Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

August 22, 2007

Should the Church Ordain Women?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 7:42 pm

It turns out I took a big gamble on Saturday evening, August 18, 2007, when I attended the "debate" on the topic of the Biblical proscription of the ordination of women by the church. I new going in that I wasn’t going to buy the liberal position held by the professor from Bethel Seminary. But I didn’t anticipate that I would be running the risk of having my faith undermined as much as I did.

You can hear the whole thing once RubeRad makes the mp3s available.

Not wanting to devote too much effort on this, here is my summary of his version of the egalitarian view:

  1. There is a "trajectory of the spirit" paradigm that can be (should be) laid on top of scripture. By means of this, we can discover what new things are being revealed to the church. (BTW, the reformers always acknowledged the idea of progressive revelation in scripture, but they knew a brick wall when they saw one – see Deut 4:2 and Rev 22:18-19).
  2. A very heavy dose of culture as that which shackled the apostles (or the Holy Spirit himself), keeping them from writing what they really would have said had not the prevalent culture forced their hand.
  3. A collection of fallacies of argumentation including emotional appeals, red herrings, guilt by association, question begging, and numerous others. (Maybe some one else who was there can fill out this list).

Before I get to a quick statement about his main thrusts, here are some cute fallacies that got lobbed in our direction

  1. The Roman Catholic church holds the view that women shouldn’t hold office in the church. Therefore protestants should allow women to hold church office. (Credo-baptists in infant baptism debates feature that one all the time.)
  2. The Koran of Islam is said to have "dropped right out of the sky" – the dictation theory of inscripturation. Therefore the Christian Bible must be grounded in humanity and the culture that then existed when Paul (and the apostles) wrote. Therefore, what was written in 65 AD was specifically directed to that culture not ours. (Or, as the assistant pastor at a local CRC preached a while back, "Had Paul written his letters in the 21st century, the spirit would have authorized women preachers".) 
  3. Slave holders in the civil war era justified their sin by citing Paul’s apparent endorsement of slavery. Therefore, subordinationists are likewise in error when they cite Paul’s apparent proscription of women in office.
  4. Female attendees (members?) of the pagan temple of Diana cult during the time when Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy (whose mailing address was in Ephesus see 1 Tim 1:3) converted to faith in Jesus Christ and retained and therefore exhibited a domineering attitude toward men. Therefore 1 Tim 2:11-12 "Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet" was Paul’s specific command in which he was only proscribing domineering female converts from paganism from teaching etc. I personally liked this fallacy the best because it is similar to the argument form that paedo-baptists use to locate infant baptisms in the several household baptisms in the NT (which I of course believe works better when paedo-baptists use it – since the two arguments are not identical). And of course credo-baptists – of which our egalitarian speaker is one – reject this as, I think, some sort of argument from silence. In this argument, Prof Scorgie has to set up the following dominoes in order to knock them over. 1)You know: there must have been some female converts from paganism who converted to Christianity. 2) There must have been some domineering types because everybody knows that’s what happens when women worship Diana. 3) Everybody knows also that due to the patriarchalism rampant in the culture, no other women but escapees from the cult of Diana ever were uppity.  How Dr. Scorgie dismisses Paul’s appeal to Adam – Eve "For Adam was formed first, then Eve" (the word "for" is there expressly to explain Paul’s statement) will stand as a good example of eisegesis.
  5. By pig-headedly denying access to ordination for women, the orthodox are cutting themselves off from 50% of the gifts the spirit gives to the church. (This is the question-begging fallacy, in case you were looking for it).
  6. 70% of the leaders of house churches in communist China are lead by women. I ask, how is this different from saying that 50% of the elders at First Presbyterian Church San Diego are women? It’s different because in the case of China, the assumption is that Christians lend their support to any efforts conducted in the presence of persecution and great duress. Hence, this is the emotional appeal.

So, quickly, here is what Dr. Scorgie sees as the trajectory of the spirit. As I remember, he uses Gal 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" to establish the trajectory of change from one position to a subsequent position that modifies the first. He did this without one shred of exegesis on the Galatians passage. But there you are.  His book cites a second example of this phenomenon in scripture; namely the change in dietary laws between the OT and the NT.

On more than one point Scorgie indicated his view that Jesus himself was constrained in what he could say or do by the prevailing heirarchical subordinationist culture. It was at this point where one’s faith can be attacked. Rather than the canon of scripture being the covenant treaty document speaking with final authority, we instead get a weak Jesus, and weak apostles who write a flimsy and – given enough time for the trajectory of the spirit to play out – a worthless document. A worthless document results in a worthless Jesus.

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  1. I did not interpret his remark about similarity with the Catholic Church as a slam, but rather just an affirmation of “Yup, you guys have the view that has been the majority view for centuries”.

    Comment by RubeRad — August 21, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  2. On the whole, though, I absolutely agree with you that Scorgie’s “Trajectory of the Spirit” concept is all wet. He said it’s not like picking an arbitrary destination and saying “that’s where the Spirit is headed”, but looking in the Bible, finding a pattern “2,4,6,8,…”, and concluding “10!”.

    What I wish I had asked (although that was during Q&A, so all the Q were already submitted at that point) is: how do you know that the trajectory is not supposed to continue to 12, or 14, or 16…? Why don’t you assume that, if you see a trajectory, the endpoint of trajectory is revealed in scripture (i.e. the Spirit’s destination all along is 8!) What ever happened to “the same, yesterday, today, and forever”?

    You see a weak Jesus, I guess that’s true, but I also see a mutable God, and that’s no good.

    Comment by RubeRad — August 21, 2007 @ 9:12 am

  3. I also thought it was extremely dubious that he continually resorted to his “homiletical” argument. So instead of “we know that God is head of Christ, and we know that Christ is head of man, thus we see illustrated that a man must be the head of his wife”, he calls it a “homiletical illustration”, and flips it around to “in our current patriarchal culture, we all know that a man is the head of his wife; thus you know what I’m talking about when I say that Christ is the head of man, and God is the head of Christ”.

    It just sucks all the power out of the Word to use it like that. Like you say, that kind of hermeneutic makes the Bible a “worthless document”.

    Comment by RubeRad — August 21, 2007 @ 9:18 am

  4. For being such a nice guy, I thought Dr. Scourgie’s hermenutic was scary. This “trajectory of the Spirit” argument was set forth by William Webb, a fellow egalitarian. Webb also calls his hermenuetic a “Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic”. His title “Redemptive-Movement Hermeneutic” seems like a bad title for what he’s arguing. Nothing has “moved redemptively” since the apostles wrote.

    I found an online article that cites some good critiques of Webb and Scourgie:


    Comment by Ryan Guyer — August 21, 2007 @ 1:08 pm

  5. Just finished listening to the debate. Remarkably, I am in complete agreement with you and your critique. There’s one for the books.

    Comment by Albino Hayford — August 21, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  6. I just gave my critique over at Ruberad’s

    Comment by Albino Hayford — August 21, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

  7. Aren’t you going to address the Rabbi rhetoric?

    Comment by msamudio — August 23, 2007 @ 5:25 pm

  8. The “reading other people’s mail” comment and “rabbinic homiletic” dodge were two of the most disturbing comments in the debate. Either it is the revealed Word of God or not. Either it is infallible or not. Different writing styles…yes. But “God-breathed”…without a doubt.

    Comment by Albino Hayford — August 24, 2007 @ 5:35 am

  9. If you ever thought that women’s ordination wasn’t dangerous, just look at the disastrous things that must be done to Scripture to support it. It’s disgusting. Suddenly we have Jesus’ words having to be subordinated to culture? Yes, poor Jesus, cowering in fear of the culture of his day, wouldn’t say anything that might have gotten him into trouble. He was just all peace and love. What nonsense! “I came to bring the sword!” He said. Not peace!

    And I suppose calling the Jewish rulers a brood of vipers was politically correct?

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — August 27, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

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