A couple of weeks ago, we noted Molly Worthen‘s piece in the New York Times about Mark Driscoll and about the revival of Calvinism among evangelicals. In a letter to the editor in yesterday’s New York Times magazine, Douglas Groothuis took umbrage with one aspect of Worthen’s description of Calvinism. Here’s his complaint in his own words:
“Mark Driscoll’s emphasis on gender hierarchy in the church is not a logical implication of his Calvinist beliefs, as your article states. Calvinism argues that women and men are equally depraved and unable to save themselves from God’s wrath. While many Calvinists teach that women are restricted in their opportunities to serve through leadership in the church (because of a bogus interpretation of biblical texts), there is nothing intrinsic to Calvinism that leads to female subordination. Women are no more alienated from God than men, no less redeemable by God’s grace through faith and no less able to lead wisely in the church.”
As a Calvinist and a Complementarian, I can think of at least a couple of words in response.
First, Groothuis is probably correct to say that “gender hierarchy” is not a necessary implication of Calvinism. But that does not mean that a Calvinist’s views have no relation to a hierarchical view of gender. Most any evangelical Calvinist would insist that Calvinism is the necessary implication of his commitment to sola scriptura. In other words, Calvinists tend to be bibliocentric souls with a keen commitment to the authority of scripture. It is that same commitment to scripture that drives so many Calvinists to a complementarian view of gender roles. That being said, I do not mean to imply that all Calvinists with a high view of scripture come to a Complementarian view (think Roger Nicole). But it would be wrong to imply that there is no connection between the two. Scripture is the link.
Second, the last line strikes me as totally irrelevant both to Worthen’s article in particular and to the evangelical gender debate in general. I am a Complementarian, and there’s nothing in that last line that I would disagree withâ€”even the “no less able to lead” part. The evangelical gender debate has never been about whether or not females have leadership abilities. Both sides agree that they do. The debate centers upon what the Bible teaches about the appropriate exercise of those abilities. Complementarians believe the Bible to teach that a woman’s leadership abilities must be exercised in deference to male headship in the home and in the church. Egalitarians argue that there is no such limitation on gifted female leaders. At bottom, the debate is about what the authoritative scriptures teach. On that question, there is still a great difference of opinion, but on the question of female leadership ability there is not.
Douglas Groothuis has an engaging blog. Although we are on opposite sides of the evangelical gender debate, I really appreciate his consistent support for life. If you haven’t visited his site before, here it is: http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com.