Last week, Scot McKnight wrote a two-part essay defining a derogatory moniker that he has coined: neo-reformed (part 1, part 2). McKnight describes the neo-reformed as those who believe in double-predestination and who want to exclude all other Christians who do not. McKnight says that the neo-reformed are actually neo-fundamentalists who are threatening the tranquility of the evangelical village green.
I do not wish to engage McKnight here on every point, but I do wish to correct one item that I think he has gotten horribly wrong. Here’s the relevant excerpt from his essay followed by my response.
“And here’s another issue: the NeoReformed are deeply concerned with complementarianism and see it as a test case of fidelity. Fine, argue your points, but complementarianism is hardly the center of orthodoxy. You wouldn’t know that by the way they write or talk. Some see it as the litmus test of evangelical orthodoxy these days. This grieves me. Don’t we have more significant battles to wage?”
It is true that there is a revival of Calvinism among many younger evangelicals. Colin Hansen reported on this diffuse movement in his book Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. It is also true that these Calvinists have a view of gender that is closer to Wayne Grudem’s than to Roger Nicole’s. They are by and large committed complementarians, and they are earnest in their defense of the view.
That being said, however, it is not accurate to criticize people in this fledgling Reformed revival as if they regard complementarianism as the “center of orthodoxy.” They don’t. Perhaps McKnight has observed the earnest attention that Reformed folks give to the gender issue and has concluded that this topic must be at the heart of their doctrinal priorities. Though the issue certainly is important for the life, health, and witness of churches, that is not all there is to Reformed enthusiasm for complementarianism.
In a recent issue of The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, Mark Dever explains,
“It seems to me and others (many who are younger than myself) that this issue of egalitarianism and complementarianism is increasingly acting as the watershed distinguishing those who will accommodate Scripture to culture, and those who will attempt to shape culture by Scripture. You may disagree, but this is our honest concern before God. It is no lack of charity, nor honesty. It is no desire for power or tradition for tradition’s sake. It is our sober conclusion from observing the last fifty years.”
In other words, Reformed people are concerned to confront egalitarianism because they see it as a threat to the authority of the Bible. This is why Wayne Grudem, for instance, argued so vociferously against William Webb’s trajectory hermeneutic. Webb’s whole project is a threat to the functional authority of the Bible in the life of God’s people.
Reformed evangelicals aren’t the only ones who are confronting egalitarianism and its consequent impact on the authority of scripture. There are many others non-Calvinists who share this concern. What Calvinists and non-Calvinist complementarians have in common is not so much the opinion that complementarianism is the “center of orthodoxy.” They share the view that the authority of scripture is a central issue that is worth contending for, and I hope more people will rally to this cause.