David Gushee - Keeping complementarians true to Scripture

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Jimmy C, Oct 1, 2007.

  1. Jimmy C

    Jimmy C
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    This is an interesting article by David Gushee who is a distinguished professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University - this was published by Associated Baptist Press


    Dr Gushee asks and questions and then looks a bit deeper at the actual practices in some churches
    Opinion: Keeping complementarians true to Scripture



    By David Gushee

    Published September 25, 2007


    My professional pilgrimage has been marked by a sometimes painful series of movements between Christian academic institutions falling on opposite sides of the gender issue, or what has come to be called the complementarian/egalitarian divide. This has given me opportunity to observe the dynamics that exist in both types of communities.
    I am convinced that all positions of service and leadership in the life of the local church should be open to women or men based entirely on calling and gifts -- an egalitarian view. But in this column I am not going to rehearse the arguments for or against this view.
    Instead, motivated by my experiences, I want to ask complementarians -- those who believe that the role of women complements, but is not the same as, the role of men -- to consider a series of questions about the way in which women are treated in your ministry setting.
    Much like how the pacifist John Howard Yoder long ago wrote a book intended to keep just-war advocates true to the stated commitments of their own theory, as an egalitarian I want to render a similar service to complementarians. I want to ask you some questions aimed to help you keep the application of your approach as biblical as possible.
    I do so with respect for your view and a shared commitment to seeing it lived out in a way that upholds the dignity of women. I also do so knowing that egalitarian communities are also flawed and do not always live out the full meaning of their commitments.
    1. Are you successfully communicating to young men the conviction that a complementarian perspective must elevate rather than diminish the dignity of women, and therefore inculcating a moral commitment on their part to act accordingly?
    It has been my experience that a context of male leadership, and steady teaching that reinforces it, can sometimes lead young men to a rather boorish attitude toward the women in their midst. While perhaps church leaders are teaching a highly nuanced complementarian view stripped of classic male chauvinism, this is not always successfully transmitted to the next generation. Many young Christian women, and even some sensitive young men, come to associate the complementarian position with outright sexism and male chauvinism, and therefore reject it. How can you prevent this outcome?
    2. Are you absolutely clear on which positions of Christian service (you believe) are barred to women?
    Complementarians often seem to lack either consensus or precision related to this question. Is it only the senior pastor position that is banned for women? What about co-pastor or pastoral team arrangements? Is it all ordained positions? All positions in which adult men are taught? All ministerial positions? All paid positions? What about seminary or Christian college professors? In what fields?
    Doctrinal precision requires clarity on your part about which positions are barred to women, with clear biblical warrants offered. Otherwise, what often remains is a kind of blanket discouragement for women to think of themselves as ministers, or to pursue ministry positions in the church. What can also occur is a wide variety of approaches, even within the same church, about what the Bible actually teaches concerning the role of women in the church.
    3. Once you have determined what positions of Christian service are barred to women, you have therefore also determined which positions are permitted. Are you active in encouraging women to pursue the positions that are permitted?
    It is possible to take very different approaches related to encouraging the use of women’s gifts from within versions of the complementarian position. For example, in Catholicism women are barred from the priesthood, but in daily and weekly Catholic life they are otherwise highly visible—in teaching, worship, committee work and local service.
    Yet some complementarian settings seem to go out of their way to present an entirely male face to the world, all the way down to the ushers handing out the programs and the men taking up the offering. Is there really biblical warrant for excluding women from these and other roles? Are you aggressively looking for ways to affirm and make use of the gifts of women in all roles not barred by your understanding of Scripture?
    4. When women occupy positions of church leadership that parallel those of men, are their positions named equally and are the individuals involved treated equally?
    Many larger churches have internships for promising young men and sometimes also promising young women. Consider a church that has a female youth ministry intern and a male one. Are they paid the same? Is one called “youth ministry intern” and the other called “youth assistant”? Are they both actively apprenticed by older leaders? Are they given a similar mix of “ministry-type” and "non-ministry type” duties? Are they treated with similar respect for their contributions? In my experience, this is often not the case, with women interns treated more as office assistants than as ministry peers.
    Other questions could be asked. Ultimately, I believe these types of questions expose weaknesses in complementarianism that cannot be mended from within that paradigm. These weaknesses contribute to my embrace of the egalitarian view.
    -30-
    -- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.
     
  2. ReformedBaptist

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    Mercer used to be a fantastic school for ministry training. Now its a cesspool of liberalism as evidenced by this professors drivel. Dagg was once a professor there and his works are fantastic.

    Thanks for the heads-up that Mercer is still lib.

    RB
     
  3. Jimmy C

    Jimmy C
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    OK reformed - you got your shot at Mercer - now would you like to look at the issues Dr Gushee raises?

    1. Are you successfully communicating to young men the conviction that a complementarian perspective must elevate rather than diminish the dignity of women, and therefore inculcating a moral commitment on their part to act accordingly?

    2. Are you absolutely clear on which positions of Christian service (you believe) are barred to women?

    3. Once you have determined what positions of Christian service are barred to women, you have therefore also determined which positions are permitted. Are you active in encouraging women to pursue the positions that are permitted?

    4. When women occupy positions of church leadership that parallel those of men, are their positions named equally and are the individuals involved treated equally?
     
  4. David Lamb

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    Can I just check on the meaning of a word I have never come across before? Does "complementarian" mean "someone who believes that God made us male and female to complement one another?
     
  5. Pastor Larry

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    Gushee has shown himself not to be very distinguished as a professor when he can take "I do not permit" to mean "I do permit."

    He raises four pretty inane questions:

    This is not related to the topic. It is not an egalitarian/complementarian issue. It is totally irrelevant.

    Of course. The Bible is pretty clear which Gushee ignores.

    Of course, but again irrelevant. This is not an egalitarian/complementarian issue.

    Why does it matter? This is an issue that goes to human pride. When people care more about their title than their function, it is a key sign that they are operating out of sinful pride. This question belies an understanding of ministry that it is about individuals. It isn't. It is about the body. Therefore, neither man nor woman should care whether or not their titles or treatment are the same. They should care that they die for the sake of Christ. This question is answered by reading Philippians 1 ... and 2 for that matter.
     
  6. Inadequate in Myself

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    Indeed, a complimentarian is someone who holds that God designed men and women with roles defined by their gender. The key word being "roles" that they can play in society, in church, and in the family.

    Complimentarianism is distinguished from the egalitarian view in which the idea of role is equated with equal access to most roles by either gender.

    There is a wide array of viewpoints even within the two camps, but these are the basic defining characteristics
     
  7. ReformedBaptist

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    I didn't want to assume you were endorsing his opinons so I responded as if you were exposing them. To the points you brought out of his article:

    1. The Scriptures are the determinate of role of women. Our own sense of "dignity" is not the driver.

    2. We should be clear on the roles of men and women in the Church.

    3. Scripture is clear enough about the roles of men and women. Both are encouraged to serve in the capacity God would have us.

    4. No woman has Scriptural authority to occupy the role leadership that belong to men only. Women are not to teach men or have authority over them. If a woman was made an elder she would have the role of teaching and be in authority over the men of the church. THis is unbiblical.

    It seems to me that the author is more driven by liberalism, feminism, and the gender equality rampant in liberalism than Scripture.
     
  8. Jkdbuck76

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    It is simple.
    Women and Men are equal, but Women and Men are different.

    And the sooner people rediscover this truth, the better off we'll be.
     
  9. Inadequate in Myself

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    As a complimentarian, it is safer for me to respond since I don't disagree with your basic viewpoint. I would also generally agree with your summation paragraph.

    Much of this article grows out of the fact that many complimentarians argue that since God has ordained certain roles, the greatest elevation of women occurs when they accept those roles. Gushee is saying that those words don't match the reality as in practice women are pushed to the side in complimentarian churches, not elevated as significant.

    I admit, based on his last sentence, Gushee is indeed trying to undercut a complimentarian viewpoint - he is essentially saying that since our view inherently cannot do any of these things, it really does not advocate an elevation of women (as is often claimed) and is therefore not legitimate.

    Therefore, I think you miss some of the point in your analysis. In his opening remarks he suggests that at least part of his motivation is to get complimentarians to be true to what they're saying, and not simply saying something to look more acceptable. His questions may be insincere and sarcastic, but they are not inane (empty, silly, or lacking sense)

    Points 1, 3, and 4 occur because many complimentarians will say that they are elevating women, by letting them be who God made them to be as wives and mothers. Yet, the view can (does not have to) lead to men holding women in low regard (in view of how they're treated). The "I am more important because I am Pastor" perspective. Again, we say we are open to women in certain roles, yet we hardly ever encourage them to pursue those roles (I know some complimentarians would not say they are open to women in the roles he listed - but if they are, why are they not letting them do them). Pay and recognition matter in so far as the message we send (again, I generally agree with your summation, but if we claiming equality in being an Image-bearer and in allowing them to perform the roles, there needs to be equality in perspective).

    Point 2 goes to the question of inconsistency in complimentarian circles, and could just as easily be turned around on egalitarians.

    In short, the whole article is not so much about the properness of a view (though it goes there in tone) it is about how true to what is being said do the practitioners actually carry out what they are doing. In that light, it is helpful for self-evaluation.
     
  10. Inadequate in Myself

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    You're absolutely correct! This would be the heart of a response to the issue, but his question is does our system (complimentarianism) really relate in practice, not just words, the idea that men and women are equal.
     
  11. Inadequate in Myself

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    You are right, this is his presuppositional foundation. However, I think it is fair to at least ask 3 of the questions in light of what is portrayed in what we do, not simply in what we say.
     
  12. Pastor Larry

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    I understand, but the opposite point could be made by asking "Do you elevate women to the Bible's status or do you require them to have authority over men and teach men in the church?" "Do you allow women to fulfill their God-given roles or are you an egalitarian"?

    I don't think I missed his point at all. I agree with what you say about what he is saying. I think the questions are silly questions inasmuch as he implies (it appears to me) that complementarians and egalitarians are divided by these issues when in fact, they are not.

    I don't fully agree, but I would point out that if men treat women poorly, it is not because they are complementarians, but because they are sinners. It is not inherent to complementarianism.

    I don't find it that helpful, but perhaps that is because of our practice here.

    I don't think any of these things are really about the issue he says they are. I think it is his attempt to imply that complementarians really don't treat women with dignity.
     
  13. Inadequate in Myself

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    Fair enough. As I noted I think the last sentence of his remarks allow us to see where he is headed with the questions. Yes, he is suggestion a divide in how women are treated in the two groups and he is suggesting that though we complimentarians say that we hold women in high regard, we do little to demonstrate that fact. I would say, personally, given many of the people I have met who are in complimentarian churches that the invitation to self-evaluation is helpful. If you don't see any danger of this in those around you, yourself, or your church - God Bless You! (that's not sarcasm, I mean it).

    I on the other hand believe that the interplay of our sin nature and components of the viewpoint play together so that I have to always self-evaluate and assess what I am doing so that I don't allow that nature to take me places that I don't need to go. And where I can be pro-active in considering some of these realities that he points out and responding accordingly, I will.

    Whatever his motivation is, I can find some things in his evaluation that I can use.

    My approach to debate is simple:
    When I am arguing against a position, I attempt to let the proponents argue their case and not impose my words/thoughts/definitions on them.
    When I am considering their criticism of me, I attempt to consider their statements as a help because they see things I miss.
    I am not perfect at it, but that is where I am coming from in assessing his viewpoint.
     
  14. Jimmy C

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    Inadequate - although I lean to a more egalatarian viewpoint myself - except in the role of senior pastor, I would tend to agree with your analysis, although even there I think that as long as the woman keeps her head covered while she prays or preaches she is probably ok ;)

    Even though Gushee is egalitarian I think he asks good questions. It is sometimes easy to stake out a postion without having a good rationale for that position. I heard a Paige Patterson lecture where he was discussing the complementarian v egalitarian issue. PP is known as being very solid in the comp camp. IN the quesiton answer session he was asked about reading books, even theology books by women - he had no problem with that. Said that one time a friend of his said that if he ever walked by a room where a woman was teaching he would immeidately purge from his mind anything he heard the woman say - PP said that was ridiculous.

    Patterson even advocated having two student ministers in a church - one male to minister to the male students, and a female to minister to the female students. I dont agree with that, one of the best student ministers I have ever worked with was a female - she was great at disclpleship and we have had several of the youth from that youth group go on to be missionaries and pastors.

    The largest sunday school class at 1st Baptist Dallas under WA Criswell was taught by his wife Betty, it was a coed class that she always maintained that she taught under the authority of her husband.
     
  15. Jimmy C

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    Inadequate

    I just looked at your profile - are you a proff at SWBTS? If so, I do not need to tell you of your presidents feelings on the matter!
     
  16. Inadequate in Myself

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    What is your point?

    Even if I were a professor at SWBTS, Paige Patterson is a complimentarian, as am I. I fail to see a conflict that your post implies.
     
  17. Jimmy C

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    Inadequate

    I meant nothing by my question as to your employment - we have had several SWBTS students in our church over the years, and I am aquainted with a few proffs that are or were in the school of educational ministries. I just happened to look at your profile and saw that you are a proff and live in Ft Worth. Seriously, no offense intended. My comment as to your president was an attempt at humor - perhaps lame.
     
  18. Pastor Larry

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    This is an often used excuse to get around what Scripture teaches. A woman cannot "remain silent" while teaching under the authority of her husband. The fact that a great many people were discipled under a woman, or went into the ministry under a woman is not an excuse.

    I am curious as to how one can "lean egal." except in the senior pastor role. That doesn't seem to be a position that is supportable either theologically or philosophically.
     
  19. Inadequate in Myself

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    My response was not in connection with my possible job locations, the way it was worded sounded in context like you were saying that Dr. Patterson and my positions would be at odds and I was trying to ascertain in what way you saw a difference. I understand based on your comment that you were attempting humor, so I apologize if my response was a little terse.

    As to my employment, living in Fort Worth and being a prof, there are a number of schools I could be teaching at (TCU has a Baptist studies division, DBU, TWU, Trinity, and of course SWBTS). I really prefer not to talk about the issue, as I am here as an individual, not a representative of any school.
     

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