Tim Keller and Phil Ryken: mistaken or misleading?

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(David) If you've been reading Tim's articles here responding to arguments in favor of women deacons made by Phil Ryken and Tim Keller--and you probably have since you're reading this--you may also have noticed that neither Phil nor Tim has yet responded in any meaningful way to Tim's counterpoints.

That's fine, to a degree. It's these men's prerogative not to engage in endless debate. What's not fine is that part of Tim's criticism of Phil and Tim’s published arguments has to do with their mistreatment of "supporting" texts. I place the word in quotes not because Tim or Phil specifically label them such, but because they use them as such and they're not. The texts don't support the arguments. The texts, upon examination, run counter to the arguments.

Phil Ryken quoting Warfield in support of commissioning women deacons is simply wrong. Tim has shown Phil to be clearly, incontrovertibly, even mind-bogglingly wrong. Warfield would not begin to recognize his position in Phil's argument.

Similarly, Tim Keller's characterization of RPCES history on the issue of women deacons is now also shown to be wrong: factually and historically erroneous, proven false by primary documents.

We all make mistakes in arguments. When this happens an honest man admits it and moves on. Sometimes he moves on by reconsidering a crippled argument, sometimes he moves on with his four-legged stool now simply three-legged.

But in the face of documented factual error, failure to admit a mistake becomes an argument against the entire position. It becomes dishonesty. And this is where Phil Ryken stands in his argument in favor of commissioning women deacons. He has neither argued his reading of Warfield nor admitted he was wrong about Warfield in the first place. He must now do one or the other. It's that simple. Failure to do so forces us to question whether Phil's argument is mistaken, or more troublingly, misleading.

Friends of Phil should ask him, "Do you stand by what you wrote about Warfield's support of women deacons?" They should ask it until he answers. And if he doesn't answer soon, clearly and forthrightly, he should be summarily dismissed in all he says on this issue as an essentially dishonest interlocutor.

Those who are closer to Phil than I am should be asking him to respond because this has become an issue of trustworthiness. A simple, "I was mistaken" will do. His whole argument doesn't rest on Warfield. But stonewalling is not a response consistent with integrity.

In the same way we will need to watch and see whether Tim Keller continues to parade RPCES general assembly actions in support of his promotion of the ordination of women deacons. Tim Bayly has gone to the source and proven Tim Keller wrong. Continuing to argue from RPCES general assembly history on this point is dishonest--unless Tim Keller clearly shows Tim Bayly to be in error. (And I assure you, if Tim Keller can produce documents supporting his claims that Tim Bayly hasn't found, Tim will put a post here explicitly acknowledging his error.)

Phil Ryken has had ample time and opportunity to digest Tim's primary-source criticisms of his position. His failure to respond should cause a thinking person to question the integrity of his position as a whole. Tim Keller's argument doesn't depend as heavily on RPCES history as Phil's on Warfield. But Tim Keller clearly gets RPCES history wrong. We'll have to see if he modifies his statements about RPCES history in the future.