Today someone called my attention to Jamin Hubner’s, “A New Case for Female Elders: An Analytical Reformed-Evangelical Approach” (doctoral thesis, University of South Africa, 2013) and asked if I might comment on it. As far as I know, nobody has done so, even though the thesis is an attempt at making a case for female elders according to an “analytical reformed-evangelical” approach. All quotes and citations in this post come from the aforementioned source.
In the thesis, Jamin describes his slide to the left:
When I started the graduate research on women deacons, I was generally against the idea of women pastors. There was also no desire to pursue the subject of women in ministry any further. But the study of women deacons inevitably led to research in women elders, and after researching 1 Timothy 2:12 and other resources more thoroughly, it became evident that not only were women pastors theologically and biblically justified within the basic assumptions of my faith, but there was much room for improvement in going about arguing for such a conclusion. The affirmation of women elders went against my theological traditions, the teaching of my seminary professors, and the position of my thesis advisor. It was also a conclusion that is, unfortunately, potentially threatening for certain academic careers (e.g., many Evangelical and Reformed seminaries and institutions do not hire faculty members who approve of women elders). Despite these various concerns, this work stems from a conviction that the subject of women elders is too important not to address in a meaningful, coherent fashion (hence “analytical” in the title of this study)—precisely because the preaching of the gospel and the edification of the church is central to the Christian faith, and that is what is at stake. If the universal ban of half the church from functioning as pastors has no sound theological basis, then there is great harm being done on a global scale, and the importance of this study becomes greater. (3)
Jamin turned on his own convictions and traditions, as well as the convictions of his professors and adviser (elsewhere he also mentions friends who disagree with his new position). That’s exceedingly unwise.
And this lack of wisdom shows in some of the – frankly wacky – things he writes from there on out. For example:
Sin has tainted each aspect of human existence—and, as egalitarian Reformed theologians would emphasize, pollution of sin also includes the realm of gender, which manifests itself in male domination, oppression of women, and patriarchal societies throughout history. (It should be noted, however, that it has historically not been characteristic of Reformed theology to make this connection between the doctrine of total depravity and the specific evils of male-domination and female oppression). (12-13)
Covenant Theology is particularly important since it is inherently canonical in nature (zooming out to the broad structures of Scripture and salvation history), and therefore changes the entire landscape of hermeneutics. This, in turn, can change the landscape of debates regarding the legitimacy of women elders. For example, a hermeneutic that stresses the continuity between the Old and New Covenants in Scripture may be likely to adopt more patriarchal views regarding gender since (it could be contended) such patriarchal views dominate the Old more than the New Covenant. (14)
Of even greater concern are Jamin’s comments regarding the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. He does not hide his disdain for popular complementarians having commented upon the practice of compromise on the part of egalitarians.
Despite the vital distinctions in the opening paragraph of the CBE Statement, and despite the historical facts observed above, complementarians continue to make broad-brushed assertions about Evangelical feminists compromising the authority and inerrancy of Scripture (e.g., Duncan and Stinson 2006:4-12; Grudem 2004:20; 2006a). (192-193)
Yet he recognizes the importance of how one’s view of Scripture plays out in the debates surrounding the issue at hand.
Perhaps the assertion that most readily impacts this study is the one about the nature of the “Holy Scriptures,” which limits the range of possible outcomes in any given theological study. If the Scriptures (a sixty-six book canon in this case) are generally true in what is asserted and taught in them (what this means will be addressed in “Hermeneutics” below), and they are “infallible” and “entirely trustworthy,” and furthermore, are “the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct,” then theological study takes on a very different shape than if this were not the case. (6-7)
If I am reading him correctly, then sadly, Jamin seems happy to compromise regarding the nature of Scripture as well.
The present author generally holds to the five Solas as described above, but with some qualifications—one being that the biblicist version of the doctrine of Scripture outlined above (which strongly overlaps with Sola Scriptura) is not adopted. For example, I would not affirm a position that says “The autographic text of the Protestant canon is the ultimate standard for truth claims.” I also would tend to avoid unnecessary and misleading phrases such as “the Bible says,” because of my view of Scripture and also theory of hermeneutics (see below), though I sometimes capitulate for the sake of simplicity and familiarity. This does not detract from the importance of exegetical and biblical theology, but it does raise questions about the value of “biblical views” on certain topics and what that means (see Smith 2012:111)—subjects that need not be explored here. Also, I do not exhaustively and absolutely subscribe to any of the Reformed creeds listed by the WRF, though I agree with their broader emphases on a God-centered, Christ-centered theology. (15)
While there may have been an effort to suppress false teaching in the early church (something that might actually have been beneficial, in contrast to Reuther’s assumptions), and while I personally do not hold to the traditional Protestant view that the biblical books have a binary status (inspired/uninspired) and number exactly sixty-six, the situation of canon formation is far more complex than presented in Reuther’s narrative (see; Kruger 2012 and 2013; Evans and Tov et. al. 2008; cf. Comfort et. al. 2012; Bruce 1988). (137)
These excerpts alone are problematic, and there are roughly 400 pages of this stuff. There is much to think about here with respect to guarding ourselves so as not to ‘leave the reservation,’ and there is much to address. But I leave the latter to those with more time and talent than I currently possess.
Suffice it to say that Jamin’s continued slide toward theological liberalism is inconsistent with the Statement of Faith at Choosing Hats, and that, even though some of the past and present contributors to the site have worked alongside of Jamin on several projects in the past, I, for one, can no longer recommend or endorse his work. In all likelihood, he will continue his slide…perhaps ‘leap’ is more appropriate…into error. Pray for him.
I leave you with this thought from a former pastor and professor of mine. It’s much safer for your sake to follow those theologians moving from left to right than those moving from right to left.