Biblical Scholar Warns of Unsuspecting Path to Theological Liberalism
- Wednesday, February 07, 2007
CW: Can you make an attempt to summarize the steps that believers and denominations take to get from even a well-intentioned egalitarianism to where they end up denying the authority of the Word of God? Can you complete the steps in that ladder for us?
Grudem: Yes. I trace that on page 28 of my book, where I point out that the liberal denominations in the United States – the ones that abandoned the complete authority of Scripture – started to ordain women in the 1950s, particularly the United Methodist Church in 1956, and the Presbyterian Church USA in 1956, and then others followed.
Well, what is surprising now is that evangelical churches are using the same kinds of arguments that were used by liberal churches to adopt a feminist viewpoint back in the 1950s and 1960s. And what happens is – we can see what happened to those liberal churches that adopted that viewpoint. I trace seven steps in the book that show this pattern in denomination after denomination:
- Number one, they abandon biblical inerrancy, and say the Bible has some mistakes in it and can’t always be trusted.
- Number two, they endorse the ordination of women as the pastor or the priests or as elders in churches.
- Number three, they abandon the Bible’s teachings on male headship in marriage, and say, “Oh well, leadership just is determined on gifts and agreements and preferences, not on who’s the husband and who’s the wife.”
- Number four, they exclude clergy who are opposed to women’s ordination. We’ve seen that in the Presbyterian Church USA, for instance, and in other denominations, where if someone says, “No, the Bible doesn’t want you to ordain women,” they’ll say, “Oh, let’s allow both views”… until they get into power. And then they say, “Oh, your view is harmful to women, and it’s making them feel hurt, and offended, and you can’t hold that view anymore.” So pretty soon they exclude people who are opposed to women’s ordination. We see that at Willow Creek Community Church, for instance. Their policies don’t allow anyone to hold the view that I am arguing for in this book, the historic view of the Church. Even to be a member of Willow Creek you have to agree to submit – joyfully submit – to the teaching of both men and women elders.
- Number five is approving homosexual conduct as morally valid in some cases (such as in committed homosexual relationship). And in the book I trace that some evangelical authors and groups now tending in that direction. Jack & Judith Balswick, authors at Fuller Seminary, in a book published by InterVarsity Press, come right up to the edge of approving that. The Christian Reformed Churches have some tendencies in that direction. For example, Calvin College now has Ribbon Week to give support to gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual students on campus, and the president said it’s just like, you know, as if we were to have Cerebral Palsy Week for some people who have that disease, implying that it’s not the moral responsibility of people who have homosexual tendencies or “orientation.”
- Number six is approving homosexual ordination. And then…
- Number seven is ordaining homosexuals to high leadership positions in the denomination. And of course, the Episcopal Church has done this, where Bishop Eugene Robinson has been elected in New Hampshire, and caused great turmoil in the Episcopal Church.
That’s the direction in which groups move, and the United Methodist Church, for instance, has an ordained lesbian, and when the national leadership of the church had to deal with this, they said, “We still defend our standards that this shouldn’t happen, but we’re not going to do anything about this for churches or regions that allow this.” So the resolution has no force.
That’s a slippery slope; churches go in the direction that the dominant opinions of the culture are pushing them, and it all starts with an abandonment of the complete authority of the Bible. And the arguments used for endorsing women to high leadership positions in the Church then become the same kind of arguments that are used for endorsing homosexuals to high leadership positions in the Church. It’s a dangerous process.
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