This Makes Up For The Stellman-2k Thing

At least for me. During my own time within the egalitarian CRC, it always seemed to me that the ordination issue was a battle between the culturalists who wanted men to know the world is flat and those who wanted women to know their place. There was very little room at the table for those unprepared to cast their lot behind either. But so it goes in a less-than-doctrinalist denomination. And so it is warming to read Trueman’s insights here about the curiosities of setting aside matters that historically have divided and putting in their place those that haven’t.

Given that the issue of complementarianism is raising its head over at The Gospel Coalition, it provides an opportunity to reflect on an issue that has always perplexed me: why 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 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.

This entry was posted in Carl Trueman, Complementarianism, Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to This Makes Up For The Stellman-2k Thing

  1. Actually, the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate is closer to the gospel than it might seem on the surface. The issue of women’s ordination is an issue related to church order, and while we can distinguish the gospel from matters of church order, ultimately they cannot be separated. While I disagree with many points he makes and with his alleged sympathies with the Federal Vision, Rev. Jeffrey Meyers in his book “The Lord’s Service: The Grace of Covenant Renewal Worship” makes a good point about the scriptural and theological-symbolic impropriety of female preachers: “Ordination is a role, something a man does, not merely a status or “profession.” It gives him the authority to say and do things in the Lord’s Name. Otherwise stated, the minister has an instrumental, ritual-symbolic function in the church service. He represents the Husband to the Bride. He acts for Jesus. He speaks for Jesus. He is authorized so to act and speak…The congregation should be assured that when their minister reads, pronounces, preaches, prays, breaks, distributes, and blesses he does so speaking and acting for the Lord Himself…This is precisely why a woman is prohibited from serving as a pastor. She cannot represent the Husband to the Bride…This is why the pastor who leads worship must be an ordained man. By virtue of his office, he must represent the Husband to the Bride. A woman cannot do so. It would upset the entire fabric of God-ordained role relationships within the Church and home. The symbolism of male headship must be maintained in the corporate liturgy of the Church. The Church submits to her Lord as she receivers from Him the Word and Sacraments by the mouth and hand of the pastor…These role relationships are nonnegotiable. It is about theology not cultural imperialism.” (pp. 270-272; Moscow, ID: Canon Press, copyright 2003 by Jeffrey J. Meyers)

  2. Zrim says:

    Geoff, I happen to think Meyers’ book is useful for many concerns related to doxology, even if he ends up giving high church Calvinists a black eye.

    Still, my own anti-Donatist inclinations keep me from going with you and Meyers on this. I don’t see what keeps you from saying at some point that the efficacy of Word and sacrament becomes diminished based upon their administrator. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no egalitarian, the rules of nature still abide, etc. But when we start saying these things have bearing on the gospel I get nervous. After all, Rome is about as patriarchal as one could get. Does that mean she is any closer to the gospel?

    Also, I don’t much care for the complementarian-egalitarian taxonomy. It reduces the issue to merely sex. I think there is something to be said for an elitism-egalitarian taxonomy where sex is part of the matter but also expands things to the sorts of qualifications set out in Timothy and Titus. Sure, women are categorically denied from authoritative office, but plenty of men are as well for specific reasons.

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