Saturday, September 20, 2008
The Steady Drumbeat of Church Egalitarianism
Over at WorldNetDaily, a story was posted this morning about a controversy that has arisen over the latest issue of Gospel Today. The rather provocative headline at WND referenced the magazine being sold under the counter "like pornography" in some Christian bookstores, most notably Southern Baptist bookstores. The SBC officially takes the position that female pastors are unbiblical, although the offshoot "Cooperative Baptist Fellowship" would try to argue the point. Here's a quote from the WND article . . .
Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, which describes itself as a magazine for the urban Christian community, told the Journal-Constitution she was shocked by the bookstore's decision.
"We weren't trying to pick a fight," Hairston said. "We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches."
Pastor Tamara Bennett, one of the featured pastors on the magazine cover, talks in the feature article about her perspective on women in ministry.
"God's assignment is that no souls are lost and all are saved," Bennett said. "Gender is not how God sees it. We are about winning souls, period."
Color me skeptical over whether Ms. Hairston is really "shocked, shocked!" over the bookstore's action (watch Casablanca for an explanation of "shocked, shocked!"). This issue has hardly been on the back burner, especially among conservative evangelical, non-charismatic churches. Mainline denominations have fought about it for years.
I have friends who take the egalitarian view of women in the church -- friends who no doubt get very irritated over my complimentarian (or traditional) viewpoint of the subject. But I must stand my ground on this regardless of who it irritates. I am not alone in my view, although these days we are a minority. It has nothing to do with keeping women barefoot and pregnant, as some might try to allege. It has everything to do with being biblical, and Scripture is quite clear on this subject. Those who advance the view that women are free to serve as pastors can be clever with their arguments, but they still run into the brick wall of Scripture. To arrive at an egalitarian position, they have to use cultural arguments rather than standard rules of biblical interpretation, and that in and of itself is a weakness in the position. The fact is that, when it comes to theology, Scriptural order transcends culture and man's viewpoints whether we like it or not.
Tamara Bennett's comment referenced above is a classic emotional "the end justifies the means" argument. "Winning souls, by golly. A whole host of souls are on their way to hell, and you're concerned over whether a woman dons a surplice."
Whenever I encounter arguments like this, I often think of the account given in 2 Samuel 6, when Uzzah reached out to grab hold of the Ark of the Covenant with the good intention of keeping it from falling. Poor Uzzah was struck dead on the spot because God said not to touch the Ark. Uzzah's good intentions didn't matter because in carrying out his good intention, he violated what God had said to do. There's an object lesson there if we're willing to listen to it.
While I don't think or intend to imply that people will be struck dead for having female pastors in this age of grace, the principle still applies. God has established the order He intends in the church, and no matter what the unsaved culture says about egalitarianism, God's order still stands. Men and women are indeed equal in terms of value to Him, but biblically fulfill different roles in the home and in the church.
When we begin disobeying the Lord in one area, it's generally not too long before we find other areas where Scripture is seen as outdated or out of touch with modern society. The Anglican Communion -- along with the United Church of Christ and other mainline churches -- is a classic example.
You can find clever ways to argue anything. Homosexuals in the pulpit or in the marriage bed. Redistribution of wealth. Jesus was a Marxist. Witnessing through "body art." Christian nudism. The list goes on. But, as always, the Word of God stands unchanging -- the final rule of faith and practice in the church.
As I said earlier, those who hold to my point of view are an increasing minority. That doesn't surprise me at all. Just as with the homosexual issue, the steady drumbeat from the media and intra-church agitators no doubt has been a factor. But I've never been all that concerned with being a minority if I believe I am in the right. There is enough solid, conservative, biblical scholarship on this subject out there to back me up.
Would I rather not have to make the argument? Of course. But arguments such as these have gone on for 2,000 years, and they won't cease until the Lord returns.