TGC’s Reason that it is Complementarian

The Gospel Coalition has posted a video of a panel discussion between D.A. Carson, John Piper and Tim Keller on why TGC has chosen to include complementarianism in it’s doctrinal statement and vision for ministry.

A few things to highlight and comment on, though I encourage you to watch the video yourself.

First, John Piper says that the reason TGC is complementarian is three-fold:
1. Because TGC wants to protect and put safeguards around the Gospel
2. Because TGC wants to display the Gospel
3. Because TGC wants to release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing

Does a complementarian distinction protect the Gospel from heresy the way that the Creeds and Confessions of the Early Church did? Is complementarianism really on the same level as Christological and Trinitarian statements? Can we really safeguard the Gospel? The Gospel is dangerous and powerful and upends societies. It breaks chains and restores dignity. It provides hope for the downtrodden and it humbles the arrogant. How does a complementarian statement protect this bold Gospel? Is it even our job to “release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing?” Yes we are called to preach the Gospel, to live the Gospel, to participate in sharing the Gospel, but I would argue that “releasing the Gospel for maximum human flourishing” is primarily the job of the Holy Spirit.

Piper and Carson both allude to the “slippery slope” that is egalitarianism; that if you embrace egalitarianism you will begin to compromise or accomodate on other doctrines and ethics. Piper seems to blame egalitarianism for the current “badness” that is in our culture, everything from absentee fathers to the brutality of men. Is the brutality of men really due to the shift to an egalitarian culture? Right from Cain and Abel we have men practicing violence. And if he means brutality not in general but brutality to women, the Old Testament culture which was definitely not egalitarian had its share of brutality against women. And does not the “slippery slope” also work the other way? Is it not possible for complementarianism to lead to radical patriarchy?

Carson says that egalitarians are domesticating the word, rather than trembling at the word. To this I say, it is precisely because I tremble at the word that I cannot simply proof-text a verse and say that the plain meaning is clear. My trembling at the word leads me to study and to pray and to worship and to wrestle with it. When I come to 1 Timothy, my best answer is “I don’t know.” I can’t dismiss it, but I also can’t whole-heartedly ignore the cultural specificity of the instruction and say that it is 100% a timeless instruction. And as for Ephesians 5, I wish egalitarians and complementarians would spend more time not on the “submission” text of v. 22, but on Paul’s declaration in v.32 that it is a “profound mystery.”

Piper gives the example of a group of Christians, say a university fellowship, deciding it is time to have a woman preach because it is “fair” even though there are people in the group who believe it to be wrong, is an act of disobedience. Piper concludes that it just doesn’t work to have a Gospel movement that is both egalitarian and complementarian, because egalitarianism wins by default.

Keller seems to take a more nuanced and generous approach, (which is what has been the case outside of this video as well). Keller says that how headship plays out in marriage, in different cultures and in different ecclesiologies will look different. He defines a “gospel complementarian” as a person who does not upbraid the other side (egalitarians) for their understanding of Scripture.

Why Is TGC Complementarian? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

As well, Kathleen Nielson has written a letter “To My Egalitarian Friends”.

There will probably be countless reflections hitting the blogosphere over the next couple of days. I’ve struggled through this issue for years, and I don’t know that I have more to say. What am I? The best I can say is that to egalitarians I probably appear too complementarian, and to complementarians I appear too egalitarian. No matter what I do I’ll end up offending somebody. If I preach in church I’ll offend those who don’t think it “biblical” for a woman to preach. If I don’t preach in church I’ll offend those who say that I’m enabling the silence of women. While I think it’s important to have these conversations regarding gender and theology, I am not a crusader. I don’t want to be a crusader. I want to be a humble servant. I want to worship and pray and talk to God. And if God can use any of my gifts and talents to edify the Church, then I submit to that authority.

  • Vicki

    I find it interesting that a woman is not in the video or part of the discussion…

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      Indeed. We are always seeing male Christian leaders sitting around talking about women. When are they going to start talking with women? When are they going to start listening?

  • http://abramkj.wordpress.com abramkj

    Piper at 1:55: He looks not happy with Keller’s response.

    Also, I think “human flourishing” needs to be added to the list of words/phrases from your last post that we just… stop… using. Because, what does that even MEAN?

    Agreed with your critique of “release the gospel for maximum human flourishing.” Does the Bible ever talk about the gospel or ministry that way? Um… no. Of course, it doesn’t talk about “manhood” or “womanhood” in the way Piper suggests, either….

  • Wright

    I hesitate to criticize Carson on this count, given that he’s a talented exegete, but what he said about reading the Bible “on its own terms” sounded a lot like “we don’t need no stinkin’ context”. I hope I’m wrong…

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Smith/100002020333790 Greg Smith

    Amanda asks:
    “Does a complementarian distinction protect the Gospel from heresy the way that the Creeds and Confessions of the Early Church did? Is complementarianism really on the same level as Christological and Trinitarian statements?”

    Oh yes it does and oh yes it is. Let me be clear. I believe the Imago Dei (am I worth hearing now, I used a latin theological term) is incomplete without woman. I will go so far as to say that gender does not properly exist in the Godhead as it is does in us. In other words, I won’t be shocked to learn that God is as female as “He” is male. He refers to Himself in the masculine and therefore so do I. Woman is every bit as precious and valuable and an object of love as is man in the eyes of God. The functions for which woman was created are utterly indispensable and incommunicable in a godly family and hence the kingdom/church. There are women in my church before whom all the hordes of hell tremble when they go to their knees in prayer. They are fountains of godly wisdom whose word I hold as solid 24kt gold. These things are true of them because they have joyfully and wholeheartedly embraced the biblical truth that unless called specifically to singleness, their primary existence, identity and purpose is to help the man to whom they have been given walk the path that God in Christ has created him for.

    If this angers you my dear, you need to get saved. The biblical family is THE target of the enemy of our souls today and he has been very, very VERY successful in polluting the CHURCH with his egalitarian deception. I don’t care what you’ve done or what you do or where you study or how many thousands of pseudo Christin feminists cheer you on. You are either for Christ and His created order or an enemy of the gospel and yes. THIS IS JUST AS FOUNDATION ANY OTHER AREA OF ORTHODOXY, of which btw, Karl Barth was also a very successful Satanic plant.

    I cannot wait for the refiner’s fire of oppression, which is already here, and eventual persecution that is coming on this continent wherein all these mental masturbators (like Keller, among multitudes of others) and their terminal modernist perversions are finally driven out of body of Christ. Yes madam, this is most loving thing you will read this year.

    • CWtheology

      Greg. thanks for stopping by. I would ask that a little restraint and grace is used, especially when throwing around adjectives such as “satanic” or in suggesting that a born-again Christian who is saved needs to get saved because they don’t agree with you. Shalom.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Smith/100002020333790 Greg Smith

        There is no such thing as a born again Christian who embraces the utterly evil perversion of God’s created order in the form of same sex marriage, whether it be male or female. That is simply a scriptural fact, the denial of which betrays one’s true alliance. That doesn’t mean I hate you, quite the contrary, but I dare not join you in calling evil good.

        • CWtheology

          Greg, this will be the last comment on this subject: The discussion is about gender roles (complementarianism and egalitarianism) and is not about same-sex marriage. Not once in my post did I call same-sex marriage good.

          To summarize my position on gender roles: if I think that there is headship in marriage (and as I said in the post, I wish more people would spend time reflecting on the part that says that it is a mystery) that does not mean that it translates automatically to being about headship in the church. If my husband says that I can/should preach and teach because he as spiritual head of our family wants to encourage my calling/giftedness, then I am under his authority/covering. That being said, I am not going to crusade and try to get all evangelical churches to accept women pastors. Rather, I serve how I can, where I can, as the Holy Spirit leads. Shalom.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Smith/100002020333790 Greg Smith

            CWtheology “Not once in my post did I call same-sex marriage good.”
            I’m gonna hang on to that one for a little while.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Smith/100002020333790 Greg Smith

            Amanda says: “Not once in my post did I call same-sex marriage good.”
            Amanda. If I could prevail upon you ever so charitably. Would you be so kind as to point me to where I might find your thoughts on homosexuality and same sex marriage? I just know that you must have seen fit to make your mind public in this regard. That being the case I’d like to learn what you’re views are. Honestly? I have not necessarily concluded. It would be so much easier than finding it myself. Thank you.

          • CWtheology

            Greg, you need to work on your reading skills. As I said in the above comment, “this will be the last comment on this subject.” I have a policy of not closing discussion threads, but I may have to in this case. And you are a big boy and do not need someone to hold your hand, therefore you can use the search function to find what I have written about in my posts.

    • Charles

      “Satanic plant”? You mean something like Oplopanax horridus?