The appeal to precedence should be seen as the SBC equivalent of appealing to Calvin or the Westminster Divines among the Reformed. Scripture is the authority, but historical precedent gives weight to a particular understanding of scripture for those identifying themselves in that tradition. The SBC is a big tent (by design) so appealing to precedent is often the only way to get everyone moving in the same direction. I’m not saying that’s how it should be, but from what I can tell that’s just the way it is.
His bringing up Presbyterianism was a bit of a side-bar, but it is worthwhile to point out that baptists who make the argument that women can do everything an “unordained man” can do are at odds with their own polity (he was referring to ordination, not baptism). He didn’t reference this, but I saw a video earlier this week of RC Sproul saying that he believed that women should be teaching elders, just not ruling elders. For a baptist, this argument is not only wrong (because of what “teaching” means), but also nonsensical because we don’t recognize a distinction between teaching and ruling elders.
I understand not finding this response helpful, but I think that’s because it’s not primarily for us. Mohler is signaling to those in the SBC where he stands on the issue and which hill he’s willing to die on. Overall I appreciate his response here because it is worlds better than what he’s said on the social justice question. He didn’t seem uncomfortable to me in these clips.
Remember that the SBC is not analogous to a presbytery or general assembly. I’m not in the SBC so I’m privy to all the inner workings, but I do know the original point was to get independent churches to cooperate to advance missions by sharing resources and creating institutions. Neither the denominational leaders nor the gathered convention has any authority over the ministers or churches themselves. Now, that does get complicated when the president gives an expository sermon at the annual meeting, which I was glad Mohler acknowledged. I’m not sure if I agree with him about the other functions of the SBC president not being matters of authority, but I can kind of see his point. Still, there’s something about a woman appointing committees that appoint heads of missions boards and seminaries that makes me uncomfortable.
I’m not trying to be a Mohler fanboy or anything, but I thought his responses here were good overall. He may not go as far as many of us want him to, but don’t miss the fact that he’s staking his future in the SBC on “NO WOMEN PASTORS” which includes “NO WOMEN PREACHING.” I’m thankful he’s taking a stand here.