Motivated by Feminism? A Response to a Recent Criticism
UPDATE: Professor Denny Burk (with whom I have always previously enjoyed a cordial relationship and who is a brother in Christ, whatever our disagreements on this issue) has contacted me to offer to delete the relevant Twitter discussion and to assure me that he in no way meant to call into question my integrity. I am very grateful to Denny for this clarification. I leave the original post as is because I am aware that others have raised the same concerns but ask that it be read in the context of his contact with me.
This morning I was alerted to a Twitter thread involving Professor Denny Burk and others which speculated that my motivation for raising the Trinitarian issue was driven by some kind of incipient feminism or desire to justify women elders or women teaching in the church. I do not usually respond to such speculative personal criticism and have no time for Twitter as a serious medium for discussion, but as Dr Burk is a man of some stature in the evangelical world and as this exchange calls into question my integrity with regard to my ordination vows, I consider it appropriate to offer a brief reply.
1. I am not motivated by any ecclesiological, let alone feminist, purpose. I am motivated by a desire to see bad teaching corrected so that both this generation and future generations will be saved from some of the erroneous positions of the past.
2. Even if I were secretly motivated as claimed, then that would merely speak to my flawed character, not to any flaw in my argument.
3. My basic point remains: if you argue for EFS and/or reject (or even regard as negotiable) eternal generation, then you stand outside the bounds of the historic Nicene Christian faith as set forth at Constantinople in 381 and held thereafter by the church catholic. I understand that many hold these views sincerely, without realizing the historical/theological/creedal implications; but my point has been confirmed by both Michel Barnes and Lewis Ayres. The argument on that issue really is now closed, which may – if I might speculate a little myself -- explain why the polemic has now apparently moved in some quarters to character and motivation.
When I was an undergraduate, my Ancient History professor once told the class that there were three ways to respond when your argument had been shown to be wrong. The best was to concede the point in public and humbly change one’s mind. The second best was simply to keep silent. Not so humble as the first but at least the damage was limited. The third option – and the one he said nobody should ever take – was to keep tenaciously clinging to the position which had been refuted.
Complementarianism as currently constructed would seem to be now in crisis. But this is a crisis of its own making -- the direct result of the incorrect historical and theological arguments upon which the foremost advocates of the movement have chosen to build their case and which cannot actually bear the weight being placed upon them. And I speak for the whole MoS Team – and many others who have written to me over this past week -- when I say that Protestant evangelicalism can only really gain if it embraces the full riches of the historic Nicene Trinitarian Faith.
All Liam Goligher and I did was pull on a rope. The next thing we knew, the whole ceiling came crashing down around us. If that tells you anything at all, it is surely something about how well the ceiling was constructed in the first place.