Monday, August 31, 2015

The Value of Re-Affirming The Danvers Statement

As I've stated in numerous previous posts, I'm a complementarian woman and a fully participating member of a PCA church that teaches the complementarian position. As such, I find myself compelled to defend what I have come to regard as the thoroughly scriptural teaching of the Bible on the issue of manhood and womanhood. I wrote a brief introductory background on my coming to a complementarian understanding in my previous post, but did not describe what I in fact believe that position to be.

What I'm interested in doing here is to actually look at what the complementarian position is, according to vast majority of Biblical churches, and especially my own denomination, the PCA. Nearly every minister and body in our denomination that I'm aware of subscribes to The Danvers Statement, which was written in December, 1987, by the original council members of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).

The Affirmations are as follows:
1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood. 
2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart.
3. Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin. 
4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationship between men and women. · In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility. · In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.
5. The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women. Both Old and New Testament also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community.
6. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse. · In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husband’s authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands’ leadership. · In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men. 
7. In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission—domestic, religious or civil—ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin.  
8. In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside biblical criteria for particular ministries. Rather, biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will. 
9. With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world. 
10. We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large.

The importance of the carefulness and the clarity with which these original affirmations were written cannot be overstated, in my opinion. In each of these affirmations, the latitude spared for individual application and cultural differentiation seems self-evident. Hard and fast rules that are not presented in scripture are excluded. Prescriptive behaviors that fall outside of those given by the Word of God are also not mentioned. The overt wisdom of these deliberately chosen words ought not be overlooked, friends.

The Affirmations in The Danvers Statement Summarize Matters of Agreement

Again, the vast majority of church leaders, including those whose writing and teaching on the subject that I trust, subscribe to the above affirmations. In fact, I'd venture to say that even my fellow bloggers and writers who are currently challenging some of the recent articles or books written by authors associated with the CBMW would also agree with the affirmations as written.

Rekindling the Danvers Statement at this time is a way to provide a plumb-line -- a historical representation of what the founders of the complementarian position actually meant when the word was coined and the movement was launched.

Over time, the complementarian position has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and in many cases overstated or misapplied, from all sides. With the latest generation of CBMW leaders and authors at the helm, I'm most hopeful that their renewed sense of clarity will enable us all to better engage cultural issues.

One thing that might help is for us to not start with the culture or with psychological categories of "what is", but rather, for us to start with how God's Word states things "should" or "ought to be". This is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Quite often, because of our own sinful nature, we tend toward seeing the overwhelming presence of cultural dilemmas in our world in zero sum terms -- as either all or nothing propositions or in win or lose categories. Thus, I think it's important for each of us to check our assumptions by the Word of God before we engage in cultural applications of Biblical teaching. Far too much of the advice floating on the internet is reactionary and even somewhat embarrassing.

In my case, I'm constantly on guard against the fact that I came from a rather unique, secular upbringing, where I was exposed to a strange mixture of personal independence and freedom, during a time when traditional and progressive gender roles were being radically re-written.

For others, being raised with a 1950's style of family ethics can be equally confusing, especially if Ozzie and Harriet are viewed as the prototypical "Second Adam" and "Second Eve" from a theological reference point. (Many excellent, complementarian Christian authors have challenged this mistaken notion of the idealized American family - see Carolyn McCulley or Nancey Pearcy for starters.).

Accordingly, my two-fold purpose in advocating for the Affirmations of The Danvers Statment as a baseline description of what it means to be complementarian follows:
1) To dispel confusion on the one side of the complementarian debate that tracks either toward culturally-contrived universal prescriptions and rules that do not have a specific Biblical warrant.  
2) To encourage the other side of the debate to recover and reclaim the complementarian moniker, based on the affirmations and sound teaching of scripture, rather than rejecting it as a manifestation of a wrongly contrived cultural Christianity that has no relevance for their own life situations . 

I do not think we need to create a new "label", friends. Nor do we need to adapt the arguments of egalitarians, whose position is unbiblical. But I believe we do need to reclaim and revitalize complementarian teaching.  If we are going to represent the Lord's authoritative teaching on this issue. while at the same time not presenting silly stumbling blocks to the Gospel in the future, I say we should consider getting back to basics of complementarian teaching.

God bless.


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