Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando) and evangelical feminism...

Synergy:2007.jpg

A few weeks ago, President Frank James and his wife, Carolyn Custis James, sent the above letter to RTS students encouraging them to register for a seminar sponsored by Mrs. James' Whitby Forum, The Impact Movement, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Reformed Theological Seminary. The April 13-15 seminar titled, "Mission Critical: Women on the Frontlines for the Gospel," will be led by Drs. Alice Matthews and Diane Langberg, and Mrs. James...

Dr. Alice Matthews, a former professor of educational and women's ministries at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is one of the founders of the evangelical feminist organization, Christians for Biblical Equality, whose identity statement, signed by Dr. Matthews (among many others), includes a number of pronouncements like this:

5. The Bible teaches that the rulership of Adam over Eve resulted from the Fall and was therefore not a part of the original created order. Genesis 3:16 is a prediction of the effects of the Fall rather than a prescription of God's ideal order.

The Jameses identify Dr. Diane Langberg as "an expert on gender violence." This past weekend, Dr. Langberg spoke at Covenant Seminary on the subject, "Beyond Closed Doors: The Abuse of Power in Marriage, the Church, and Other Relationships." Then there is Carolyn Custis James, about whom we have already said enough. A member of the RTS community sent us this announcement and we thought it would be good for a woman with a biblical commitment to God's order of sexuality to attend and write up a report.

Comments

So what will be the excuse for having a CBE founder within 1000ft of the seminary for any topic? Perhaps the excuse corporations give for supporting Planned Parenthood: we don't support abortion, we support sex ed!

The back door opens again.

Have these sisters been reading Betty Friedan and Marilyn French by any chance? Have they been taking women's studies at one of our fine universities?

Hmmm. The plot thickens...

Do they think that the army of women missionaries who have children, raise a family, all the while supporting their husbands in their ministry are not on the front lines of the battle?

Oh, well...silly me...

While there may be disagreement regarding the theological commitments behind what the Jameses are encouraging in Synergy, I don't think that the practical points of encouragement are in disagreement with complementarianism. Urging women to use their gifts in all realms of the church does not compromise the church's support of women as wives and mothers. But the reality is that not all women are wives and mothers. While women may certainly be involved in the raising of all the children within the church (as the men should be also), there are other areas of ministry where women's gifts are valuable for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Also, this discussion does not touch on God's order of sexuality. While it seems that what you mean here is related to gender roles, I think your use of potentially controversial language in this instance associates the women involved in leadership through Synergy with a different issue altogether.

Melanie,

Tim will not label this issue one of "gender roles", and for good reason. Also, I think you miss the point of his particular (peculiar?) choice of words.

Our sex is a biological fact, we are all male or female. God has an order for sexuality, for example, in that a woman is not to have authority over a man, and that husbands are the heads of their wives.

When you speak of gender roles, you give up the fight. Gender (masculine or feminine) is a societal construct, and it is subjective. While I am 100% male, I may be more or less masculine than another man. Roles, unlike God's order, are things that can be put on or taken off, at the discretion of the wearer.

God does not ask me to merely assume a masculine role, but to live consistently with his order for sexuality.

Words matter. We need to choose words that communicate the nature of God's truth. Many of the words and phrases of the sophisticated in our culture are designed to undermine God's truth.

Tim would say it better (if he were not on a blogging pseudo-sabbatical), but I'm confident that this approximates his thinking.

"I don't think that the practical points of encouragement are in disagreement with complementarianism."

I hope that you recognize that since this is at RTS, it is absolutely necessary that it appear consistent with complementarianism. You strike me as somewhat naive here, and perhaps willfully so.

Eric,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I accept your correction of my understanding of the terminology chosen. I'm glad for the clarification of the chosen language since it seems that most do not hear 'sexuality' in the manner in which you so articulately explain it.

This post seems to imply that women's involvement in the church would not be focusing on people outside their families. I'm still not clear, though, on why someone's femaleness would prohibit the exercise of gifts in contexts/relationships other than marriage and motherhood. As women live consistently with God's order for sexuality, it seems that much more is required than what is included in marriage and motherhood. Not that being a wife and mother (when those are applicable) is not included, but that the call of women in the church exceeds those peculiar relationships. This does not mean that women would be in positions of authority over men; rather, that women would be actively pursuing involvement in all areas of ministry alongside men and that the men in the church would create space for women to live into their femininity in the various ministries of the church.

Moreover, from looking at the Synergy website, it doesn't seem that the questions of gender violence that are being addressed relate to marriage (as the post seems to imply). Diane Langberg is going to speak about sex trafficking, an issue that women must be involved in for healing and change to take place. Men certainly must also be involved in this as well, but because of the nature of the abuse, men cannot do this alone. To restore women who have had such consistent abuse in their lives to God's order of sexuality, it seems that women would need to be on the so-called 'frontlines' of ministry. How would you suggest the church address this particular injustice?

Again, thank you for the thoughtful interaction.

Melanie,

Let's assume that everything they talk about seems right and good (which I doubt, but we'll assume it). Ask yourself this: Why does it take a founder of CBE to tell you it? Why would a seminary invite, of all people, her? It's a topic that maybe, just maybe, could be subtly used to agitate on things near and dear to a CBE founder's heart, to lay the groundwork to press further (because that's how infiltrations occur, one 'incident' at a time while the orthodox slumber).

Even if the fox is fed, why make a bed for her in the henhouse?

oops, meant to see "Even," not Eve. Hm, interesting typo...

Jack's Pipe,

I suppose one reason might be that there aren't folks who hold to CBMW's statement addressing these same matters. Your point seems very ad hominem in this regard. It seems that the question you pose to me is one you need to answer: Why would it take someone from CBE to say these things? It seems that CBMW people must also be saying these things and pursuing action and involvement in addressing them.

Moreover, you seem to be accusing Synergy of venturing down a slippery slope. But this seems misguided. Caring about matters of injustice (such as sex trafficking) does not need to be a veil for importing views about marriage and family. We can't write off what's being said because of what's not being said. We must be discerning, but we can't let being discerning lead to the kind of fencing that prevents us from making the invisible kingdom visible.

If the orthodox aren't slumbering (and it seems that they're not), then why can't we seek to learn from and work alongside those with whom we disagree?

"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."

"Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:49-50).

From the emphasis of this blog, it sounds like issues like sex trafficing really are not problems the church needs to address whereas silencing people who hold to Biblical innerrancy and CBE's statement is far more important. Who cares that some of these people have been warriors for the church? They interpret Genesis 3:16 differently...get rid of them.

Maybe the Essenes were onto something. If we can make the church small enough that everyone agrees with Biblical gender mandates, then the kingdom will come. After all, that is what Jesus came for, isn't it? Or am I missing something?

Joel,

If CCJ and her cohorts are able to stop or slow sex trafficking, that would be tremendous. But if they were to use sex trafficking as a ruse to undermine God's word, that would be a different thing altogether.

We don't make the church smaller by insisting on the plain teaching of scripture. We make the church small when we declare that obedience is optional.

Eric,

Wow, that's a really strong accusation you just leveled. And you've not addressed anything I've said. I'd think you'd want to be more careful about examining and looking into the people you're saying such things about before saying that they'd use sex trafficking as a 'ruse.' That would be dirty--but it's dirtier to accuse someone of something like that without knowing them personally. Wow. What is your understanding of obedience if you're so willing to say such things about people you've (probably) never met or talked to personally? I do think we need to judge--I'm not implying some version of that verse out of context. But perhaps you judge with too little information. And for that reason judge very wrongly.

Eric,

No doubt, but why would you accuse them of doing so? What this blog lacks is any recognition that this issue is not as clear as we would like it to be. You have to admit that Roger Nicole has been one of the 20th century's most prominent defenders of inerrancy. He told me today that his article on "The Nature of Inerrancy" is the most important thing he has ever written. He is a supporter of CBE. Now you may say, "he is disobeying the plain teaching of Scripture!" Maybe so, but to paint everyone who disagrees with you on how plain this issue as undermining Scripture is irresponsible.

Where do the ecumenical creeds deal with this issue? Where do the Reformed Confessions deal with it? Where does Westminster deal with it? That's not to say that it is an unimportant issue or one that we cannot take a stance on, but when taking a stance, do we really need to impute evil motives (like wanting to undermine the word of God...about the most evil motive anyone can have) to those who see things differently? Why not have a discussion on the issue? Why not deal with the Scripture texts in question? Doesn't sola Scriptura require us to makes sure that our doctrinal stances are not based simply on our ecclesial culture but on the word of God?

Part of Biblical wisdom is recognizing that we cannot hold to all doctrinal matters with equal certainty. That does not leave us in postmodern relativism. It leaves us in reality. To villainize someone is a lazy way of allowing ourselves to not have to listen to them. Yet to do so puts us in jeopardy of misinterpreting the very Word of God we are seeking to honor and uphold.

Eric...let me repost with grammatical corrections...I will preview my message next time. Sorry for the confusion.

No doubt, but why would you accuse them of doing so? What this blog lacks is any recognition that this issue is not as clear as we would like it to be. You have to admit that Roger Nicole has been one of the 20th century's most prominent defenders of inerrancy. He told me today that his article on "The Nature of Inerrancy" is the most important thing he has ever written. He is a supporter of CBE. Now you may say, "he is disobeying the plain teaching of Scripture!" Maybe so, but to paint everyone who disagrees with you on how plain this issue is as undermining Scripture is irresponsible.

Where do the ecumenical creeds deal with this issue? Where do the Reformed Confessions deal with it? Where does Westminster deal with it? That's not to say that it is an unimportant issue or one that we cannot take a stance on it, but when taking a stance, do we really need to impute evil motives (like wanting to undermine the word of God...about the most evil motive anyone can have) to those who see things differently? Why not have a discussion on the issue? Why not deal with the Scripture texts in question? Doesn't sola Scriptura require us to makes sure that our doctrinal stances are not based simply on our ecclesial culture but on the word of God? Is avoiding these discussions simply a way to ensure that we not be challenged...a self-fulfilling prophesy?

Part of Biblical wisdom is recognizing that we cannot hold to all doctrinal matters with equal certainty. That does not leave us in postmodern relativism. It leaves us in reality. To villainize someone is a lazy way of allowing ourselves to not have to listen to them. Yet to do so puts us in jeopardy of misinterpreting the very Word of God we are seeking to honor and uphold.

>Where do the ecumenical creeds deal with this issue? Where do the Reformed Confessions deal with it? Where does Westminster deal with it?

They do not deal with it because nobody was so foolish as to raise it as an issue. The creeds do not deal with homosexuality either. Westminster does not deal with necrophilia or feminism. They weren't active issues.

Melanie and Joel,

Sorry, I don't have anymore time for this. If you feel that I have been a bit of a drive-by poster here, then I'll plead guilty.

I recognize that my statements were strong, and I ought not to say such things without time and willingness to justify and answer objections. For that I apologize.

>I ought not to say such things without time and willingness to justify and answer objections.

That doesn't follow

Thanks Eric. I'm a drive by poster too...How about you, David? Any thoughts?

>They weren't active issues...

You're right. So then, how should one deal with it? What makes it foolish? I may even agree with you. Are those you disagree with foolish? Jesus warns about calling people fools (Matthew 5:22), so it's a serious charge. On what basis are you making that value judgment? Are you searching the Scriptures on this matter?

>You're right. So then, how should one deal with it?

Submit to the authority of scripture and the historic understanding of the church.

>What makes it foolish?

Failure to do the above.

>I may even agree with you.

I hope so.

>Are those you disagree with foolish?

Sometimes.

>Jesus warns about calling people fools (Matthew 5:22), so it's a serious charge.

Who called anyone a fool? Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools.

>On what basis are you making that value judgment?

See the first item.

> Are you searching the Scriptures on this matter?

Cute.

David,

>They do not deal with it because nobody was so foolish as to raise it as an issue

Foolish is an adjective of fool. It seems as though this conversation is going nowhere. I was hoping for some genuine interaction. I would love to know how you deal with matters of unequal certainty, how to graciously interact with those you disagree with...particularly brothers and sisters in Christ. I gather that is not what you are interested in.

By the way, David, you questioned my intelligence or at least my education. Is that how you respond to people who question you? I asked you genuine questions...you responded to those questions with curt one sentence answers designed to make yourself look good and me look foolish. Responding to a question about searching the Scriptures with "cute" is really condescending.

>Foolish is an adjective of fool.

Everyone is foolish at times. Not everyone is a fool.

>By the way, David, you questioned my intelligence or at least my education.

No. But I did question the quality of some of your comments.

I've been following the debate for quite a while and am finally ready to add my two cents:

Sisters, please be man - and woman - enough to just SAY where you want the train to go. Sheepish subtlety is worse than honest disagreement.
The Synergy people certainly didn't sit there, wringing their hands in despair because they really, really wanted somebody lecturing on violence, and much to their chagrin couldn't find anybody from the CBMW related circles...
Furthermore, the CBE-founder and "trailblazer", Alice Matthews will, I'm sure, speak on something other than gender violence, and the problem is not that nobody else could possibly lecture about "women on the frontlines". (I've heard many good speakers at other women's conferences over the years): it's that Synergy doesn''t want someone else.
Nobody invites someone like Alice Matthews and cheerfully advertizes her as a trailblazer when the only reason for getting her in is that, unfortunately, there are no complementarians around... come on. How nave do you think we are?
So, sister (Melanie), could we please just take that as granted?

That in itself is not even bewildering or a surprise, though: it's that the strategy of bringing in feminists through the backdoor is dishonest, both on the intellectual and on the personal level. Those realizing that, but still trying to cover it up here should be careful with bemoaning that "this conversation is not going anywhere": Put your cards on the table, and it will go somewhere.

Also, the point of complementarianism is not simply to advocate women's (part-time?) calling as wives and mothers, as Melanie implies. Sorry, the bar is not that low, the brand-label "not in disagreement with complementarianism" that was thrown around above is not as easily given.

At least Joel is more straightforward, rightly asserting that the ecumenical creeds don't address the issue, but being silent on why they do so: because everybody assumed the issue to be painfully clear, from scripture and from nature. Imagine walking up to the Westminster divines, saying "you're all male, what's going on? Wouldn't a shot of Biblical equality be exciting?" They would kick you out, and rightly so; the silence of the creeds doesn't help your position, but ours.
And can we please leave out no-brainer questions like "why not have a discussion on the issue... why don't we search the scriptures"? Well, guess what we're doing. Nobody is taking unity for granted here, don't worry about that.

And, Melanie, reading between the lines, I guess that you DON'T see the convictions and activities of Mrs. Matthews and the sisterhood as an equivalent to somebody casting out demons who is not on the Jesus team; to the contrary, you seem to view them as much more desireable for the church than weirdos claiming the Lord's authority, don't you? Again, please do say what you want.
Leaving as much as possible unsaid is not an honest strategy. Let a woman in skirts, not pants, tell you that.

That's a misapplication of Luke 9:49-50. Just because a man speaks truth -- Bin Laden gets something right occasionally, too -- doesn't mean he gets an invite to speak at a sponsored event.

"We must be discerning"

OK, so when do we start?

"but we can't let being discerning lead to the kind of fencing that prevents us from making the invisible kingdom visible"

Why not? Further, bringing in feminists is hardly the way to do that. Church discipline by finite humans can is susceptible to error, but it is still called for in Scripture.

"If the orthodox aren't slumbering (and it seems that they're not), then why can't we seek to learn from and work alongside those with whom we disagree?"

The seminary orthodox are slumbering (and something fishy is going on at the seminary) if they are allowing a CBE founder to speak at a church-sponsored conference. If you were going to infiltrate a church, would you have a conference called Women Pastors Now? No you would not. You wouldn't have the numbers. You'd wake up the police as surely as HA Fosdick did. More subtlety is needed... why, perhaps an ancillary topic.

You really need to go back and read Tim's past posts on Mrs. James. This isn't a new thing.

As for the comment that the creeds and confessions don't mention women's ordination, David Gray correctly states that that's because no one was silly enough to make it an issue until 19th and esp. 20th century progressives / relativists entered the fray.

correction, seminary-sponsored event.

and H.E. Fosdick...

Actually, the Westminster divines pack a punch against egalitarianism, but only in the Scripture proofs. The first man to point out where gets the prize. And yes, I'm using ´man´ biblically, like the OT 'adam,' so it includes woman.

XXIV

#3

Scripture proofs list #7

Elizabeth,

Thank you for the interaction. You nail me on a couple points. I suppose I'm hoping this train will take us to an ability to work alongside those with whom we disagree. I'm not trying to push anyone here to embrace CBE's priorities or theology. But it seems like this is such a divisive issue that hosts of this blog keep coming back to it in ways that don't seem much better than slandering of the people involved. Perhaps that's the nature of the medium, though. It gives folks the opportunity to say personal things about people they don't know personally--and in a place where those things will be read widely. I assume that behind all these posts that seem to take CCJ's quotes out of context and accuse people of motives that no one but God can know (I checked out the "about whom we've already said enough" link provided), Scripture is being considered. But that's not what's being communicated here, and that's what frustrates me.

And you're right, Alice Matthews will speak on something other than gender violence. I only ever said that Diana Langberg would speak on gender violence, and somewhere in this thread that got confused. Alice Matthews is speaking on how God empowers his people and how we may understand his word. Yet, there will also be a speaker (Lillian Barger) who will be addressing how to engage the feminist culture. This seems to be another point of frustration for me with this blog--there're many nasty things to be said about people who hold divergent views, but they're certainly not said in ways that your opponents would ever be able to hear what you're saying. It seems mostly polemical. Synergy is looking to engage and discuss cultural feminism. Whether or not they could be called feminists themselves, I don't know. That's a label that I think each person must choose for him/herself because of how loaded it is. Even if someone has sympathies with what might be known as a feminist agenda, that does not mean he/she will be trying to always persuade people to his/her side on those issues. Again, this comes down to assumption of motives--which neither you nor I can come to a conclusion on here.

As far as my use of the verses in Luke 9, I wasn't trying to draw an exact parallel between first century weirdos, as you say, casting out demons and Dr. Matthews. Rather, the point of those verses seems to be giving us a test to apply to others--anyone who is seeking to do Jesus' work ought to be welcomed. In 11:23, we're given a test to apply to ourselves: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." It seems like this blog is using the latter as a judgment against others, whereas it is a judgment against them.

This is why I introduced the topic of sex trafficking at all. I'm sure that could've seemed like a red herring, but I suppose this just all comes back to my frustration that we're letting charged theological differences pit us against each other in ways that could very well preclude making the invisible kingdom visible. There is no neutrality in the advancement of the kingdom of God so we need to welcome those who are seeking to do the Lord's work, even if we would consider them misguided.

Also, I know the complementarian position has much more to say than the words "wife" and "mother"--so let the rest be said. The way that CCJ and the CBE position are critiqued makes it hard to hear much more. Where is the bar set for women in the church and in ministry?

Again, thank you for the thoughtful interaction. If I've missed anything you said, please let me know.

>I suppose I'm hoping this train will take us to an ability to work alongside those with whom we disagree.

Should we have done that with Gnostics and Arians?

For what it's worth, I'd suggest taking the time to (re-)read Mary Kassian's "The Feminist Gospel," where she demonstrates the feminist presuppositions in much of the Christian Church and--to my mind--a certain segment of the PCA. This is a very worthwhile read.
Shamelessly, I would suggest that you try my new posting at my blog site about whether the phrases "Christian Feminism" or "Christian Feminist" should even be used in the Church.
Rather than spending our time on what women can, can't, should, or shouldn't be doing (I totally disagree with the notion that in the church a woman can do anything an unordained man can do), we should be focusing our efforts on training the men to be effective leaders at home, in the Church, and in society.
Rattlesnake 6

David,

I suppose we disagree on what level of disagreement causes an ultimate rift in fellowship. Gnostics and Arians held divergent views of God--theology proper--than the orthodox did. No one we're talking about here is claiming something completely different about God than you are. Rather, the difference here is in application of theological propositions and our anthropology. While I know each aspect of our theology impacts each other aspect of our theology, you're on shaky ground comparing anyone who signed CBE to Gnostics or Arians.

It seems like the general attitude here is one of avoidance rather than engagement. Perhaps associating Synergy with heretics means you don't really have to take what they're saying seriously. This seems profoundly misguided to me. Guilt by false association is not a responsible approach to dialogue.

So if your pastor became a cross-dresser and defended that, would you gladly continue to attend church there?

I was just reading North's book on the fall of the old Presbyterian church, and he fingers one key moment as the point when the old school "engaged" the modernists at Union Seminary by starting a journal w/them and "engaging" them in discussion on higher criticism. What did this serve to do? Legitimize it. Feminism doesn't need to be engaged within the church, it needs to be removed from it. The church isn't a democracy.

I agree that avoidance is an issue, except that what's being avoided is discipline.

Jack's Pipe,

I don't know what cross-dressing has to do with anything here, unless you're accusing someone of being butch or something. Either that's a red herring or a straw man.

As far as feminism not being permissible within the church--that's not what I'm calling for. I think you're labeling 'feminist' matters that might very well be 'biblical' if you took time to hear them. Out of curiosity, has anyone on this blog read CCJ's book When Life and Beliefs Collide? It seems to me that someone would need a very broad and sloppy definition of feminism to classify her work that way. But if by feminism you mean that she challenges women to consider how they're call to be faithful to God might include more than marriage and motherhood, then perhaps its a title she deserves--and it seems like, then, it would be a title people on this blog deserve. I guess I'm indirectly asking, what do you mean when you classify these women as feminists? And based on what do you make that judgment?

Also, it seems worth noting that something one might say about a statement that was signed cannot be said of all the signees. That's the fallacy of division. Again, guilt by association just isn't helpful in making a clear point. This is sort of like saying that everyone who's acknowledged WCF as a trustworthy interpretation of the Bible has agreed with everything WCF has said, meant, been, endorsed, been used for, been misinterpreted as, etc. I know CBE isn't a confession like WCF, but it seems a fair analogy. So what has Dr. Matthews herself said to make you write her off so vehemently? (Note: signing a statement that seeks to undermine the word of God is an illegitimate answer--again, this comes back to the question of motives. Moreover, many who signed CBE are some of the staunchest defenders of inerrancy. You'd have to accuse them of deep perdition to say they were trying to undermine God's Word in signing that statement).

As far as Ron's point above, I do believe we need to be training our men to be effective leaders--but it seems to be a false dichotomy to say that we can effectively do this without focusing any of our resources and energies directly on what women can/can't/etc. do. So, please, how might women be actively involved in making the invisible kingdom visible? It's an honest question.

Above please read, 'you'd have to accuse them of deep perdition...' as 'you'd have to accuse them of deep sedition....' Knew that didn't sound like, but couldn't tell why right away...hm. Well, cheers.

Quite right. Rather, signing a statement that directly contradicts the Word of God, again and again.

Nothing here about motives just now. Rather a plain declarative statement easily verified by the simplest examination of God´s Word which He was pleased to give the greatest clarity to in this matter.

Those who love this truth, God bless you. Those who hate and refuse to obey it, silence!

If the tender souls of some of our good readers think such words are not pastoral, may I suggest a close reading of the pastoral epistles and all they command concerning the duties of the officers of Christ´s Church? Guarding the good deposit involves saying ´no´ to false doctrine as well as the souls who promote it. Our task has never ever been to say things the disobedient find helpful.

In Christian love,

Tim Bayly

Drive-by poster. Conservative evangelical seminary-trained mid-life married male mostly complementarian in family ministry. Not Reformed by reason of biblical conviction.

I was drawn to this discussion only because I knew Alice Mathews 20+ years ago in seminary. She was "progressive" back then, too. Didn't really agree with her views, but appreciated her as a person. But that's beside my point

I feel a bit like the atheist with the new book "I Sold My Soul On Ebay" who gives a non-believer's-eye-view of the church. In this case, I'm an outside to the Reformed enclave, and would normally steer well clear of this kind of discussion, but I felt compelled to comment.

David, Jack's Pipe, and Eric...you do not give complementarianism or Reformedism a good face. You come across as dogmatic, unreasonable, and sometimes even mean-spirited. Whatever good points you make are often clouded by your attitudes. Sorry guys, but the Spirit of Christ often seems missing from your words and attitudes, at least to me.

Melanie, on the other hand, Reformed and probably somewhat of a moderate on the gender issues, comes across as reasonable, thoughtful, irenic, and gentle-spirited (she was not treated like the lady she appears to be). I was, frankly, challenged and persuaded by much of what she had to say. I might change my mind if I heard some of her biblical views on specific verses, but I would definitely want to hear her thoughts. She is obviously gifted as a thinker and, yes, teacher. Whether or not I would agree with her, I would learn from her. Conspiracy theories aside, I would say the same about Alice Matthews.

I've been a CBMW complementarian for a long time, but I sense the Spirit doing some adjusting of my views. I'm not talking about dismissing Scriptures that clearly teach, to me, that church leadership (elders) is gender-specific. However, I'm no longer convinced that Scripture limits women's roles as strictly as the old complementarian model has been interpreted. Melanie is a great example of that to me. But so is my wife, who writes books on traditional motherhood, but speaks internationally to women and men, while homeschooling a houseful of great kids. Like Melanie, she is articulate, insightful, and convicting. She strongly supports the idea of submitting to loving leadership at home and in the church, but that should not limit her gifts and calling. I have an older daughter who is deeply spiritual and articulate. I grow in my faith from her insights, so why shouldn't other men be blessed by her gifts?

That's all I wanted to say. Just thought I'd chime in.

Melanie: The point about cross dressing was a response to your response to David: it's not "theology proper" as you term it (and it's not in the creeds). But is it an acceptable understanding of sexuality and Scripture that is unworthy of church discipline? The point isn't to discuss cross-dressing, but the idea of what makes a rift in fellowship valid. If we question the Ms. Matthews about, say, submission in Eph. 3, does anyone seriously doubt what we'd hear? It'd be all downhill from there...

Christian: This happens every thread about this topic, and in fact probably in every discussion between conservatives and their foes in the last 100 years. Those who believe the church should discipline and silence these events are dogmatic, uncaring, and doltish, while the moderate side is sensible, caring, and "irenic" (a word rarely seen outside of these sorts of debates). And then motives are questioned. As Tim said, read the Pastoral Epistles. Read 1 Cor 5 too. What has been said here is chicken feed compared to that. It's not caring to allow error to infest the church and endanger the flock. And let's not pretend that once feminism gets a foothold in the PCA, that even more degraded things will not follow. Church history the past century almsot invariably tells us otherwise.

oops, Eph 5... Mr. Gaffe strikes again.

BTW, re: the word irenic... it reminded me of this witty passage in North's Crossed Fingers, ch. 4. The topic is different (read: no one here is being accused of being a modernist), but oh, that wonderful word, it hath a fine history...

The Modernist Briggs said] I regret, on many accounts, that it has been necessary for me to attack so often the elder and younger Hodge, divines for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration."He also announced: "This book is irenical." It wasn't, and saying it was did not make it so, except in the minds of his theological allies, then and now. "Irenical" means low-key language, a spirit of calm discourse. It may be an appropriate style when you are conducting a frontal assault on an enemy who has the votes. It is also an appropriate rhetorical smoke screen to announce your irenical disposition when you are about to toss a verbal stink bomb at your enemies, which is exactly what Whither? did. Briggs maintained the rhetoric of toleration: the myth of judicial neutrality. He assured everyone: "The author does not wish to exclude from the Church those theologians whom he attacks for their errors. He is a broad churchman. . . . He rejoices in all earnest efforts for Christian unity, not only in Presbyterians and Reformed circles, but in the entire Christian world." This became the official battle cry--irenic, of course--of the modernists within Northern Presbyterianism . . . until they had the votes to isolate the orthodox party. At that point, if the orthodox men protested, or worse, threatened to withhold their tithes and offerings, they were thrown out. Irenically, of course.

To assert that I have reached my conclusions on scripture through prayerful study and a humble, teachable spirit, but anyone who reaches a different conclusion clearly has an agenda and a bias, and is in rebellion, is the ultimate in arrogance. To claim that people who assert the inerrancy of scripture yet reach different conclusions than oneself, are reprobate and denying the clear teaching of scripture, is the height of arrogance.

1st Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" I see very little respect here from certain posters towards their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Dear Light,

What would constitute such respect?

It seems to me you choose a typically feminine method of discourse by disparaging the tone of others. You've assumed the argument in your comment. If we grant that you're right about tactics you win the whole kit and kaboodle, don't you? If it's not worth our passion and if those such as yourself who deny what we say the Bible teaches aren't really so bad, well, you win, don't you? You've made a nice end run to Baghdad while we're still out in our tanks staring into the desert night.

As a man I tend to appreciate straightforward, vigorous discourse--even from my foes. You'll never find me complaining about the mocking Tim and I receive elsewhere. Ad hominem attacks are a legitimate means of polemic--unless, of course, one's a Cretan himself... Perhaps a blog run by women would be more your taste in affect?

David Bayly

"To assert that I have reached my conclusions on scripture through prayerful study and a humble, teachable spirit, but anyone who reaches a different conclusion clearly has an agenda and a bias, and is in rebellion, is the ultimate in arrogance."

This is another example of the spirit of the age. If someone comes to a conclusion about something sincerely, then it doesn't matter what the conclusion is. To the people who held the error of the Nicolaitans, Christ's response wasn't "well at least you came to this sincerely, let's debate irenically." It was: "Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth." Similarly, Paul's rebuke of Peter and many other examples.

"To claim that people who assert the inerrancy of scripture yet reach different conclusions than oneself, are reprobate and denying the clear teaching of scripture, is the height of arrogance."

No one has been called reprobate. "Inerrancy" is one good indicator of orthodoxy, but not the only one. If you are denying the clear teaching of Scripture, then you are denying the clear teaching of Scripture. There's a reason why elders are tasked to guard the good deposit, and given the authority to discipline.

Melanie,

You said, "No one we're talking about here is claiming something completely different about God than you are. Rather, the difference here is in application of theological propositions and our anthropology. While I know each aspect of our theology impacts each other aspect of our theology, you're on shaky ground comparing anyone who signed CBE to Gnostics or Arians."

I disagree. The doctrine of Anthropology radically affects every other doctrine, including the doctrine of God.

If man is created in God's image, then one's views of man will affect one's views of God. Specifically in this case, if man is not the head of woman (1 Cor. 11:3), then God is not the head of Christ. If Fatherhood does not derive its nature directly from the nature of God (Eph. 3:14-15), then one's views of God are directly changed.

I do not have the time to draw all of the connections to the whole Encyclopedia of Theology, but clearly feminism also affects one's view of Creation (especially the very nature of the cosmos as reflective of God's authority), Christology (as I mentioned above, especially the relationship between God the Father and God the Son), Harmartiology (the doctrine of sin--especially original sin), Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation--especially the substitutionary atonement), Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church--especially the relationship between Christ and the church), etc., etc.

Historically, the church dealt with issues confessionally when they became issues. Feminism is now such an issue. It does have every bit as much potential for evil as Arianism did. If the church does not deal with it in a decisive, confessional way now, our children will suffer.

Christian and Light,

It always strikes me as ironic when I or others are dogmatically accused of being dogmatic. It is also ironic when others accuse me or others of being arrogant by assigning motives.

That great theologian, Bono, sings in one of his songs, "You deny for others what you demand for yourself."

Is it arrogant to call others arrogant, or not? Is it dogmatic to claim that dogmatic statements are wrong? Isn't this the same old game of the relativists who claim that there is no absolute truth except for the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth?

In reality, the greatest humility is demonstrated by those who are dogmatic exactly where God is dogmatic, especially when all the world is begging for tolerance.

Don't worry--I know that some of you don't believe God has spoken dogmatically on the issue of feminism. But many of us do. In humility, then, we must stand with the clear teaching of Scripture. To do otherwise is "neither wise nor safe."

With love,
Stephen Baker

Christian M.,

Thank you for your kind words.
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Stephen,

I agree that the doctrine of Anthropology radically affects every other doctrine, including the doctrine of God. In fact, one of my favorite things about Calvin's Institutes is that, as he explicates various doctrines, each one serves as a point of intersection with each other doctrine he deals with.

That aside, it seems that the question is 'are the people we're discussing far enough off to constitute that sort of threat?' I gather from your post (correct me if I'm wrong), that you'd affirm that feminists do. So please delineate what you mean by feminist here, and how you might justify classifying someone like CCJ that way. (Really, this request would be for anyone on here, not just Stephen).
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Jack's Pipe,

I suppose if someone in my church (pastor or not) suddenly began cross-dressing with no previous signs (assuming I or others in the church am/are involved enough in his life to know what 'suddenly' would be), then various levels of concern would surface. Perhaps you've never known a cross-dresser and this is a bizarre, hypothetical example to you. That's fine, and I'll assume that for now. The people I've known who have cross-dressed would have needed very caring, compassionate, though direct and confident discipline. Cross-dressing would not have been a reason for a detour route directly to excommunication, as you seem to imply here with its comparison to feminists. I've never known a cross-dresser who's been in the church--in that sense, this is hypothetical for me as well. But what I understand of it from the little bit of counseling reading I've done, is that it's pointing to something much larger than its own outward expression. Perhaps you've heard the phrase 'gender confusion' before. I know 'gender' is not the favored term on this blog, and that's fine. But the point is that not everyone has the same barriers to sexual wholeness; and some have very significant barriers that would require something other than what seems to be the defined 'manly' stance on this blog (see David's comment). Requiring people to arrive at your conclusions without coming to where they are, and then leading them there is unpastoral. Not to make this about cross-dressing, as you said; but I don't know that even something as extreme as cross-dressing should be immediately met with a rift in fellowship.

I honestly don't know what Alice Matthews would say about submission in Ephesians 5. I might be able to guess the general category of interpretation she would fall into, but that doesn't mean I can't and shouldn't hear her out. Moreover, if I never listen to her, why should I ever expect her or anyone who agrees with her to listen to me? I realize that the question is about causing a rift, and that those who transgress the plain meaning of Scripture are rift-worthy (if you will accept a compound word I've just unintentionally coined). Then the question comes down to hermeneutics and when the plain meaning or clear teaching ought and ought not be accepted. Rather, how to arrive at any clear teaching from a book written in a different time, culture, and for different people can be a difficult question. No doubt I affirm inerrancy, but I don't believe we can simply substitute 'Holy Spirit' every time we say 'Paul wrote...' without a lot of qualification. The point being, the Holy Spirit was inspiring Paul to write to his particular audience in his own time and his own culture. We must be rigorously discerning in how we understand the manner in which all Scripture applies to everyone in all times and cultures. Perhaps, more acutely, how the Scripture applies particularly to us in our time and culture. Please don't hear me touting a feminist agenda here--I'm not. It just seems that the hermeneutic referenced on this blog might be over-simplistic at times. (An extreme example would be asking about the plain meaning of Revelation 20. I'm going to get flack for saying 'over-simplistic,' aren't I? Please consider what I've said and not just what that immediately sounds like.)

Thank you again for the thoughtful interaction.

To equate feminism with Arianism or gnosticism is to pay far too high a compliment to feminism.

Although doing so does allow all of us to feel like little Athanasiuses.

David,

Contra mundum, brother!

With love,
Stephen

Melanie,
I would simply direct your attention to my blog asking the question whether the phrase "Christian Feminism" is a felicitous one. I am of the opinion that it is not. I also believe deeply that a lion's share of our "questions about women" are derived from feminist philosophy more than from Scripture. You can post a comment on my blog if you want to continue this conversation further.
Jack's Pipe is correct when he points us to the obvious fact that anytime an Arminian or Moderate or both gets on a blog we're going to hear about mean-spirited, harsh, unloving. Quite frankly, I'm weary of hearing that, especially when, as often as not, it's directed to people who are being principled. What is wrong with our men and seminary students that they wince and cry Foul! at lively debate? Good grief. It sounds almost effeminate.
Rattlesnake 6

David,

Today, "mere Christianity" is just about the most contra mundum set of convictions one could have. And these convictions don't contain a shred of egalitarian belief. That is one reason why, when we organized our parish three years ago, we named it for St. Athanasius.

Feminism -- or its baptized wolf-pup that goes by the name egalitarianism -- is hostile to any form of authentic Christianity, which is patriarchal at its beginning, at its end, at its core, and throughout its body. God Himself is a patriarchy, and the earth is full of His patriarchal glory. The world which hates Him also hates anything that reminds it of Him. Hence the revulsion within egalitarianism of anything genuinely Biblical (and, therefore, genuinely patriarchal).

Egalitarianism's false shepherds are well dispersed throughout institutional evangelicalism today (its publishing houses, its seminaries, its media) and therefore the near-term future appears to belong to them, particularly in the churches, including the PCA.

Because you're walking around at the beginning of the 21st Century, you, along with the rest of us, will get to watch it warp, deceive, maim, pillage, and gut shepherdless, clueless Christians for the rest of your lifetime.

Ron,

Your last post seemed to switch the topic of this thread a little, however, your post did strike a nerve.

"Jack's Pipe is correct when he points us to the obvious fact that anytime an Arminian or Moderate or both gets on a blog we're going to hear about mean-spirited, harsh, unloving."

Yes you are. Speaking as someone who hadn't even thought about the the distinction between Arminian and Reformed theology for probably 45 years until he read this blog (although the debate brought back memories of my mother trying to explain the apparent tension between John 3:16 and the verses dealing with election and predestination)I do think the reformed position, and defenders of that position do come across as harsh and unloving.

I say that as someone who has searched the web for articles on election, (read and re-read Romans, am reading Norman Geisler's Chosen but Free as well as Kent Hughes study on Romans) and am trying to reconcile the verses that seem to indicate man has free will with the verses that address predestination and election.

I do not have a good understanding of how to reconcile those verses. I am not here to proffer an opinion. I am here to learn.

Having said that, I have found the supporters of the reformed position on the web to be, by and large, dogmatic, unloving and unkind. I don't find that helpful to me, or to my understanding of the truth. I doubt that many others find it helpful.

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