suit against 11 parishes, to seize their real and personal property. Among these churches are two pre-dating the American Revolution, and one in which George Washington sat as vestryman. Both parishes voted over 90 percent in favor of departing the Episcopal Church over the ordination of homosexuals.

When women's ordination was first passed, one of the carrots offered to the traditionalists was a "conscience clause" which allowed those who oppose women's ordination to remain in good standing while those who support women's ordination advance their practice. A compromise that let everyone remain in unity, right?

Except 20 years later, the conscience clause was rescinded, and in its place a new standard for ordination was put into the canons: that any ordinand must sign a statement that he or she fully supports the ordination of any Christian without respect to age, race, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation. If one could not sign this statement, he (or she) was disqualified from ordination to the offices of deacon, priest, and bishop.

At this point, all the egals had to do was sit back and wait for time to transform their clergy into ... well, what it quickly became. In a House of Bishops numbering over 100, there are only 3 or 4 bishops who still refuse to ordain women and homosexuals.

There are many complementarians within the PCA leadership. I can only detect a handfull -- less than ten, actually, who show any concern about the things about which Pr. Tim is sounding the alarm. As so often happens, the only thing that wolves need in order to ravage the flock is for "good shepherds" to sit back and do nothing.

Light,

Since you are so devoted to the clear teaching of Scripture, I am assuming you hope that Mrs. Bayly does call her husband "lord," right?

Light wrote,"Just wondering, Tim ... does your wife call you "Lord"?

Habakkuk 2:4 "Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith."

Light,
I think it is time to move from the scriptural argument over sexuality, which has been made plain to you, and yet you still refuse. It is time to get toward the root of why you do. Even a cursory overview of your posts over the months indicates your soul is not right within you. It is puffed up. It refuses to live by faith. Instead of throwing yourself helplessly at the foot of the Lordship of Christ, and surrendering, you retain your life. Instead of submitting and believing in the goodness of the Lord's created order and his designs for you, this word rather causes you to gnash your teeth and you all the more entrench yourself into the spirit of this age. There are many examples in the bible of this reaction to the word of God and many were those who persecuted the church. It is a burden you should long to be free from. You carry it like an anchor around your neck. You refuse to believe your heavenly Father knows what he is doing when, out of the all-wise and holy counsel of his will he created all things for his glory. You refuse to believe if you submitted to his word that he would bring you the peaceable fruits of contentment and joy. You refuse to separate from the spirit of this age and depart from it for your own soul's welfare.

I write to cut, yes. However, I write to have a cut that produces godly sorrow that leads to life, not worldly sorrow that leads to death. If you believe I struggle with my own pride, you'd be right. As Jonathan Edwards aptly put it, "Alas, how much pride the best have in their hearts! It is the worst part of the body of sin and death; the first sin that ever entered into the universe and the last that is rooted out. It is God's most stubborn enemy!" Much more learned and Godly men than I will struggle with spiritual pride. As Spurgeon put it, "it is a weed that grows in every soil." That pride infects us all is not the point and it does not get you off the hook for your unbelief. Pride also takes different forms and if your particular pride causes you to refuse the Lordship of your God and his word, that pride needs to be mortified with vigor. Will you submit yourself under the God-breathed authority of his inerrant word, or will you continue to try and submit God's holy word under your own authority? Until you get to the root, you will be fighting the wrong battles, and God will oppose you because he opposes the proud.

"...who can find a book that teaches women not to use their femininity to manipulate their husbands...."

Reformed Marriage and Federal Husband by Doug Wilson
The Fruit Of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson
Created To Be His Helpmeet by Debbie Pearl
Home-Making by J.R. Miller
The Merchant Maiden by Crystal Paine
The Way Home by Mary Pride
Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliott
Lies Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney and Nancy Leigh Demoss
Female Piety: A Young Woman's Friend and Guide by John Angell James
Raising Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness for Mothers and Daughters by Stacy McDonald
The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Laura Schlessinger

Various CDs produced by the Vision Forum, including "The Wise Woman's Guide to Blessing Her Husbands Vision."

And The Excellent Wife, as mentioned above.

I hope this list is helpful; most of these titles are addressed to women.

Tim, Bill, and everyone else,

1. Tim says that "A woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do" is a "pathetic canard." It seems that the original contract of the PCA was defined rather broadly for the sake of greater unity among Reformed churches and more effective ministry in reaching North America for Christ. Thus, they allowed for a diversity of views on eschatology, creation, and sabbath. However, they were firm about uniformity on soteriology, cessationism, and patriarchy. Meanwhile, they still allowed some wiggle room and diversity within these uniform doctrines (i.e. the RPCES and female deacons, "a woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do", etc.). Are you suggesting that the founders of the PCA were mistaken and should never have allowed for a diversity of practice in regards to women in ministry? Wouldn't that have defeated the whole point of creating a broadly defined Reformed church? Are you suggesting that the original contract of the PCA should be redrawn? If not, then don't Keller, Chapell, James, and all the rest have a right to encourage women's involvement in ministry within the stated bounds of the PCA?

2. Bill says that the egalitarian position is "heresy, creeping heterodoxy, doctrinal toxin." Where does that leave our non-PCA, evangelical, egalitarian brothers and sisters in Christ? Does that mean that they are not merely weaker siblings, but false prophets? What does that mean about our ecumenical relationships with them, given our Biblical mandate to pursue unity (cf. Westminster "Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God"; see also the PCA's position paper "Guiding Principles for Ecumenical Relations")?

3. Bill says "the compromise you suggest [that allows complementarians and egalitarians to co-exist as ministry partners in the PCA] is one that would have prevented the PCA from coming into existence in the first place." My question: are you suggesting that in 35 years, given the emergence of a new body of Biblical scholarship and the rising number of evangelical egalitarians that hold to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture, the PCA is unwilling to at least rethink (not necessarily redraw) the "truth-unity line" to include egalitarians as ministry partners?

For the sake of discussion, I have thought a great deal about the ecclesiastical argument of egalitarian sympathizers, and they would say that the PCA's current categorical opposition to egalitarianism seems to contradict the Westminster Standards at several critical points:

Westminster states "All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them." (1.7) Complementarians argue that the issue of women in the home and church is as certain and clear as the fact that Jesus is the once for all mediator for God's elect; egalitarians argue that if the issue were that clear and certain then there would not be such a divide over Bible-believing evangelicals. Thus, the PCA (1) inappropriately elevates "No Women in Leadership" to an issue of primary and central theological importance alongside "Jesus is Lord", and (2) inappropriately treats the doctrine of women with the same level of dogmatic certainty and clarity as the doctrine of justification.

Westminster states, "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed." (1.6) Complementarians argue that egalitarians are adding the traditions of men to Scripture; egalitarians argue that they are simply making good and necessary exegetical and hermeneutical deductions from Scripture and are re-evaluating Scripture according to the light of nature and Christian prudence.

Westminster states, "The supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture." (1.10) It also states, "The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error." (25.5) And again, "All synods or councils, since the Apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to he made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both." (31.3) In other words, Westminster essentially recapitulates that the Reformed church is always reforming according to Scripture; Westminster says that because the PCA can err, it should have greater doctrinal humility, circumspection, and self-scrutiny. Complementarians argue that egalitarians deny the authority of the Bible and that the PCA simply needs to respect the three-fold standard of tradition of "that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all" (universality, antiquity, and consent); egalitarians argue that complementarians are denying the fallibility of historical precedent, councils, and currently held doctrines and must lay aside suspicion and hostility to re-evaluate and re-formulate them in light of Scripture just as the Reformers did in their day.

Westminster states: "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to His Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also." (20.2)
Complementarians argue that egalitarians are enslaving themselves to the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to God's word, blindly obeying the dictates of culture, and destroying their own liberty and reason; egalitarians argue that the PCA's current position puts them in the awkward situation of being bound by their conscience to Scripture yet out of accord with the doctrines and commandments of men (i.e. WSC, BCO, etc.). Hence, if the PCA really believes in "the liberty of conscience" (that the Church may not require Christians to believe or practice anything not taught in Scripture), then the PCA should be willing to at least open the debate between complementarians and egalitarians. An unwillingness to re-evaluate Scripture, WSC, and BCO runs counter to the original formation of the Westminster Standards as a consensus document that was quite broad and catholic.

Westminster states: "It belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience." (31.2) Complementarians argue that WSC and BCO state that women cannot be leaders so case closed; egalitarians argue that the PCA has produced no definitive study on the role of women in the home and church and that an unwillingness to consider more recent interpretations of Scripture for the sake of ministers who might be struggling in their conscience sounds more like the Council of Trent than the Westminster Assembly.

Westminster states: "Unto this catholic visible Church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life to the end of the world: and doth, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto." (25.3) Complementarians argue that these gifts were given by Christ to men only; egalitarians argue that complimentarian theology and practice supresses the gifts of the Spirit when they show up in women, thus mitigating the effectiveness of the ministry of the Gospel for the healing of the nations.

In addition to Westminster, the Book of Church Order states: "The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders and deacons. Within the class of elder are the two orders of teaching elders and ruling elders. The elders jointly have the government and spiritual oversight of the Church, including teaching. Only those elders who are specially gifted, called and trained by God to preach may serve as teaching elders. The office of deacon is not one of rule, but rather of service both to the physical and spiritual needs of the people. In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only." (7.2) Complementarians in the PCA argue that NT ecclesiology restricted the offices of deacon and elder to men; egalitarians argue that the PCA has anachronistically projected its clear cut Reformed notions of church offices, ordination, preaching, and teaching back onto the NT when they were more loosely defined, improvisational, ambiguous, and enjoyed by both men and women (e.g. Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, the prophesying women in 1 Cor. 11, etc.). Moreover, the PCA has made a false (unbiblical) distinction, elevating preaching above teaching (adult education, Sunday school, community groups, youth group, children's programs, etc.), the former being open to men and the latter being open to women. In addition, the PCA seems to have many double standards in regards to women's roles: women cannot assume roles of authority, yet PCA ministers and parishioners read their books; women cannot assume roles of authority, yet the PCA lets women lead on the mission field ("You can lead there, just not here; you can speak at our missions conferences, but that's where we draw the line."); women cannot assume roles of authority, yet the PCA allows them to do other things Paul prohibits or commands ironically based on a "culturally-particular" argument (braided hair, gold, head-coverings, etc.); women cannot assume roles of authority, yet the PCA allows them to teach men under the age of 18 or 22 or wherever the line is drawn. Ironically, in all of these practices, complementarians in the PCA are blind to their own traditions and thereby give Scripture and tradition equal authority, which is the very thing the Reformers sought to reform.

What say ye?

Light:
Just wondering, Tim ... does your wife call you "Lord"?>>>

Light, I am really curious. I think that I know why you are making this comment. It is not to engage Tim and others in a serious discussion about the mark of a godly woman. You are not seeking to converse on the subject of what Sarah-like submission looks like in our day.

Am I correct?

It is odd to me that egalitarian feminists make this kind of comment on every group where traditional views on gender are defended. Is it kind of like someone throwing a monkey wrench into the machinery hoping to do damage without exerting much effort?

Why not engage in real discussion and debate? I can't figure that out. What do you fear? Do you really believe your own propaganda about how abusive traditional type males are? Therefore, you engage in a kind of "hit and run" methodology?

Is it a kind of martyr complex? I mean, if you can provoke some unkind remarks - at least unkind in your mind - then you have earned a feminist purple heart, or something?

...it's just weird...

LOL, Pat! What a hoot! "What say ye?" Hahahaha.

I say several things ...

First, you play a nice game of gotcha! Most of what you challenge, I'll let those in the PCA respond to, if they choose. I don't have a dog in the PCA hunt, and I'm only barely reformed.

On a couple of points, however, I can respond from a perspective and standing outside the PCA. Here goes ...

"[When] Bill says that the egalitarian position is 'heresy, creeping heterodoxy, doctrinal toxin," [w]here does that leave our non-PCA, evangelical, egalitarian brothers and sisters in Christ? ... not merely weaker siblings, but false prophets?

Well, both, of course, and everything in between. Many are simply confused. Others are willingly duped, enticed by worldly blandishments. Others qualify as wolves, particularly those egalitarians in leadership, who know too much of the Biblical deposit to plead ignorance. Jesus will sort all this out at the Judgment. Should make for an interesting time.

"What does that mean about our ecumenical relationships with them, ...?"

I would hope that it means what it means for any faithful complementarians -- no ecumenical relationsips, at least none where the Bible's teaching on the meaning and relationship of the sexes is significant. I never cooperate with any egalitarian in an enterprise that would be styled evangelistic. It is quite clear that the goals that complementarians and egalitarians seek to achieve when they "do evangelism" are not only different, but contradictory.

Your point number three calls out for an answer from some with PCA credentials. For myself, I find that "35 years of scholarship" is one of the silliest, and possibly one of the most blasphemous, to which you appeal for support.

The Bible's teaching on the sexes has never been cloudy, uncertain, or misunderstood. The scholarship you point to is an extended exercise in scholars gleefully poking one another's eyes out with sharp sticks. It would be fodder for tabloid TV, except for the stench of sulphur attached to it. Meanwhile, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, through centuries of faithful Christians, across every conceivable locale and cultural context, is prima facie evidence that egalitarian scholars are selling the Church a very stinky pig in a poke. It's a dismaying commentary on the spiritual health of the modern church that they find buyers.

But, of course, they do; so you can point to "the rising number of evangelical egalitarians that hold to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture."

I ask you, how would you have answered if you lived around 320 A.D., and heard someone professing to be a Christian ask something like this:

"Are you suggesting that given the emergence of a new body of Biblical scholarship and the rising number of evangelical Arians that hold to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture, the Church is unwilling to at least rethink (not necessarily redraw) the "truth-unity line" to include Arians as ministry partners?"

>the PCA's current categorical opposition to egalitarianism seems to contradict the Westminster Standards

So you actually expect to be taken seriously when arguing that the authors of the confession and catechism would have had the slightest doubt as to where the church should stand on this issue? Or that they would have been prepared to tolerate the rebellion that is egalitarianism?

I am not trying to pull a fast one or play a game of gotcha. I am someone with friends and ministry partners on both sides of the issue, and I am seriously begging the question. To ask if the Westminster divines would seriously consider ordaining women is a historical hypothetical that is non-sense, as they would have no plausibility structure in their day for the possibility. In other words, there were no women in business, politics, etc. As Calvin said in his commentary on 1 Tim. 2, "And unquestionably wherever even natural propriety has been maintained, women have in all ages been excluded from the public management of affairs. It is the dictate of common sense, that female government is improper and unseemly." The possibility was outside of his cultural point of reference. Not so for us. So the question is not "What would the Westminster divines say?" but "What do we in the 21st century say?" [Though it would be interesting to hear what Calvin would say given his penchant for social innovation and his strong doctrine of common grace...But I digress].

I believe Bill's ecumenical solution is no solution at all. If, in fact, egalitarians are wrong and they are weaker brothers, doesn't Paul have some things to say to us about that? Paul's words are a good, sobering warning for us as we think about all of this heady stuff: "The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does...Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind...Let us stop passing judgment on one another...Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.� Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food...It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.� So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.� Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by what they approve...We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." It is on the issue of ecumenicism that I find the fundamentalism of many complementarians to be simply unpalatable. How in the world is preaching the gospel contradictory when preached by a complementarian and an egalitarian? Regardless, didn't Paul say that whether out of false motives or true, the gospel is preached, and that is the important thing?

As for scholarship, I guess we lack a Reformed affinity for the importance of rigorous, primary document engagement, which was critical to the recovery of the gospel in the medieval church.

And as for Arianism, you prove my point. An ecumenical council was convened to discuss the controversies at hand and come to some theological consensus. That is something the PCA is unwilling to do at this juncture. Moreoever, Arianism was a christological controversy that was central to our understanding of the gospel. The womens issue is not.

Would love some feedback on these thoughts.

Pat:

Just because we confess that the Bible is clear about those things pertaining to salvation, that most certainly does not mean that the Bible is ONLY clear about things pertaining to salvation. Thus I fail to see how the doctrine of perspicuity can be used to attack complementarian confession and practice.

As for the statement that "if the issue (complementarianism) were that clear and certain then there would not be such a divide over Bible-believing evangelicals" I think Fr. Bill already nailed it.

"I am someone with friends and ministry partners on both sides of the issue, and I am seriously begging the question."

Pat, I think your slip is showing, and I'm not talking about the kind made from fabric.

"The possibility [of female involvement in commerce and government] was outside of [Calvin's] cultural point of reference. Not so for us."

Well, pity that poor cultural hick, John Calvin. Tsk Tsk. Too bad he couldn't read his Bible correctly or the extant Roman histories correctly, when it's obvious from both sources that women were well involved in government and commerce when Paul wrote those deplorable things to Timothy and Titus. Ever hear of Livia Drusilla, the wife of Caesar Augustus and the most powerful woman in the early Roman Empire, acting several times as regent and being Augustus' faithful advisor, mother to Emperor Tiberius and Drusus, grandmother to Germanicus and Claudius, great-grandmother to Caligula and Agrippina the younger and great-great-grandmother to Nero? Do you know the dates? Would it matter if they were First Century? Ever hear of some seller of purple named Lydia?

The point: female involvement in commerce and government is no more outside the purview of the New Testament than it is outside the purview of the 21st Century Church. What Paul said to the Church in the First Century has no less weight for the passage of 20 centuries. Or, do you suppose, as so many of those scholars of the past 35 years, that only AFTER 20 centuries is it possible to know what Paul was talking about? I think you'd better say something to the Holy Spirit. You make it sound very much as if He has been remiss in His mission these past 20 centuries.

"I believe Bill's ecumenical solution is no solution at all."

Well, duh. You're right! There is no room for ecumenism between those who both use the word "gospel" and mean entirely different things by it. To you, the good news is bad news for women. To me, your good news to women is rebellion against the teaching of Jesus and His Apostles. Where is the room for common effort at anything substantial as far as evangelism or discipleship is concerned?

You put the disagreement about women in the same category as the dissension over eating meat sacrificed to idols. "It is on the issue of ecumenicism that I find the fundamentalism of many complementarians to be simply unpalatable." Here we have a kind of agreement. I find the push for ecuminism by egalitarians with complementarians unpalatable, and I also find the tolerance for this kind of thing among complementarians deplorable. If you think evangelicals can escape the debacle the Anglicans (followed by the other mainline Protestants) experience, I have several dozen bridges for sale that I'd love to show you some time.

"How in the world is preaching the gospel contradictory when preached by a complementarian and an egalitarian?" It's not the same gospel, because it preaches a different Christ in each case (one where incarnation as a human male is mandatory, the other where the incarnation is ... well, something of a historical accident that we can safely discount and ignore). Each promotes a different goal (each called "redemption" but the similarity quickly dissipates after that), and each operates by utterly different economies -- via headship in the case of Romans 5, an economy inimical to egalitarian individualistic reductionism. The world-view promoted by each gospel is different, from its understanding of the nature and significance of the sexes to the nature and dynamics of the internal life of the Godhead. Egalitarianism is every bit as much a different religion as Arianism.

"Moreoever, Arianism was a christological controversy that was central to our understanding of the gospel. The womens issue is not." You could not be more mistaken. I hope it is mistaken that you are (for that might be corrected).

"An ecumenical council was convened to discuss the controversies at hand and come to some theological consensus. That is something the PCA is unwilling to do at this juncture."

Again, one of those rare agreements. I stand in amazement at what my Brother Tim reports here, at what he continues to confirm in my reading of other sources. The PCA looks to me like a man cured of lung cancer who decides just a few cigarettes can't do much harm. Or diabetic who thinks that "just a few bites of these donuts can't hurt."

Gents, this is a good dialogue. Keep in mind that I speak as a complementarian playing devil's advocate. That said...

Chris, please don't take what I am about to say as condescending. Have you read any critical scholarly commentaries lately (Fee, Thiselton, Witherington, Wright, etc.)? These guys aren't trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. They are simply acknowledging the ambiguity of the relevant texts and making a case for a redemptive trajectory hermeneutic given the already-not-yet nature of the kingdom of God (similar to what we see in Ridderbos). Reformed thinkers of ages past would be ashamed if we stuck our heads in the sand and didn't give this scholarship an honest, charitable hearing.

Bill, your point about women's cultural roles in the first century does not resolve the problem that in the sixteenth century women did not enjoy such cultural status, which is why Calvin thought it "natural propriety" and "common sense" that women would not serve in the leadership of the church in his day. But that is somewhat beside the point.

Also, Bill, you seem to be saying that there is nothing new to learn about what Paul/Holy Spirit is saying, so why should we listen to the scholarship of the past 50 years. That sounds like a "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" mentality, which minimizes the role of hermeneutics, which ultimately leads to back-handed subjectivism that doesn't take the Bible seriously on its own terms.

You seem to also be using a slippery slope argument in reference to the plight of the Anglicans, but it is important to remember that slippery slopes run both directions - relativism and absolutism. It is also important to remember that no one stands at the top of the slope.

I think I am most troubled by your approach to ecumenical relationships and preaching the gospel. The gospel is simply that God has intervened in the brokenness of humanity to bring salvation. That is good news for both men and women, whether preached by complimentarians or egalitarians. Egalitarians are not undermining the gender of Christ, the headship of Christ, the differences between and significance of both sexes, nor the ontological economy of the Trinity. I think that is a gross caricature of the implications of that position.

Please help me understand how our understanding of a woman's role in the home and church is central to our understanding that "Christ came into the world to save sinners."

Thanks all.

"Moreoever, Arianism was a christological controversy that was central to our understanding of the gospel. The womens issue is not."

"Please help me understand how our understanding of a woman's role in the home and church is central to our understanding that 'Christ came into the world to save sinners.'"

Well, the women's issue is central, and the Bible makes it so. Anyone who is going to put herself aside and follow a man is going to have to think this through thoroughly. That is why I think that discussions like this are good. We need to keep our hats on straight, though or we will get caught up in a myriad of side issues.

Come on, guys, tell Pat why this is more important than whether or not you eat meat that has been sacrificed to a god which doesn't exist. Tell her why it is more important than whether the wine at communion is fermented. Depend upon the wisdom of God, not man, or even your desire to make her understand.

Rachel

Pat,

This is not my blog (I have my own), and it is not my ecclesial communion. I am very interested in how the PCA does or does not engage this error within its own ranks, so I -- like Rachel -- will defer to the PCA leadership to carry forward your education in mere Christianity.

I will note this about Calvin and his "culture." By the time Calvin was writing his commentary, the West had been been well tinctured for about a millennium with the Biblical view of the sexes. Your quote of Calvin is an interesting bit of evidence for that over against the Greco-Roman culture in which Paul wrote to Timothy and to the fledgling churches.

You point to Calvin and his culture (and, also the Westminster Confession) and claim these speak within a culture very different from ours as far as the understanding of the sexes is concerned. I'd agree with you on that with this addition: the culture of the sexes to which *Paul* wrote is very much closer to ours.

Contemporary culture in America has a faint memory of the kind of culture in which Calvin lived, but that's about it. What's controlling the action today as far as how people view the world is something far closer to what the Greco-Roman citizen was controlled by: a male-chauvinist gnosticism that had no qualms about women in government, commerce, or the pantheon, so long as none of these encroached upon the opportunity to the men to get theirs whenever they pleased. As that culture died, Biblical patriarchy, already sown in the churches by Jesus, Peter, and Paul, took its place. Calvin lived and wrote in that Biblical culture.

The point: We have a far greater need for the teaching of Paul about the sexes than Calvin's day did.

By the way, I'd bet a bundle that any Arian would have loudly proclaimed that Christ came to save sinners. I know the Jehovah's Witnesses do so as well, today. For that matter, so do the Mormons. I suppose you think their view of Christ make no more difference to the gospel than the egalitarians' view?

And, if you're a PCA complementarian, I think you just validated every point of concern that Pastor Tim has complained about in this blog.

But, enough from me. Let those whose to whom the defense of this house belongs say further what they will.

Fr. Bill

"Chris, please don't take what I am about to say as condescending. Have you read any critical scholarly commentaries lately (Fee, Thiselton, Witherington, Wright, etc.)? These guys aren't trying to pull the wool over people's eyes. They are simply acknowledging the ambiguity of the relevant texts and making a case for a redemptive trajectory hermeneutic given the already-not yet nature of the kingdom of God (similar to what we see in Ridderbos). Reformed thinkers of ages past would be ashamed if we stuck our heads in the sand and didn't give this scholarship an honest, charitable hearing."

No, Pat, I haven't read those critical commentaries. But they are beside the point. You simply can't use the doctrine of perspicuity to lob a grenade at complementarianism in an effort to minimize its relevance to our spiritual walk, ministry, etc.

If some want to convince others that the Bible is anything less than absolutely clear about God's meaning and purpose behind sexuality, you should focus on the relevant texts, not the doctrine of perspicuity.

"Well, the women's issue is central, and the Bible makes it so."

That sort of approach ("The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it") is quite similar to a Muslim's approach to the Koran. Flat, wooden hermeneutics leads to a misapplication of Scripture. We can do better.

Bill, I think we are ships in the night. By the ascendency of Biblical patriarchy after the fall of the Roman empire, do you mean the following?

"Anyone who is too passionate a lover with his wife is in fact an adulterer...Woman is the root of all evil...Marriage is a very undesirable institution." -Jerome

"Women are worse than animals." -Origen

"Man, not woman, is the image of God." -Tertullian, he also blamed women for the passion of Christ.�

"There is a natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger...Woman is not the image of God, whereas the man alone is made in the image of God." -Augustine

"A woman cannot be trusted.� Believe me, if you give her credence, you will be disappointed...Prudent men therefore, tell their wives as little as possible about their plans and actions.� A woman is a botched male and, by comparison with him, possesses a defective nature...What she herself cannot attain by mendacity and diabolical deception.� Therefore, in short, one should be on guard against any woman as against a poisonous snake and a horned devil." - Albert the Great, the teacher of Thomas Aquinas

Moreover, Mormons and JWs reject the ecumenical councils, Reformed confessions, etc. Evangelical and Reformed egalitarians do not. That you would not sit at the same table and enjoy fellowship and partnership with these brothers and sisters is sad and contrary to Jesus very clear mandate to pursue unity. You should think about that.

Chris, I am not saying that the Bible is unclear about "the meaning and purpose behind sexuality." Rather, the Bible is not as clear on the roles of women in home and church than it is about salvation. If you are not willing to grant that, then you may be imposing an alien clarity/foisting your cultural assumptions upon Scripture, which is ironically what many complementarians accuse egalitarians of doing. By the way, you should read those commentaries :-)

I don't believe anyone has really responded to my original comments about the PCA. I would love some thoughtful feedback. Thanks.

I cannot argue from your point of view, Pat, because you want to depend on the opinions of men, which, by your own admission and Scriptural evidence, are nothing but shifting sand. (Let me catch my breath, here, because you are blowing my mind!)

I will have to disagree. We can do no better.

Will I choose Scripture or Calvin? Where Scripture is plain and Calvin is vague: Scripture. Where Scripture is plain and Calvin is plain: Scripture. Where Scripture allows freedom and Calvin backs it up or interprets it: Scripture, with Calvin's blessing.

You want to pit Scripture against Jerome? Scripture wins, even where they agree. Augustine, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormans, Catholics, PCA's...you pick your team. God wins.

Rachel

"Chris, I am not saying that the Bible is unclear about "the meaning and purpose behind sexuality." Rather, the Bible is not as clear on the roles of women in home and church than it is about salvation."

No, you seem to be saying that the doctrine of perspecuity demands that we say "the Bible is not as clear on the roles of women in home and church than it is about salvation." What I am saying is that the doctrine of perscpicuity, as layed out in the WCF, does not allow that sort of statement.

From the WCF (which you earlier quoted):

"The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture:"

Notice two things:

1. The doctrine of perspicuity is not limited to salvation, but also includes things necessary for God's glory, faith, and LIFE. Certainly the Bible's teaching on sexuality, including the roles of men and women, could be included there, no? After all, what is our life but gloifying God through loving obedience to His commands?

2. Even if you were not to grant that men's and women's roles are included in the above, you cannot read it to say that the Bible is only clear about the things listed.

So, what we are left with is not whether the doctrine of perspicuity should cause complementarians to cease and desist from teaching, ministry, etc., but whether complimentarians are correct that the Bible is clear about God's design and purpose in sexuality.

Okay, I have been reading this ensuing discussion with great enthusiasm. Pat has just raised some great points IN RESPONSE to what seems like a revisionist's history. I would still like to hear a real response to Pat. Rachel, sorry, I don't even know what you are saying? It seems that everyone in this discussion (Pat included) is saying that Scripture is the final arbiter of truth. That is all well and good--this conversation is not about that. It is about the interpretation of Scripture (something that none of us are inerrant and infallible in). And might I add to Pat's comments: This whole notion of Witnesses, Mormons, and Egalitarians is as bad as a "Did you hear the one about the rabbie, the priest, and the Atheist?" C'mon, surely you guys have more than that?

Rachel,

It seems fine and good to say "I believe the Bible, not the opinions of the people who read it." However, you are one of the people reading it. By refusing to acknowledge the fact that there are many implicit and explicit influences that you bring to Scripture, you run the risk of imposing your own cultural and existential presuppositions upon God's word. Moreover, we are not meant to sit in a corner by ourselves and figure out what the Bible is saying. Rather, Scripture is intended to be read in the Christian community, past and present. If we fail to do that (by reading Calvin, Fee, or whomever), then we may very well be stopping our ears to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church. As one of my mentors said, "We should always read the Bible with a commentary in one hand and a newspaper in the other." That is wise advice.

So, it is becoming clearer to me that the breakdown of understanding between complementarians and egalitarians is hermeneutical method and not so much exegetical argumentation. Hmm...

So the Westminsterians were a product of their time, but has it ever struck you that the culture was the way it was because of Scripture? Catholics, Protestants, and the Orthodox have disagreed on much over the centuries, but until the 19th century the patriarchal position has always been the position of the church.

The Westminster divines practiced what they believed. That's why there weren't any Divinettes.

But hey, we know the standard retort: Those titans didn't possess our superior sensitivity or our ability to see beyond the confines of their culture. Which is laughable since egalitarianism and weak complementarianism is nothing more than worldliness in the end.

All,

This may be my last post here since no one seems to be addressing the original issues laid out.

Chris, I agree that Scripture speaks to all of life. I just don't think Scripture speaks to all of life with absolute clarity. When we try to make it speak with clarity when it speaks with ambiguity, we run roughshod over the Bible. Westminster says that oftentimes we must deduce applications from Scripture, and it seems that both complementarians and egalitarians are trying to do that while being faithful to the authority of Scripture. However, as John Doe says above, none of our interpretations and deductions are inerrant and infallible.

Jack, Westminster seems to be saying that the acceptance of a particular doctrine for 19 centuries doe is not the final test of its truth because the church can err. And egalitarians are arguing that perhaps this is an area where the church should have some humility and re-evaluate its accepted doctrines.

"Chris, I agree that Scripture speaks to all of life. I just don't think Scripture speaks to all of life with absolute clarity."

Pat:

Sure, I agree with that. But then the issue is "Is God's Word clear about sexuality, mens and women's roles, etc.?" I believe it is crystal clear about those things. Tim wrote a good blog post about this very issue here:

http://timbayly.worldmagblog.com/timbayly/archives/011732.html

I think this discussion is the one we should be having. But please, let's not hide behind perspicuity as if it absolves us of any responsibility to wrestle with the weight of scripture on issues that don't involve the core messages of God's character, sin, salvation, etc. I am not necessarily accusing you of doing this, but you aren't the first person to bring up perspicuity in a discussion about the Bible's teaching on sexuality.

Brothers,

Pat's quotes speak worlds about her/his education and heart. Never--I repeat, never--trust such quotes, particularly in this battle. Smearing dead men is one of the oldest and most desperate tactics of egalitarian feminist revolutionaries. I've written about this before. Here are some good links exposing such cheap lies:

http://timbayly.worldmagblog.com/timbayly/archives/027098.html

http://www.churchinhistory.org/pages/booklets/women-souls-1.html

http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9811/opinion/nolan.html