Making Patriarchical Heads Explode

Over at Reformation 21, Dr. Carl Trueman has been writing on complementarianism and whether or not it is a gospel distinctive. If a person holds to an egalitarian position, is that person denying or undermining the gospel?

I completely agree with Dr. Trueman that complementarianism is the most biblically faithful position. I also agree that the hermeneutic that leads one to hold to egalitarianism tends to lead further and further away from orthodoxy. But does that mean that an egalitarian is therefore not a believer? Dr. Trueman answers it this way:

Second, if complementarianism is a gospel issue, then I think one is really saying that it is a matter which touches directly on the credibility or coherence of a simple profession of faith by an ordinary believer and one should act consistent with that view. That surely makes it very hard for complementarians serving with egalitarian colleagues at seminaries which claim to be Christian or evangelical to do so with real integrity. After all, the gospel as they understand it is being compromised in the classroom by their colleagues. Yet I wonder if serving on faculty with the late Roger Nicole would have been so very problematic to many members of the Gospel Coalition. It also seems to press towards a position where church membership must be denied to someone who is an egalitarian. If it is a gospel issue, then it seems that denial of it must in some serious sense be a denial of the gospel. Here, of course, ecclesiology can help us out: one can make a helpful (and I believe biblical) distinction between the qualifications necessary for church membership (a basic, credible profession) and officebearing which defuses some of the practical issues involved. Complementarianism becomes a matter of faithful, biblical ecclesiology rather than an immediate gospel matter.

From what I’ve read this morning, there are a number of Biblical patriarchy guys who are spitting nails over Dr. Trueman’s post. This confirms for me a thought I’ve had. For many of the Biblical patriarchy guys, the issue of the roles of men and women is THE issue. It is the root of all problems in the church and in the world. It is the one issue that holds them together despite pretty significant theological differences.

Which brings me to Dr. Trueman’s final point:

Third, we have to be careful what we decide to make into gospel issues and not simply allow our own immediate context or admittedly important cultural struggles to be decisive. Luther thought affirmation of the presence of the whole Christ, in, with and under the elements of the bread and the wine in communion, was a gospel issue such that those who denied this were ‘of a different Spirit.’ Zwingli thought infant baptism was a gospel distinctive, such that he collaborated with the council in Zurich in the judicial drowning of Anabaptists. Indeed, Baptists have to face the fact that most of their theological heroes throughout history have baptized babies and, indeed, thought it a gospel distinctive. I am not saying that they should therefore become paedobaptists (though they could do a lot worse); but I am saying it should give us pause for thought before we start declaring what are and are not gospel issues and distinctives. This has been a perennially tough question for Protestants and needs to be parsed with care.

5 thoughts on “Making Patriarchical Heads Explode

  1. Shawn Mathis says:

    Curious: which guys are spitting nails?

    In my own research (NCFIC), it is prima facia obvious that patriarchy, FIC, etc are central and keep Baptist Calvinists and Campbellites able to sign the same confession and attend the same conferences.

    too bad.


  2. Kepha says:

    I am loathe to use “patriarchy” as a swear word, much as I, a husband and father, am aware of what Paul wrote right after he told wives to be submissive (Ephesians 5 really puts the bigger burden on us men).

    Abraham our father was a patriarch who cared for his household, and went down through the ages as the friend of God.

    I dread the day when Christians, due to the follies and abuses of their brothers and sisters, turn a good, biblical word into a crime only to please their cultured despisers.


  3. Bev Carpenter says:

    I’ve read a number of your posts over on Wes White’s blog and you very much oppose theistic evolution and the ‘social’ gospel and often would write posts against proponents of such ideologies; posts that were worded strongly. Are all the proponents of theistic evolution or the social gospel not Christians?

    As you target Patriarchy you might want to keep in mind that less than 10 years ago men such as Russell Moore from the CBMW were advocating using that exact wording (Different by Design Conference 2007) because it does describe the male/female order of living that has been revealed in the Word.

    One does need to be very careful about judgments. Individuals subscribing to such ideologies as: theistic evolution, the social gospel and egalitarianism, might indeed be believers but only because they have not taken their ideologies to their logical conclusions and see what they do to the Gospel. Depending on the errors, it may take a generation or two to get to the logical end.

    As with any ideology, there are those who abuse and twist truth and it does seem like you are pushing back against such which is fine but the push back should not go too far.

    Yes, egalitarians can be believers but when one takes their ideology and how they get to it and then take it to its logical conclusion, it will lead to a rejection of the inerrancy of Scripture.

    The fruit of the gospel is critical generationally. The fruit does matter. And if the fruit is poisoned sooner or later it will go back and corrupt the gospel.

    It would appear that the Gospel coalition is trying to protect the gospel by looking at fruit that is critical to maintain the gospel. There have to be some criteria, otherwise tolerance for ignorance must be granted as acceptable.

    And maybe this is a case that a group should not try to cross all the ‘boundaries’ to join based on a narrow truth…

    Watching Newt Gingrich’s interview on Meet the Press (9/2/12) shows how the feminist agenda (which drives egalitarianism in the church) has destroyed the nation’s conscience when it comes to abortion. So is egalitarianism a big deal? As millions of egalitarian Christians sit silently by, the blood of 40 million plus dead children says so.

    BTW – I have appreciated your work on the issue of theistic evolution. Thank you for your efforts.


  4. jilldomschot says:

    Having been in homeschooling circles for more than 11 yrs now, I would say yes, many patriarchal men and women place gender roles at the top of their list. It’s as if they believe we can’t have a true gospel until we reorder society to reflect the divine order of patriarchy. I know so many people who have been hurt by this doctrine. It’s really beginning to wear on me.


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