The evangelical world was given a gift this week when the ecclessiology-focused ministry 9Marks released their latest journal dedicated entirely to the issue of complementarianism. If you consider yourself a complementarian — and even if you don’t — I encourage you to make plans very soon to go cover-to-cover through this helpful new resource.
Why would 9Marks spend an entire journal on this topic? I couldn’t agree more strongly with this statement from Jonathan Leeman’s 5-part, must-read editorial:
Our culture’s assault on gender differences and authority is generationally urgent because it’s unique to this Western moment, this time and place. This is our battle, and if you cannot see that, I believe you are more affected by our time and place than you realize.
This is very similar Michael Haykin’s argument in his recent Eikon column, “This Anthropological Moment.”
When was the last time we assessed how much our unique time and place shapes our sensibilities and convictions? Specifically on issues of gender and sexuality, are we more formed by the culture than we are the Bible? I think the vast majority of us would have to answer, yes. In response, the church has to figure out how to better equip the people in our pews to push back with conviction and cogency. Consider this journal much-needed counter-cultural programming in this ongoing effort.
One more word on the editorial: Leeman’s pastoral engagement and tone is commendable, especially as he navigates the question of abuse. May we all strive toward such irenic conviction. (Relatedly, be sure to read this article by Caleb Morell on the groundbreaking research of sociologist Bradford Wilcox on abuse.)
Several CBMW affiliates contributed to this journal, including two essays by our president Denny Burk titled, “Must Women Be Silent in Churches? (1 Corinthians 14:34)” and “Can Women Be Pastors But Not Elders?” There is also an essay by me, “Is the Slippery Slope Actually Slippery? Egalitarianism and the Open-and-Affirming Position.” I hope you read all three of them, but you really should read the whole journal — all 278 (!) pages. In fact, the Table of Contents is worth posting just to showcase the depth and breadth of this journal:
Personally, I am grateful for the kind words toward CBMW that conclude Leeman’s editorial. CBMW isn’t a perfect organization by an stretch of the imagination. But I serve this organization with thankfulness, because I believe it plays a crucial role in today’s turbulent times. We are right in the heart of the heat, and we could use your support! Jonathan writes,
As a concluding word, I’d like to acknowledge how grateful I am for the ministry of CBMW. They do not bat 1.000. Who does! But they’ve shown a courage that many of us lack, including myself. They have sought to teach what the Bible says on a topic that will win them few friends and many enemies in our present moment. I don’t understand why every complementarian, broad and narrow, is not grateful for that, even when they disagree. We should honor our brothers and sisters in Christ and cheer their efforts to learn from the Bible. Not only that, we should emulate them by working harder on this topic.
After all, the road ahead is likely worse. It’s harder to be a complementarian today than it was just five years ago, and I assume it will be harder still five years from now. Our culture increasingly lacks any conceptual category for it. I went to a public high school in the late 1980s and a non-Christian college in the early 1990s. Thinking back to those days, my non-Christian classmates still believed that men and women were different. People could make jokes (some appropriate, many not) that depended on a basic sense of our differences. But these intuitions are quickly vanishing. The reigning ideologies of the day both cause us to willfully refuse to see the differences between men and women, and simultaneously make us incapable of seeing them.
Perhaps the inevitabilities of nature will reassert themselves within this generation. Yet sin is irrational, and I won’t be surprised if our culture’s certainty of androgyny worsens. Insofar as that’s the case, the idea that “these hateful Christians” would continue to insist on distinctions of roles in any form whatsoever will sincerely astonish, frighten, and anger otherwise kind, respectable, and loving non-Christians. Even the narrowest of the narrow complementarians will find themselves anathematized.
Which means, the task for complementarians more than ever—CBMW included—is to continue reforming ourselves according to God’s Word. Above all else, again, we must conform ourselves to the Bible. We must work to understand authority and difference as well as equality from the Bible. A right understanding and practice of each will be the best defense against abuse and abdication both. That way we will “Keep [our] conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
Amen. May it be so.
You, too, can help support the ministry of CBMW. We are a non-profit organization that is fully-funded by individual gifts and ministry partnerships. Your contribution will go directly toward the production of more gospel-centered, church-equipping resources.