Seminary and the Local Church: What's the Difference?

I don't know how many of you aware of the current controversy and lawsuit filed by Dr. Sheri Klouda against SWBTS, but the latest news is that SWBTS has made a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the following grounds (emphasis mine):

"The seminary's relationship with its professors has been held by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to be the same relationship as a church has with its ministers. Any decision the seminary may make regarding the employment of one of its professors is an ecclesiastical decision, which this court is bound to accept out of deference for the free exercise of religion, protected by the First Amendment."
[It goes without saying that the situation is serious and sad, as you read this, consider praying for our sister seminary that the truth would be told and righteousness reign during these difficult days.]

When I first read this, I was struck by the grounds for dismissal being that the seminary treats its professors the same way a church treats its ministers. What do you think about this? Are decisions made at a higher educational institution to be considered "ecclesiastical" decisions? What is the discontinuity of being a student at a seminary versus a member of a local church?

To be clear, I am not speaking about this from a seminary-professor standpoint but from a seminary-student standpoint. With that said, similarities can be found that both seminary and church have a covenant, confessional statement, worship services, and community. So what's the difference between the seminary and the local church?

Feel free to discuss this in the comments section below.

- posted by Timmy Brister, April 12, 2007


Tony Kummer said...

This is a very interesting question and has everything to do with our doctrine of the church.

In a congregational church the elders are affirmed and called by the congregation. That is a part of pastoral authority - being affirmed by the congregation as an overseer.

When dismissing a pastor or a church member it take the whole congregation.

That one clear way that seminaries are different. Pastor-teachers are affirmed by congregational action, professor-teachers are not affirmed directly by the local church.

Tony Kummer said...

"That is one clear way . . ."

Timmy Brister said...

Those are good thoughts, Tony. I think we could add that the professors and administrators are not shepherds. Yet, in one sense, could you argue that academic discipline could be compared to church discipline?

Another thought that I have been kicking around in my head is the whole deal with chapel attendence. Chapel services is not church. Should they be required? Therefore, should a student be academically punished for not attending? Taking the church enrollment, it could be argued that roughly 50% of the student body are inactive chapel attenders. Many like myself simply cannot attend because of work schedules (I sleep during chapel, which I suppose is better than sleeping in chapel). Now imagine a church where 50% or more of their members did not show up on Sunday. Get the picture?

Another thought comes to my mind is community responsibility. In my church, I am called to serve and use my spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. Should seminary students feel a sense of corporate and interpersonal responsibility to one another?

I suppose these are enough for now. The rub comes when the seminary begins to function ecclesiologically and thereby assumes the role of the church. Is this not how SWBTS is arguing? That SWBTS' decisions are "ecclesiastical decisions"? What then, happens when there is a conflict of interest between the local church to which you are member and the seminary which assumes ecclesiastical responsibilities?

Brent said...

I actually commented on some related ideas to this story here. I'd love feedback.

Timmy Brister said...


Great article man. For those of you who have not read it, stop what you are doing and go read it now.

And to add to the growing list of questions I have, let me pose one or two more.

The administration and faculty are accountable to the Board of Trustees of that school right? They are not accountable to the student body. But this is not the same in the local church. The elders/pastors are accountable to the congregation at large which points to another aspect of discontinuity. Am I wrong here?

And, do not seminaries (at least in the SBC) exist to serve the local church? Yet when they function as the local church, do they not usurp the very God-ordained institution which they claim to be serving?

Finally, I really liked what Dr. Mohler said at T4G last year. His hopes are that the local church would put him and the seminaries out of business, meaning that his vision is that the local church would rightfully take the responsibility of providing the theological training and educational development of their people so that seminaries would no longer be needed. Is not the local church the appropriate context for theological training?

Timmy Brister said...

Uh, oops.

Looking over my first comment, I realized I said this:

"Taking the church enrollment, it could be argued that roughly 50% of the student body are inactive chapel attenders."

When I should have said this:

"Taking the seminary enrollment, it could be argued that roughly 50% of the student body are inactive chapel attenders."

Now, the joke is on me.

Church . . . seminary . . . what's the difference? :)

G. F. McDowell said...

The question here is whether, in the eyes of the government, the seminary should be treated the same way as, say an Episcopal, Lutheran, or Roman Catholic seminary. I think the answer to that question is a resounding "yes".

Timmy Brister said...


So how do you parse the language of "same relationship" and "ecclesiastical decision" and the like? If SWBTS takes the stance that there is no difference in the seminary and the church in its dealings regarding how it is understood by the outside world (including law and gov't), should there be an alternate understanding from those within the SBC? If that is the case, that sounds a lot like "I voted for the war before I . . ." or trying to define what "is" is.

On another note (which is where I was trying to go with the post), do you care to comment on how, as a student, you understand the relationship of the seminary and the local church?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the wording of the motion (and I don't see anywhere in the motion an explanation of why they feel the relationship is to be the same)intends to imply an intrinsic legal difference between a denominational seminary and a non-denominational seminary.

By this I mean that while a non-demoninational seminary (perhaps) has no legal right to exclude a professor because of gender, a denominational seminary does have that right. They would have that right because teaching in the local churches which own it is limited to men (made legal through the free exercise of religion). Therefore, the churches would have the legal standing to apply that right to their seminaries, where their ministers are trained, as well.

Perhaps I am making myself clear. And if this is what they have in mind, then they may only be suggesting that seminary/professor and church/minister relationship is to be considered the same legally.

Joseph Gould

Tony Kummer said...

Thanks for all the comments but let’s refocus this conversation. (We are in no position to unravel all the issues this controversy is bringing out.)

Timmy asked: Are decisions made at a higher educational institution to be considered "ecclesiastical" decisions?

I concede that we need some way to protect freedom of religion at our seminaries. But equating the decisions of the Seminaries ruling body (trustees or administration) with decisions of the church itself is wrong. This approach is not true to our congregational polity. Rather, we can say that the rulings of a Seminary are a legitimate exercise of a religious institution. Therefore, they should have legal freedom to practice in good conscience.

We need to be very careful about this. According to our polity, the only body that can make “ecclesiastical = church” decisions are local churches. Even our annual Southern Baptist Convention meets to agree how local churches want to cooperate. Only the “ecclesia” can make “ecclesiastical” decisions. If you can’t live with that you are not a Baptist.

Timmy asked: What is the discontinuity of being a student at a seminary versus a member of a local church? So what's the difference between the seminary and the local church?

Seminaries can be effective tools for cooperating churches. But nowhere is the peculiar institution of a seminary required in scripture. They are optional. In many ways they have become an accommodation to our over credentialing culture. Brent nailed this in the post he linked.

Local church membership is not optional. The New Testament assumes, models, and commands involvement and accountability to a local body of believers. We are also commanded to submit to our pastors and support them financially. Why? Because they watch over our souls and will give an account for the flock of God they are tending. These things are not true strictly true of seminary professors.

Timmy Brister said...

Though I have deemed it an assumption, let me mention that we all agree that seminary is a good thing(!), and I think it is safe to say that the question of the legitimacy of a seminary is not in question. So lest anyone think otherwise, the purpose is explicitly to examine the relationship of the seminary with the local church.

It appears to me that there is a real danger when a seminary begins to operate or fulfill the responsibilities of the local church. Indeed, the opposite should be the case. The local church should assume the responsibilities of training, equipping, and development God's people for ministry. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, and seminaries have served a crucial role in serving the churches and developing ecclesiastical leadership.

One other aspect I would like to mention that seminary does not and cannot account for - namely, the holistic approach to ministerial development, including marriage and family, personal mentoring, and spiritual development. Sure, to a degree seminary can help in these matters (for instance, Cutrer's marriage enrichment class, Whitney's spiritual disciplines class, and Scott's biblical counseling class), but I think they would all agree that the training ground for ministry far exceeds the classroom and cannot be relegated to it. Likewise, chapel services cannot be a substitute for regular worship attendance in your local church. Contrariwise, the local church nurtures not only the mind, but the heart and soul, hands and feet, and provide avenues for expression and application of the lessons learned and tools acquired throughout one's theological development.

Lastly, I think this has already been mentioned, but there is a nuance in the relationship of SBC seminaries and SBC churches that is different from other theological institutions which are not demoninationally affiliated or directly related to a body of churches. For instance, when Ninth and O celebrated its 100 year anniversary last year (to which I am a member), I heard several stories of how they spoke out against SBTS during its liberal days. In recent years, the theological disposition of the local church is reflected in the seminaries, but this has not always been the case. Were we to be having this discussion 30 years ago, I think there would be a totally different dynamic.

Anyway, there's so many aspects of this that I think we as students need to think about and discuss. I hope S@S and this post will serve to facilitate such a needed discussion.

Tony Kummer said...

Let me make sure I am clear. Seminaries as we know them are not required in the Scriptures. But they do provide a way to accomplish many things required in the Scriptures. So yes I think SBTS is a good thing.

Most of the problems coming out in this discussion go back to churches who do not have a disciplined membership.

You mentioned how some churches were calling the seminaries back to faithfulness in the 70-80s. I think the roles have reversed. Personally, I had never been involved in a church that was healthy or lived out Sola scriptura. SBTS is having a very good impact calling churches back to faithfulness.

Here is an analogy I thought of a few weeks back:
Seminary is to the local church as private schools are to the family.

G. Alford said...


The local Church is not simply the place where members go to receive various services…

It is the place where each member should be expected to use his or her gifts and abilities to “serve in the work of the kingdom”…

I do not think this is true of a Seminary… While the administration & faculty of a Seminary are most certainly using their gifts and abilities to “serve in the work of the kingdom”… most student are not serving at the Seminary… they are preparing for service.

Grace to all,

G. F. McDowell said...

Timmy, I think a legal, technical argument is a legal, technical argument, and while it may seem that the lawyers for SWBTS are cunning as snakes in this matter, "cunning as snakes and innocent as doves" is precisely what we are called to be in this world by Jesus Christ. I think the Klouda thing was the right decision. Women should not be teaching or having authority over ministers in training. I think it is an ugly situation, and there is potential that the decision could have been handled better, BUT I refuse to judge SWBTS making this decision, and hope they and the other SBC seminaries further come to their senses and stop admitting women to their M.Div programs. Moving on to your key question,

how, as a student, you understand the relationship of the seminary and the local church?

I believe the institution of a seminary is not a new testament institution. It has been an innovation, and I feel it is important for all involved to realize this. Seminaries exist because churches find them expedient at this time. They are means to educate men for the ministry, and as such they are certainly used of God, but they are not ordained in scripture. I have no problem with the church embracing an institution or practice that isn't in the scriptures, so long as it doesn't contradict the scriptures or hinder the gospel in any way.

Timmy, you should know by now that I am a dogged defender of the local, visible church. I believe it is intended by God to be the chief means for the proclamation of the Gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and the care of souls. The local, visible church is Jesus' Bride, and I insist that anyone who claims to love Jesus but hates his Bride cannot be a Christian. Love for the brethren is the key mark of the believer.

A Seminary is not a church. Seminaries are, if you will pardon the expression, a bastard child of monasticism, the academy, and the Enlightenment. Permit me to indulge in an historical counterfactual scenario: If there wasn't a western Catholic monastic tradition, I don't think we would have seminary education today. If the university system could still be relied upon to produce God-fearing and loving theologians to serve local churches, I don't think we would have seminary education today. If the Church at large hadn't bought into the Enlightenment's artificially separating the religious affections from the "humanities", I think the Church would be much better at educating its own leaders intramurally, without the auxiliary institution we know as the Seminary.

The president of this current seminary has stated explicitly, and as recently as the SBC Annual Meeting in Greensboro, that the Seminary exists to serve the local church, but Southern's means of keeping its professors true to the Abstract of Principles has spilled over in a way that has resulted in the seminary de facto exercising authority over local churches here in Louisville. The church of which I am a member had to change from an open communion to a close (not closed) communion because of this very type of spill-over. Had I been a member at the time the decision was made, I would have been very vocal in my opposition to changing our constitution to appease the seminary.

I would be less vocal if Southern actually abided by the Abstract of Principles, especially articles XVI and XVIII of them. But for them to unevenly apply the Abstract upon churches where Faculty are members is a blatant overreaching of authority.

What is happening is Southern Seminary is only applying those parts of the abstract that are politically popular within the SBC right now. Click the link and read the relevant articles, and you will see why.

Timmy Brister said...

G. Alford,

Could you clarify what you meant when you said, "The local Church is not simply the place where members go to receive various services…"?

G. Alford said...


What I meant is that the local church is not just the place where members go to receive Teaching, Counseling, Encouragement, etc… It should be the place where they not only receive these things but the place where they serve as well…

Chad said...


SBC seminaries are extensions of the SBC churches that own them, and as such are not required to comply with State or Federal discrimination laws.

Unlike UPS, FedEx, Microsoft, and the rest, churches can hire or fire on the basis of gender. They can also hire or fire on the basis of sexual orientation.

Imagine what would happen if SWBTS loses this lawsuit. What would keep a gay member of SoulForce from applying for a School of Theology position at Southern and then suing when Dr. Mohler doesn't hire him? Golden Gate Seminary would be swamped with applications from gay theologians.

Every Southern Baptist should stand behind SWBTS in this matter.

Christians should not be suing Christians anyway! What a shameful lawsuit.


Owen said...

An interesting and constructive discussion. I can only chime in briefly, but would say that I agree with the viewpoint that differentiates between the seminary and the church. We place ourselves in dangerous territory when we equate the two. The Bible has lots to say about the church, and nothing about the seminary (explicitly). With this said, though, there is some tension here. I would not want a woman teaching preaching, for example, or even theology. I'm not sure why, exactly, meaning that I have no explicit text to support this, but I do know that I have that "feeling" that this is not a good thing. So while I think I agree with SWBTS's principles, I would not do so on a purely biblical basis but more from a biblically informed basis. Hope this makes sense.

G. Alford said...


“What a shameful lawsuit”???

Are you kidding me? What shameful conduct on the part of a Seminary President!!!

Did you know that Dr. Klouda was fired for teaching the “Hebrew Language” (Not Theology) because men were allowed to take her classes?

Did you also know that Dr. Patterson’s wife teaches in the Theology Department and she has not been fired?

Did you know that when ask why his wife was allowed to teach in the Theology Department and Dr Klouda was fired… Dr. Patterson’s answer was that his wife teaches “Only Women”?

Ok then, if Ms. Patterson can be employed by the Theology Department to teach “Only Women” then why not make the same scheduling arrangement for Dr. Klouda?

Something very shameful has taken place in all this… but it is not the conduct of Dr. Klouda!

Grace to all,

Timmy Brister said...

G. Alford,

Thanks for the clarification. :)

Owen and G.,

Regarding women teaching men, what about female professors teaching subjects such as literature or music? Should it be the policy to remove all women from seminary? Personally, I can't go there, but if you can, I would like to hear your argument.


Point well taken. I think on the Klouda side of the issue was that she was fired simply because of her gender. Gender discrimination and sexual orientation are not exactly apples to apples. Also, from what I understand, she was fired arbitrarily with no grounds for dismissal other than the President's executive power. I agree that we should not allow ourselves to be put in a situation where the courts decide who can and cannot teach in seminary. But what about the other side of the equation. Should we have President's who can unilaterally and presumptuously remove a professor without grounds for doing so? Is that not a grave problem as well?

NOTE: I am about to take a road trip this afternoon, so if you comment, I will try to interact and respond when I can.

G. Alford said...


I have absolutely no problem with women professors teaching language, literature, music, etc…

I would however disagree with having women professors teach preaching, bible doctrine, theology, etc…

Grace to all,

Tony Kummer said...

At the risk of you guys thinking I’m the liberal please consider the following:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 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. Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:11-15 ESV)

If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should 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 husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:30-35 ESV)

Please note the context of both of these “proof texts” is the solemn assembly of a local church for worship. That’s why 1 Timothy 2 has all the stuff about what women wear and men not quarreling with one another. It is the public – authoritative – preaching of the Bible in a local church.

Do you understand your Hebrew professor to be speaking with the authority? Are you commanded to submit to the professors lecture as you are to your pastor? Does asking questions during the “teaching event” equate with disrespect and authority grabbing?

Paul is giving “ecclesiastic” rules for church order. That is the whole point. As fundamentalists we better start reading the Bible we hit people with.

What kind of authority is Paul talking about? Pastoral authority.
What mode of teaching? Authoritative proclamation in Christian worship - aka preaching.

If Seminaries equal churches then this might be up for debate.

So the real issue – like Timmy started with. How are seminaries different from churches? I would say they do not have the same spiritual authority in the life of a believer. The professor is an “expert” but not “pastor.” The lecture at seminary - even in chapel - do not have the weight of a local church's pulpit.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Timmy, I just came across this via your site (via your post on Nathan Finn's blog). I'm rushing to leave, so I'll make a brief comment and try to get back later. Because of that, I haven't had time to read the 22 comments. If this was already addressed, I apologize.

My first thought when seeing your question, "So what's the difference between the seminary and the local church?" is that it is a two-part answer: (1) What is the difference as touching the laws of the U.S.A and (2) what is the difference based on Biblical teaching and principles?

G. F. McDowell said...

Timmy, as far as what the role of women in seminary should be, it is difficult to definitively lay down what the bible says about who can teach what where in a seminary, because nowhere in scripture are seminaries even mentioned. It would be easy to simply ban all women from the halls of a seminary, but I don't think that would be a good solution. So, we have to deal with ambiguous things.

Taking the biblical principle that, in a church setting, women are not to teach or exercise authority over a man, I'd like to expound on its meaning within the local church context.

I take those passages to mean that women should not be teaching or leading men in the local church. Not from the pulpit, not in sunday school, not leading worship, nowhere. There are lots of conservative evangelical churches where women teach mixed sunday school classes and lead worship and even lead the congregation in what strongly resembles pastoral prayer. I believe these practices to be in error, not an error borne of liberalism or malice, but of a lack of adequate male leadership in the church. Timothy being taught the law of God along matrilineal lines within his family growing up does not negate the fact that within the church, men are to lead and men are to teach.

This principle is also found within the biblical teaching on marriage. The husband is to be a servant-leader, and the wife is to follow his lead. I am a complementarian and I suspect most folks commenting on here are, too.

I say that if it is good for the church, and good for marriages, it is also good for training ministers of the Gospel for church ministry.

Therefore, it seems to me that if we want to apply this principle to a seminary setting, having women teaching men how to minister the gospel seems to violate the biblical call for women to not teach men.

If the job of seminaries was actually done in local churches, as they would be in an ideal world, this would be a moot point. The issue gets massively clouded when men are being prepared for ministry outside the walls of the church.

Applied to the "real world" setting of a real world seminary, I think it would look like this: Any setting where a woman is teaching a man to minister the gospel is to be avoided. If we all agree to that principle from the onset, I can accept a brother's differing interpretation of what it means to prepare someone to minister the gospel. To one man, every part of seminary is preparation to minister the gospel, to another, mastering the violin isn't, systematic theology is, and to a third man, only those classes pertaining directly to homiletics and the practice of ministry count as preparation to minister the gospel. I am more likely to be found in the first or second camp than in the third.

Some of those who defend Klouda, especially the Burleson crowd on Ascol's blog, cause me to wonder if they are even operating on the same principle as I am, and would have women teaching everywhere in the seminary. I'd like to know where or if Klouda's defenders draw the line on women teaching and having authority over men.

To the extent that a seminary performs a local church's function, it should follow the clear standards laid out in scripture for the local church to follow. Otherwise, what is to stop a woman from preaching in chapel. It's not a local church, after all...

Tony Kummer said...

g.f. mcdowell,
I appreciate your comments and the clear statement of your position on women. But I think your argument is making some big leaps from the passages I quoted.

I would propose the common ground to be "all authoritative teaching in the local church is reserved to male elders"

I don't think all the cases you laid out as "ministering the gospel" are authoritative teaching events in the life of the church.

Tony Kummer said...

R. L. Vaughn,
I think your categories are helpful. But can we honestly say it's a "church" issue when it is really a para-church issue.

G. F. McDowell said...

Tony, I say this humbly and ready to be corrected. Unless my tracing of the text is faulty here, the term "authoritative teaching" is the leap from scripture.

Paul's words, I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. refer to two separate actions that women are not to perform, not one. Paul does not permit a woman to teach a man. Paul does not permit a woman to exercise authority over a man. These are two separate actions. If Paul had used the conjunction "and" in this text instead of "or" then your interpretation would be exegetically tenable, but if my quick-and-dirty tracing job here holds water, he didn't and it isn't.

Tony Kummer said...

What expression of authority do you have in mind if not preaching & teaching?

If the context is a local church what other mode of authority do you propose? Church discipline?

I've looked very carefully into this issue. I'm open to a better interpretation. But I can't see from an early Christian context what Paul would be talking about except the elders and their oversight of the churches. This is primarily manifest in the preaching and teaching. Which is a major theme in the pastoral epistles.

1 Timothy 2:11
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

1Ti 2:12
a) I do not permit a woman to teach
b) or to exercise authority over a man;
c) rather, she is to remain quiet.

The restatement by contrast in 11c is the key ties the two propositions together. This final "she is to remain quiet" ties it back to verse 11.

There may be other authority implications to be drawn, but this seems to be specifically about authoritative preaching.

I keep asking myself, "What kind of situation makes sense out of this?" That is where I turn to 1 Corinthians 14:30-35 where Paul goes into a similar discourse. Very explicitly their he is addressing corporate worship.

I'd love to entertain alternative explanations. Thanks for putting your view out there and I'd love to keep this one going.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Tony, I'll try to answer and then bow out. After getting back and with a little more leisure looking the blog over more closely, it appears this blog is really designed for the SBTS family. I apologize if I've horned in where I shouldn't have.

First, I don't think we should say it is a "church issue". I believe you are correct in calling it a para-church issue. I would further agree that we shouldn't equate the decisions of a seminary's ruling body with decisions of a church body. In fact, I agree with g. f. mcdowell that "the institution of a seminary is not a new testament institution."

But, at the risk of appearing hypocritical, contradictory, and living in a dichotomized world, I think this is (at least partly) why we need to look at two aspects of the situation. As a legal issue, it will have to be resolved according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. While, for example, I may not believe the seminary (conceptually) is a New Testament institution, that is up to me to decide according to my study, meditation, prayer and religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution -- rather than for the government to decide. It would become a travesty for the government to start deciding (for example, I don't know this is even a possibilty) that a United Methodist seminary such as Perkins had ecclesiastical protection because the UMC is all one monolithic organization; as opposed to deciding SWBTS does not, because Baptists are congregational, autonomous and independent. IMO, these kinds of issues are outside of the purview of the legislatures and the courts. But because of the nature of law and legal mumbo jumbo, it may become necessary for lawyers in a case such as is described to use the "required" terminology for it to be understood "legally". Now, I'm no lawyer, so I'm just supposing. Maybe this is a good example of why Christians ought not go to law against one another in secular courts??

Finally, as far as the difference based on Biblical teaching and principles, the congregation of Jesus Christ was formed by Christ according to the eternal counsel of God, and the seminary was formed by men based on pragmatism and secular models. Right or wrong, I don't see how we can confuse the two. With Dr. Mohler, I would love to see the local church would put the seminaries out of business. I agree with his vision for the local church to take the responsibility of providing the theological training and educational development of ALL their people (not just "full-time" Christian servants).

Now I'll move my comments over to Timmy's blog. Thanks for understanding.

Tony Kummer said...

οὐδὲ - oude "and not, neither"

R.L. Vaughn,
You are absolutely welcome to comment. We link the SBTS family but desire to interact with all our readers.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks, Tony.

G. F. McDowell said...

Tony, certainly Paul is referring to the local church here, but it does not follow that it is only within the church that women are not to teach or have authority over men. In other situations outside the church, such as a married couple, Paul maintains that the man is the head of the woman and the woman is to submit to his headship. There seems to be a general principle of male headship at work throughout the NT, and it does not end at the walls of the church.

I do not understand why it is a necessary implication of the Timothy text that the prohibition on women teaching or exercising authority over men must end at the walls of the church.

Even if I were to concede your point (which I don't) and limit it to "authoritative teaching" roles within the church, what logical sense does it make for women to teach the authoritative teachers in the areas they will authoritatively teach, when they are all disqualified from an authoritative teaching role within any local church by scripture? Doesn't that seem strange in some way?

Tony Kummer said...

I think we are going to have to settle this with you buying me coffee on Monday @ 2:15 PM. Maybe Timmy can come and officiate. I think I am closer to the position you blogged about in December than you may realize.

I think the whole question of authority is key. What does it mean to have authority over a man? This idea is traced by Paul back to Genesis. So I think something big is going on here.

My arguments here are to discover what Paul is primarily talking about. Without that agreement we won't be able to apply this text with any kind of certainty in our day. I think it is an important text. But I've heard it thrown around in contexts that seem very foreign to what Timothy might have experienced.

Good conversation. We can talk more about the Abstracts then - if you just need to vent.

G. F. McDowell said...

I thought I did a good job of not totally sidetracking the thread when I brought up the abstracts. So long as we can be done by 3:00 PM, I think Monday should work fine. Timmy might be trying to get his beauty rest. About the venting, if I hadn't made some sort of peace with living by the Community Covenant, I wouldn't be here. After all, if christian liberty doesn't free me to submit myself to hypocritical legalism for a season of my life, in order to respect the foreign culture I am now awash in down here, what does it permit?

Timmy Brister said...

Well, since my name is Timothy and Paul wrote his letter to me, then I suppose I could officiate . . . and I will bring my Middle-Eastern rules of engagement. :)

Beauty rest? I had 2 hrs sleep yesterday!

Look it, I think the arguments about our understanding of complimentarian issues have been well-articulated here, and I thank you both for handling the argument in an honorable way. These types of discussions are far too infrequent these days, and the purpose of S@S is to facilitate such discussion on important issues such as this. The truth is that the information and theology we struggle to be precise and biblical often fails to find expression and application in everyday life; it is not discussed, implemented, or analyzed.

Should you guys (and anyone else out there) be interested in discussing the other aspects of seminary and the local church, I would be game.

For instance, in my particular situation, my pastor is hired by an administrator who can be said to be his boss. If I have an issue with someone in the administration and go to my pastor, does this not pose a difficult situation? Many of our professors are pastors as well, and as Guillaume mentioned, wearing both hats sometimes doesn't sit well one head. So the issue of biblical authority and submission really comes to play here.

Man, there are so many thoughts in my head on this. It would be great to have an open discussion and forum on seminary and the local church at school where there can be honest discussion and open intellectual inquiry could be fostered.

Tony Kummer said...

Are there any of the on-campus groups sponsoring student dialogs (our nice word for debates)?

It would need to be well done, but I could see real educational benefits for the students involved.

It would also be something original for us to podcast here :)

G. F. McDowell said...

For the sake of avoiding a melee, could we divide things into topics?
1. Seminary related to Church
2. Women in Ministry
3. Klouda
4. (time permitting) Southern's strained relationship with its own Abstract

Does that seem reasonable to you?

Timmy Brister said...


A S@S podcast is in order. We need to get on the ball with that. Maybe we can hold an interview as well. Dr. Dockery touched on this a little bit in my interview with him in January, but we need to get some other takes on this. A couple that come to my mind would be David Wells, Tom Ascol, and Mark Dever. What do you think?


I say we start with #1 and work from there - unless you feel like that has been addressed enough.

G. F. McDowell said...

Tony, Timmy, I'm assuming you meant coffee at Founders'?

Tony Kummer said...

Founders - 2:15 PM
Bring some pocket money