Editorial: Gospel Priorities and Complementarianism -- By: Denny Burk
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Gospel Priorities and
Editor, The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Dean of Boyce College
Associate Professor of New Testament
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Scot McKnight recently posted a question on his weblog about the centrality of complementarianism in the theological commitments of the “young, restless and reformed.”1 In short, he asks whether one must be a complementarian in order to be “gospel-centered”? The gender issue is a divisive one, and so the question is a natural one. Why should “young, restless and reformed” egalitarians be divided from their complementarian counterparts? Since both groups have a similar commitment to the gospel, the penal substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, etc., why should they be divided from one another over a secondary issue?
These are fair questions, and they have been addressed by complementarians here and there over the years.2 I will attempt an answer here, though I do not claim to speak for any particular group. I offer three observations that may help clarify why the “young, restless and reformed” often stand apart from reformed egalitarians. While my focus here is on the “young, restless and reformed,” I would argue that these three concerns apply to some extent to all complementarians, not just those who self-identify as reformed.
(1) A ranking of doctrinal priorities is necessary. Albert Mohler wrote a helpful little article on theological priorities that has become somewhat boilerplate among the “young, restless and reformed.” It’s titled “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,” and it outlines a three-part framework for understanding theological priorities.3 Mohler’s argument relates directly to the question at hand.
First order issues are those doctrinal points that distinguish Christians from non-Christians. In other words, a rejection of a first order doctrine means a rejection of Christianity. Some doctrines that fall into this category are Nicene Trinitarianism, Chalcedonian Christology, justification by
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faith alone, and the authority of scripture. Differences over these issues are the difference between heaven and hell.
Second order issues are those doctrinal points that distinguish Christians from Christians. In other words, no one’s Christianity is necessari...
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