One challenge to “Broad Complementarians”

I would classify myself as a “broad” Complementarian, meaning I think God’s design for complementary men and women roles apply broadly, and not simply to just the husband-wife relationship and the pastorate. Jonathan Leeman wrote a great article to explain some of these issues.

To my broad Complementarian brethren, I want to challenge you in one specific way. In my limited experience, it appears that many (most?) of you are not willing to say “a woman should never be the President of the U.S.” (and by extension, the sole leader of any nation).

I could be wrong here, but that appears to be a very inconsistent view. I think we all want to be accepted by as many people as possible, and I think we are especially tempted  toward this when we have what is seen as “conservative” views.

But is this really that complex? God commands men to lead in the home and in the church. Does He not command men to lead countries?

It does not appear that there would be less need for complementarity on the level of civil government than there would be in the home. God calls men to lead the home and the church because the God calls men to lead society. I believe society will be changed more by Christian homes and Christian churches than a Christian President, but it doesn’t change what appears to be an obvious design.

Again, I would commend Leeman’s article to you, as well as this sermon  by Kevin Deyoung. As Deyoung said, this is a conversation among friends. I just want to challenge us to consistency. I think in every debate, there is always a sense in which inconsistency hurts a person’s argument. And I actually think when it comes to this issue, there is a beauty to God’s design that will be appreciated more the more we uphold the biblical vision– in our homes, in our churches. And in our countries.

Advertisements

How important is Complementarianism?

I was saddened this past week to hear about Beth Moore and some other women boasting about preaching at their churches. And then my sadness deepened after reading J.D. Greear’s views on women teaching in the corporate gathering. This has gotten even me and some of my friends bantering back and forth a bit on applications of Complementarianism. The reason this is a fairly big issue is because it is basically an integrity issue: is the Southern Baptist Convention (Beth Moore and J.D. Greear are both associated with SBC) Complementarian or not? J.D. Greear (current president of SBC) says it is. But it appears that the practices at his church are not. Not only that, J.D. is a great teacher and preacher with lots of influence in the evangelical world, and he is a known self-professed Complementarian. With all the problems with gender-confusion in this world, shouldn’t we all largely be on the same page as far as what is a Complementarian– especially within the Complementarian camp!?

A Complementarian is one who believes God has ordained men and women to have different roles in this world. There’s much more we could say  to fill that in, but that is the basics of it. And my contention in this post is if you have a woman occupy the pulpit during the sermon on a Sunday morning, you are NOT a complementarian. You might say you are, but just like liberals don’t like that we call them liberals, just like Mormons don’t like us calling them a cult, just like Fundamentalists don’t like us calling them that either, if you ever have a woman preach on Sunday morning, you are an Egalitarian. There is much more on application we could debate, but I just want to try and persuade people about the pulpit. Let’s at least get the pulpit right.

There are three major issues that I think guys like J.D. Greear get wrong when thinking about this issue. And I hope the Lord will use this to help correct them:

  1. The issue is not how often you have a woman preach, but whether you have women ever preach– in a recent blog post (endorsed by Matt Chandler), an SBC pastor said “Personally, I have always been a member of SBC churches, and, along the way I have seen women speak from the platform. I have seen them preach. I have seen them teach men. It did not happen often, but it did happen, much like [Beth] Moore preaching at her church on Mother’s Day. These churches were not unhealthy, nor were they unbiblical, nor is Moore’s church unhealthy or unbiblical.” Somehow, many Christians have come to see that as long as something unbiblical does not happen too often, then it is not unbiblical. That is folly. Just like any married person who commits adultery even once has been unbiblical in their marriage, if it is a sin for a woman to preach to the gathered congregation, then doing it even once makes you unbiblical. And on the flip side, if you do not believe it to be a sin to have a woman preach, then why limit it to once or twice a year?
  2. The issue is not really about who should or should not preach, but about worship– in that same article there was a call for “hard” Complementarians to make room for “soft” Complementarians. It was basically a message that says “you can do things at your church your way and we will do things at our church our way, and we can all still be happy under one umbrella.” And of course there are many things that we can do that with. But corporate worship–particularly preaching– is not one of them. The question here is not “has God ordained women to preach?” (though that is a good question, and I have an answer that you probably won’t like)  but “has God ordained women to preach in corporate worship?” I realize there are many who don’t give a hoot about the Regulative Principle of Worship, but I figure guys like J.D. Greear and Matt Chandler do. The corporate gathering is not a place for experimentation and boundary pushing and novelty. The corporate gathering is a people coming to “the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the Church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all” (Her 12.21-23). Will the Judge of all the earth find practices in our churches that He did not ordain?
  3. The issue is not about having the right doctrinal beliefs, but about telling the right story– many good Complementarians I believe have failed to connect the dots rightly for everyone, making it seem like Complementarianism can be detached from the gospel. The reason we must get this right is not because we want to be able to check off all the right doctrinal bullet points, but because we want to uphold our great gospel. We should not be Complementarians to show we hold to inerrancy or to show a highly questionable connection to the Trinity or because our favorite preacher says this is his camp. We should be Complementarians to make sure we are a part of the biblical narrative. That’s why Paul’s words to Timothy are so helpful: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2.12-14). Paul grounds his command in the biblical story. The first man and first woman rebelled against God’s created order, allowing the devil to subvert who leads and who follows. The first man failed his bride by letting his bride become the transgressor, and in doing so let the devil have dominion over themselves. By God’s grace, He restored His own order by sending His own Son to crush the head of Satan and redeem His Bride from the subverting power of the devil, laying His life down for her to make her holy and blameless. He empowers men in the church today to be the voice of Christ from the pulpit, where the gospel proclaimed continues to crush the head of Satan, and continually lets the Bride hear the voice of the Savior calling them toward the day of Redemption. He ordains men to serve the Lord’s Supper in worship, allowing the Bride to taste and eat in a way that trumps the devil’s first temptation to taste and eat, and to show Christ is continually calling His Beloved to commune with Him. And until that final Marriage Supper, men and women get to uphold the redemptive storyline by fulfilling men and women roles better than was done in the Garden.

So what story are you telling at your church? Letting Beth Moore or Elyse Fitzpatrick talk on Sunday morning might edify people well enough. It might even make a few women feel affirmed. But is that all you are trying to accomplish? Or might there be bigger snakes to kill?

Should Christians ever date non-Christians?

OF COURSE NOT!!!

Some Christians are married to non-Christians, and if that is you, and you realize you should not have, there is nothing you can do about that fact now. God in His good providence has this for you; you are no different from the Corinthian Christians who became Christians and found themselves married to non-Christians, and Paul has great instructions for you in 1 Corinthians 7. You can still live a joy-filled, Christ-exalting life, and can still have a God-glorifying marriage!

This post is simply meant to help us know how to counsel the next generation:

OF COURSE NOT!!!

This gets into debates about definitions of dating and courtship and what not. No time for that here. Let’s just get real- there are biblical, theological, and practical reasons to tell Christians to NEVER date non-Christians:

Biblical reasons- 1) Genesis 1.26-28 says God created man and woman in his image to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. God expects married couples to work together to live for His glory.  Only two Christians can work together for those purposes, on purpose. 2) 2 Corinthians 6.14 says “do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” It has become popular for so many Christians to say “that’s not talking about marriage.” And yes, it is not talking about marriage– it’s talking about the church! The Christian church should never live like the world, and never partner with the world. The question is “Does 2 Corinthians 6 apply to marriage?” And the answer is “OF COURSE IT DOES!” 3) Ephesians 5.22-33 commands wives to pattern themselves after the church and husbands to pattern themselves after Christ. Whichever of the couple is not a Christian is not going to desire to fulfill their main responsibility in marriage. So if you want a biblical marriage, then yes, there are obvious biblical reasons to only date a Christian.

Theological reasons– 1) Eternity- does it even matter to you that you are headed for an eternity with Christ and the person you might marry will spend an eternity in hell? 2) Conversion- what do you love about this person? What attracts you to them? Is it their good looks, personality, sense of humor, etc.? So is there nothing spiritual that you look for? The only true thing about this person’s spirituality is that they are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2.1), they “walk in darkness” (1 John 1.6), and they “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1.8). Are you that shallow for none of those things to influence how much you are attracted or not to this person? 3) Purity of the Church- There is a reason God commanded the Israelites to not intermarry with other peoples under the Old Covenant: not because God is a racist, but because other nations would lead Israel astray to worship false gods. And that’s exactly what happened in Israel’s history. That same logic clearly applies in 2 Corinthians 6 to the Church in the New Covenant. The way for the church to remain devoted to God is to be humble enough to know that if you unite yourself to an unbeliever in holy matrimony, you will stray in your walk, since your closest neighbor will not spur you on toward love and good deeds in Christ.

Practical reasons- Too many to count. Let me just list two: 1) Every Sunday will be a battle (“do you have to spend the whole day with the church?”, and 2) every child will be a battle (“do you really have to teach them to be that conservative?”).

Hear this with the gentlest, kindest, warmest sincerity: The answer to the title of this post is “OF COURSE NOT!!!”

Shepherds Conference Aftermath, part 4

To my Dallas Statement brethren,

I love you deeply. I hope this feels brotherly, as that is the intent. I probably agree theologically with most of you the most. In other words, I might call myself a part of the middle ‘tribe,’ but that’s mostly because of relationships I have built there. Theologically, I am a 1689 guy! So this is as in-house as it gets. A few challenges for you:

  • I don’t know how to define “fear-mongering” but I know what it is when I see it. You are often guilty of this– basically making situations sound worse than they really are. I cannot speak to motivations, check your own hearts. But if you think Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Lig Duncan are in the same danger that the Galatians were in, we cannot possibly have a logical conversation about this. Please make that clear that that is not how you view them.
  • You have a responsibility over those you influence. (If you don’t want that responsibility, then stop doing public-wide ministry, and just focus on your own church.) It appears to be your “disciples” who are the worst fear-mongerers of all. Let’s call them the “discernment” types–those who spend an inordinate amount of time telling everyone what is so bad about everyone else. I read someone saying something along the lines of “welp, I guess we know those three guys are not going to be invited to next year’s Shepherds.” Johnny Mac can invite whoever he wants. But if this is going to cause a withdrawing of the right hand of fellowship with the middle group, it is you who is in serious trouble. So, please, speak into the kind of “discernment” culture that you are creating.
  • Thank you for writing the Dallas Statement. It is helpful, and informative. It took a lot of work. Praise God for your sharp minds. But please do not expect the signing or not signing of it to be a sort of way to separate sheep from goats! That was not a Church Council/synod/diet/presbytery (or whatever other authoritative meeting term you can think of). I don’t know if there were any Anglicans who signed the statement, but I can tell you Anglicans are laughing at us right now. We evangelicals cannot have our cake and eat it when it comes to ecclesial authority. There is no council that can “settle” the Social Justice debate among evangelicals. You might object: “The truth of God’s Word should settle it!” And I am SUPER sympathetic toward that, but the only way I would have confidence in a document is if the meeting included leaders from all three camps. You cannot just have a meeting with the right and write a statement, and say “sign it, or else you are against the Bible.” Which leads to
  • Remember, the middle, and even the left, are your brothers and sisters. I have seen some exchanges online between some in your camp and guys like Thabiti Anyabwile. The vitriol appears two way. But I have already challenged the other side. You must not treat your brothers like they are enemies. Could it be, brothers, that the reason you have a hard time understanding the middle group is because they have so many friends on the left, but you, sadly, don’t have that many, period? (this is an honest question) Your camp has the appearance of pride more often than the other two. We cannot read hearts, but here’s how I discern that: whenever these controversies happen between your camp and some other camp, NO ONE in your camp ever accuses any of you of wrongdoing. It is always the other guys at fault. John MacArthur and Phil Johnson were infallible in that panel Q&A. It is the attitude that says “let’s assess everyone else all the time” that creates that. Until you address that, I do not think you have what it takes to contribute to true unity in the Body of Christ.

Lastly, can you please be open to being wrong on some things? And wherever you find yourself wrong–whether in belief or in conduct– please repent. We will forgive so fast you won’t know what hit you.

To 1689, and Beyond

Todd

Shepherds Conference Aftermath, part 3

To my T4G brothers (I really don’t know who exactly to address here, so I will just pretend Mark, Al, and Lig are reading this):

I love you deeply. I am not particularly fond of the term “tribe” as a way of describing theological or ministry philosophy like-mindedness, but if I had to pick, I am a part of your tribe.

I want you to know I think many are over-reacting to the panel Q&A. There’s no way that panel was objectively as bad as they make it out to seem. I will say this to them, but the right tends to be fear-mongering, so take comfort. I was edified by the panel overall.

I also want you to know that I think you may be the most important group of the three here. People on both sides listen to you. You have strong friendships on both sides. You guys are so smart! You can move into the division of the Body of Christ and help bring greater reconciliation.

If I can offer some sharpening about the panel itself and conversations moving forward, I do think you have to articulate where you stand on some of these issues, if for no other reason but to help us know how to think about them. I can’t really find anything in the Dallas Statement I disagree with, but I can’t really bring myself to sign it, but I can’t articulate why. Perhaps you can help people like me figure out what I’m wrestling with.

If you have friends on either side who you believe are sinning or in danger of losing the gospel on any level, you should be willing to confront them. And if they refuse to repent, you have to be willing to lose friends over it, possibly lose trustee support, possibly lose funding, whatever the case may be.

Please remember that not everything can be done in private when it comes to some of the things you guys deal with. Public sins should be dealt with publicly, so don’t let anyone tell you that you should have gone to someone privately if that someone’s teachings are out on the internet or wherever.

I cannot fathom the kinds of pressure you guys face on a daily basis. So please hear these things knowing I bathe it with compassion and love and gratitude.

Lastly, can you please be open to being wrong on some things? And wherever you find yourself wrong–whether in belief or in conduct– please repent.

Thank you, brothers, for discipling me from afar, and I trust you will continue to do so in how you navigate these waters.

Together With You For the Gospel

Todd

Shepherds Conference Aftermath, part 2

To my brothers and sisters in what I perceive to be a Social Justice movement in the Reformed Evangelical wing of the church (some of the prominent voices, I perceive, so I could be wrong and please correct me if I am: Eric Mason, Kyle Howard, and Thabiti Anyabwile):

I love you deeply. Not just because we are fellow image-bearers, not just because we are fellow Christians, not just because we are both united to the same Christ, but we have a lot of theological like-mindedness! We all believe in a big God, in Calvinism, in the necessity of the preaching of the gospel, in the exclusivity of Christ, in the absolute sufficiency and authority of the Bible, in the essential role of the local church. We are brothers and sisters in the closest sense. If the context in the U.S. were different religiously, I am certain we would all be willing to burn at the stake together. On the front end, it is clear to me that this is an in-house discussion, a family debate, only friendly wounds here. Which leads to:

  • Please do not throw any more heat. Light, not heat. I totally understand how the some of the Dallas Statement guys can get under your skin. But they are your brothers too. Light and love and the rest of the Fruit of the Spirit. No more heat.
  • Please be humble about history. We must all learn from church history, and history in general. But please acknowledge that history must be interpreted. And similar to how I think New Perspective on Paul guys throw down historical nuggets from the 1st century (that may or may not be true) to make a point, I do think you have a tendency to do that as well. And know that all of your brothers and sisters in Christ desire to repent of current, personal (and corporate) sin, and if you show them from the Bible where they are currently in sin, they will repent.
  • Please do not elevate all racial sins to the level of the murder of unborn children. Many racial sins are on the same level. But racial sins come in so many different forms, don’t they? There is the KKK bigot who should burn in hell, if not for the mercy and grace of God. There is the willfully ignorant fool who thinks African Americans are raising their children badly by putting the fear of cops in them. There is the well-meaning Japanese American who teaches his children to be “color-blind”, not because they want the status quo of whiteness, but because they really believe that is the best way to bring back the one-ness of the human race. Then there is the little Reformed church in urban Atlanta that only knows how to sing the Trinity Psalter, and has never known of a tradition of Reformed African American worship songs. You may call all of these racial sins, or sins of racial ignorance. But my contention is that only the first is on the level of abortion. And I think you need to make that clearer if you agree with me there.
  • We could be helped by a much more thorough conversation biblically about the church’s role in social justice. It is confusing for most of us. Hopefully that is surprising to you. The fact that you think it is so simple shows pride or ignorance on your part. It is not simple to know how “the Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” or “do good to all, especially to the household of faith”– how that automatically means the church must do more for those on welfare, or more in the political realm, or more to combat all the anecdotes of questionable police shootings. I find a lot of generalizations and assuming going on in your rhetoric, and I don’t think either is helpful. But please know we all want to do our part as the Church. We want to be found faithful. But it is not that clear how your view of justice is not eerily close or overlapping with a sort of aggressive Theonomy (the Church’s Law being the authoritative Law of the land, and vice versa). And if I am way off there, hence, the confusion.

Lastly, can you please be open to being wrong on some things? Surely, none of us have this all right. And wherever you find yourself wrong–whether in belief or in conduct– please repent. We will forgive. We will keep loving you, no hard feelings.

Your brother in Christ FOREVER

Todd

Shepherds Conference Aftermath, part 1

My heart has ached over the last few days because of division in the Body of Christ. There was a panel Q&A at the Shepherds Conference. The main issue discussed was an apparent “Social Justice” movement in Reformed Evangelicalism. This is on the heels of the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel written up in 2018, signed by several great Reformed ministers of the gospel (guys like John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, James White, and Tom Ascol).

James White came out and said the panel was a disaster. Do some google searches and you will find lots of fodder about this panel. There are three basic groups that have emerged from all this (and I will only speak about what I perceive to be Reformed Evangelicalism): the Social Justice left, the Dallas Statement right, and many in a middle camp (I will call the T4G camp- guys like Mohler, Duncan, and Dever who share major concerns with the right, but have many friends on the left, and would not articulate or argue like the right wants them to).

If I were to pin myself, I’m somewhere middle-right 🙂

I want to say something to all three camps. And that will be the next three posts. But just one observation about the panel: it was not as bad as many have made it out to be. Dr. James White–whom I have a ton of respect for–as well as many in his camp, have said this was a HUGE missed opportunity. I say, ‘ease up, guys.’ Watch it again, perhaps without the lens that Phil Johnson and John MacArthur are infallible. See if Dr. Mohler’s reactions were perhaps not the most outlandish thing you ever saw. See if Mark Dever actually makes some helpful and constructive comments. See if anything Lig Duncan says is off base. See if John MacArthur actually might sound a little insensitive toward sex abuse victims. Think about whether or not Phil Johnson needs to try a little harder to not only ask leading questions, and perhaps try to prep guys more than just a couple minutes ahead of time. See if it’s really as one-sidedly bad as people say, and actually, overall, if it was not more edifying than people give it credit for. Point: social media has a way of overblowing so many things. This is no exception. I think all the men on the panel are godly, faithful ministers of the gospel, whom we are all indebted to in many ways, and will always be. Until they prove otherwise, I trust those six men (Phil Johnson, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, and John MacArthur) as much, or more, than I trust anyone to help lead the Body of Christ back toward greater visible unity.