I’m thankful for the article Andrew posted on Monday. Defining “Reformed” theology is becoming more and more difficult with loosely confessional Baptists claiming the same label as high-church Anglicans and Old School Presbyterians. And now, with John Piper leading the charge, the New Calvinism has opened the label up to a more diverse crowd with various doctrinal positions. This is reflected in the convictions of Reformed Margins. We are Reformed, embracing our tradition’s understanding of the doctrine of God, salvation, and highest authority of Scripture. At the same time, we allow room for disagreement over deeply significant and church-defining issues like baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
But in every conversation regarding this resurgence of the Reformed Tradition, one thing has remained: Reformed Theology has been defined as complementarian regarding the church and home. Which leads me to my question:
Is there room for egalitarians in the Reformed community? Does the New Calvinism have space for egalitarians?
I don’t know if I wear the label “egalitarian”. I believe that women should be able to hold all ordained offices in the church and I also believe that headship and submission, when rightly understood, are helpful terms for the ordering of the family (I’ll explain this more fully in a series of blog posts this winter). Of course, so does the egalitarian Council for Biblical Equality. So who knows, maybe the label fits.
I also believe that Scripture is infallibly authoritative in all matters of faith and life. I’m a Calvin-loving, Bavinck-drinking, amilllenarian with a taste for whisky, cigars, and debates about theology and church history. I subscribe to the Westminster Confession (apparently with fewer scruples than Vern Poythress himself!), value the marks of the church, utilize Covenantal Apologetics, and have no tolerance for liberal theology. I list all these Reformed “bona fides” because I think I fit the bill, yet I don’t know if the gatekeepers of the Reformed community would let me in.
This makes me sad because I love Reformed Theology and am committed to its tenants. I’m also confused. When it comes to the doctrine of baptism – something that men and women died over during the Reformation – we’re willing to agree to disagree. When it comes to our theology of the table, we break bread together in spite of vast differences!
According to the Gospel Coalition, which I deeply appreciate and respect, one of the reasons complementarianism is central is because these competing views can’t share a conference stage. But should conference design really be a factor in the definition of an entire movement? And why won’t complementarians allow women to teach men in a non-Church-office conference setting? Complementarianism, as traditionally understood, teaches that women should not hold ordained office. This is an authoritative, pastoral role that only belongs to men. But nobody on a conference stage is working in an official capacity and no one is pastoring while they speak. If they think they do/are, they misunderstand the purpose of a conference. And if anyone attending the conference thinks they’re being pastored while there, they need to dive deeper into their local church.
So again, why is complementarianism a deal-breaker for those in charge? Why would I be turned away even while holding a more traditionally reformed view of baptism than the very people drawing the lines of the New Calvinism?
Clearly, I believe we should embrace a “Reformed” label that is broader than Presbyterianism. I believe and affirm what you would read on our “About RM” page: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and church government shouldn’t cause division within non-ecclesial organizations. But I think the same thing holds true for questions of women’s ordination. I love the resurgence of Calvinism and I’m knocking on the door of the Reformed community, asking to be included. I guess we’ll find out if anyone will open it.
For further reading: (Note, I don’t vouch for everything on these sites; in fact there’s probably a lot here that I disagree with)
It’s also important to hear from my complementarian friends: