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.