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Thursday, July 20, 2006 

Al Mohler on Frank Page on Changing His Mind on Egalitarianism

Today, Ethics Daily published an article on its website entitled, "SBC President Once Endorsed Women's Ordination" by Bob Allen. Allen discusses Dr. Frank Page's 1980 dissertation for the Ph.D. program at Southwestern Seminary. Page apparently endorses an egalitarian position on women in ministry, concluding that:

Looking at the various viewpoints regarding women in ministry and having dealt with the related biblical passages, this writer agrees with the . . . reasons for the participation of women in ministry, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit . . . This writer, at least in part, agrees . . . that social distinctions are meant to be transcended, not perpetuated, within the body of Christ. They have been unfortunately perpetuated with a vengeance.
Of course, we should expect Bruce Prescott to pipe up in light of this revelation and give us his take on what motivated Frank Page to change his mind on such an issue. And as usual, he concludes it was power - not the Holy Spirit, not Biblical revelation, and certainly not intelligent discernment. While he is at it, he finds time to attack Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary for retreating from theological liberalism, suggesting again that it was purely motivated by power, and not at all by anything remotely related to the Holy Spirit.

Thankfully, Dr. Mohler has decided to weigh in on the article and on his own transformation from egalitarian to complimentarian on his website Conventional Thinking. He writes that his journey
. . . started with a general unrest in my thinking. But then it exploded with a comment made to me in personal conversation with Dr. Carl F. H. Henry in the mid-1980s. Walking across the campus, Dr. Henry simply stopped me in my tracks and asked me how, as one who affirms the inerrancy of the Bible, I could possibly deny the clear teaching of Scripture on this
question. I was hurt, embarrassed - and highly motivated to answer his question.

Mohler goes on to add that after the dust settled, he found "my study of the question led me to a very uncomfortable conclusion - my advocacy of women in the teaching office was wrong, violative of Scripture, inconsistentent with my theological commitments, injurious to the church, unsubstantiated, and just intellectually embarrassing. "

In light of this revelation about Frank Page's change of thinking regarding women as senior pastors Mohler concludes, ". . . I am thankful for Dr. Page's change of mind, and I hope to know more about it in coming months as he shares more of this story with Southern Baptists. There is no shame in embracing the clear teachings of Scripture." To that I say, "AMEN!"

Thanks for posting this, D.R. I hadn't seen it yet. Very helpful.

Of course, many of us see the "clear teaching of Scripture" precisely to include an egalitarian view of the sexes and ministry based on spiritual gifts and not biology. I don't think a misleading term like "inerrancy" is the best way to describe the authority of the Holy Scriptures (with Christ as hermeneutical norm), but I certainly know many inerrantist egalitarians. It is no shame to change one's mind for honest reasons--but I regret that Frank Page has changed his mind in what I consider precisely the wrong direction--now God is supposed to be a "respecter of persons?"

Patriarchy, as with all forms of human heirarchy, is by nature oppressive and opposed to the freedom brought by Christ.

Michael,

You may be right that "inerrancy" is a misleading term, but I think the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy is quite precise in defining it.

Also, I think you have mischaracterized Complimentarianism and have been quite unfair to those who hold such a view in the process.

Complimentarianism = Patriarchy is simply a false equation, especially in the way you are defining is (as a heirarchal system). Complimentarianism is simply the view that 1) God created males and females with differently and with distinct roles and places within society and the home and 2) The differences biologically, socially, and psychologically serve to uniquely equip males and females for those God-given roles. Worked out practically - men are to lead in the home and love sacrifically and servantheartedly and women are to submit to that leadership lovingly and to care for the home and pour their lives out for their husbands and their children. And in most cases this is exactly what both men and women desire to do (I have never met a women who if she met a man who lived up to the standard of Ephesians 5 wouldn't gladly and joyfully submit to his leadership -- the problem is most men don't do such a thing, but that doesn't change the Scriptural call to do so).

It's fine that you come to different conclusions on this (though I would argue that you are incorrect in how you interpret the passages related to gender roles), but saying that complimentarianism leads to patriarchy (or is equal to it by your definition of it) and "is by nature oppressive and opposed to the freedom of Christ" is simply not true. Ask my wife or any number of my friends' wives whose husbands lead them and hold to complimentarianism if they think they are being oppressed and I doubt you will find they feel this way.

What is oppressive is women being made to feel inferior for wanting to stay home and raise children or women who are looked down upon when they take their 3, 4, 5, or more children to the park to play during the day (when the world tells them they should be at work and their 2.3 kids in daycare). And what is opposed to the freedom of Christ is men who won't lead in their households so their wives are forced to make decisions that they long for their husbands to make. It is oppressive to not allow women, or to make them feel guilty for desiring, to fulfill their God-given roles as mother, care-taker, and homemaker. It is just as oppressive for a husband to expect his wife to work outside the home when her desire is to stay in it.

And as for the SBC on this issue, if women want to serve as pastors, they can. They can even be an SBC church if they give to the Cooperative Program. But they can't serve in denominational leadership. And in SBC churches where complimentarianism is taught, women are free to leave those churches and go elsewhere. In today's society, women are free to make those choices. I, and other complimentarians, just don't believe it is in their best interest or within the framework of God's plan for their lives to make those types of choices. I believe women are happiest and most fulfilled spiritually when they act in accordance with the roles laid out for them in Scripture. And it's not oppressive to say and teach that, especially if you believe it is not just right, but most loving, to do so.

I'll save comments on "inerrancy" for another thread. Are complimentarians different from patriarchalists, hmm? Well, I grant that some of them certainly try to be. To borrow from the language of racial prejudice, "Some of my best friends are complimentarians." (Insert smile here.) One of them, Dr. Craig L. Blomberg of Denvery Seminary, actually has a more egalitarian marriage IN PRACTICE than some theoretical egalitarians--as I pointed out to Fran and Craig to some amusement. (C.S. Lewis' was this way, too. In theory, he believed in "male headship," but in practice he and Joy had a very egalitarian--if brief and pain-filled--marriage.)

However, complimentarianism is based on the idea that one sex is made for certain tasks and the other for other tasks. Theoretically, it is possible to treat such complementary roles as equal. In practice, it almost never works that way: since certain roles are forbidden women, those roles are given more status, power, etc. That, no matter how you slice it, falls back into heirarchy.

So, D.R., I don't think I'm really being unfair to complimentarians. Now, if I called them all misogynists--then I would be unfair because it is certainly untrue that all or most hate women. But I think heirarchy sneaks into complimentarian schemes no matter how hard they try otherwise.

We may have to agree to disagree, D.R., because somehow I doubt that any Christian feminist like myself CAN see complimentarianism as anything but oppressive. To me, it is the sex role equivalent of "separate but equal."

Oh, and as to your not meeting any women who wouldn't submit joyfully to a man who fulfilled Ephes. 5 (in my view, the previous verse on mutual subjection is to control that whole paragraph, but we'll leave that off for now), you need to get out more. When Paige Patterson made exactly that statement in front of a group of women M.Div. students in '87 (including my future wife, Kate), he got SUCH an earful!

My first impression of what you wrote is, "Maybe you don't know what Complimentarianism is supposed to look like." It may be in your mind you have such a stereotype view that when you see it done properly in Dr. Blomberg's marriage you immediately see it as being functionally egalitarian.

So, I guess when you tell me that I should get out more, I could tell you the same thing when you say, "Theoretically, it is possible to treat such complementary roles as equal. In practice, it almost never works that way: since certain roles are forbidden women, those roles are given more status, power, etc. That, no matter how you slice it, falls back into heirarchy." I see Complimentarianism as an end to the confusion of feminism, which places yolks upon the necks of women who otherwise might not desire such. Take for instance Linda Hirshman's recent book in which she claims that stay-at-home mom's are "letting down the team" by not engaging in a career full-time. Again, that is oppressive.

But whether or not we "agree to disagree" (which is a phrase I severely hate because to me it seems to be a concession that both of us can be right, which is obviously not the case here), I can agree that it may very well be that neither of us is able to see the other's perspective because of our own experiences. Still, that doesn't mean we ought to mischaracterize the other's position or suggest that one or the other MUST morph into something that those who hold to it do not desire it to do. That seems to be just another variation of the "slippery slope" argument (and we all know how moderates and liberals HATE the slippery slope argument).

Finally, maybe it is just the type of women I have hung out with, but all the ones I have known want manly men who lead, bring home the bacon, and have family as their No. 2 priority behind glorifying Christ. To them, that's hot, not weanies like celebs that can't even make committments.

Obviously, you've never heard my preacher. After sitting at her feet and listening to her sermons, not only is there no doubt in my mind that women can preach - I now wonder if men can.

"There is no shame in embracing the clear teachings of Scripture."

Female prophets in the clear teachings of scripture:
Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Judg. 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14)and Anna

Not to mention the other women in leadership roles (and that in a patriarchal society!)

Dan,

Given our debate on homosexuality, it is doubtful that I would appreciate the preaching of your pastor. Anyone who dismisses clear teachings of Scripture on issues like the sin of homosexuality would probably not be someone I would care much to hear preach.

Gee, I don't know, maybe Cindy Weber found out that anti-GLBT exclusion isn't "the clear teaching of Scripture" after all.

And conservatives seem to have no problem ignoring the clear teaching of Scripture for economic justice for the poor (found on nearly every page of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation); no problem ignoring the clear teaching of Jesus to love enemies and be peacemakers (rather than join armies and blow things up). Southern Baptists "repented" a few years ago of their defense of slavery at their beginnings (something Scripture never does outlaw) and of later defense of segregation (against the clear multi-racial nature of the NT church), but there are still very few non-whites in the SBC except in separate churches--and have any African-Americans, Latinos, or Asians been elected to high SBC office? (The contrast with the American Baptists at this point is huge.)
So, it seems to me that conservatives are AT LEAST as able as centrists and progressives to ignore "clear teachings of Scripture."

"Anyone who dismisses clear teachings of Scripture on issues like the sin of homosexuality..."

And so we agree we ought not dismiss the clear teaching of Scripture but can't agree upon what these teachings are (and too often, in fact, our thoughts on "clear teachings" appear to be polar opposites) - what ought Christians do?

You've already stated your position (that I identify with) that we ought not to water it down to "well we'll agree to disagree," so, then what?

D.R.,

I've read your stuff on some other comment logs. Now I've found your blog. Good stuff. Keep up the good work.

Michael,

Those things are simply not true. We just don't do social justice the way YOU think we should. Plenty of SBC churches are involved with feeding the poor, clothing the homeless, and taking care of widows and orphans. We don't support government programs like you guys do, but a recent study showed that Evangelicals (particularly Baptists) are involved in welfare to work programs. Additionally, while we are still not getting the coverage that we deserve, Southern Baptists were the first on the ground during Katrina and are STILL there (ask Howie Luvzus if he thinks the Baptists did well during Katrina). Baptists are currently engaged in what will be the largest Habitat For Humanity Project yet and they have been building and fixing homes for years through programs like M-Fuge and World Changers. Southern Baptists led the charge into Uganda, finding funding through their organizations to buy material and go to the country to teach abstinence based education. Uganda became the only country to actually reverse the trend of AIDS. I know others who are doing the same thing in Zambia. Southern Baptists (besides the Mormons, who are required to go) send the most missionaries onto the field. And currently they are preparing to launch a new strategy whereby the missionaries will actually help to jump start the economies in poverty stricken nations. All sorts of missionaries are heading to the field these days. One letter I just received the other day from a guy who has been in Indonesia building a water treatment facility said that fresh water would be a huge boost to those people's livelihoods.

This sort of stuff happens every day in churches across the nation. My wife's home church in this city picks up homeless every Sunday and feeds them a meal after church. They stock a huge pantry and clothes closet. My alma mater, Union University, has been involved in community outreach to low income families for years now with cleanup and fix days.

So, to say we ignore these things is silly. We don't work the way you guys do, supporting welfare programs that we feel are horribly unfair and keep people in poverty rather than help them to transition out of it. Additionally, as for the comments about African-Americans being in leadership. This simply isn't true either. In several states associational offices are help by African-Americans and Hispanics. Southern Seminary has I believe three African-American professors, two of which are in administration (one is Vice-President). My alma mater just hired Voddie Baucham last year as an adjunct (he wanted to stay in TX with his church so didn't want a full professorship), and likely he or Fred Luter from New Orleans will be the first African-American elected as President and this will likely come within the next 8 years (4 presidencies). But looking at the numbers of African-American congregations in the SBC (and African-Americans in the SBC in general), it's not terribly unproportionate. The SBC is currently trying to plant churches for both African-Americans and Hispanics. But to suggest that simply because we haven't had any African-American Presidents is some indication of racism is simply ridiculous.

Finally, on the slavery issue -- weren't you a professor at Southern (or a student)? Did you try to set forth an SBC resolution to repent of the SBC's ties to slavery? How did you work at racial reconciliation while you were at Southern?

There's no doubt that Southern Baptists worry that they will lose their doctrinal fidelity if they become too social oriented (just as many, many churches and denominations have who have focused more on social issues and are declining terribly quickly in numbers). If social justice alone could sin people to Christ, then why are liberal churches who you seem to think are more engaged in what Jesus actually taught growing more? Why isn't poverty ending since all the mainline denominations have gone liberal (which apparently seems to mean to you "more socially aware")?

45 years after the Jesus movement we are worse off than we were in regards to poverty, homelessness, and violence. Where are all the social liberals now? If the Southern Baptists are so bad and most churches have gone liberal, then why aren't things better. Of course, I am sure you could blame everything on the Republicans and the fact that Southern Baptists have supported Republicans, but that has only been really since Bill Clinton (who a large portion of Southern Baptists voted for unfortunately).

So your arguments completely depend on the past 15 years and our support of the Republican party. And even at that, it is not a unanimous support of all the policies. Stereotyping doesn't amount to actual evidence Michael. You should know that better than anyone.

Bart, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope you will visit again.


Dan, I don't exactly know what you mean. We disagree on how the Bible should be interpreted, thus I could never sit under your pastor and feel the same way about her preaching. What we do is not go to each other's churches, I guess. What else are you suggesting we should do?

I don't know that I know what I'm suggesting we should do - it was just an honest question.

I'm suggesting we're both Christians who don't want to just shrug off the differences between us, but who have serious differences of opinion about what it means to take the Bible seriously.

As Christians, aren't we supposed to be working to understand one another, and then moving on to working through what is Gospel and what isn't? We've a serious divide in our country and if our churches can't even work to brook that divide, what chance does the rest of the country have?

It's one reason why I appreciate formats such as this where we can discuss that which divides us, but even here, we don't make much progress, it seems. But if we never "go to the other's church" (whether actually or in other ways like this), we'll certainly never make any progress.

D.R., all those things you mention are work for social ministry, but they aren't work for justice. They are charity (not the agape sense), but not any kind of work for structural change.

I don't work for welfare dependency, either, but for social change: living wages, caps on CEO salary, stronger unions, better environmental laws, free health care, free education through college, Works Project type jobs programs for rebuilding infrastructure, etc. Many things can be done by individuals and other agencies, but others can only be done by government. But government dependency programs find no friend in me.

I was never a professor at SBTS, just a student. While there, I was on staff at an African-American congregation. The students successfully lobbied for greater racial diversity on faculty--only to watch conservative trustees shoot them down or for people to back away because of the instability of the situation.

The SBC refused to entertain any movements for racial repentance when they thought that would distract from the all-important "battle for the Bible."

Not that things were EVER good enough pre-1979.

I don't know the answer as to why the SBC is big and more social gospel/liberation theology groups are not: But since God often works with remnants I do not see size or triumphalism as evidence of divine blessing.

Your defense of the compassion (channeled only through aid, not justice) of Southern Baptists is very good--but applies to individual congregations. It is the bureacracy and the big names like Mohler that I find tone deaf to biblical calls for social justice. I mean, come on D.R., there was a war on, global warming, huge government deficits through tax giveaways to the mega-rich, etc.--and ALL the SBC could debate this June was whether it was sinful to drink beer or wine?? (Jesus must have been SUCH a sinner at Cana, huh?) I found THAT extremely telling.

Dan, I need to think about your question further and right now I am working on an essay about Southern Baptists and slavery, so right now I would rather not give you half an answer to your very good question. I hope to get back to it soon. Please remind me if I don't get back with you by this weekend.


Michael,
I'm not sure I understand your difference in justice v. social action, and I really don't know what you want the SBC to do specifically. If you mean those things that you mentioned (living wage, etc.) then I fear we have vast differences in how we feel one should approach this issue. For example, restricting the salaries of CEO's is not something we can legislate, lest you want to bring about a socialist/facist governement (which has its own set of problems). We live in a Republic, the basis of which is free enterprise and capitalism, thus we must work within that framework. We can and should call corporations to the carpet on improper actions and low wages, but to legislate such is to violate our own Constitutional values. And remember we live in a society where the poor do not pay income taxes and the wealthier you are the more you pay.

And I am sure that racial reconciliation was put on the back-burner when it came to issues on the Bible. It's tough to focus on any social issue when you disagree on whether Christ is actually the Son of God or whether or not He was born of a Virgin (and you know very well that some profs were weak on these issues at Southern leading to strife with the greater denomination). Southern Baptists (heck all Christians) are often distracted by theological differences. This can be seen in the NT, where Paul, Peter, and John all address doctrinal issues occuring in the Church and speak little on these "social justice" issues in comparison. And this is occuring in all denominations - the ABC, the ECUSA, and the PCUSA all are embroiled in doctrinal battles which are overshadowing any discussion on "social justice." I am certain we will see this in the CBF soon as well, especially if the issue of homosexuality comes to the forefront of the denomination.

As for your last paragraph, the SBC passed a resolution on global warming at this year's convention. Some have pointed out that it said there was disagreement among scientists (which is true, and more data is needed to understand exactly what we should do with this problem), but if you examine the whole statement, the majority of the resolution calls for conservation and for taking care of the environment. Additionally, have you read Crunchy Cons by Ron Dreher? This book and its concepts are becoming more and more popular among Southern Baptists (especially those who are more intellectual). Still, what can the SBC really do with global warming as a convention? Put pressure on the Bush administration (like that will help)? And "tax-giveaways to the rich"? Come on Michael, these guys pay 39% of their incomes to the government. The tax cuts amount to what - 2% less than that? What is your tax percentage? Mine is around 18-20%. I couldn't make it if it was 39%. And according to the most recent data, job growth is improving and the economy is strong. When the economy is strong, it is better for lower income families. When it is weak, it hurts lower income families more.

In the end, the reason why Southern Baptists agreed not to get involved with the Evangelicals in the global warming fight is the same reason why Southern Baptists don't get involved in a lot of these things it seems you think they should -- it requires a large amount of energy and money that Christians feel better spent on evangelizing the nations and working for change individually. There are no easy answers to any of these things and its easy to examine these things, hammer the talking points and still get nothing done. Christians can't be involved in political change if they lose the message of Christ, the Gospel clearly articulated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Helping someone out of poverty won't mean much if they spend eternity in Hell. Our mission is snatching men and women from eternal separation from God. And anything that doesn't ultimately bring about the salvation of souls is not nearly as loving as giving one the opportunity to spend an eternity with Christ. You might disagree with that, but maybe that explains why our churches are larger, because even if we don't support the policies of the Democratic party, we preach Christ crucified, the power of the Gospel unto men for salvaiton, which is foolishness to the world, and men and women are getting saved.

Very good posts, D.R.! Keep on!

"Our mission is snatching men and women from eternal separation from God...You might disagree with that, but maybe that explains why our churches are larger, because even if we don't support the policies of the Democratic party,"

1. I (nor Michael, I'd hazard to guess) are especially fans of the Dems, as we've both stated here on occasion. They have a horrible track record on war, the environment, social justice and other issues that we feel are central to Jesus' teachings. They're just less awful than the Republicans tend to be.

For what it's worth.

2. On your mission to snatch folk from hellfire, my concern there is that we don't, like the religious of Jesus' day, make the converts in to "twice as much a child of hell as yourselves," as Jesus charged them guilty of.

If we teach them to convert to a Christianity that is devoid of Jesus' teachings, well, what good would that be?

And so, we're not talking about a salvation of works, but we are talking about following in Jesus' steps. Which, Jesus promised, will lead to abandonment, persecution, death. Not huge crowd-pleasers, those.

A related story:

Once we had a visit from Mary Crosby of Church of the Savior in DC. Our pastor picked her up at the airport and was talking to her on the way to church.

"How many people are part of your church?" she asked.

"About 80," Cindy responded.

"Oh my! That's WAY too many! How could you ever have community with so many folk...?"

It may be fair to say that we have a different model of church than many. One theologian who has put voice to our model (and this may also address our different take on "charity" vs. "justice") is Robert Linthicum. He has suggested there are three types of churches: Churches IN the community, churches TO the community and churches WITH the community.

Churches IN the community may exist in a particular location, but they mean nothing to those in the community. They're just sharing space.

Churches TO the community are churches that recognize the needs of the community in which they live and try to help by offering assistance - charity. These churches are typically appreciated, but not attended by those they assist. It is a Helper-Helpee relationship that doesn't reach people very well, beyond the needed assistance.

Then there are churches WITH the community. These are churches whose struggles ARE THE SAME AS those in the community. The model here is working with the community to build God's kingdom, create justice, etc. This is the model to which we aspire (not always there, unfortunately).

It is an egalitarian (Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people) model, indeed.

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Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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