The Need for Clarity on Complementarianism

The Need for Clarity on Complementarianism

Years ago, the evangelical world was abuzz with controversy over inerrancy. This was especially true within the Southern Baptist Convention. You could ask two different people if they believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, and while both answered “yes”—both of them when pressed would provide two different understandings of inerrancy. For the liberal, his view was that the Bible “contains the Word of God” which is quite different from the other individual who was contending for total, verbal, plenary inerrancy.

In short, words matter and definitions lead to the defining of positions. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) was helpful in defining terms and providing clarity on a very important theological subject. It would take a good number of years before the Southern Baptist Convention would be rerouted back to a historic position on biblical inerrancy—and this move has been labeled the Conservative Resurgence.

Today, there are new winds of controversy blowing in the evangelical world. The winds of controversy are centered on the issue of women serving in leadership. With varying degrees of opinions on this subject—including an eclectic array of interpretations on biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-15; Titus 2, we stand in need of clarification on complementarianism. In an age where being soft is in vogue—we must remember that watering down masculinity, beefing up femininity, and redefining biblical roles as designed by God for the home, the church, and society will have a negative result in all areas. We need real men and women again!

As we consider this issue, it’s not one that can be approached without crystal clear definitions. While The Danvers Statement (1987) deals with the issues of complementarity, there are some voices in evangelicalism who are suggesting that The Danvers Statement would permit a woman to serve as the president of the SBC. Others seem to disagree. While the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is rather broad, it points to the office of pastor in article VI and states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Some voices are arguing that this is only in regards to the “senior pastor” within the local church, and does not place the same restrictions on associate pastors and denominational offices.

With all of the opinions blowing around in the wind, we need to clarify positions on the definition of comlementarianism. I propose the following list of questions that need to be seriously reviewed and considered.

1. What does the term complementarianism mean? There is a maximum view and a minimum view, so what exactly should we think when we use the term itself and from what passages do we derive the definition from?
2. Is the theological position of complementarianism oppressive to women in any way?
3. Is the theological position of complementarianism restricting women from doing what God has called them to do?
4. Should we tolerate both minimum and maximum views of complementarianism in the same way we tolerate dispensationalism and amillennialism within the same evangelical circles or local churches?
5. Does the biblical text in regard to authority (1 Tim. 2:12) forbid women from serving as a professor of theology in a seminary setting?
6. Does this passage, as it pertains to teaching and preaching, forbid women from serving as associate pastors in the local church?
7. Does this passage, as it pertains to teaching and preaching, forbid women from speaking to a mixed audience in a conference setting?
8. Does 1 Timothy 2 forbid a woman from serving in a denominational leadership role such as the office of the president of the SBC, ERLC, or similar position?
9. If evangelicals redefine complementarity boundaries for leadership in the church and denominational structures, what affect will this have upon the roles of the home?
10. Will a redefining of complementarianism lead to a redefining of sexual boundaries within evangelicalism?

At one point, The Danvers Statement states the following rationale for the formation of the statement in 1987:

the increasing prevalence and acceptance of hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts;

It seems as if history has repeated itself. So it is within the world of theology. It has been stated well there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9) and all modern heresy is ancient error retooled for an urbane culture. One of the affirmations (#8) of The Danvers Statement reads as follows:

In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries (1 Tim 2:11-15, 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9). Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will.

Do we still believe that a subjective calling to serve in ministry should be tested by the biblical texts cited in the above affirmation? These are serious questions that need to be clarified. The women’s liberation movement with its egalitarian approach to life was birthed in the Garden of Eden, it has Satan as its father (Satan is the father of all lies), and it has oppression as its ultimate goal. If we fail to be clear on comlementarianism (as a political move, by neglect, or by mere oversight), we will lead people into the trap of the enemy.

People are asking legitimate questions. While I’m not an alarmist, I do believe many organizations and entities are postured for serious problems if we take a left turn at this juncture. With all of the talk of entering a new era where women can flourish and be respected as fellow image-bearers, we need to evaluate this “new era” through a robust biblical lens to be certain that it’s not a false promise from an ancient serpent. Does complementarianism disrespect women and hold them back from God’s intended purpose and his original design? If not, we need to stand firm and stop apologizing for what God has ordained from the beginning.

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 4)

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 4)

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.

As I reflect upon the 2018 SBC gathering, I am both encouraged and concerned about the practice of complementarianism in the Convention. I was greatly encouraged to hear several of our SBC leaders articulate a clear and emphatic commitment to the distinct roles of men and women as taught in 1 Timothy 2:12, which I sought to explain in part two of this series (https://bit.ly/2JtPwEz). When Dr. Al Mohler was asked a question from the convention floor about the role of women in teaching, he made it abundantly clear that SBTS was committed to only men teaching in their School of Theology due to the pastoral nature of that role. When asked in another venue about the role of SBC President, Dr. Mohler replied that the gathering was more than a business meeting and included responsibilities that should limit that role to male leadership.

While Mohler’s comments instilled confidence about the future of complementarity in the SBC, I continued to have serious concerns as I engaged in conversations with others. The repeated mantra – both in private conversations and voices from the convention floor – was the need to “empower” women. If this means ensuring that our churches are enlisting women in every possible way to serve the church and not marginalizing them in their service, I fully embrace that call. However, if “empowerment” means to elevate women to all the same roles as men or to employ such a narrow application of complementarity that there is little more than a paper-thin wall separating it from egalitarianism, then count me out. As I argued in my last article, the “empowerment” of women will not reverse the results of The Fall, it will simply repeat the mistakes of The Fall (https://bit.ly/2JCBEMB).

For the sake of clarity, I believe women should serve in many ways within the church, and there should be no limitations beyond Scripture. At the same time, women will never flourish by being “empowered” to forsake the important role that God has given them to fulfill by his design. It is foolish to think that women will find fulfillment by following Eve in her folly exemplified in The Fall. If women want to flourish – as God intended – they should model Eve in her faith as illustrated in her ultimate response to God.

Following Eve in Her Faith Not Her Folly

Paul gave a clear prohibition of women teaching or exercising authority over men (1 Tim 2:12) based upon God’s created order (1 Tim 2:13). He then pointed to the circumstances of The Fall to exemplify what happens when we rebel against God’s design (1 Tim 2:14). In closing, Paul wanted women to see that they can be joyfully and beautifully fulfilled in their distinct role. This requires them to model Eve’s faith, which is exemplified in her response to God’s word of promise. Paul writes, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim 2:15).

Although there is much debate about Paul’s closing words, I believe his meaning becomes clear if we understand he is concluding the Genesis story of Eve followed by a call to all women to follow her ultimate example of faith. This is the reason verse fifteen begins with the feminine singular (i.e. Eve) and concludes with the feminine plural (i.e. all women).

First, regarding Eve, Paul is simply following her character in the plot of the Genesis account. Adam was created, then Eve (Gen 2:15-23). The Fall exemplifies the results of rebelling against God’s created complementarity order (Gen 3:1-13). Eve’s is saved from what led to her deception by trusting God’s word of promise, which included a return to embracing God’s design for her as a woman (Gen 3:14-16).

Understanding Paul’s illustration in 1 Tim 2:15 requires a correct interpretation of his use of “childbearing.” Some argue that Paul is illustrating the biological distinction between men and women and instructing them to find their fulfillment in bearing children. However, there is good reasons to think otherwise. Practically, Paul taught elsewhere that some women have the gift of singleness (1 Cor 7:7), and not every woman has been blessed with the ability to have children. Surely Paul would not exclude these groups from his universal argument that he is making. Furthermore, Paul’s points have all been theological. Therefore, it seems likely he continues with that line of reasoning.

The key to Paul’s meaning is best found in what William Mounce calls “a more serious suggestion” that recognizes the presence of the definite article in the original language before the word “childbearing.” This view recognizes Paul’s building on the context of Genesis 3, which led to Paul’s conclusion that “Eve’s deception will be overcome by the deliverance prophesied in Gen 3:15, which foretells that Eve’s seed (descendant) will bruise the serpent’s head, i.e., salvation is announced in terms of a child to be borne by the woman.”

Therefore, the way Eve would be saved from the results of the Fall – which included her sinful desire to usurp the role of her husband and his sinful desire to dominate her – was to trust in God’s promise that her seed would be the one to bring salvation to all mankind. Having God’s word of promise in Gen 3:15, Eve was faced with another choice. Would she choose to embrace God’s word and submit herself to the role that God had chosen her to fill? Scripture reveals that Eve chose to submit herself and fully embrace God’s promise. Eve went from twisting God’s word to trusting God’s word. This is illustrated in her words of faith recorded in Gen 4:1: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’” Later, after Cain’s failure could have led her to despair, she remained fixed in her confidence in God’s promise as she declared at the birth of Seth, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him” (Gen 4:25). After The Fall, Scripture only records Eve’s voice two other times, both expressing faith in Gen 3:15. Eve’s faith in God’s word of promise and role that God gave her in the fulfillment of that promise became the focus of her life.

Second, Paul is not ultimately calling upon women to follow Eve in childbearing, but to model Eve in her expression of faith in God’s word and role for them. Although God has not designed women to teach or exercise authority over men, they will find complete fulfillment in in their God-given role to serve in the church. They, like Eve, will find their salvation by faith in the Gen 3:15 promise that was fulfilled by Christ, which will lead to the fruit of “love and holiness.” Ultimately, their submission to God’s command in this will require the same “self-control” as they needed for submitting themselves to modesty (1 Tim 2:9). The question remains for women today as it did for those of Timothy’s church in Ephesus: Will they repeat the mistakes of The Fall or will they follow Eve’s example of faith by trusting God’s word and exercising the self-control needed to submit to their God ordained role?

Where We Go from Here

I share the concerns of fellow Southern Baptists that any abuse of women is abhorrent, and the marginalization of women is equally unbiblical. However, the “empowerment” of women to leadership roles outside of God’s biblical design will not stop either of those things. Obedience and complete submission to God’s Word are the only things that will lead to valuing women for the treasured gift that they are from God. We will never fix unbiblical and ungodly actions with anything short of a robust biblical response. Rather than seeking to empower women, we should seek to entrust to them their biblical role that will produce genuine flourishing. This means we need to train women in our seminaries and churches to serve in teaching and leading children and other women (Titus 2).

In twenty-five years of serving as a Senior Pastor, I have not found that we need less women to serve in these capacities, but that we are always in need of more. We are not serving the families or our churches well by taking women out of the home when their children are in their formative years or removing godly women from teaching and leading the women of the church in order to place them in positions of authority over men. It is a first-class job God has given women and we should encourage them in the value of their role, not facilitate a longing for “something better.”

If the SBC is not training women in our seminaries to help them serve in the roles God has designed, then we are involved in a task that has less to do with the command of the Lord and more to do with taking our cues from the world. If we allow the culture to shift our focus away from the biblical teaching of the distinct roles of men and women, it will be to the detriment of the church and the family. What the SBC desperately needs is not one more resolution about the empowerment of women, but a resolve to return to God’s created design for men and women so that both can flourish as God originally intended. If we choose to do otherwise – ignoring the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 2:12-15 – we will soon discover that the empowerment of women did not reverse the effects of The Fall, but simply repeated the mistakes of The Fall. May God help us to stand firm in an age that wants to destroy our foundations.

Why Electing a Woman as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention Is a Bad Idea

Why Electing a Woman as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention Is a Bad Idea

As we wrap up the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, there is much to be thankful for as we depart from the city of Dallas. First, we must be overjoyed that we have presidents who serve the seminaries of our Convention who are absolutely committed to the protection of women and the safety of both students and faculty members—especially those women who serve and study on their campuses. We must likewise be grateful for the attempt at more honest reporting of statistics by the North American Mission Board—something Kevin Ezell discussed in his report before the messengers. However, as we prepare to head back home today, I’m honestly confused over the amount of time and effort placed into the discussion of empowering women to leadership roles in the SBC. If we have already established our position on biblical complementarity years ago—why has it become such a talking point this year?

I truly appreciated the answer given by Dr. Albert Mohler following his report for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Wednesday morning when asked specifically about women serving in leadership roles in our SBC entities. He explained that the institution he oversees has a clear policy in place that they only hire faculty to teach in the school of theology who meet the qualifications of a pastor. He went on to explain that they have other schools where women can serve — but not as it pertains to the teaching of God’s Word.

All of our seminary presidents spoke of their unashamed embrace of complementarianism, to which they received a passionate applause from the floor by the messengers of the SBC. However, while that sounds encouraging, we must remember that words have meaning and we would be fooling ourselves if we truly believed that everyone in the SBC who claims to embrace complementarianism is unified on the definition of the term itself. It would be wise to have a good concise definition to work from when discussing the issue so as to avoid affirming or rejecting other people on the basis of a misunderstanding of their definition of complementarianism.

Not only is our culture seeking to blur the lines between what it means to be a man and a woman—such distinct boundaries and roles are being tested in the religious circles as well. In fact, on Monday evening at a #MeToo panel discussion during the 2018 SBC, James Merritt, pastor and former president of the SBC, was quoted by Jonathan Merritt in a tweet stating:

“A woman can be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t see anything in the Bible that prohibits that,” says and receives a round of applause at panel at

This same type of language was used on social media frequently leading up to the SBC. With all of the buzz on social media about empowering women that led to questions coming from the floor by the messengers, it would be good to explain why electing a woman to the office of president of the SBC is a bad idea—one that would have a lasting negative impact upon our Convention both practically and theologically.

The Annual Meeting of the SBC Is More Than a Business Meeting

If the SBC’s annual meeting was only a business meeting, it would be easier to make the case for a woman to preside over the business as the president of the Convention. The truth is, women are intelligent, articulate, and capable in many ways—so our view of complementarianism has nothing to do with a diminished view of the giftedness or abilities of women. It is focused, however, upon the role distinction of men and women within God’s original design along with the boundaries that God has instituted from the beginning.

The SBC, as a large family of churches (47,000), meets annually to carry out the business and to organize specific missions and discipleship ministries of the SBC. However, more than business and organizing of ministries takes place during the second week of June each summer. The messengers gather to worship in song, prayer, preaching, and much of this worship is under the direct oversight of the president. Add to this scenario the reality that the president of the SBC typically preaches the convention sermon—which would not be possible under a proper complementarity position.

To be clear, a woman serving in the office of the president of the SBC would lead to a violation of 1 Timothy 2:12 which states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Preaching and teaching should be reserved for men—which is not an invention by misogynist men who seek to hold women back, nor is it a an ancient cultural boundary for Paul’s cultural context. Complementarity is rooted and grounded in creation as God placed Adam as the head to Eve and required that Eve submit to her husband. Paul states the same thing in Ephesians 5 as he speaks of the headship of men, the submissiveness of women, and role distinctions between men and women that were instituted by God from the beginning. This complementarity honors God and creates opportunities for men and women to both fulfill their God given abilities for the glory of God.

The SBC President Is Most Often a Pastor

In less than a half a dozen instances in 173 years, the president of the SBC is always a pastor. When leading pastors, it would be good to have a pastor to lead and help give direction on missions and discipleship partnerships that will have a direct impact upon the local churches of the Convention. You would have to go back to the 1960s for the last time a president of the SBC was not a pastor.

Once again—this idea speaks to the authority aspect of the office of president which would seem to violate 1 Timothy 2:12 if a woman occupied that office and carried out all of the necessary functionalities. Furthermore, the office of president most often being a pastor allows for the president to lead, guide, and organize ministry in an authoritative manner while preaching and teaching the Word without violating any of God’s complementarity roles.

Complementarity Is Under Attack in our Culture

The move toward empowering women to fulfill their calling is a worthy movement for the churches of the SBC to support—so long as it’s helping women fulfill God’s original design for them as helpers and disciple makers within their home and local church context. If we’re completely and brutally honest—a biblical understanding of complementarity will not lead naturally toward the pursuit of the office of president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The world hates complementarity and has already slain mainstream denominations on this important distinctive resulting in practical and theological capitulation. That is the exact opposite direction from where the SBC has historically led pastors, missionaries, and messengers of the Convention. A move toward a new or broad complementarity will lead to a fracture of the SBC and potentially a split over what’s being called secondary.

We must never forget the fact that the feminist movement promoted equality for women and a liberation that allowed women to expand their horizons. The feminist movement is not a new movement in human history. In fact, it dates back much earlier than the 1950s or 1960s. The feminist movement dates back to the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit and in doing so he tempted her with more than expanded horizons. In his crafty temptation, he placed before Eve a role reversal opportunity to lead her husband, a violation of God’s authority, and he cast a doubt on God’s Word all at the same time. That pattern continues to this very day and is very much alive in our evangelical culture.

When the world attempts to shame us on our position of complementarity—we need to hear the hiss of the original attack by Satan himself in the Garden of Eden. We will not be loved for following Jesus—and since Jesus invented complementarity in the beginning—we should anticipate the world to despise it, reject it, and mock it. That sounds much less threatening until the hatred and mocking is directed at you or me personally. Be prepared to be hated, but to those who remain faithful, the Lord himself will reward you.

 

 

Walls That Prevent Constructive Criticism in the SBC Could Hinder Progress Considerably: Why Romans 16:17 is a Local Church Matter

Walls That Prevent Constructive Criticism in the SBC Could Hinder Progress Considerably: Why Romans 16:17 is a Local Church Matter

Today, the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention begins in the city of Dallas, Texas. Contrary to popular belief, the SBC is really only in existence, in technical terms, for two days each year during the annual meeting that assembles to take care of the business and organize the ministry partnerships of the Convention.

Leading up to the 2018 meeting, there have been a number of considerable controversies that have caused people to pause and ask honest questions about the health of the SBC. Add that to a presidential election season of politics in SBC circles and there is no shortage of things to pray about and to think through.

The two candidates for the office of president are Ken Hemphill and J.D. Greear. Both are well known men who have served in SBC circles for many years. In a recent Facebook live video, J.D. Greear addressed some of these controversial issues and called the members of the SBC to prayer. In this video, he said several things that I can’t affirm convictionally nor theologically, however, one thing stood out to me in a statement that he made. He encouraged members of the SBC to:

Mark those among us of a divisive spirit who seek to create division in our denomination over secondary and territary things…and keep away from them.

On the surface it sounds good, because who wants to promote division among a group of believers seeking to accomplish the Lord’s work? However, upon closer examination, two things are concerning about Greear’s statement.

Romans 16:17 Is Not About the SBC

When Paul was writing the letter to the church in the city of Rome, he was addressing theological beliefs among other issues pertaining to the local church itself. Therefore, to appeal to the apostle’s words regarding the need for unity within the SBC in a general sense is to miss the point. While we do want to strive for unity among our brothers and sisters (and sister churches), the issue for Paul was the type of division that comes into the local church itself as it pertains to the gospel of Christ. It’s very much possible for people in the SBC to be divided over some secondary issues while laboring earnestly to point people to Jesus Christ collectively.

We must be careful when interpreting the Bible so that we do not apply texts that are addressing the life of the local church to a collective group of churches known as the Southern Baptist Convention. If you know anything about the SBC, it’s a rather large tent that involves people who are both Arminian and Calvinistic, single church model and multi-campus, pre-millenial and almost all other stripes of eschatology, single pastor and a plurality of elders, and the list goes on and on. Therefore, it’s difficult to have complete unity on all issues in the SBC and I don’t believe that we’re in sin when we have differences that prevent us from serving together in the same local church.

In fact, sometimes the willingness to have differences among us is a good thing. Building walls to prevent people from critiquing differing opinions and positions in the SBC may in fact be a dangerous model to adopt moving forward. The leaders of the SBC can’t expect members of the SBC to follow them in the same way that members would follow their elders in the local church context. That’s why I believe that such passages like Romans 16:17 should be interpreted in light of the apostle’s commitment to the local church rather than a convention model.

Romans 16:17 Is Condemning Division on the Gospel—Not Secondary Issues

When Paul writes these words to the church in Rome, he is laboring to protect the unity of the local church on the purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was not speaking primarly about secondary issues. To suggest that people who provide an open voice of critique in the life of the SBC (on secondary issues) are “trouble makers” who should be marked out and avoided is a very dangerous posture of leadership. We certainly don’t want to deconstruct our current hierarchy and reconstruct an evangelical Vatican City.

The fact that Greear has made such a statement leading up to this vitally important SBC in Dallas should cause us to pause and ask an honest question. Do we have people in the SBC who are laboring to preach another gospel other than the gospel of Jesus? Do we have many voices who are offering up criticism regarding issues on matters of social justice, identity politics, critical race theory, intersectionality, complementarianism, and other practical and theological matters? I think the latter scenario describes our current landscape in SBC circles rather than the former. So, what exactly did J.D. Greear intend by his statement? William Hendriksen writes, “Therefore Paul urges the brothers (on which see 1:13, p. 52; 7:1, pp. 214, 215) to avoidthese dissenters altogether. He knew that the possibility that some of the members might otherwise have lost their bearings was real, especially in view of the clever methods employed by the propagandizers.” [1]

What Paul was arguing for was unity on the gospel and that if anyone comes along and seeks to teach a gospel that is contrary to the pure gospel of King Jesus—such a person should be marked out as a hertetic and avoided. To mark those who criticize leadership decisions in the SBC as heretics is to butcher the apostle’s original intent and to miss the mark completely. Furthermore, such a posture harms the character of people in the Convention that we should otherwise be seeking unity with in the midst of diversity.

In closing, I would like to say that while I don’t know J.D. Greear personally, I find him to be a strong leader, a gifted speaker, and a man who will, in my estimation, be elected today by the messengers of the SBC as the next president by a large majority vote. It is not my goal to assume false motives regarding his recent tweets or his Facebook live video. However, I do disagree and I think we should be free to do so in a constructive manner. When elected as president, I will pray for J.D. Greear and will seek to work within the SBC structure as a unifying voice as much as possible for the glory of God.

I would urge the members of the SBC to keep an open dialogue when approaching big change and big pendulum swinging decisions. Avoid the monologue narrative of back door politics and be willing to listen to those who may not agree with your position. Seek to understand their positions and think through their ideas. Don’t build up walls and move people aside as a marked trouble maker who disagrees with you on secondary matters. However, when someone comes along and preaches another gospel other than the true gospel of Jesus, mark out such a person, avoid them, even if it’s an angel from heaven—and let that one be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9).

Romans 1:17-20 — I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. [18] For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. [19] For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. [20] The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


  1. William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, vol. 12–13, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 510.

 

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 3)

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 3)

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.

In part one of this series (https://bit.ly/2Jkn386), I addressed how the recent revelations of the mistreatment of women within the SBC has led to a call for their “empowerment.” It has been proposed that women should be placed in the highest positions of denominational leadership – including the office of president.

In part two, (https://bit.ly/2JtPwEz), I examined the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-13 as the foundation for complementarianism. This passage clearly commands that a woman is not to teach nor exercise authority over men. Paul bases his prohibition not upon the cultural distinctives of his day, but upon God’s created order in Genesis 2:15-18. Therefore, Paul was establishing leadership in the church upon theological truth. Furthermore, I argued this same model should be followed in the SBC leadership structure as it has throughout its history. If a woman is not permitted to preach and lead in one church, it makes no sense to place her in that role in the gathering of thousands of those same churches.

That said, I am certain some will object to the timing of these posts. Why address the limitations of the role of women at a time when their marginalization, mistreatment, and even abuse has come to light? Should this not be reserved for another day?

I wish all I had to make clear was that I firmly believe that any abusive treatment of women is an abhorrent, ungodly, and a violation of God’s Word. I only chose to write these responses due to some using these circumstances as an opportunity to push the SBC towards an unbiblical position. Rather than react to these things, we need to rightly lead with the Scripture. We will not solve the wickedness of the abuse and domination of women by reversing God’s biblical design for the roles of men and women. In fact, that is what led to the domination of women in the first place.

Paul’s Example of the Fall in 1 Timothy 2:14-15

After Paul declares that a woman is not to teach or exercise authority over a man and grounds that prohibition in God’s created order, he points to the circumstances of the Fall to exemplify his point. “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim 2:14). Paul is not saying that women are more susceptible to deception than men. Neither Scripture nor experience would support that claim. Paul simply shows how God’s ordained design is exemplified in The Fall. It demonstrates what happens when we rebel against God’s created order. As Tom Schreiner writes, “In approaching Eve, then, the serpent subverted the pattern of male leadership… Adam was present throughout and did not intervene. The Genesis temptation, therefore, is a parable of what happens when male leadership is abrogated.” The details of the Genesis 3 account support this assertion.

God had placed Adam in the garden and entrusted him with the responsibility of its governance and with God’s word of command (Gen 2:15-17). Since Eve was created after this (Gen 2:18), it was clearly Adam’s responsibility to lead Eve and teach her God’s prohibition and its meaning. The story is clear about who is the leader and teacher at the point of creation. The setting at the end of chapter two is one of harmony and peace between Adam and Eve. “And the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed.”

A dramatic turn occurs as the serpent enters the storyline. He was “crafty” in his approach – bypassing Adam as the leader and going directly to Eve (Gen 3:1). Thus, the reversal of God’s created order began as the serpent questions Eve about God’s command. God’s prohibition was clear that they should not “eat” of the tree’s fruit (Gen 2:17), but Eve adds to it saying, “neither shall you touch it” (Gen 3:3). The text informs us that Adam was with her as this exchange took place (Gen 3:6). Therefore, Eve usurped the teaching role given to Adam, and he let her do so.

The serpent then challenges Eve’s garden homily and offers his own spin. He repudiates God’s Word as having authority over her, and challenges Eve to take her life into her own hands (Gen 3:5). With her new worldview, Eve took of the fruit and ate. However, she did not stop there. The text declares, “she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6). The reversal of roles was now complete. Eve rejected the Word of God, assumed the role of teacher of the new command to eat whatever you like, and exercised authority over her husband by directing him to eat.

At this point, it is critical to watch the development of the story. The Fall does not take place until the full reversal of roles is completed. After Eve becomes the teacher by rejecting God’s command in exchange for the serpent’s version, and after she takes authority by directing Adam to eat, “then the eyes of both were opened” (Gen 3:7). At this moment, God’s created order was fully rejected, the perfect world was compromised, and the earlier shameless state was ruined – “and they knew they were naked.” The previous condition was not destroyed until Adam forsook his God-given role and fully followed Eve’s lead.

Paul points to this story to teach what happens when we rebel against God’s created order. Eve’s failure to submit to Adam’s leadership in that moment is what led to her being deceived by the serpent (Gen 3:13). Adam’s failure to teach and lead his wife – choosing to listen to her voice (Gen 3:17) – brought about tragic results. The sin of reversing the roles that God designed led to the sinful battle of the sexes. Fallen women would persist in the desire to usurp the role given to men to lead and fallen men would respond with sinful domination over women (Gen 3:16). Therefore, it was the abdication of that godly, biblical, male leadership by Adam and the refusal to not learn in quiet submission by Eve that ultimately led to the domination of women.

Repeating the Mistakes of the Fall

Abandoning God’s created design for spiritual leadership will accomplish no more for women today than it did for Eve in the story recorded in Genesis. Men dominating women is a result of The Fall and can only be overcome by both men and women being transformed by the Gospel and returning to their God-given roles. We will not solve the problems of male domination by leading women to follow the pattern of Eve in The Fall. It would be foolish to think that the evil act of men abusing women will be overcome by once again twisting the clear commands of God. These sinful instincts are a result of The Fall not its cure. If we want men and women to flourish and desire to abolish the shame that sin has produced between the sexes, we need to return to God’s original order in creation.

Nonetheless, how should women be encouraged to think about the role God has given them in the church? The temptation may be to think that male leadership is somehow just another form of domination and offers no truly significant role to women. Lord willing, I will address that tomorrow in my final post.

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 2)

Will the Next SBC Resurgence Include a Redefining of Complementarianism? (Part 2)

This is a guest post by Pastor Tom Buck. Tom Buck is Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas. He holds a BA in Pastoral Ministries and New Testament Greek from the Moody Bible Institute, a ThM in Bible Exposition from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is presently completing his doctoral work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Tom previously served for 12 years as the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Fellowship in Florida. He has been at First Baptist Church since 2006.

A Call to Empower Women

Some are calling for a resurgence in the SBC that leads to the “empowerment” and placement of women in the highest positions of denominational leadership – including office of president (https://bit.ly/2Jkn386). SBC presidents are viewed as leaders of the denomination and regularly preach during their tenure. Therefore, I have claimed a woman holding this office would violate 1 Timothy 2:12 that forbids a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. I have encountered two primary arguments to this objection.

First, it is said the SBC President is not inherently powerful and would not exercise any real authority. That is an odd response since the recommendation is for the purpose of “empowering” women. Surely the empowerment of women is not electing them to meaningless, powerless, positions that are devoid of any authority. Furthermore, whether some view the office as authoritative or not, it is certain that most within the SBC and the watching world will view it as such.

Second, those who want to limit the scope of complementarianism argue that the Scriptures only prohibit women from teaching or exercising authority over men in the local church. Before addressing that argument, the biblical text should be examined.

Complementarianism as Taught in 1 Timothy 2:11-15

These five verses should be interpreted in the larger context of 2:8-15 where Paul addresses gender roles in the church followed by the specific leadership qualities for elders and deacons (3:1-13). In 2:8-15, Paul gives distinct instructions for men and women. Particularly, in verses 11-15, he explains the role of women regarding the teaching and leadership in the church.

In verse eleven, Paul begins with a positive command saying, “let a woman learn.” This statement would have shattered ancient conventional stereotypes. In that culture, women were widely believed to be academically inferior. Yet, before Paul makes any prohibition, he writes words of liberation. A woman should learn. As an image bearer of God, she is to be a student of God’s Word. However, there is to be a demeanor in the way she is to learn – “quietly with all submissiveness” – and a limitation to her role. Spiritual equality does not eliminate God’s designed roles. As Paul prepares to give the qualifications for those who will teach doctrine and be spiritual leaders in the church, he first establishes the role is not designed for women.

If a woman is to learn quietly and submissively, she must not assume the position of teaching nor take authority in the church over men. Therefore, Paul gives this clear prohibition, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet.” The qualified men of the church are responsible before God for what is taught in the church and its governance.

Paul’s reasoning behind this prohibition is explained in 2:13-14. He grounds the ordering of the teaching and authority in the church upon the order of creation. Simply put, God created Adam before Eve. This was God’s plan and was not a divine afterthought, and Paul viewed it with theological meaning. Therefore, he was not choosing roles for men and women, nor basing it upon human opinion, nor adapting to his culture. God created man first and gave him responsibility over the garden and moral pattern for life in the garden (Gen 2:15-17). Then God created woman as his helper to carry out that responsibility (Gen 2:18). Therefore, men have been given the God-given role of teaching and governance in the church just as Adam was given that role at creation. As William D. Mounce writes, “Paul is prohibiting two separate events: teaching and acting in authority… Paul does not want women to be in positions of authority in the church; teaching is one way in which authority is exercised in the church.” [1]

One may argue Paul’s words are obsolete or patriarchal privilege that should be thrown upon the ash heap of history, but his words are not vague. I agree with Josh Buice who wrote, “While women are permitted to discuss biblical theology in a mixed group setting such as a Sunday school class, women teaching children or other women (Titus 2), or in a private setting such as with Apollos’ instruction that was gleaned from meeting with Priscilla and Aquila—biblical teaching, when among the church as a whole or a mixed audience should be led by men.” However, should this be limited only to a local church or does it have broader application?

Is the Prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 Limited to the Local Church?

Some argue this command does not prohibit a woman from teaching Scripture publicly to men or serving in positions of authority over men at a denominational level. These commands – so the argument goes – are for the local church, and the SBC is not a local church.

However, SBC presidents are regularly invited to preach in local churches. Therefore, the messengers in voting for a woman for this role would, by that very act, facilitate her preaching in a Sunday morning worship service in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12. Beth Moore has already preached in several churches, so her election would make that inevitable.

Furthermore, the president preaches a sermon each year at the convention. J.D. Greear believes a woman can teach men even in a Sunday morning service, [2] so it is possible a woman will preach at the convention if he is elected president. Even if one views a convention sermon as different than one in a local church, the convention is a gathering of local churches. Therefore, how does it make sense that a woman could not preach to one local church, but could preach to thousands of local churches attending the convention?

It seems beyond common reason that a denomination comprised of local churches who partner together for the spread of God’s Word around the world would desire a model of teaching and leadership different from God’s design for the local church. To limit the application of 1 Tim 2:12 to the local church – at the exclusion of the denomination – seems absurd. I cannot imagine that Paul would have told Timothy that only men should preach and lead the church in Ephesus, but if Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae formed a cooperation to reach the world for Christ that any form of leadership would do.

If we pattern our convention after the leadership models of this world, we should not be surprised when the rest of the world’s philosophies flow right into our ranks. More importantly, if the SBC goes down this path, it will follow in the footsteps of every other liberal denomination and should expect the exact same results. I feel certain that what is allowed on the denominational level will eventually creep into the local churches.

But, wait, it might be argued. Will this view not perpetuate the problem of men dominating women? While the domination of women is abhorrent and must be addressed, the answer is not to empower women to places of authority that violate God’s created design. In fact, that is what led to the domination of women in the first place. Lord willing, I will address that tomorrow.


  1. William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary: Pastoral Epistles(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 130.
  2. ]https://jdgreear.com/blog/can-women-teach-in-the-church/