Thursday, September 13, 2012

Trueman on TGC

Carl Trueman recently did a post on complementarianism and TGC. I’m not a member of TGC, so I have no personal stake in defending TGC. That said:

i) Trueman has an obsession with TGC bordering on a personal vendetta. I don’t know why it bugs him so much.

He’s at risk of marginalizing himself. After you’ve repeatedly stated your position and given your reasons, you need to give it a rest and move on to other things. You’ve had whatever impact you’re going to have. If you keep harping on the same issue, even though you have nothing new to say, people begin to tune you out even when you write about something different.

ii) Not only is it ineffective, but counterproductive. You alienate theological soul mates. If Trueman can’t get along with those with whom he shares so much in common, who can he get along with? He’s becoming an ecclesiastical misanthrope.

iii) This is partly due to Trueman’s criticism of celebrity preachers and the general cult of celebrity. No doubt there’s something to that. Yet Jonah was a celebrity preacher. Peter was a celebrity preacher. Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, and Lloyd-Jones were celebrity preachers. You can’t fault a preacher for being famous unless he’s famous for the wrong reason. You can’t fault a preacher for being popular unless he’s popular for the wrong reason.

No doubt megachurch pastors have to husband their time wisely. Not spread themselves to thinly by taking on too many extracurricular speaking engagements.

Of course, time management is also an issue for church historians. When does Trueman find the time to keep up with the abundant secondary literature in church history, much less conduct original research in his own field?

iv) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that TGC is inconsistent in championing complementarianism. If so, so what? A coalition is just a means to an end, not an end it itself.  This is not inconsistency on a point of principle.

v) But why assume TGC is inconsistent? In the nature of the case, members of a coalition don’t march in lockstep. Off-the-cuff, I’d say there are two kinds of coalitions. Some are based on a few core convictions shared by all participants. Others are based on overlapping convictions.

vi) Some TGC members are culture warriors. In addition, the role of men and women is also an ecclesiastical issue.

vii) This is also driven by Trueman’s longstanding objection to parachurch organizations. Yet his posted his critique at Ref21, which is, itself, a parachurch organization.

viii) One issue is how we define the “church.” We could define the church as an institution consisting of elders and laity, who meet together for common worship, where public prayers are offered, the Bible is expounded, and the sacraments are administered. That’s a narrow, formal definition of the church. A valid, biblical definition.

But we can also define the church more broadly as the people of God or the covenant community. That’s also a valid, biblical definition.

On that definition, a Christian woman who conscientiously performs her duties as a wife and mother is doing the work of the church. It’s not the work of the whole church, but the nature of the church as a body with different members is that different members of the same body have different duties. The work of the church is collective and distributive. Each member has his distinctive contribution to make. And it all adds up.


  1. "After you’ve repeatedly stated your position and given your reasons, you need to give it a rest and move on to other things"

    Steve, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I do come on here to find you doing this very same thing. I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with doing this. However, if you find something wrong with it, you would have to delete a lot of the great content here! ;)

    1. Hm, I don't recall Steve doing this? For example, he doesn't seem to "keep harping on the same issue, even though [he has] nothing new to say." In fact, I think Steve is easily one of the people on the blogosphere (including Christian blogosphere) most adept at bringing fresh insight to bear on a relevant topic, new ways to look at the same material, and so forth. Which isn't the same as posting a lot of critical posts on a certain topic if that's what you're getting at.

    2. You need to be more specific. Although I often post on the same topics, I try to say something new. For instance, I often respond to Olson, but I do so when he says something a little different.