Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Death of Common Sense

Some time ago, I heard a sermon entitled “The Death of Common Sense” by Dr. Ergun Caner of Liberty University. Dr. Caner’s sermon was all about how what we know as “common sense,” the normal ability to reason and think, is on the verge of being eliminated from our society completely.

While common sense is not dead completely (there’s still some left—I’m trying to be hopeful here), it is dying a slow, painful death. And the church has a role to play in its death—particularly with the issue of women in ministry.
Let’s examine the following conversation from Sarah Sumner in her book, “Men and Women in the Church”:

“Some time ago a complementarian told me on the phone that the Bible is ‘absolutely clear’ on the issue of women in ministry. He said that he had ‘studied the subject carefully’ and arrived at the conclusion that ‘women are not allowed to exegete the Scriptures in Sunday School or church or in any other place where there are men.’ Resolutely he said it’s ‘unbiblical’ for a woman to pastor or preach or teach theology or serve as a deacon or an elder. But then, gratuitously, he added, ‘My desire is for women to be able to do more. In fact, my wife would make a much better elder than I do. I really don’t understand why God wants it this way.’

In my estimation, this gentleman is a Scotist. As a Scotist, he can see his wife’s ability to lead, but he doesn’t consider her giftedness to be a valid clue of God’s will. As a fellow conservative, I can appreciate his caution. He doesn’t want to exchange the biblical revelation for some preference of his own human will. That’s understandable and wise; I wouldn’t want to do that either.

Logically, however, something seems a little off to him. But because he is a Scotist, he accepts the strange dissonance between his theology of women and common sense. Morally he sees no reason for the traditional prohibition upon his godly wife. But neither does he expect God’s will to correlate necessarily with God’s design. Justifiably, then, he can say to himself that the only reason why it’s wrong for his wife to be an elder at church is because ‘GOD SAID SO’ in the Scriptures” (284-285).

The above excerpt from Sumner’s book shows us the Scotist stance in action: no matter how gifted a woman may be, no matter how evident that observation to any man, he won’t allow himself to acknowledge that she belongs in a place of leadership.

But this doesn’t make any logical sense. Think about it: what do we say if a person is good at drawing or painting? We respond with the words, “You’re good at what you do; you should become an artist.” What do we say to someone who is good at working on cars and other vehicles? “You should become a mechanic.” What do we say to someone who is good with numbers? “You should become an accountant or a math teacher,” etc. What do we say to someone who is a good orator? “You should become a professor, teacher, lawyer, or lecturer.” What do we say to someone who is good at diagnosing cases? “You should become a doctor.”

We seem to have no problem, from an observatory standpoint, to acknowledge someone’s giftedness and place them in a category that allows them to live out that giftedness. But when it comes to the issue of women in ministry, it suddenly becomes another issue entirely! Now, despite the woman’s giftedness, she can’t live out the task she is made for—because “God said so,” or so the complementarians say.

We can sit around and laugh and joke about how illogical complementarian thought really is; but the complementarian view has serious implications for the Body of Christ. I mean, if giftedness now can no longer be evidenced in the lives of believers, what about the fruit of the Spirit? If tangible evidence no longer shows us the gifts a person possesses, then that means anyone can just grab any office or task in the church. The gifts suddenly become a “free-for-all” instead of a distribution. Now, all a person has to do is just go to Bible college and seminary, get a few degrees, and before you know it, that person is ready to tackle any leadership position in the church. If we take the complementarian view to its logical standpoint, then God no longer CALLS a person to a task; people no longer DESIRE tasks in the Body of Christ (desire coming from the Lord). Now, they can just grab a task. But the problem with grabbing a task or office in the church is that, if you just grab the task because, say for instance that no one else can do it, it can come and go—I can grab this office today, and that office tomorrow, and the day after I might rid myself of both offices!

Jesus did not concern Himself with the Pharisees who only wanted to be “in the know.” He knew that they didn’t care about salvation and living a life pleasing to the Lord. Instead, He occupied His time with the masses, the societal outcasts—those who really desired to know Him. And in the church today, God is not concerned about office grabbers. God doesn’t just want people to tackle a task or job in the church because no one else can do it, or they feel they have to. God wants people to receive tasks in the church because they DESIRE to do it, because they’d rather do God’s work than anything else. As Peter writes to the elders of the churches of the Diaspora Jews:

“1So I exhort the elders among you,(A) as a fellow elder and(B) a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2(C) shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,[a](D) not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;[b](E) not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not(F) domineering over those in your charge, but(G) being examples to the flock. 4And when(H) the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the(I) unfading(J) crown of glory.” (1 Pet. 5:1-4, ESV)

Notice that 1 Peter 5:2 says that the elders should serve “not under compulsion, but willingly, AS GOD WOULD HAVE YOU.” A person shouldn’t serve in the church because they feel FORCED or OBLIGATED to, but because they DESIRE to serve God in that capacity. Next, Peter says, “not for shameful gain, but eagerly.” Another easy motivation in the church could be money. Peter says, “if you’re gonna serve just because you get paid, it’s a waste of time. Serve because you love what you do FOR God, not because of what you might receive FROM God.”

I think that complementarians need to get back to the basics: we all can acknowledge the ability of the woman as a schoolteacher, a babysitter, a nurse, a professor, and so forth; now, it’s time for us to acknowledge the giftedness of a woman teacher, preacher, and pastor. To say it best, some women are made for more than the nursery, the music department, and the youth church. Come on: I know it’s gonna take some work, but you can acknowledge it...

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