In part 9 of Adrian Warnock’s interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem the subject turns to church leadership. While I disagree with much of what Dr. Grudem says about church leadership, I could wish he would show some similar sensitivity to different points of view on male-female authority issues that he does on church leadership. Certainly the Bible says at least as much about leadership among God’s peopple as it does about women in teaching or leadership positions.
The problem comes down to the process of application. Those who claim a “clear teaching” on a particular topic in scripture, generally ignore the very serious process of determining just how one command becomes applicable and another does not. Because of this, while we can often agree on Biblical exegesis (in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 there is an instruction for women not to teach), we often tend not to be able to agree on whether and how such a command might apply in another time and place. Our explanations can be ad hoc, and are based on how we want to understand the passage rather than on how God would want it applied in our lives and churches. Dr. Grudem thinks this is true of egalitarians. I think it’s true of complementarians. Dr. Grudem thinks that slavery is a bad trajectory, and in fact is generally unhappy with looking at trajectories (see part 4), and yet we do, in fact, have to look at the direction in which scripture is going on a particular teaching, else we will apply scripture inappropriately.
It would be extremely valuable, on all topics, if we were to be open about the fact that we do pick and choose scripture in application. It is impossible not to do so. I become seriously concerned when someone uses the phrase “plain teaching of scripture,” not because there are no plain teachings of scripture–I believe there are–but because the phrase is abused so often. Anyone who feels strongly about an issue announces that it’s “the plain teaching of scripture” and then attacks their opponents for tearing down scripture by rejecting such a “plain teaching.”
As to the teaching of the egalitarian position, Dave Warnock outlined some wonderful general areas of support in his post Equality and Subordination. He doesn’t expand on all of those points, but those are major headings for egalitarian thought from scripture.
I know many people who believe that their particular form of church leadership, baptism, prayer, and even order of worship is plainly taught in scripture, yet other Christians disagree. Dr. Grudem appears to accept that there can be differences in those. But someone who espouses egalitarianism is often denigrating scripture by so doing.
Bottom line: It’s just not so!