As the culture wars in conservative evangelical Christianity continue to rumble along, the pronouncements of some its key leaders are getting more and more disconcerting. I am seriously concerned about the rising “alpha male” type approach to church, embodied mainly by Mark Driscoll and his acolytes. In my home town, Johannesburg, a few churches led by young men have gone this route: denying women any role in leadership or public teaching in their churches. The theological leaders of this movement include John Piper, James Dobson and Wayne Grudem (see more at their ‘Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood‘), and to a lesser extent Don Carlson and Tim Keller (see their ‘Gospel Coalition’).
Rachel Held Evans is running a great series on her blog, calling out the strange, illogical and unbiblical pronouncement coming from this corner of evangelicalism. They’re really getting themselves into a tangle over this issue (something that often happens when Scripture is misinterpreted, misrepresented or misunderstood).
I wrote about this a while ago, when I expressed my concerns about a video put out by the Gospel Coalition. They are using views on the role of women as a test for Biblical orthodoxy, and also claiming that it is not correct to attempt to understand the cultural and historical context in which a Biblical book was written (this completely contradicts the approach Carson has taken in his many excellent commentaries of Biblical books – but it seems that the issue of women leaders trumps his previous work as a Biblical scholar. One wonders why?).
But Rachel has found a few ‘exhibits’ of key statements made by those who oppose women leaders in church – not isolated, out-of-context statements, but key pronouncements and position statements – that just make no sense at all. Take some time to read the links below. You’ll be amazed, and stunned. And you’ll realise fairly quickly that the approach of those who want to keep women ‘barefoot, pregnant and in the home’ (my words, but typically the intention of those who take the so-called ‘complementarian’ view) is more a harking back to some idyllic (but completely inaccurate) picture of 1950s suburban America, rather than anything you can find in the Bible.
Exhibit A: Women are ‘hardwired’ to be protected, while men to ‘protect’. This why is women should not be in military. And, in all seriousness, John Piper said that if a couple walking down a dark street are attacked, the man must do the defending even if his girlfriend is a black belt in karate. Read more here.
Exhibit B: Owen Strachan, head of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood recently called stay-at-home dads, “man fails”. Nice. But he went further and wrote an article about an episode of Sesame Street in which a young boy is encouraged to play with dolls. Strachan said that this is an example of how “the basic foundations of the Protestant worldview are under assault.” Sesame Street, he argues, is on “the frontlines of the gender wars” and this scene represents a “disastrous teaching on sexuality and gender.” Really? Rachel wrote a great response here, but the best reponse is from a Dad, Micah Murray, in his blog, Redemption Pictures.
Exhibit C is a classic issue. Those who won’t let women preach from their pulpits very often let women teach Sunday school (teaching young men), become missionaries (teaching foreign men) and allow them to “share” in church (though not preach). John Piper half-heartedly acknowledged the career of one of the world’s best teachers, Beth Moore some time ago, but more recently was asked if he used commentaries written by women. His response is jaw dropping. He does, because somehow the book mediates the feminity of the author – something not possible if the woman is standing speaking on a platform. Good grief – is this for real? Read more here.
More exhibits are coming in this series. The next will be a look at Focus on the Family’s view that women should not work outside of the home and that feminism will lead to death.
Rachel rightly labels all of these, ‘the absurd legalism of gender roles’. Absurd indeed. But also unbiblical, ungodly and illogical. Wrong, in other words. Christians need to stand up against those who deny women the right, the privilege, the responsibility and the joy of exercising their gifts, abilities and passions for service in the church and in God’s world.