That Is A Really Good Question
One of my favorite writers is Carl Trueman. I have not read a book by him yet that disappointed me. I may have been confused at times due to his ridiculous vocabulary, but never disappointed. In fact, let me once again plug his gloriously titled book, Fools Rush in Where Monkeys Fear to Tread. Regardless, he wrote a recent piece over at the blog to which he contributes that reveals the problem with organizations such as The Gospel Coalition. As usual, it is clever and subtle, yet hits you with a brick up side the head.
When you read his post you can easily think it is about the issue of complementarianism vs egalitarianism, but it is not. It is really about the challenge of who is “in” and who is “out” in a Christian organization. He uses the Baptist for his model and it is a good one to use. In many Baptist churches a man who holds to infant baptism may be allowed to preach there, but not take communion; although you will find that many Baptist churches would not let him preach either. But if that Baptist church is complementarian then they would never allow a woman to preach from their pulpit but she if she held to ‘believer’s baptism’ then she could take communion.
Confused? That is the point. Whenever you have a group of Christians who decide to form a parachurch organization that is centered on the core principles like the gospel there is always problems that will arise. This is because doctrine actually matters to Christians. And biblical doctrine is not like a friend of mine’s plate of food, where every food type is kept separate from all the others. Doctrine flows effortlessly between other doctrines, where they inform, define, and enlarge each other along the way. And that is the struggle for The Gospel Coalition. It is a decidedly complementarian group of contributors (of which I would be in full agreement) and so that is becoming a line drawn in the proverbially sand. But meanwhile you have Charismatics, Presbyterians, Baptists and the like all happily writing for the site without any other significant line drawings going on.
This is why I tend to shy from these groups, because I cannot avoid doctrine. And I believe that doctrine matters (and yes, so do the folks at the coalition) and we cannot just ignore it while we focus on the gospel. The gospel is inextricable tied to all other doctrines in one way or another. And Trueman did a great job showing that in his post. He concludes his post powerfully:
This is not the only awkward question one might ask: for example, which is more unacceptable to a Baptist – a woman preaching credobaptism or a man preaching paedobaptism? But that is for another day. In the meantime, do not misunderstand me: I do write as a convinced complementarian and a member of a church where no elders or deacons are – or can be — women, though none of them are – or can be – Lutherans, Baptists or Dispensationalists either. It is thus not complementarianism in itself to which I object; 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.