Since Wade Burleson forfeited his month long fast from blogging six days into it, he's busily been about his strange idea of advocating gender egalitarianism in the Southern Baptist Convention. His latest "oil and water" post positions the two prevailing gender views among evangelicals today--egalitarianism and complementarianism--by profiling two well known evangelical think tanks >>>
For egalitarianism, Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) hones out fresh arguments that advocate a Biblically-based understanding of gender issues with a decided commitment toward evangelical feminism. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, (CBMW) the elder brother (or should I say sister) of the two groups, was birthed by Professor Wayne Grudem and Dr. John Piper in their blockbuster book, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, a collection of scholarly papers written by a Who's Who within evangelical academia, covering a variety of disciplines including Theology, Old Testament, New Testament, History, Church History, Sociology, Biology, Psychology and Law. The book was recently revised in 2006.
Going even further back, The Danvers Statement was the first visible sign that concerned evangelicals needed to formally organize and respond to cultural feminism slowly creeping into conservative Christianity. Thus, in 1987, an interdenominational group met and signed the document, signers including many prominent Southern Baptists.
Mr. Burleson raised the question whether "...it not possible to be a conservative, evangelical Christian who believes in the infallible and sufficient Word of God and come to egalitarianism through a study of the sacred text?" An interesting question to be sure, but hardly one for evangelicals to explore. They've already weighed that question in the public balance.
Burleson's question comes on the heels of a quote by Professor Mary Kassian, Award Winning Author and Distinguished Professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
"Biblical feminism therefore has become a theological crossing point between conservative evangelical theology and liberalism . . . Feminism and Christianity are like thick oil and water: their very natures dictate they cannot be mixed."
As a side-note, I found it entirely disrespectful of Burleson to not only place in quotation marks Mrs. Kassian's self professed 'homemaker' status and a Southern Baptist professor of 'Women's Studies', but also thrice referring to her in chummy terms "Mary." For my part, I find that out of step with the thrust of Burleson's post which happened to be to foster respect toward women, not disrespect simply because they happen to be on the wrong side of the issue.
Thus, for Wade, "Other than pointing out to Mary that many conservative, evangelical egalitarian authors, including Dr. Biliezikian and Dr. Tate, might take umbridge [sic] at the allegation that their egalitarian views 'compromise' the Bible," Burlseon "would like to sincerely ask Mary" the earlier question.
Why Burleson thinks Professor Kassian's conviction that egalitarianism "compromises" the Bible should cause us pause escapes me. If no such conviction is present, why is there vigorous debate?
On the other hand, listen to theologian and then President of CBE, Dr. Mimi Haddad and Professor Kevin Giles, who criticized Professors Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware's view of complentarianism at a debate during the 2007 Evangelical Theological Society:
"Mimi Haddad is president of the equality group and the leader of the Gender and Evangelicals Study Group within ETS that brought the scholars together for discussion at the ETS meeting. "The reformulation of the Trinity by gender hierarchalists is utterly astounding and clearly (unorthodox) theologically," she said. "We find it extremely disturbing...Haddad says there are "striking similarities" between Arianism and the position on the Trinity of some modern-day supporters of separate roles for women and men...Giles also argues that proponents of Jesus' eternal subordination to God the Father [the basis of Grudem and Ware's proposition about complementarianism] are guilty of "Arian heresy.""
For Professor Kassian, egalitarianism serves as a "theological crossing point between conservative evangelical theology and liberalism" while for Professors Haddad and Giles, complementarians are kissing up to condemned Arian heresy. The readers can be the judge which image gives most reason to pause.
More disconcerting is Wade Burleson's final knife he presumably pokes at fellow Southern Baptists:
"It is the sufficiency of some evangelicals to reflect the spirit of Christ toward others when disagreement arises over intepretations of the sacred text that cause me to doubt whether or not we have genuinely experienced the Christianity of the Bible. I may be a complementarian, but I sure don't see the fellowship between my Christian egalitarian friends and myself as 'oil and water,' and I also have a hard time viewing this issue as 'the crossing point to liberalism.' " (emphasis original).
It is no secret Wade Burleson continues to milk the gender issue among Southern Baptists. The latest post on his site, written by one of his church members, Mona Loewen, stands as a model of the egalitarianism Wade advocates (though he claims he personally embraces complementarianism). In fact, any number of posts could be tapped arising from Enid that insists egalitarianism is just as viable an interpretation of gender related issues as is complementarianism, implying that Southern Baptists need to get over it and accept egalitarians.
I have two things to say in response.
First, most Southern Baptists have absolutely no reservation accepting as full brothers and sisters in Christ those who believe in the essential Gospel while also embracing Biblical egalitarianism as their conviction of Biblical Revelation. As Wade rightly notes, the CBE has many members who warrant the respect of both Southern Baptist Churches at large and Southern Baptist academia specifically. Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr. and noted Founders Journal Contributing Editor and theologian, Professor Roger Nicole, stand tall among them. Thus, the issue is not accepting as friends and Christian family members, egalitarians. Which brings me to the second thing I'd say to Wade Burleson in response.
I'm entirely confused what is to be accomplished by continuing to tout as if Biblically equal the two exclusive views of egalitarianism and complementarianism among Southern Baptists. I can fully see how that question could have been relevant to Southern Baptists prior to 2000. However, within the Baptist Faith and Message stands Article XVIII: The Family, an explicit, clear, unambiguous complimentarian statement on gender. This article is not an allusion; it is not a tiny quote; it is not a maybe, a perhaps or a could be.
Rather, Article XVIII explicitly states a definitive complementarian perspective over an egalitarian one. Yet Wade Burleson continues to suggest Southern Baptists have not spoken to this question and therefore, mysteriously incites his concern about it as if we desperately need to decide. This is confusion at its height from my perspective.
If could be, in light of the above, more confusion flows from Enid pertaining to Wade Burleson's unceasing insistence that the now infamous Garner Motion, passed at San Antonio's SBC in 2007, effectively made the Baptist Faith and Message a "maximal" document to be used by our boards and agencies for Convention purposes. That is, beliefs outside what the Baptist Faith and Message actually address are not to be employed as criteria for Convention involvement such as hiring employees, for example.
Indeed, the way I understand it, Burleson and those who followed his reasoning, used the "maximal document" strategy to lobby for private prayer language adherents to be included for consideration as employees of our agencies because the Baptist Faith and Message did not speak to nor forbid such practice.
So let me see if I understand: since the Baptist Faith and Message is a "maximal" document and mentions nothing of private prayer language, we should not use that as a criteria for employment. But, on the other hand, when the Baptist Faith and Message explicitly offers a well-thought out article of faith, clearly stating that complementarianism is one of the doctrines Southern Baptists embrace and expect to be used as criteria for Convention purposes, that we are to get over rejecting egalitarianism as a viable Biblical view for agency criteria? Is this what Burleson is suggesting? We simply ignore Article XVIII and accept egalitarian adherents to be included for consideration as employees of our agencies? If he is not, why incite a useless debate among Southern Baptists?
Actually, our only recourse is to amend the Baptist Faith and Message. If Burleson desires such, why not just say so? To continue a stump speech about accepting egalitarianism within Convention life in the face of the Baptist Faith and Message's clarity on complementarianism, from my view, can only be interpreted as divisive and unhealthy. Sadly also, it reflects what's flowed from Enid for the last two years--confusion.
Not to mention the blatant contradiction exposed in Burleson's insistence that the Baptist Faith and Message is a "maximal" document. Maximum my foot! Wade Burleson wants it "maximum" only when it agrees with his agenda: private prayer language. However, when it goes against his crusade promoting egalitarianism, the Baptist Faith and Message does not just become "minimal." Rather, the magician from Enid makes it magically disappear.
With that, I am...