But once again, I'd like to offer a little real-world evidence for how this language is abused. Wade Burleson, Southern Baptist pastor and blogger who gained notoriety for his concerns that Southern Baptists have excessively narrowed the boundaries for their cooperation, has most recently focused his energies on Southern Baptists and women in ministry. In a post today he describes a situation that illustrates how Southern Baptist women are being squeezed out of military chaplaincies.
Now, I think that the matter of women in chaplaincies is more complex that I intend to examine here, but two things are worth noting in Burleson's illustration. First, though it's not stated explicitly, it seems pretty clear that the female chaplain in question is preaching to men, given the fact that "every Sunday [she] can be heard preaching the gospel at 10:30 a.m. during the Protestant worship service at the beautiful West Point Military Academy Cadet Chapel."
Second, this chaplain's rationale (and Burleson's in his defense of her) is grounded in her internal sense that God wants her to be doing her work as a chaplain. Consider their words:
[My] heart "aches for the Southern Baptist Convention and the stance our convention has recently taken on women in missions and ministry." On the one hand Southern Baptist churches are training girls in G.A's (Girls in Action) and Acteens that they are to listen to the voice and calling of God and serve Him. Yet, when those same girls fulfill the call of God on their lives, the very Convention who trained them then turns their collective back on them.Notice how teaching to listen to "the voice and calling of God"—the kind of teaching we've all heard, and the kind of language we've all heard used to defend personal choices—is used here to defend a particular form of ministry that many would argue is incompatible with biblical directives for the role of women in public ministry.
I realize that some will want to say, "Hey, the West Point Chapel isn't a church, so she ought to be permitted to preach." I understand that argument introduces some complexities, even though I think those folks are still wrong at the end of the day. But what I wish everyone could recognize and apply to all aspects and complexities of who does what in pastoral ministry is that an internal sense of "the voice and calling of God" ought to be about the last argument we use to defend our or someone else's personal choices.
Our hearts are deceitful, and their desires aren't fully transformed yet. Not even close. I don't know why it surprises us when these kinds of heart-tugging rationales are used to give account for unwise and even ungodly human actions. So how is your terminology teaching future generations to make decisions and form a justification for them?