I am experiencing the ugly consequences of anti-intellectualism: wavering theology and doctrinal insecurity. I end up unsure of what I believe. Thinking may be unattractive, but it is not optional. Paul warns that knowledge puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1), but he also remarks “in your thinking, be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). Jesus recalled the Jewish “Great Commandment” to love the Lord with all of your self, including the mind (Luke 10:27), and so we must consider what it means to have a more wholesome thought life if we want to love God.
One of the many theological arenas I have fluctuated in is the role of women in ministry. I will review one book that has given me a thorough introduction to the debate. My next three articles will review the book Two Views on Women in Ministry, written primarily by four authors: Craig S. Keener, Linda L. Belleville, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Ann L. Bowman. Published in 2001 by Zondervan as part of the “Counterpoints” series, the book simulates a forum for comparison and critique of two theological views of women in ministry. The title suggests there are only two views; centrist editors James R. Beck and Craig L. Blomberg note that there are many variations and subtle differences within and outside of these viewpoints. In fact, the editors do not adhere to the egalitarian view presented by Keener and Belleville nor to the complementarian view presented by Schreiner and Bowman. The first section promotes the egalitarian view, and the second section promotes the complementarian view. The editors offer a thesis that Paul was “neither a classic hierarchalist nor a full-fledged egalitarian.” The book focuses on ministry roles, not domestic parts such as marriage. The style of the book is formal and the concepts are thoroughly defined. Footnotes provide important resources that leaders use in this debate.
The editors point out that the broad evangelical church has not arrived at a consensus over the debate. Note that Veritas Community Church has in its “Statement of Beliefs” a statement saying, “The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.” In sharing this book review I will strive to respect and honor our pastors who have thoughtfully compiled these beliefs. I do not identify any serious problems with a church leadership developing a view and implementing it within the church they are building. Instead, I admire leadership that states their beliefs concretely and unambiguously early in its development, however disagreeable those stances may be.
Before reviewing the book, I must emphasize a caveat. It’s reasonable to say that gender, as a sociological production, is a spiritual matter as the Bible addresses ministry offices. Since this is a spiritual issue, we must remember that consciousness for the Holy Spirit is not discretionary. This means that the debate for Christians should not be merely academic, but it should reverberate out of a relationship with God’s Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 2:11-13, Paul explains that we can’t discuss spiritual matters with human wisdom. Instead, God’s revelation is taught by the Spirit to those who are spiritual. While I appreciate the work done by scholars of gender, I will not accept their viewpoints haphazardly as they are not necessarily spiritually discerning beings. Unfortunately, many scholars are not ambassadors of Christ. Approaching scholarship material must be done carefully. Consult God’s Spirit to sense if those scholars are the “natural” beings described by Paul in 2:14. Ask yourself: Is this scholar in tune with the spirit of God’s kingdom mission? If not, then the scholar’s work is useful in many ways, but it is certainly not authoritative. However, both egalitarians and complementarians in this book do claim to be disassociated with modern sociological agendas on leadership that really have nothing to do with understanding the blueprint of God’s church.
In the next article, I will outline the intra-evangelical debate with details from the book. I will summarize the editor’s reasons for selecting the scholars they did, and I will define the language being used so that you can understand how the authors will use works like: egalitarian, hierarchalist, complementarian, and traditionalist. I will also detail why the authors think this is an important discussion. In the third article I will review the egalitarian viewpoint. In the fourth article I will review the complementarian argument. Please read these articles with an aim to understand. I would be disappointed to find out that anyone would use what I’ve written as a resource to take divisive actions.