Divine Order in the Church

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by alexandermsmith, May 14, 2019.

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  1. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Aimee Byrd over on the Mortification of Spin blog has taken issue with this article by Owen Strachan:


    Her response to it is here:


    She says it is basically a "rebranding" of the ESS position which caused such trouble a few years back. Strachan's book The Grand Design was certainly in error and I have no idea if he has changed his position or not but, once again, I am troubled by Byrd's argument here.

    Having read Strachan's article I'm finding it hard to find a problem. I suppose the most "troubling" passage, and it's the one Byrd herself highlights, is this:

    "They have had very little grounding (in some cases) in the order of creation. They know God created the earth, but they haven’t heard much more than that. They sense that homosexuality is sinful, but beyond a few biblical citations, they do not have a doctrinal position on the matter. They know there are men and women, but they have heard little about divine design. But this design, this order, is vital. Grounded in theistic ontology itself, it is the very bedrock of Christian theology and the Christian worldview. You could say it this way: there is order in the home; there is order in the churches; there is order in the world God has made." [Emphasis added. It is in this passage that Strachan links to his above mentioned book which would suggest he is repeating his wrong arguments from that.]

    That reference to "theistic ontology" is vague to say the least. However, the basic argument seems pretty solid to me. 1 Corinthians 11:3 would seem to support Strachan's argument from divinely established order.

    Perhaps having Strachan make the argument is unhelpful, but what are people's thoughts?
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    If all Strachan is saying is that there is a hierarchy in the created order, what with angelic ranks and all, descending down to us, that's fine. That's not what he is saying. By linking to his book, theistic ontology should be interpreted in light of ESSS.
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  3. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hmmmm yeah that would appear to be the case. If that particular phrase and link were taken out of the article I think the article would have been fine as he doesn't- that I can see- explicitly state any ESS doctrine. But he sullies it. Shame. It gives critics like Byrd something legitimate to criticise and use to slip in their crypto-feminist interpretation of Scripture.
  4. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    I think "crypto-feminism" drives this discussion more than most realize.
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    @alexandermsmith - I have come across a two-part review of Aimme Byrd's Why Can't We Be Friends? that may be of interest to you. Here is Part 1 and Part 2. The author identifies with patriarchy, which is perhaps not a good idea, but I found these review articles useful.
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  6. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The thing is that ladies like Byrd and the other girl who did the Wilson expose, can't remember her name, have done a fairly good rhetorical job at capturing the high ground. They are forcing their opponents to embrace the heterodox ESS position in the debate. Not agreeing with them overall, but it was a sharp rhetorical move.
  7. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I don't understand this. Do some complementarians feel ESS is necessary to be a complementarian? Surely this isn't the case...
  8. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Depends upon who you are asking. The debate over ESS a few years ago was described as a civil war within complementarianism.
  9. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Junior

    I guess I ask because I just don't see the draw. I am fine with just quoting Gen. 1, 1 Tim. 2, 1 Cor. 11, Eph. 5, etc., and being done with the "gender role" issue. I don't feel that I need to delve deep into trinitarian ontology to support what Scripture plainly teaches anyway.
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  10. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    I think some of it is because most evangelicals are biblicists who don't want to reason from the natural order. But, if you do that, you tend to end up with some of the more "extreme" forms of patriarchy. But I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that any other civilization on earth would think it absurd that a woman can be the head of state or the CEO of a large company but on the other hand can't be an elder in the church. Can women be the equal of men in the workplace without birth control? The feminists say no, which is why they fought so hard to have it covered under Obamacare. Of course, progressives, whether secular or religious, include abortion as well.

    I'm not arguing for blindly turning back the clock 200 years or whatever. But did these radical changes regarding the sexes originate from the Bible, or somewhere else? Were our ancestors wrong about everything except for women in church office? The "thin" or "narrow" comps increasingly seem to be saying yes.

    Complementarianism is clearly heavily influenced by 2nd wave feminism. Some comps see no problem with "house husbands" or with deliberate childlessness. How many evangelicals today who would consider themselves to be comps are really that upset about women in combat? (Moreover, how many are proud of their daughters who are in combat roles in the military?) But controversy over women in the military was raging when Clinton came into office in the early 90s. My recollection is that it was just about as big of an issue as gays in the military. Fears about women being drafted into the military was one of the main factors in defeating the Equal Rights Amendment several years before that. If house husbands and women in combat are OK, is the principle of "Women and Children First" an outdated idea that was the product of a bygone sexist era? If the husband is a house husband who is good with the children and the wife is an executive or lawyer or scientist or whatever, who should get in the lifeboat?

    I think the "thick" or "broad" complementarians, whether instinctively or explicitly, may sense that a couple of Bible verses probably isn't going to cut it in the long run with all of the cultural pressure being brought to bear, and ESS seems to help the cause, especially in groups that typically aren't well schooled in patristics and which aren't as deferential to historic creeds. An argument grounded in the Trinity is certainly "stronger" or more robust than a couple of verses that at face value bar women from church office but which are in the context of other things in one or more of those passages that evangelicals arguably ignore or dismiss, such as headcovering.

    Women's studies like Beth Moore's have served as sort of a safety valve that to some extent kept women from clamoring for the pulpit in SBC and similar churches (including the PCA) but it may not work for much longer. But in the meantime, you've got women's classes who will refuse to read books by men, etc.
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
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  11. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I think that this analysis gets to the heart of the issue. Biblicism is a weak basis from which to oppose female ordination, as other biblicists will find biblical texts that they can latch on to in order to support it. A solid grounding in nature, however, enables us to see through such biblicist appeals in support of unbiblical teaching.
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    In my opinion, the idea of basing gender roles on the Trinity is madness. For one thing, all the persons in the Godhead are male.
  13. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Exactly this.

    The Complementarian movement has always seemed a rather dubious one to me. Not because I disagreed with its premises (this was in the early 2000s when I first came across it(!)) but because it was clearly a reaction to the sexual revolution and the various feminist movements and seemed to have gone about sanctifying a lot of American cultural norms and passing them off as Biblical teaching (e.g. the Wild at Heart movement and all its various copycats). To counter the breakdown of the distinction between the sexes and the feminisation of the church, this movement said that the Biblical model was for men to be macho he-men. Of course a similar thing happened with the purity movement: to combat the obsession with promiscuous sexuality in society, the church became obsessed with chaste sexuality. Which was just another form of sexualisation.

    So it's definitely regrettable that in response to the clearly dangerous and insidious teaching coming from certain quarters within the evangelical community, those trying to defend the Biblical order for the sexes have resorted to (ancient) heretical teachings. However, whatever the problems with the "patriarchy" movement it's indicative of a realisation that, as said above, so much ground has already been lost. The battle isn't merely over who's allowed to teach in the church. If that's the only area of disagreement we're fighting from a very weak position.
  14. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Would this suggest that we err on the side of Classical Reformed Apologetics, as opposed to Presuppositinalism perhaps?;)
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Yes. That's basically the reason ESS got off the ground in the first place. We balk at ESS because we've had the WCF to keep us in line. Most Evangelicals don't.
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  16. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    My view of apologetics is the same as that of Winston Churchill: If you're not a presuppositionalist in your twenties, you have no heart. If you're still a presuppositionalist in your thirties, you have no head. ;):stirpot:
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  17. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    Complementarianism is just another occasion by which feminism can enter into the church, but now through the front door. That husband and wife have roles that “complement” the other completely obscures the question of authority and submission. What we’re seeing isn’t “thin complementarians” making their case but rather anorexic ones.
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  18. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    That’s what they’d say, but I had a front row seat to the fiasco and my conclusion is that not all complementarians are created equal. At the very least, if there is no application outside church and marriage (as the Presbyterians most involved in the debate had suggested), then the prescriptive roles for church and family become arbitrary. They could be reversed, or just maybe they were originally a product of culture and can be rearranged as cultures evolve. (The door was left wide open for liberals.) Nothing in nature precludes reversal in church and family, if there is no application outside church and family. And that is an outright denial of what we know by nature, (which, by the way, can only be justified in any robust epistemic way by an appeal to Scripture’s testimony of what we know by nature).
  19. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    In my view, there is a social problem; and it is tied to nature--more precisely war on nature. With the result that normal gender roles and a smoothly functioning society are cast off, for pursuit of utopian dreams by people at war with the very idea that there is a way that some things just ARE, requiring submission to reality. This battleground is just one among many, because men are inveterate rebels.

    At the same time, one of the worst reactions that conservative types, preservationist types, and their allies fall into is a retreat from degrees of flexibility into hardened silos. By letting their opponents dictate the terms of conflict, in the name of preserving nature, they legislate to nature instead.

    Why can't the Queen of Sheba (or the Queen of England) be an exotic and rare exhibit of legitimate natural variety? Female CEO an impossibility, because sex roles? That's invoking moral revulsion (as when a thing is contrary to nature) on something that appears to simply be unusual in nature.

    However, since God is disposed to impose a fixed order on his church, which is not a "natural" thing at all; but an idealized, constructed thing; an institution; a legal entity, prescribed from the top (not growing out of a seed inclusive of diverse expression)--call it "arbitrary" if you want. I call it Jus Divinum.

    Just as if there was a corporation, in which its creators are (or ought to be) free to impose whatever rules it wished--including an "all female board of directors, in perpetuity"--God is free to ordain his church's organization, leaders, and functions. And to join or remain in his church should mean one's willingness to hew to his standards.

    In the case of the corporation, it's success (or lack of it) is a verdict on the efforts and expenditures to create and sustain such a thing. Casting it all in moral terms is futile. It would be as ill-conceived castigation, as if I took offense for a couple that spent $6K on a Reformation Tour to Europe for Dort400. [Spaz]"That money should not have been wasted on something so trivial!"[/Spaz].

    In the case of a church, even a very "successful" church that is organized in a defiant way (i.e. female ministers, or an all-male hierarchy of prelates) is not to be evaluated on the basis or longevity, budgets, mission expansion, and membership. It is to be judged on its fidelity to Christ's order. Because the church is not "natural" at all.

    If there are a few "house-husbands" in every society, that is perhaps to be expected. Already, in a "traditional-minded" society, different homes divide the household responsibilities and functions in different degrees. It isn't uniform. We'd classify the odd "house-husband" at the trailing edge of the bell curve.

    There's pushback now, within our circles, from those (women or men) who have reason to fear that "our side" in culture war are retreating into ossified silos of rigid conformity, in order to oppose those who are trying to liquefy all norms. They are voices, in my opinion, which should be given a hearing, so that we may not err too far in losing track of the real balance of a rationally beneficial society--one that has a healthy distribution curve.
  20. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    So are you saying that we distinguish between nature generally, which has norms but not necessarily rigid rules to which there can never be an exception; and the church which has its order explicitly laid down in Scripture,to which there can never be an exception? If so I would go along with that.

    Queens are a good example. They represent a compromise between two principles: primogeniture on the one hand and a desire to preserve one house's hold on the throne, or preservation of a certain constituional principle (religion, for example) on the other. When the only legitimate offspring is a woman it is better for her to be the monarch than for it to go to the first legitimate male heir who may be foreign, or of the wrong religion. Likewise there have always been women who worked. But we would want to say that Scripture does quite clearly lay down a preferred model for society in which men are the breadwinners and women are to remain in the domestic sphere; that this order is natural; and that the justification used by Scripture is a reference to the created order.

    And this has implications in all areas of society. But with the church, and spiritual matters generally, Scripture explicitly establishes male headship.
  21. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    Having followed the debate, it often seemed to me that Byrd et al. made a deliberate and calculated effort to insist that ESS was an essential part of Complementarianism; insinuating (and sometimes outright saying) that they must go hand-in-hand. In this way, they could characterize Complementarian views of gender roles as inherently heterodox. And it did not matter how often Complementarian voices insisted ESS was not a sine qua non of Complementarianism, their opponents would just keep saying it.
  22. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    This observation is certainly an interesting one. I would be intrigued to hear @Alan D. Strange's thoughts on the subject. One of the reasons why I do not subscribe to a regulative principle of church government is because I believe that ecclesiastical polity is much more beholden to the law of nature than the ordinances of worship. But I suppose that point is off-topic and is perhaps opening a can of worms.

  23. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    The Trinity and Marriage, some minimal reflections below. There is a singular application that got lost in the dialogue. Also, both sides had their own set of missteps, which I don’t flesh out here.

    Although there is no hierarchical ordering in the ontology Trinity, there is nonetheless an unalterable ordering of persons that finds its fundamental distinction in origin (ie the Son is eternally begotten; the Father is unbegotten...). (That point seemed to escape the Baptists who debated the issue most. They tended to locate personal distinctions in authority and submission.)

    Trinitarian feminists might argue from (a) equality of divine persons to (b) total obliteration of suitable differences between husband and wife. (That is to conflate equality with sameness.)

    In that context, if the appeal to the Trinity is useful at all, it’s at best singular. It can serve to bolster the premise that ontic equality among persons does not prohibit a divinely instituted and irreversible ordering of operations among equals. But that’s pretty much it.

    So, given the decree to save, it was fitting that the Son be sent into the world by the Father and not the reverse, (a point to which the Presbyterians did not adequately attend).

    By way of application, by appealing to the Trinity we can establish that equality of persons does not reduce to absolute sameness. Feminists may not lazily appeal to the Trinity to undermine a general principle, such as that the husband is to go out into the world whereas it’s more fitting for the wife to manage the home. (Whether one agrees or not with that general portrayal of marriage duty is irrelevant to point at hand. The simple point is, equality of persons does not preclude suitability of operations based upon personal properties.)

    (At various times it sounded as though essence was taking extreme priority over persons, rather than treating unity and plurality as equally ultimate. At times it sounded more like modalism or that God was an impersonal blob essence rather than Trinity.)

    Both sides didn’t do too well, in my opinion.

    I thought Kevin DeYoung brought much light to the subject here:
  24. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I suppose that Wayne Grudem became an easy target in this regard. I think when this debate was raging most fiercely, Matthew Winzer observed that both sides were talking past each other. I tend to think that he was correct.
  25. RWD

    RWD Puritan Board Freshman

    However, since God is disposed to impose a fixed order on his church, which is not a "natural" thing at all; ​


    We agree it’s revealed in Scripture. Are you suggesting that it doesn’t nicely comply with nature? There’d be nothing unnatural had God required only women to rule in the church?
  26. BuckeyeGirl

    BuckeyeGirl Puritan Board Freshman

    This is a good point. I am not familiar enough with the ESS position to pick out its influence on Strachan's piece. But, it's a shame that ESS is giving people like Byrd a foothold to delegitimize opposition to women teaching and preaching. Even though Byrd focuses on the problem with ESS in this piece, she is clear that a main problem with Strachan is his position on women teaching - not just the theological underpinnings:

    "There are many issues brought up in Strachan’s article that provoke discussion. One main one, that is not the focus of my response here, is that Strachan . . . denounces the woman’s teaching contribution in the church whenever adult males will be among the recipients, saying “there is no way for a woman to instruct the gathered church . . . .” And he’s not only talking about corporate worship either. I have so much to say about this, way too much to cover in one article."

    With Beth Moore gaining more support within the SBC while simultaneously moving towards an open embrace of women preaching, I really hope that others provide a strong biblical opposition.
  27. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    Good articles. Did he never follow up with further articles on it? That's a shame.
  28. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    He does not seem to post that regularly so there may be future instalments.
  29. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I don't believe that the divine order for the church is opposed to nature; a convenient relationship to things that are seen, is (sometimes) quite fitting for things that are unseen.

    On the other hand, I think that if God had ordained something quite extraordinary--such as, in fact he has done: bringing life out of death, for example, which is highly unnatural--for orderliness in his church, it would be our duty to "roll with it." Our attitude should then have been: "Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right." He has his reasons, even if they prove to be beyond our reckoning.

    We attend Paul's reasoning respecting men (exclusively) leading in the church because he reasons there from Scripture, and not because nature is that which determines the case. Sometimes, commentators are guilty of conflating Paul's appeal to "nature" in the passage on head-covering (1Cor.11:14) with his normative statements about male leadership of the church (1Cor.14:34; 1Tim.2:11). The two should not be merged, as if the one was informative of the other.
  30. alexandermsmith

    alexandermsmith Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would certainly say that Paul's command as regards teaching in the church is, in itself, sufficient justification for adhering to it. But is it not also true to say that he does employ the appeal to the created order as part of his reasoning? Perhaps it is better to talk about the created order- i.e. that Adam was formed first, then Eve- rather than nature? Or are they two different things and it is to the former he appeals rather than the latter?
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