I just made mention of the “old days,” which would be, in Reformed evangelical circles, about six months ago, and even earlier. – Douglas Wilson, here.
The thing about the Downgrade – the theological notion defined here – is that it happens so quickly you hardly notice. It is, as Spurgeon said, “going downhill at breakneck speed.” In other words, when doctrine slides into unbiblical oblivion, it’s fast. It’s one of the schemes of the devil, I suppose. He can move faster than our little human brains can comprehend the changes and accurately diagnose them as devilish. The brains of academia move painfully slow, most of the time correctly diagnosing a perverted doctrinal danger a decade or more after wily discernment ministers have already strangled it in the dirt and usually after the danger has already been done. Most pastors, tied up with their responsibilities to the local flock, are not much better at sounding the warning bell than the eggheads in the seminaries’ ivory towers.
Evangelicalism is under a barrage of attacks from the devil as of late, with a multitude of controversies and scuttlebutts in divers places (but this is the just the beginning of sorrows).
Black Lives Matter wedged its way into conservative evangelicalism, with its chief ethicist – Russell Moore – and his associates in the Evangelical Intelligentsia unable or unwilling to properly diagnose the movement for what it was, a soft-bigotry of lowered expectations that excused the worst of human behavior and demonized law and order. With Black Lives Matter being treated with such undue respect in evangelical circles, the ideologies of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and Cultural Marxism swallowed seminaries and Christian institutions whole. In the last couple of years, a Southern Baptist seminary (SEBTS) started an Affirmative Action program called the “Kingdom Diversity Department” and hosted a Malcom X read-in. An alt-left pastor who endorsed Hillary Clinton talked SBC Messengers into denouncing “alt-right” racism in a stunning propaganda victory. The SBC Pastor’s conference was turned into an Affirmative Action parade, and the denomination has been slinging unnotable minorities into honorary leadership positions like throwing feces against the wall, signaling their virtue and proving (for the umpteenth time in as many years) that they’re not racist.
Following on the heels of the beginning of racial wokeness in the SBC was this summer’s Southern Baptist #MeToo movement, in which Beth Moore and animal rights activist, Karen Swallow Prior, helped to scuttle the standard bearer of SBC conservatism, Paige Patterson. In what amounts to pretty shady backroom dealings, on little to no sound evidence, Patterson was fired for being insensitive to women’s issues. In reality, he was just an old horse from a different era who needed to be sent to the glue factory. New president, JD Greear, stated that we needed to promote women to the “highest levels of leadership in the church” and that complementarianism demands that we “platform” (that’s a verb, apparently) women (and while he makes up new word usages, he startlingly changes the definition of “complementarianism”).
Then, there’s the promotion of “sexual minorities” and identification by sin, as the ERLC and SBC elites have completely capitulated on the sinfulness of Same Sex Attraction. As Douglas Wilson articulately wrote in the post with the hyperlink provided in the opening quotation of this article, evangelical leaders are now okay with being gay so long as it’s kept “out of the sack.” Essentially, the SBC is where the mainstream, rainbow-splattered denominations were thirty years ago, with a trajectory that is pacing them.
When you add in the incessant ERLC-led activism on immigration reform, which defined by Russell Moore means, “no immigration law,” and an all-out attack on national borders and national sovereignty, you have the perfect storm of Woke-ism in the SBC. The nation’s largest Protestant denomination has essentially become a Political Action Committee for minority identity groups, whatever that minority identity may be.
None of this – none of it – was foreseen just a few short years ago (uness you read the work of polemicists like those at Pulpit & Pen who told you so a thousand times). In a year’s time, the SBC has gone from conservative denomination to a bleeding-heart, egalitarian, homo-glittered Social Gospel parade.
If you want evidence of how quickly things have changed, consider the words of Russell Moore way back in 2006 (he used an old-fashioned printing press after riding into the office on his horse and carriage, which was then disseminated on the telegram wires). You know, it was back in the old days, back when American Idol and The Office were still on the air, centuries ago. It was back before the days when Moore said he wishes there were “a thousand more” gay-affirming Karen Swallow Priors.
For too long, the evangelical gender debate has assumed that this was merely one more intramural debate—on our best days along the lines of Arminian/ Calvinist or dispensationalist/covenant skirmishes and on our worst days as a theological equivalent of a political debate show with a right- and left-wing representative. And yet, C. S. Lewis included male headship among the doctrines he considered to be part of “mere Christianity,” precisely because male headship has been asserted and assumed by the Christian church with virtual unanimity from the first century until the rise of contemporary feminism.
If complementarians are to reclaim the debate, we must not fear making a claim that is disturbingly counter-cultural and yet strikingly biblical, a claim that the less-than-evangelical feminists understand increasingly: Christianity is undergirded by a vision of patriarchy. This claim is rendered all the more controversial because it threatens complementarianism as a “movement.” Not all complementarians can agree about the larger themes of Scripture—only broadly on some principles and negatively on what Scripture definitely does not allow (i.e. women as pastors). Even to use the word “patriarchy” in an evangelical context is uncomfortable since the word is 11 Wilcox, Soft Patriarchs, New Men 173. 574 journal of the evangelical theological society deemed “negative” even by most complementarians. But evangelicals should ask why patriarchy seems negative to those of us who serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God and Father of Jesus Christ. As liberationist scholar R. W. Connell explains, “The term ‘patriarchy’ came into widespread use around 1970 to describe this system of gender domination.”12 But it came into widespread use then only as a negative term. We must remember that “evangelical” is also a negative term in many contexts. We must allow the patriarchs and apostles themselves, not the editors of Playboy or Ms. Magazine, to define the grammar of our faith.
It is noteworthy that the vitality in evangelical complementarianism right now is among those who are willing to speak directly to the implications and meaning of male headship—and who are not embarrassed to use terms such as “male headship.” This vitality is found in specific ecclesial communities— among sectors within the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, the charismatic Calvinists of C. J. Mahaney’s “sovereign grace” network, and the clusters of dispensationalist Bible churches, as well as within coalition projects that practice an “ecumenism with teeth,” such as Touchstone magazine. These groups are talking about male leadership in strikingly counter-cultural and very specific ways, addressing issues such as childrearing, courtship, contraception, and family planning—not always with uniformity but always with directness…Ironically, a more patriarchal complementarianism will resonate among a generation seeking stability in a family-fractured Western culture in ways that soft-bellied big-tent complementarianism never can. And it also will address the needs of hurting women and children far better, because it is rooted in the primary biblical means for protecting women and children: calling men to responsibility. Soft patriarchy is, in one sense, a reaffirmation of what gender traditionalists have known all along—male headship is not about male privilege. Patriarchy is good for women, good for children, and good for families. But it should also remind us that the question for us is not whether we will have patriarchy, but what kind.
You can read Russell Moore’s paper on the topic of egalitarianism, complementarianism and patriarchy here. What I’m proposing is that from the material we’ve seen come out of the ERLC and from Russell Moore’s social media – not to mention his unfathomably theologically irresponsible promotion of Beth Moore, Moore has completely abandoned his 2006 views. In fact, I further assert that this paper from Moore, if anyone else’s name was on it, would prevent them from being hired at least three different Southern Baptist seminaries (perhaps five, with the only sure hold-out being Southwestern, and that will change when ERLC hireling, Phillip Bethancourt becomes president).
[Editor’s Note: Contributed by JD Hall, HT Casey Boyd]