"Women at Redeemer will be free to use all the gifts, privately and publicly. There are no restrictions on (women's) ministry at all." -Keller/Redeemer
(Tim) In what was billed as a debate, but turned out to be more a love-fest between Tim Keller and Lig Duncan in the PCA's deniminational magazine byFaith, Tim gave his rationale for something approximating his church's practice of woman deacons. If readers take Tim's piece at face value without comparing this public argument with what Tim writes and does in his local church, everything will be muddied and obfuscation will win. The obfuscation may be unintentional or inadvertent, but it will win.
Thus it is that the article must be interpreted in the larger context of Redeemer's structure, words, and actions.
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:
"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. (Tim Keller, "Women and Ministry, Redeemer Presbyterian Church").
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.
Simply to bar woman from holding something they call "teaching authority" in session meetings and the pulpit is nothing even close to confessing God's Creation Order of sexuality in our own cultural context.
It's an utter failure at contextualization. It's a mistake that could only be made by those wholly ignorant of the idolatries of our culture, and therefore unable to speak to our culture in any way that is comprehensible to unbelievers. It's to be tone-deaf to the preeminent meta-narrative ruling our public life: fundamentalist egalitarian feminism.
It's as if the Apostle Paul had actually said to the Areopagus, "In the past, God had not known of your great wisdom, but now he is commanding all people everywhere to come to Athens and learn your ways."
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 or how rich and famous this or that man is.
In what he's written above, if my fellow GCTS alumnus Tim Keller has accurately summarized the biblical doctrine of sexuality as it applies to the Bride of Christ when he writes, "we do not believe that 1Timothy 2:11 or 1Corinthians 14:35-36 preclude women teaching the Bible to men...," please do me a favor.
Send me to the fields to eat grass for seven periods of time.