Young vs. Old Complementarians1 -- By: Mark E. Dever

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 013:1 (Spring 2008)
Article: Young vs. Old Complementarians1
Author: Mark E. Dever

Young vs. Old Complementarians1

Mark Dever

Capitol Hill Baptist Church
Washington, D.C.

Ligon Duncan and I were recently at a gathering of forty or so pastors. We had a great time there. Wonderful fellowship. Much theological agreement. However, when the question of complementarianism came up, though there was large agreement on theological substance, there was dramatic disagreement on strategy for presentation.

The core of this essay is simply this—it is my observation that those older than me who are complementarian generally want to downplay this issue, and those younger than me want to lead with it, or at least be very up front about it.

Why is this? Is it because the older group is theologically unfaithful, or the younger group culturally insensitive? I don’t think so. I don’t know, but my guess is that there are at least a couple of factors playing into this difference. The two groups have different personal experiences, and the two groups have different theological assessments.

First, the two groups have different personal experiences. Normal for the older group is evangelicals as upstanding members of the society. They are mayors and bankers and respected persons in the community. The tendency is natural to do what would be culturally acceptable, as much as is possible (parallel to John Rawls and his idea of publicly accessible reasons). Normal for the younger group is being shouted at publicly, being told that they’re narrow, intolerant hate-mongers because of their opposition to homosexuality or abortion or false religions. The tendency is to advocate biblical mandates in an unvarnished, open fashion, and yet to do this with an eye to explaining and demonstrating them as winsomely as possible. Both groups want to be faithful to Scripture and sensitive to culture, and yet their ideas of where the right balance is, differ.

Second, the two groups have different theological assessments. The older group is among peers who see women’s ordination as an extension of civil rights for people of different races. The younger group is among peers who see women’s ordination as a precursor for creating legal categories of gay rights. But having a certain skin pigmentation is to the glory of God; having a sexual partner of the same gender is sin. The younger group is more alarmed, not simply by the egalitarian position, but by what it is assumed that will eventually entail, either in those who allow it, or in those who come after them.

There are, of course, many evangelical feminists. Some Christians whom I most love and respect and have learned from are in this category. Just to take one example, I t...

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