October 20, 2017

Pentecost Makes a Difference for Women

Women Patron Saints *

This is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy….”

• Acts 2:16-18, NRSV

• • •

“We faithfully live out our story when we display in our practice the reality of who we are at the core of our identity. As those marked by the Spirit without regard to gender, we must also faithfully steward the gifts Christ by the Spirit has given to the church without regard to gender.” (J.R. Daniel Kirk)

One implication of living after Pentecost that a number of Pentecostal groups have long recognized, but which many other Christian traditions have missed, is the ministry of the Holy Spirit which levels distinctions within the Body of Christ. Because we all have entered the community through baptism and the Spirit, it is inappropriate to discriminate within the Church based on old creation categories such as ethnic or racial identities, social class distinctions, or gender.

As J.R. Daniel Kirk says in his fine post, “Unifying Spirit,”  — “common reception of the Spirit and common baptism into Christ disclose the gospel-denying implications of discriminating within the Body of Christ.”

Kirk points out that in Corinthians and Galatians in particular, Paul is not arguing merely about soteriology (salvation) when he stresses equality in Christ. Rather, in both epistles, the indicative truth that everyone enters Christ’s family the same way — through baptism and reception of the Spirit — leads to the imperative that we must not make distinctions about who can participate or serve based on “fleshly” differences. We should distinguish only the basis of the Spirit’s initiative, gifting, and calling (and I would add — the Spirit’s fullness in a person’s life). One need only compare Galatians 3:28 with Galatians 2:11-14 to see that the doctrine of equal salvation has immediate implications for practices of equality within the Church.

To be baptized and receive the Spirit is to be equal within the body.

I Baptize Thee, W.H. Johnson

This stands in clear contrast to the separatist nature of First Testament religion based on earthly, old creation categories. Under the old covenant, God’s people and leaders were set apart by biological and ethnic distinctions. One had to be born Jewish or convert and submit to Torah (i.e. “become” Jewish) to be accepted in the community. In terms of the main sign of the covenant, males alone were circumcised, stressing their primary responsibility to pass on the seed of (Jewish) life and take the lead in Israel’s life and affairs.

Now, in Jesus and by means of the outpoured Spirit, Gentiles enter the community by faith alone and are not required to become Jewish or take on the yoke of law observance in order to become disciples of Jesus. Likewise, whether male or female — all are baptized into Christ, not males alone. Each person who enters the family is marked with the same sign of the new covenant, and women and men alike receive spiritual gifts and callings. Even “your women shall prophesy,” declared Peter on Pentecost.

If Paul sometimes seems to contradict his own basic new covenant theology by placing restrictions on women in certain church settings, urging slaves and masters to live faithfully within the less-than-perfect structures of Greco-Roman culture, and so on, it is because believers live “between the times” — as members of the new creation that is dawning, but also as citizens within the old creation that is still in place (though passing away) — and in this age we must patiently plant seeds of mutual equality that will ultimately blossom in fullness at the consummation.

The Church’s witness involves living in peace within a multiplicity of cultural settings that are imperfect and awaiting redemption. Much of the time, the Church is not called to take radical revolutionary approaches in matters of cultural change. Rather, we quietly respect the societies in which we live and function within them as cooperatively as we can as faithful disciples. However in the Church, when we treat every baptized, Spirit-endowed individual who belongs to God’s family with equality and dignity, we testify to a fundamental difference that sets the Kingdom of God apart from the present age.

There may even be occasions in space-time history when the world sees these matters more clearly than the Church. A temptation Christians must regularly overcome is that of holding on to traditions that we have elevated as “essentials,” but which may, in fact, represent outmoded cultural norms. One can see in the Book of Acts, for example, that in areas of the Greco-Roman world where “prominent women” had more public roles in society, Paul reached out to them, elicited their partnership, considered them coworkers, and at times relied upon them as benefactors (see Rom. 16, Acts 16-17). I fail to see how the Church should do less in a culture like ours today, but at times it seems the faithful show less respect and give less opportunity to women than the world does.

As J.R. Daniel Kirk says so well, “We faithfully live out our story when we display in our practice the reality of who we are at the core of our identity.” And this is our identity: Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life; in the one Spirit all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, male or female—and all made to drink of one Spirit.

I, for one, would hope our practices would come to more fully reflect our identity.
__________

* Original Icon by Fr. Theodore Jurievicz. Saints portrayed: Front – Anna, Elizabeth, Mary Magdelene, Nina (evangelizer of Georgia); Back – Juliana of Lavarevsk, Irene Martyr of Thessalonica, Barbara, Alexandra the Empress.

Comments

  1. Hallelujah! This is what I’ve always struggled with when it comes to those who are against women in ministry. It has always seemed to me that Peter, quoting the prophet Joel here, makes it very clear that ALL people can receive the Holy Spirit. If all people can receive the Holy, then can’t all receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

    • Pastoral office is a not a gift of the Spirit. And not all are pastors. If every believer was also a pastor, then “pastor” would then become synonymous with believer, thereby loosing any tangible definition whatsoever.

      • that’s not really what i said. i said all “can” receive the gifts. or do you disagree? can women not receive certain gifts of the Holy Spirit because they are women? that’s dangerous ground to tread on.

        as Paul said, people are called and gifted individually. the question is, if a woman is called to preach, and that call is confirmed by the church, would we disallow her use of said gifts because of her genitalia?

      • according to these texts, can a single man be a Pastor? can someone without children be a Pastor? is “overseer” and/or “elder” even the same thing as Pastor? did Paul mean for these texts to apply to Pastors?

      • “pastor” is not an “office
        . Offcie is not in the scripture. It is a function within the Body. Like teaching

  2. The Scriptures speak for themselves. Jesus Christ who violated the Sabbath, dined with sinners, and healed the unclean and gentiles, didn’t apponit any women disciples, and Paul, who did benefit from strong support from many women, did not permit women to preach. These clear passages fit a clear teaching throughout the Bible of distinctions in gender being a part of the pre-fall created order, which God deemed “good.” There being no distinctions in faith does not imply no distinction in all aspects. Such arguments are casuistic.

    Equality in faith means our vocations are incommensurable; there is no higher ranking vocation than any other. That is the what equality in faith is about. It leaves arguments about rights and opportunities and equality to the world, and does not worry about such concerns. In faith, the widow, the cripple, the slave, the prisoner, are all as much a part of God’s Kingdom as those in any other vocation.

    In the past 2000 years of history–long before radical reformers removed the office of pastor—there were many, many prominent women and benefactors in Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Coptic, Anglican, Syriac, Methodist, Reformed, and every other traditional church that limited the pastoral office to men. It is a slight to these many faithful women to suggest their contributions were any less worthy because they did not occur in the office as pastor. Their vocations and good works were every bit as good and worthy in God’s eyes as those of the highest bishop or pope.

    In other words, selling purple dyed goods to obtain money to support the church and the poor is just as much a good work as starting churches and preaching the Gospel. The message women are being denied something they are entitled to, is not a Christian message.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      Well, the Scriptures apparently speak for themselves in the sense that if one is sufficiently carefully selective then he can avoid the awkward bits. Otherwise, we might be left wondering what a female apostle did.

      Gotta love, by the way, how you make female pastors into a slam against women. That is some mighty fancy footwork you got there!

    • Uh, Paul did not forbid women from preaching. He only regulated how they should do so in Corinth. Acts 2 specifically says women will prophesy, which is equivalent to proclaiming God’s Word.

      You also did not answer any of my arguments; you merely asserted your position.

      • Prophecy is not equivalent to pastoral office. We are all called to bear witness to the good news of Jesus Christ, but we are not all called to be overseers. Nobody is saying women shouldn’t spread the good news, that is an overused egalitarian straw man.

        • Some would question whether “pastoral office” is as clearly defined as some traditions have made it. Eph. does say that pastors are gifts that Christ bestows to his church through the Spirit.

          Prophecy is also not equivalent to speaking the good news. According to Paul, prophecy is the greatest of the Spirit’s gifts to the church. He says it is specifically designed for the edification, exhortation, and consolation of the church. If that’s not the pastoral office of the Word I don’t know what is.

          • I’m sure some would question, there’s a questioner for every thought. But land the airplane: Are you throwing out the traditional understanding of the vast majority of Christian ecclesiology (pastors are certain people who hold a specific position of authority/responsibility/leadership), or are you just trying to shoehorn ambiguity into the equation? I don’t see how the passage in Ephesians remotely overturns any church polity structure, it seems to fit with it quite well. People can be gifts from God, and of course it would be through the Spirit. Are you proposing a paradigm shift in ecclesiology? If so, you might want to establish the position before using it for support.

            You do, however, bring up a good point about prophecy. Not to bind scripture by my modernist categories, but the shift here into pneumatology looses me on some points. Depending on your understanding of spiritual gifts, this may or may not hold implication for those called to be pastors. The spiritual gifts are a much more hotly contested category than church leadership, and within many traditions you can find drastically different understandings of what “prophecy” means. Quite honestly, I have a hard time calling prophecy the office of the word. Aside from my cessationistic tendencies, it does seem that many preachers are merely spouting their opinions, where as a prophet claims to speak directly on behalf of God. I think NT Greek uses different words for “preaching” and “prophesying,” (just a guess), and there could be a reason for it. Just because someone speaks for the edification, exhortation, and consolation of the church doesn’t make them a pastor. Heck, every member ought to do that!

          • No, Miguel, I am not throwing out the concept that pastors are certain people who hold a specific position of authority/responsibility/leadership.

            You and I just disagree about whether the Bible restricts the office to males.

            There certainly is no gender indication in Ephesians 4, which is the only text in the NT where the word “pastor” is used as a noun to describe an “office” in the church.

            As for “prophecy,” the issue may indeed be more complex than I made it out to be. However, the text in Acts 2 should not raise any questions about what Peter is saying. In saying that sons and daughters and servants, etc., shall prophesy, he is clearly stating that the task of authoritatively speaking God’s Word is no longer going to be restricted as it was under the old covenant.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            “Some would question whether “pastoral office” is as clearly defined as some traditions have made it.”

            Me among them. I am deeply skeptical of any claim that (a) the New Testament lays out a single form of church organization, (b) this form is clear enough that it can be faithfully reproduced today, and (c) the claimant’s church (inevitably) has done just this (as contrasted with those other churches who make similar claims).

    • Danielle says:

      I agree with your general point about the question about authority being besides the point in the kingdom.

      Here’s my quibble with your application of that idea. In the view you’ve laid out, authority is not supposed to matter to women, at least not those who have the economy of the kingdom in mind. It is unspiritual to speak of it. But of course it is supposed to matter to men, particularly to those in the proper church offices. In fact, it is their spiritual business to be so concerned.

      If we’re going to say that questions of authority are besides-the-point, then we cannot be selective about who bears the burden/opportunity of putting them aside. There is always a distinct danger that those in power will cite the principle you’ve invoked in order to squash a marginalized person’s ability to raise the question of power inside the church or to circumscribe their activities in a way that might not be fair or wise. But if rigorously applied to those in leadership, this kingdom principle asks some very tough questions of those who enjoy authority and take that privilege for granted. Thus, something sour is afoot when the powers-that-be get too comfortable with citing this principle to their own advantage.

      Regarding slights toward faithful women: I think that there are very few feminists, egalitarians, etc. who demean those who have served in humble positions or from the margins. In fact, it is a trope in contemporary writing about this topic to valorize such persons’courage, creativity, etc. as they have looked for ways to be and to act as believers and servants to their churches. If there is a common slight dealt by feminists and their kin, it is generally that they aren’t always tolerant or patient with the fact that such persons did not have more opportunity (or even more imagination) to act. In any case, the impatience is generally with power structures and systems; not so much with those so caught up in them.

  3. I know you don’t have much respect for complementarianism but couldn’t Trinitarian theology and Philippians 2 point to a relationship between men and women where both are equal in substance yet as the father is greater than the son, so too the man has authority in the church and home? Especially when paired with Genesis 3 and Ephesians? Would that not be more biblical?

    Not that a man should “lord it over” women, as I am sure the Father doesn’t abuse his authority or lord over Christ

    • ummmm……..really don’t think so!

      Having a “Y” chromosome doesn’t imbue the holder with any spiritual gifts, wisdom, or inherent leadership or authority.

      Frankly, comparing a human male to God the Father (vis-a-vis Jesus) borders on heresy. As we say here in the south~

      “That dog won’t hunt!”

      • “or inherent leadership or authority.’ Uhh , yeah it does… read the Apostle Paul again. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church….

      • I’m not suggesting that men are appointed leaders because they are more talented, that would be opposed to my Trinitarian view point. Christ and the Father are equals, yet Christ (and the Spirit) submit to the Father. Not because the Father is male or “imbued” with extra spiritual power, wisdom, or inherent leadership or authority… simply because that is the will of the Triune God.

        If the Holy Spirit sees fit to reveal authority in human relationships should we not see it in the same light?

        • “Christ and the Father are equals, yet Christ (and the Spirit) submit to the Father.”

          That perspective is often refered to as the “Economic Trinity”–a temporary situation where God incarnate is subordinate to God the Father.

          However, this subordination is NOT eternal, though Complementarians tend to think so.

          T

      • Ah, yes, the “Y chromosome” straw man. Is that truly the only difference between men and women? It’s not about ability, its about what God has said. We’re not arguing that God has made the observation that men are somehow better equipped for pastoral ministry, but rather that God has assigned it to them in His Word.

      • Dana Ames says:

        +1

    • Amen.

    • Mixing metaphors is a bad idea–

      Husband/Wife should never be compared to Father/Son

      –that is just creepy.

      • Okay, then. We don’t wanna be creepy, no how, no way.

        This is the metaphor my Bible makes:

        Husband/Wife = Christ/Church

        • Pattie, Patrick, EZK, & Been there:This is precisely why I almost didn’t make this post. If you can’t make your point in a civil fashion then why do it at all?

          The assumption that someone who disagrees with you should be treated with contempt and sarcasm, especially on such a sensitive topic, is just mean. Very Luther…

          • Pastor Brendan,

            Do you really think my comment was uncivil? I am merely pointing out the fatal flaw in your logic.

            It is wrong to compare a Father/Son relationship metaphor to a Husband/Wife relationship metaphor. I use the word creepy because of the all of the intimacy implied in the Husband/Wife metaphor–it certainly has no place in a Father/Son metaphor.

            been there, done that is right: Husband / Wife = Christ / Church

            So, I apologize if my comment reads like I am calling you creepy. That is not my intention.

          • “As far as I have been able to see and hear, you have no argument but high-sounding words of sacrilege. Everyone ought properly to shun and avoid you as messengers of none other than the devil. You are more corrupt than any Babylon or Sodom ever was, and, as far as I can see, are characterized by a completely depraved, hopeless, and notorious godlessness.”

            Now THAT is Luther. We’re not there yet. The other side of the coin is some when people are so sensitive that they take extreme offense when their ideas are disagreed with. The line is crossed when we question a person’s character instead of their logic. A civil exchange is easily maintained if we keep our focus on the topic and process our negative feelings before reacting.

    • Pastor Brendan,

      I think we have to be careful here. The Father is greater than the Son, in a positional sense, that is, the Son took on the form of a servant. It could also be taken in a directional sense, i.e. the Father sent the Son. The thing to watch out for is what a theology prof of mine once did, taking our idea of human relationships and project them on to the Trinity. (I am not saying you are doing this here, but it is something to watch out for.) Philippians 2 points to a eternally co-equal Christ, voluntarily taking on the role of a servant. Ephesians 5:22 and following must be understood in the context of the mutual submission of 5:21. In Genesis 3, Adam names his wife (showing his authority over her) only after the fall and the accompanying curses.

      Taken together, these verses speak as much to egalitarianism as they do to complementarianism.

      • That was partially my point Mike. I don’t contend against your interpretations, but rather I feel they make a strong “voluntary” complimentarian point. Though men and women are of the same substance (homeosis and consubstantial to use creed terms), of the same body, and inherently equal, yet due to the fall one is given precedence over the other. But understood in a Christlike and Trinitarian way, the concern of the man is not rule over but to love and care for the woman. This still involves headship “as Christ is head of the Church”, but raises the standards to Godlike grace and care (while still maintaining authority),

    • Marshall says:

      1 Conrinthians 11:3, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” The parallel is exact. Likewise in Christ’s frequent use of the Bridegroom image in parables seems to point to the necessity for men to feminize themselves in their relationship to God. Apparently Men have something vital to learn from Women, perhaps we should listen.

      • Yes! That means accessing reception, intuition, etc. It is those absolutely critical elements of spirituality that, with humility, are necessary for us to hear what the spirit is saying to the church right now. Anything less leaves us dull of hearing. This has zero to do with acting feminine by the way, for those who are afraid of that word. Some would say that there is no ongoing revelation and that all this listening and openness are a bunch a hoohaw. Well okay then. Forget about it. For me it is front and center. There is a movement of the spirit to birth something important in the heart of the church and that message is being received in various quarters by those who are listening. I don’t know what it is but just like the movie where people kept invisioning a volcanic mountain and building mock-ups and such, this sense of the spirit bringing us to a deeper, higher, wider vision necessary for our continued strengthening and transformation will simply not leave me alone. It is obviously on a personal level but there is also something happening corporately that is evidenced but some not insignificant turmoil in the wider church. This is not a ‘settled’ time. Out of turmoil comes new vision and new life. Sorry for going off here but actually I think it is intricately related to the subject of the post.

  4. Pentecost does make a difference, but it does not change the qualifications for the pastoral office .Again, the problem for egalitarians is the clear scriptural teaching on the qualifications for the Pastoral office. Indeed we are equals in Christ with respect to our salvation and reception of the Holy Spirit. However, Paul clearly roots his justification for a male only pastorate in the creation narrative. He could easily have qualified his remarks on the subject with deference to the local culture and not causing offense to the Gentiles- but he did not. Egalitarianism takes the scriptures referring to our salvation out of context and use them to nullify the Lord’s commands concerning the pastoral office. To use the Scriptures against themselves like that sets a bad precedent.

    Also, egalitarians would have us believe that the church has been sadly in error on the subject for the better part of two thousand years.

    Because of this, I cannot with a clear conscience endorse women pastors.

    • JoanieD says:

      Patrick, for many years the church also supported the practice of slavery based upon scripture. Finally, it was agreed that slavery is wrong. So, just because something has been around for centuries does not make it correct.

    • The church has been part of patriarchal cultures ever since it was founded. We sometimes forget that women have not even had the vote in this country for 100 years yet. The picture of the Kingdom’s effect on the world that Jesus gives repeatedly is that of a seed growing or yeast leavening a loaf. My argument is that the Church was not called to revolutionize the world’s structures by dramatic action but to plant seeds of equality and dignity for every individual and class of people that would eventually bear fruit and bring change. That’s exactly what we have seen with the equality of women. And let us not forget that the early so-called “feminist” movement in the 19th century was a Christian movement linked with other social issues promoting equality and ethical treatment of various people.

  5. At each age, we have come to read the scriptures with an eye to its historical context and all Christians do that in varying passages. Those same male-only pastors use the “historical context” argument to relate to scriptures that fly in the face of modern society and life, and yet refuse to apply that same logic across other passages. By so picking and choosing the method of relating, men have consistently overpowered women by using their gender as a basis for determining spiritual supremacy.

    By using the argument regarding the 2000 year error, I am assuming that Mr. Kyle is a Roman Catholic who attends mass in Latin and reads the scripture in it’s original Greek since anything new (like not following the supremacy of the Pope who is Peter’s clear successor) is finding error in 2000 years of church teaching.

    While that is a ridiculous and unfounded assumption on my part, so is anyone’s assumption that we are following exactly all the same “rules” that the church had when these scriptures were laid down. At various points in our history, the Christian following has morphed and grown in ways that reflect a Living Word. We have translations of the scriptures into modern languages, many do not recognize Peter’s successor as the Rock on whom the church was built. We share communion with women and we marry out of love, rather than to merely have an outlet for our sexual urges as Paul suggests. With each passage that is “cherry picked” as a scriptural basis for any denomination’s teachings, there are other passages that contradict and serve to embolden other expressions of faith.

    Jesus did not come and merely fulfill the prophecy of his coming and melt seamlessly into the well-established church of the time – he turned the nearly 4000 year old church of the Jewish people upside down. He condemned their “let’s keep everything the same forever” attitude and challenged them to accept a “Living Word”. He preached in direct violation of their rules and showed us the error of stagnancy based on Old Covenant rules. He condemned the Pharisees for being more concerned with following the rules over living his gospel. Why did he do this? Wouldn’t that have sent the message that the church had been erroneous about eating pigs for 4000 years? Who said that God suddenly stopped revealing himself to us around the year 100? Was there a period sanctioned by God that he only spoke to us a short time after his death and that was the last we heard from him? That nothing more can ever ever change?

    Jesus challenged the Jews to step outside the 4000 year old box they’d put God into and to journey with him on a road to Emmaus – a road where our eyes are constantly being awakened to new possibilities and ways to live out his one and only commandment to us…that we love one another as he has loved us. Jesus did not endorse stagnancy and reliance on rules, even if those rules were previously given by God. He challenged us to base all our law on one simple rule: to love one another. The early disciples were shocked by Jesus’s shattering of the one huge rule that all humans at the time knew with complete and utter certainty…that people do not rise from the dead. If he can break that rule for us in the name of his love for us, what empty rule should we break out of love for one another?

    • Ahh yes….the ‘Living Word’- not the Word that is actually written… And what Jesus stood for, not what He actually said or did, or what His Apostles said.

      You mis apply Jesus’ fulfillment of the OT laws as a paradigm for negating NT teachings without reference to what Jesus and the Apostles actually said.

    • JoanieD says:

      LA wrote, “Jesus challenged the Jews to step outside the 4000 year old box they’d put God into and to journey with him on a road to Emmaus – a road where our eyes are constantly being awakened to new possibilities and ways to live out his one and only commandment to us…that we love one another as he has loved us.”

      Amen to that, LA! Great comments.

    • +1

  6. Jesus did not appoint any Gentiles to be disciples, so by the logic of “brother” boaz , there should be no non-Jewish preacher, or priests.

    Never mind that the first the first public Miracle we read of in the Gospels was done at the request of a woman, that the first person who heard Jesus proclaim that He was the Messiah was a woman who He promptly sent out to preach that Good News, or that the first ti see the Risein Lord AND tell the disciples He was risen was a woman.

    All this is meaningless when denying that women have equality (as Paul wrote more than once) are one with men in Christ Jesus.

    • Ninure,

      So what about what Paul wrote (more than once) concerning the qualifications for the Pastoral office?

      • Paul also wrote that we should only marry if we couldn’t control our sexual urges. If you aren’t able to read Paul historically, then there are a lot of things we ought to be doing that we aren’t. Picking and choosing what to read historically and what to read literally is why we have so many variations on the theme of the church.

  7. David Cornwell says:

    We dare not limit the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church or in our lives. There is a dynamism in the Spirit’s presence that our worship and liturgies sometimes seem to stifle rather than celebrate. There is an unpredictability in the Spirit’s movement that moves us away from the old categories that box in our thinking and acting. The Spirit brings the revolutionary power of the Kingdom to every dusty corner of establishment and sometimes shakes it foundations. Even we old men can be awakened with new dreams of what it all means. Yes, let our daughters prophesy.

  8. point of clarification: to those who say, “not according to ‘Paul’s qualifications for the pastoral office,'” to which texts are you specifically referring?

    • I Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9.

      • wouldn’t these texts make single pastors ineligible? what about those without a “family”? are they allowed to serve as Pastor? is an “overseer” a “Pastor”? does this even apply?

        these don’t seem that clear to me.

        • That’s part of my problem here. I know what it seems to me like those texts are saying, but there’s enough ambiguity to make me a bit uncomfortable with my own take on it right now. Personally, I don’t have a major issue with saying pastors should be married with children, not because I want to discriminate against single men, but because I believe the church has a lot to gain from men who have proven their spiritual leadership in their family (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Also, I went into non-ordained ministry straight out of college, and it is one of the biggest regrets of my life. In hindsight, I’d have benefited from getting a “real job” first, establishing myself in a secular vocation, and then giving it up for full time church work, or bi-vocational, like most married men with children. The other thing is, many egalitarians actually do agree with my take on these verses but insist that they are merely descriptive, not prescriptive. I fear I may have exhausted the potential of this medium to resolve this issue to my satisfaction.

          • Hi Miguel,

            I wanted to comment a bit on these two passages and how I understand them.

            Both passages start with the idea that an overseer (or elder) must be above reproach. (Titus is translated blameless, but the conceptual idea is the same.)

            I believe that all that follows must be understood in terms of the over aching concept of being above reproach.

            So when Paul talks about marriage he is talking about it in terms of marriages that are above reproach. The Greek here in the Timothy passage is literally “of one woman a man”. We could maybe translate it as “a one woman kind of guy”, or “a type of person who is faithful to the marriage covenant.” Paul’s primary concern is a blameless marriage, and is not the gender of the overseer or even the marital status of the person. Paul does have married males in mind, but I think that if he was to respond to a single person he would say something similar (If you are single person in leadership, your relationships had better be above reproach.)

            As I said, I think Paul had married males in mind when it comes to overseers. The following sections on deacons has a parallel section addressing women (possibly?/probably?/likely? women deacons) where as the overseer section does not have the corresponding parallel section.

            That being said, I don’t think Paul intended “of one woman a man” to be intended as to prescription against women overseers, but rather a prescription of the necessity of faithfulness to the marriage covenant. Again, this goes back to the idea of being above reproach.

            To paraphrase Paul, “An overseer needs to be above reproach, and if you are married, it had better be above reproach too!”

            The translators of the NRSV understood the need to clarify this section and so translated the phrase as “married only once”. I think the phrase “a one woman kind of guy” is a little better as it is closer to the greek and does not restrict the single person, which I don’t think Paul intended to restrict either.

            Interested to here your take on this.

          • Interested to hear it too!

          • Hey Michael, thanks for the explanation. I know you tried to show me something like this before, but this is a bit more clear. The thing is, I don’t see anything in the ESV text that indicates “above reproach” is the category, and “husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” are the specifics. From a surface reading, it does seem like “above reproach” is merely the first item on the same list as the rest of them.

            However, as I was looking into this a bit more last night, I discovered that both the ESV and Reformation Study Bibles (both quite complementarian, I believe) actually indicate what you are getting at in their study notes. Perhaps this is something that is more pronounced in the Greek text?

            This would seem to indicate that the passage isn’t explicitly saying “elders should be male” like I thought it seemed. However, it still does kind of look like, though Paul isn’t commanding elders to be men, he may be assuming it. I think I can agree that the main thrust is that the person under consideration be above reproach in marriage, whether single or not (though v.4-5 may pose some difficulty for single men interested in pastoring).

            I like your observation about women deacons, and how the elder passage lacks a female parallel, I had never put those two together before.

            I suppose the big remaining problem for me is that if we were to say “husband of one wife” doesn’t at least imply gender specificity, that poses a problem when “wife of one husband” is used later in the epistle to refer to widows being supported. That one is absolutely gender specific, so it seems a bit inconsistent to treat one that way and not the other.

            There is just so much subtle nuance to that phrase. I’m working through a 50 page thesis on it I received while serving on a pulpit committee. Why does the Bible have to be so complicated?

        • The Bible has to be complicated because we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. If it was just a checklist to follow, there wouldn’t be any working out.

          “Husband of one wife” is gender-specific but it’s possible that the specificity wasn’t really thought through. I just told this on a comment on Rachel Held Evans’s blog but I’ll tell it again here: We bought our house last year while my husband was unemployed, so the loan was based on my income and is in my name only. I alone am on the hook for it. But he is listed first on the title, and on the tax assessor’s website, (and his name does not come before mine alphabetically so there’s no objective reason for this,) and is listed alone for the homestead exemption, and he gets stuff in the mail about refinancing “his” mortgage, and asking what would happen to the roof over his family’s head if he lost “his” income. I get none of those. Because homeowners are men, you know. An archaeologist looking through all of this could reach the conclusion that in 2011 if a couple bought a house, it’s always really the man who bought it, and it’s his house.

          It’s the assumption that’s made, that drives some of us women nuts, and our men when they see it (my husband is very irritated by all of this,) that “people” are men, and you only mention women if you have a specific reason to do so, like to talk about how widows are to be maintained. Once you notice this kind of thing you see it everywhere: lawyers and their wives, doctors and their wives, and so on, as if lawyers and doctors are always only men, even though we know better. So if somebody had pinned Paul down at the time, and said “you talk about elders having to be husbands of one wife, can’t a woman be an elder?” he might have said of course she could, she just needs to be sober and so forth as well.

  9. It seems to me that there are two logical fallacies of false equivocation in this post (correct me if I’m wrong):
    1. Restricting office to Scriptural qualifications = discrimination. The assumption being made is that IF God were to say that women can’t be pastors, then that would be unfair. Circular – it approaches scripture with a culturally informed assumption and demands that God’s Word conform to it. Unless we want to accuse God of being unfair, the argument should be centered on whether God’s Word prescribes such contested qualifications for office holders, regardless of whether WE consider it to be “fair.”
    2. Equal in status = equal in roles. Members of a free society are all born as equals (in theory, at least), but this doesn’t mean that all have identical responsibilities. On what basis are the various responsibilities of the Body of Christ given? Sola scriptura, not some nebulous egalitarian recent philosophical trend. MY PASTOR IS MY EQUAL. I am not less than him because I don’t hold office, the same applies to women.

    This notion that the denial of pastoral ministry is some form of suppression or marginalization is ludicrous, imo. You could just as easily say God is guilty of great injustice for not giving men the ability to bear children. God can dictate how he wants his creation to be ordered, that’s his prerogative as creator, and it didn’t evaporate with the resurrection.

    I am personally sick of hearing Galatians 3:28 trumped as the battle cry of egalitarians. There is no contextual reference to church office in that passage. Not to mention, it is also being misunderstood: Just because “there is no male or female in Christ” does NOT mean we are no longer males or females. We still maintain our natural gender distinctions after regeneration, we do not become some sort of genderless spiritual beings trapped in gendered bodies. Sounds gnostic.

    Equal does NOT mean identical. Our differences are good, healthy, normal, and should be celebrated, not erased in the name of “equality.” The biblical passages that actually DO address pastoral office seem pretty clear about the difference in gender.

    To say that Paul endorsed the male only pastorate as a concession to current cultural trends under the assumption that time would bring about the change does two things wrong: 1. It is nothing short of a direct assault on Biblical authority, accusing Paul of explicitly including err with his instruction. 2: It forgets the example of Jesus, who never allowed cultural norms to cramp His style. The idea that Paul wanted women pastors but didn’t think the church was ready for it makes him into a non-confrontational coward. Not to mention, first century culture wasn’t as extremely patriarchal as egalitarians would have you believe: It was in many ways libertine on the level of America today. Women always served as priestesses in the pagan religions of the day, and the men often served as prostitutes. Paul restricting office to men would have been counter-cultural, not a concession to it. JEWISH cultural may have been patriarchal, but is that the scenario to which the pastoral epistles were addressed? I don’t believe so.

    • If I am not mistaken Paul argued back to creation to make most of his argument not the current culture. Miguel I am grateful to see a sound argument from someone who is obviously well versed in scripture and church history. Thank you.

    • Albert I. says:

      Miguel,

      Thanks for a lucid and clear exposition of the scriptures.

    • Marshall says:

      What Jesus said: “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Jesus acknowledged, traditions change. Why do you throw out Galatians 3:28 for the sake of your politics?

      • I’m not convinced that you are either entirely serious or have read my comment. I never endorsed rejection of any scripture, but rather the abuse of it. What’s my political agenda?

    • Brilliant. Great job, Miguel.

    • Miguel, thank you again for being a light shining on a hill !!!!!!

    • Miguel, thank you for sorting out the truth from the feel good culture !!!!

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Wow, Miguel, that’s some serious frustration.

      No one is saying that God is denying pastoral ministry to women; the current concensus seems to be that a male-dominated church leadership is denying pastoral ministry to women, out of a misapplication of Scripture. The problem is not God; the problem lies in our interpretation of what God wants.

      Personally, I don’t appreciate hearing people apply Galatians 3:28 in this instance either, but for a different reason. That verse is usually a) taken out of context, and b) used as a cliche phrase to simplify what is a complex issue. Actually, my main issue is with people using Bible verses the way I would read an eligibility requirement for a scholarship to a student (i.e., “This is what this says–duh–that’s all you need to know.”) Both the Spirit and the writers are unpacking very complex issues, so “text-proofing” is a great disservice to the meaning of Scripture.

      You’re right; equal does not mean identical. However, I think you’re assuming that everyone is saying that equal in status = equal in (gender) roles = equal in leadership authority within the church. There is a lot of criteria which we have to take into consideration when we are determining someone’s leadership potential, especially in a society that requires a pastor to be an event planner, family counselor, preacher, community organizer, conflict resolutionist, budget manager, etc.; none of those criteria are gender-specific. I am sure each person here can recall a man who was in a church leadership role for which he was totally ill-suited. In those situations, if there is a woman who is obviously more qualified to take that position, should we merely say, “Sorry, but we have to have a man in this role”?

      As far as Paul’s intent, his support a male-dominated church leadership was not a concession to cultural trends, it was a recognition of those trends and their impact on the church, in the same vein as was his support of the master/slave relationship. Jesus’ “style” (not quite sure what that means) also recognized some of the cultural influences of his time; Matthew 5 is a great example, especially Jesus’ confrontation of the issue of divorce.

      I’m trying to keep this post short, so I know I’m leaving some stuff out of my response, but if you don’t mind me asking, what leadership or authority qualities are inherently lacking within the entire female gender that would disqualify them from church leadership?

      • Marcus, thanks for your challenging thoughts. However, it does appear that we are approaching the issue from drastically different epistemologies. You seem to be interested in whether or not women are physiologically, psychologically, spiritually, and skillfully equipped to handle the challenges of ministry. You get no argument from me on that point. My ONLY concern here is with the scriptural instruction, and understanding it rightly. If we can agree that the Bible is the sole basis for determining the will of God, then we can begin to contrast our interpretations. It looks like you think that anyone who thinks God doesn’t want women to be pastors is misinterpreting scripture, and I believe that is where our disagreement lies.

        Your points for Galatians 3:28 are exactly what I was trying to say, and I agree that this is a complex issue. And I do confess that to a certain extent my take on the pastoral epistles does fit your caricature of the scholarship application. However, since I am bound by conscience and the Word of God, I can’t change my position until presented with a reasonable alternative explanation of what those verses actually mean; I have to do something with them. And I do not believe they are taken out of context, the context is actually quite specific. Generally speaking, proof-texting is a bad idea, but I don’t believe I am guilty of that in this case. It absolutely happens on both sides of this and every debate, but why not seize it as an opportunity to examine the passages together and see what they really say in context?

        I don’t believe I am assuming that everyone is saying equal in status = equal in leadership authority in the church. In fact, it seems to be exactly the thrust of this post. Have I misread CM? Your criteria for leadership potential is great, but has nothing to do with the Biblical instruction. Should we have a man fill the job when a women is more qualified? Of course not! …unless, of course, God has said so, which I believe He has.

        And you completely neglected my point that Paul was NOT conceding to cultural trends because patriarchy was not remotely enshrined in the pagan religious institutions of the day. About Jesus style, I simply meant that he didn’t hesitate to cross traditional or cultural boundaries for the sake of truth. I propose that this was exactly what Paul did when he limited pastoral office to men. Now you’re confusing me; did you just agree that Paul in fact does limit the office to men? Pardon me for taking him at his word!

        I don’t think that leadership or authority qualities are inherently lacking within the female gender. In fact, I’ve seen many women excel in this field, generally. However, the church is not a business. God doesn’t make a policy of playing to our strengths, but rather, his strength is made perfect in our weakness. I’m not saying that we should therefore seek out incompetent pastors, but merely that natural ability is irrelevant. Rather, what has God said about who should be pastors in His church? They are to be the husband of one wife. Whatever that means 😛

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Let me start off by saying that my point about Galatians 3:28 was actually in your defense. I noticed that some post respondents on both sides of a debate (including this one) tend to throw in a Bible verse and say, “There it is,” and that really annoys me. That wasn’t actually a disagreement I had with you, although if there is anyone reading this post who is fond of doing that, please, wherever you are, smack yourself upside the head for being a knucklehead.

          Also, if you note from that last response, I am trying to not deliver a tome-heavy sermon in each post. That’s a lot of writing for one sit-down session, and I’d rather spend the time reading posts or any of a host of other things that we do when we are not around our computers. I did not neglect or ignore anything; I just couldn’t take one response that had several talking points and respond to them all in one response. This post is not going away anytime soon; we don’t have to unload everything in one response.

          Onto your response. Again, I know it’s short, so just toss in a question that I haven’t answered, and I’ll just come back to it later:

          I’m looking at that first paragraph, and it seems like we agree that women can be “physiologically, psychologically, spiritually, and skillfully equipped to handle the challenges of ministry.” Also, I am in total agreement that Paul did limit the office to men; however, I also believe that he did so through his specific communications with Timothy, and he did so in a letter addressing specific problems in the church of Corinth, and he did so in a letter addressing specific problems in the church at Ephesus, etc. There is a context and a reason for why Paul told these audiences these principles, and the cultural influence that new believers dragged into church as part of their old identities was one of them.

          For example: many new believers owned slaves. In his letter to Ephesus, Paul did not order masters to liberate slaves, but instead, admonished slaves to obey their masters, using much of the same “even as Christ is to the church” analogy that was used to remind wives to obey their masters. Yet, somehow, we got it in our heads that slavery is wrong. That happened over time, as the Spirit continued to work with societies over the centuries and pushed us to recognize that our relationship with God had evolved to a point in which the enslavement of human beings was contrary to the essence of the gospel and the mission of the church. This does not mean that Paul was wrong; but maybe we need to dig a little deeper to understand why Paul asked slaves to remain obedient to their masters and forbade women from church leadership roles, before we just automatically assume that the verses on the page translate word-for-word into effective church policy.

          You’re right; the church is not a business, but it does have a mission and a set of goals. To that end, if God says that an otherwise qualified woman should not be a leader in the church, it makes sense that there would be some sort of logical explanation why, other than “God said so.” If the church is going to hold fast to a policy which makes women feel ostracized or belittled, ignoring a woman’s leadership experience, fiscal responsibility, and other necessary credentials, I just think that they ought to have a logical justification for doing so.

          Again, if I’m missing something, sorry, but you’ve got a lot of statements in your responses, and I can only sit and type so much in one sitting. Maybe it’s just ADD. Regardless, just tack on the comments which I did not respond to, and I will do so later.

          • Thanks for elaborating. I’ve heard this perspective on Paul’s prescriptions before, but it always seems to be expressed in a manner that looks like dodging the inconvenient. Your explanation makes a good deal more sense, but I’m not entirely comfortable with that approach because seems a bit relativistic, and mostly because it raises more questions than it answers. I can’t accept that the Bible is an indecipherable mystery. I’d agree that “God said so” doesn’t seem enough, but that He has compelling reason behind his commands. However, we don’t always see these as clearly as we would like to think. I know a ton of women who don’t feel the church denying them ordination is ostracizing or belittling. IMO, logical justification is great, but must take a back seat to scriptural justification. We must give God the permission to disagree with us and still be right. I appreciate your explanation!

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Thanks for the kind words, Miguel. I, for one, am tired of dodging the inconvenient, and responding to posts like yours allow me to confront some of the more complex issues that I have previously chosen to either ignore or regard as simple.

            To that end, I also refuse to accept that the Bible is an indecipherable mystery, but it is the product of truth, and while that truth is decipherable, it is complex. Most professed Christians chose to look at the Bible as simple math; I prefer to think of it as graduate-level trigonometry. Now, in terms of math, I’m not Will Hunting or John Nash, so I would stare blankly at some of those complex math problems and assume that they are unanswerable. That doesn’t mean that those problems have no absolute answer or validity, only that I have a lot to learn before I can comprehend the riddle.

            Same goes for Biblical truth. I think that Scripture is absolute truth, but the nature of that truth can be, and should be, very complex. IMO, People who merely quote Galatians 3:28 as justification for the inclusion of women in church leadership, as well as people who merely quote some of the passages sprinkled throughout Paul’s epistles as justification for the exclusion of women from church leadership, are both trying to turn graduate-level trigonometry into third-grade math, and that is antithetical to what God wants us to get out of Scripture. Also, I’ve noticed that that line of thinking does lead to relativism, because the assumption is, “If you are telling me that this is too complex for me to understand given my current reasoning process, then it cannot be understood.”

            You’re right, Miguel, when you state the importance of Scriptural justification, but I don’t think that logical reasoning is subordinate to Scriptural justification. Rather, I think we need to call for a much higher standard of logical reasoning than what mainstream Christianity (primarily within the evangelical movement) has come to accept. That means if God disagrees with us, we owe it to our creed and our God to understand why, and if we see conflicts between Scripture and logical reasoning, we need to seek for an answer, rather than merely throwing up our hands and walking away from a complex issue that could define church doctrine and stating, “Well, that’s what the Bible says, so what can we do?” I always allow for God to disagree with me, but I also expect to find His reasoning as sound. So far, God has never failed to exceed those expectations.

          • Hey Marcus,

            Brilliant insights. Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to agree that from my experience, sometimes understanding the Bible does seem a bit like grad trig. However, unlike grad trig, in this field, the experts never agree. Somewhere along the line, our rational powers fall short. I do believe in the grand scheme of things, God’s thoughts are consistent, reasonable truth, but I am starting to be resigned to the idea that I may never quite figure some of them out in this life. His ways are higher, you know? Some things certainly can be known from scripture, but given vast number of variant interpretations by the most capable and well-intentioned scholars, I just don’t know that we can ever have epistemological certainty about many of the more controversial issues. We shouldn’t give up on learning and thinking through some of these issues, perhaps this is what it means to love God with our mind, but I don’t know that ultimately every Word of God can be completely figured out by us. There will always be an aspect of mystery to faith. It’s easier to hide in the simple third-grade math of proof texting than to really face this uncertainty. Ultimately, though, as a Lutheran, I prefer to keep my reason subservient to scripture, as a servant of the text, rather than try to reconcile them as two equals (along with tradition) like Anglicans, or impose reason as a magisterium upon the scriptures like the reformed. When God speaks, my job is to listen with fear and trembling.

      • Note two things:

        1. each of these is addressed to ANYone (tis). Unfortunately several translations walk over that and insert the word “man”.
        2. each of these the “one woman man” phrase is part of a list of character traits, not physical requirements.

        There are some interesting points that most people miss in 1 Tim. 3. It starts off with pistos ho logos – faithful is the Word. Paul continues with tis episkopE oregO kabos ergon epithumeO – ANYone craving on-noting/supervision/bishop is desiring an ideal work. And then typical to Hebrew thinking his very first requirement is that the person must be a “of-one woman man”. This is a Hebrew colloquialism or idiom that means faithful. This information is detailed out in Bruce Flemings book “Familiar Leadership Heresies”. Paul is hammering in that the Word is faithful and there must be faithful people who serve it. And then he continues on to bring up more character qualities of a faithful type person: sober, sane, hospitable, of good behavior, apt to teach, no wine bibbler, etc. These are not qualities that only males can achieve.

        Also, the way I read verse 4 is that one is to manage their own household, not themselves. That very generally says to keep your own household orderly. Just like a woman is to manage her household, organize and order it to make daily life easier. Proistemai tinos. Can also be translated “care for, give aid”. See also in Rom. 12:8, 1 Tim. 3:5, 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Thess. 5:12; Titus 3:8,14. Has been used as one who is a leader, patron, supervisor and director. Some have translated it as “rule” after the bad King James who wanted his authority and rule validated. But really that is stretching it and perverting the true spiritual intent of caring management, something all of us are to do.

        I would also add that in I Tim 3:11 (“In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.”) is typically understood to be refering to the wives of deacons. Context doesn’t require that understanding. Rather, it makes more sense to understand that statement to pertain to female overseers. Gune, gunaikos, gunaikas, gunaiki (the root being gune) means woman. It may mean ‘wife’ if the context demands it. I Tim. 3:11 no more demands that gunaikas means ‘wife’ than the usages in 2:9,10,11 demand that it be translated ‘wife’.

        Being of the Family of God/Abba where each of us are brother or sister to each other renders quite the egalitarian oikonomia with only one despote over all. Jesus redefined the meaning of “leadership” as “servanthood.” Women often find that definition more meaningful and formative than what many men do.

        T

    • I just want to add my “Thank you” to Miguel. It is refreshing for those of us who grow weary of “the ever-present fog of existentialism.”

    • Miguel, you and I are friends but I disagree strongly with how you have characterized my position here. And none ofr the commenters who have disagreed have spoken even once to the main point — that Pentecost makes a major difference in how we should view these things.

      And so this discussion has degenerated into one group of people advancing their theological conclusions without seriously engaging the texts and arguments of the other side.

      • I’m doing my best to understand your writing because I have great respect for it. However,

        “Because we all have entered the community through baptism and the Spirit, it is inappropriate to discriminate within the Church based on old creation categories such as ethnic or racial identities, social class distinctions, or gender.”

        …and you’re not saying that because men and women are spiritual equals within the church, it is discriminating to allow one to be a pastor and not the other? It seems that you are relegating certain patriarchal gender distinctions to the old covenant, and I concur with you except on the issues that I see being reaffirmed in the New Testament.

        I know it must be frustrating to see the flags being planted and shells lobbied instead of a fair match of idealogical fencing, this topic seems to always bring out the worst in us. But I honestly can’t see where I’m missing your point here.

        • sayla1228 says:

          The real issue is that people use the Bible and traditional theology on the sacramental priesthood/ordained pastorship as justification and “fact” to reinforce the belief that women are sub-human and inferior and that you have to be male to be seen as human.

        • Miguel, I’m not sure why this prompted such an emotional response from you today, but I must say that you badly characterized my positions and the thinking behind them.

          1. I am not committing fallacy #1: “Restricting office to Scriptural qualifications = discrimination.” The point is that you and I disagree about what those qualifications are, and I think those who hold the other position discriminate because they do not allow what God allows.

          2. I am not committing fallacy #2: “Equal in status = equal in roles.” I simply disagree that Scripture forbids the role to women as you say it does.

          3. You are missing something important about Galatians 3:28. You write: “Just because ‘there is no male or female in Christ’ does NOT mean we are no longer males or females.” Of course not. It also does not mean there are no longer Jews or Gentiles. In Paul’s day it also did not mean there were no longer slaves or free persons. But for Paul it DID mean that this had implications for the life of the church. In my view, one of those implications is that if a Gentile, a slave, or a woman has been gifted and called by God into pastoral ministry and recognized by the church as having those gifts and callings, such a person should be allowed to serve.

          4. You can’t honestly compare ancient Greco-Roman society with today’s world in terms of women’s rights and place in society. In most places in Greco-Roman society no woman could vote, work publicly, or hold office and was usually not even seen in public, though, since Romans placed a higher value on family, they were treated better in Roman culture than in other parts of the world. Still, women were viewed as little more than a commodity or a child and whether married or unmarried, were required to be under male guardians. It was actually Christianity that elevated the status of women from property to partners in marriage and from intellectual children unworthy of being taught to gifted members of the Body of Christ.

          • Gotcha. Ok, thanks for clarifying. I must be fairly poor at expressing my thoughts, because this is actually a very dry, strictly intellectual issue for me. If I sound emphatic it may be because I haven’t really found the answers I’m looking for. I’m actually really on the fence with a lot of these issues, but leaning a bit to the right as kind of a “default” position, relying on a rather simplistic understanding of the text. The reason I argue it out so much is because, though I know what the text seems to say pretty clearly, something doesn’t sit right and I know I’m missing something somewhere. Like the other day, that video from Gordon Fee was an epiphany for me. I felt like the passage finally made sense. I suppose there is no shortcut around doing some deeper digging on the phrase “husband of one wife” to resolve this issue to my satisfaction, because for me that’s where it all hangs.

          • Yes, Miguel’s comment is way off topic–just promoting an agenda. I found his perspective of women’s rights in Greco-Roman culture especially misinformed. I was surprised at all the support that comment received. In fact, most of the comments on this post are frustrating and not inviting to conversation. I think this post got trolled…

          • I’m actually replying to Miguel –

            How fortunate for you that you find this to be a dry, strictly intellectual exercise. It’s not for me. I have been active in ministry for 20 years, both as a volunteer and as staff. I no longer offer my time, patience, love and strength to my church because of this issue. I feel terrible knowing that the younger women have seen me working there and assume that I “don’t feel the church denying them ordination is ostracizing or belittling”. It’s not just the denial of ordination – it is the mindset that accompanies it that is ostracizing and belittling, even it is a benevolent mindset.

            What exactly is it about you that would make a woman confide to you that she feels ostracized or belittled?

            To Chap Mike –

            Thank you for the wonderful post. Last weekend I made a point to visit a church to celebrate Pentecost with those who do have women participating in every part of the church and her worship. It was a wonderful experience and this piece was very timely for me.

          • Ironically, I can agree with the concept of Christ passing on leadership of the Church to men only, but NOT because of anything St. Paul did or did not say. As RC, the rationale is apostolic succession from Peter on down, eliminating women from being PRIESTS. That does not mean that there aren’t many avenues of teaching and preaching for women and married men. I don’t know why the Lord came to earth as a man, either, but I am ok with letting God do what He needs to do even if I don’t understand why just yet.

            What I find silly about complementarism is exclusion of women from any serious role in the church (at least from what I have seen and read) AND the whole “spiritual leader of the home” outlook. It is the latter that I was addressing to Brennan on the 30th. “…the man has authority in the church and in the home” ??? I see nothing of the sort in the Gospels, in fact, quite the opposite. Perhaps it is better to concentrate of what JESUS said and did than on what a later apostle said and did…

    • Miguel, this post is brilliant.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Miguel you have become a lawyer arguing your legal briefs. And they are long ones at that. To me it sounds like another form of legalism, this time from the New Testament. And I have problems understanding legal arguments. It just doesn’t sound like Pentecost.

      • Well, I’m not really trying to cram my perspective down anybody’s throat, I’m just trying to make sense of the texts. I don’t mean to pontificate, I’m just throwing my thoughts out there for critique.

        • David Cornwell says:

          Well, nothing wrong with that. Actually I’m very glad you do.

          • After some more thought, I’d say I think your observation is probably correct. This may be why I’m so skeptical of my own position on this.

  10. From an Eastern Orthodox perspective, it seems to me, headship doesn’t so much imply authority here (especially in the worldly “lord it over” sense) as source (in the Trinity, at least, the Father, as Monarch, begets the Son and the Spirit proceeds from the Father). In fact, it is a biological metaphor, if I’m understanding correctly. How do the head and body relate in our physical bodies? Perhaps that is the best way to understand the relationship (a lot of mutuality of service, interdependence, and interaction going on there, I believe). Obviously, the biological analogy has its limits, Christ is not dependent upon the Church in the same ultimate way She is dependent upon Him, but, on the other hand, in terms of the salvation of the world (which affects us, not God) there certainly would have been no Incarnation of the Word without a Mary! Yet, Christ’s and Mary’s roles are distinct and not interchangeable in this synergy. Everything said about Mary in Eastern Orthodoxy can also be said about the Church as a whole.

    I certainly do believe that in the Church (which for me is the Eastern Orthodox Tradition), there have always been women who functioned as pastors–not in the sense of an ordained liturgical office, but in the functional and charismatic sense. One historic example is the role and authority of Abbesses in a women’s monastery (who have the right to bless men and even Priests)–though they do not preside over the Divine Liturgy and they do not pronouce the priestly absolution from sins for those coming to confession (they can, however, hear confessions and give counsel). Orthodox Christian worship–i.e., the DIvine Liturgy–understands itself as a real participation in and also an Icon/image/picture of the worship actually perpetually ongoing in Heaven, where Hebrews pictures Christ Himself as our Minister/Liturgist–the One who presides over this Liturgy and Sacrifice–offering it on our behalf to the Father). The president/minister (literally “liturgist”) of the Divine Liturgy in the congregation, consequently, is understood as a type or Icon of Christ in His High-Priestly role. There is only One such Priest in the Church, and that is Christ. The Priest/Presbyter in this office and role within the local congregation of the Church within the Liturgical setting is the Icon of Christ. As I understand this, only men (actually only certain men) can be icons of Christ in this liturgical Priestly role. Women are Icons of the Church. This is how Orthodox understand what the historic and biblical evidence (especially Hebrews) teaches.

    Speaking as a former Protestant, it is apparent to me that the understanding of the minister/president/liturgist of the Divine Liturgy as a type/Icon of Christ’s High-Priestly role is the missing piece for a proper biblical understanding of the role of the pastoral office within the Church for those whose frame of reference is the modern Protestant world. I don’t believe Spirit-directed change can come without a genuine depth of understanding of the Orthodox Tradition in which all modern Christians must discover the True Root of what is true within their own faith.

    • To play devils advocate (as I actually agree with your viewpoint), aren’t we all created in the image (icon) of God. Therefore do not men and women portray the icon of the Godhead?

      • Dana Ames says:

        Pastor Brendan,
        Karen can speak for herself. However, if she doesn’t get back here, I’ll throw in a couple of cents.

        In Orthodox theology, “the image of God” refers to Christ himself in discussing this issue. In creating humans, he created them according to the pattern that he would eventually assume when it was time for him to become incarnate. So in saying that we are all created “in the image of God”, we are saying that we are created to be human in the same way that Christ was human. Now obviously, humans are gendered and Christ did not become one of each gender, so “being human” has to be connected to qualities that are not gender-specific: self-emptying, willing to give oneself up for the life of another, humility, connection with the Father by the Spirit, etc. We are to grow up, become mature, in all things like Christ – who was the first Fully Human human being. That doesn’t mean that females have to become male, and it doesn’t mean that when “feminine qualities” and “masculine qualities” are exhibited through persons of each sex, what we then have equals “the total picture of what God is like”. Something Else Is Going On Here.

        In addition to being an icon of Christ and the Church, gendered humanity is also an icon of the Incarnation: the Union of Divine and Human; the coming-together of the two aspects of Reality, the Material and the Immaterial. The Incarnation wasn’t “plan B” – it was intended all along.

        Finally, the in Orthodoxy there is no “office of Pastor”. In addition, Orthodoxy does not conflate “pastor” with “priest”/”presbyter”; neither does it conflate “presbyter” with “episkopos”, as many Protestants do. They are not viewed as “offices” at all. The “function”, if you will, is viewed in quite a different way. If interested, you can read about it here; http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/holy-orders

        Not every man can be a bishop, priest or deacon. But men and women otherwise serve the church in ways that require the same standards of virtue and faithfulness from persons of both sexes, as well as gifting and other skills needed for specific tasks. Women serve in ways some Protestants would forbid, including teaching seminarians. We have a number of women saints who are called “equal to the Apostles”, Junia is viewed as an Apostle along with her husband, Andronicus, and Mary Magdalen is called “the Apostle to the Apostles”. Orthodox women are not agitating to become ordained. We can already do *everything* else, and, at least in this country, we are respected for our service and as human beings.

        Dana

        • Thank you, Dana, for those clarifications. Very helpful article you linked to, as well.

        • Dana……you have explained the Orthodox/Catholic view on this far more clearly than I did. Thank you!

      • Yes, certainly both men and women, being made in the image of God, are icons of Christ in the world. Furthermore, all of the faithful within Orthodoxy are understood to be “a Kingdom of priests” to our God.

        As a layperson (not even seminarian), I confess I am talking “above my pay grade” here of things I only partly understand at this point, and I should encourage those interested to follow up by reading the appropriate Orthodox sources (such as the link Dana provided) from those more fully qualified to teach the Orthodox faith. Dana has helpfully clarified and expanded what I was attempting to point to.

        With that caveat, it seems to me the key to what I have said is understanding the function of icon in the *ritual and liturgical context* of the Church. This ritual worship serves, among other things, to teach and inform us all of what it means to be a priest in relationship to the one, true God. That then applies to everything we are and do as Christians in our priestly role vis-a-vis the rest of the world and each other–offering ourselves in self-giving for the well-being and salvation of others that we may present them as well as ourselves as a pleasing offering to God through Christ. Orthodox have a very sacramental approach to worship because our understanding the nature of the whole world and our lives within it is sacramental. In other words, the whole of our embodied life in this world as well the material world itself was created and is being redeemed through the activity of Christ’s Holy Spirit within the Church to become God-bearing, and a revelation of God’s Being.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Karen’s last points re the people of God relating as priests to the rest of creation is very important. This is a big part of the answer to the question, “What is God up to with humanity?” Within the public worship of the Church, the priest functions as an icon, as Karen described. But that most certainly does not preclude all Christians being priests in and for the material world. Part of the work of human beings is to help restore the worship God in and by all creation. It’s not only a “priesthood of all believers” vis-a-vis an individual’s non-mediated relationship with God. It’s a very big-picture cosmic view 🙂

          I find huge intimations of this key role of humanity in the restoration of all things, particularly the whole material world being able to become God-bearing (this is not really the same thing as panentheism), anticipating it now and looking for its fullness when Christ returns, in the book of Colossians, in St Maximus the Confessor, in Julian of Norwich. It’s very much a part of the Tikkun movement in Judaism (which is pretty secular).and in N.T. Wright’s description of the expectations of the Judaism/s of the first century.

          The earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.

          All shall be well; all manner of things shall be well.

          In Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself **all things**, whether on earth or in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross.

          I believe that “all things” means All Things. And women, as human beings growing into the humanity of Jesus, get to be a part of that, both now, wherever we are in this life, and in the life to come.

          Karen, nice to “see” you. I’d be happy for your prayers on Sunday, my slava of 3 years.

          Dana

          • God grant you and your family many years, Dana!

            Good to “see” and “talk” to you, too. 🙂

  11. Natasha says:

    I read this article and was really encouraged. (Then I read the comments section and my heart was grieved.)

    An excellent point and one I’ve been trying to explain to my own friends & family members:

    “If Paul sometimes seems to contradict his own basic new covenant theology by placing restrictions on women in certain church settings, urging slaves and masters to live faithfully within the less-than-perfect structures of Greco-Roman culture, and so on, it is because believers live “between the times” — as members of the new creation that is dawning, but also as citizens within the old creation that is still in place (though passing away) — and in this age we must patiently plant seeds of mutual equality that will ultimately blossom in fullness at the consummation.”

    It is hard to be patient when it’s obvious that we still have such a long way to go. I’ve only been studying this aspect of faith for about five years and I’m already exhausted by the same old cherry-picked proof texting rubbish trotted out year after year. I recognize that there are people who sincerely believe in patriarchy but so much of the argument seems to be a struggle to maintain power structures that were never meant to exist in a Church that follows Christ’s directive: “not so among you”*.

    “I, for one, would hope our practices would come to more fully reflect our identity.”
    And the women of this generation share that hope.

    *(That’s from Matt 20:25-28,Mark 10:42-45, & Luke 22:25-27)

  12. humanslug says:

    Here’s one way to avoid the issue of whether or not women should hold ordained pastoral positions in the church — Just don’t have any officially titled leadership positions in your church. At least, that’s how my church does it. But then again, my church fellowship would fit into a sizable broom closet without too much discomfort.
    And, by the way, I’m not even attempting to make any kind of argument against ordained clergy and the like. But, then again, I have noticed that putting too much emphasis on official titles and hierarchal structure and on who gets to wear the big hat of authority at least appears to contradict the central NT teachings about our freedom and oneness in Christ. And it certainly doesn’t seem to jive with the upside-down-from-the-way-the-world-does-it picture of the Kingdom that Jesus painted.

  13. Do evangelicals usually teach that Paul is divinely inspired and therefore correct on all points? Is this because his epistles are in the NT rather than the OT?

    • Evangelicals generally teach that the whole Bible is divinely inspired and therefore correct on all points.

    • Evangelicals believe that Paul is inspired. The question up for debate is are his pronouncements limited by time and place. For example when Paul said (in the present tense) “I do not permit a woman to teach…” is that intended to be a command for all time and all places, or given to deal with a specific situation in a specific place at a certain time. The arguments for both sides are strong.

  14. JoanieD says:

    I really believe that if Paul knew that Jesus would not return for over two thousand years, he may have written some different things in his letters. He may have talked about marriage differently; he may have talked about slavery differently. Maybe not, too. He was dealing with the culture as it was and he was just trying to help the communities understand who Jesus was, what he did, why it mattered.

    Paul was inspired by God and other writers of the books of the Bible were inspired by God. Does that mean they cannot make any mistakes? I think not. They were all still human and all still capable of making mistakes. Hearing that frightens some people. They think, “Well, we have to believe that everything in the Bible is totally accurate because if we start picking and choosing, that’s a slippery slope and soon you have lost your faith.” I suppose this COULD happen to some people, especially if they do not experience the presence of God in their lives. But we cannot fail to use our brains. There are contradictions in the Bible and we need to work our way through those. There are things that we surely don’t do, like stone those caught in adultery. I like the Methodist way of thinking through things within our faith: using Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience (the Wesleyan Quadrilateral). It makes a lot of sense to me and even if you don’t think you are using all four of those things, you probably are.

    (Hey, I just noticed there is no longer a box for me to checkmark to show I am a human being.)

    • Final Anonymous says:

      I think if Paul had any clue his letters would be as misused and abused as they have been, and caused so much division on issues that take away from Jesus and his message, he would have cut off his hands lest they cause more sin in the Kingdim. But I digress.

    • humanslug says:

      I agree. The works chosen for the NT were picked primarily because of their close proximity in both time and relation with Jesus and His apostles. The writers of those works were also in many ways products of the time and culture in which they lived, and their written works reflect that. And while I believe that God’s guiding hand and mind are present in these writings and that the central aspects of the gospel are clearly related, I think it can be dangerous to approach these writings as absolutely authoritative in every detail on a literal level while checking one’s brain at the door. Heck, Paul comes right out and says not to take some of his statements as law or God’s absolute truth in a couple of places. And just from reading Paul’s letters, it seems clear to me that establishing unchangeable Torah-style religious laws and codes was not his intention.
      It just seems so ironic that we Christians so often take the author of a work like Galations and use his letters as source material for manufacturing religious laws in much the same way that Paul’s chief enemies, the Judaisers, employed OT scripture. It’s like using a manual for breaking out of prison as a construction guide for building more secure prisons.

  15. As we begin to see the equal standing that the spirit has been and continues to foist upon us, in apparent contradiction to scripture, we will begin to see some odd things including God’s need for us. This is nothing new. He has done it throughout the ages. Deep silence; theosis; a cloud of unknowing and the cross. The bible is the holy book, the source, the only book . Now put your bible down for just two seconds and listen. That is where the living heart encounters the living God outside of ego chatter. Our heads get us to the door. Our hearts open it.

  16. Chaplain Mike,

    My brother sent me a link to this article.

    I agree with you and appreciate your comments. We often do not see, or maybe refuse to see, some of the ties between different scriptures because they challenge our preconceived notions that have come from millenia of traditions and not truth.

    “And this is our identity: Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life; in the one Spirit all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, male or female—and all made to drink of one Spirit.”

    This is a tie between Acts 2 and Gal 3 which is, IMO, often overlooked or not understood. When it is understood, then it challenges our traditional concepts of restrictions on gender, as can be seen in some of the comments. to your post.

    J.R. Daniel Kirk is an excellent resource to quote and enjoyed some time with him about a month ago in Houston.

    Peace.

    Wiley

  17. Chaplain Mike,

    My brother sent me a link to this article.

    I agree with you and appreciate your comments. We often do not see, or maybe refuse to see, some of the ties between different scriptures because they challenge our preconceived notions that have come from millenia of traditions and not truth.

    “And this is our identity: Buried with Christ in baptism, raised to walk in newness of life; in the one Spirit all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, male or female—and all made to drink of one Spirit.”

    The tie between Acts 2 and Gal 3 is so often overlooked, and/or poorly understood.

    Love the comments from J.R. Daniel Kirk. I spent some enjoyable time with Daniel about a month ago in Houston.

    Peace.

    Wiley

  18. Reading comments for which Natasha’s is representative reinforces for me the conviction (that comes from my own experience as well) that the only way to resolve the current complementarian/egalitarian debate and other such dichotomous debates in modern Christendom (where there is truth in both perspectives, but neither is an adequate expression of the fullness of the historic Christian Tradition) is a return to the wholeness of the full Orthodox Christian Tradition, found within the Eastern Orthodox Church!

  19. If anyone is still reading, please give me a cyber nod because I can’t tell if the lights have gone out yet.

    I am mildly surprised that the good Chaplain has chosen Pentecost as an egalitarian defence and while I note his complaint that we have not sufficiently interacted with the Pentecost theme I’m not sure he’s given us much to sink our teeth into here. The post is laced with all sorts of assumptions and unfortunate leaps of logic and while he protests that his egalitarian position was unfairly misrepresented, he’s done an even worse job misrepresenting the complementarian position in my view.

    Firstly, this inductive probability.

    “…the indicative truth that everyone enters Christ’s family the same way — through baptism and reception of the Spirit — LEADS TO THE IMPERATIVE [how exactly?] that WE MUST NOT make distinctions about who can participate or serve based on “fleshly” differences”

    I’m sorry but how do you conclude that one leads to the other CM? Is this not your own syllogism which demands “if X then Y must follow”? I acknowledge the passionate and categorical tone of the statement but I can’t see it any more than an interpretive thought process that does not emanate from any rigorous exegesis or wrestling with those difficult (for some) texts that suggest the opposite view. At the risk of sounding smug, I would call it “passionately hypothetical”.

    But here is the biggest problem with this position and I’m afraid I’m gonna have to draw attention to that straw man again who seems highly combustible in this argument!

    “To be baptized and receive the Spirit is to be EQUAL within the body.”

    This is very similar to the homosexual debate where if you declare the behaviour sinful you MUST be a homophobe or a hater. Here, egalitarianism puts up the “equality” issue which has nothing to do with women holding pastoral and leadership roles and it assumes that complementarians promote inequality by virtue of opposing women in such office.

    The comp position DOES NOT hold to males being higher in esteem or value or status. It has been said before; it is an issue of divinely delegated function. My liver is not less important than my heart but it was designed to function as a liver not as a heart. I could die in the absence of either.

    He’s another one.

    “…at times it seems the faithful show less respect and give less opportunity to women than the world does.”

    TRANSLATION: If you’re pro-comp you are disrespectful to Christian females that want to be pastors.

    Then this.

    “One can see in the Book of Acts, for example, that in areas of the Greco-Roman world where “prominent women” had more public roles in society, Paul reached out to them, elicited their partnership, considered them coworkers, and at times relied upon them as benefactors.”

    He did indeed and yet he did not appoint a single one of them as an elder or pastor. Again, I can’t see how this settles the core issue when it was the same Paul who issued the directives of male leadership.

    The pragmatic evidence of women being “capable” and “talented” is not in dispute and it’s irrelevant. It’s not a matter of whether they can but whether they should.

    The problem here is that for the debate to be taken seriously, the opposing view must decide what to do with the array of texts that comps hold on to. We can’t just ignore them.
    The evidence is historical, ecclesiastical and forensically grammatical and syntactical.

    Historical: Patriarchs – male, priests – male, Levites – male, Israel’s Kings – male, prophets by which scriptural revelation came about – male, 12 disciples – male, “the 70” – male!

    Ecclesiasctical: The historical understanding of the church through centuries on the issue. Are we somehow more enlightened now than they were and God saved the best for last?

    Textual/hermeneutical/grammatical: Where do you begin? 1 Tim 3 would be a good place to start AND end. The 2nd verse referring to the “bishop”–not “bishopess”– is (at the risk of stating the obvious) masculine. The parsing of the Greek noun is accusative singular masculine. However, so is the rest of the chapter referring to bishop/overseer and so is Titus 1.

    The strongest perhaps IS the “husband of one wife”. If we are to entertain the egal position we would have to assume that if Paul was writing this letter today he would be either gender-neutral in his references or he would have used both genders (inevitably also the “wife of one husband”).

    Call me a simpleton, but isn’t it up the egalitarians to prove that these gender references were (1) temporal and (b) culturally bound?

    Here’s the speed hump on the “cultural significance” argument (btw it’s Friday afternoon here and I’m heading home so pardon the smugness, I’m just too wound up!).

    But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.(1 Cor 11:3…d)

    Would God being the head of Christ change with cultural evolution?

    The reference made above to Gal 2:11-14 is an apples-and-oranges comparison. The NT gives specific information, teaching and confirmation that the nations are now included in the family of God (i.e. Eph 2:11-22). We neither have to guess nor assume. Things DEFINITELY changed in the NT regarding “the nations”. However I see no such instruction and illumination spelled out anywhere in the NT regarding the gender specifics having changed on the pastoral office or that of an elder.

    As a closing note, by focussing on Pentecost as some sort of threshold that changed the way we should view female participation in pastoral roles, it introduces (IMO) a dispensationalistic angle that is both unnecessary and unhelpful.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      First, let me start where you ended, in that I am also not sure that Pentecost was the game-changing event in terms of gender equality in church leadership that CM seems to claim that it was. The evidence just does not seem to be there, and especially as I study the epistles, I’m less and less convinced of the validity of that argument. Maybe I’m just getting lost in the posts, but the concept just seems to be going over my head.

      I agree that a historical, ecclesiastical, and textual/hermeneutic/grammatical analysis of Scripture promotes a patriarchal leadership system, but it seems that the only reason offered for why women should be excluded from church leadership is that a) they always have, and b) God said so. Both of these reasons still stop short of a full explanation of why women should not be in church leadership, so I have to act like an annoying four-year-old and ask the question, “Why?” If a woman is otherwise qualified for a leadership role, it just seems that Scripture should have a more clear reason for denying them a leadership role in the church.

      Again, I agree that history and Scripture favor a patriarchal leadership, and that leadership model is reflected in the family, ecclesiastical, and political structures of early Israelite, Jewish, and Christian societies, but I was still hoping for a clear answer for why God would still promote this type of leadership in modern-day church communities. It seems very clear that the reason has nothing to do with their inherent quality or lack thereof, so it has to be something else? What is it?

      • I would say that the “God said so” arguements are weak, especially since God himself seemed to make plenty of exceptions to the rule. I would agree though that “historical, ecclesiastical, and textual/hermeneutic/grammatical analysis of Scripture promotes a patriarchal leadership system” but I see these as being more descriptive rather than prescriptive.

        • Ok, help me out here. The major problem I have with the “descriptive rather than prescriptive” approach is this: Once you go down that road, can’t you just use that to reason away anything God commands in scripture that you don’t want to do? I feel like I’m missing something.

        • Marcus Johnson says:

          Actually, for me, the difference between “descriptive” and “prescriptive” is that a “descriptive” explanation is intended to address how something is, whereas a “prescriptive” explanation inherently explains why something is. Since the complementarian side of this debate agrees that a) the female gender does not inherently lack the necessary qualities required for church leadership, and b) the Bible clearly promotes a male-dominant leadership in political, family, and ecclesiastical structures, the next hurdle that I’m looking to see someone jump is, “why are women excluded?”

          Granted, God is God, and we are not, but I’m not a big fan of blind faith. I believe in a just and reasonable God, and that everything that God commands has a logical reason behind it. For every other doctrinal issue that I can think of, there is a logical justification for why it exists, yet somehow, when it comes the the complementarian perspective, the reasoning stops short of complete justification. So, the question must be posed again: If the complementarian perspective is sound, and women ought to be excluded from church leadership by divine decree, what is the reason behind why this must be so?

  20. “The strongest perhaps IS the “husband of one wife”. If we are to entertain the egal position we would have to assume that if Paul was writing this letter today he would be either gender-neutral in his references or he would have used both genders (inevitably also the “wife of one husband”).”

    See my earlier comments. Paul’ primary focus here is not gender, but marriage faithfulness. The fact that you call this the strongest argument is why it is quite easy to be egalitarian. 🙂

  21. @ Michael Bell

    You offered some good food for thought here…

    The fact that you call this the strongest argument is why it is quite easy to be egalitarian.

    …but… don’t be so quick to pop that Canada Dry and giving hi-5’s just yet. My point is that “the husband of one wife” is the strongest gender reference in all the related passages. I’ve heard opinions that the masculine references in the epistles are tied to the dominant patriarchical ancient cultures.

    It is seen like the modern generic male references where we speak in broad terms and say something like, “when someone is making a claim for compensation, HE is always thinking of money”. The “he” is seen as a general representation and while masculine in gender, it is assumed that females are also included because it is part and parcel of modern parlance. That is where the “husband of one wife” comes in because it eliminates any such ambiguity. It inserts a level of specificity that goes to Paul’s authorial intent leaving no room to assume that Paul may have even remotely been thinking of the opposite sex for the office of elder. That’s about as prescriptive as it gets.

    It is in this sense that I called it the strongest argument. It is not any isolated passage of scripture that supports complementarianism but the overwhelming biblical data that tips the scales on one side. The onus therefore is on the opponents of this view (what are they called again?…oh…that’s right ‘egalitarians’ :)) to prove that this is only specific to first century Christendom and that has since changed to become culturally compliant with our times. Wishful thinking does not pass as exegesis. If I was egal, my greatest challenge to prove cultural significance and restrictions to male eldership as outdated, would be to exegete the 1 Cor 11:3 passage.

    As far as the divine choice to appoint males in the office of priests, levites, kings and prophets being “descriptive” in nature, does not render it purposeless or random. If you walk out of your front door and a tennis ball falls on your head, you might be reasonably thinking it was unintentional because the kids next door were fooling around with a tennis racquet, but if happens to you five days in a row, you would be looking around to see who’s throwing it and why. Therefore for some of us it is difficult to ignore the consistent pattern in scripture and write it off as ‘cultural’.

    (John)

    • “As far as the divine choice to appoint males in the office of priests, levites, kings and prophets being “descriptive” in nature, does not render it purposeless or random.”

      Agreed. And when God places women into these roles we mustn’t see it at purposeless or random either.

      My concern is when we see God placing men into roles (descriptive) and decide that only men can be placed into these roles (prescriptive). By turning the descriptive into the prescriptive, we risk limiting God in what he may choose to do.

  22. @ MJ

    what is the reason behind why this must be so?

    I’m afraid you won’t be able to find an answer that would satisfy your intellectually honest curiosity. For the same reason that we don’t know why God made Adam first and not Eve, or why he asks us to pray when he knows ahead of time what we need and he can do it without our request. It almost defies conventional logic but we accept it in faith.

    However, the fact that we may not comprehend all the reasons behind those things should not preclude us from applying them.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Actually, I would argue the exact opposite: that before we adopt a policy that is inherently exclusive and disregards valid counterarguments, we should comprehend the reasoning behind that policy, or at least, have a better answer than, “God said so.” That is perhaps why the claim that the doctrine which excludes women from church leadership was developed within the cultural norms of the church and its surrounding society makes more sense to me. It may seem to diminish the doctrine established by the church, but it is an answer that makes more sense than, “We can’t really think of an answer that makes sense right now, but our interpretation of the Bible leads us to believe that God said so, so we’re going with it, no matter what.”

      By the way, would it really be all that blasphemous for us to approach the Bible as truth separate from policy? I remember verses like 2 Timothy 3:16, but even there, Paul never claimed that Scripture was policy or law. Instead, he claimed that all Scripture “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The phrase “is useful for” implies that the principles which underscore the exhortations and rules in the Bible take more precedence over the laws and rules themselves. For instance, I would refer back to the place in Ephesians, in which Paul implicitly endorsed slavery as an acceptable practice within the church community, but with the underscoring principle that, as new believers in Christ, the slave/master relationship should cease to be adversarial. In that situation, I would hope that we could agree that the principle was more important than the exhortation, “Slaves, obey your masters with fear and trembling.” Could we apply that same principle to the doctrine prohibiting church leadership, and if not, what makes this doctrine so different from the one condoning slavery?

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        then what did Paul imply in this?

        1 Timothy 2:12
        I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

        what is ‘proper’ and/or divinely appointed authority over a man? and who makes the rules to make sure this is done according to the law of love?

        who has the divine right to claim divine authority over me? can this be clearly defined? and if Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”, does that mean everything he did, say, write, indicate it was as if Jesus were doing the same??? was Paul infalible???

        but this whole element of authority, power, title, etc.: what are the most correct rules for proper understanding & application???

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        then what did Paul imply by this?

        1 Timothy 2:12
        I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

        what is ‘proper’ and/or divinely appointed authority over a man? and who makes the rules to make sure this is done according to the law of love?

        who has the divine right to claim divine authority over me? can this be clearly defined? and if Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”, does that mean everything he did, say, write, indicate it was as if Jesus were doing the same??? was Paul infalible???

        but this whole element of authority, power, title, etc.: what are the most correct rules for proper understanding & application???

      • So what you’re proposing Marcus is that unless God’s infinite wisdom is in sync with our finite understanding we have no obligation to obey and by default of that position we should reject anything we don’t understand.

        It’s one thing to say “I don’t exactly understand what this passage actually means and I need some help before I apply it properly”, and another to say “I fully understand what this passage says but I fail to understand why and therefore I’m not going to obey”.

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Sorry, my response was actually supposed to be posted here:

        Actually, JFDU, I’m proposing the exact opposite: that unless our finite understanding is in sync with God’s infinite wisdom, we have no authority to establish doctrine and assume it has God’s seal of approval. These passages are loaded weapons; place them in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand or respect how they work, and they could end up hurting someone who doesn’t deserve to be hurt. I think you are making the assumption in your latest response that you (and, by proxy, most of mainstream Christianity) understand these passages, but I would propose that if you don’t understand the “why” of these passages, you don’t understand these passages.

        That being said, I would appreciate it so much more if I could hear folks state, as you put it, that, “I don’t exactly understand what this passage actually means and I need some help before I apply it properly.” Wouldn’t that be awesome? Unfortunately, most folks are so certain that their interpretation of the Bible is in sync with God’s intent that they would never state that sentence. And so, a pastor dies after snake handling because he misread Mark 16:17-18. And so, a guy tattoos Leviticus 18:22 on his arm as a warning to homosexuals, even though Leviticus 19:28 forbids tattoos. And so, a person gets ousted from a church community before they get much of a chance to fellowship because someone did a surface reading of 1 Corinthians 5. And on and on…

        Still wondering about how you would approach the doctrine excluding women from church leadership in light of Paul’s approach to slavery in Ephesians.

  23. Miguel –

    If you’re still around, you might want to check out Rachel Held Evans blog this week. Instead of criticizing complementarianism, she is hosting a presentation of mutuality. The first post is up and she references plenty of sources.

    You enjoy it or be frustrated by it, but I hope you are able to “hear” the other point of view.

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Dana, just for my personal interest, can you throw up the URL for me as well?

    • Found it. I am reading, processing, and thinking through. Like I’ve said, I am really open to be convinced on these issues, but it just seems so clear to me. I hope to learn something new!

  24. Marcus,

    Still wondering about how you would approach the doctrine excluding women from church leadership in light of Paul’s approach to slavery in Ephesians.

    I say apples and oranges. One is a socio-political issue and the other is strictly ecclesiological. Slavery has a strong moral and ethical component to it that can hardly be said of church leadership being limited to men.

    There are many legally permissible practices today that would never be allowed under a theocratic regime. A licensed brothel can operate legally yet we are not called to go and parade outside calling for its closure (unless you attend Westboro Baptist 🙁 ). The same goes for legal abortion clinics. I don’t think the western tax system is totally fair either but I am mandated to obey the authorities anyway and “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”.

    In those matters that biblical concessions have been made, scripture provides sufficient clarity for us to know where we stand. For example, Jesus made it clear that divorce was never part of God’s original intention (Matt 19:8). Scripture also makes it clear that gentiles are now included in the family of God through the gospel (Eph 2:11-22). However (as I mentioned previously) I see no such clarification from scripture that prohibition from women in church leadership has been lifted.

    That’s the slippery slope that Rachel Evans’ blog post follows. She argues that the “hierarchical” distinctions were introduced after the fall and should no longer therefore be valid as we are now in a redeemable state. This is evidenced by this quote:

    Do we want to be people who perpetuate this brokenness by insisting on the continued subjugation of women, or do we want to be people who, however imperfectly, attempt to model the harmony of Eden and our hope of paradise restored?

    I think the answer is pretty clear.

    If the suggestion here is that since this prohibition was one of the “effects of the fall” and it has now been reversed, then we should expect painful child bearing, toil, natural disasters and climatological abnormalities to cease during our progressive redemption until all is consummated in glory, but we still bear and groan under the weight of the fall.

    Lastly Marcus, your thinking with this statement is highly problematic.

    …unless our finite understanding is in sync with God’s infinite wisdom, we have no authority to establish doctrine and assume it has God’s seal of approval.

    If I get what you’re saying, UNLESS we understand WHY the bible commands something, we have no right to enforce it EVEN it is the commandment is clear. In other words it’s not enough for a passage to be clear, we need to understand WHY it is commanded before we go ahead and practice it.

    Under this logic Israel should have refused to obey most of the OT law because much of it is unclear WHY it made it as Law in the first place. My reasoning struggles to understand why a man with damaged genitalia was forbidden to enter the synagogue. I can guess that it has some typological value of God’s perfection and holiness but logic does not immediately spring forth. The passage is clear as daylight as to what it demands but take a guess as to why. Same as Deut 25:11-12!!!.

    Similarly, I should reject baptism and communion, because I have no idea why God decided to use drinking wine as a commemorative means of administering a sacrament. If I was to come up with a way to remember the Lord’s death, wine drinking would have not been my choice. Likewise, I have no idea why getting dipped in water (or sprinkled, depending on your denominational orientation) identifies me with Christ’s burial. Why couldn’t we lay inside a hole and have soil sprinkled on top of us?

    My (obvious) point is that we obey a number of biblical mandates that are clear to understand as far as WHAT we are meant to do, although they do not necessarily align with conventional logic as to WHY. We examine and scrutinize through the foggy lenses of our fallen and sinful understanding.

    Perhaps another example would be Abraham asked to pack up and move without knowing where he was going (Heb 11:8) and asked to sacrifice his son without having any idea why (Heb 11:17).