The following continues a series of posts reading through Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?. If you’re curious why I’m blogging on this, you can start at the first post in the series. Or backtrack your way through the series by jumping to the previous post.
Ch. 13- Experience Trumps Scripture: Some evangelical feminists put experience above the Bible
This chapter was so exhausting I thought it deserved its own post. Grudem splits the chapter into a few sections, so I will do so, as well.
A. How can God bless the ministries of some women?
Grudem says it is “because God’s word is powerful, and God brings blessing through his Word to those who hear it” (120), regardless of whether or not God likes the preacher. He gives the example of Samson as someone whom God used despite not always doing things right.
B. The Danger of Loss of God’s Protection and Blessing
This section was crazy. Seriously crazy. Either Grudem is not as smart as his Harvard and Cambridge roots imply or he’s being deliberately manipulative. He begins the section by asserting that “[i]f a woman goes on serving as an elder or pastor, I believe she is doing so outside the will of God, and she has no guarantee of God’s protection on her life” (121). I’m not totally certain what he means by “protection” to begin with (since obviously bad things happen to good people all the time…), but he does offer a couple of examples of the chaos that might befall a female pastor:
First, there is the example of Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944), founder of the Foursquare Church (a Pentecostal denomination) in the early 1900s. She ended up divorced twice, “kidnapped” once (which looked like a runaway affair after the fact), and dead at 54 from an accidental drug overdose. I didn’t know her personally, so I can’t know what really went on in her brief but dramatic life. I admit, however, that her character sounds highly suspicious. What that has to do with women in ministry as a general topic, however, I don’t know.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, Grudem offers an even more extreme example next: Judy Brown. Judy Brown was an Assemblies of God pastor and former Bible college professor. In 2004 she was convicted of “malicious wounding and burglary with the intent to commit murder.” Basically, she had become involved with her neighbor’s wife, and she broke into the home to kill the husband. Grudem loves this story for two reasons:
(1) Judy Brown had recently written an article published in the first edition of Discovering Biblical Equality, published by InterVarsity Press (when IVP found out what happened, the book was immediately re-released without Brown’s article). As I have mentioned, Grudem loves to point out that IVP is so egalitarian-friendly.
(2) Judy Brown specifically had a “lesbian relationship” (122). Since he has a later chapter dedicated to explaining how evangelical feminism ultimately leads to homosexuality, I’m sure Grudem was delighted to tell this woman’s story.
And Grudem attributes none of this to mental illness. To him, she’s just another great example of the depravity of the “evangelical feminists.” He says that if she had only taught women, he expects she wouldn’t have had God’s blessing removed from her life and wouldn’t have “tragically lost the ability to make wise judgments” (123).
Some may object to my bringing up the examples of these women, and say, “But what about the hundreds of male pastors who have committed great sins, bringing reproach on themselves and their churches? Why pick on these two women when many more men have sinned just as badly?
I agree that many male pastors have also fallen into very serious sin. And I do not doubt that in many of those cases God also withdrew his protection and blessing from them. But in their cases the reason cannot be that the Bible forbids men to become pastors! Surely nobody would argue that! [He goes on…]
But with these women pastors, the most obvious, evident sin is that of disobeying God’s directions that a woman should not “teach or . . . exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12). And that is why I believe there is a connection between women being ordained and exercising leadership as pastors and tragic results in their personal lives. (123-124)
I’ve never seen such terribly circular logic in my life.
C. What does historical “experience” really demonstrate about women’s ministries?
Grudem also enjoys pointing out the declines in membership and financial support within mainline Protestantism. Apparently we are to measure ministry faithfulness by ministry “success” and ministry success by numbers of people and dollar bills.
D. We cannot immediately see all the consequences of women being pastors
(1) “Many of the most conservative, faithful, Bible-believing members of the church will leave” (126).
(2) Other members will disagree but stay and will have their confidence in Scripture eroded over time because they think the leaders are encouraging disobedience.
(3) Those who accept women in ministry will become theologically liberal.
(4) Churches will become “feminized.” (I swear, if I have to hear someone bitch about this one more time…)
(5) Men will also lose their positions of authority at home.
(6) Children will grow up gender-confused.
E. Putting experience above the Bible is a form of “situation ethics” and is also the foundational principle of modern liberalism
Grudem refers to Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics: The New Morality (1966), explaining that “[h]e argued that people at times needed to break God’s moral laws in the Bible in order to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people” (128). The last time I checked that was utilitarianism. So, Grudem, let’s talk about Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Maybe you like Kant better? Look, if we’re going to talk ethics, let’s do so the right way and actually talk ethics. I personally think Kant makes a lot more sense if we’re going to talk about philosophers egalitarians might like, so I have no idea why we are having this discussion about Fletcher.
All in all, this chapter was even more extreme than I could have expected from Grudem. Even if I’ve made you want to read it for yourself (just to see if it could really be this bad), I will not be held responsible for any concussions from banging your head against the wall.