A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to discuss the dangers of patriarchy with the hosts of the Mortification of Spin podcast. I had a great time. Carl Trueman, Aimee Byrd, and Todd Pruitt are an interesting bunch. I really appreciate them taking the time to discuss such an important and controversial topic. You can visit the link below to hear the whole thing.
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.
Dr. Trueman spoke at the Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference last week. His talk was on the celebrity culture that surrounds some pastors in the US. In an article at Reformation 21, Dr. Trueman summarized his understanding of celebrities and the church:
My general conclusion on this point is that celebrity is clearly here to stay; the key point is that those who have such celebrity cachet acknowledge it and leverage it for good. By ‘good’, I mean direct people back to their own churches and set examples themselves as those who are committed first and foremost to their own people, congregations and denominations. T4G was quite a contrast to the recent reports of an extra-ecclesiastical high-profile meeting of Christian evolutionists, where celebrity appears to be being leveraged to set the agenda and impact the doctrinal testimony of churches. Nothing I heard at T4G indicated that anyone here had that kind of ecclesiastically subversive ambition.
[The “extra-ecclesiastical high-profile meeting of Christian evolutionists” that Dr. Trueman references is the BioLogos Theology of Celebration workshop from last month.]
Carl Trueman has an interesting post over at Reformation 21. Here is an excerpt that I thought was particularly thought provoking:
Over the last few years I have read dozens of pieces that tell me that it is no longer possible to believe in the historical Adam, in the Pentateuchal narratives, in a Christological reading of the Old Testament, in the Incarnation, in the resurrection, in biblical sexual ethics, and in hell; that, in doing so, I am acting irrationally and am engaged in a desperate quest for certainty. At times such sentiments sadden me; at other times they irritate. A desperate, irrational quest for certainty? How I wish that I might not be certain about a number of those things, given that they fly in the face of my socially liberal instincts.
My response to these criticisms varies depending upon the specific doctrine at issue but I would like to offer one general reply to those who write and email such. I am sorry that you have doubts; I am sorry that your Christian parents or schoolteachers screwed you up with their bad teaching; I am sorry that you can no longer believe the simple catechetical faith that you were once taught; I am sorry that the Bible seems like little more than a confused mish-mash of contradictory myths and endlessly deferred meaning. But that you struggle with doubts does not mean that those who do not struggle in the same way are simply weak-minded, in denial or bare-faced liars. Nor, more importantly, does the mere fact that you have doubts mean that those doubts are necessarily legitimate and well-grounded. Doubting on your part does not constitute a crisis of faith on mine.
There is a considerable movement within evangelical churches to focus ministry efforts on urban areas. Many churches are encouraging their congregations to move into cities and to work to transform and redeem cities. Dr. Tim Keller summed up the underlying concept well in his article, “A Biblical Theology of the City,” “[w]e began in a garden but will end in a city; God’s purpose for humanity is urban!” Carl Trueman took a somewhat different approach in an article over at Reformation 21 about the current urban focus. Here is an excerpt from his article:
One thing Paul and I did discuss was the current nonsense about cities being special which so dominates the popular evangelical imagination. Not that cities are not important: as areas where there are the highest concentrations of human beings, they are inevitably significant as mission fields. Rather, we were thinking of the “from a Garden to a City” hermeneutic which jumps from scripture to giving modern urban sprawl some kind of special eschatological significance. Was there ever a thinner hermeneutical foundation upon which so much has been built? OK, there probably has been, but this is still a whopper. Continue reading
Carl Trueman has a thoughtful column about the debate over Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s book, What is the Mission of the Church? He thinks it’s a premonition of battles to come in the “gospel-centered” movement. Here’s an excerpt from his post:
The gospel-centred world seems divided over whether the gospel is primarily about transforming culture or individual forgiveness for sins. Of course, there is a spectrum of opinion on this matter and not everyone is at one end of it or the other. Yet the passions generated by DeYoung and Gilbert highlight the problem and indicate that it cannot be ignored. Indeed, it seems likely that the gospel-centred world is set to become more, not less, polarized on this issue. After all, how one answers the question of the mission of the church reflects how one understands the gospel and shapes everything that the church does. Thus, for example, some can talk confidently about ‘arts ministries’ while others of us scratch our heads as to why our churches would ever contemplate prioritizing painting or poetry over toilet cleaning and providing after-service coffee and cakes. The latter are surely of more immediate and universal importance to the church but would rarely if ever be dignified with the title of `ministry.’