Danny Akin Muddles Complementarianism
How Cruel Is His Kindness
“A kinder, more gentle form of complementarianism.”
These were the words of Danny Akin, President of the SBC’s Southeastern Seminary, as he described his vision to a group of future Bible expositors.
In a recent classroom talk, President Akin encouraged women to pursue advanced degrees in preaching at his seminary. He wants women to use their gifts in Sunday worship service pulpits — so as long as they stop short of becoming ordained elders.
The word which most troubled me when I read his statement? “Kinder.” Let’s loop back to that in a moment.
First, something must be understood.
There are those who root complementarian views in how they understand the created order. The Apostle Paul, for instance. And there are those who don’t.
In the Akin talk, this topic came up repeatedly. Akin was asked: “Do you think that there is a natural, God-given order that will appear in different relationships and in different ways?”
In other words, Dr. Akin, do you believe that when women accept role distinctions in the church they are submitting to a hierarchy God established in Genesis 2, when Eve was formed from Adam to be his helpmeet?
Akin’s extended answer was a contradicted muddle.
But let’s use a reliable hermeneutic for breaking down his words. Let the clear interpret the less clear. Here is a (relatively) clear, relevant section within Akin’s talk:
“Yes, but I think that’s fuzzy…So for example, she’s dead now, but if the equivalent to Margaret Thatcher were alive today in America, could I, would I vote for her for President? In a heartbeat, ten-thousand times over the President we have in the White House right now. You betcha I’d want to… So I don’t see — I don’t find anything in the Bible where it says that a woman cannot be king or a queen, or a prime-minister or president.”
Sad to say, during this entire 36-minute presentation Akin did not allow the Bible to get a word in edgewise.
Had he been so inclined, here is what he could have read and exegeted to these future preachers of the word:
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (I Tim. 2:12–14).
“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come from you only?” (1 Cor. 14:34–36)
“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).
Does Akin believe these words are literal commands? Yes, he emphasized to the class his strong commitment to Biblical inerrancy.
But surely if inerrancy means anything wouldn’t it be a joyful love for whatever God has said? His words are sweeter than honey and better than riches. Such a spirit was sadly absent from Akin’s talk. He seemed to stumble over himself to describe what complementarianism does not actually have to mean.
So let’s do what Danny Akin didn’t. Let’s talk about God’s good plan. With joy.
As a woman I have a life calling to taste the words in the verses above and find them sweet. My submission to silence in the gathered assembly every Lord’s day is rooted in both the creation and the fall.
Like everything else in the Bible, these words make my heart very glad. What God ordains is always just as much for my good as it is for his magnificent glory.
When I cheerfully embrace quiet in my worship, I magnify his wisdom in creating Eve to be Adam’s helper. He does all things well.
What else do I remember in my quiet? That the first woman Eve, when she fell, was just like who I am by nature: brash and deceived. Each Sunday in the gathered assembly the Lord graciously calls me to just the very opposite of that. What a holy wonder.
But what has all this to do with kindness?
I am glad you asked. How does that old saying put it? As goes the church — so goes the world. Judgement, and cultural reformation, must always begin in the household of God.
In our case, I pray fervently for the latter and not the former, because a soft “complementarianism” that is embarrassed to embrace God’s created order leaves me, as a woman, in a cold world indeed.
As the cold winter of judgement seems to draw closer, I allow my mind to sometimes wonder what women may face: Will I have to traverse a world with no real women’s bathrooms? What if the Lord someday gives me grandchildren to take to a mixed gender public bathroom?
As to grandchildren, will I one day watch a granddaughter be drafted into combat led forth by a female commander in chief? Will my grandchildren own the freedom to be taught what the Bible says about sex and the sexes without state persecution, or confiscation?
Is there a way for the church to stem the rising tide of militant gender obliteration in this world?
Not while many leaders in the church like President Danny Akin are putting their “complementarianism” on a disappearing diet at exactly the wrong time.
Two days ago in his debate with Dr. Tom Ascol on this very topic at the SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Dwight McKissic stated that banning women from pulpit ministry expresses the same denigration of women that has led to the recently reported abundance of sex abuse against women in the SBC:
“Once you devalue a woman to say she cannot preach on the Lord’s day…you’re telling men it’s okay to abuse her like has been documented.”
No one is asking me, but I wonder if Pastor McKissic got that the wrong way around. Could it be that a soft complementarianism that is embarrassed by Biblical hierarchy is really just feminism with a fancy new name? And what sort of protection has feminism brought to women in our culture?
You see, like our mother Eve, we as women are ever tempted to become as God and susceptible to the lie that someone is keeping us down — and for no good of our own.
Isn’t it tragically sad to watch feminists rely on #metoo activism (including its evangelical iterations) instead of the headship of strong husbands, fathers and elders and the calling of home for their protection from abusers?
Alright, now that I’ve reached my zenith of triggering statements, I might as well close with a word from John Calvin.
Calvin also spoke about kindness when he preached on hierarchy, but the kindness on which he dwells flows from the embrace of submission — not its repudiation.
Calvin wished to magnify the beauty of Christ’s submission to our Father in heaven as his head when he stooped to his earthly ministry. This very submission is what women such as myself are called to imitate in our quiet worship in the church, as well as our calling in the home (Titus 2:4–5).
So to Calvin:
“…being equal with God, he would not have considered it to be robbing him, to say that he himself was God, and to show himself in his infinite majesty and glory, which would make the whole earth tremble.
But what? He freely chose to suffer the shame of death, after putting himself in man’s condition.
When we see this, let us magnify his kindness. Let us recognize, I say in this place a kindness that surpasses all our minds and senses so that it is impossible to tell what it involves or even to think of it.
Yet we must be ravished with amazement when we think on it.
This is what we should understand from this passage when it says that God is the head of Jesus Christ.” (Calvin, Sermon on 1 Cor. 11:2–3)
There — and not in Danny Akin’s or Jen Wilkins’ or Beth Moore’s or any other evangelical feminist’s vision — there is kindness.
It is a kindness that surpasses all our mind and senses.