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Texas Church Says ‘Egalitarian’ View Not an Option for Evangelicals

Allowing women to become pastors and act as elders is a “cancer” that is pushing evangelical churches toward liberalism, a Texas pastor warned in a recent sermon defending “Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.”

Tom Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church, said liberal churches have women pastors because they doubt the Bible, while Pentecostal churches allow female preachers because they often follow their feelings instead of Scripture, but it has never “been a problem” in evangelical churches until now.

Part of the reason, Nelson said, is “worldly pressure.”

“Fifty years ago there was a different perspective of women out there in the workplace,” he said. “If the church had put a woman in the pulpit or a woman as an elder, not only would that not have happened 50 or 60 years ago, but the non-Christian community would have said I’m not going to that church with that woman in the pulpit, because that’s not right. It’s not patriotic and it’s not normal. That was our world.”

Another, he said, is the “egalitarian” view, which reads Bible passages that forbid women from teaching or holding authority over men in the church as applying to the culture in which they were written but no longer binding for today.

Nelson said the only way to deal with a concession to women being pastors over men is through “higher criticism,” a liberal way of interpreting the Bible to say that culturally conditioned passages are no longer true.

“That, my friend, isn’t just jousting among intellectuals and that’s not jousting among fundamentalists,” he said. “That’s melanoma. That is cancer.”

The problem, he said, is how to determine between what is accommodation to ancient culture and what is timeless truth. If the Apostle Paul’s teachings on roles of women are no longer valid, he asked, how can one know the Trinity is true? The same logic that justifies women in the pulpit, he said, is also used by those who argue that homosexuality is not a sin.

Nelson referred to a 2006 book by Phoenix Seminary Professor Wayne Grudem suggesting “evangelical feminism” is “a new path to liberalism.”

“If I can be so bold, it is Satan’s new ploy to get into the church,” he commented.

Defenders of women’s ordination argue the way to resolve tension between Bible passages like women are to be silent in church with those that say in Christ there is neither male nor female is to follow the example of Jesus. When the Southern Baptist Convention amended its Baptist Faith & Message statement in 2000, it not only repudiated female pastors but also altered a phrase from a previous version that said, “The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”

Nelson described his sermon, the first in a three-part series followed by guest messages from two professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., as “a pre-emptive sermon–a first strike,” because the role of women in the church “is becoming a problem.”

“We don’t have a problem with it at Denton Bible, but we have to combat it continually,” he said. “It’s out there and it’s coming.”

The second sermon in the series sparked controversy, when Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, suggested women wouldn’t have to worry as much about spousal abuse if they were more obedient to their husbands.

In marital relationships marred by sin, Ware said, wives are tempted to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands. The man’s natural response, he said in remarks reported previously by EthicsDaily.com, is either to become abusive or to acquiesce.

Critics said that blames women for their own abuse and gives men an excuse for battering their wives. Defenders said Ware wasn’t condoning domestic violence but merely explaining it is a fact of life.

Denny Burk, editor for the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, called Ware’s sermon “one of the finest, most succinct presentations of the Complementarian point of view that I have ever heard” in a June 24 blog posting that prompted more than 1,500 responses.

The Complementarian position holds that males and females were created equally in God’s image but designed for different, or complementary, roles in the family and church. Husbands are to lead and provide for their families, while wives are to help their husbands by running the home and raising children. Egalitarians say gender is irrelevant in decisions about who is ordained or which partner is primary caregiver or breadwinner.

On Monday Southern Seminary announced Burk’s appointment as dean of Boyce College, the seminary’s undergraduate school. Burk, who received his Ph.D. from Southern Seminary in 2004, has been teaching at Criswell College in Dallas.

Burk will continue as editor of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. His new boss, Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler, is a member of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which has offices on the campus of Southern Seminary.

In his first editorial for the Journal, Burk introduced a new format that “reflects CBMW’s concern that the noble biblical vision of sexual complementarity may win the mind and heart of Christ’s church.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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