About that Time I got Called a False Teacher…
About 8 years ago now, I got called a “false teacher.” Yes, that still happens. A brother in Christ who barely knew me sat me down and told me that because I was allowing women to teach the Scriptures in the ministry I was leading, I would be held accountable for my false teaching.
Wow. The accusation was painful for me, and it sent me into a months-long quest to learn as much as possible about the theology around the topic of women in leadership. I read, studied, prayed, talked, debated and then read some more. And when I was done with that intense burst of learning, my reading of the Scriptures continued to lead me to the conviction that men and women are to be full partners together in ministry and, in particular, that women are to be free (better yet, empowered) to lead in the Kingdom according to their gifting.
But here’s the catch. When I emerged from this season of learning, I was militant. I mean, if you disagreed with me, I had no time for you. Looking back, I think the experience of being rebuked very nearly turned me into a rebuker! Pretty quickly, the issue of women in authority became a litmus test for me: if you agreed with me, we were cool. If you didn’t, we had problems.
Thankfully, God provoked a trusted mentor to challenge my posture. This guy sat me down one day and basically said, “Rob, I’m concerned that you’re headed toward becoming like that guy. You need to learn how to hold your convictions with humility.”
“Hold your convictions with humility.” That right there is a good word. Amen? Particularly when things are unclear or in dispute, we must be humble. Still further, we must remember that even if we disagree about something important, in the Kingdom we still called to fellowship together in the Lord, understanding that we have far more in common with a brother or sister than we have in dispute.
It’s in the spirit of that last statement that I want to introduce a new category on the blog, called “Throwing Tertullian a Bone.” You see, while it’s true that Tertullian had some really bad things to say about women, he also had a lot of great things to say about what it is to pursue Jesus. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll still throw him under the bus from time to time. And yet in the next keystroke, I’ll remind myself and my readers that though we may disagree on one thing, the reality is we agree about far more.
So, enjoy this quote from Tertullian. This is quoted by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert in his 1895 Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers:
We worship unity in trinity, and trinity in unity; neither confounding the person nor dividing the substance. There is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost; but the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
Pretty good, eh?
How about you? How are you tempted to not be humble in how you hold your convictions?
Hey Rob! Great post, and I think especially important given the tone of theological debate these days. It’s difficult to hold ANY of our convictions with humility (I’m reminded of that during this election season as I watch my facebook feed blow up with incendiary comments and overhear conversations). I think the question for me is – how do we hold the tension between passion and humility? When we feel strongly about our point of view, but want to remain humble? I haven’t quite figured that one out yet.
Thanks Matt. I hear you about the political environment. It’s about holding grace and truth together, right?
Oh hey guy, good word… the other day I was reading Erasmus, Luther and then on to Zwingli and Calvin… and it got my thinking… We look at all of our heroes in the faith throughout the ages and not one of them stands pure, without blemish. If you named your hero I am sure I could find or tell you something about him that wasn’t good. That being said very few of us (who aren’t the giants and history makers of the Christian landscape) think there is any problem with our theology. We all think we have it together perfectly or at least act like we do.
I found this to be quite comical in that I was criticizing Luther and then it occurred to me, in all likelihood I won’t affect Christendom in one millionth of the way he did.
You’re nothing but happy Paddy! Thanks for the comment. Sounds like you’re doing some light reading these days…