In case you’re new to my blog, you know that I don’t get along with Scot McKnight’s theology too much. But recently, he finally said some things I agree with. It is in response to members of The Gospel Coalition.
First, the part I disagreed with…
1. Having a non-complementarian view of gender roles means you have a “loose approach to scripture.” (Keller)
This seems to transgress two of Keller’s main rules in engaging with “opponents.” As an egalitarian I have a very high view of scripture so I am being attributed a view that I don’t own. Secondly no one in this discussion has engaged with egalitarianism in its “strongest” form. Carson dismisses other views of reading Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2 as reconstructionist and does not tackle any of the biblical texts or theological themes that egalitarianism at its best draws upon. Yes it is true that some egalitarians use purely cultural and sociological arguments – just as it is true that some complementarians do ( I was at a told recently that women buy more new age books than men so they obviously are not fit to teach or lead.) But again using this kind of argument is not dealing with the theological position in its strongest form.
Even when Keller tries to soften his statement by saying that “there are plenty of people” only loosen things on this issue and then “keep it tight everywhere else,” the point is still that egalitarians cannot hold to a high view of scripture and come to their conclusions – it has to involve loosening their grip on scripture at some point.
The only problem with this statement I have is that very often proponents of women’s ordination in the Church don’t always engage with opponents of women’s ordination in their “strongest” form. I agree that both egalitarians and complementarians hold a high view of scripture indeed. To say one does not is to misunderstand what egalitarians believe. Though very often times, cultural arguments are in fact appealed to by both sides, one does not need to read much cultural hermeneutics into the text to derive at a view against women’s ordination. Again, this is not to say that all egalitarians read 1 Timothy 2 culturally. I would also note that complementarianism is generally misunderstood. Complentarianism teaches that women and men are created to complement or complete each other. One does not have to abandon radical egalitarianism to hold to this position. Certainly, complementarians teach women and men are made in the image of God differently because only together do they form the complete image of God (Gen. 1:26-27, Eph. 5:22-31), but this may or may not indicate anything about the status of women’s ordination. Rather, this would end up being a theological counter to homosexuality. And so in that sense, complementarianism is a core part of the Gospel. But that’s all I take complementarianism to mean. Onto a part I agree with.
The problem with the argument that people who take a different view on the role of women are “loose with the scripture” is that it assumes that there is only one way of reading scripture on this issue. As Carson rightly notes in his opening comments – that is not how the GC understand the way that evangelicals read scripture when it relates to Baptism or Church Government. For me to argue that I have met more people that have turned away from gospel doctrines such as belief in the resurrection or the uniqueness of Christ that also held paedobaptist views – see for example the large number of self described liberal presbyterians or anglicans – would be a facile and prejudiced line of reasoning.
This part I agree with highly! There is no matter more important for the Christian Church to grasp than the nature of baptism! But a problem is that liberal Anglicans who practice paedobaptism generally don’t affirm that baptism saves. Nevertheless, our beliefs on baptism are one of the most important doctrines to adhere to. Jesus gave us this command–baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This is why I do not affiliate myself with ecumenical organizations of the sort and am glad my church doesn’t either.
2. Trajectories (John Piper)
Piper’s line of reasoning here is that to take a different view on gender roles will lead to changes in view on homosexuality. This seems to contradict Keller’s rule “never attribute to your opponent a view they do not hold” or even more explicitly never “attribute to antagonist no opinion that he does not own, though it be a necessary consequence.” It is true that some egalitarians have argued that the church should change its views on the role of women and our views on the practice of homosexual sexual intercourse. But it is also true that some have argued that male headship in the home is license for domestic violence against women. Neither of these views are “necessary consequences” and so Keller is wise to argue that you shouldn’t assume the worst when engaging in conversation. But this is precisely what Piper does. As an egalitarian I believe that leadership roles are available to men and women in the church, this does not lead me to change my views on homosexual sex.
This next part, McKnight tackles trajectories. I agree with this. We should definitely not do this. Which is why egalitarians might want to take advice and not attribute racism or slavery-promotion to opponents of women’s ordination. I, of course, am an Anglo-Catholic and personally don’t find it wrong to state that one who holds to views against women’s ordination will become an Anglo-Catholic. That would be great if all of these people became Anglo-Catholic or Catholic or Orthodox so we could hold better discussions amidst adherents of apostolic or potentially apostolic re-unified faiths. I always state that many who hold to views against women’s ordination have denied historic orthodox catholic tenets of the faith (which is true). McKnight even mentions the Salvation Army which no longer practices baptism.
4. Gender is an issue of this time ( baptists and paedobaptists used to argue but this is not the issue that is addressing our culture) (Carson)
I would love to understand how Carson understands the polyvalence of the Bible on the issue of baptism and why it is different from the role of women. I can’t believe that Carson is arguing that our willingness to believe the hermenteutical best of those who read the Bible differently to us on baptism is just an accident of history. As Keller argues your view on women is not a central gospel truth but surely your views on how someone is saved is part of the gospel. Some of my Anglican paedobaptist friends believe it is possible for someone to be saved without personal faith in Christ and that on the basis of promises made by Godparents an infant is regenerate and included into the body of Christ. To argue that this is not an important issue for our time seems to reduce the importance of the gospel. To elevate gender roles above the issue of how salvation operates seems strange to me – but I may have misunderstood Carson on this one, or it is possible he is not being entirely consistent.
I find it hard to believe that the rise of egalitarianism is seen as one of the most pressing dangers facing the church and the culture – above global poverty, gun control, the environment…
This is another excellent point of McKnight’s. Many complementarians think a “distorted” view of gender roles would create havoc in our culture. I wonder if they are aware of saints such as Joan of Arc who actually radically transcended gender roles in order to do what is right. Transcending gender roles is the purpose of the Gospel. And besides, most people know that when women lead and teach, they do it quite differently than men do. And on average, sports show that men are stronger and more physically apt than women are. Men’s records are on average greater than women’s records unless we’re talking gymnastics (and certain areas in gymnastics that are practiced by men aren’t practiced by women). Culture does not need education that men and women are different. This is simply one of those non-disputable areas. I know of not even one of the most radical of radical egalitarians who supports this unless they are completely blind to reality in general. His last point…
I contend that it is possible to have a high view of scripture and believe that women can take on leadership roles in the church.
I contend that egalitarians are not all cowards – sometimes egalitarians have faced significant opposition from conservative friends and colleagues because of where their reading of scripture have taken them.
I contend that the role of women in leadership in the church is not an unasailable division – if we have found a way to find unity in diversity on baptism surely we can on this issue.
I have benefitted greatly from the ministry of all of the men in this video, they have produced some brilliant books and materials, its such a shame this video is not up to their usual high standards.
I would like to encourage the Gospel Coalition to reconsider its position in light of Keller’s very helpful rules of engagement and consider removing this inflammatory and insulting video. I would like to suggest a dialog between evangelical complementarians and egalitarians modelled on Keller’s rules that can genuinely engage with each other’s convictions at their best and explore ways we can find unity in the gospel rather than division on this matter.
It is very true. Many radical egalitarians in the Catholic Church face excommunication for their views. Often times, in the Orthodox Church, radical egalitarians are scoffed at (and supposedly, there’s more open discussion on that issue). I think this is mostly because opponents of women’s ordination (at least at the level of priest and bishop) strongly believe in lex credendi, lex orandi and view a women priest or bishop as messing up the liturgy in its entirety. As such, it is made an issue because of the Gospel. As to whether it actually fits that model well in the majority of the Protestant world, I’ll let them debate that. The Protestant world is not mine to change. And I certainly agree with McKnight–if people can agree to disagree on the nature of baptism, a subject more closely related to salvation, they can agree to disagree on anything.
My own post script:
I would highly recommend Women and the Priesthood edited by Fr. Thomas Hopko for the best resource against women’s ordination.
There is also Deaconesses by Aime Martimort.