In 2003, Pastor Rob Bell led Mars Hill Bible Church to amend its constitution and statement of faith in order to open all offices-including that of elder-to women. It was a high-profile egalitarian conversion of an entire church that received no little attention in the blogosphere (see here for the story). Earlier this month, a high-profile Bible Church in my own city made a similar move.
Irving Bible Church (IBC) is a large Bible Church in the Dallas area. It is one of the many Bible Churches in our city that represents an important constituency of Dallas Theological Seminary. Recently, the elders of IBC published a website explaining how they have moved away from a complementarian position on women in ministry. After over a year of looking at the issue, they have put the results of their study into a 24-page position paper that outlines the biblical and theological rationale for the change. The elders summarized their findings in five points:
1. The accounts of creation and the fall (Genesis 1-3) reveal a fundamental equality between men and women.
2. Women exercised significant ministry roles of teaching and leading with God’s blessing in both Old and New Testaments.
3. Though the role of women was historically limited, the progress of revelation indicates an ethic in progress leading to full freedom for women to exercise their giftedness in the local church.
4. Key New Testament passages restricting women’s roles were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all time and places.
5. Though women are free to use all of their giftedness in teaching and leading in the church, the role of elder seems to be biblically relegated to men.
Though I have had friends who are members and staff members at IBC, I am observing this whole situation as an outsider. Nevertheless, I’m reading the materials on the website with great interest. Here are a few miscellaneous reflections on what I’ve been reading there.
The Findings Are Essentially Egalitarian. With the possible exception of the last half of number 5, the findings comprise egalitarian conclusions. Unqualified phrases like a “fundamental equality” between the sexes, women’s leadership over men “with God’s blessing,” a gender “ethic in progress,” and “culturally and historically specific” limitations on gender roles reveal a thoroughgoing egalitarian perspective. The one statement that would limit the role of elder to male believers is qualified by the word “seems,” so even this statement has little weight as a complementarian affirmation. I do not see how the restriction on eldership can be maintained for very long since the elders have already conceded all of the major biblical and theological arguments to the egalitarians.
The Elders Embrace Trajectory Hermeneutics. Point number three reveals that the elders have embraced some version of trajectory hermeneutics. Trajectory hermeneutics holds that some of the Bible’s teachings fall short of God’s ideal ethic for His people. The progress of revelation reveals “redemptive movement” with respect to some ethical norms. Thus the patriarchy prescribed by Paul does not reflect God’s ultimate ethic. There is something better than the norms enjoined by Paul and the other writers of scripture.
This approach to reading the Bible was made popular by William Webb in his book Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. I regard Webb’s proposal as a threat to biblical authority and therefore very harmful to the church when it is embraced. For a sound critique of this perspective, see Wayne Grudem’s “Should We Move Beyond the New Testament To a Better Ethic?” in JETS 47 (2004): 299-346. I don’t think it an overstatement when Grudem concludes: “Webb’s trajectory hermeneutic nullifies in principle the moral authority of the entire New Testament and thus contradicts the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura.” Thus it is troubling indeed that the pastors of IBC have gone down this very dangerous road. See also Tom Schreiner’s “William J. Webb’s Slaves, Women &Homosexuals: A Review Article” in SBJT 6.4 (2002): 46-64.
Connections with Dallas Theological Seminary. The website says that the church sought out counsel from three DTS professors “representing different positions on the issue.” At least one of the professors was an egalitarian and was one of my teachers when I was a student at DTSâ€”Dr. Bob Pyne. The website has a testimony from Dr. Pyne explaining “Why I Changed My Mind.” In this short essay, Dr. Pyne explains how he moved from a complementarian position to an egalitarian one. He says that he now attends a church with a female senior pastor. It is clear from his essay that he too embraces trajectory hermeneutics. Dr. Pyne no longer teaches at DTS, but I wonder how many other faculty members there might be who hold a position like his?
I’m sure there will be some discussion of these issues in the blogosphere. Indeed, I heard about all of this from readers of this blog who informed me through e-mail what was going on. It just goes to show that this particular church is too important in this city for the change to go unnoticed.
Wow. I am unsure where I stand on this issue. I do know it’s certainly not where Grudem stands (if you have another review of Webb’s book besides his, I would be glad to read it. I’ve suffered through enough of his proof-texting and pontificating). However, I do agree that there certainly are differences in the sexes and that we “complement” one another (who could fundamentally disagree with this is what I wonder?).
That being said, I’m all for women being involved in ministry and leadership. Heaven forbid we let a woman pray from the pulpit. Heaven forbid we have women on staff to help with women’s ministries. Heaven forbid we let women teach others with their views and fresh perspectives they bring to the text that have been absent throughout history. Heaven forbid we let someone who is as equally made in God’s image as myself be involved in decision-making and leading.
I grew up in a reformed Southern Baptist church (I left there last year to go to seminary), and I know all about their views, beliefs, and practices concerning women. Denny, you have some legitimacy to what you argue at times, but the conclusions that people on your side of the issue come to at times just sound downright oppressive. I’m not exactly sure how you articulate this issue, so I really can’t speak much concerning your views (I’d be glad to hear them and read them as objectively as I can if you can direct me to them).
On another note, I have seen other reformed Evangelicals do nothing but praise Webb’s book. Even Tom Schreiner speaks highly of it (while giving word of caution at other times). Progressive revelation seems pretty undeniable to me. I understand you disagreeing with Webb’s stance on women, but to outright reject his entire hermeneutic and method seems a bit far-fetched b/c of one issue you differ with him on. Have you read this book? (I purchased it and plan on reading it this summer).
Regarding DTS, I just looked at their website and they seem pretty complementarian to me (via their doctrinal statement). Also, Dan Wallace is a very outspoken complementarian. You seem to be slamming your alma-mater not infrequently lately…what gives? Do you think they’re going to far to the “left?” Getting too “liberal?” Not making you proud? I noticed they had 5 or 6 professors that signed the Manifesto, maybe you take issue with that too. From what I know of DTS, it is very conservative. Granted, they’re not affiliated with a denomination, so diversity amongst the faculty will be more common than (e.g.) SBTS. But maybe, just maybe, this is a good thing Denny. Personally, I would love to go to class with a Calvinist professor and then next semester be taught by more of an Arminian. I would love to sit under a complementarian and then be taught by an egalitarian. It causes less bias and a more holistic education (unless you think like Piper and believe that those who don’t believe like you on these issues should be excommunicated).
So maybe, just maybe, if there were more professors at DTS who are egalitarian than Pyne (who you said isn’t there anymore), then it’s not that bad of a thing after all. But, of course, everyone who doesn’t believe like you, you seem to think they’re always a “threat to biblical authority” and “very harmful to the church.” It might not be a stretch to call some of your own beliefs, both presently and in the past, as a threat to biblical authority and very harmful to the church. Surely not a Christian hedonist and Southern Baptist though!
In any case, I find this interesting and will be interested to see how it plays out. Thanks for the heads up!
Denny, it always cracks me up how your blog posts seem to regularly attract such vicious, hostile and condescending responses in the comment by those who disagree with you! I’m all for open discussion and I myself disagree with you often on political theory, but I’m impressed at your lack of “firing back” at some of the regular commenters who show up on your blog in light of the mean-spirited attitudes they display.
With regards to this post, I do worry about the way you framed your response to the egalitarian arguments of this church’s document. You listed a bunch of phrases they used that lead to egalitarian positions, and while almost all were correct, you also included the phrase “the fundamental equality of the sexes.” Maybe this was a mistake, but every good complementarian I know of would affirm this as strongly as he or she affirms the differences in roles between the sexes. I’d encourage you to amend it; your theological position is already caricatured enough in the comments. Blessings!
It’s really only a matter of time. Egalitarianism has won the day (it did a while ago) and complementarianism will either move more towards egalitarianism to survive or it will just disappear altogether except in scattered fundamentalist churches here and there (I’m not calling comps. fundamentalists I’m just saying I think those are the only churches that will hold onto it).
What would you do if your church became egalitarian Dennny?
Good suggestion. Believe it or not I had wondered if I might be misunderstood by using that phrase, but I used it anyway. I changed “phrases like” to “unqualified phrases like.” Hopefully that will communicate more clearly what I am trying to say.
It is true that Genesis 1 reveals “fundamental equality” in terms of man and woman being created in God’s image. My point is simply that Genesis 2 in particular focuses on a functional inequality (different roles).
Anyway, I hope that clarification helps.
“My point is simply that Genesis 2 in particular focuses on a functional inequality (different roles).” (comment #4)
Denny, can you clarify?
What specific roles are the man and woman given in Genesis 2 that are restricted by gender?
Out of curiosity, don’t proponents of Just War Theory also apply a trajectory hermeneutic? I feel like you’re arguing against your very own hermeneutic.
I may be reading you wrong, your thoughts?
Just looking around their website, it seems to me that IBC would be considered part of the emerging church movement, right? If this is true, it does not surprise me that IBC has moved to an egalitarian position.
I also find interesting IBC’s summary point 5. One can tell that they really don’t like to hold this position by the phrase, “the role of elder seems to be biblically relegated to men.” Seems to be. Hmmm. Pretty shading wording for a “bible” church.
It won’t be long before IBC includes women as elders as well, mark my words.
Heaven forbid we suggest that God made men and women different, gifting them in order that they may fulfill specific roles, roles that he designed.
Genesis affirms an inherent equality of worth yes, but what does this have to do with functional equality? Functional equality does not even exist between men.
And how do you define oppressive? Egalitarianism has kneeled to the feminist intimidation tactic of screaming “oppression”. When are we going to wake up and realize that affirming differences is not oppression?
I am curious to why all of these gender role changes? What is the meaning behind change? Is God fundamentally doing something to large groups of people to steer them towards an equal leadership model?
Or are the women so loud that the men just want to shut them up so they (men) are putting the women behind the pulpit?
In my opinion if there are things that are changing around me, I always need to ask why are they changing and how does the change confront my Biblical world view?
Bottom line it is cool that large of a church is making a stand on the women in ministry issue.
When the complementarian view is no longer celebrated, practiced, or taught consistently, then the battle is already lost… it will only be a matter of time before complementarity is seen as nothing more than sexist, antiquated regulations about who is in power. Without the foundation of understanding of how complementarity is for our JOY, both men and women, it is only a matter of time before we shed it for a more culturally acceptable view.
The last few decades should be a wake-up call for complementarians … we must understand and practice complementarity as God designed it, for our blessing and joy. It is not enough to make scriptural arguments about why a woman can’t preach. Perhaps that even misses the point. For example, let’s start emphasizing a man’s responsibility to love, serve, and lead rather than a woman’s responsibility to submit.
I fear many churches are already clueless to the real point of God’s design for men and women, and only hold “complementarian” views because they inherited them from the previous generation. Once the culture starts bringing heat to the issue, they will drop like flies… I think this is what we are seeing.
Any idea on how DTS NT Prof. Biust (sp?) Fanning came out on the issue? For years his wife was on staff and he’s been an IBC elder for years.
It sounds like you have given up. If you believe in the complementarian position, stand firm in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). If you have conceded, just say so. But to say that the Egalatarian position has won the day is walking the fence.
I say all of this with love (Eph 4:15) in hopes that complementarians are not seen as arguing for a particular position as much as we are arguing for the authority and sufficiency of the Bible (those are the key issues).
It seems if the bible had a prohibition for women not to pick their nose, yet men were allowed to, the egal. campâ€™s fight would be, “Allow women to pick their nose”.
In other words, the issue is this, equality has been debased, and been relegated to ones functionality/biology. Meaning, men and women can only be considered equal if allowed to do the same things (teach/preach/lead/pick nose/etc.). And that view is an affront to the divine image. That’s a slap in God’s face!
Our equality is solely based in being created in God’s image. Alone. Our function/biology has nothing to do with the issue of equality. None.
But the egal. movement has deceived countless numbers of people to believe equality is found in function/biology.
So again, if the bible said women were prohibited from not leading the church and the men were just to sit around and do nothing. The egal. camp would be fighting for womenâ€™s rights to sit around in the church and do nothing.
What a travesty.
Vicious, hostile, and condescending? If it sounded like I was, then that was not my intent. I’ve been trying to be very conscious within the past couple of months about not making my posts that way, so I think you may have read it with the wrong “tone” in mind. “Mean-spirited attitudes?” Again, that was not my intent and believe you may be looking into it a little too far. Also, you may be impressed about Denny not “firing back” at some people who challenge him (which I’m not, I would be more impressed if he answered back politely and graciously instead of not saying anything at all), what do you make of his mean-spirited posts? Remember, people react the way they do because Denny sets the tone with his post. So when I see “mean-spiritedness,” hostile, dogmatic, and divisive posts; my natural reaction is to speak the same way. All that to say, I’m sorry if you felt that way about my post, but that was not my intent and would ask Denny to forgive me if in any way it was “hostile or mean-spirited.” And Nick, I did not “caricature” Denny’s post at all. In fact, I asked him to lead me to his thoughts on this issue and said I couldn’t say anything regarding his stance because I didn’t exactly know it. You got your information very wrong and your post was very haphazard and “caricaturing.” The very “caricaturing,” mean-spiritedness,” and “hostile” attitude you sought to expose and rebuke is the very one you took on in your post Nick. Blessings!
You act like all egalitarians do and believe is that which is the opposite of what the Bible says. This gives insight to how uneducated about the position you are. Egalitarians have very convincing arguments (so do complementarians), and it is incorrect for you to act like they do not exegete or follow what the “Bible says.”
And I would like to see Denny answer #6 about the trajectory hermeneutic. I think you need to clarify Denny. You disagree with Webb’s position about women or his whole hermeneutic? Do just-war proponents do the same sir Augustine? What say you?
Seeing that my simple example is so uneducated, then it wonâ€™t be difficult for you to show me where I have mis-spoken.
Male and female equality is solely based in the divine image. Yet, the egal. camp clearly places equality in function/role/biology. And I will state it again. Degrading equality down to functionality/biology is an affront to the divine image; a slap in Godâ€™s face.
Have you not read Dr. Pyneâ€™s article â€œWhy I changed my mindâ€? Have you not read the sr.pastors article â€œBest Wishes Lizâ€?
I am open to correction. Please show me where I have missed it.
Denny, Out of curiosity, donâ€™t proponents of Just War Theory also apply a trajectory hermeneutic? I feel like youâ€™re arguing against your very own hermeneutic.
I’m not denny, but out of curiosity, what makes you think just war theory applies a trajectory hermeneutic? Do you understand what a trajectory herm. is? The support for just war comes from explicit verses we have in our Bible, no need for a trajectory.
If anyone was in danger of a trajectory hermeneutic, I think it would probably be strict pacifists.
Brett (in #1),
Tom Schreiner does not endorse trajectory hermeutics. In fact, you should read his review of Webb’s book: http://www.sbts.edu/pdf/sbjt/SBJT_2002Spring4.pdf.
Trajectory hermeneutics depends on progressive revelation, but progressive revelation does not in any way depend on trajectory hermeneutics. People on both sides of this issue (including me) affirm the idea of progressive revelation.
Comments like these: “It seems if the bible had a prohibition for women not to pick their nose, yet men were allowed to, the egal. campâ€™s fight would be, â€œAllow women to pick their noseâ€.
And this: “So again, if the bible said women were prohibited from not leading the church and the men were just to sit around and do nothing. The egal. camp would be fighting for womenâ€™s rights to sit around in the church and do nothing.”
These are what led me to say what I said. By these two statements, you imply that egalitarians strive to do the opposite of what the Bible says. Though you may be familiar with the arguments and educated on them (which you may be, in which case I am mistaken), these two statements alone are simply wrong and major caricatures. Can you not see this?
By the way Scott, explicit verses we have in our Bible for just war? I think not, and least not that I’ve ever read. Can you show me some of these famous verses?
“Is God fundamentally doing something to large groups of people to steer them towards an equal leadership model?”
“Functional equality does not even exist between men.”
I think this statement does not support the complementarian cause. Here is why:
The statement itself is true. For example, I write software as a developer. I doubt I will ever be a manager. My managers are functionally over me and I am under them. I doubt this will ever change. But here’s the thing: it could change. I could get an MBA, figure out how to lead projects and speak manager-speak and whatever else, and I could potentially become a manager. I am limited by my gifts, abilities, drives, desires but I am not limited by my gender from pursuing the managerial role. In other words, the functional gap is purely functional, not ontological. This is similar to the functional differences between men in the church.
However, the gap in women’s and men’s roles in the church is not purely functional. It is also ontological. No amount of gifts, abilities, drives, desires, education, whatever, will ever qualify a woman to be an elder. Ontologically women will never qualify.
This is one reason why the functional differences among men is fundamentally different than the “functional” difference between men and women in the church. And that is why I don’t think that particular statement helps the complementarian cause.
True. I could have simply gone to 1 Tim. 2:12 on the “I do not permit a woman…” passage. It doesn’t say ‘pick nose’. It says “teach and exercise authority over men”. I didn’t want to mention the “exercise authority” word however so that Sue didn’t feel the need to rewrite her exhaustive word study.
However, you’re smart enough to see that the issue is over equality in the roles/functions/and biology between the sexes. That’s where the egal. camp has mislead thousands of believers in churches everywhere. You cannot say, nor could any in their camp, that equality between the sexes must embrace role/function/biology or there is no equality.
Equality is solely tied to the divine image. To lower equality to something else (role/function/biology) is to debase the intrinsic value and worth of that equality. Hence a slap in the face of God, who deemed that His image alone was a sufficient bases to create said equality.
I just read the entire document Denny linked to (have others?), and I must say that I was impressed, and I rarely am in debates of this sort.
They tackle biblical examples head-on, and strive for consistency between both new and old testament examples. They’ve landed at a place that they feel the Holy Spirit has led them – a place they feel is very consistent with the Biblical record.
In short, I’m impressed with not only the quality, but also readability of this document. While not everyone will agree with IBC’s conclusions, this sort of effort should be an example for all churches in the appropriate way to defend the faith.
Before I started reading the document, I was unconsciously ready to judge IBC. But after reading it I want to allow them the freedom to follow the Holy Spirit where it led them, and not be so willing to break fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ because I think they’ve been culturally misled.
2nd paragraph should say:
“However, youâ€™re smart enough to see that the issue is over equality in the roles/functions/and biology between the sexes. Thatâ€™s where the egal. camp has mislead thousands of believers in churches everywhere. You cannot DENY, nor could any in their camp DENY; that equality between the sexes , in the egal. camp, must embrace role/function/biology or there is no equality.”
I changed the word ‘say’ to ‘deny’; and added a clarifying clause â€˜in the egal. campâ€™ in the last sentence.
My point was to demonstrate that inherent equality, based on as Benjamin pointed out “the divine image”, does not logically lead to functional equality.
I would also contend that overcoming the functional equality gap between men is ontologically impossible as well. 🙂
Ooops, that should say “overcoming the functional equality gap between men and women is ontologically impossible.”
Meaning, within the ontological differences are also functional differences.
Truth Unites... and Divides
I served as an elder in a Baptist church. I delved into the Scriptures, read the arguments pro-and-con for complementarians and egalitarians fairly exhaustively, prayed for wisdom and guidance, and was and still am strongly convicted of the complementarian position and that elders are to be men only. I even had the director of CBMW do a conference call for our pastoral search committee about this issue.
Prior to my standing firm for a biblically-based complementarian position I was well-respected and liked in the church. After I stood on Scripture I was pressured out of the church. Several deacons left too because of what happened to me. That church is now down to 15-20 average Sunday attendance.
This is a hot potato divisive issue. The only two churches/denominations who seem to do well with female elders/pastors are Willow Creek and the Assemblies of God (if your criteria is numeric growth). But with the exception of those two denoms, the liberal mainline churches are hemorraghing rapidly since they started ordaining women.
IMHO, theological/ecclesiastical/biblical/hermeneutical compromise on this issue for the sake of a false peace and unity is infidelity to God and His Holy Word.
P.S. In my exhaustive research I like a quote from a Lutheran leader overseas. It went something like this: “It’s not so much about women being pastors. It’s more about … now what do we do with the rest of the Bible and Its Commandments and Instructions?”
I.e., if we ignore what Scripture says about women being prohibited from certain offices, then what else gets to be ignored? You have no foundational, biblical integrity and logic to hold the line against other transgressions. Why not transpose the argument of “Key New Testament passages restricting womenâ€™s roles were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all time and places” to whatever prohibition you want to break down next. Such as same-sex blessings and GLBT ordinations.
Truth Unites… Exactly. It is no coincidence that the congregations that started with female ordinations have moved on to gay pastors.
On page 3 of the â€˜Women and Ministry at IBCâ€™, last paragraph under section A, they have a fundamental flaw in their thinking/ logic.
It says, â€œBut as the human race comes from the hand of the Creator, it comes divided into male and female. Both are made in the image of God. One is not superior and the other inferior. But they are different.â€
Here they claim male and female to be a divided race. That is not true.
Male and female are different descriptions describing the divine image. â€œâ€¦, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.â€ Maleness and femaleness ontologically have nothing to do with biology or race; but everything to do with being created in the divine image.
God made Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from Adamâ€™s side. So our biology is rooted in the ground of the earth (dirt). Clay pots. And those distinctions are not defined as â€œraceâ€ but instead as â€œsexâ€ or â€œgenderâ€; each carrying a divine image bearer. And while the clay pot holding the masculine image of God looks differently from the clay pot holding the feminine image of God; once that clay pot ceases in its useful God defined function and is done away; that image bearer continues to exist, forever! Just as God will; for He made us of His own image; male and female.
Their problem is that they are rooting masculine/feminine equality into race/biology (clay pots). That is a fundamental error that can only lead to further illogical conclusions/confusion. And thatâ€™s why itâ€™s an affront against God; claiming that our equality is found in the stuff of the earth (clay pots) instead of His divine image.
Here is their fundamental step into the abyss of egalitarianism.
I fail to see how the phrase you have quoted is an error within the system of logic created in the IBC document. I’m having trouble making sense of your argument
To aid in understanding, can you give your definition of “divided” and “race” as it is used in the quoted portion of the IBC document?
Additionally, you state, “Maleness and femaleness ontologically have nothing to do with biology…”. Clarification is in order. Do you mean human maleness/femaleness, or do you mean it more generically?
Overall, I am not tracking with how an “image of God” ontology, which you assign to the male/female differences as being “different descriptions describing the divine image” is different than the quoted IBC statement that says “One is not superior and the other inferior. But they are different.”
You say the ascription of “race” is rooted in biology in the IBC document, but I find no such indication in the IBC document. Can you more pointedly demonstrate how the IBC document does this? I find your assertion “Here they claim male and female to be a divided race, [biologically speaking].” to be inadequately supported by internal evidence within the IBC document.
Not to be rude, but your point is mistaken and counterintuitive. Yes, I do know what a trajectory hermeneutic is. Secondly, with regard to your statement that Just War Theory is not a trajectory hermeneutic due to scripture references, I would like to add that egalitarians have scripture references as well (Gal. 3.28, etc).
What is trajectory about Matthew 5.38-44, Romans 12. 17-21; John 18.36.
There, by your own conditions, I have given reference to the biblical warrant for pacifism.
Truth Unites... and Divides
Andrew: “I would like to add that egalitarians have scripture references as well (Gal. 3.28, etc).”
Politely and irenically, “No”. Gal.3:28 is not scriptural support for egalitarianism.
Gal. 3:28? Are you serious?
Truth Unites... and Divides
I am sure he is serious. Egalitarians reject the Complementarians rejection of their wholly inadequate out-of-context proof-text verse of Galatians 3:28.
They are so serious that I feel bad about breaking out into laughter if I’m in the same room as them. Same thing with trajectory hermeneutics. I don’t laugh, I don’t snicker, and I train my eyes not to roll back heavenwards. I watch the World Series of Poker on ESPN so I can learn how to have poker face that gives away nothing. They will pounce on you mercilessly if they don’t like how you’re processing their suggestions and how you’re interacting with them. They find it difficult to separate their personhood and inherent worth and dignity from the positions that they ardently and sometimes rabidly hold. Hence, when you make it painstakingly clear that you’re not accepting their argument, but that you still like and respect them as fellow image-bearers of God, they all too often still don’t get it and will wrongfully claim that you’re a judgmental, hateful, divisive, unloving person. In other words, if you reject their argument they feel personally rejected.
Me? Warm and soft complementarian. You reject this biblical doctrine, I don’t personally feel rejected. No big to me.
please explain how just war uses a trajectory hermeneutic? I still think you misunderstand.
No one is claiming that the arguments for pacifism and egalitarianism are ALL trajectory hermeneutics. The example you gave of Gal 3:28 as support for egalitarianism is a good example. That is not a trajectory hermeneutic, just bad hermeneutics.
Trajectory is used to get around verses in scripture that we want to label as “outdated”. So it is often a component of pacifist and egalitarian arguments, even if it isn’t the whole thing.
For example, pacifists might use trajectory to dismiss Romans 13:1-7 which says God has given the sword for authorities for punishment and judgement. Perhaps a trajectory would say “since the writing of Paul, our world has evolved beyond using physical force… now diplomacy can solve all our problems.”
Who here has read Webb and not just a book review?
Read Yoder’s take on Romans 13.1-7 in “The Politics of Jesus.” A Pacifist does not have to apply a trajectory hermeneutic to arrive at a pacifist understanding of Romans 13.1-7. Yoder does not dismiss Romans 13 at all, but definitely provides some keen insight.
Augustine was the first to use what I would interpret as a trajectory hermeneutic. Or, consider the examples laid out in Richard Hays’ chapter called “violence in defense of justice” in his book, “The Moral Vision of the New Testament.” He provides a historical overview where trajectory hermeneutics is employed. Secondly, it was Niebuhr who applied his theological realism that, though not spoken in such glaring terms, does imply a trajectory hermeneutic. Namely saying, “we know the text says x, but we know that x does not work in the world of the nation state embedded within a democratic system.”
And yes, while I disagree with the application of Gal. 3.28 as a scriptural reference for egalitarianism, I have often enough heard it used (though incorrectly). I am a complimentarian, but was merely citing 3.28 as an example, not necessarily a correct one, however. I hope that makes sense.
Scott, your last paragraph is essentially what Niebuhr argues for. You have provided your own example of a trajectory hermeneutic.
Just a question… but what do you think the ripple effect will be if Mark Bailey (DTS President) stays on the teaching team at IBC?
I think, whether it should or not, it will send a message that DTS holds (or is at least very open to) an egalitarian position. That may be an over-estimation the situation, but it is certainly possible.
As a staff member at IBC, I can tell you that this issue has been on the table for a long time now, and many folks – folks on both sides of this issue – have been consulted. I went to the meeting where our elders laid out their thinking, and it was the most humble, God honoring presentation I’ve ever been a part of. These folks, unlike some others I know, didn’t claim to have all of this figured out. They saw this as a many-layered issue that has many divided opinions on both sides. They also noted that very smart and capable people – people who deeply love God – disagree on this issue. Their heart was to seek the Bible and the experts on both sides of the issue, and let the Holy Spirit guide them. I have no doubt that’s what they’ve done.
One of our elders commented that if they felt the Bible was calling them to forbid women from speaking and wearing jewelry, they were willing to let this statement reflect that. This was a humble quest for a God-honoring conclusion. Anyone who suggests anything different is making a slanderous accusation.
Now, when it comes to trajectory hermeneutics, let’s face it… we all use aspects of this hermeneutic at times. The fact that we live in a wholly different culture demands that we use a form of trajectory hermeneutics. Call it progressive revelation if you wish, but it seems awfully convenient to suggest progressive revelation in cases where Scripture is clearly affected by the cultural trajectory of an issue (slavery, multiple wives, etc.). The fact that we don’t agree with slavery is a great example. The fact that we don’t adhere to the cultural norms of Pauline teachings on women (don’t speak in church, don’t wear jewelry, etc.) means that we’ve determined that the trajectory of the way this passage has been historically viewed has changed dramatically (if you don’t believe me, just check out all the jewelry in your local church!). When taken to an extreme this can prove dangerous, but when used in accordance with common sense, this is a trajectory that we all recognize. If that weren’t the case, there would be no need to practically apply Scripture to our cultural milieu. The quote on page 12 of the IBC document by I. Howard Marshall more accurately reflects the type of hermeneutic used by IBC. The implication that IBC misuses this method of interpretation seems like a scare tactic, and misrepresents what has actually occurred.
One other note on the subject of IBC’s connections with Dallas Theological Seminary. Dr. Mark Bailey, President of DTS, is a member of IBC and frequently fills the pulpit (well, it’s more like a stage, but you get my drift). As far as I know, Dr. Bailey doesn’t take issue with this statement. You can add Dr. Barry Jones, Dr. Buist Fanning, and Dr. Sue Edwards to the list of DTS profs who are members at IBC. This is not to say that just because IBC has a significant representation from DTS that they are excused from wrong-headed conclusions. I mention this only to note that IBC is well represented by leaders who hold to a firm Evangelical position on the major points of Christianity. The notion that IBC is an emergent church is simply misguided. Does IBC embrace some emergent prinicples? Absolutely. Is IBC on the fringes of this movement? Absolutely not. IBC has an impecable reputation for upholding the major positions affirmed by orthodox historical Christianity.
There is room for disagreement on this issue that is civil and without need of extremist labels. The difference at IBC is that even our elders had disagreements on this issue. Even the staff had hesitations on this issue. Ultimately the elders went where they felt the evidence from the Bible and from folks on both sides of this issue led them. I respect them for that, and feel proud that IBC at least tackled the issue and did their homework. That’s more than I can say for most churches. If most churches put this kind of time, effort and Biblical study into their stances on issues, we’d all be better off.
Denny, I hesitated to comment on this post. I love IBC and am protective of her. I just ask that all who come here be careful in their evaluation of IBC based on what they may percieve or assume to be true. IBC is a wonderful church with a legacy of Biblical integrity. I’d hate to see that questioned because of this statement. You may disagree with their conclusions, but you can’t possibly question their attention to detail and care in regard to Biblical study.
We should have lunch soon, my brother!!
Thanks for commenting, bro. That was very helpful, and I appreciate your insights. We’re all outsiders, and it gives everybody a better idea of what’s going to have you speak to the issue.
Yes, my friend. Let’s meet up soon. You need to come down south, and we’ll meet at one of your old haunts (Only no Barbecs! My stomach can’t handle it!).
I love you, brother.
Thanks for doing that Denny, I thought the same thing needed to be done (regarding the last post).
Steve, thanks for the honesty and bigger picture. IBC seems to have a kingdom mindset!
The document states: â€œBut as the human race comes from the hand of the Creator, it comes divided into male and female. Both are made in the image of God. One is not superior and the other inferior. But they are different.â€
Let me start by breaking the first sentence down to its bare essentials. â€œâ€¦human raceâ€¦comes divided into male and female.â€ The word â€˜raceâ€™, used as a human descriptor, [Websterâ€™s Ninth: race (noun) 2.a a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same STOCK] as it is here in the document, puts focus on Godâ€™s creative handy work of fashioning Adam from dirt and Eve from Adam [same STOCK]. Stock refers to biology, by definition. So the use of the word â€˜raceâ€™ automatically puts focus on Adam and Eveâ€™s biology.
And then they claim male and female to be a divided race [STOCK]. [Clearly Adam and Eve were of the same STOCK. Her biology taken directly from Adam. To be a divided RACE they would by definition be of different STOCK/BIOLOGY. Thatâ€™s why I stated this position not to be a true statement. Adam and Eveâ€™s difference, biologically speaking, is better defined by gender or sex, not race. For their â€˜raceâ€™ or â€˜STOCKâ€™ was both rooted in the earth (dirt); not different, but instead sameness.
So by stating as the document does, â€œBoth are made in the image of God.â€ â€œBothâ€ clearly goes back to â€œmale and femaleâ€, which as stated above makes reference to â€œhuman raceâ€, and as shown above, â€œraceâ€ by definition, is rooted in biology [STOCK] as shown above. So what this means, is that â€œBoth (male and female race/biology/stock) are made in the image of God.â€ Thus placing equality, â€œimage of Godâ€, [as they said â€œone is not superior and the other inferior] into human â€œraceâ€ or biology/[STOCK].
And while our biology, according to Godâ€™s design, is beholden to our ontological maleness/femaleness, ontology is not beholden to biology. Ontology is beholden to Godâ€™s breath (spirit) of life; His own image. His image predates dirt byâ€¦â€¦., Iâ€™ll need help on that one. So, when your biology ceases, your ontology continues on just the same. Male/female image bearers for eternity, equally created in Godâ€™s divine image.
As carefully crafted as this document was, the word â€˜raceâ€™ was chosen for very precise reasons. Race is biology. And if our equality, of being made in the divine image, is rooted in our biology, then egalitarianism has a stronger case. If all human equality, being made in the divine image, is rooted in ontology, the egalitarian argument that role differences equals inequality becomes mute for the sons and daughters of God.
This is a very important distinction and thus fundamental for the entire document.
Thanks for that clarification. Your position makes much more sense.
My reading differs from yours somewhat, as I define race in that sentence more like dictionary.com, which states “6. the human race or family; humankind”
In other words, humankind (which I take to be the best translation of ha’adam in Genesis), or the “human race”, does come divided into male and female as is indicated in Genesis 1. You indicate this as well, and no one can reasonably argue otherwise. By “divided”, I take IBC to mean “separated into parts or pieces”. So, to me the sentence becomes, “…humanity…comes in male and female pieces.” This seems perfectly in line with Genesis 1, as to the bifurcation of human sexuality per God’s design. I, of course, find my interpretation to be much more straightforward. 🙂
However, (not that Benjamin A is necessarily saying this) an assumption about the bifurcation of the image of God is not so straightforward. “And God created humanity in his own image, in the image of God created He them…” I see no direct indication of a split in the image of God occurring here unless we want to argue that the image of God is divided amongst every person on the earth. (Which would make Genesis 9:6 a little tricky and defy the historical understanding of humanity being created in the image of God.)
I also find the idea of eternal male/female image bearers to be unconvincing, especially in light of an “image of God” ontology that predates and transcends male/femaleness. My position is that biology determines male/femaleness, not the other way around. Therefore, if forced to use the ontology/biology scheme, I would say that creaturely sex/gender would overlay (i.e., build upon) any imago dei ontology. But, I fully understand that this theological view is also a matter of interpretation (cf. Mark 12:25).
In the end, though, I suppose I find the whole “ontology” vs “function/biology” distinction to be vaguely gnostic.
In any case, I agree that the phrase “human race….divided” is probably intentionally chosen by the IBC, but view it through a different lens. I know I would hope my brothers and sisters in Christ would choose to be charitable to me in a similar situation.
Thanks for the conversation.
Truth Unites... and Divides
Denny just posted an article about the legalization of same-sex marriage in California.
Hypothetically speaking, a lesson could be drawn from this that applies to Steve Hayes comment in #38. Suppose the 7 State Supreme Court judges in California issue a statement that the process by which they arrived at their decision was painstakingly careful and that the deliberations and discussions were irenic, civil, respectful and godly.
Does the self-report that the process was good excuse the the end-result?
Denny, time to clean house again! (#43)
TUAD, your experiences have caused you to become bitter to the point where you’re not just “standing up for truth,” but you’re just being a jerk.
Brett, where do you get bitterness from TUAD’s comment? You love imputing tones and feelings to other people’s words that aren’t there (or at least for which there is no warrant). He raises a valid question: does it matter how civil and respectful a decision-making process is to the veracity of its outcome?
You said, â€œI define race in that sentence more like dictionary.com, which states â€œ6. the human race or family; humankindâ€;
I doubt that dictionary.com is implying a â€œdivine-imageâ€ concept for the word â€˜raceâ€™. And though they donâ€™t say, as Websterâ€™s Ninth did, â€œâ€¦belonging to the same stockâ€; it would seem unreasonable to assume otherwise. I believe itâ€™s clearly implied and thus inherent for that word when used as a descriptor for humans. If you would grant that supposition, might that change your understanding/meaning of IBCâ€™s use of â€˜raceâ€™ and Genesis 1? I believe it should!!!
I understand â€œin the image of God He create them, MALE and FEMALE He created themâ€; to mean that male and female are rooted in the divine image. Something you clearly do not. Scripture, though, describes God using both male and female traits. As if He, Father God, embodies in His being both. Scripture does not paint a picture of a gender neutral Deity, leading me to believe such descriptive language as male and female, emanate from the divine image; predating biology.
Thus, all genuine equality, male and female, is rooted in being image bearers; and the distinctly beautiful roles of both men and women can be celebrated, rather than pitted one against the other, as if some roles are of less dignity/value. And thatâ€™s clearly where the lines are drawn.
Thanks for the graceful interaction.
Your point supposes that IBC came to a similar decision as the California Supreme Court. We didn’t. Be careful with this kind of argument because it, by inference, makes IBC’s decision equivalent to that of the legalization of same-sex marriage. it clearly is not. With an issue such as the role of women in the church, there are many in the conservative evangelical camp who have varying different positions on this issue. It is clearly not the same as an issue like homosexual marriage, which the vast majority of conservative evangelicals denounce.
In the case of IBC, what makes my post any different than your first post (#26), where you claim, “I delved into the Scriptures, read the arguments pro-and-con for complementarians and egalitarians fairly exhaustively, prayed for wisdom and guidance, and was and still am strongly convicted of the complementarian position and that elders are to be men only. I even had the director of CBMW do a conference call for our pastoral search committee about this issue.” Are we to assume that just because you thoroughly researched the topic, your conclusions were correct? Let’s just say, in your own words, that “the process by which they arrived at their decision was painstakingly careful and that the deliberationsand discussions were irenic, civil, respectful and godly.
Does the self-report that the process was good excuse the the end-result?”
Your argument can be used against you as well. So what? It still doesn’t mean you’re correct, nor does it mean that I’m correct. What it does mean is that there is room for disagreement on this issue. I am thrilled that you did your homework on this issue and came to a conclusion that you’re convicted about. That doesn’t mean that your conviction on this matter has to be shared by the folks at IBC.
Truth Unites... and Divides
No, you clearly missed the point of my post in #43. You assumed guilt-by-association. That is absolutely not what I’m saying. My point is that just because you believe the process at IBC was “good”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the end-result or product was good, holy, or God-glorifying.
“Are we to assume that just because you thoroughly researched the topic, your conclusions were correct?”
If you want to make that assumption, I won’t discourage you.
“It still doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re correct, nor does it mean that Iâ€™m correct. What it does mean is that there is room for disagreement on this issue.”
No. On this issue of the Biblical justification and support of the complementarianism vs. egalitarianism argument I believe in Objective Truth. I don’t believe that the argument devolves into stylistic preferences or relativism. I.e., I believe this is a case of objective truth, not relative preferences. If this were a case akin to arguing about which is the best ice cream from Baskin Robbins 31 flavors, I wouldn’t waste my time on this topic.
“That doesnâ€™t mean that your conviction on this matter has to be shared by the folks at IBC.”
Shrug. I should like to remind you that when you write “your conviction” you’re misrepresenting my argument. Your word choice makes it sound like it’s a matter of subjective opinion. That is emphatically not what I’m saying or suggesting. What I am declaring is that objective Biblical truth and fidelity and obedience to this objective Biblical truth is expressed by the Complementarian position. Please don’t misrepresent my argument by saying that I am arguing for my convictions. I am clearly positing that there is an objective biblical right and wrong on the issue of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism.
“That doesnâ€™t mean that your conviction on this matter has to be shared by the folks at IBC.”
In all utter seriousness, this remark could easily be transposed and said by pro-adultery advocates to anti-adultery advocates. And I would say the same thing to them as I am doing with you: “It’s not a case of your (subjective) convictions versus my (subjective) convictions. Adultery versus fidelity is a matter of an objective biblical truth issue. There is an objective right and an objective wrong. It’s not a matter of subjective interpretation and subjective convictions/feelings.”
Same argument transposed to the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate. Objective. Not subjective.
Thanks for engaging.
“My point is that just because you believe the process at IBC was â€œgoodâ€, it doesnâ€™t necessarily follow that the end-result or product was good, holy, or God-glorifying.”
And just because your process was good (by diving into the Scriptures and consulting others), it doesn’t mean the end-result or product was good, right, or God-glorifying. Like Steve said, the arguments you use are the same arguments that can be used against you. You’re very “modern” in your thinking TUAD, and regardless of what you think, these issues are very gray instead of black and white. Please allow room for civility and the slight possibility that you just might be wrong. You react against egalitarianism and postmodernism and take the extreme opposite conclusions…and both extremes are wrong. Shrug.
It’s difficult to engage with a modern dogmatist who thinks he is so enlightened that he possesses all objective truth. Believing in objective truth (Christ) is one thing, but acting like you hold the key to all objective truth and claiming so is another. Steve decided to share his heart and IBC’s method, he does not deserve your criticism because I’m sure they’ve gotten plenty already. Shrug. Yawn. Gasp. Sigh.
Truth Unites... and Divides
Good insights and excellent observations in comment #2!
Thanks for making my point that much clearer!!
Truth Unites... and Divides
You wrote: “… but Iâ€™m impressed at your lack of â€œfiring backâ€ at some of the regular commenters who show up on your blog in light of the mean-spirited attitudes they display.”
And I’m impressed that you followed your own counsel with respect to comment #14. It’s not always easy….
And now it’s crystal clear. Funny how that works.
We actually haven’t recieved much criticism at all. We studied, prayed, searched the Scriptures, searched our hearts, and clearly communicated with our people. We have had about 50 less negative comments than this post has had responses. Maybe there is a silent majority out there waiting to pounce, but so far there has been very little negative response.
Here’s the gist of your argument: “You’re wrong and I’m right. Your study produced wrong results and mine produced right results.”
Well, thanks for that. I too have enjoyed engaging with you. Glad you have it all figured out.
I am not a relativist. I do believe that things in objective truth. I also believe that on this side of eternity I don’t absolutely know sometimes which things are absolutely true. There are some things that I think we have to wrestle through, and, to be quite honest, they could go either way. This is one of those issues. I am convicted that the conclusions of IBC are true, but I am by no means convinced that our 24 page document offers “case closed” proof. God knows the truth on this issue, and one day I will too. Until then, I will continue to seek His truth – believing I can actually find it – but I’ll also be cautious to speak for Him on issues where so many dedicated and God-honoring believers are so torn as to what His truth is.
Be careful, once again, when you compare this issue with something like “pro-adultery”. I know this is not your point (just like I knew it wasn’t your point in your previous post), but what you have actually done is infer that my stance on this issue is comparable to a pro-adultery stance. It isn’t. I’m hoping you’re not meaning to continue to do this type of thing, but you are, and it is not appreciated. I am a Bible believing adherant of the core orthodox Christian beleifs. I hold to Biblical innerrancy, and would probably agree with you on many key essentials. Please don’t try to lump me in with folks who are on the fringes.
I wish you all the best, but I think it’s best that I respectfully bow out of this conversation.
TUAD, in response to this comment:
“What it does mean is that there is room for disagreement on this issue.”
…you said the following:
“No. On this issue of the Biblical justification and support of the complementarianism vs. egalitarianism argument I believe in Objective Truth. I donâ€™t believe that the argument devolves into stylistic preferences or relativism.”
Mr. Hayes did not actually endorse relativism. How does “agreeing to disagree” amount to relativism?
Another point. If agreeing to disagree is relativistic, then you are logically precluded from agreeing to disagree on any theological tenet whatsoever.
Sorry, I didn’t realize that Mr. Hayes had already responded to TUAD.
Truth Unites... and Divides
Steve Hayes, Thomas Wood, et al,
I’m glad that we can all agree that there is an objective and moral biblical justification and truth for either the adoption of Egalitarianism or Complementarianism. Let us agree that it’s not a matter of subjective preferences and that Scripture, which is the Inspired and Written Will of It’s Author is our final authority.
Hi, Benjamin A
‘True. I could have simply gone to 1 Tim. 2:12 on the â€œI do not permit a womanâ€¦â€ passage. It doesnâ€™t say â€˜pick noseâ€™. It says â€œteach and exercise authority over menâ€. I didnâ€™t want to mention the â€œexercise authorityâ€ word however so that Sue didnâ€™t feel the need to rewrite her exhaustive word study.’
That is not correct. There is no plural in the text. 1 Tim 2 does NOT say ‘I do not allow women to teach men.’ Paul says ‘a woman’, she is not allowed to teach ‘a man’. It is easy to understand that whether or not Paul was using ‘a woman’ genericaly or in reference to a specific woman is entirely determined by the context. So, the point is that before looking to the context, it is already a possiblity that Paul had in mind 1 woman.
Couple that with the context of false teachers in chp 1, and we have Paul possibly stopping 1 woman, who was teaching false doctrine, to 1 man.
I say, let the context tell us which Paul is speaking of…
There is no indefinite article (a/an) in Greek, so it just says “woman” it might mean “a woman”, it might mean “the woman” or it might be about a group that is female, which might reduce to the above.
1 Tim 2:15 is talking about a specific woman and the she needs to refer back to someone still living, so this is a clue that 1 Tim 2:12 is talking about a specific woman (or possible group of specific women at Ephesus).
In any case, there is so much uncertainty that this it is not wise to use this verse to restrict women. In other words, we simply are not sure about 1 Tim 2:12 and what it meant to the original reader, Timothy; altho we can be confident Timothy knew.
If one CHOOSES to interpret this verse to restrict women, then one should acknowledge that one is making that choice and that other choices can be faithfully made.
This makes me so sad. Oh how we are changing with the culture..I agree with Tom Nelson..we tred on dangerous ground. =(
Maybe I am a little misinformed but what constitutes “Godâ€™s ideal ethic for His people?”
As a former member, leader, and teacher at IBC, I may be able to shed some light on this issue and their mindset. IBC started as a Bible study in a BBQ restaruant. As they grew and became a church, they hired a young DTS graduate named Chuck Swindoll, who they fired for being to ‘progressive’. They then went through several other pastors, finally settling on Toussaint.
I started going to IBC when it had only about 400 attendees on Finley Rd (a well established lower to middle income area) with Andy as the pastor.Dr. Fanning was also an elder at this time. The focus of IBC at this time was on Biblical instruction and Evangilism first, membership second. As the church grew, many of us participated in the Experiencing God study, geared at devining God’s Will in such issues. I cannot count how many times the issue of splitting the church into different locations was qualshed by the belief that only Andy can teach us. And so the decision to build a mega church was reached. And that is when the real trouble began.
As plans were made for a new facility, I personally witnessed various ministries fighting over square footage and usage. Once the building was built (in a very effluant section of town), attendance went from 400 to 1200 in less than a year, which Andy documented for his disortation at DTS. And the focus went from Spiritual growth to putting ‘meat in the seats’ to pay the mortage and future projects. Slowly, the foundations of the church began to leave with little concern, as sermons were nothing more than fluff pieces designed not to offend the rush of new money coming in.
While serving as one of the Singles Ministry leaders, I asked Andy about what constitutes a ‘church’ and a pastor’s roll, as there were several women who were conducting their own Communion. This was about 10 years ago, and Andy informed me at that time that he saw no reason why women could not be deaconesses or even pastors. He brought out the whole ‘societel’ argument. My question to him was not about whether women were capable of teaching, but whether it was their responsibility. He had no response.
Based upon this discussion with Andy, as well as the new focus of his teachings I left. Over the past years, most of the men with strong Biblical knowledge and insight have also left, including Dr. Fanning. In their place are accountants with theology degrees, coffee shops, and now a woman pastor taking Andy’s responibility. A responibility I contend he freely gave away years ago.
When we start arguing that details of a book written centuries ago are ‘societal’ and can thus be ignored, where do we stop? After all, wasn’t the need for a sacrifice a ‘societel’ issue that is not in place today? In Genisis, God established a paternal hierarchy (not the other way around) with Adam as the instructor. The leaders of Isrial were men because that is how God established it (not the other way around), and women were used as the exception when men would not be responsible, not the rule. The same holds true in the New Testament Church.
I was disturbed to read the IBC report-My family was members there for over 5 years and we left a little over 3 yrs ago. I can say in the 5 yrs, I sure felt everything getting more shallow and more watered down. The focus was on comfort and “feel good.” We were more than attenders, as we were active in several areas but enough was enough. Interesting hearing about the lack of negative comments, because I know of many families leaving the church but in a church that size nobody will notice.
Complementarians believe that a woman must act out the part of mankind while her husband acts out the part of Jesus.
What an awful responsiblity that places on both men and women. It goes against what Jesus said.
Jesus said “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Acting out the role of mankind and the role of Christ is an unbearable burden and we cannot live up to it.
Truthfully, it is not that we want to be “equal with men”, because that sets man as the standard. Equality means that there is no standard.