A Must-Read Must-Read

I’m really liking Jonathan Leeman. He humbly lets his gifts be sublimated to those of Mark Dever when the two chat on 9Marks Pastors Talk episodes, but when I read The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love and then went and heard his paper at the 2016 ETS—I saw that Leeman himself is really theologically and intellectually sharp. And doctrinally solid. This recent article by Leeman on gender roles at the 9Marks site is an absolute must-read.

His analysis of “broad” vs. “narrow” complementarians is very helpful; his graciousness is palpable. His wisdom is… Okay, I’ll stop gushing. Go read it.

My non-denominational, biblicist training might possibly have pushed me in a “narrow” direction, making my complementarianism focus solely on wives submitting to husbands and men taking church leadership roles. But my overall conservatism and, especially, my respect—and continual search—for “creational norms” put me clearly in the “broad” camp with Leeman. That is, I’m primed with him to see divine norms in biology and even in culture.

But Leeman helps people like me make sure not to find norms where they aren’t: that could lead to injustice. And it helps me remember not to be too firm about norms that required several judgment calls to arrive at.

And he cautions us all, on the other side, from putting ourselves in a position in which we are apologizing for the Bible. This is so true:

When churches hesitate to say what distinguishes men and women, God’s explicit precepts for the church and home begin to look arbitrary, even a little embarrassing. You can hear the Sunday school lesson now: “The Bible teaches that women should not be elders, but here’s what I really want you to hear: women can do everything else a man can do.” The tone or subtext is, “No, these commands don’t make a lot of sense because we all know men and women are basically the same. But he is God, sooo…”

And this is brilliantly simple and, in my opinion, profoundly true:

Wisdom issues an “ought,” as in “men ought” or “women ought.” But wisdom’s “ought” is a little different than the “ought” of law. Wisdom’s “ought” sounds like something from Proverbs (“a wise son hears his father’s instruction”). Law’s “ought” sounds like something from Exodus (“you shall not steal”). Wisdom’s “ought” comes with an “ordinarily.” Its opposite is folly (the father might be a fool, a thief, or a typical dad who gives mixed advice). Law’s “ought” comes with an “always.” Its opposite is sin. Yes, sin and folly often overlap, but not always.”

This has application beyond gender roles, but it surely applies to them.

I’m really jazzed about this article, if you couldn’t tell.

Must-read, must-read, must-read!

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

1 Comment

  1. Todd Glass on February 18, 2018 at 7:32 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post and Leeman’s article. Thank you for posting it. I will not attempt to speak with much wisdom on the matter as I have not mined into the passages specifically referenced in his article. I must say that the wisdom drawer would also add that it would be wise to include wise women in the discussion.
    I was warmed by Leeman’s humble approach to subject and his patience. He mentioned the danger of both camps and their ultimate end if humility and mercy are not applied when referencing scholarly discourse as well as discipleship. I feel the danger we face specifically in discipleship is when we attempt to persuade someone into a “jagged-line” camp by “straight-line” rules as Leeman describes.



Leave a Reply