Recently, I had the privilege to watch the new documentary Spirit & Truth and I want to explain why you should take time to watch it yourself.
The Necessity of Worship
As followers of Christ, we are called to worship God. Worship is not something that’s optional. God has created us as beings who will worship God or something else. When we pause to consider the necessity of worship—that God has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light for the very purpose of worshipping him—we then begin the journey of a life of worship. Psalm 100:3 says, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” As sheep of his pasture, we are there for him—to serve him and to magnify him. Our call to worship God is seen clearly in the scene when John fell down before an angel in a posture of worship, and the angel corrected him – telling him to worship God.
I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9).
The Confusion of Worship
In our modern day, the concept of worship has been skewed and confused from the way in which God originally designed it. It’s not just modernity that has caused the problems, even in ancient times, the human heart has always had a propensity to worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). We see it with Aaron and the Israelites who fashioned a golden calf in order to worship God (Ex. 32). We see it with Nadab and Abihu who offered up strange fire to God (Lev. 10). We see it with the church at Corinth who perverted the Lord’s table resulting in the judgment of God (1 Cor. 11).
Today, much of what is called worship isn’t really worship at all. If anything, it’s the honor of selfish desires and cravings rather than the honor of God. We see this in the way modern worship services are designed, the elements of the services, and most critically in what is often missing in the “worship” services of many local churches each week.
The Excellence of the Documentary
Les Lanphere does a great job in this documentary. From the way the storyline develops through a series of interviews—the lesson of biblical worship is communicated clearly from the pages of the Bible.
The way in which modern motion graphics are employed in the film is not a distraction, but a major addition to the way the story unfolds and the way the truth of biblical worship is taught.
I was interviewed for this film and enjoyed talking with Les Lanphere. Perhaps one criticism would be that there were not enough Baptists interviewed for the film, but the truth of the text of Scripture was certainly presented well and that’s the reason I encourage you to watch it and share it with your friends.
Questions to consider as you watch the film:
What is family worship?
What’s the goal of family worship?
Why we do organize the worship service the way we do each week?
Who or what should regulate the weekly worship service?
If we don’t sing Psalms, why not?
What are the ordinary means of grace?
Should the church be looking to the people to see what they want or should the church be looking to God to see what he wants when it comes to worship?
In 1966 John Lennon of the famous band the Beatles, made a very controversial statement that was published in a London newspaper and eventually caused a great deal of controversy around the world. He said:
“Christianity will go,” he had said. “It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I know I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock & roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”
John Lennon had an elevated opinion of himself and unfortunately, an improper view of God, his Church, and the truth of the gospel. This left him believing that God’s gospel would somehow fade off into the sunset just as multitudes of pagan myths and godless ideologies have throughout history. However, for Christianity to die, God would have to die. For Christianity to vanish, truth would have to vanish. That’s simply not going to happen.
Jesus and His Church Will Never Be Overcome By Death
In Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 16), we find the first mention of the church in the New Testament. Jesus asked his disciples a very important question about his identity. He wanted to know what the word on the street was about his identity, and then he moved to ask this question, “But who do you say that I am” (Matt. 16:15)? Peter spoke up without hesitation to say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16).
At this point, we find Peter pointing out that God is the “living God” as opposed to some dead and lifeless idol. The most common sin that Scripture seems to point out is that of idolatry. It can come in so many different forms from a golden calf to money to self-idolatry. Yet, just as Paul pointed out to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:14-16, the temple of Diana (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) was a temple of dead and lifeless idols, but the church is dedicated to the living God.
Consider the reality that all through history, religious leaders come and go, but God is very much alive. The climax of that truth is made visible in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The whole world is full of dead idols and graves full of dead men who purported to be the religious guru that people needed to follow. However, to this day, they are dead. This is true of ancient idols such as Diana, Caesar, Pharaoh, and more modern types such as Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, and Mary Baker Eddy.
Jesus went on to make the powerful statement, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Not only is God living, but so is his church. It will not fail. It will not vanish. It will not go out of business. It will not fade off into the sunset, because God’s church exists for the glory of God who will never be overcome by death.
God’s Word Will Never Vanish
In Psalm 119:89, the psalmist writes, “O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” God’s truth will never vanish. In fact, in 1 Timothy 3:14-16, we find Paul instructing Timothy regarding the mission of the church in this world. It is the calling of the church to be the pillar and buttress of the truth.
In Ephesus, a massive structure stood at the center of the city. In many ways, the entire city revolved around the Temple of Diana. It was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. The massive temple structure stood 425 ft. long and 225 ft. wide which was double the size of other temples of the ancient world. It was surrounded and supported by 127 columns which were 18.3 60 ft. high and 4 ft. in diameter. The columns were arranged in a double row on all four sides, 8 or 9 on the short sides and 20 or 21 on the long sides. The columns on the facades were decorated with relief figures from Greek mythology.
When Paul made his statement to Timothy about the church being the pillar and buttress of truth, he had an immediate vision of the vast pillars from the temple in Ephesus that was holding up the massive marble ceiling structure. It is the responsibility of the church—not the academy, the seminary, the Bible college—to uphold the truth of the living God. The church serves as the pillar to uphold the truth and the buttress to establish the foundation’s strength which enables the truth to be held high.
While temples fall and idols crumble into dust—God never dies and his truth remains. Today, John Lennon is merely a blast from the past, but Jesus is here to stay. Unlike John Lennon, when Jesus was murdered, he rose from the dead on the third day. His Word is true and there will never be a day in human history where Jesus is forgotten. His church will be present and his name exalted high until the day in which Christ returns. Today, people have largely forgotten John Lennon, but Christ and his Word is very much known among the nations of the world.
Don’t be like John Lennon and have an elevated opinion of yourself and a diminished view of God. When you die or when Christ returns, which ever event comes first, you will know on that day that Christ is the center of the whole universe. Worship him!
When we hear the term reformation we automatically have visions of an Augustinian monk marching to the large Castle Church door in Wittenberg with hammer in hand to nail his Ninety Five Theses there on October 31st 1517. However, there’s more to the Reformation than that one event and there’s an ongoing work of Reformation in our day. The weekly responsibilities of a pastor involves reforming the church. That’s what we see in Paul’s letter to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:14-16.
The Church and Cultural Trends
There are dangerous ditches to fall into within the church. One ditch is the ditch of tradition where a church member resists any idea of change simply because he has never done it that way before. Another ditch to avoid is that of constantly changing in order to accommodate the changing culture. There is steady cultural breeze that seeks to move the church off course. It may not seem like it’s too far off at first glance, but over time the distance becomes greater and the compromise becomes more severe.
The church is under a steady assault from the world. Everything from the message to the mission of the church is being influenced by the culture. If not properly guarded—the church will be deformed little by little. Very seldom does a false teacher walk in the front door and introduce himself as the devil’s agent sent to destroy the church. But, if the message of the church is not properly guarded—the deformation of truth will take place week by week until the gospel is veiled altogether.
This is the same pattern with regard to every aspect of the church—including the weekly worship service. That’s why there is a steady need for reformation in the life of the local church.
The Pastor and the Work of Reformation
The pastor of the church in Ephesus was Timothy. Paul wrote to him and gave clear instructions for him to reform the church’s behavior (1 Tim. 3:14-15). The term “behavior” comes from the Greek word, “ἀναστρέφω” meaning — “to conduct oneself in a specific manner.” It’s a reference to the functionality of the church.
Apparently, since Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, there is reason to believe that something was off. It could be an indicator of some sort of compromise with personal relationships or within public worship—and both areas matter much to God.
The pastor’s role as an overseer is to guard the church’s behavior. Interpersonal relationships matter as the church is called to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Likewise, weekly worship must be orderly and arranged in such a manner as to bring glory to God. When the weekly worship is filled with man-centered elements from pragmatic arrangements to entertainment focused services—the gathering ceases to honor God and in some cases ceases to be a church altogether.
Rather than entertaining the church, the pastor is to reprove, rebuke, and bring correction according to the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Both personal relationships and public worship are to be regulated by the Word of God. The Scriptures are sufficient to guide us in friendships and the worship of God. It is the Word of God that provides boundaries for God’s people and it is the responsibility of the pastor to regulate the church for God’s glory. Such red lights and green lights help us to see the path of righteousness and the cultural errors which enables us to walk in obedience among the household of God.
Not only was this true in the days of ancient Ephesus, but it remains true for us today. When we hear of consumerism invading the church whereby people pack up their bags and move churches over simple disagreements, larger playgrounds at a church down the street, or because their grandchild decided to attend another church three miles from their current church—we’re reminded of the need to understand proper behavior among the church. When we see pastors entering the pulpit on zip lines and rock bands leading the people into a frenzy through secular music—we are reminded of the need for faithful pastors to guard the church and to regulate the church’s behavior both in relationships and worship in order to avoid error and glorify God.
Pray for your pastors. Pray that they will not be swept away by the winds of compromise. Pray for them as they seek to engage in tedious work of reforming the church that the culture has sought to deform over time.
The phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church reformed, always reforming) is the call of the church as a whole and it begins with those who are called to lead.
If you attend many evangelical churches in America, you are likely to see the entire church worship center arranged around a stage for a band so that the people can see the show that happens on a weekly basis. At North Point Community Church in Atlanta where Andy Stanley serves as pastor, it’s common to hear their band lead the people in songs such as “Free Bird” as they did back in 2013 or like the parody they performed near the end of the Christmas season in 2016. What a tragedy to for people to confuse such performances with worship. It seems that the light of the gospel has gone out completely in many evangelical settings.
This past Lord’s Day, I went to worship at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the heart of London, and I was not entertained. The entire service was quite simple. Upon arrival, the deacons provided a warm greeting at the door and handed us a Bible for the service. As we took our seats, there was a board on the wall with numbers on it which directed our attention to the hymns that we would be singing. There was no music minister leading the congregation, no large expansive choir, no praise band, no screens with moving images, no smoke machines to add dramatic effect, no colored lights, no jokes were employed in the sermon, and nothing that seemed to be remotely designed to entertain the crowd.
And yes, there was a crowd. It was already dark by 6:30pm on Sunday evening, but the church was filled with people. They were ready for the moment when the pastor would take the pulpit. He came to open with prayer and Scripture reading, and then he directed us to open our hymnals to the first hymn where he then led us as we stood to our feet and worshipped God through song. There would be multiple hymns and Scripture readings before the sermon was delivered.
From an American context, it was quite simple. Some would perhaps even consider it quite boring in terms of a worship service when compared to our American evangelical worship context. When you talk to people about why they chose a specific church, far too often they talk about a specific program the church offers them or their children, the choir of the church, or how the “worship” makes them feel. Tragically, the once bright light of the gospel that exploded during the days of the Reformation is being greatly dimmed—and in some cases snuffed out altogether.
In many American church contexts, the lights are being turned off in the worship center so that people can have their eyes focused upon the stage. Rather than the sermon being central, now it’s the show. The show can find various forms from full rock concerts to self-help talks geared to make people feel a certain way. Doctrine has been overshadowed by drama and theology has been swapped for the trickery of pragmatic church growth schemes.
If we traveled back in time to the days prior to the Reformation, we would find the people starving to death spiritually and led by false shepherds to embrace the Roman Catholic Mass as the center of fellowship and worship of God. The false doctrine of transubstantiation loomed over the people.
As we move through the Reformation, the table was no longer central. The pulpit became central as the Word of God was brought to the people and the people were brought to the Word. The worship of God had been deformed and God raised up men who would lead people back to the Bible which would reform the worship practices of God’s people.
The Reformation was a rediscovery of God’s Word and an explosion of light and life. If you were to travel to Geneva and walk into St. Pierre’s Cathedral, you would find these words on the wall just behind the pulpit where Calvin thundered the Word: post tenebras lux—which means, after darkness light.
Tragically, Europe has fallen back into the abyss of darkness. Many of the once brightest churches and pulpits of the Reformation are now art galleries, museums, and coffee shops. Rather than worship centers, such campuses now serve as community centers.
As the gates of hell continue their assault upon God’s Church—we must not fall prey to the scandals, schemes, and cultural pressures. God desires to be worshipped and we must gather together for that purpose. Worship should be God centered rather than man centered. When a church comes to understand that reality—it will revolutionize their approach to worship and ministry. The holiness of God remains central and man’s dependence upon him is what drives the church’s worship through the blood of Christ.
Charles Spurgeon never attempted to entertain people in his day. In fact, regarding preaching, he said the following:
Avoid a sugared Gospel as you would shun sugar of lead. Seek that Gospel which rips up and tears and cuts and wounds and hacks and even kills, for that is the Gospel that makes alive again. And when you have found it, give good heed to it. Let it enter into your inmost being. As the rain soaks into the ground, so pray the Lord to let his Gospel soak into your soul. 
I’m grateful that London still has a church (among a few others as well) who are not organizing entertainment centers in order to put on a show for their community. Instead, they are providing the ordinary means of grace on a weekly basis where God’s people are spiritually nourished and encouraged to worship God.
The next time you think about your worship service, before you complain about it being boring or dull or stale—before you embrace the false idea that your church needs to do something other than the ordinary means of grace to attract the community—just remember that one of the most successful worship services is one that leaves you feeling as if you were not entertained in the slightest degree.
If you’ve been a member within a local church for any length of time, you know that being engaged with a church family has both highs and lows associated with it—much like your nuclear family.
This past week, as we gathered for our quarterly membership meeting, we reviewed items of business and heard from various pastors within our church on ministry reports and important service opportunities that are approaching on the horizon.
What came next were two conclusive church votes, one resulted in joy while the other resulted in sorrow, yet both brought about tears.
When I mention congregational voting, some people immediately have vivid images of churches slugging it out over the color of carpet, paint, or the increased budget line item of church supplies to cover more goldfish snacks for the nursery. If that’s your idea of congregationalism—you’ve missed it.
When we read in Matthew 16, we hear the words of Jesus addressing an idea of church leadership responsibility as he references the “keys” of authority. Notice what Jesus said:
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19).
Jesus later hands over the keys to the church, as we read in Matthew 18:15-20:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matt. 18:15-20).
Notice in the first instance, he is speaking to the apostles. In the latter reference to keys, he is addressing the church. There is no reference to the office of elder or even apostles in the context of church discipline—hence the reason to call it “church” discipline rather than “pastor” discipline or “eldership” discipline. The responsibility of excommunication in the final stage of church discipline rests on the church as a whole.
Elders are called to lead in both oversight, shepherding, and visionary items, but the church has a responsibility by means of a covenant to care for one another and ultimately guard the church’s confession (doctrine) and membership (vote to receive members and excommunicate members). While the church can give over day-to-day operation decisions to the elders, there is still a responsibility of the church to guard and watch—often involving the non-authoritative deacon office to help manage the business of the church.
Vote to Send
This past Sunday, we heard the testimony of one of our pastors—David Crowe—regarding his heart to engage with a church plant that began last year in a nearby town. We have connections to this church through this brother, and we have prayed for this church work since it began. After bringing his desire to us as elders about six weeks ago and after prayer and discussion—we as elders gave our blessing on his desire to proceed forward.
A few weeks ago, in a prayer service with our church family on a Sunday evening, he made his desire known to the church family. After hearing a full report and rationale, we prayed for his family and our church that evening with the knowledge that one month later we would gather for the purpose of voting as a church to send he, his wife, and two little boys out from our church to engage in the work of church planting.
As we gathered together—we heard a summary report once again regarding the rationale, and then I led the church to vote. The vote was unanimous to send him out. As we raised our hands together as a church, in one sense we were voting to remove him from our church family—effective in January of 2020. It was a joyful release, one that we can celebrate together, yet one that brings about tears. David Crowe is a good brother, a strong asset on our pastoral staff, and he will be greatly missed. Church planting is not about sending people out from your church that you will not miss the week they’re gone, but it’s about sending out your best. In this case, while it was a joyful vote—it resulted in tears. The tears were both tears of joy and sadness.
Vote of Excommunication
As the meeting came to an end, as always, we have a line item on our agenda that reads, church discipline. Even when we are not engaging in any official church disciplinary situations, it remains as a fixed line item to remind our church family that we do practice church discipline—as directed by our Lord in Matthew 18:15-20.
As I moderated the meeting, I brought a full report regarding a specific member. His name was presented, although he was not present. His wife was present as our church gathered for the purpose of hearing the final summary of how we’ve arrived at this juncture. Through multiple private confrontations in specific connection with the biblical text, this man was warned, rebuked, and called to repentance—privately, with witnesses, and finally in our last membership meeting—he was presented before the church.
After giving the church an opportunity to do the work of the church and after giving him a few months to hear the church plead with him to repent through text messages, letters, phone calls, and personal meetings—we had to assemble for a conclusive vote. After a time of consideration and an opportunity to vote together as a church—I called for the church to vote. The church raised hands in another unanimous vote. It was not a joyful vote as was the previous one. It resulted in many tears.
We did not vote to excommunicate this man in order to smear his name. We had no sinful motives when we raised our hand. What we were doing was out of a broken heart—one where we had to agree that we have a lack of confidence in the genuineness of his conversion based on a perpetual pattern of unbroken sin. As Paul directed the church at Corinth regarding the man caught in sexual sin, we had to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 5:5). We voted to remove him as a member in order to guard the church’s purity and to continue to plead with the man to repent.
As members of all ages (some new members and some members who have been within our church for many years), we voted on two very specific membership items—they were polar opposites in many ways—one was joyful and the other sorrowful, yet they both resulted in a weeping church. A church must be willing to take the responsibility to send members out for purposes of church planting and to sever ties with members who persist in sin.
May the Lord do his work through both situations and may the Lord be glorified in both situations.
One of the great tragedies of our day has been parade of testimonies of women who have been abused by men within the corporate world, the political world, and yes, even within the Church. These women bear deep wounds as a result of sexual assault, rape, and various other forms of sexual misconduct. Sadly, in some cases, the wounds are inflicted upon girls—who shouldn’t be forced to deal with the horror of such sin. Such men are monsters and deserve to be punished for their crimes. This parade has been long and dark.
Another tragedy has been the confusion that has surrounded this parade. The confusion has erupted, not as a result of an unwillingness to address the problem, but on the basis of how the problem should be addressed. Such controversy has arisen within evangelical circles as social justicians are suggesting that the answer is activism, deconstruction of power structures, and a redefining of key doctrines like complementarainism. This tragedy will only worsen if we continue to take out our frustrations upon complementarianism.
What Is Complementarianism?
At this juncture, we need clear definitions and we need to be sure that throughout this controversy within evangelicalism that we’re working from the same dictionary. It serves little purpose to have an honest conversation without working from the same set of terms.
While The Danvers Statement (1987) deals with the issues of complementarity, it’s not as robust as many would prefer. Bruce Ware has provided a helpful distinction between complementarianism and egalitarianism on the CBMW.org website. In order to discuss these issues, a couple of definitions and distinctions are necessary.
First of all, when discussing the issues of complementarianism, we are referring to the English word complement not compliment.
Complement is defined as “a thing that completes or brings to perfection.” The other word, compliment although similar in spelling, refers to “a polite expression of praise or adoration.” Eve did not speak praises to Adam, but she did complete him as his helper and mate. Eve’s presence drove away Adam’s loneliness, as God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).
Complementarianism = Both men and women were created equal in value and dignity as image bearers of God, but although equal, God has sovereignly designed specific roles and responsibilities for men and women that are distinct, unique, and both are for the glory of God.
Egalitarianism = Both men and women were created equal in value and dignity as image bearers of God, and since they are both equal, women should be free to do what men do, serve where men serve, and exercise her gifts right alongside men in the spheres of society, home, and the Church.
Within the complementarianism camp, there are a couple of different positions:
Narrow = The idea that women have distinct roles that differ from men in a narrowly focused area of the home and narrowly focused in relation to the office of elder within the church, however, women should be allowed to exercise her teaching gifts alongside men in the local church and beyond so long as she is not ordained to the teaching and shepherding office of elder.
Broad = The idea that women have distinct roles and such roles and boundaries are not oppressive nor discriminatory. They are for her good and the glory of God as put on display in a broad sphere including the home, the church, and the society as a whole. Such boundaries in the church would prevent her from ordination to the office of elder as well as the function of preaching and teaching the Word to a mixed audience in the local church and beyond—because of the biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12-13.
As you can see, evangelicals disagree on these matters—some of which derail completely into the world of what has become termed evangelical egalitarianism (which some would argue is not evangelical at all). So, as always, words matter as does our theology.
How Is Complementarianism Under Assault?
The issue here is not centered on worth or value or even the dignity of women. The issue is centered upon what women can—or in some cases, can’t do. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 would fall into the narrow complementarian camp as 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.” In other words, it simply doesn’t go far enough on these issues.
Some popular voices and leaders within evangelicalism are suggesting that by raising women to the highest levels of denominational levels and appointing them to teaching and administrative roles at the seminary and denominational level—that this will reverse the curse regarding the sexual abuse crisis regarding women within the Church. Does this make sense?
In other words, the very clear teaching of complementarianism is being assaulted in order to help prevent women from being assaulted. Consider what Beth Moore said to a cheering audience in Dallas recently at the ERLC’s Caring Well conference:
In much of our world, complementarian theology has been conflated with inerrancy. Case in point: Notice how often our world charges or dismisses egalitarians by saying they have a low view of Scritpure. Because unless you think like us about complementarian theology they do not honor the Word of God.
It seems clear that Beth Moore has an agenda. While she admitted that it wasn’t the fault of complementarian theology, but rather a sin problem that precipitated the sexual abuse scandal, she goes on to open the gates wide to egalitarians on the basis that abused women need other women to turn to within the ranks of SBC churches and seminaries. She went on to say:
Far too many SBC congregations and SBC seminaries so few women are in any visible area of leadership that when women who are being abused by the system itself, or within it, by people who are in places of power, don’t even have a female to turn to. They don’t even know where to go.
Notice the language that she carefully and with great intentionality employs. She points to a system (to imply that it’s corrupt). She points to people of power (to suggest that our current system needs to be deconstructed) and she points to the lack of female leaders (to suggest that we need to raise women up to such levels of leadership). Then in a striking move, she points out that abused women don’t have any women to turn to!
Is the problem male predators or the lack of women leaders? It seems that Beth Moore, like many others, is missing the mark. She is conflating two different issues and drawing misguided conclusions that place a bullseye upon the doctrine of complementarianism.
Male headship is not a product of the fall. It’s an aspect of God’s blueprint for his people that predates the fall. When we examine the creation account, we see that Adam was created first and then Eve. It was Adam who was given charge of naming all of the animals (Gen. 2:20) and Adam likewise named Eve—his wife (Gen. 2:23). Adam was given charge to work (another responsibility of man that predates the fall). Adam’s headship was God’s plan and we find the commentary on this in various places in the New Testament—such as Ephesians 5:31 where Paul quotes Genesis 2:24 as he describes the mysterious relationship between Christ and his bride the Church. In that passage, Paul drives home the responsibility of the husband to love and lead his wife. Once again, this is not a post-fall responsibility—it predates the fall.
How Is This an Assault upon the Church?
First of all, when complementarianism is attacked, we should see it as an assault upon biblical truth. So, a move away from complementarianism is a move away from the Bible. That’s always dangerous. If we truly care for the little girls and the women within evangelical circles, wouldn’t we want to cling tightly to the text of Scripture instead of promoting a road that’s filled with dangerous potholes that ends in utter disaster? The egalitarian road is unbiblical and harmful to women in the sense that it asks women to do what God never designed them to do. Such burdens are harmful. One of the worst ways to harm the little girls and the women within the Church is to lead them down a path that is simply put—unbiblical.
Secondly, to assault complementarianism and to suggest that people who are committed to a firm (broad) complementarian position are to blame for harming women is to charge God with sin. Who is ultimately responsible for complementarian theology? It’s God’s theology! God created male and female and he created them differently. One of the aspects of God’s good design from the beginning is the way Eve complemented Adam in her differences that were used to be a help to her husband.
God’s design in a broad complementarianism glorifies him with this radiant imagery that points to the relationship between Christ and his bride—the Church (see Ephesians 5 and the idea of headship put on display clearly). To suggest that it’s somehow the catalyst of sexual misconduct, abuse of power, and the assault of women is to charge God with sin. To which Paul, when teaching the hard truths about the doctrine of election, stated pointedly, “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God” (Rom. 9:20)?
We are dealing with ultra sensitive matters at this juncture in this controversial debate. Not only must we use logic, we must be firmly committed to careful biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. In the process, we must come to conclusions on these matters pertaining to sexual abuse scandals, complementarianism, egalitarianism, and leadership boundaries through a God honoring handling of the Bible rather than emotionalism or pragmatism.
To Beth Moore’s point, I would ask an honest question. When she states that abused women in “the system” have no women to turn to, I would ask—why not? Do they not have a local church to turn to? Do they not have faithful women within their local church to care for them? Do they not have biblical elders who desire to shepherd their souls? Have we minimized the importance of the local church?
In the case where false teachers and wolves have sought out victims within the context of a local church, while the abused women may not feel that they have any pastors to turn to (in the immediate context of their abuse within their local church), they will have women who will care for them within their church. Beyond that point, they will have the authorities to turn to (according to Romans 13) who have been instituted by God for the protection of the abused and the process of executing justice in our broken world. Such abusers and wolves should fear the sword.
Placing women into leadership positions will not solve this problem. The reason that assaulting complementarianism assaults the Church is because when people move away from a firm complementarian position—it leads the Church to embrace various forms of egalitarianism which will always be a step in the wrong direction.
Furthermore, it misses the real point altogether. Men who commit crimes of sexual assault and abuse their power with sexual advances and misconduct toward little girls and women within the Church are not true complementarians. They are wolves. Simply put, they are monsters who prey upon the weaker vessel to satisfy their own sinful desires. They do not represent true complementarian theology.
Complementarianism serves to protect women from home intruders and spiritual wolves, heretics, and false prophets. This is God’s plan for both the home, the local church, and the society as a whole. It is God’s design for spiritual men, led by the Spirit of God, would lead in both the physical and spiritual spheres.
We must make sure the whole wide world knows that abusive men are not overly passionate complementarians, zealous complementarians, or aggressive complementarians — they’re not complementarians at all. Such a man has abandoned his post as provider and protector resulting in the abuse of women, and in some tragic cases—little girls.
Stop assaulting God’s truth in order to press a political agenda fueled by social justice which is very sympathetic to the egalitarian position. Any assault upon complementarian theology is an assault upon God’s Church. In many ways, we can look at this theological distinction through a positive lens that focuses upon what women can do. Being equal in value and dignity as image bearers—women can do many things for God’s glory. In fact, women have a high calling within God’s creation. However, we must not view boundaries as a bad thing since such fences in Scripture (1 Timothy 2-3 and elsewhere such as Genesis 1-2 and Ephesians 5) serve for the care of God’s people, God’s Church, and to promote the glory of God.
Any evangelical group, including the Southern Baptist Convention, that desires to open the gates to any form of egalitarianism in the name of caring well for women who have been assaulted are doing nothing more than assaulting the very bride of Christ. Since God has not been silent on this in his Word—we must not sit back and remain silent on such a vitally important theological matter. God’s Church needs faithful men and women who will speak up and tell the truth about God’s good design for men and women—designed and created in both appearance and function for the glory of God.