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.
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.