Covenant Seminary on sexuality...

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Some weeks back, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Dionne, a recent graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, expressed serious concerns over the commitment of Covenant's administration and faculty to the biblical doctrine of sexuality. At that time, Pastor Dionne forwarded a couple of supporting documents from the years he and his wife, Sarah, were members of the CTS community. Not wanting to allow his material to be lost in the (rapidly depleting?) ozone, I'm depositing it here so it can be on record and debated...

Wednesday evening, March 8, Bryan Chapell and I met together to discuss this recent series of posts. In that meeting, Bryan told me he felt my quotes here were selective and therefore not a fair representation of his biblical commitments on matters surrounding sexuality. So in fairness, I'm happy to present these excerpts Bryan provided from his book, Each for the Other:

The apostles intended for their instructions to Christian families to have continuing relevance to us. This means that the headship principle is valid for today. (p. 25)

The head of a home possesses the most authority in the family. The conclusion that God grants this authority to husbands is difficult to sidestep when we read what the Bible plainly says. (p.31)

The instruction to submit to one's husband, combined with the reason given, the example offered, and the extent indicated, clearly communicates that the apostle wants the husband to have primary authority in the marriage (see Titus 2:5; 1 Cor. 11:3-10). (p. 32)

The apostle says that just as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to the headship of husbands (Eph. 5:22-23). (p. 32)

God's desire for women to submit to their husbands reflects no passing or incidental concern. God considers the submission of wives extremely important. The apostle Paul reflects the degree of God's concerns by describing the duty as having eternal as well as earthly consequences. (p. 79)

Scripture's instruction for wives to submit to their husbands is remarkably sweeping and consistent. Far from being limited to an obscure reference, the concept appears across Paul's letters, reappears in other New Testament writing, finds precedent in Israel's origins, and has its design conceived at humanity's creation. Godly instruction so comprehensive in scope cannot mean nothing for Christians concerned to honor God with their lives." (p. 84)

From the precise biblical contexts in which the term is used, commentators variously interpret submission as "a disposition to yield," "voluntary yielding in love," or "not to exercise authority over... Though the specific definitions may vary a little, it is apparent that submission includes actions, since it involves obedience (1 Pet. 3:5-6), and it includes attitudes, since it involves respect (Eph. 5:33). (p. 85)

...submission (in addition to requiring the pouring of self into the completion of another) involves the exercising of gifts for the glory of another. (p. 90).

...the wife must respect her husband" (Eph. 5:33). The word translated "respect" actually comes from the same term the apostle uses a few sentences earlier to say we must reverence Christ (Eph. 5:21). The apostle uses the word to communicate godly fear or awe. (p. 121)

Bryan Chapell on Ephesians 5:21 and mutual submission...

Covenant Theological Seminary president, Bryan Chapell, has been known to speak in support of man's headship in marriage. Dealing with the classic text commanding wifely submission, though, President Chapell regularly promotes Ephesians 5:21-33 as teaching the duty of husbands to submit to their wives as well as wives to submit to their husbands. From the beginning, this position has been foundational to the propaganda of evangelical feminists.

First, this from President Chapell's message on Ephesians 5:21-33 titled, "The Submissive Husband":

It seems that there is not...a removal of authority but a clear redefinition of it. And that redefinition is that you are to be exercising your authority with this remembering. You are to be submitting to one another even as you exercise your authority. There is not only an expression of authority in headship, but a clear expression of the way in which you are to be expressing it is to be out of submission--submission to what God wants to accomplish in the people's lives around you, in your own life. You are to be submitting to one another even as you express your authority. Now those things don't go together in cultural understanding. But it is precisely what Paul is saying must be what husbands are. They are servant-leaders. And even the order is important here. If you take verse 21 as the controlling verse, submit to one another in everything--submit--then even those people who are leaders are expressing their leadership in the terms of some aspect of submission to what God is trying to accomplish. What does it mean to be a servant-leader, to have this role?

Second, from President Chapell's book on marriage titled, Each for the Other (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1998), this statement and footnote on the proper interpretation of Ephesians 5:21-33:

What should rouse our curiosity and underscore the special nature of Paul's instructions is what he says to those who are not in traditionally submissive roles. First, Paul affirms their authority. For example, the apostle still gives parents authority over children (Eph. 6:1-4), and servants are not encouraged to take a vote to decide whether to obey their masters (6:5-8). Yet despite his refusal to annul the authority of those that his culture considered to be in charge, the apostle will not affirm the status quo. He requires people with authority (as well as those in submissive roles) to live sacrificially for the ones God places in their spiritual context and care (cf. 5:1-2, 21, 25). Endnote 14

Endnote 14: Significantly different interpretations have been given to the loving phrase "submit to one another." Some have taken the phrase to mean that among Christians no one should have authority over anyone. This interpretation seems unlikely since wives are immediately told to submit to their husbands, children are told to obey parents, and slaves (better interpreted as 'servants'; see note 3 in chapter 5) are told to obey earthly masters. In addition, Paul here and elsewhere establishes offices of authority in the church (see Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 5:17).

Other respected interpreters examine the use of these words elsewhere and conclude the phrase applies only to those who are in submissive roles (see Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective, 140-44; Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 493-94 [footnote 6]). This may seem to indicate that the only ones who have submission obligations are those in subservient positions. While I understand the concern these conscientious authors have not to blur biblical husband/wife distinctions by allowing that husbands are to 'submit' to their wives, questions remain about their interpretation. Reasons for such questions include: (1) the long Greek sentence (Eph. 5:18-21) that includes this requirement of submission also includes three other requirements that apply to all in the church rather than one group of persons; (2) each of the requirements is a consequence of individuals being 'filled with the Spirit'--a quality all believers are to desire; (3) and the commands for all persons that follow (including husbands, parents, and masters) make it clear that putting self-interest beneath the interest of others is required of every believer (see George W. Knight III, "Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church: Ephesians 5:21-33 and Colossians 3:18-19," in Piper and Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 167-68). Arguing that the Greek word for submission "is never 'mutual' in its force; it is always one-directional in its reference to submission to authority" (Piper and Grudem, 493) does not negate the possibility that submission requirements apply to all believers since each is acting "out of reverence for Christ" and thus all are ultimately submitting to the one divine authority.

My understanding is that Paul intended for the general phrase "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" to apply to all in the church as each lives sacrificially in every position or relationship God provides. However, with precisely inspired balance and to avoid confusion about roles and responsibilities, the apostle never uses the "submit" term when directly instructing husbands, parents, and masters about their relationships with those under their authority. The issues are complex, however, and I freely concede an unwillingness to claim certainty on the particular point of whether the specific "submit" term applies to those in authority. Still, this discussion about whether the specific term applies to all persons in every relationship, should not make anyone uncertain about Paul's clear statement at the outset of this passage that all believers should "live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us" (Eph. 5:2). This foundation principle makes it clear that all persons are to sacrifice their own interests to the purposes of God as they are being fulfilled in others.

The general requirements of personal selflessness is reemphasized when the apostle later tells those in authority to give of themselves for the good of those under their care. Hence, husbands are told to love their wives "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (5:25; and note also that this is precisely how women are told to "submit" in 1 Peter 3:1, cf. 3:7); fathers are told, "do not exasperate your children" (Eph. 6:4); and masters are commanded "in the same way" not to threaten their servants since "he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him" (v. 9). Paul does not obliterate all authority but rather requires all persons of every distinction to surrender their own advantages and benefits to the good of the ones for whom they are responsible. The closest analogy to this kind of submission is the very one that in terms of authority he did not serve the church in the same way that she submits to him. He maintained his authority even as he humbled himself to offer his life for the church's good (Phil. 2:5-11). For expert discussion of this careful balance see Foh, Women and the Word of God, 134.

[All emphases in the original.]

And demonstrating how it all comes out in the end, this from President Chapell's message on Ephesians 5:21-33 titled, "The Submissive Wife":

Now you have to remember that it is both the man and the women by virtue of verse 21 that are to be in some form of submission to each other.

Dan Doriani's apology...

Likely the most orthodox member of Covenant's faculty in dealing with the biblical doctrine of sexuality was Dr. Dan Doriani. Yet this excerpt makes it painfully obvious that even Dr. Doriani would prefer not to teach on the subject. Do it he must, though, so he takes up the thankless task. Reading Dr. Doriani's extended apology leads me to wonder how the Apostle Paul might rewrite Galatians were he writing today.

More recently, Dr. Doriani left the Presbyterian Church in America for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church to serve as Senior Pastor of Central Presbyterian Church, the tallest-steepled presbtyerian church of metro St. Louis. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church's distinctive is permitting women in office. It's been reported to me that Central Pres. has no women elders or pastors.

Two days away from the Francis Schaeffer lectures. I'm somewhat apprehensive. I think about the fact that in two days I'll be standing up and not saying what a speaker usually says at the beginning of a lecture series. You know--you're always supposed to say...'it's a joy and honor to be here. This is a very important topic about which I care very deeply.' And on Friday night I won't quite be able to begin that way with full truthfulness. ...I'll say it is an important topic and it's an honor to be here. But I won't be able to say it's a joy to be here... Why?

Let me tell you some ignoble reasons for being afraid or apprehensive before speaking. I don't like controversy, and this topic is controversial. Second, I like to be liked.

And, you know, when I'm done speaking I'm not so sure everyone will like everything that I say and since what we say is connected to who we are people who don't like what I say won't like who I am. And I don't like that. ...I know that at some points to the conservatives I'll be a liberal and to liberals I'll be conservative...and at some points almost no one will really like what I'm saying. That is unpleasant to think about. We all like to be liked. There are weightier reasons than my own preferences, too. It is a difficult topic--a topic on which even conservative Christians disagree sharply. In fact, there are so many decisions that need to be made about the roles of women and the place of women in the church that I don't know if there is anybody that will completely agree on every point that is going to be raised. In other words, the more you talk, the more you accumulate people who disagree with you at least a little bit.

But that's not all. When I keep giving my views on points that are controverted, I come to the conclusion that by the end of the day it is a virtually certainty that I will have said something if not multiple things that are false. If only I knew which ones those were. Then I'd feel better. But I don't. Beyond that there is the problem that even beyond that even if I would perchance say everything correctly...there will be subtle and sophisticated arguments and refinements. And we live in a day when people don't like refinements. When you say "ordinarily" and "probably" and "usually" most people think you are just clearing your throat. But in fact, you are trying to say there is more to this issue than you realize. They say, "Just tell us straight...can women do this or can they not. Just tell us."

And it is just not that simple sometimes...

-Covenant Seminary professor Dan Doriani, Spring 2000: Francis A. Schaeffer Lectures: Convictions and Confessions--Women's Roles in the Church