(Second in a series of three.)
As I mentioned in the first of this three-part series, on the day Mary Lee and I spent travelling back from three months in Taiwan (May 23), we learned of three deaths—Sharon Dykstra, Bill Mouser, and Tim Keller. That these three died within a day or two of each other was jarring. In what way?
Since readers didn’t know two of them, in the first of these pieces I told a bit about Mrs. Chuck (Sharon) Dykstra. She was a true mother in Israel in my first parish in rural Wisconsin. This second post we turn to Fr. Bill Mouser.
“Fr.” is an abbreviation of “Father,” designating Bill’s calling from God to serve His sheep as one of our Lord’s undershepherds. Most of Bill’s online friends knew and addressed him as “Fr. Bill.” Were anyone to wander over to Warhorn’s online community, Sanityville, he would find many, many posts generously contributed by Fr. Bill in response to questions of his fellow Sanityville residents on a wide range of thorny issues of a pastoral and doctrinal nature.
Over the five years Sanityville has been freely serving us, we’ve had few quarrels. When we (not infrequently) disagree, our exchanges with each other may be dignified with the name “argument.” If you want to know the difference, read Chesterton on it. One hint is that, during their corporate work seeking truth, real men who know the value of arguments demonstrate it by doing their dead-level best not to keep score whereas men without chests only quarrel because the whole point of the thing is keeping score.
Fr. Bill first appeared on my horizon online in one of Sanityville’s predecessor communities, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s (CBMW) discussion list eventually named “CBMW-FORUM Digest.” Here’s one among many of Fr. Bill’s contributions there—this one from 2001.
“Terilyn” was typical of the wide variety of participants we had in that forum. Fr. Bill and Terilyn had been in an exchange for some time, and we pick up in the middle of that exchange with this response by Fr. Bill to Terilyn’s previous post:
June 25, 2001
Dear Terilyn and List,
In the thread “Gender equality at the CBE conference?” Terilyn and I have moved the discussion into useful areas which are unrelated to the original idea of the thread. These areas are important enough for me to put them into a new thread. The quotes I make from Terilyn below come from her message No. 5177 in that thread.
Terilyn: So are you saying here, that these Scriptures regarding a woman teaching are salvation issues.
Fr. Bill: No, I did not say that. If I had, you would have quoted me, no doubt. Instead you offer a paraphrase or, perhaps, what you suppose I am saying. You are incorrect on both counts.
That said, I think we agree that what one does with the commandments of the Lord DO matter. “Commandments of the Lord” is a big bag, containing in principle every command in Scripture. If we disobey any of them, what follows is a function of several factors which the Lord will sort out at the Judgment. However, among those commandments are some, which if they are disobeyed, will result in damnation. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit comes to mind, for example.
Terilyn: Even so there is usually a distinction between what is necessary to consider one a Christian and salvation issues, versus the doctrines they organize their denomination with. I have always seen these issues as organizational rather than salvation issues.
Fr. Bill: You raise an issue which is going to become more and more central over time in this controversy. For many people — egals and comps alike — the issue in the “gender debate” is purely and merely organizational, as you put it. From this perspective, we’re quarreling over matters which are no more ultimate than whether or not a woman should stand in a pulpit and preach. If this point of view is correct, then you are right — the issues, as contentious as they may become, are not ultimately salvation issues. Indeed, you declare that this is your estimation of the whole controversy, when you write: “And frankly I don’t think the issue of whether or not women can preach, teach, or hold a church office is a salvation issue. I do think it is academic.”
We disagree here. It is not “merely” academic. Here’s why — as we watch egalitarians develop the egalitarian agenda in other parts of Christian doctrine, what do we see? So far, we see two things which move us quickly into salvation issues:
1. An evolving hermeneutic which leads necessarily to the endorsement of things which God declares abominable, namely homosexuality. THAT debate is the next stage among evangelicals, and it appears it will be placed on the table of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship this next week in Atlanta. If you want to see how it will play out in those circles, look back in time (just a little ways) to how the debate has already played out with the Episcopalians, the Methodists, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterians USA (just a few weeks ago). The same hermeneutical strategy which justifies women as peers of men in marriage and church is then turned to making homosexuals peers with everyone else in marriage and church.
2. Long-established Christian doctrine concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation begin to be “rethought,” in order to bring it into line with the egalitarian ethos. This is getting underway with Bilezikian’s leadership in deconstructing Nicene Trinitarianism. That project is not an original one — others have been there and done that. They wind up Unitarians. Whether or not Bilezikian himself winds up there, his disciples will.
Then there is that scandalous particularity of Jesus’ maleness! And, behind that, there’s all that masculine language for God in the Old and New Testaments alike. What are egalitarians going to do with that, to defang the obvious implications about God’s gender?
For now, the options are still flying, and I see no consensus emerging yet. The most common approach is to literally emasculate the God of the Bible by declaring all the masculine God language irrelevant, accidental, a divine condescension which must not be taken seriously. As far as Jesus is concerned, his maleness is discounted in various ways; at the very least, many will urge that his maleness is no more significant than, supposedly, the color of his eyes or the shape of his nose. Again, we find ourselves — via the egalitarian principle — in the midst of Trinitarian and Incarnational doctrine, with egalitarians refusing to countenance either the Scriptures or the doctrine Christians have drawn from that Scripture over two millennia.
Are these issues — the incarnation, the Trinity, the self-revelation of God in the Bible — are these issues salvation issues? I submit they are, for they determine just who Jesus is, and who God is. Tell me, Terilyn, if I painted the word “Jesus” on a golden calf and offered it to others as a proper object for worship and faith, would those who worshipped and trusted in the Jesus-golden-calf be saved?
Terilyn: I am guessing from everything else you say, that you believe that “wrong doctrinal” belief is sin even if it does not result in actual sin.
Fr. Bill: John tells us “Whoever believes Jesus is the Christ is born of God …” (1 John 5:1). Is this not a matter of “doctrinal belief?” Again, I ask you — how does John’s statement “work” if the “Jesus” someone believes in is a golden calf? If the “Jesus” someone believes in is a woman? If the “Jesus” someone believes in is not human, but merely became human for a little while (and might just as well have done so as a woman rather than a man)?
Terilyn: It is on Christ whom I place my full trust, not upon any human beings interpretation of Scriptures.
Fr. Bill: Okay. Jesus in Matt 24:23-24 said, “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”
Which Christ, Terilyn, do you trust? The one in the Bible? The one refashioned from this bit and that bit of Scripture, amalgamated with egalitarian values of the Twentieth Century? Is the Christ you trust the same one as the Nicene Fathers trusted? If so, why do you reject their teaching about Christ? If not, do YOU consign them and their disciples to hell, because they trusted the wrong Christ?
You see, one or the other is true. You may suppose, in good postmodern fashion, that it doesn’t make any difference, so long as what we trust is called “Christ” or “Jesus.” But, Jesus himself warns us that deceivers will bear the name “Christ.”
Finally, I anticipate this next question from you, so I’ll just lay it out and answer it — “If one believes as egalitarians believe, are they damned to hell?”
You, of course, believe that I am saying this. I am not. The reason why such a statement cannot have any meaning right now is simply this: “egalitarianism” is an evolving thing, much like the Gnosticism of the first four centuries of the Church. Egalitarianism is not–as of yet — a “creed.” Gnosticism was NEVER a creed, but it posed a deadly threat to the truth of the gospel. And, once Gnosticism was morphed sufficiently to pass as “Christian” it appeared in a creedal form in the heresy of Arius.
Egalitarianism is just as great a threat as Gnosticism (or its creedal offspring Arianism) ever was. But, the controversy is still relatively young, to judge by how theological issues matured in the past. It is not hard to foresee a time when “egalitarian” will name a variety of belief which entail a concurrent rejection of the gospel as it is found in the Bible.
Imagine the gift of Fr. Bill making such contributions for a quarter century. His audience there wasn’t large, but no one would have guessed it from observing the generosity and wisdom of the written wisdom and counsel he freely gave us. Across time, Fr. Bill grew us into wiser servants of the Lord and much more careful guardians of His truth and sheep.
Sanityville was founded back in 2018, and in the intervening years Fr. Bill visited 1,400 times. Almost daily. Fr. Bill’s contribution reproduced above is typical of his work among us the past twenty-five years.
Fr. Bill and I shared one grievous disappointment.
During my years as Exec. Dir. of CBMW,1 it didn’t take more than a month or two to learn CBMW’s doctrine of sexuality (remember, they style themselves a “council”) was strictly limited to the private Christian spheres of “the church and home.” This was their relentless phrasing so that, in time, it became clear only a couple of the men on its board had any commitment to the Biblical creation order instituted by God in the state of perfection—of Adam first, then Eve.
CBMW had no doctrine of sexuality, but rather a couple exegetical sticking points they employed as they begged to differ somewhat with egalitarians and feminists (who never stopped claiming they too were Christian and Evangelical and held to the “inerrancy” of Scripture).
Bill and I both bemoaned CBMW’s betrayal of Scripture, and our friendship grew.
“But you must understand,” CBMW’s men repeatedly wrote, said, and preached, “this connection between authority, submission, and sexuality we teach applies absolutely and only in the Christian home and church; and even in the church, a woman can do anything an unordained man can do! And at home, it’s only a tie-breaking authority!”
From their beginning, complementarians’ minced version of God’s truth fundamentally denied that male authority and female submission is a creation mandate; that it is God’s perpetual law not one iota more applicable and binding on the Christian than the Hindu or secularist.
So, just as Fr. Bill warned twenty-two years ago, Evangelicals who still style themselves “complementarians” have arrived at the point where they have no defense against the present rapprochement with gaydom of the Presbyterian Church in America and Covenant Theological Seminary’s flaming gay Revoice conferences and Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and IVP’s hyping all the Gay Christian, Spiritual Friendship, Side B book signings and house parties. Tragically, God’s sheep have even been convinced by CBMW’s complementarians who keep telling everyone they are the faithful prophets condemning feminism.
Fr. Bill again:
Starting with egalitarianism, the founders of CBMW sought to distance themselves from egalitarianism only by the absolute minimal amount, a minimal distance which they could (supposedly) defend by reference to a handful of verses in the New Testament.
What will “follow” complementarianism?
The only valid possibility is a full-throated, unapologetic, comprehensively Biblical patriarchy—both in terms of a full-orbed theology of the sexes and also in terms of viable communities where Biblical patriarchy governs cradle to grave life in those communities.
I say possibility because I see nothing yet on the horizon to suggest such a development will emerge. Remember, those who did not worship Baal in the days of Elijah were so few in number and culturally invisible that Elijah thought he was the last YHWH worshiper left. Yes, the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church. But, that promise says nothing about how numerous or effective the Church shall be at any given period of history. [emphasis original]
Many don’t know Fr. Bill was a Marine who did a tour in Viet Nam. His friends noted this and saw obvious parallels between Bill’s defense of comrades on the battlefields of Asia and his defense of brothers and sisters in Christ on the battlefields of the Church. What faith and courage, and how Fr. Bill was loved for these gifts so clear in his life.
Several times I listened to Fr. Bill recount how, just after he finished at Dallas Theological Seminary, he was called to serve as Assistant Pastor in a rather typical conservative DTS dispensational church. Early in his ministry there, Fr. Bill ran into a marriage mess that, in time, required of the shepherds and deacons some faith and courage in bringing church discipline to bear on the conflict. disciple. (Every pastor knows how marital sins destroy families and their children.) So it was that, after Bill had been providing pastoral counsel and care, what was about to happen became clear and Bill brought the matter to his pastor and the deacons, suggesting it was time to initiate formal church discipline.
His pastor and elders said “no” and fired Bill. For what?
For being so humble as to appeal to them to do the difficult work of defending God’s truth and sheep using God’s tool of discipline ordained for these purposes.
Last year Fr. Mouser donated his large collection of Hebrew and Greek reference works to the library of our seminary, New Geneva Academy, and I’d driven down to Dallas to pick them up. Bill and Barbara had me for dinner and it was a lovely evening. During dinner I listened to Bill recount the above, and when Bill finished I said, “You know, Bill; you have had a very lonely life, haven’t you?”
He was quiet. Then with some emotion he answered, “Well, I’ve never had anyone say that to me before, but yes I have.”
One final story.
Fr, Bill and Mrs. Mouser developed curricula and held conferences and retreats on sexuality under the auspices of the International Council on Gender Studies. Founded by the Mousers in 1991, ICGS is the umbrella organization for the publication of two sets of Bible studies used by congregations across the country, one titled Five Aspects of Woman and the other Five Aspects of Man. (Look into these studies for use in your own church.)
Fr. Bill and Barbara had done a considerable amount of ministry in a larger congregation that included one of the VPs of Navigators, a ministry and publishing corporation based in Colorado Springs. It was maybe twenty years ago now, but one day this VP expressed to Fr. Bill his concern with the increasingly egalitarian and feminist agenda within Navigators’ ministries and publishing. He told Fr. Bill he would set up a time and date for Bill to meet with Navigators’ executive leadership, and he wondered if it would be possible for Bill to invite one of the famous men of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to accompany him and help influence Navigators’ top brass?
Fr. Bill was excited by the opportunity to defend Scripture’s doctrine of sexuality to one of the top parachurch ministries in the US, so he wrote this famous man at CBMW and asked if he would agree to come? His way would be paid and he could help choose the date; what was important was that he was needed. Would he join Bill and seek to shore up this ministry’s commitment to God’s truth?
This seminary professor responded something like, “No Bill, I won’t work with you on that.” He made it clear to Fr. Bill that he did not want to be associated with him.
Because he knew Fr. Bill took the Devil’s attack on God’s gift of sexuality seriously, that he feared God, and that he would have zeal and courage in his presentation to Navigators’ corporate executives.
So the famous man left Bill bereft and alone, and Fr. Bill never stopped grieving this rejection. I grieved the hurt my CBMW colleague caused Bill and Barbara.
Yet, in the beginning, middle, and end, men who fight for God’s truth are wholly incompatible with men who make their name by trimming God’s truth.
Next, we will bring this series to its conclusion by turning to the Rev. Tim Keller who, himself, died at the same time as Mrs. Sharon Dykstra and Fr. Bill Mouser.
(Second in a series of three.)
|↑1||From 1997-2000 while also serving as the senior pastor of Trinity Reformed Church.|