Gender-News.com has a fascinating report on Pastor Rob Bell’s transition from a complentarian position to an egalitarian position. The story is titled “Engaged by the culture: Michigan megachurch goes egalitarian.” The article also narrates the story of Rob Bell’s role in changing his church’s constitution so that women would be permitted to serve as elders.
A few things are troubling about this story and are in stark contrast to my previous post about Al Mohler’s change of heart in the other direction.
First of all, if this story is accurate, then Bell’s change was due at least in part to his reading William Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. This book’s influence on Bell is troubling because at the heart of Webb’s argument is the idea that Christians need to move beyond the gender-ethic reflected in biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12 so that they can realize the higher ethic of texts such as Galatians 3:28. In other words, Webb’s hermeneutic actually sets the Bible against itself. Some texts reflect an ultimate ethic (e.g. Gal 3:28), and others and inferior ethic (1 Tim 2:12). The Christian’s job is to be moving in the direction of the ultimate ethic, an ethic that may or may not be found in scripture. Thus Webb’s entire paradigm creates huge problems for the sufficiency and the authority of scripture.
Second, if this story is correct, then Bell has a less-than-orthodox view of the biblical canon. According to Gender-News.com, Bell “belittled the process by which the canon of Scripture was decided upon by suggesting it was absurd that 300 men in some meeting could accurately tell us what books should be included.” If this is Bell’s position, then he is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels’ view of the Canon, a view that is decidedly sub-Christian.
Third, if this story is correct, then there are serious problems with the congregational vote that led to the change in the church’s constitution. For starters, the congregation never got to hear a thoroughgoing, biblical defense of the complementarian position. Moreover, members were made to feel that they needed to support what Pastor Bell wanted if they didn’t understand the issue. Also, when other members tried to verify the outcome of the vote with recounts, they were rebuffed.
I hope that Rob Bell will respond to the Gender-News.com article because the charges made therein are very serious. We can only hope that Bell’s change of heart was not as ill-conceived as this article makes it out to have been.
(HT: Jim Hamilton)