Do you see any signs that the feminist issue will also similarly be resolved eventually? How do you think churches and denominations can best handle it practically going forward? It seems impractical to expect denominations to allow churches holding both positions to remain together in the same group of churches – Do you agree?
I wrote in an earlier book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Multnomah and IVP-UK, 2004) that I think churches will have to come to one position or another on this issue. Either you have some women elders (in which case the egalitarian position has won and will continue to expand its influence) or you don’t have women elders (in which case the complementarian position has won). It is impossible to have it both ways.
Yes, I have great confidence that this issue will eventually be resolved, and that the vast majority of God’s people who take the Bible as the Word of God will adopt and practice a complementarian position, and will put it in their statements of faith. I am thankful that out of this controversy has come a greater appreciation for women’s gifts and wisdom, and a greater openness to many more ministries for women, but the church will still, by and large, be complementarian until Christ returns. Jesus Christ has not given up on His church, and He has not abandoned it. He is still building His church, and He is purifying it, “so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).
There have been many doctrinal controversies in the history of the church, and God in His providence always eventually guides the vast majority of the people who sincerely believe the Bible to the right conclusion. Then those who hold the wrong position eventually are marginalized, their churches lose God’s blessing, and they then decline or even close. It will be that way in this controversy as well, although it may take some time, and before it is resolved many churches will adopt a feminist position, to the detriment of many marriages and ministries along the way. (I was just told last week of a complementarian church in a major American city that hired an egalitarian pastor; [they] gave in to his demands that all church offices be open to women, and he took the church from 2500 people on Sunday to under 400 today. I think we will see that more and more, though there will be temporary exceptions from time to time.)
Given your perspective as being involved in all of these debates, do you feel hopeful or cynical about the future of evangelical Gospel-believing churches? What do you think the Gospel-believing church movements will look like in, say, thirty years’ time?
I’m very hopeful. I see indications that God is bringing renewal and revival (as well as exposing sin and “cleaning house”) in many churches around the world. I am hoping that God will yet bring a great world-wide revival in our lifetimes, with many millions of people suddenly turning to Christ in genuine faith. I don’t know this for sure, but I am hopeful. I was speaking of this with Terry Virgo in Brighton in July. I am hopeful for both the United States and for the United Kingdom in this regard.
Continued in part nine . . .