Should we separate from egalitarians? After all, the ordination of women is not “one of the five [seven?] fundamentals.”* Is this issue really so important that it should directly affect our “fellowship” from them?
Russell Moore thinks so. At the Different by Design conference in February of this year, he explained the way this issue should be addressed by churches:
We have to understand that this is not an intramural debate. Quite frankly, that’s the way we’ve been treating it for too long. We’ve been treating it like the kind of conversation dispensationalists and covenant theologians may have with one another. We treat this as the same kind of discussion that Ligon Duncan and I might have over whether or not infants ought to be baptized. We treat this as the kind of situation where brothers and sisters in Christ who agree on all of the main things now get together and talk about some issues of interpretation where “we just happen to disagree.” That is not what is taking place.
As our brother mentioned at the beginning, when you come to the issue of gender roles, you are dealing with the Gospel. The Apostle Paul says “I am speaking to you of a mystery” in Ephesians chapter 5. He is not beginning an entirely new argument. He is continuing the argument he began in Ephesians chapter 1 where he says, “the mystery that God has now revealed, the mystery that he is summing up all things in Christ.” He says, when you understand the mystery of Christ, you understand why it is that God did not create man as an ameba to just sub-divide. Why he creates someone who is like him and yet different from him, someone that he protects, someone that he provides for, someone that comes and does a one-flesh union with him, the Apostle Paul says that is an illustration of Christ and the Church. He is not here saying, “Husbands, love your wives, wives submit to your husbands, and I’m trying to think of an illustration of this, it’s kind of like…hmmm…the sun and the moon? No… The dew and the rain? … Christ and the church?” That’s not what Paul is doing. He’s doing the exact opposite. He is saying, “Christ and the church is the proto-type, the illustration is Adam and Eve.”
When God gives you Adam and Eve, he is showing you a picture that you can’t quite understand. . . . This is the illustration of a Christ-Church union where everything that belongs to Jesus now belongs to His Bride. They are flesh of each other’s flesh, bone of each other’s bone. That’s the reason why the principalities and powers hate male headship, why they hate female submission, why they hate a loving marriage relationship, why they hate children, because it pictures the mystery of the Gospel that they hate. The minute that we start to apologize for that, we have lost something of the Gospel itself. And that’s one of the reasons why I think we have to start using language that sometimes even makes us uncomfortable, such as language of “patriarchy.” . . .
What we have to ultimately understand [sic] is that the Gospel itself is patriarchal. It has to do with the Fatherhood of God, a Fatherhood that is not abstract, a Fatherhood that is not theoretical, a Fatherhood that the entire Bible lays out as a God who is giving a covenant inheritance to his Son. A story line you see all the way from Adam who gives birth to Seth who is in his image and in his likeness, a Fatherhood you see when God says to Pharoah, “You have my first born son in captivity; let him go.” First Timothy 2 really looks like male headship. . . . It is not just the individual texts; it’s the whole trajectory of Scripture, but the whole trajectory of Scripture leads to patriarchy, it leads to the Fatherhood of God, and it leads to the headship of men, not an evil headship, but a loving, self-sacrificial kind of headship. . . .
The whole trajectory of Scripture, and the Gospel itself, is bound up in patriarchy. We may not want to admit this, but the secular feminist critique of Christianity is exactly right on this point. He goes on to criticize those who think that they can join forces with evangelical feminists to combat the issue of open theism. He explains,
Open theism is not worse than evangelical feminism. Open theism is just another way of saying evangelical feminism.
Both open theism and evangelical feminism are an assault on the nature of God and his revelation in the holy Scriptures. And then Russell Moore drives the point home one more time.
When we’re thinking about those within the Church who hold to evangelical feminism, whether they’re our scholars, whether they’re our pastors, whether they’re the people who sit in our pews, we need to understand that this isn’t just an intellectual debate. This is a spiritual warfare issue and lives at are stake. The Gospel is at stake.
Compare this kind of thought to the emotional pleas for women pastors by Joseph Zichterman on the basis that “there is so much at stake.” Indeed there is. For him, the power and authority desired by egalitarian women who deny the entire trajectory of Scripture is at stake; the woman who slipped Bill Hybels a note about being a leader trapped in a woman’s body is at stake. For us, the Gospel is at stake. Compare Moore to Zichterman’s advancing the notion that the Christian church should ordain women for the sake of winning unregenerate (!) women who refuse repent and confess Jesus is Lord because the Church will not allow them to become pastors. With Zichterman we have profound disagreement over the nature of the Gospel itself.
*I do not believe that fellowship or separation hangs merely on a handful of “core” doctrines. Our fellowship and disfellowship with other believers is much more complex and nuanced than that.