Women in Ministry produces fear

Women in Ministry produces fear

Wade Burleson has produced a thought-provoking article about character assassination that comes as a result of fear.  Wade writes:

It is almost an axiom of human nature that when you disagree with one’s positions, are fearful of the effect your opponent may have on altering the big picture, you attack the character of the person you wish to defeat. Unfortunately, the art of character assassination in Christian circles is alive and well.

…when other people are being influenced to take a different position than your’s, it is tempting to attack the character of your opponent…

May all of us involved with political processess, whether they be national and secular, or denominational and religious, focus on the issues and leave the character attacks at home.

I agree whole-heartedly with what Wade is saying.  There is just too much focus on ad hominem (attacking the man) rather than addressing the argument.  Attacking the person and name calling are a sign of a weak argument.

How is this played out regarding women in ministry?  Those who are fearful of having women teaching doctrine in the church often use loaded language to put down the opposition.  While they refuse to call a brother in Christ who is a Calvinist or an Arminian, a heretic (and good for them for not dividing over this secondary issue), they have no qualms about calling a sister in Christ a heretic for merely believing that women can use their God-given gifts for the benefit of all.  Many others are calling into question the salvation of those who advocate women using their gifts for the common good.  Is this godly?

I look forward to seeing a generation of women who have been freed to go forth preaching the gospel with boldness and without prejudice.  CBMW (the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) has already announced that complementarians are losing this battle.  Churches one by one are freeing women to serve in the gifts that God has given them.  Irving Bible Church in Irving, Texas is just one of the long list of churches who have changed their view of women in ministry.  They are another example of godly men looking into God’s word and seeing it in context as not holding back God’s gifts given through women.   God uses women for his own purposes and he gifts those he wants to use for his glory.  When we fight our sisters in Christ and instead of addressing their concerns and their arguments, we call them heretics and we separate from them, we should stop and think whether we are fighting against God himself.  We are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit.  We grieve Him when we try to control and stop His gifts from being used without prejudice and we grieve Him when we separate over secondary issues of faith.

In my search on the world wide web, I have yet to come across egalitarians calling complementarians heretics merely for believing differently on this secondary issue of faith.  I trust that it is rare for such name calling.  However it is not rare for complementarians to call egalitarians heretics.  This should never be.  When one part of the body of Christ hurts, we all are hurt because we are all baptized into this one body.  Those who mock and attack the character of a fellow Christian because they disagree on a secondary issue of faith need to repent lest they find themselves fighting against God Himself.  This is the time when God’s judgment comes to the church first and then the world.  Will we be found loving our brothers in Christ as we are commanded to by Jesus Himself, or will we be found ripping at the sheep using personal attacks instead of reasoning through why our arguments are so weak that we must resort to attacking the man?  If we are fearful because of someone else’s position on a secondary issue of faith, may we resort to studying the word of God to show ourselves approved unto God a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rather than resorting to personal attacks.  Passion is godly.  Mocking and personal attacks is a tool of the enemy.  Whose side will you be on?

12 thoughts on “Women in Ministry produces fear

  1. I get to be the first person to comment on my own article 🙂

    My husband wants to point out (and he is not one who likes to post comments himself) that name calling is a sign of immaturity and not just a weak argument.  A mature person can act with respect towards the opposition without having to attack the man.  An immature person often uses this as his first approach.  This shuts down the opposition without even hearing their arguments.  It is a control tactic and shows their immaturity.

  2. There are a few things that one party in an argument can do to show they are fearful of losing and one is to resort to ad hominem attacks.

    I think part of it is a lack of humility.  It goes something like this:  I am a believer and when I read the Bible it seems to say X to me, therefore it should say X to everyone.  If you think about this, this is actually an arrogant claim to infallible interpretation, but it does not seem that way to the believer.  It does not seem like arrogance at all, so it must not be arrogance.  Notice the lack of humbleness forms a chain.

    Contrast that with sharing, this is what it means to me and why and I listen to what it means to you and why.  I cannot force you to accept my understanding and vice versa, but we can share our reasons.  Perhaps we think that we could not in faith do what another does, then the answer is to not do it.

  3. Even if the rhetoric and name-calling were to stop today, we still have an issue to resolve. Permanent hierarchy (understood as between 2 adult believers) based upon the flesh cannot coexist with full equality and gift-based service. How would such an Assembly work? How could it function? Even if local assemblies separated on that basis, how could the groups work together, such as training for leaders, when some of the leaders would never recognize others as such?

    The “solution” used to be “separate but equal”, and we all know how that worked out.

    Unlike the Calvinism/Arminian debate, which has no practical difference concerning the gospel or evangelism or service, the gender war silences half of all believers and imputes sin to women who chafe against being treated like perpetual children or slaves.

    The only path I can see is for each group to go their separate ways, and only ask that they agree on the essentials of the gospel. The Body was never meant to be a business or government anyway, such that it needs complex organization. Small groups in the first century did more evangelization than has ever happened since, without walls or programs or bosses.

  4. Don,

    When one is confident of what one believes and one’s own ability to defend that belief from the scripture, there should be no fear in listening to the other person’s point of view.  The loving thing is to listen first of all to walk alongside the person and secondly to act in love to help them see the holes in their own argument.  Attacks and name calling will never soften one up to hear another person’s point of view.  It only produces defensiveness and resentment.  If we truly care about the truth of our position we should be willing to patiently explain, defend and listen so that our ability to persuade is looked on as something valuable.

  5. Paula,

    While I do agree that there are times that we must separate for the health of the body, it isn’t because there is no hope, but because of stubbornness and prideful inability to listen (perhaps on both ends).  But underneath it all we are required to love our brothers.

    There was a great deal of angry confrontation and inability to get along with the issue of slavery.  Yet as the argument for the abolition of slavery started to receive full acceptance in the church, the body began to mend itself and provide healing.  Ultimately the solution will be love.  The world can separate from each other and hate each other as they separate.  When true believers have an unconditional love for one another yet believe differently about secondary issues of faith, it is a real witness to the world.  It is not our secondary doctrines that will keep our love for each other.  It is our love for the Savior who died for each one of us, that will keep us in a bond of love.  So if we separate, we must learn how to come together again in the gospel.  This is why it is vital that we do not question each other’s Christianity because of the secondary issues of faith.  What will the world of the cults see?  If I am called a “heretic” by some in the evangelical world merely because I affirm women using their God-given gifts for the benefit of all, then how will that help my work with Jehovah’s Witnesses?  Would some feel threatened when I want to share the gospel with a JW when some in the church have called me a heretic?  It is extremely unhelpful to name call and to question the salvation of those who disagree with you on secondary issues of faith.  This hinders the work of the gospel and it may be found to quench the Holy Spirit.  We are united in the gospel.  If we are divided in other things, we need to keep our divisions to ourselves and affirm each other in all of the essentials.  When I ask my brother to affirm me on the essentials of the faith and he refuses because he has called me a heretic on this secondary issue, he now stands against Jesus’ command to love.

    Paula, another area that I agree with you is in small groups.  While I really love the church, I love the small groups even more.  In a small group is where we can really get to know one another and where we can all minister to each other.  There is no one person assigned to speak while the others keep silent.  Church was not meant to be a place where we all were silent.  1 Cor. 14 shows the many ways that we can speak out with our gifts and give a word of encouragement to one another.  Surely in this time, we need each other and we can encourage each other.

  6. Don #4,

    I agree that this is what is happening.  Egalitarians are moving forward with confidence and courage assured that the bible in context supports women as well as men while the comps are getting more and more divisive and attacking even our confession of faith in the gospel.  This is a point that needs to happen, I believe.  Many have left the hierarchy because they were upset and dismayed by the vitriol coming from that camp.  I believe that God is in this.  It is the vitriol that will be the demise of the strict hierarchical view.  It is not Christlike and those with eyes can see.

  7. I should add that the attacks against me have been very helpful in allowing many people to have their eyes opened.  People who would have never contacted me before are now coming alongside my ministry. They have been greatly offended by the attacks they have witnessed and they are making their concerns known to me.  The people who have contacted me include even those who call themselves atheists. When even atheists can see through the smoke screen and see the ungodly attacks, then God surely is using all of this for his own good. I praise God for even this persecution because it is being used for God’s glory and by God for the exact opposite of what it had been intended by those who oppose me.  This is just the way that God does things.  He takes what was meant for harm and turns it around to be useful to bring people to Himself!  I am simply amazed at how he does this and I give him the glory and honor for his work!

  8. Glory to God!

    When we listen to another, it is not only to correct them, we might learn from them, even if we disagree with them or end up disagreeing with them.

  9. Don,
    Amen!  That is a good emphasis because all of us can learn.  None of us has everything right so we are to submit to learn from each other.  Even when we fully believe that we are right, when we in love submit to one another to hear what the other has to say, even if it is to correct them, we are opening ourselves up to hearing truth and if we need to be corrected, God’s word will do what it was sent to do and it will become a seed planted that will bring good fruit.

  10. This week’s column is written by Megan Greulich, editor of Mutuality magazine. A prominent sociologist on evangelicals, Sally Gallagher, published a fascinating study on evangelicals, “The Marginalization of Evangelical Feminism,” in which she considers the reason why evangelicals as a whole continue to deny mutual submission and shared authority between men and women. In her research, Gallagher suggests that well-known evangelical leaders have effectively linked evangelical feminism with androgyny, or the idea that sexual distinctions between men and women are ambiguous. Many of us have noted how often those who believe in gender hierarchy make statements such as, “evangelical feminists are working to blur the genders that God made so beautifully distinct.” They claim that androgyny is the result when we embrace gift-based leadership. Because of this, it is critical to continually clarify our position as egalitarians. To say that men and women share equally in God’s image and the Spirit’s gifting is not to say that women and men are without sexual distinction. We are not affirming or working towards an androgynous humanity. We are simply asserting that God does not intend for us to define masculinity as authority and femininity as submission. Egalitarians are just calling the church to think carefully and critically about what it means to be men and women of God who share authority, who are servants together. We are affirming that our calling to bring hope and healing to a tired world is our priority and should not be limited by gender. But this question of androgyny I believe represents a bigger issue in our churches: quite simply fear. It is a fear of change and a fear of losing control and power. It is a fear of following a new and sometimes more difficult path from prescribed and predictable gender roles to the more biblical path of giftedness, freedom, and oneness (not sameness) in Christ (Gal. 3:28). In the later part of John 6, as Jesus completes his teaching on faith, the Bible tells us that many of his disciples began grumbling. “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60). But I love Jesus’ response. He said “Does this offend you?…The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (v. 61, 63). He basically said, so what if this is hard? It’s true! When many of his disciples turned away, Jesus asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (v. 67). Peter responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (v. 68-69). These are stirring words for us who are working for gender reform in the church. If we believe Jesus speaks the truth, we have no choice but to follow Christ and press forward! In John 6, Jesus never denies that his teachings are difficult or counter-cultural. Going against the status quo is not easy, and it certainly does not feel comfortable or safe. Yet, as Mimi highlighted in her last Mutuality column, Flannery O’Conner said “Be properly scared, and go on doing what you have to do.” Christ asks us to be faithful, even when others desert him or resist his teachings. Even while others cannot embrace the powerful truth of biblical equality, a message not of sameness but of oneness, Jesus is lovingly saying to us “So what? I want you to follow me.” Will you join us? Megan Greulich

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