Four years ago I decided (somewhat begrudgingly) to attend the University of Louisville. Around the same time they went through a rebranding, adopting the new slogan “It’s Happening Here”, I’ve always made fun of that moniker… things happen everywhere, what does “it” refer to?
It took nearly four years to see what the “it” could be. But this past November I think I found out.
Towards the beginning of November the student leaders of Cru were called together for an unexpected meeting. There, we learned that our director, Daniel Harman, was demoted because of his biblical conviction that women should not teach studies on the Bible to mixed gender audiences. As a student that has invested a large majority of time throughout my college career to Cru, this was hard to hear. I love the work that Cru is doing on college campuses around the world. I am encouraged to know there is an organization that exists solely to minister to college students. So much in fact, that I heavily considered joining staff with Cru once I graduate. With all of these pleasant memories in mind, it makes my response to this decision all the more difficult.
World Magazine has written an article explaining the situation, Denny Burk has responded to that article commending Daniel for “standing upon the truth of God”, and many other article are floating around the internet talking about the situation. Yet, none that I have read have addressed why this even matters. I’ve yet to read a response detailing anything other “than this is what happened and it’s wrong (or right according to some people)”. No “here’s why”.
So I’m going to address why it matters. To many people this may not be a pleasant read. It will probably seem counter-cultural to countless people. Nevertheless, it is something that needs to be discussed.
First, let me be clear that I do not believe Cru is the church. The keys of the kingdom have been given to His church (Matthew 16:18-19), and, for various reasons, Cru is not the church. However, Cru could accurately be described as a parachurch (Here is a great article on what makes a parachurch healthy). Among other things, a parachurch exists to support and build up the local church. If Cru allows women to expositionally speak from scripture, I see massive implications and dissonance between how a student is taught at Cru and how said student is taught at his/her church. I understand the need to have a nonthreatening and warm environment for non-Christians. However, this should not come at the cost of compromising biblical convictions.
So here is my take. The issue does matter. A lot actually. Cru states that this incident “amounted to a disagreement over policy not over theology”. Yet, the two are mutually exclusive. Daniel’s theology is that women should not teach expositional biblical studies to men. In compliance with Cru’s policy of “men and women leading together”, the women (when we had them) on staff led in a variety of ways – through bible studies, training times on different topics, and in discipleship with students. I’ve not read over Cru’s specific policy, but unless it clearly outlines and states the ways men and women are to lead together, I don’t see how Daniel has violated this policy.
So, if this policy hasn’t been violated, than the issue is exactly a theological one, not one amounting to a disagreement over policy. Still, why does this matter?
It matters because Cru has taken on an egalitarian view on ministry roles, but they won’t (as of yet) publicly admit that. 1 Timothy 2:11-12 clearly states that women are not to teach [the bible to men] or exercise authority over men. If the bible is the inerrant word of God, then I don’t see why there is even a divide on the topic. But there is. I’m not foolish enough to think that there are not issues discussed in the Bible that have brought about controversy. However, I’m not here to discuss that. So the principle stated in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is that women should not teach the bible to men. The rule correlated with it is that women should not teach the bible to men. Yet, at a higher rate than ever before women are becoming pastors and seminaries are hiring women professors. Why? The only conclusion I have come to is because society says it’s okay.
Society is increasingly becoming a society based on equality, women and men are completely, 100%, equal. But come on, how bogus is that statement? Seriously, there are countless things I could rattle off that I couldn’t do, but men could do easily. And vise-versa. Why aren’t we reveling in the roles God has specifically given us as men and women, instead of trying to change them?
We are a fallen people. But that doesn’t excuse the fight for this issue. God is the authority over any Christian’s life. The Bible is the spoken word of God, so it remains the authority of my life. I will not allow a secular society to influence my views and opinions on issues pertaining to, well, anything.
And that is why this fight matters. The Christian life is not an easy one. It’s counter cultural. If my life looks exactly the same as a non-Christian, there’s a problem. I will not compromise my biblical convictions because society tells me they are archaic, or offensive, much the same as Daniel hasn’t compromised his. This fight is costing him so much more than it is costing me, but he remains faithful. For that, I am thankful.
As unfortunate as this situation is, God is receiving glory, there’s no doubt about that. But it makes me wonder, if Cru publicly proclaims they believe women are permitted the same God-given authority as men in teaching scripture, what else will they affirm at a later time because it is viewed as right in the eyes of society?
(While I believe what I mentioned above is in line with scripture, I want to be clear that it is not meant to be interpreted as a personal attack on anyone who believes differently than me. I understand there are many different perspectives on this issue. If I have offended you in some way, please accept this as my apology. More than anything this post was used as a way to come to a conclusion on the topic myself. Additionally, my hope is that you would not simply take my words on this topic as truth, but rather come to a conclusion on your own (possibly with the help of your pastor or some other wise(r) person in your life).)