“The denial of complementarianism undermines the church’s practical embrace of the authority of Scripture (thus eventually and inevitably harming the church’s witness to the Gospel). The gymnastics required to get from “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” in the Bible, to “I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” in the actual practice of the local church, are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God.”
I don’t even know where to begin with thinking about the ramifications of such a statement. On one hand, I want to engage in a discussion as to why this type of statement seems far more simplistic and hermeneutically shallow than some may realize and on the other hand try and figure out why many Complementarians and Egalitarians are so focused on demonizing the other’s position (in this case, from the writing of a Complementarian… but don’t kid yourself Egals… you do the same thing).
But first I need to back up. Burk’s post is an attempt to qualify why the gender issue is considered a primary issue within organizations such as The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. This was in response to Carl Trueman’s post, “Confused by Complementarianism? You probably should be.” Trueman asks,
“[W]hy is the complementarian/egalitarian debate such a significant bone of contention in parachurch cobelligerent organisations whose stated purpose is to set aside issues which divide at a church level but which do not seem to impact directly upon the gospel? Why, for instance, is this issue of more importance than, say, differences over baptism or understandings of the Lord’s Supper? Historically and confessionally, those have been the issues that divide, so it is strange to see the adjective ‘confessional’ applied to movements which actually sideline the very doctrinal differences which made Protestant confessions necessary in the first place.”
I agree with a lot that Trueman writes, partly because I either agree with him, disagree with him, or find his ideas very thought-provoking. In other words, I love him. Seriously, he’s got a lot of keen observations and insights. In this situation, I am in agreement with what Trueman is getting at.
Along with Trueman, I’m a little confused about this. I wonder if it could be said that there are hermeneutical gymnastics that need to be done in order to create the Complementarian/Egalitarian debate as an issue that is essential to the nature of the gospel, while suggesting that Baptism and The Lord’s Supper are not. It sure seems that there are quite a few texts where Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are explicitly connected to the gospel, right?
In Burk’s response, he differentiates between the gender issue and the ordinances as the difference between benign and malignant skin blemishes. He states that, “Neither type of blemish will kill me. But what grows out of the latter type of blemish can indeed end my life.” His point is that, in his opinion as a convinced Baptist, the consequences of denying Complementarianism has far more negative ramifications than in Paedobaptism.
I disagree. Here’s why…
One of the concerns I have, as a convinced advocate of Believer’s Baptism vis-à-vis Paedobaptism, is that baptizing unregenerated infants will give false assurance of salvation (this is just one of my concerns, and the most relevant here). This is just as “deadly” in my mind. As a pastor, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have had adults try and convince me that they knew there were righteous before God the Father because they had been sprinkled when they were a baby.
I’ll grant Burk’s (and Mark Dever’s) point that Paedobaptism is not a novel idea within the church. But when did the issue of being novel or not equate to whether something is less dangerous? The concept that people could work their way towards salvation is not a novel idea either, yet the Protestant Reformation found the ideas dangerous enough to warrant a needed correction.
So let me really throw a monkey wrench in this discussion. I have deep concerns about Paedobaptism, hold to a form of Complementarianism, and find Trueman’s thinking to be the most convincing, especially when he writes:
“I am simply not sure why it is such a big issue in organisations whose stated purpose is basic co-operation for the propagation of the gospel and where other matters of more historic, theological and ecclesiastical moment are routinely set aside. If you want simply to unite around the gospel, then why not simply unite around the gospel? Because as soon as you decide that issues such as baptism are not part of your centre-bounded set but complementarianism is, you will find yourself vulnerable to criticism — from both right and left — that you are allowing a little bit of the culture war or your own pet concerns and tastes to intrude into what you deem to be the most basic biblical priorities.”
So I want the “Gospel-centered” organizations to loose the emphasis on Complementarianism. I want them to engage in discussion with other fellow Gospel-centered Egalitarians. Maybe we can learn from each other and reach people with, *gasp*… the Gospel!
What do you think? I know my Egalitarian friends will find this discussion simply silly (and probably agree with my proposal), but my Complementarian friends may have some thoughts on why gender issues should continue to divide between whether some can work “together for the gospel” (even though there are radically different perspectives on the nature of Baptism). Or, as Trueman asks,
“Could a female Baptist minister, baptized by immersion, who is a professing Christian (albeit in error on the point of complementarianism) who happened to be on holiday in the vicinity of such a church – could such a lady, I ask, attend morning worship there and take communion?”
Hmmmm. This is a making my head spin…