How Important Is Complementarianism? A Dialogue among Friends -- By: Denny Burk

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 17:2 (Fall 2012)
Article: How Important Is Complementarianism? A Dialogue among Friends
Author: Denny Burk

How Important Is Complementarianism?
A Dialogue among Friends

Denny Burk

Editor, Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
Boyce College
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

Last August in a blog for the Reformation21 website, Carl Trueman asked why groups like The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Together for the Gospel (T4G) include complementarianism in their confessional commitments. In short, Trueman thinks it is inconsistent to elevate the importance of a secondary issue like complementarianism while routinely downplaying the importance of other secondary issues like baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He writes,

I am simply not sure why it is such a big issue in organisations whose stated purpose is basic co-operation for the propagation of the gospel and where other matters of more historic, theological and ecclesiastical moment are routinely set aside. If you want simply to unite around the gospel, then why not simply unite around the gospel? Because as soon as you decide that issues such as baptism are not part of your centre-bounded set but complementarianism is, you will find yourself vulnerable to criticism — from both right and left — that you are allowing a little bit of the culture war or your own pet concerns and tastes to intrude into what you deem to be the most basic biblical priorities.1

I think Trueman asks a fair question. In fact, the question is not a new one. It has been asked and answered numerous times by members of both TGC and T4G. Justin Taylor2 has highlighted some of the recent discussion of the matter. I would also point out Kevin DeYoung’s3 helpful little essay from a couple of years ago as well as Ligon Duncan’s4 piece published in JBMW in 2008. I too editorialized5 on the topic for JBMW in 2010 (though I’m not a formal representative of either TGC or T4G). This is not a new question, and so the answers are not really new either.

Having said that, Trueman presses the comparison between the gender issue and ecclesiological distinctives such as baptism and the Lord’s

Supper. It is this analogy, I think, that makes his particular critique worth responding to. Is it true (as he suggests) that the gender issue is so analogous to baptism and the Lord’s Supper that it should be removed from the confessional commitments of group...

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