"Confessional" is still better than "Complementarian"
August 1, 2016
Last week Donny Friedrichsen offered a thoughtful and friendly response to my post entitled “I am not a complementarian.” As Donny writes in his post, he and I are friends. I point that out because neither of us are being cynical when we refer to each other as “friend.” It’s the truth.
Other than his belief that the word complementarian is still helpful I can’t think of single thing Donny wrote with which I disagree. He and I agree about the Scripture’s teaching concerning the complementary roles of men and women though we may disagree on some of the applications. I am not sure. Thankfully, and more importantly, we agree that the trinitarianism espoused by Drs. Ware and Grudem (and others at CBMW) is problematic. However, Donny argues that complementarian is still an important and useful word.
As I wrote in my previous post, my solution when asked about my position regarding complementarianism or egalitarianism is to simply refer to myself as confessional. The confessional standards to which I am bound (the Scriptures, Westminster Standards, Book of Church Order) spell out quite clearly what I believe about the nature and roles of men and women. And I am left wondering: who can improve on those standards? Who would want to try? I suppose that second question has already been answered.
Donny argues that because of the rise of the new sexual revolution and its attending gender chaos it behooves us to have ways to describe our position that are more specific than “confessional.” I do agree with him on that point. That is one of the reasons why Mortification of Spin (both the podcast and blog) has and will continue to dedicate much attention to the current cultural insanity. But it seems to me that when it comes to addressing the confusion and chaos surrounding gender and sexual ethics the word complementarian is completely inadequate. It simply cannot bear the weight of all that is required to affirm biblical anthropology and biblical sexual ethics.
I understand why he desires to retain the word. As I said in my original post, complementarian is a good word. I was always eager to define myself as complementarian. But even Donny acknowledges that it now must be qualified. I suppose something like “biblically Trinitarian complementarian”? That seems a little cumbersome. Of greater importance to me however is that I do not want to be associated with a movement or organization which tolerates and even promotes error on the doctrine of the Trinity.
I simply do not know how the word complementarian can be separated from CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood). The bottom line is that the bold advancement of Trinitarian error by leaders in CBMW has ruined the word for me. Until CBMW officially rejects the heterodox trinitarianism of some of its key leaders the terms complementarian and complementarianism are hopelessly compromised.
Donny holds out the possibility that there may come a day when he can no longer, for the same reasons I presume, be able to call himself complementarian. For me that day has arrived.
Now, allow me to shift gears a bit. This next part has nothing to do with Donny because I know he rejects the Trinitarian errors among some of the leading lights at CBMW.
This entire debate has been disheartening in more ways than one. It is disheartening because there are men and women associated with CBMW who reject the Trinitarian errors that have been allowed to flourish there but who refuse to say a word publicly for fear of losing their seat at the table. So great is the fear of the top men that silence becomes the preferred posture toward significant theological error. I wish they would speak up and risk the rejection. They will sacrifice some speaking gigs, that is true. They won't be able to write for certain well known blogs anymore. But there is a great deal of freedom in the minor leagues.
It is now clear that the men with seats at the table require a fundamentalist posture regarding complementarianism (“Our way or the high way!”). But when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity they become there's room for everybody big tent broadly evangelical. This intentional move to downplay the importance of the doctrine of God will yield bitter fruit. Indeed, the battles conservatives have won on such doctrines as the authority of Scripture and substitutionary atonement will prove to be short-lived because of the current disinterest to correct heterodoxy in theology proper.