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Topic: Complementarianism

On the State of Complementarianism in the SBC (Heath Lambert)

June 5, 2024

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a multi-denominational forum on the state of complementarianism and appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Eikon.

Q: What do you believe the Bible teaches about God’s design for men and women, particularly in the home and the church? How do you view the relationship between the Bible’s teaching on the proper order of the home and the proper order of the church?

A: I believe that God made mankind in two objective genders that are revealed at birth (Genesis 1:27). I further believe that he has invested men with a role in the church and the home that is characterized by loving, sacrificial leadership (1 Timothy 2:11–15; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; Ephesians 5:25–30), and that he has invested women with a role in the home and the church that is characterized by a submissive response to this leadership (1 Timothy 2:11–15; Ephesians 5:22–24). If I understand your question correctly, my understanding between the Bible’s teaching on gender and the proper ordering of the home is that it is important and intentional. That is to say that it is not accidental that God calls men to leadership in the home and the church and that he calls women to a submissive role in the home and the church. The Bible’s teaching points to an intentionality on the part of God to create in men something that is designed for leadership and to create in women something that is designed to respond to that leadership.

Q: What limits, if any, do you believe the Bible places on women serving in the church?

A: I believe the serving opportunities of women are limited by texts like 1 Timothy 2:11–15. To state this tension explicitly, I would say that texts like that teach that women are not allowed to have a governing function in the church and are not allowed to teach men doctrine. I do not think this limitation limits the ability of women to lead at all, as I think there are many leadership roles that a woman could occupy under that of, say, a pastor. I also do not believe this limitation limits the ability of a woman to teach. As there are countless opportunities for women to teach women, to teach children, and students, etc.

Q: How would you evaluate the fidelity of your denomination as a whole and its member churches individually regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: I’m a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, and in my view, the SBC is at a crucial time of discerning the answer to this question. I know of too many churches that have compromised on this issue and of too many leaders who are willing to leave the door open to compromise on this issue. Right now, however, I believe the vast majority of Southern Baptists are correct on this issue and want to stay that way. Time will tell.

Q: What direction would you like to see your denomination head regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: As a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, I think we must remain faithful on this issue. That necessity is true for biblical and theological reasons and for historical reasons. Biblically and theologically, the Bible is perfectly clear on gender and gender roles. To get this matter wrong is to train oneself to impose our authority on that of Scripture and make the Bible say whatever we want it to say. What that means is that errors here will lead to errors elsewhere. That biblical and theological reality leads to the historical reality that churches and denominations that compromise on this issue are typically not far from compromising on others.

Heath Lambert is pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL (SBC).

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