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An ‘Idolatrous’ Revision of Faith

Nowhere did Jesus limit women to a subordinate role in his kingdom. In fact, quite the opposite. At every turn, he lifted them up.

But there is a far more serious revision in the “new” Baptist Faith and Message (a confessional statement first adopted in 1925). The revision removes Jesus Christ as the “criterion for interpreting” the Scriptures.

What does this mean? It means the Supreme Court of biblical interpretation has shifted from Jesus to those crafting the “new” Baptist Faith and Message. That is an ugly and insidious development.

Consider for example these two texts:

1). “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

2). “I [Paul] permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man; she is to keep silent” (1 Tim 2:12).

Which of these texts speaks a definitive, universal word on the role of women in the church, and which speaks to a tense, local situation?

In making that judgment, able interpreters of the Bible look to Jesus. He, after all, is the Word of God incarnate–“in the flesh.” What did he do?

Nowhere did Jesus limit women to a subordinate role in his kingdom. In fact, quite the opposite. At every turn, he lifted them up.

When Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to prepare food and clean instead of talking theology with men, Jesus told Mary to remain with them (Lk 10: 38-42).

He carried on an extended theological discussion with the woman at the well, much to the shock of his disciples (Jn 4:27).

And he “ordained” (i.e., “appointed”) Mary Magdalene the first herald of Easter (Jn 20: 17). Hence, in light of Jesus’ teaching and example, Paul’s strong counsel in 1 Timothy 2:12 must be read as specific to a particular time and place.

Baptists can and do disagree about the interpretation of Scripture. But removing Christ as the “criterion” by which the Bible is interpreted means somebody else will be. And that is not merely insidious, that is idolatrous.

Bob Setzer Jr. is pastor of First Baptist Church, Macon, Georgia.