Monday, October 27, 2014

A soft complementarian position denying the eternal subordination of the Son

Jesus, Justice, & Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry by Kathy Keller.

This is part of Zondervan's "Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry" series, the other volumes being John Dickson's Hearing Her Voice: A Case for Women Giving Sermons (see my review here) and Michael Bird's Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry.

Kathy Keller is the wife of Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The book is written in two parts. The first part ("Hermeneutical Imperatives") discusses relevant New Testament texts. Keller seems to be a soft complementarian. She translates 1 Timothy 2:12 as "I do not permit a woman to authoritatively teach a man", and believes that this still applies today. On the other hand, she is fine with women leading mixed Bible study groups. Following Redeemer's policy, she believes that women can do everything in the church that a non-ordained man can do. This does, however, presuppose a very high view of ordination. Although the emphasis in the pastoral epistles is certainly on the work of the pastor, especially preaching and teaching, Paul does not say "I do not permit a non-ordained person to authoritatively teach a man". In fact, just a few verses before, Paul had said that "the men should pray, lifting holy hands", and that the women "should adorn themselves in respectable apparel" (1 Tim. 2:8-9). Clearly, then, male/female roles and conduct are in mind, and not merely the ordained/non-ordained distinction.

In the second part of the book ("Personal Journeys"), Keller is apparently trying to reach out to disaffected women. She distances herself from anyone who is more complementarian than she (p. 33):
I am frequently embarrassed by others who use the title "complementarian" but who go beyond Scripture to legislate arbitrary rules about the age of boys when women must not teach Sunday school to them any longer, or whether a female small group leader should have a male co-leader if the group is mixed, and so on.

More disturbing, however, are Keller's views about the eternal subordination of the Son (p. 47). She says, "Jesus' submission to the Father was limited to his earthly incarnation" and "to my knowledge, no complementarian has ever espoused such a thing, despite egalitarian charges to the contrary". Well, Keller's knowledge is rather limited, because a host of complementarians have demonstrated that this is the historic Christian doctrine. See, for example, Biblical Evidence for the Eternal Submission of the Son to the Father by Wayne Grudem, The Eternal Subordination of the Son Is the Historic Doctrine of the Church by Dave Miller, and A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son by Stephen Kovach and Peter Schemm.

I'm afraid I couldn't help thinking that Keller was selected to write this book because Zondervan wanted the complementarian case to be presented by a woman. It would, however, have been better to ask someone more qualified to write this volume.

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