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Is Supporting Female Church Leaders a Gospel Issue? Evangelical Leaders Clash

“First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith,” wrote Mohler. “Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.”

Followers of Jesus can disagree on second order doctrines without compromising the faith. “Believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers,” said Mohler. Examples of second order doctrines include beliefs about baptism and women in leadership. Third order doctrines are those “over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations.” 

While Burk acknowledged that complementarianism is a second order doctrine, he distinguished it from other doctrines in this category. “History has proven that complementarianism is a second order doctrine that frequently implicates first order doctrines,” he said. “In this way, complementarianism isn’t like other second order doctrines (e.g., baptism). Historically, we don’t see a lot of evidence for differences over baptism being a gateway to denial of first order doctrines. The same is not true of people who depart from biblical teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood. Those departures are often followed or accompanied by more serious departures.” 

According to Burk, Barr and Du Mez are guilty of making these “more serious departures,” namely compromising the authority of Scripture, a claim that Barr said is “untrue.” Burk responded to Barr by posting a screenshot of a page from her book, stating, “You affirm inerrancy? I saw nothing but antipathy toward inerrancy in your book.”

Barr answered, “Denny, I don’t think you heard much from my book. You certainly didn’t hear my commitment to biblical authority inspiration; my affirmation in the absolute trustworthiness of Scripture. The word inerrancy has been weaponized and your article clearly shows this.” Notably, the passage of Barr’s book that Burk posted is part of a section on how certain parts of evangelicalism, particularly the SBC, have defined inerrancy in a way that treats the concept as a weapon. 

In an update to his original article, Burk addressed his interactions with Barr online and defended his position. “Barr has claimed that I have misrepresented her stated views,” he said. “I don’t think I have.”

Ministry Leaders Respond to Denny Burk’s Article

Denny Burk’s post has generated a number of responses from evangelical leaders. Luke Stamps is Associate Professor of Divinity at Anderson University in South Carolina and a member of the board of directors for The Center for Baptist Renewal. He tweeted, “It is possible to be a committed complementarian and still believe that egalitarians are Christians (!!) with ordinary Christian responsibilities and to pray that God would bless their ministries.” His thread continues in part, “At least with evangelical egalitarians committed to biblical authority, this is an honest disagreement about biblical interpretation. They can be wrong and God still use [sic] them. I hope they think the same thing about us.”

“I think I agree with this,” replied Burk. “What I wouldn’t do, however, is pray in a way that affirms their disobedience to scripture. Nor would I wish to encourage them in a way that amounts to encouraging them in disobedience. Bottom line: I can’t affirm/commend what the Bible says is wrong.”

Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, gave a scathing response to this comment: “Yet, you honor unrepentant kidnappers, men stealers, child abusers, slave masters, & the original prosperity preachers, with colleges, chapels, libraries & halls named after them at SBTS.” McKissic is likely alluding to a somewhat recent decision from Southern Baptist Convention (of which McKissic’s church is still a part) to keep the names of slaveholders on its buildings. James P. Boyce, the namesake of Boyce College, was himself a slave owner.