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June 19, 2018

The second edition of Scot’s book The Blue Parakeet is now available. The book is one of his best, a book that helps the reader think through the nature of the Bible as inspired and authoritative. From the back cover: “The second edition also includes new sections on race and slavery, the atonement, Genesis and science, and kingdom and justice issues.” While the first edition is outstanding, it did have some shortcomings. The most significant was the application of reading the Bible as story to only one issue – Women in Church Ministries Today. While this is a significant issue, and one that needs attention, it is far from the only issue raised by some approaches to Scripture. The revised version of The Blue Parakeet corrects this shortcoming by inserting a new section – Part 4 – with chapters Slaves/Atonement/Justice in the King and his Kingdom Redemption Story. Women in Church Ministries becomes Part 5. In addition there is an new appendix on Genesis and Science. This appendix is the subject of today’s post.

In some ways the appendix on Genesis and Science is a brief summary of Scot’s chapters in Adam and the Genome, but it makes an excellent addition to The Blue Parakeet. Many concerns that Christians have about evolution have nothing at all to do with scientific questions or evidence. The concerns are biblical and theological. The evidence for a long history and common descent appear to contradict the Bible and challenge our understanding of human vocation, human nature and original sin. Some will go so far as to claim that without a traditional understanding of original sin (i.e. Adam’s Fall in the garden) atonement is unnecessary and meaningless.  No Adam, no need for a savior.

Scot outlines what he calls the “historical Adam” view (p. 314): Two actual persons existed suddenly as the result of God’s creation. They have a biological and genetic relationship to all humans alive today. Adam and Eve sinned, died, and brought death into the world and passed on their newly acquired sin natures to all their descendants – i.e. all humans. It is this  string of connections that results in a universal need for salvation. No human being is exempt.

While this is a plausible reading of Scripture, many of the findings of modern science call into question the foundation of the scenario. There is ample evidence of evolution. Humans developed as a population. While we all share common ancestors, there is no evidence for a unique pair of individuals as the sole progenitors of the human race.  The genetic evidence suggests that the population was always in the thousands.

This challenge send us back to consider what the Bible teaches again. Is the historical Adam truly foundational? Probably not. Adam and Eve do not play a central role in the Old Testament, in fact, they are absent except for genealogies after the first chapters of Genesis, nor do they play such a role in Jewish tradition.  “Adam and Eve in the Jewish tradition were flexible human being, and each author used Adam and Eve in differing ways because each author saw the literary Adam and Eve as archetypal or representative humans.” (p. 316)

Paul uses Adam and Eve in ways that differ from the Jewish tradition that surrounded him, but his approach is the same. Adam is a literary archetype or representative. Paul is not making a scientific and genetic statement. The key point is the contrast between Adam and Christ (p. 317).

Adam: Sin -> Death -> Condemnation -> Union with others

Christ: Obedience -> Life -> Justification -> Union with others

Paul is clear that all die “because all sinned.” We are all individually responsible for our own death through sin. Life comes through Christ. Neither death through Adam nor life through Christ require biological or genetic descent.

What does this mean for the historical Adam as outlined above? Scot emphasizes: “no one in the Bible or in the Jewish tradition taught this historical Adam theory as the church tradition teaches it.” (p. 317) The church tradition builds on Paul’s writing – but it is not simply a recap of his teaching. It elaborates his teaching. We can discard the elaboration without abandoning Paul’s teaching.

Both the Bible’s General Plot – the King and His Kingdom – and the Bible’s redemptive benefits story fit into other approaches to understanding what the Bible actually says about Adam and Eve. Jesus is King and he summons all humans into his Kingdom whether or not this historical Adam theory is accurate. But more importantly, the approach to Adam and Eve detailed above – as personally responsible for their sin  and we are responsible for our sin )”because all sinned”) – is all we need for us to believe the gospel’s saving benefits: that Jesus dies for our sins and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:25) (pp. 317-318)

All this means is that no significant Christian doctrine rests on the historical Adam.

Focus on the General Plot and let the rest stand or fall on its merits.

What do you think?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

June 5, 2018

Today the fully revised second edition of Blue Parakeet is available.

I’ve been asked a dozen times or more, What’s new in the Blue Parakeet?

This is a book about reading the Bible, about bad reading habits — like making the Bible into a Rorschach inkblot where we see what we are looking for — and good reading habits — like knowing the story of the Bible so we can see how God spoke in Moses’ day in Moses’ way and see how God spoke in Jesus’ day in Jesus’ way.

While I had some back and forth with the editors and marketers at the publisher on the title — “what’s a blue parakeet got to do with Bible reading?”, by all accounts the book has become far more useful to churches and Christians than I or Zondervan expected. It’s nothing but fun when someone says “blue parakeet guy?” to me.

This book is mentioned more than any other book I have written, except for perhaps Jesus Creed. In particular, it has become helpful for college students and home Bible study groups, and for me a particular joy has been that so many women have been encouraged in their gifting by this book, which leads to this: the last third of the book is about women in ministry and how the Bible’s story shapes the empowerment of women.

So, please answer the question: What’s new?

I added more on reading the Bible as narrative. That is, I combine the story of the Eikon with the story of king Jesus.

I added a section on the Bible and slavery.

I added a section on the Bible and atonement.

I added a section on the Bible and justice.

I added a section on the Bible and science.

I added a section on the gospel itself.

I added enough that the new edition has more than 100 pages more than the original edition!

May 29, 2018

I’ve been asked a dozen times or more, What’s new in the Blue Parakeet?

This is a book about reading the Bible, about bad reading habits — like making the Bible into a Rorschach inkblot where we see what we are looking for — and good reading habits — like knowing the story of the Bible so we can see how God spoke in Moses’ day in Moses’ way and see how God spoke in Jesus’ day in Jesus’ way.

While I had some back and forth with the editors and marketers at the publisher on the title — “what’s a blue parakeet got to do with Bible reading?”, by all accounts the book has become far more useful to churches and Christians than I or Zondervan expected. It’s nothing but fun when someone says “blue parakeet guy?” to me.

This book is mentioned more than any other book I have written, except for perhaps Jesus Creed. In particular, it has become helpful for college students and home Bible study groups, and for me a particular joy has been that so many women have been encouraged in their gifting by this book, which leads to this: the last third of the book is about women in ministry and how the Bible’s story shapes the empowerment of women.

So, please answer the question: What’s new?

I added more on reading the Bible as narrative. That is, I combine the story of the Eikon with the story of king Jesus.

I added a section on the Bible and slavery.

I added a section on the Bible and atonement.

I added a section on the Bible and justice.

I added a section on the Bible and science.

I added a section on the gospel itself.

I added enough that the new edition has more than 100 pages more than the original edition!

May 12, 2018

The Blue Parakeet has escaped the cage! This is the beautiful cover to the 2d edition of Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible.

Not a slight revision. There are whole new sections, and this much-revised edition is nearly 100 pages longer than the original.  New sections on reading the Bible as narrative, new material on slavery in the Bible, on science and faith, on the gospel … and more!

This 2d edition comes because of comments from readers, from professors who use this as introduction to Bible reading, from pastors asking questions, from my own classroom and from my own development in writing and study.

I cannot express my gratitude adequately to who over the years have offered encouraging words about what this book has done for them, and that alone was reason enough for me to improve the book with new material.

Ah, yes, and the long section on women in ministry has been a highlight.

November 3, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 9.28.00 AMFrom CBE’s Arise

By Tina Osterhouse and see here website here.  And a huge thanks to Mimi Haddad for all her courageous faith-work for women in ministry. Now to Tina’s article.

I once worked as a young adult director in a church. This church was and continues to be a great church, filled with people who love God, one another, and the world with genuine affection and generosity. During the time I worked as a director, they gave me freedom to lead and preach and dream with great liberty. But because they did not license women as pastors, I was called a director. While my male friends got licensed, sought ordination, and received recognition for being ministers of the gospel, I did not.

I advocated for women in leadership and pressed the church to consider the ordination of woman. Some listened, but not enough to do much about it. In hindsight, the rejection I felt, and the intense confusion I dealt with—why the men, and not the women—took a toll on my heart.

Over time, it wasn’t that I ever felt called out of full-time ministry; it was simply that I couldn’t find my way through full-time ministry as a woman. There didn’t seem to be a clear track for me to take within my denomination. So, through prayer and aching frustration, and a lot of tears, I continued to love God, people, and work in lay ministry of various sorts, but I dedicated myself to things outside the institution—mainly the written word and telling stories.

I thought maybe I was selfishly ambitious. We’re not supposed to fight for our rights; we’re supposed to lay them down. So I went down a new road. I continued to minister in Jesus’ name, but expected no title, or salary, no recognition other than the recognition that comes from a job well done.

I cultivated my life with God in other ways. And because God is good and faithful, I grew in grace and in knowledge of Jesus, and God used me in spite of it all.

Two and a half years ago, upon returning home to the United States after living in South America, I made a deliberate decision to only attend churches that believe in and practice the ordination of women. It felt right to me. I didn’t have the energy to be an advocate inside the institution anymore. I needed to visibly see women pastors and be a part of the church that let the women lead without requiring the spiritual covering of a man. Along the way, I met a man named John, a man who was and is a sincere advocate for the ordination of woman.

Never one to let a good thing go, I married John. Over time, he started to say things about my gifts as a woman minister. Things like, “I’d like to help you get licensed as a pastor.” Or, “You’re a minister in your own right.” Or even, “We will find a way for you to go to seminary if you’d like that.” Things no man has ever said to me before.

It unnerved me. It stirred up the dust in a cemetery of buried dreams. I’m a writer now. I let all that other stuff go when it proved too painful. I believe in the ordination of women, for other women, but not for me. Even so, like the slow trickle of a stream that has long been bottlenecked, his words proved to be freedom stones, and loosened the tightly bound blockage. I began to hear the still small voice of God.

Can these dry bones live?

Only you know, oh God.

“Speak to your dry bones and tell them to live.”

Last spring, at a time when I least expected, John threw my name in the hat as a potential speaker for a young adult retreat. It felt like I was returning to a language I knew from long ago, a language I loved. Then the pastor of the church we were attending asked me to preach on a Sunday morning—something I have never been asked to do in any US church. Sunday pulpits are reserved for the men. Then, another invitation came to preach two Sundays at a sister church nearby.

A few good people within the denomination have quietly asked me, “Are you going to become a pastor?” What do I say? I wholeheartedly believe in women pastors, but…

Am I allowed to become a pastor?

Recently, my husband took a job as interim lead pastor of a local church. The other day he referred to someone on the board of elders as “she.” I flinched, having to remind myself, “Oh, that’s right. They have women pastors and women elders in this denomination.”

How is it different being in a denomination that ordains women? If I tried to put my pulse on why biblical equality matters so much to me, I think I would say that, after all this time, it finally feels like the men aren’t the gatekeepers barring me from entrance to something I’ve long felt called toward. It feels like there’s an open invitation to seek God, and find my way, wherever that way might lead.

I’m sure there are imperfections in this denomination, as with any human institution, God-ordained or not. We are an imperfect people trying to love one another and our God with all our hearts, and we don’t always get it right. But finally, I attend a church that doesn’t exclude women from leadership. And that does my soul well.

May 18, 2017

Register for the Webinar at http://www.seminary.edu/sheleadswebinar/

Description:

Why have women been silenced & not allowed to lead in the Church?

I’ve dedicated part of my life’s work to advocating for empowering women to be part of every sphere of church leadership and work.  This controversial topic always has the potential to be divisive and unproductive.   In order for the Church to be all it can be we need to be more informed and thoughtful when it comes to the conversation about women leading in the Church.

In this webinar you will:

  • Gain a greater understanding about the perspectives and voices that have contributed to this conversation.
  • Learn about women’s voices and influences in the New Testament that often get overlooked or forgotten.
  • Hear firsthand from Tara Beth Leach (Senior Pastor of Paz Naz) about the joys and challenges of leading as a Woman in the church.
  • Ask Scot and Tara Beth your biggest questions about this topic.

Webinar Details: 

Date: 5/25/17 Time: 11am CST
Hashtag: #sheleadswebinar (If you use this hashtag with the link to registration on Facebook or Twitter, then you’ll be put in a drawing to win a copy of The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How to Read the Bible).  
Login: A link will be emailed to you in advance of the webinar.

April 21, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 6.40.26 PM
This post is from Arise, a publication of Christians for Biblical Equality, and in the comment box please write out what you have heard.

For a book on this topic, check out Blue Parakeet.

On April 19, 2017

Last night, Sarah Bessey (we’re fans!) began a conversation about the strange, sexist, abusive, and toxic things Christian women are told on a regular basis. We’ve been leaning into the conversation and doing our best to keep a record of the profound and heartbreaking stories women and male allies are sharing. We’ve collected some of the most powerful tweets so far in a list, and we’re inviting our audience to follow the ongoing conversation happening on Twitter under #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear.

If you have a relevant story or experience, please join the conversation yourself or share in the comments below.

1. “You can teach the women and children, you just can’t teach the men.” –Charlie Grantham

2. “You are an amazing leader! You’d make an excellent pastor’s wife someday!” –Sarah Bessey

3. “Women are too emotional to be leaders and pastors. It would never work.” –Jesse Harp

4. “Yeah, but who gets to make the final call in your marriage?” –Sarah Bessey

5. “OK, you can teach this, but there has to be a male leader in the room when you do. We’ll send someone.” –Sandy

6. “Women can write theology books but not teach theology.” –Scott Lencke

7. “You will be able to preach, but we will let the congregation know the elders reviewed & okayed the message.”—Scott Lencke

8. “There are only a few women used as leaders in the Bible and it was an exceptional case.” –Scott Lencke

9. “Keep waiting and God will bring your Boaz to you. Ya’ll, Boaz has a horrible sense of direction.” –Joy Beth Smith

10. “She can’t lead worship because no one sings along when women are the lead singers. But backup is fine!” –Jenna DeWitt

11. “Biblical Womanhood can be defined by marriage and motherhood.” –Joy Beth Smith

12. “As a single woman, you need to find a male mentor to submit yourself to because you need a covering.” –Joy Beth Smith

13. If you’re married and choose not to have children, that’s selfish.” –Joy Beth Smith

14. “’We have female directors, they’re basically like pastors’ (except in title or authority).” –Shannon Anderson

15. “I mean you (women) have the ability to give and nurture life! Is that not enough?” –Cyndie Randall

16. “’Stop being so aggressive,’ you should wait to be ‘found.’” –Cici Adams

17. “Girl, don’t buy a house! How is your husband supposed to feel like a man if he doesn’t buy your first one?” –Tia J. Davis

18. “The highest calling of every woman is to be a wife and mother.” –Karen Gonzalez

19. “If the pastor fell into sin and raped you it was you who seduced and tempted him.” –Sierra White

20. “You and your husband are equals, but he makes the final decisions in your marriage.” –Emily Davis Williams

21. “God urged me to pray for your marriage and children this week.” –Miranda Klaver

22. “’The ultimate healing would be if you two were married’– said by the mom of my rapist.” –Tracy

23. “Your clothes can cause boys to sin.” –Amber Wingfield

24. “You speak five languages and have a doctoral degree? Children’s ministry is your calling!” –Sara Eggers

25. “I know women who have heard this ‘Do you think not doing your ‘wifely duties’ enough caused him to cheat?’” –Shaun Jex

26. I don’t see why you’d want to work at a church, even as a secretary. Why can’t you just aspire to stay home? –Beka

27. “You’re too strong honey. You’ve got to let him lead if you want a man.” –JillMarie Richardson

28. “If there is no other option for teaching or leading, then yes, a woman is better than nothing.” –Churchill

29. “Was once told that men r the “CEO” in marriage. Women can give their input, but husbands make final decisions.” –Cici Adams

30. “Dress modestly because men are too weak. Also men are in charge of you because they are spiritually superior.” –Stephanie Long

31. “You can’t be a ‘pastor’ of [insert ministry here], but you can be a ‘director’ of it!” –Emily Lund

32. “If you stay with your abuser, you might bring him to the Lord.” –Sarah Bessey

33. “I fully respect a woman having a career, so long as it’s not leadership in church.” –Kelly

34. “You’re egalitarian? … Umm, are you still a Christian?” –V. Higgins

35. “We can’t meet for Starbucks. It might give the appearance of evil.” –JillMarie Richardson

36. “I affirm your spiritual gift of teaching!… to women and children.” –Derek Caldwell

37. “If [abuse] is not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, I think she endures being smacked 4 a season.” –Angie Sanderson

38. “You know too much about the Bible. You will be too intimidating for a guy to marry. How will they lead you?” –Bonnie

39. “I’m all for women’s ordination but I don’t want a woman head pastor at my church. Just my preference.” –Karen Gonzalez

40. “(After a fruitful season mentoring a man) ‘Well, that was God using her in spite of her disobedience.’” –Rob Dixon

41. “Me: I noticed your preaching conference has all male headliners
Them: We have a women’s track for First Ladies” –Olivier Armstrong

42. “Going to college is pointless since you can’t have a career once u get married and have kids” –Lindsay

43. “You have tremendous leadership gifts… it’s too bad you weren’t born male.” –Bekah Evans

44. “You are looking at this from a woman’s perspective and I am seeing things from a person’s perspective.” –Abby Norman

45. “We appreciate you volunteering for years, but now that we are going to pay someone we need a man.” –Abby Norman

46. “Your period is punishment for Eve’s sin.” –Amanda Butler

47. “We don’t permit women to preach here, but you can ‘share.’” –Melody Hewko

48. “’Men will look at you and be tempted and sin.’ We say this to 12 year old girls. I was ashamed until my 20s.” –Taylor Schumann

49. “Preached at a huge church once. Intro: ‘Men, we are going to peek over the ladies shoulders & listen in while JH shares with them.’” –Jen Hatmaker

50. You’re a pastor? You mean a women’s pastor?” –Kelly Ladd Bishop

51. “We paid your male colleague more because he negotiated better for his starting salary than you.” –Mimi Haddad

52. “Maybe people will listen to you if you stop sounding so angry.” –Sarahbeth Caplin

53. “Male pastor tears up, others applaud warmth
Female pastor tears up, hears ‘Women are too emotional to lead’” –Dawn

54. “The women’s issue is not a primary issue that concerns the church.” –Mimi Haddad

55. “Now that you’ve had a baby, you’ll probably be less passionate about your ministry calling.” –Dawn

March 8, 2017

Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 7.07.25 AMFrom Arise, by Rachel Elizabeth Asproth: Rachel Elizabeth Asproth graduated from Bethel University with a BA in English literature and reconciliation studies in 2015. She is currently the editor of the CBE Scroll and Arise. Her chief passions are reading, writing, social justice, theatre, and travel. She spends most of her time scouring thrift stores for new books and taking advantage of her student discount at the Orpheum Theatre. Rachel currently lives in New Brighton, MN.

We’ll begin our series by zooming out to analyze how history has sought to erase the experiences and contributions of women. Then, we’ll profile three living women who have made or are currently making history. We’ll end our series and our celebration by proclaiming that women’s stories endure. Against the long odds of patriarchal repression, women’s voices could not and will not be subdued.

But first, let’s talk about the historical erasure of women.

[SMcK: “let the blue parakeet” sing is the image I use for erasure and awakening in The Blue Parakeet.]

History is, quite obviously, a story. And like any story, it at times prioritizes the experiences of certain characters over others. If we try to do too much with one story, we obstruct our own efforts. Thus, good historians are wise and fair synthesizers of data, but they accept that no one story can answer every question.

And yet, some stories are more than just garden-variety incomplete. From a distance, broken things can appear whole. To the untrained eye, a sloppily-patched quilt might appear cohesive and a cracked window, smooth. But the quilt’s pattern is disrupted, faithlessly altered, and the fractured glass is no longer capable of withstanding a storm. Similarly, history is compromised by sloppy, biased storytelling.

There is a difference between a story that doesn’t answer every question and a story that excludes entire people groups. When history omits the experiences of women, it’s not because historians have been wise and fair synthesizers of data. It’s because patriarchal history prioritizes the stories of the powerful.

Patriarchal history doesn’t try to erase women because we have been absent or idle. Patriarchy tries to erase women because it judges our stories, experiences, and contributions as less vital than those of men. It tries to repress women’s voices because our stories threaten a false, male-centric narrative.

Men don’t dominate the halls of history because they have earned the spotlight more than women. Men control the historical narrative because they have also sought to control women.

1. Patriarchal History Questions the Importance of Women’s Existence

Patriarchal history tries to erase women by attacking their relevance to the global story. If women are not proven witnesses to and participants in the world’s story, then it make sense to omit us in the telling.

In other words, if history denies that women ever showed up to the party, our ongoing marginalization is justified. It’s no accident that patriarchal history consistently locates women off-site. History omits women because it doesn’t want to admit that we showed up, and that our presence altered the story.

2. Patriarchal History Minimizes Women’s Contributions

I was recently reading an article about gender representation in school curriculum. The author of the article randomly selected a fifth grade US history textbook for analysis. She found that only twenty-six of the 185 “key people” listed were women.

Patriarchal history reduces women to supporting characters. But women have bent the arc of history with their hands since the beginning of time. We’ve been inventing, building, creating, and producing for ages. And yet, history treats our contributions as afterthoughts.

But we aren’t reduced to supporting characters because we don’t warrant a starring role. No, patriarchy has long sought to subdue our genius.

3. Patriarchal History Pigeon-Holes Women

It’s true that women have been limited to the domestic sphere for much of history. And it’s important to never dismiss the courageous vocations of mother and wife. However, women were not wives and mothers only. Women are and have been inventors, warriors, strategists, doctors, generals, educators, scholars, theologians, activists, and preachers.

Women invented Kevlar, central and solar heating, syringes, the smallpox vaccine, submarine telescopes, and so much more! A woman wrote the first computer program (Ada Lovelace) and another woman wrote the first business software program (Grace Hopper). And some beer historians believe that you have ancient Mesopotamian women to thank if you enjoy a nice cold beer in the summertime.

And yet, history rarely treats women as agents of change and progress because the agency of women is a threat to patriarchy.

4. Patriarchal History Is Hyper-Focused on Female Sexuality

Traditionally, women have been judged as valuable or valueless based on what we could offer to men. Yes, I’m talking about sex. History is fascinated by female sexuality—and many historical figures like Augustine, Jerome, and Tertullian dwelt obsessively on a false narrative of female promiscuity.

Christians today often reduce women to the flawed dichotomy of promiscuous or pure. And patriarchal history is just as preoccupied with what women have done with their bodies, or in many cases, what has been done to their bodies. And all of this toxic, patriarchal interest in female sexuality has come at the expense of celebrating women’s intellectual capacity.

Women have been engaging in complex thinking for just as long as men, yet church fathers labelled women simple, shallow, and intellectually deficient. Indeed, Martin Luther said: “No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.” Patriarchal history often paints women as inconstant, fleeting, changeable creatures.

And yet, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Malala Yousafzai, Rosa Parks, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Virginia Woolf, Marie Curie, Flannery O’Conner, Ida B. Wells, Jane Austen, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, and Simone de Beauvoir suggest that women aren’t as moveable as patriarchy would like.

Patriarchal history has been trying to erase women for a long time. Nevertheless, we’ve persisted.

Join us in March for our Women’s History Wednesday series as we celebrate women’s stories, experiences, and contributions.

January 18, 2017

By Bob Allen, at Baptist News

A decade-old emphasis encouraging moderate Baptist churches to invite a woman to preach one Sunday in February has contributed to a shift in how people in the pew think about women in ministry, a longtime advocate for pulpit inclusiveness said in a newsletter promoting the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching for 2017.

Pam Durso, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, said last year 211 churches participated in the annual emphasis launched in 2007. That’s more than double the number of 104 in 2010 and four times as many as the inaugural year.

“As a result of the advocacy and support of Baptist pastors and leaders, we are seeing a shift in our Baptist culture,” Durso said. “In the past 10 years, as we have observed the Baptist landscape, we have seen greater numbers of women find ministry positions, live out their calling, and serve in this world, and we have seen more churches open their pulpits to women and call women to serve their congregations.”

Durso, a former career Baptist church historian named executive director of the support and advocacy group in 2009, described 2015 as “a banner year” for women in ministry in the most recent State of Women in Baptist Life report introduced in June at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Greensboro, N.C.

While the proverbial “stained-glass ceiling” remains a reality for many women seeking to enter ministerial roles traditionally held by men, Durso said statistics show a slow but steady “greater openness to women ministers within the moderate-to-progressive Baptist churches, denominations and institutions.”

While most ordinations of Baptist women in the South have occurred since the 1980s, Durso, who has a Ph.D. in church history from Baylor University, says there is a forgotten heritage of women preaching alongside men in at least one of the streams of tradition that came together in the mid-19th century to form the Southern Baptist Convention.

February 2, 2015

TGC chose to republish a video with D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper about their beliefs about the roles of women and courage to hold true to the Bible and critique of the lack of courage on the part of those who don’t hold those views. That seems a fair description.

Because they reposted their video I thought it would be good to repost Krish Kandiah’s original response to that video. Before we get to his response I want to make an observation or two about this so-called “courage.”

Courage is determined by one’s social group. It takes no courage at Northern Seminary to affirm women in ministry while it might take more than a little courage in some TGC churches or conferences to stand publicly for women as senior pastors and pulpit preachers. To say it again, it takes no courage in TGC settings to stand against women in ministry while it would take some courage to stand up in a class at Northern and oppose women pastors.

Thus, for the folks in this video to posture themselves as courageous is to say they are in a safe tribe that will support their views. It takes no courage for them to say folks in other settings don’t have their courage.

Put differently, the claim of courage is little more than patting one another on the back. [Now to Krish Kandiah’s piece.]

Used by permission

Just in case it needs reiterating- the views represented on my blog and in this post are my own – I am not speaking on behalf of any organisation that I work for.

If you know me a little or if you have read this blog before you know I love Tim Keller. He is one of my favourite authors and preachers. His gracious tone makes him one of a very small number of people I know of who have the capacity to take on the role of Global elder statesman in the mold of John Stott and Billy Graham (in his prime). I have had the opportunity to tell him this in person. I also had the opportunity to ask him directly about one area where I found his position puzzling. It was on the role of women. Tim was one of the founders of the Gospel Coalition whose name suggests that it is a gathering of Christians around the gospel. Indeed on the Gospel Coalition website it says “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.”

Included in the Gospel Coalition’s founding documents are very clear statements around the distinctive roles of men and women in church and home:

God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.

Now of course groupings such as these have the right to include and exclude any one they like from their membership. What saddened me was that Tim Keller speaks very highly of the work of Intervarsity and IFES and in fact I have heard him talk about the fact that his theological and apologetic formation happening through such groups. IFES has always taken a clear distinguishing line between first and second order issues and never sought to make views on gender roles an issue that would exclude others from fellowship or ministry. So as one of the founders of GC I was surprised that Keller would include this in his list of entry requirements.

When I had the privilege to spend some time with Keller I asked him if he thought views on the role of women were part of the gospel, he said they weren’t but that they were very important. I came across this video recently on the GC website where along with Don Carson and John Piper he goes a lot further. To say I found this video discouraging is an understatement:

Very recently I commended Keller on some fantastic rules of engagement he had produced on how to deal with views that he didn’t agree with. Particularly:

  • Never attribute an opinion to your opponents that they themselves do not hold.
  • Represent your opponents’ position in its strongest form, not in a weak ‘straw man’ form.
So it was sad to hear the arguments used in this little 17 minute video. Yes I think that Keller was the person offering the most conciliatory and bridge building role in this dialogue – but he neither disagreed nor challenged those expressed by his fellow participants. Here’s what I heard being used as arguments against including egalitarians in the gospel coalition, I am open to be corrected of course.

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 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.

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.

Perhaps there is a contextual issue at stake here. Perhaps things are different in the US? Two examples from the UK. The first UK denominations to ordain women were the Salvation Army (c.1870 ) and the Baptist Union of Great Britain (c.1920); neither are liberal today. (Thanks to Steve Holmes for this information). Perhaps a wider contextual awareness may help. But the bigger point is – just because some egalitarians change their minds on homosexuality -doesn’t necessitate that all will. For example just as many complementarians end up becoming AngloCatholic doesn’t mean all will.

3. Egalitarians apparently dont know the difference between men and women – we have nothing to say to 8 year old children on the issue of gender (cf John Piper).

This is a straw man/woman (!) argument. To argue that men and women both have the opportunity to lead in the church does not mean that all egalitarians see no differences between gender. It is true that we may not agree with some of gender differences that some complementarians attribute to men and women – mainly because we think that those differences owe more to culture than biblical exegesis. I have heard a number of complimentarians argue that all women want to be “rescued” and lead by strong men. But this leaves little room for biblical women role models such as Esther, Deborah or Priscilla.

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…

5. Confusion on Gender is part of what is at the heart of what is wrong with our culture (Carson)

It seems that Carson is arguing that the breakdown of the family in many western contexts is due to a more egalitarian view of gender roles. I would love to see the evidence for this. Isn’t it possible to argue that while the church has been predominantly complimentarian we have seen the greatest increase in family breakdown.

6. Lack of courage (Piper) “If you arent willing to stand against the tide on this issue you will cave on other issues – gospel issues.”

This doesn’t seem to be portraying egalitarians in their strongest terms. It also contradicts Keller’s fifth rule of engagement “Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing theology–because only God sees the heart.” Writing off egalitarians as cowards is hardly a theological critique. I would like to understand why Piper and Keller who participated fully at the Cape Town 2010: The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization seem so completely unaware of itscommitment on the issue of unity across views on gender roles:

We recognize that there are different views sincerely held by those who seek to be faithful and obedient to Scripture. Some interpret apostolic teaching to imply that women should not teach or preach, or that they may do so but not in sole authority over men. Others interpret the spiritual equality of women, the exercise of the edifying gift of prophecy by women in the New Testament church, and their hosting of churches in their homes, as implying that the spiritual gifts of leading and teaching may be received and exercised in ministry by both women and men.[96] We call upon those on different sides of the argument to:

  1. Accept one another without condemnation in relation to matters of dispute, for while we may disagree, we have no grounds for division, destructive speaking, or ungodly hostility towards one another;[97]

7. We are not listening to what scripture says on its own terms “it is not listening to what God says” to take a contrary view on this is “not to tremble at God’s word” (Carson)

Carson joins in the attack on the character of egalitarians – again contradicting Keller’s rule “Remember the gospel and stick to criticizing theology–because only God sees the heart.” Basically we are trembling at God’s word if we agree with Carson’s apparently infallible reading of the gender texts.

Conclusion

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.

Post Script

I have been asked to provide some reading material to help read Egalitarianism at its best.
Here’s my limited list – very happy for other suggestions:
6. Women in the Church: A biblical Theology of Women in Ministry, Stanley Grenz
Here are some others recommended through social media ( I have not read them… yet)
Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters’ by Philip B Payne
Women and Authority, Ian Paul , Grove Booklets
I suffer not a woman’. Kroeger & Kroeger;
‘Women & Religion’ Clark & Richardson.



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