Mondays with Bill: Bill Mounce won't allow HIS wife to call him "Lord"...

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...just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him "Lord," and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. - 1Peter 3:6

Bill Mounce is a New Testament scholar who sits on both the feminist New International Version 2011's Committee on Bible Translation funded by Zondervan and the anti-feminist English Standard Version's New Testament committee funded by Good News Publishers/Crossway. How does Dr. Mounce spread his feet between translation responsibilities for both feminist and anti-feminist Bibles?

Bill Mounce is able to keep one foot in both camps because he's a complementarian. Calling himself a "complementarian," Bill Mounce did a post recently telling the world that, despite the Apostle Peter's commendation of Sarah calling her husband "Lord," he himself would most certainly never allow his wife to call him "Lord." In fact, says Dr. Mounce, if my wife addressed me in any way similar to the way Sarah addressed her husband, "I would see it as a failure to lead on my part"...

We'll return to Dr. Mounce's post in a minute, but first let's set the context for Mounce's errors within the world of Evangelicalism...

'Complementarian' is the new word invented by a small group of scholars who were trading the presidency of the Evangelical Theological Society among themselves a couple decades ago. These men intended their neologism to provide them a place to stand somewhere between Scripture's patriarchy (literally "father-rule") and Evangelicalism's feminism.

Picture a group of Evangelical men who went off to a research university to get a Ph.D, returned to the Evangelical ghetto as an important Bible scholar, made serious money off royalties from books sold through IVP and Zondervan, got rid of teaching by a promotion to "Research Professor" at a seminary or small liberal arts college, and one day hoped to be elected President of the Evangelical Theological Society. Yes, to be sure; many of them also wanted to honor God, build His Church, and teach Scripture, but we've all noticed how our motivations get muddled. Money, status, and security never stop contending for our hearts.

With other Evangelicals as their only market, these men knew they could not give up father-rule entirely. Some verses in the New Testament Epistles seemed pretty clear and there was really no good way to avoid them while claiming to hold to inerrancy and to be fully accepted as a card-carrying Evangelical who had not gone off the reservation like Paul Jewett and Gilbert Bilezikian.

Caught, then, between their niche market and that nasty word 'patriarchy' which set off catcalls from fellow scholars, these men created a label for themselves that would allow them to avoid looking old and passé as they defended a few of the last vestiges of historic father-rule where it mattered most to them: in the Christian church where most of them wanted their preachers to remain men, and in the Christian home where all of them were intent on holding on to what Tim Keller calls the "tie-breaking authority" of the husband.

You get the idea: God's Creation Order of Adam first, then Eve, was embarrassing to have to explain to their fellow scholars, so they adopted this equivocation that made it look like they, themselves, were not ignorant or chauvinist; a euphemism that allowed them to distance themselves from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul, and Peter—and of course their own fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, none of whom could help being sexist since they lived prior to our own evolved and progressive era.

Complementarians sold our godly fathers down the river:

Who wants to be like those nasty patriarchs? The guys were misogynist, but we ought not to be too harsh on them. They couldn't help it; their thinking was the product of that smelly "patriarchal culture" back in that horrid "ancient world." Who could blame them for their sexism? Men back then did slavery, lived in tents, and didn't use deodorant, but you and I have grown up in a vastly different world in which, thankfully, feminists have helped us see all the ways Scripture and the church have oppressed women through the ages. 

Out with Abraham and Sarah. Out with my grandfather and grandmother.

In with a kinder and gentler and more sensitive sort of Christian man who would never allow his wife to call him "Lord." I mean really! What could Peter possibly have been thinking?

Thus eminent Evangelical scholars got together and created a new set of doctrines with a new set of emphases called by a new word. Leaving patriarchy out on the ash heap of Biblical history, smart men who talk loudly in restaurants using big words whose greatest fear in life was being perceived to be insufficiently progressive invented a new kind of camo which allowed them mostly to fit in with our world. It took the edge off the conflict. There was still conflict, to be sure, but with this camo on, it never gets too nasty. And the only cost is dissing dead fathers, grandfathers, and patriarchs. Feminists appreciate that and it softens them up toward us.

A century ago, Chesterton pointed out the bigotry and small-mindedness of men who condemn their fathers: "Nearly all the talk about what is advanced and what is antiquated has become a sort of giggling excitement about fashions... They regard their fathers of another age exactly as the most insular would regard the foreigners from another country" (The Thing). Insularity is the central characteristic of the Evangelical complementarian and the island they cling to is the Academy.

So now, complementarians are left standing in that sweet spot where they're able to condemn the Evangelical feminists on their left who want women voting in elders meetings and wives being the boss of the husband, while also condemning those ancient Patriarchs, Apostles, and Church fathers, all of whom, they assure us, thought men were better than women and made it a habit to diss their own sisters, daughters, and mothers, and to oppress their wives, even to the extent of forcing her to call her husband "Lord."

But is there something deeper driving complementarians' repudiation of father-rule?

Complementarians are like all good Americans in their hatred for authority. If you don't agree, stop for a moment and think about church authority among Evangelicals. Our preachers don't preach. They give lectures, and pity the poor pastor who applies God's Word with any sort of authority. He'll soon meet his end. Our elders don't shepherd. They shuffle money, schedules, and staff, and pity the poor pastor who calls his fellow elders to admonish a wealthy church member. He'll soon meet his end.

Men today hate the Fatherhood of God. The Bible teaches God is "the Father (Greek, pater) from whom all fatherhood (Greek, patria) in Heaven and earth gets its name" (Ephesians 3:16). The Bible teaches that, through His Creation Order of Adam first then Eve, the Father Almighty delegated His Fatherhood to Adam, and the federal headship and authority of Adam over his wife and family and race flow from God's delegation of Fatherhood to him and not to Eve. The Bible teaches that father-rule and father-authority are carried down through the ages and extend to the ends of the earth and the end of time because God is the Pater from Whom all patria in Heaven and earth gets its name.

Fatherhood is authority and authority is fatherhood. If you want to understand the battle over sexuality in the church today, you must meditate on this fact God set as the cornerstone of His world.

Flowing from the Fatherhood of God, every authority has been put in place by the Father and those who despise the authority of man are in rebellion against His authority—this is what the Apostles Paul and Peter tell us. This is what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us in Scripture:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. - Romans 13:1, 2

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. - 1Peter 2:13-15

Whether the authority is the private authority of the Christian home and Church, or the public authority of the workplace and government, the principle of rebellion at the heart of American political identity manifests itself among Evangelicals in such a way that our default position is minimizing authority everywhere and always. Yet wanting to hold on to some vestige of authority and submission for the sake of their own male privileges and an appearance of Biblical piety, we make a show of supporting authority somewhat, in the private spheres of marriage, fatherhood, and a couple things at Church.

But don't let this support fool you, good reader: the default position of the Evangelical is to minimize authority, and therefore to minimize sexuality.

Thus complementarians have no theology of the Fatherhood of God and man, and thus they have no theology of sexuality.

Yet not wanting to lose their male privileges in private where it really counts, complementarians have come up with an adjustment to Scripture that allows them to say father-rule isn't really father-rule, but much less. They assure their compliant students that father-rule is really only "complementarianism," and that it only means husbands as "servant leaders" have tie-breaking authority in marriage and family life, and only in the home. They assure other Evangelicals also embarrassed by patriarchalism who lap up their books and conferences that those in the pulpit Sunday mornings in the church need to be men. But only usually since a good number of complementarians are happy for women to preach in corporate Lord's Day worship so long as their preaching is under the authority of male elders who, they say, are able to supervise her doctrine. And having given their blessing to the use of their label to those who believe in woman preachers, the only place complementarians draw the line in church is when it comes to taking a vote on the discipline of doctrine or morals in an elders meeting.

So, picture it: so-called "complementarians" have no theology of sexuality. Rather, they have a couple texts they are tenacious in clinging to until their scholarly dissecting of those texts have shredded them into such a Humpty-Dumpty mess they can never be put back together again. Thousands of articles and books have been written on the meaning of this and that word in 1Timothy 2:12, 13:

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.

Evangelical scholars and pastors respond by asking what "allow" means? What "teach" means? What "exercise authority" means? What "remain quiet" means?

Listening to the shouting match, pastors who are well-educated but have managed by God's grace to retain the ability to tremble at God's Word feel like we're back in elementary school recess, listening to an argument over whether or not the ball hit the line in foursquare. Or back in junior high school, listening to a rebellious son whine at his mother about how unfair it is that Dad won't let him date until he's turned fourteen. Or back in the Oval Office, listening to President Clinton obfuscate the meaning of "is."

Thus the people of God are in disarray concerning the meaning and purpose of father-authority, and thus the meaning of sexuality. We have a host of views and practices surrounding fatherhood and authority in the home and Church, all of them less than anything imagined by any Biblical Patriarch, Apostle, or any church father who lived before 1960.

The Apostle Paul's simple explanation of God's Fatherhood deposited through His Creation Order in the state of perfection—that because Adam was created first, woman teaching or exercising authority over man is forbidden by God—is no longer a foundational confession of Christian faith. Instead, this Biblical doctrine has been atomized, textually; then limited and squelched in its application while stopping just short of denying the plain meaning of New Testament commands that are so explicit concerning, for instance, the duty of wives to "submit" to their husbands. After all, to deny such explicit New Testament commands would appear impious.

Thus, the complementarian is the man who tries to defend a modicum of God's Fatherhood resident in the Christian's private home and church life while publicly tipping his hat to our culture's revolution against the Fatherhood of God. Complementarianism is R2K applied to fatherhood and it leaves the church wondering why male authority is ever necessary if we're free to abandon it in missions, education, the military, business, and government?

Now then, on to the eminent Evangelical Bible scholar Bill Mounce who has one foot planted in the feminist NIV (2011) and the other foot in the complementarian ESV. This week Dr. Mounce published a post titled, "Am I 'Lord' of my Wife?" which puts on show all the classic complementarian dance moves that render the Word of God kinder and gentler.

The Apostle Peter writes:

...just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. - 1Peter 3:6

To which Bill Mounce responds:

In this day and age, this is obviously a controversial verse, but it is chock full of interesting Greek tidbits, not the least of which is semantic range.

Readers will note how Evangelical Bible scholars are in the habit of speaking of the Word of God written. The Holy Spirit's words are "controversial," yet "full of interesting Greek tidbits" just waiting to be opened up by erudite discussions of "semantic range." In other words, Dr. Mounce is our man on the scene, able and ready to provide us with an explanation of the continuum of meaning of Greek words that, once explained, will enable us to stand unashamed of certain embarrassing utterances of the Holy Spirit. Note that conjunction 'but'. It is in opposition to the word 'controversial', so what follows the word 'but' is intended to soften or resolve the controversy. Among academics, controversial statements of the Holy Spirit are regularly in need of scholars' tinkering and explanation. Obviously, such scholarly habits of speech concerning God's Word are disrespectful, which will become more clear as we continue.

Dr. Mounce continues:

Peter is encouraging Christian wives to respect their husbands, being submissive (ὑποτασσόμεναι, 3:1) to them, and placing an emphasis on internal qualities and not external beauty. The goal is evangelistic; their behavior may win their husbands to the faith.

Yes, but in what way is a wife's submissiveness and Sarah's calling her husband, Abraham, "Lord" evangelistic? How does such submissive behavior and habit of speech win unbelieving husbands to Christ? Is it evangelistic because the wife's testimony to her love for her husband's father authority helps him see her love for the authority of the Father Almighty, also?

Dr. Mounce doesn't say, but simply moves on:

As an example of submissiveness Peter refers to Sarah, who was submissive to Abraham her husband, κύριον αὐτὸν καλοῦσα. The participle καλοῦσα is expressing one way in which she expressed her relationship to Abraham. She addressed him as “lord.”

Note that Dr. Mounce doesn't give the Apostle Peter the honorific of "Apostle." It's simply "Peter" for the good Dr. Mounce.

Yet think about it: despite it appearing self-serving, the Apostle Paul insists upon his apostolic office each time he writes. Nevertheless, our eminent scholars writing about the Word of God two millennia later feel no need to insist upon, and teach, the Apostolic authority of the Apostle Peter. Go back above and feel the shift in respect and submission to authority that would be conveyed to his readers if Dr. Mounce had instead written, "As an example of submissiveness the Apostle Peter refers to Sarah...."

Dr. Mounce continues:

...I want to talk about the issue of semantic range here. BDAG gives the range of meaning for κύριος as: "one who is in charge by virtue of possession, owner (such as the owner of the vineyard or the master of the house); one who is in a position of authority, lord, master of earthly beings, as a designation of any person of high position (which is where they place our verse); of transcendent beings."

"BDAG" is the authority on all things Koine, which is to say the authoritative lexicon (dictionary) for the Greek words of Scripture. Be aware, though, that in recent years BADG has been revised regularly and, in critical places, given in to the pressures of political correctness, especially the pressures feminists have brought to bear against Scripture. Thus it can no longer be trusted. Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia has written helpfully on this subject.

Dr. Mounce continues:

κύριος is a common example of why we need to pay close attention to semantic range. Now before we go any further, those of you who know me know I am not a “raving liberal.” I am a complementarian (see my commentary on the Pastorals). But I really do wonder how far we can, or even should, push the meaning of κύριος.

As Dr. Mounce requested, pay close attention. We must not "push" the plain meaning of the word 'lord' (Greek, kurios) into anything approximating the meaning when applied, for instance, to our "Lord" Jesus Christ.

And while here Dr. Mounce does his best to make it clear he's not a feminist rebel, but a complementarian, the vehemence of his denial reminds me of Shakespeare's "the lady doth protest too much, methinks." My above explanations of complementarianism may help our good readers to understand Dr. Mounce's commitments in taking on that label, but even more to understandinb his liberties. As Dr. Mounce sees it, the two choices are "raving liberal" and "complementarian." And in this case, a true complementarian will sell the Holy Spirit's Greek word 'lord' down the river by the sleight of hand of a scholarly mention of "semantic range."

Again, note that conjunction, 'but'. It indicates that Dr. Mounce is generally in favor of holding to those few passages in the New Testament concerning father authority in the privacy of marriage, the home, and the church, "but" he isn't about to go so far as to agree with "Peter" that it was good for Sarah to call her husband "lord."

"Yes," says Dr. Mounce, "I am a complementarian, but about Peter's infelicitous word 'lord': shall we talk about semantic range for a bit?"

Dr. Mounce continues:

I am more than cognizant of the fact that Abraham and Paul lived in a highly patriarchal culture. And I also recognize that the argument was not based in creation as is 1 Timothy 2:13. But I find myself uncomfortable pushing the meaning of κύριος very far. I certainly would not want my wife, Robin, to call me “lord” or “sir.” We have a traditional marriage relationship based on love and trust and respect. But if Robin were to call me “sir,” I would see it as a failure to lead on my part.

"I am more than cognizant of the fact that" simply means "I understand." And what does Dr. Mounce understand?

He understands the benighted and oppressive ways of the culture of the patriarchs, and that this is what led them to such ill-bred behavior as to allow their wives to call their husbands "lord." Today, though, such boorish behavior is something up with which we ought not to put.

You remember how I noted that no Evangelical scholar is willing to defend the patriarchs today? Apparently they're not willing to defend the matriarchs either since it is, in fact, Sarah who used such misbegotten language. Note how Dr. Mounce seems not to believe in the moral agency of women because he studiously avoids faulting Sarah for calling her husband "lord."

I certainly would not want my wife, Robin, to call me “lord” or “sir.” We have a traditional marriage relationship based on love and trust and respect. But if Robin were to call me “sir,” I would see it as a failure to lead on my part.

Ah yes, "a failure to lead." Dr. Mounce is quite pleased to place his readers on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, we could allow the Apostle Peter's exhortation concerning Sarah to speak to the the heart of our own wives, leading them to call their own husbands "Lord" or "sir," but then Dr. Mounce shows us his other hand holding a high trump card: any Christian man today who allows his wife to obey the Apostle Peter's commendation of Sarah would be "failing to lead."

Yikes! We don't want to do that, do we? Fail to lead? What real man fails to lead?

And what is an academic if he's not a leader?

No, if one thing's certain, it's that we must—we absolutely must—lead.

Poor Abraham: he failed to lead. Poor Apostle Peter: he too failed to lead. Poor church fathers across history: all of them failed to lead.

Not Dr. William Mounce, though; no siree! He will lead his wife to yield to her husband's superior understanding of semantic range such that she never ever gives in to the temptation to sign her submission to her husband, verbally, out there in public where it might be in danger of being viewed as a public confession of Christian faith.

Examine the semantic range of Dr. Mounce's words and it's apparent his rebuke falls upon Abraham for allowing his wife to speak to him in this way. But really, how much can we fault the Biblical patriarchs for simply being obedient to the DNA of their ancient culture?The Apostle Peter used the patriarch Abraham as a positive example, but not Dr. Mounce. Father Abraham lived in a culture of disrespect towards women. Thankfully, though, our own culture has become enlightened enough to know that, contrary to what the Apostle Peter wrote, it would be sin for Christians today to employ patriarchal habits of speech.

Dr. Mounce continues:

Under definition 2, BDAG says this. “As a form of address to respected pers. gener.; here, as elsewhere, = our sir (as Mod. Gk.) Mt 25:11; J 12:21; 20:15.” My marine son addresses his superiors as, “Sir!” But given all the biblical teaching on marriage, Robin calling me “sir,” as I said, would be a sign of my failure to lead.

The point in 1 Peter, culture aside (if that were possible), is that the wife is to treat her husband with respect (according to v 1, in a “submissive” way), but I am not convinced that there is a term in the English language that conveys that properly. I can’t think of a specific word that Robin could use to address me that would convey respect without violating the other aspects of our relationship such as love.

Well, as a simple matter of fact, culture is never "aside," and any decent student of Scripture knows culture is never neutral, either. It's opposed to, antagonistic, and hateful toward the Father Almighty and His Word. No wonder complementarians like Dr. Mounce "can't think of a specific word that means "lord" that would still "convey respect without violating" 

You see, Dr. Mounce and his fellow complementarians have simply thrown in the towel on the Fatherhood of God and man. They've been reduced to little men with little male perquisites they sometimes defend timorously. Which is to say, nothing any complementarian has ever written as a complementarian bears the slightest resemblance to the Apostolic witness of the New Testament or our Church fathers across 2,000 years.

Dr. Mounce concludes:

As far as translations are concerned, you can leave it “sir” (much better than the servile “lord”) and expect people to understand it in its ancient culture. But if a translation is trying to make an ancient book sound totally modern, I don’t think there is a word. Better something like, “Just as Sarah respected and submitted to Abraham, as shown even in how she addressed him ….”

Yup, in the final analysis, all Dr. Mounce's highfalutin language about "semantic range" was just cover for his conclusion: "I don't think there is a word." 

"Better something like..." he writes.

Something like what? You didn't say. Something like what, Bill? Yo! Biiiilllll! Where's your English translation of the word Greek word 'kurios' inspired by the Holy Spirit?

Give it up. It's a complementarian doing the translating, so the word 'kurios' is gone. If our eminent Greek scholars allowed God's words to speak for themselves, there would be the grave danger of someone thinking their Ph.D. had not emancipated them from their servility to God.

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(Post title has been updated, causing social media stats to revert to zero at the time of updating.)

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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