About that Time I got Called a False Teacher… (re-post)
Note: As you read this, I’m in Costa Rica leading a team of college students on a 2 week service project. So enjoy this flashback post; it’s the #4 most shared post of all time on Challenging Tertullian.
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?