Critique of Pastor Keller's promotion of woman deacons, part 1: His advocacy in its larger context in his congregation...

(Tim) Over on byFaith's site, Tim Keller gave his rationale recently for Redeemer's practice related to woman deacons. This is the first in a series of posts critiquing Tim Keller's article. (Here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six.)

What's interesting is not so much what Tim wrote, but what his readers commenting beneath his piece said and didn't say. Or what they considered and what they didn't consider in weighing his claims and arguments.

Tim Keller's article must be interpreted in the larger context of his ministry at Redeemer. Only then will it be understood properly. The operative rule at Redeemer with regard to all things sexual is, "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do." So the working out of Redeemer's theology of sexuality is that women at Redeemer are allowed to teach and exercise authority over men everywhere and always except from the pulpit Lord's Day morning and in any way reserved for the elders as they exercise something they call "teaching authority." But whatever this "teaching authority" is, it's not when women teach Scripture to men because that precise thing they explicitly allow.

When Tim Keller claims to hold firmly to Scripture's Creation Order of sexuality, those weighing his claim should know that the actual implementation of that Order in his church would be unrecognizable to any previous generation of Christians...

To hold, even firmly, to the male prerogative in the matter of "teaching authority" in session meetings and the pulpit is nothing even close to confessing the doctrine of Scripture concerning sexuality in our own cultural context. At best, it's confessional minimalism.

Does what Tim Keller has written here need to be interpreted in the context of other extraordinary steps taken at Redeemer with regard to the promotion of members of the weaker sex to positions of leadership and authority over men? To Tim Keller's lack of application of God's Creation Order outside the Church and the home? To this statement in which he summarizes Redeemer's practice:

"In a nutshell, our position is this: whatever a non-ruling elder male can do in the church, a woman can do. We do not believe that I Timothy 2:11 or I Cor.14:35-36 precludes women teaching the Bible to men or speaking publicly. To 'teach with authority' (I Tim.2:11) refers to disciplinary authority over the doctrine of someone. For example, when an elder says to a member: 'You are telling everyone that they must be circumcised in order to be saved--that is a destructive, non-Biblical teaching which is hurting people spiritually. You must desist from it or you will have to leave the church.' That is 'teaching authority'--it belongs only to the elders. Thus, women at Redeemer will be free to use all the gifts, privately and publicly. There are no restrictions on ministry at all. There is a restriction on the office of elder... The Deaconesses will be women elected by the congregation who will do discipling, counseling, and shepherding in the church, particularly among the women. Spiritual maturity is the qualification. They will probably also exercise a teaching ministry in the church, depending on their gifts. (Kellers, "Women and Ministry, Redeemer Presbyterian Church").

Sometimes I fantasize about church fathers of past centuries parachuting into discussions like this and trying to make sense of it all. But then I think they may understand what's going on here better than we do. After all, they wouldn't know any of our names.

In the discussion above, if my fellow GCTS alumnus has accurately summarized the biblical doctrine of sexuality as it applies to the Bride of Christ when he writes, "whatever a non-ruling elder male can do in the church, a woman can do," adding that "We do not believe that 1Timothy 2:11 or 1Corinthians 14:35-36 preclude women teaching the Bible to men...," then please do me a favor. Send me out in the fields to eat grass for seven periods of time.

Comments

It seems that Pastor Keller's argument is based upon the idea that roles are absent relationship. There can be teaching with out authority because the women are somehow separate from the men. They teach in a vacuum that does not allow Genesis 3 in particular to breathe naturally.

al sends

The operative rule at Redeemer with regard to all things sexual is, "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do."

Aren't they forgetting something?

"What Paul says is in brief: 'Let the women keep silent in the churches.' That surely is direct and specific enough for all needs. ...what the apostle is doing is forbidding women to speak at all in the church. His injunctions of silence he pushes so far that he forbids them to even ask questions; and adds with special reference to that, but through that to the general matter, the crisp declaration that 'it is indecent' - for that is the meaning of the word - 'for a woman to speak in church.'"

--B. B. Warfield, "PAUL ON WOMEN SPEAKING IN CHURCH," The Presbyterian, October 30, 1919.

""We do not believe that 1Timothy 2:11 or 1Corinthians 14:35-36 preclude women teaching the Bible to men..."

How do they do that while silent?

It's tangential to the topic of the role of women, but Tim Keller seems to be quite severe when it comes to church discipline. The post quotes him as giving this rebuke by an elder as an example of proper discipline:

'You are telling everyone that they must be circumcised in order to be saved--that is a destructive, non-Biblical teaching which is hurting people spiritually. You must desist from it or you will have to leave the church.'

Would he really expel a person from the church for spreading this false but eccentric doctrine? If so, I wonder if he'd expel somebody for spreading the teaching that partial-birth abortion or homosexuality are acceptable Christian practices--- or ordaining women as elders. I like Pastor Keller's sermons that I've heard, and I don't mean to be sarcastic-- he just doesn't seem to have thought things through.

To hold, even firmly, to the male prerogative in the matter of "teaching authority" in session meetings and the pulpit is nothing even close to confessing the doctrine of Scripture concerning sexuality in our own cultural context. At best, it's confessional minimalism.

How it works (in case anyone has missed the sequence):

1) Women stop wearing headcoverings as a sign they are under authority.

2) Women start talking in church and questioning stuff.

3) Women start wanting to run the church.

About every church I know is on the move between Steps 2 & 3. The ones I know which still abide by Step 1 do not do the other two.

...

3) Women start wanting to run the church.

-and-

4) The other women start letting them.

[Keller:] To 'teach with authority' (I Tim.2:11) refers to disciplinary authority over the doctrine of someone. For example, when an elder says to a member: "..." That is 'teaching authority'--it belongs only to the elders. Thus, women at Redeemer will be free to use all the gifts, privately and publicly. There are no restrictions on ministry at all.

That's a wimpy cop-out, to restrict authority to private one-on-one interaction. Actually, it isn't even teaching at all, it is rebuking, so Keller's own basis for his stance is bogus. Publicly proclaiming and expounding on the word of God in general doesn't need to carry any sense of authority? ...denouncing sin, warning of judgement, calling people to righteousness? It is the public exercise that is forbidden. They must keep silent.

Sometimes I fantasize about church fathers of past centuries parachuting into discussions like this and trying to make sense of it all.

I also try to imagine what Peter and Paul would say about all the worldly compromise and foolish excuse-making to tickle very touchy ears.

I don't think it is any coincidence that the overall design matches the Instruction Manual. Women's higher pitched voices, softer facial features, smaller statures, nurturing & relational natures, etc. do not naturally come across as authoritative to men. Even if you cut a woman's hair like a man and dress her like one, you don't get a manly look, you get a boyish look, so that doesn't impress men, either.

For women to lead men, women have to be hardened and men have to be softened, or cowed by political correctness.

Mothers don't say "Just wait until your father gets home!" for nothing.

Thus, women at Redeemer will be free to use all the gifts, privately and publicly. There are no restrictions on ministry at all.

Must be what Adam, the first egalitarian enabler, believed right before all hell broke loose.

To 'teach with authority' (I Tim.2:11) refers to disciplinary authority over the doctrine of someone.

Sounds like the kind of authoritative "teaching" Tim Keller needs:

"You are telling everyone that they must allow women full exercise of leadership gifts in the church--that is a destructive, non-Biblical teaching which is hurting people spiritually. You must desist from it or you will have to leave the church."

"Did God really say women should remain silent in the churches?" the serpent hisses.

I wonder if Tim Keller's views are coloured by the ministry environment (ie. New York) he is working in - that if he expressed the views which the Bayly's have in re God's order of the sexes, that a lot of the women in his church would revolt on the spot - including many of the single ones, who could hardly then be told that they are not acting in submission to their husbands. They would argue that their own opportunities for ministry were being blocked up, so would then look elsewhere.

I suspect he has a large number of single women on his books, New York being what it is, but someone will no doubt put me right on that.

Dear Ross,

Yes, that's precisely the demographic of Redeemer. Young, single, or married without children. (Those who have children move out of the city and go to other churches, usually.)

To think about this group faithfully, rather than with fear and unbelief in the power of the Holy Spirit and God's Word, this demographic is exactly the group that most needs to hear proclaimed, both publicly and in person, God's Creation Order of sexuality.

Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel.

Hi Tim, I agree, but I am not sure I have come across anyone articulating God's creation order of sexuality as it would apply from a single Christian's point of view. (With the exception, as I think about it, of one article on the cbmw website). Someone may care to put me right on this.

Perhaps the better way of cutting through the Gordian knot would be to encourage all and sundry to get married, and this is what Tim Keller should be doing, and isn't.

encourage all and sundry to get married

Ross, that sounds good, but perhaps it would be too traditional and scare them off just as much. Many would be offended being told they should get married. It would bring up that whole unpleasant submission-thing. In today's individualistic social climate, especially the notion of female autonomy, even mutual submission can be a distasteful concept.

The overarching meta-narrative that describes this type of practice is the fear of man rather than the proper fear of God. Let's continue to walk by faith and realize the church will always look rather "queer" to the surrounding culture. Speaking the truth in love...

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