2019 ETS CBMW Dinner Reflections

Last night I attended the annual Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) dinner at ETS. This was my third year attending. I think they have been doing these dinners on the night before ETS begins for six years or so. I have only been three times. I already think it is one of the most important events at ETS.

At the core of Evangelicalism is God’s word, His revelation of Himself to humanity in sentences. How we understand these words, how we interpret them, defines us. The cultural pressure to redefine not only marriage but manhood and womanhood has prompted some Evangelicals to change their readings of scriptural texts.

Enter Tom Schreiner’s address at the CBMW dinner last night. He argued first, and forcefully, that all Evangelicals need to speak their convictions in a manner worthy of Christ. The harsh social media interactions of the last several months were obviously on Schreiner’s mind. Nearly half of his address concerned the manner in which we speak with other Evangelicals and the culture regarding our interpretation of biblical texts.

The key biblical text Schreiner discussed was 1 Tim 2:12, Paul’s prohibition for women to speak in the gathered church. Schreiner noted texts where women in both Old and New Testaments spoke, even to men, but maintained that Paul’s prohibition in 1 Tim 2:12 forbids women to functionally serve in ministries that are reserved for elders. Ministries like preaching and general church oversight are restricted to qualified males, as Paul details in 1 Timothy 3. Schreiner argued against the moderate position that would allow a woman to preach occasionally, under the guidance of the elders. Why, Schreiner asked, could a church not, under the authority of the elders, allow a woman to preach every week? Schreiner argued that a moderating position—while attractive on the surface—would be chastised by feminist interpreters as just one more attempt to keep women from fully taking up roles traditionally understood as limited to qualified males. To the feminist, Schreiner noted, moderate positions are more offensive than maintaining complementarian convictions.

As the schedule of ETS is about to begin, I don’t have time to flesh out more of Schreiner’s comments. I wanted to get these thoughts out even in brief because of the importance of CBMW in Evangelicalism and in our churches. As a professor and as a pastor, I see how fluid convictions can be surrounding issues of manhood, womanhood, and marriage. Any organization that helps believers investigate God’s word for answers and maintain convictions in those answers regardless of cultural pressure, is worth our support.