Different by Design?

I can’t help being amused by the following post at Between Two Worlds:

CBMW has now made available the audio from the “Different by Design” conferences, which have featured C. J. Mahaney paired with Wayne Grudem, and Ligon Duncan paired with Russell Moore.

So, if these pairings were features of these conferences, was their point to tell us how Mahaney is “Different by Design” from Grudem, and Duncan from Moore? From these pictures it seems that the design difference between Mahaney CJ Mahaney and Grudem Wayne Grudem is not in their amount of hair!

Nor, unfortunately, is the difference in my appreciation for them. I have serious issues with the teachings of both Mahaney and Grudem.

A well-functioning head has ears

I think that I failed to understand that, though the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23), a well-functioning head has ears. Perhaps if I had listened more and involved her more in the process, many of the details of the decision would have been different.

Who wrote this? Believe it or not, it was the same Dr Wayne Grudem whose teaching on gender issues I have criticised so often here and elsewhere, especially in comments on Adrian Warnock’s blog. This is an extract an interesting article, from 2001, in which Dr Grudem explains how he and his wife came to the decision to move to Arizona.

If we heard less from Dr Grudem, or from others quoting Dr Grudem, about how wives should submit to their husbands, and more about how husbands should listen to their wives (and vice versa), less about how “headship” means authority and more about how it means mutual care and responsibility, then maybe I wouldn’t have such a negative attitude towards Dr Grudem and the complementarian teaching which he promotes.

Thanks to Wayne Leman for bringing this page to my attention.

Adrian Warnock closes his blog to comments…

…except apparently to those which agree with him and with Dr Grudem.

He outlines his new comment policy in what has now become a footnote to every posting on his blog:

Comments posted since 15 Dec 2006 have been approved by Adrian Warnock or an associate but do not necessarily reflect his opinion. Please be cautions of older comments and content on sites with links from or to this blog. …Comment moderation introduces a delay to discussion, and due to the volume of comments, many will be rejected. Writing a post on your own blog with a link to this page may be a good alternative.

Well, I am here taking up his last suggestion.

But what does his new policy mean in practice? I wrote a comment on part 7 of Adrian’s interview with Dr Wayne Grudem, actually before this new policy came into force (which means that it should have been approved because it met the policy in force at the time), which was rejected. I asked Adrian why, and submitted a revised comment, but this was also rejected. The comment was entirely on topic and of general interest, as Adrian appears to accept. And for once I was agreeing with and supporting Dr Grudem’s position. But it seems that Adrian will not allow me even to refer to the fact that Dr Grudem has rejected the positions which I hold on other issues.

Adrian’s blog has become one of the most respected in the Christian blogosphere. Does he now want to “castrate” it (see the PS below re such language), turning it into a forum for himself, Dr Grudem and others who agree with them to pat one another on the back? At least this kind of castration is reversible, although it needs to be reversed quickly if Adrian is not to lose his reputation as a good blogger.

Here is my comment on part 7 of the Grudem interview, in its original form as posted 12/14/2006 10:55:16 PM and then deleted:

Well, having been condemned by Grudem for being a “feminist” and again for not accepting that penal substitution is a complete description of the atonement, I am glad not to be condemned a third time for being in a paedo-baptist denomination, the Church of England!

But actually in fact the C of E in practice, and semi-officially at least in our diocese, recognises dual modes of baptism and allows them to continue in parallel. In my congregation, it is up to each family whether they want their child to be baptised as an infant; in practice most church members choose instead to have a dedication service, whereas it is outsiders who want a proper infant baptism! Adult believers are encouraged to come forward for baptism by immersion (in our church in a borrowed portable baptistry), or if they have already been baptised as an infant for “renewal of baptismal vows”, which comes to almost the same thing, usually immersion in the same water, but cannot be officially called baptism. Alternatively, some are baptised as believers at other churches, camps etc, as I was before there was a “renewal of baptismal vows” service; and no one complains as long as we don’t teach publicly that everyone should do the same. Indeed a friend of mine who was baptised in this way, and didn’t hide it, was recently accepted for ordination in the C of E. We are not allowed to teach that infant baptism is invalid, but we can opt out of it for ourselves. We cannot insist on believers’ baptism as a condition for church membership – but then most UK Baptists don’t either.

While this kind of compromise is certainly not ideal, it does seem to work in practice. Of course the C of E loves compromises, and this one is much more acceptable than some of the others!

Adrian rejected this, and I asked him why. I understand that there could be a problem with the word “condemned” in the first paragraph. I wrote the following to him in an e-mail (links added):

Well, what can I say? Would you prefer “damned”? As far as I can tell that is what Grudem is trying to say, about both “feminists” and Chalke supporters. Not exactly bridgebuilding! But I will leave Suzanne to complain about this. Grudem was not quite so explicit in what he actually wrote. He did say, completely without foundation, that “Chalke is denying the heart of the Gospel.” But he doesn’t quite say that Chalke is going to hell, and so he might not say the same about me.So how about “Well, having had my beliefs rejected by Grudem for being a “feminist” and again for not accepting that penal substitution is a complete description of the atonement, I am glad not to be rejected a third time for being in a paedo-baptist denomination, the Church of England!”? If I start the comment like that, will you accept it? Well, I’ll try it and see.

And the answer quickly came back: no, Adrian would not accept this. Why not? He gave me a rather unconvincing reason, which I will not publish because this was in a private e-mail. But it seems to me that the real point is that he doesn’t want any reference on his blog to any disagreement with Dr Grudem. He just wants to post Grudem’s propaganda without allowing for any proper discussion of its validity.

Adrian, if I have misrepresented you in any way, you are welcome to comment, but I will be convinced only if you open up your blog again to proper discussion of the issues you raise.

PS: Here is another comment I made, this time on part 5 of the Grudem interview and in response to Donna L. Carlaw’s comment on that post of 14 December, 2006 23:38, which Adrian has at least not yet accepted:

Donna wrote “a good help mate will see when her husband needs her gentle intervention. She can do that without further wounding him by castration.” Then she explained this with “I do believe that a woman can be a strong help mate without seeking to knock her husband out of the leadership role in the marriage. That is what I meant by “castration”, removing him from his God-given position because of his handicap.” (typo corrected)This is an example of one of the worst logical fallacies and methods of argument, labelling one’s opponent’s position with a highly pejorative label (like “castration”), when it has no connection at all with the literal meaning of that label, and implicitly arguing that the position is wrong because it bears that label.

Donna, how would you react if I wrote something like the following: “An egalitarian man does not rape his wife”, in a context implying that complementarian men do, and then explained this with “by ‘rape’ I mean ‘exercise a leadership position over'”? Of course I would not dream of using such language. Maybe some egalitarians have done so, but not in this discussion. Please let’s keep this kind of rabble rousing argument out of this blog.

No need to apologize“, you think, Donna? On the contrary, every need, for your explanation has made your slur worse, rather than better. If your mother can take the lead over your invalid father “without making a man feel like less of a man“, without castrating him physically or presumably in the non-physical sense you have in mind, then why can’t the same happen in a marriage in which the couple agree on an egalitarian relationship? Note that I am not talking about a case where a wife “assumes authority” or “usurps authority” over her husband (something which Paul rightly did not allow, although he reserved “castrate” for the Judaising false teachers of Galatians 5:12) but where this relationship is agreed between the couple.

I didn’t write what I could have done (but which would surely have guaranteed the rejection of this comment), that Dr Grudem also uses the kind of argument by attaching pejorative labels which I objected to Donna using. One of Grudem’s favourite pejorative labels is “feminist”, which is not as bad as “castrate”, but by arguing in this way at all he is encouraging others down the “slippery slope” into using labels like “castrate”. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if someone finds that Grudem has also used “castrate” in this way, but I don’t have any evidence for this.

Well, if Adrian’s new policy introduced 22 minutes after Donna’s comment stops people making generalised slurs of this nature on egalitarian women, and refusing to apologise for them, then maybe the policy is not all bad. But if he allows comments like this to be made, he should allow replies to them – if he doesn’t apply his new policy to them retroactively by deleting them, as he did to the original version of my comment, as copied above, posted 43 minutes earlier and then deleted.

UPDATE: Adrian has now accepted an even further weakened version of my comment on part 7 of the Grudem interview. So the answer to the question I put to him in a private e-mail:

Or is your policy in fact that you will not allow any mention that anyone might disagree with Grudem?

must in fact be “No”.

I realised that the opening of my posting above, “…except apparently to those who agree with him and with Dr Grudem”, was grammatically confused as “those” appeared to refer back to comments rather than to people, but was then followed by “who”. I considered correcting this to “…except apparently to those made by people who agree…” But it now seems clear that in fact Adrian’s policy is not directed at individuals, but the content of their comments. So I have corrected this to “…except apparently to those which agree…”

Adrian Warnock censors those who find an error in Grudem's words

Adrian Warnock has deleted from this post on his blog a number of comments, at least four by Suzanne McCarthy and two by myself. He has not informed me that he has done this. He has mentioned this in a comment addressed to Suzanne on a post at the Better Bibles Blog, where he writes:

I have removed some comments over at my place that I feel are off-topic. This is one of them

Fortunately I have a copy of these six comments still open in a browser window and so can restore them to public view on this blog.

I must agree with Adrian that some of Suzanne’s points, and my second comment which is in reply to those points, are somewhat off the immediate topic of Adrian’s post. So he has is acting reasonably by deleting those comments.

However, I have a very serious problem of principle with the fact that he has deleted both of the comments which point out an error of fact in his post. The error is in the words of Dr Wayne Grudem in part five of Adrian’s interview with him. These comments are of course entirely relevant to the post concerning which they were added as comments.

Adrian doesn’t seem to have a problem with being corrected himself. Indeed he was very gracious when I put him right about subordination within the Trinity in his recent post on the attributes of God. But it seems that he cannot take it when people find errors in what his favourite teachers have said. He wrote the following in a comment just before the ones he deleted:

O, and please be careful about being disrespectful to our guest around here. If I had Dr Grudem as a guest in my home and another guest was rude to him most likely I would ask that guest to leave.

Indeed it is right to be respectful to a guest – and to any guest, including any commenter on a blog, not just to those who have an academic position and a good reputation in certain circles. However, I do not consider it to be showing a lack of respect to politely point out errors of fact made by someone else. Indeed I would consider it disrespectful to avoid carefully correcting someone, to stop them perpetuating their error and potentially being even more embarrassed by public exposure. And I would certainly consider it disrespectful to the honoured guest, as well as to the person pointing out the error, to intervene in the discussion to prevent the guest from finding out about their error.

As for the particular issue in question here, since Adrian has not let me make the correction through a comment in his blog, I will have to make it more publicly, in a separate post from this one.

Here are the comments which Adrian deleted, unedited:

Suzanne McCarthy said…
On 1 Tim. 2:12 Dr. Grudem also takes a stand against the Tyndale – King James tradition.12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.12Einem Weibe aber gestatte ich nicht, daß sie lehre, auch nicht, daß sie des Mannes Herr sei, sondern stille sei. LutherSo Dr. Grudem cannot teach from these Bibles, I have heard many times pastors tell me that they cannot teach from a certain text even though it is what was in the KJ or Luther Bible. Why is that? They need their own special version? They will not use a traditional and established Bible? 

I don’t know why the TNIV is “a highly suspect and novel translation”, it is simply an update of the King James translation in this case.

I challenge Dr. Grudem to go back to the King James Bible and teach from that.

12 December, 2006 08:14

Suzanne McCarthy said…
And why is it alright to post on the internet against the TNIV and its translators? Why is that acceptable? Who are these people?Bruce Waltke
Gordon Fee
Ron Youngblood
Douglas Moo
RT Franceto name a few.It is my prayer that this rift in the Christian community be healed and that there will not be one group posting in public against another, going on radio against another, in front of non-Christians. 

I am so disturbed by this action on the part of the authors of the Statement of Concern against the TNIV. It is my desire that this provocation of disunity be dismantled. These people, these issues are personal to me. This statement has caused such personal grief, and for what, in what way is the ESV a perfect translation and the KJV, the TNIV and the Luther Bible is not?

There needs to be grace and healing and humility. Not this display of why the TNIV is suspect.

12 December, 2006 08:27

Suzanne McCarthy said…
Adrian,I need to address your misunderstanding regarding the generic ‘he’.Dr. Grudem claims,”Thus, in Hebrew and in Greek as well as in English, the usage “suggests a particular pattern of thought,” namely a picture using a male representative” and 

“But in typical contexts, singular masculine gender pronouns encourage a starting picture of a male, not just a totally faceless entity”

This implies to me that Dr. Grudem thinks that the pronoun creates male semantic meaning – a male image in the mind. Does it do this in Greek?

In Greek, the pronoun is αυτος meaning ‘the same one as has been mentioned’. And the grammatical ending is masculine.

In fact, no one has ever suggested that masculine grammatical endings create male semantic content, or a starting picture of a male in the the mind.

So I cannot understand this argument of Dr. Grudem’s. He may feel that this is true in English, but the Bible was not written in English. We have to deal with this.

Let me be clear – the Greek pronoun αυτος does not create a male image in the mind that encourages us to receive Christ in our hearts.

Let’s look at this verse.

Rev. 3:20

20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Why should we need the pronoun ‘him’ to create a starting picture of a male in a woman’s head. May not woman come to Christ untrammeled by the thought of a human male, not Christ himself, but the male who represents her in her relationship to Christ, as a picture in her head?

Indeed, if someone came to my door I would say, “Please let whoever is knocking come in and I will give them tea.”

I would not say “Please let whoever is knocking come in and I will give him tea.” I think not. I will welcome a woman as easily as a man.

I discussed this with Dr. Packer and he agrees on this – the generic ‘they’ is perfectly standard.

12 December, 2006 08:53

Suzanne McCarthy said…
Arian,Does is only matter to you how masculine sounding the words are, or do you care about something being true?Think of the women who reported that Christ was risen. Wasn’t that truth? Can you not open up to something more than masculinity? 

12 December, 2006 09:05


Peter Kirk said…

I am sorry to have to report yet another factual error in what Dr Grudem says. In fact I see that Suzanne has already spotted this, but I repeat it here because some may not take such a point from a woman or may not read all of her comments – and because I drafted what follows before reading Suzanne’s comments.Grudem writes: “in 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV adopts a highly suspect and novel translation … It reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man”“. But this is not a novel translation at all, for as with Matthew 5:9 Grudem seems to have ignored KJV. Look at the KJV rendering of 1 Timothy 2:12: “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man”. Of course “usurp authority” is not precisely the same wording as “assume authority”, but the meaning in the context must be the same. Grudem continued: “If churches adopt this translation, the debate over women’s roles in the church will be over, because women pastors and elders can just say, “I’m not assuming authority on my own initiative; it was given to me by the other pastors and elders.” Therefore any woman could be a pastor or elder so long as she does not take it upon herself to “assume authority.”” Well, for over 300 years most churches adopted KJV, but despite Grudem’s argument here this did not stop the debate over women’s roles in the church. So what is the real difference between TNIV and KJV here?Grudem also writes: “I don’t think a pastor can give a woman “permission” to do Bible teaching before the church, because the Bible says not to do that.” But actually what the Bible passage in question says is that Paul himself does not give women this kind of permission, in the churches over which he had authority. So this seems to leave open the possibility that other church leaders could and did give this permission. There is a long and complex hermeneutical procedure which needs to be followed, including such issues as how far our churches today are under Paul’s apostolic authority and whether individual examples should ever be taken to be normative, before we can translate Paul’s example into a command for churches today. This process seems to have been ignored in this whole discussion, at least on the blogs I have been reading. I hope Grudem has addressed this issue in his book. 

12 December, 2006 14:55

Peter Kirk said…
Suzanne, you shouldn’t call Adrain “Arian”. You may disagree with him, but I don’t think he is guilty of this particular heresy!You quote Grudem as claiming concerning generic “he” “Thus, in Hebrew and in Greek as well as in English, the usage “suggests a particular pattern of thought,” namely a picture using a male representative”.Here we need to distinguish carefully between linguistic and theological issues. It is true that in many languages, including Hebrew and Greek, and in some mostly older varieties of English, a grammatically masculine pronoun can refer to or “represent” all humans, male and female. But this is not true of all language, especially those like Persian and Turkic languages which have no gender distinctions in pronouns; it is also not true of the form of “gender neutral” English used in many parts of the English speaking world. It is thus of necessity a language specific issue, which has no significance outside the structures of specific languages. Thus it is something which cannot does not need to be preserved in a translation into a gender neutral language. The problem with this comes when Grudem attempts to recharacterise this as a theological issue and then insist that language specific distinctions are preserved even in languages which do not and cannot make these distinctions. 

12 December, 2006 15:07

The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible, Part 3: Principles of Scholarly Exegesis

I introduced this series with a look at how Al Mohler became a complementarian, and then in the second part I looked at “the husband of one wife” in Titus 1:6 (RSV) from the fundamentalist approach. I will now continue by looking at how to take a more scholarly approach to this phrase.

At this point I will remind you all that in the 1980s I studied theology to MA level at a school, London Bible College (now London School of Theology), which is committed to an evangelical position but also to a scholarly approach to the Bible. As such it is similar to Al Mohler’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary referred to in Part 1 of this series – or at least to how that seminary was in the 1980s (Mohler also quotes a report that now “Baptist schools increasingly are being ‘forced to sacrifice their intellectual integrity to ensure the flow of funds,'” and I might wonder whether under Mohler’s presidency SBTS has been forced to abandon its former scholarly approach to gender issues and instead teach the intellectually flawed works of Grudem et al about this). Later I taught biblical exegesis at the European Training Programme of Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International. What I write here is based on what I learned at LBC and taught at ETP, as expanded by myself.

A proper scholarly approach to a Bible passage requires two distinct stages. The first, known as exegesis, is to understand what the original author was trying to say to his or her original audience. Only when this has been clearly established should the interpreter move on the next stage, application to a present day situation. In this part of the series I will look only at exegesis, and will move on to application in a future part.

Gordon Fee has defined exegesis as follows:

Exegesis… answers the question, What did the Biblical author mean? It has to do both with what he said (the content itself), and why he said it at any given point (the literary context). Furthermore, exegesis is primarily concerned with intentionality: What did the author intend his original readers to understand? (New Testament Exegesis, p.21)

The essential steps in doing exegesis are first to identify the problems, then to find out the facts about these problems, then to make the right choices. The following step by step procedure for exegesis is adapted from Fee’s New Testament Exegesis:

1. Get an overview of the whole document: survey the literary setting of the passage.

2. Examine the communication situation: survey the historical setting of the whole document:

  • Who is the author?
  • Who are the recipients?
  • What is the relationship between them?
  • Where did the recipients live?
  • What historical situation occasioned this writing?

3. Examine the validity of treating the passage as a unit: try to be sure that the passage you have chosen for exegesis is a genuine, self-contained unit.

4. Study and compare different translations of the passage; in particular compare a fairly literal translation (or the original text itself), with a meaning-based modern translation. Look at other translations to see if there are any major differences of interpretation. Comparing translations in this way will alert you to places in the text where it is possible to interpret the meaning in more than one way, or to further implications or nuances of meaning, which might otherwise be overlooked. Try to re-express the meaning of the passage in your own words.

5. Formulate questions listing the points that need to be investigated. This should include a listing of points where the meaning is unclear to you and of any alternative interpretations.

6. Establish the text: are there any alternative textual readings in the passage which affect the meaning of the text? If so, examine the evidence in support of each alternative reading.

7. Identify words for which word studies need to be made and make these word studies, using help from lexicon, concordance and commentaries.

8. Use the bible itself and commentaries and other reference books to look for help in answering the questions you have listed. Through studying commentaries you may also be alerted to further questions that need to be considered.

9. Analyse relationships between words and between larger units, such as clauses, sentences, paragraphs.

10. Study other passages of scripture which may be relevant because

  • they give teaching on the same topic, or
  • (for the Gospels, Kings/Chronicles etc.) they are parallel passages, or
  • they use similar words or expressions and may throw light on the meaning of that expression.

11. Make a decision on those points where alternative interpretations are possible.

12. Make a new version of the passage in your own language expressing the meaning clearly and explicitly.

As this part is already getting rather long, I will leave it here, and in part 4: Exegesis of Titus 1:6 apply these principles to that verse.

The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible, Part 1: Introduction

I was led to write about this topic because Adrian Warnock linked to an article by Al Mohler explaining how he came to became a complementarian (i.e. someone who believes that God has given men and women different but complementary roles in the church and in the family) and an opponent of women pastors. While Mohler, a leading Southern Baptist, is not well known here in England (I had not heard of him until about a month ago), he has been described as the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.” – and put this description in his own personal profile! He also serves on the council of The Council on (so-called) Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the leading group promoting the complementarian position.

Mohler notes that at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, when he was a student there in the 1980s (he is now its President),

the only position given public prominence in this question was avidly pro-women as pastors. Furthermore, I encountered no scholarly argument for the restriction of the teaching office to men in any seminary forum or format. That argument was simply absent.

He then writes that he changed his mind on this issue as a result of

a comment made to me in personal conversation with Dr. Carl F. H. Henry in the mid-1980s. Walking across the campus, Dr. Henry simply stopped me in my tracks and asked me how, as one who affirms the inerrancy of the Bible, I could possibly deny the clear teaching of Scripture on this question.

I have a serious problem with the implications of Henry’s question. To anyone who has studied this kind of issue in any depth, it is clear that the teaching of the Bible on this is not at all clear. I suspect that Henry had in mind a small number of proof texts which could be called upon, often out of context, to prove for example that women could not be pastors. That is the typical approach of biblical fundamentalists to answering this kind of question. The trouble is, this is not how the Bible should be used.

To give credit to Mohler, he did not simply accept Henry’s position on the basis of a few proof texts. I’m sure he had been taught better than that by the scholars at his seminary. He writes:

I launched myself on a massive research project, reading everything I could get on both sides.

Nevertheless, I can’t help suspecting that the reason why at the seminary he “encountered no scholarly argument for the restriction of the teaching office to men” is that there are no such scholarly arguments, that is to say, no arguments which don’t quickly fall when subjected to proper scholarly scrutiny. Of course Mohler wouldn’t agree, for he writes:

there just wasn’t much written in defense of the complementarian position. Egalitarianism reigned in the literature. … Thankfully, with the rise of groups like CBMW and the influence of scholarly books by Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Mary Kassian, and so many others, this is no longer the case. The complementarian position is now very well served by a body of scholarly literature, for which we should be thankful.

But I have examined some of this “body of scholarly literature”, what has been written on this subject by Grudem and his collaborators, and I cannot accept that it is truly scholarly. Books like The Gender Neutral Bible Controversy, by Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem, are full of elementary misunderstandings of Greek and linguistics, and show every sign of being an attempt to put a scholarly dress on to an argument which is in fact based on fundamenalist proof texting. Instead such issues need to be examined with a proper scholarly approach.

So, what is the difference between the scholarly and fundamentalist approaches to the Bible? Having whetted your appetites, I hope, I will leave that for part 2 of this series: The Fundamentalist Approach (see also part 3: Principles of Scholarly Exegesis; part 4: Exegesis of Titus 1:6; part 5: Scholarly Application; part 6: Conclusions).