My dear brothers, David Scholer, Gordon Fee, and Roger Nicole...

Error message

(Tim) Going through old e-mails, I found the following request from David Scholer dated April 10, 2008:

Dear Tim,

You are probably surprised to hear from me. I am currently teaching my course “Women, the Bible and the Church” for the 30th time in my career. In my introduction to the course, I was reviewing some of my experience and included a brief report on the debate you and I had in Lancaster now about ten years ago (I did not use your name).

If you are willing to write 100-300 words in an email which I could read to my class on what you would like most to say to my students, I would be pleased. I am having them read 400+ pages of works by Complementarian authors.

Blessings on your ministry in Indiana,


David M. Scholer
Professor of New Testament, School of Theology,
Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena CA

Following a long battle with cancer, this past August my friend David Scholer went from death to everlasting life, by grace through faith in the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. May he rest in peace.

So what's the story behind the e-mail?

About ten years ago now...

the Mennonites were debating whether or not to begin "credentialing" women. To facilitate their decision making process, they decided to hold a debate and David Scholer and I were invited to argue for the two sides--he in favor and I against women's ordination.

My brother, David, accompanied me, providing much-needed moral support. It was good to be back in the Lancaster County area, close to our early childhood home outside Philly. David and I were happy to be able to eat some good hot pretzels and shoofly pie. But the meeting itself was like entering the twilight zone.

Held in the auditorium of the large Christian high school in Lancaster, I'm guessing there were 5-700 in attendance. Looking out over the auditorium, it was awash in a sea of small white doilies perched on the top of the heads of women. So there we were debating whether or not woman should teach and exercise authority over man as hundreds of women wearing a sign of submission to authority on their gender-specific heads sat next to their husbands, listening. It was surreal.

Throughout the course of the day, a number of conversations and other little details made it clear that, for these non-Amish anabaptists, the march to modernization was inevitable. It was no surprise, then, that a few months later when the vote was taken, it was in favor of woman teaching and exercising authority over man. Women were credentialed.

Here's a transcription of the sermon I gave that day (although I doubt anyone else thought of it as a sermon). For his part in the debate, David Scholer simply gave a run-down of all the women of Scripture who were teaching and exercising authority over men. And this despite the seeming prohibitions of woman teaching and exercising authority over man in a few small texts written by that man Paul in some of his weaker moments. But of course, Galatians 3:28 was his better self, demonstrating the true trajectory that we are to follow. Stuff like that.

Really, after being frightened--seriously frightened--at the work before me as I waited in the motel room hours before the debate, I was completely at peace when Dr. Scholer concluded his presentation. Harvard Ph.D. and all, he'd simply assumed his point, trotting out all sorts of names and faces as evidence that he was correct. You know, Mary and Mary and Deborah and Phoebe and Lydia and Dorcas and Junias--where would we be without Junias?

It was just smoke and mirrors, although done with so very much erudition.

Harvard Ph.D.

Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary.

World-renowned expert in Gnosticism.

Progress won. It was really no contest. The Mennonites had evolved. But sometimes I wonder if they still wear their little white thingamabobbies? I mean, if they do, what sweet irony.

When David began speaking, he referred to me kindly as one of his former students from back when he'd professed at my alma mater, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Afterwards, we greeted one another. Following a few exchanges, I corrected him, explaining that I'd never actually been his student although I had been at GCTS when he was professing there. I went on to tell him that I'd not signed up for any of his his classes because I knew his commitment to Scripture was not my own.

And really, that's all we need to know about those men and women who believe in, teach, and preach that woman should teach and exercise authority over man.

Their commitment to Scripture is not our own.

They deny the plain meaning of the Word of God. They reject the unanimous witness of the Church across two thousand years. They repudiate the Creation Order of the sexes ordained by God.

When all their degrees and articles and papers and professorships and hoods and books and publishing houses and academic societies are added up on one side, on the other is the simple plain meaning of the text of the Word of God which is eternally true having been authored by holy men who were moved, carried along by, the Holy Spirit. Men who never wrote their own ideas, let alone their own prejudices; but men who wrote the very words of God.

I liked David Scholer. A lot. He was kind and gentle. He was funny. He wore his academic credentials lightly--much more lightly than those who used him for battle. If I were to choose a man to have Lord's Day dinner with, and conversation following, three of my choices would be men who professed feminism at Gordon-Conwell when I was a student, there: David Scholer, Gordon Fee, and Roger Nicole.

In fact, I like David, Gordon, and Roger enough to give them the respect which is their due. Enough to say they all erred not knowing Scripture--neither its plain meaning nor its authority. Particularly in this matter where God speaks in His Word with such absolute clarity, prohibiting woman exercising authority over man.

Had I needed someone to represent the egalitarian feminist error, David, Gordon, or Roger would be my first choices. And I think we'd all be pleased to be able to renew our friendships.

But then, we'd do one another the honor of battle.

I have no question these men knew (and know) God in Jesus Christ. No question their faith is in His shed blood, alone. I also have no question that my own sins will require more of God's grace than theirs. I respect these brothers in many areas of their lives and witness.

But their commitment to Scripture is not our own.

May my dear brother David Scholer rest in peace.