Thursday, January 25, 2007

Is it really that important to be "in"

Another phase of the debate in Southern Baptist circles about women in ministry is underway. (God forgive us.) If you're feeling a bit masochistic click here, here, here, here, and here. As evidence of the intensity of the debate just on the Grace and Truth blog, these five postings have registered more than 900 comments.

I am under no illusion that anything I might have to contribute will not drowned out in the clatter, so I've decided to reprint my comment here for the 3 people who might read my thoughts.

Earlier today, texasinafrica wrote, "Many of us in the moderate world wondered if there would come a time in the SBC that after the moderates were purged, it would then become a question of who was conservative enough."

A few "hellbound" moderates were purged and took the route some "heavenbound" conservative PPL folks are taking now -- out of the SBC. Many of us "hellbound" moderates stuck around and dutifully donned the gag officially distributed via Sunday School Board channels.

I and many, many of sisters and brothers were sneered away from the "cool kids table" 20 years ago because we believe a password other than "Jesus is Lord" is too narrow. Yet we continue to support SBC work with our sweat, prayers and treasure. (If a signed creed were required with every check sent to the SBC, the SBC would be hurting for money!)

If the effort to stem the tide of continued narrowing of boundries fails, I hope you'll discover just as I have that the "cool kids table" really isn't as cool as it seems. The reality is that 90% of all that is accomplished for God's kingdom takes place IN SPITE of the cool kids, not because of them.

It is a shame that the cool kids table appears to be expanding the "he-man woman haters club" chapter. That club is not new. Just ask Molly Marshall-Green. Just ask the hundreds and hundreds of women who were raised in the SBC who are now serving God in other denominations in leadership of all kinds, including the

I would ask you and all Grace and Truth readers to go to and browse the hundreds of blogs of deeply committed, Christ loving women who do Great Commission work around the world...again...IN SPITE of the cool kids, not because of them. You see, the gag that the cool kids hand out only works at the cool kids table.


Anonymous said...

I am currently a student at SBTS and it is a wonderful place to be. I have seen Dr. Marshall-Green's dissertation and based on her conclusions I think she had to be let go. Do you think that those who hold that salvation can come apart from Christ should teach at our seminaries? The forced resignation of Dr. Marshall-Green is not the same as the Klouda issue at Southwestern. Southern is great my prayer is that Dr. Mohler will be the president for 30 more years.

Charles said...

Teaching at the seminary level is much different that teaching at the lower levels. It is not the role of professors teaching master's and doctoral level students to force agreement on any subject. Seminary students should be learning to deconstruct all preconceptions, your own and your professor's, and rebuild them based on the best authority that can be discovered.
For us, that authority is scripture, whether you insist on calling it inerrant, as I infer from previous posts that you prefer, or infallible, as I prefer.

I was at Southern from 1983 to 1987 completing an M.Div. I did not have Dr. Marshall-Green for theology. I had Dr. William Hendricks. I did, however, hear her speak in several different venues over the years I was there. She did not have horns, a pitchfork or a pointy tail. What she did have was a sharp mind and a short patience for anything less than the most diligent thinking.

While you and I disagree with her dissertation (written while she, too, was a student, obviously, and should reasonably viewed as one step in a process of "working out her salvation with fear and trembling"), is it not even possible that the greatest sin of her conclusion regarding salvation on the the day that she typed that page is that she could even conceive it possible that God's love for all He created in His image is even greater than we can conceive?

I am not a univeralist but I must admit I like the idea that God's love is greater than my mind can comprehend.

I can't understand the comfort and superiority some seem to feel on being "in the kingdom" while so many are "out." "No man cometh unto the Father but by me" is used like a weapon to keep some people on the outside so folks on the inside feel better about themselves. The tone with which most of us Baptists quote that verse gives me the picture of a great big universal game of Red Rover and Jesus is a huge, fullback size guy daring puny little sinners to dare to run by him.

One question SBTS seems to have quit asking since my day is this: "We believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. Why do you believe God has chosen to do this?"

Before I give you my answer, I'd be interested to hear yours.

Anonymous said...

I am not certain any of can answer why God has chosen to do something. My initial response is that he has chosen to do glorify himself in the adoption of a people through Christ. Whether you believe that the Bible is innerrant or not this seems to be what the earliest Christians i.e. Paul, thought. I see all of history as God redeeming a people to himself in Christ.

Southern still is a great school academically. As a student I have been encouraged to read and respond to the classical liberals such as Fredrich Schleiermacher and the liberalism of 20th century which manifested itself in men like Rudolph Bultmann. Also, we are encouraged and required to read those who are on the fringes of evangelicalism such as Greg Boyd. The difference in Southern now and when you attended is that the professors believe the confessional statement they are required to sign. I know you are going to say that Baptists are not a "creedal" people but the truth is all Christians are a creedal people of some sort. The declaration that "Jesus is Lord" is a creed or a held belief and it is something which Christians have always held. (see N.T. Wright's series "Christian Origins and the Question of God."

I am willing to admit that many things in the conservative resurgence/fundamentalist takeover could have been handled better. Are willing to admit that Southern Seminary was not quite as glorious as some of the nostalgic moderates claim?

Also, I am sick of the notion that to be a conservative evangelical is to somehow be unthinking or stupid. Do you honestly believe that Al Mohler hasn't thought through issues such as the role of women, inclusivism, universalism, annihilationism, process theology and higher critical scholarship. I read Barry Hankins "Uneasy in Babylon" some time ago. Hankins is not a conservative but he pointed out that the conservatives in the convention during the resurgence claimed that elitism existed at the Seminary level. The more I know about Southern in the 70's and 80's the more I believe an elitism which had no foundation existed.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to me that those who love to quote "no one comes..." tend to ignore the words spoken just a few verses before - "in my father's house are many rooms."
Thanks so much for this post.

Charles said...

Your response is much as I expected it to be. Very George W. Bush like...incurious and shallow...a response that would not be tolerated in class at SBTS in my day. It is always the charge of the incurious that those who ask hard questions they don't have the desire or energy to address are elitist. There does not seem to the desire to plumb the depths of God's perfect love plan so we can, however slightly, know Him more.

If you look at the dates I was in school, Al was a Ph.D student when I was an M.Div. student. I knew him. He was not near as conservative then as he is now. I was serving a church in Georgia when he left Kentucky to come to take over editorship of the Christian Index. He was a different person theologically than in school. My assessment is that he adopted the more conservative theology in order to get a spot a the cool kids table...I concession I will not make.

I owe you my answer to my own quesiton...but it is 8:17 in the morning and I must be on the road by 8:30 to make a meeting at 11:00 in a city about 150 miles away. Tonight, I'm spending the night with my mom in another city than that one because my dad is in Honduras on an evangelistic medical mission. I promise to follow up after my return home late tomorrow afternoon.

Songbird said...

Charles, thank you for your perspective. I am one of those women who grew up Southern Baptist and had to answer God's call in another denomination. I'm grateful that you are among those keeping discussion going and not wearing a gag.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your work! I'm pleased to call you a colleague in ministry-

Anonymous said...

I am sorry "elitist" was a bad way to put it. I tend to think in terms of moderate=arrogant. Arrogance goes across the theological spectrum and reaches far enough to the right to touch me. I have no reason to believe you are an "elitist." That was empty rhetoric on my part.

I am not sure if we will ever see eye to eye. I love the setting SBTS now offers. Academic rigor in the context confessional fidelity. I would guess that you would never want to attend Southern with the current leadership in place. I would not have attended 20 years ago.

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