A Simple And Complex Answer

Her question on Twitter read:

I affirm the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, the Supernatural Miracles of Christ, Christ’s Atoning Death, and the Burial & Literal Resurrection of Christ. Should I be anathematized for not breaking fellowship with Egalitarians who affirm the same things?

Since she only gave me a half-hearted permission to quote her Tweet by admitting that she posted it in a public forum, I’ve decided to withhold her identity in this article. I have no interest in damaging her reputation. I want to address the content of her question, but I don’t want to make any personal attacks.

So let’s begin with her concern about being anathematized for having fellowship with Egalitarians who affirm the basic tenets of the Christian faith. I absolutely do not believe she should be anathematized! The word means to condemn someone to hell. It’s a particularly strong word. No Christian should use it lightly, and if we actually do use it, we need to be very sure that we apply it to someone who persists in grievous and unrepentant sin. So her question saddened me by making me wonder if others had condemned her for having fellowship with Egalitarians.

I hope they haven’t. My main objection to anathematizing this woman is that I don’t know (from the context of her Tweet) what she means by the term “fellowship.” I have friends who are Egalitarians, and I accept them as sisters in the Lord. I wouldn’t form close friendships with these women, nor would I take the Lord’s Supper with them, but I enjoy conversations with them. I do pray that they will see the error in their position. But friendship with anybody is acceptable as long as you don’t legitimize their error.

So my simple answer to this woman’s Tweet would be no. She should not be anathematized for having Egalitarian friends. She should not be anathematized for considering her Egalitarian friends to be Christians. Some of them might actually be Christians who just need better teaching on Biblical roles for women. Since we don’t know the extent of her friendship with Egalitarians or to what degree she agrees with them, we’d be presumptuous to anathematize her.

But her question has more complexities than merely the anathema angle. I can’t cover all the aspects her question provokes in this one blog post, but I want to discuss just a couple thoughts I have thus far (I’m continuing to see points that pertain to this matter).

The author of the Tweet listed several essential elements of the Christian faith. Yet she failed to notice that all these elements are things that even Roman Catholicism affirms. I have had enough interaction with this lady through blogs, Twitter and Facebook over the past ten or so years to know that she is Reformed, and therefore wouldn’t fellowship with Catholics. So I find her list of primary doctrines to be a bit inconsistent with her Reformed confession. and certainly too inclusive. Most glaringly, she omitted the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Also missing from her list of primary doctrines is the authority of Scripture. That omission troubles me more than anything else about her Tweet. A neglect of the Bible’s authority over our faith and practice is exceptionally serious, requiring careful consideration.

Egalitarians, whether they admit it or not, reject the authority of Scripture by insisting that women should preach and/or teach to mixed congregations. Despite assertions in follow-up Tweets that the matter of women preaching is open to interpretation (like eschatology or modes of baptism), God’s Word leaves no room for debate on women preaching to men.

11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. ~~1 Timothy 2:11-14 (NASB950

The conversation between me and the lady who posted the Tweet revealed that she objects to the notion that the role of women is a primary issue in the Christian faith. And I concede that the issue of women preaching isn’t explicitly a primary issue in the sense that one’s salvation doesn’t depend on standing against the practice. None of the major creeds and confessions in church history draw a correlation between women’s roles and salvation. Neither should I.

At the same time, one mark of true Christians is that they obey God’s Word as they learn it (John 15:14). Obedience doesn’t cause salvation, but it most assuredly gives evidence of salvation. So when a woman deliberately violates Scripture by claiming her “right” to hold church authority, we should wonder about her relationship with the Lord.

Do not misunderstand me. Some Egalitarians haven’t been properly taught on this subject, either because they’re newly saved or because their churches fail to teach robust theology. In such cases, we have no right to judge their salvation. I’m only saying that someone who claims to know Scripture well enough to teach it should know what it says about women taking positions of authority over men. Rebellion against Scripture’s prohibition against women preaching to mixed congregations indicates an unwillingness to obey the Lord they claim to represent. It follows that we have reason to question whether or not they actually know the Lord.

In that respect, then, I do regard the issue as primary matter. In having fellowship with those who may be false converts, we violate 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. Show them God’s Word with the confidence that if they’re genuinely Christians, they will eventually repent and come into obedience.

Again, a woman who subscribes to Egalitarianism stands against the authority of Scripture. I’ve blogged about 2 Timothy 2:11-14 in this blog more times than I can remember, so if you’re a new reader needing help to understand why I believe this passage means what it says, please type the reference into my Search Bar. Suffice it to say that the Bible really isn’t ambiguous on the command that women must not assume positions within the church that gives us authority over our brothers in Christ.

Sometimes speaking the truth seems unloving. Yet out of a loving desire to see my sisters in Christ honor Him, I can’t find a gentle way to say that most Egalitarians rebel against Scripture by desiring ministries that the Lord reserves exclusively for our brothers. Therefore, unguarded fellowship with Egalitarians can make us complicit in their rebellion. The apostle Paul warned the Thessalonians to stay from Christians who disobey apostolic teaching (please see 2 Thessalonians 3:6). He also reminded the Galatians that just a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9).

Fellowship with Egalitarians might not lead a Complementarian to accept their error, but why place yourself in a compromising position? 1 Corinthians 10:12 cautions us against thinking that outside temptation won’t affect us. For that reason alone, I believe fellowship with Egalitarians should be infrequent and kept on a surface level.

I have to conclude that any deep fellowship with Egalitarians should be avoided. Although I wouldn’t anathematize anyone for having fellowship with them, I’d definitely challenge them to think prayerfully about such friendships. God calls us to honor Him, even in how we choose our companions.

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