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One of the more troubling trends I see in Christiandom is making what I understand to be secondary issues as primary doctrinal issues. Sometimes church leaders will say certain issues are “gospel” issues, that the whole gospel message depends on adhering to whatever bandwagon said church leader is on. This is what I believe is happening with the folks at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). They are making the complementarian issue to be of primary importance.
A side issue, but one that continually presses on my mind as I deal with people who have been harmed by abuse in church, is while the leaders of this group are putting so much emphasis on pushing their complementarian ideas, they are notably silent and ignoring the abuse issues with one of their own. Both fellow CBMW council member, C.J. Mahaney, President of Sovereign Grace Ministries and “Sovereign Grace Ministries” are named on the church abuse lawsuit, the largest evangelical case we’ve seen. (Please be sure to see recent articles on the SGM lawsuit at the bottom of this post). Do the CBMW folks not realize what kind of gospel witness they are when they fail to address this issue? The world is watching their silence and you can be sure this is not helping to convince the world of the gospel-saving message of Christ. Who wants to be part of a group who fails to protect defenseless children?
Going back to the complementarian topic, the gospel message is simple and clear and a child can understand the message. I do not believe the gospel message is about gender roles within a marriage, but these men appear to be making it so, causing this emphasis to become a distraction to me. Here is a screen shot taken last week of the CBMW home page showing highlight the word “roles” in their current articles/publications:
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As many know, I do not have my mind made up on this complementarian/egalitarian issue. Right now, I am unable to call myself “egalitarian,” yet, I am very confused by complementarianism, most likely influenced by negative feelings when I see church leaders who have been spending an exorbitant amount of time and energy pushing this topic, making it a primary doctrinal issue. This push makes me want to run from it. I don’t want to react based on my emotions, but respond within reason and using biblical discernment (is it okay to say discernment anymore? And is that a positive or negative connotation? – LOL)
I want to share a couple of interesting and thoughtful articles I have read recently. The first one is from a study of complementarian literature and the use of the word “role.” I, too, had been noticing the word “role” in the verbiage of the CBMW folks this past year and so the article, The Misuse of the Word “Role” really intrigued me. Here are a few paragraphs from the article:
Kevin Giles, a Biblical Theologian well known for his carefully researched books on Paul and Gender and the Trinity, has kindly authorized me to post his insightful study, “The word ‘role’ in complementarian literature”:
In post 1970s ‘complementarian’ literature the term ‘role’ plays a fundamental part. If honest communication is to take part between ‘complementarians’ and egalitarians the use of this word must be put on the table and carefully examined.
The word ‘role,’ taken from the French language, originally was used of a part an actor played on stage. It only became widely used in English after the Second World War when it became an important technical term in humanistic functional sociology. It is not a biblical word and the Bible knows nothing of people assuming differing ‘roles’ in a sociological sense. What is more, the word is not found in the theological tradition. If the word is to be introduced into theological discourse in reference to the man-woman and divine Father-Son relationships as a technical term it demands careful definition.
In dictionary usage and in sociological texts the word ‘role’ and its synonym, ‘function’ speak of routine behaviour or acts and so we ask for example, who in the home has the ‘role’ in the home of gardening, washing clothes, doing the shopping, managing the finances, etc? In contrast, in ‘complementarian literature the word ‘role’ has nothing to do with routine behaviour. Rather it speaks of authority, who rules over who. The man and God the Father have the ‘role’ or ‘function’ of leading (headship); the woman and the Son of God have the ‘role’ of obeying – and this can never change. What indelibly differentiates men and women and the Father and the Son is not what they distinctively do, their works, but rather who commands and who obeys. What this means is that for ‘complementarians’ the word ‘role’ is given a meaning not found in dictionaries or sociological texts. It would seem to be a word chosen because it sounds acceptable to the modern ear and obfuscates what is really being argued, namely that women are permanently subordinated to men, the divine Son to the Father.
This was very revealing to me when looking deeper into the meaning of “role.” The main difference between the complementarian vs egalitarian issue seems to be the hierarchal structure of complementarianism, the headship position of the husband over his wife. Egalitarians do not hold to a hierarchal structure within a marriage, but mutual submission. If we agree with Giles’ interpretation of the definition of “role,” it makes no sense to accept the hierarchal part the complementarians are adding to the definition of “role”.
The conclusion is obvious. To use the word ‘role’ in a way not given in any dictionary of sociological text, with the aim of obfuscating what is being said simply to further ones political agenda is inexcusable. To do this excludes the possibility of honest and open communication.
Giles touches on the behavior I find which discredits these folks. Let me give you an example. Kevin Swanson is a prominent church leader who has a strong opinion on birth control in how it relates with his doctrinal beliefs. His opinion on birth control is so strong that he went to extremes and told untruths publicly in a radio broadcast, failed to provide credible sources when asked, and then ignored repeated attempts to set things straight, yet quietly removed the radio broadcast from his website. Hmm, I wonder why? When someone uses fabrication in order to push their agenda, they lose credibility with me. Because of that, I will test what he says. Yes, I will be discerning. And because I have seen these CBMW guys say some things that I find to be extreme and questionable (including their failure to speak up about abuse as mentioned above), I will be discerning of their words as well. Hmm, I guess that makes me a discernment blogger. Oh well.
I admit that it seems like I am picking on complementarians. That is because their tweets are showing up in my Twitter feed (BTW, this is also part of the CBMW agenda, to infiltrate social media and I have a quote on that filed somewhere). To be fair, if you find questionable agenda from the egalitarian side, please send them to me. This is an equal opportunity blog 🙂 Let’s explore this topic from both sides.
It’s been a while since I’ve given SGM lawsuit updates. Here are some recent updates. By the way, if you follow me on Facebook, you will get a heads-up on some of these stories.
Peter Lumpkins has written an excellent article covering a few of the topics we have been discussing: church leaders who fail to speak out against abuse, Tim Challies, Sovereign Grace Ministries lawsuit. Trouble continues to mount for C.J. Mahaney and SGM:
Pardon me, but this is not about one brother sinning against another or a situation in which Christians who cannot agree, disagree agreeably even if it means going separate ways. Rather this is about judicial litigation alleging breach of public trust, covering up criminal behavior, and criminal behavior allegedly committed against the most vulnerable citizens of our society–little children. Over 140 legal complaints have been filed and more are reportedly coming. Already, this is the largest litigation of this kind against an evangelical organization in our lifetime. And, Challies wants to frame it as “disrupting unity” or like a disagreement on missions strategy leading to a split in missionary teams? Is this what Challies has in mind about “thinking biblically” about this situation?
JA stood up from her comfy couch and waved her white hanky in agreement: GO PETER!!!
Brent Detwiler reported in his article, New Information in Motions to Oppose Dismissal of Lawsuit, which includes potentially damaging information here:
John is necessarily under criminal investigation. The alleged physical and sexual abuse of a child compels an investigation by law enforcement. The ramifications are far reaching if John is found liable in a civil court and guilty in a criminal court. As a Board Member and Chairman, no one has done more to enable and promote C.J. John has repeatedly lied, deceived, and covered up for C.J. over the past 21 months.
There are numerous investigations of a similar nature being conducted that are unrelated to John’s alleged crimes. Arrests should follow and key leaders will be implicated in the cover up criminal activity. The arrest of Nate Morales on ten counts in December was the tip of the iceberg.
And finally, The Wartburg Watch has followed up with compiled highlights on former SGM pastor John Loftness and his SGM history and personal background in their article, A Closer Look at SGM’s John Loftness, including this very disturbing information:
We have learned from an extremely reliable source that John Loftness was present at the reconciliation meeting described in #78 and that his expectation was that the toddler would forgive her abuser. How sick is that? Shame on you John Loftness! Those words you wrote in Why Small Groups about ‘a good local church’ and ‘good families’ are a sham in light of how you traumatized a little three year old girl. How despicable!
I am so thankful for those discerning East Coast bloggers who dare to defend victims who have no voice. They do so at the risk of getting in the crosshairs of church leaders/bloggers who choose to remain silent and then whine about it.
And last, but not least, we have a response to yesterday’s blog post from reader, “scared” who penned this poem. I thought it deserved a little more front and center attention. Thank you, scared! You certainly seem brave to me!
Some sheep ain’t as dumb as you’d like them to be,
especially the wounded ones,
they have ears to hear & eyes to see.
Looks to me that someone got under your skin,
by shining the light on a abusers sin.
And it seems as clear as day,
that you are having a temper tantrum
and you want your way,
and any who disagrees hit the highway.
Well, I got some news that you are not going to like,
these bloggers you accuse are bringing SIN into the light.
They stand up for the wounded & expose certain leaders,
& some of us who have been abused are their faithful readers.
See, those of us who have been crushed by your friends
are becoming a small army due to these bloggers honest pens.
You can try & shut them up by scolding them with your words,
but what you don’t understand is these blogs are a safe place for victims to be heard.
And you just might want to take that log that is protruding out of your eye,
before you deal with the speck in them, because they stand up for the little guy.
Kinda like Jesus-duh.