Years ago, the evangelical world was abuzz with controversy over inerrancy. This was especially true within the Southern Baptist Convention. You could ask two different people if they believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, and while both answered “yes”—both of them when pressed would provide two different understandings of inerrancy. For the liberal, his view was that the Bible “contains the Word of God” which is quite different from the other individual who was contending for total, verbal, plenary inerrancy.
In short, words matter and definitions lead to the defining of positions. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) was helpful in defining terms and providing clarity on a very important theological subject. It would take a good number of years before the Southern Baptist Convention would be rerouted back to a historic position on biblical inerrancy—and this move has been labeled the Conservative Resurgence.
Today, there are new winds of controversy blowing in the evangelical world. The winds of controversy are centered on the issue of women serving in leadership. With varying degrees of opinions on this subject—including an eclectic array of interpretations on biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-15; Titus 2, we stand in need of clarification on complementarianism. In an age where being soft is in vogue—we must remember that watering down masculinity, beefing up femininity, and redefining biblical roles as designed by God for the home, the church, and society will have a negative result in all areas. We need real men and women again!
As we consider this issue, it’s not one that can be approached without crystal clear definitions. While The Danvers Statement (1987) deals with the issues of complementarity, there are some voices in evangelicalism who are suggesting that The Danvers Statement would permit a woman to serve as the president of the SBC. Others seem to disagree. While the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is rather broad, it points to the office of pastor in article VI and states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Some voices are arguing that this is only in regards to the “senior pastor” within the local church, and does not place the same restrictions on associate pastors and denominational offices.
With all of the opinions blowing around in the wind, we need to clarify positions on the definition of comlementarianism. I propose the following list of questions that need to be seriously reviewed and considered.
1. What does the term complementarianism mean? There is a maximum view and a minimum view, so what exactly should we think when we use the term itself and from what passages do we derive the definition from?
2. Is the theological position of complementarianism oppressive to women in any way?
3. Is the theological position of complementarianism restricting women from doing what God has called them to do?
4. Should we tolerate both minimum and maximum views of complementarianism in the same way we tolerate dispensationalism and amillennialism within the same evangelical circles or local churches?
5. Does the biblical text in regard to authority (1 Tim. 2:12) forbid women from serving as a professor of theology in a seminary setting?
6. Does this passage, as it pertains to teaching and preaching, forbid women from serving as associate pastors in the local church?
7. Does this passage, as it pertains to teaching and preaching, forbid women from speaking to a mixed audience in a conference setting?
8. Does 1 Timothy 2 forbid a woman from serving in a denominational leadership role such as the office of the president of the SBC, ERLC, or similar position?
9. If evangelicals redefine complementarity boundaries for leadership in the church and denominational structures, what affect will this have upon the roles of the home?
10. Will a redefining of complementarianism lead to a redefining of sexual boundaries within evangelicalism?
At one point, The Danvers Statement states the following rationale for the formation of the statement in 1987:
the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;
It seems as if history has repeated itself. So it is within the world of theology. It has been stated well there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9) and all modern heresy is ancient error retooled for an urbane culture. One of the affirmations (#8) of The Danvers Statement reads as follows:
In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will.
Do we still believe that a subjective calling to serve in ministry should be tested by the biblical texts cited in the above affirmation? These are serious questions that need to be clarified. The women’s liberation movement with its egalitarian approach to life was birthed in the Garden of Eden, it has Satan as its father (Satan is the father of all lies), and it has oppression as its ultimate goal. If we fail to be clear on comlementarianism (as a political move, by neglect, or by mere oversight), we will lead people into the trap of the enemy.
People are asking legitimate questions. While I’m not an alarmist, I do believe many organizations and entities are postured for serious problems if we take a left turn at this juncture. With all of the talk of entering a new era where women can flourish and be respected as fellow image-bearers, we need to evaluate this “new era” through a robust biblical lens to be certain that it’s not a false promise from an ancient serpent. Does complementarianism disrespect women and hold them back from God’s intended purpose and his original design? If not, we need to stand firm and stop apologizing for what God has ordained from the beginning.