Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

August 22, 2007

Women in Office: A Disclaimer

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 8:08 pm

Rather than bury this in a comment on my previous post, with this entry, I am clarifying my position on the women in office debate.

I learned a lot from RubeRad’s comment made probably a half year ago on some thread somewhere deep in cyber-space on the WIO issue. He said something to the effect that he personally had no problems with women taking office in church or with sitting under teaching of a woman. But he said that it was scripture that was normative for faith and life and therefore couldn’t accept the practice. (I am not sure he went so far as to claim that he would have no personal objections to having a woman pastor).

In any case, the purpose of this post is to make it plain that opponents of myself as a subordinationist should not take it personally nor should they consider me in some way a mean spirited chauvinist.

It remains the case however that I get hot under the collar on this issue. This is not because of the subject matter of the issue itself. It is entirely because of what has to be done with the Bible, hermeneutically speaking, in order to reinterpret scripture in such a way as to get women into the pulpit. It boils down to "has God really said" – which refrain should ring loudly in your ears as a clear warning that something may be slithering in the grass.

Bad things happen to my soul when the covenant promises get compromised and eroded even in the slightest way. So, I get feisty. I am, however, on a mission to overcome my quarrelsome tendencies.

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  1. Could this be a “kinder, gentler” Bruce?

    Let me throw something at you here, Bruce. What do you think of the “exception” theory? That, though it is not ideal or normative, God does allow for certain exceptions (i.e. Deborah). I am solidly in the Pauline camp of male leadership, but wondering if we can make room for some exceptions.

    Also, Aquila and Priscilla showed Apollos the way of God “more accurately”, isn’t that “teaching” a man…technically?

    Also, when Elizabeth Elliot’s husband was killed by the Auca’s, she stayed in the jungle as a widow missionary. She taught first, and as more Auca men were saved and discipled, she began making notes for them to teach. Would this be another “exception”?

    I don’t know…I’m thinking out loud here.

    Comment by Albino Hayford — August 23, 2007 @ 8:12 am

  2. At the moment I don’t have a comment about Deborah, except to say that I usually do whatever she says.

    Now with Priscilla and Aquila we have a different story. And thanks for bringing them up.

    Here is the passage you referenced:
    Acts 18:24-26 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

    So, the first thing to say is that this sure looks good for the egalitarian cause. However, from a couple of angles it seems to destroy Dr. Scorgie’s (and most of his egalitarian friend’s) story. How so, you ask?

    Well, this passage demonstrates at least three things to me. 1) Dr. Scorgie didn’t need to theorize that Paul must have had feminist converts from the Cult of Diana in mind when he censured women the way he did in 1 Tim 2. The Bible tells us of at least this one example in Ephesus of a woman (Priscilla possibly) teaching a man, Apollos.

    2) The theory about just how down trodden women were in the church should be questioned here to the degree that Priscilla was at least not a potted plant when it came to man-woman relationships in the church.

    3) Before inventing the invasion of uppity feminists from Diana, why not connect the obvious dots that Paul had Priscilla in mind with his censure? At least start there before starting with wild speculation. It’s not like there are no clues.

    This brings up the issue of flattening scripture to one broad container of seemingly unrelated verses all of which function identically. The point is that where I am coming from the church has long held to the principle that narrative passages (such as this one in Acts 18) are not to be treated as normative for doctrine and practice in the church. In fact, the juxtaposition of Acts 18:24-26 with 1 Tim 2:12-14 now becomes a classic textbook example of why this is so. Rather than being a contradiction in scripture, it most forcibly highlights the difference between narrative action and apostolic authority. The difference is extremely important. Paul was exactly Jesus Christ’s authoritative mouthpiece – along with all the other apostles of course. He spoke for and as if he were Jesus Christ. Narrative passages are not like that at all. They merely describe what happened, the good, the bad and the ugly. And of course Priscilla is more a counterpart to Elizabeth Elliot than any other figure in this story.

    This hermeneutic actually strengthens my faith whereas the one I hear (heard) in defense of egalitarianism erodes it. In fact the moment I heard Paul’s epistles and reading of them described as “reading other people’s mail” I started to look around for my shield of faith.

    Thanks again for bringing up P&A. I was at work when I read the comment and have been mulling it over all day.

    As for being “kinder, gentler” I hope so.

    Comment by Bruce S. — August 23, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  3. I haven’t listened to the debate and it is doubtful that I will any time soon. Nevertheless I am interested as to what extent the majority felt that woman shouldn’t be able to teach. Was it only within the context of the church or did it extend to secular areas as well? Schools, Politics, Workplace etc?

    Comment by danielbalc — August 24, 2007 @ 10:56 am

  4. It was primarily within the context of the church. The husband-wife-family context came up now and then where it was germane. Also, the issue of Sunday school for toddlers came up. As in, “when does a boy become a man”.

    No politics, workplace, schools etc.

    Comment by Bruce S. — August 24, 2007 @ 8:25 pm

  5. Deborah in the OT was a judge of the Israelites. To put it mildly, this is a sign of the low state of the Israelites, not an exception to the rules clearly set down in Scripture. Deborah’s judge-ship does break the rules of gender and how they are to behave. But think of what that means now. It means a similar thing as when a donkey spoke and corrected the prophet. The Israelites had gone so far astray that none of the men would listen to God and judge accordingly, so a woman had to do it. It’s to their shame, as so many other things that happened to them was.

    About P&A, why can’t we understand this as a couple inviting the guy over for dinner to their home and squaring him away, sharing with him the good news of Christ?

    Women are allowed to talk about their faith, after all. They can even explain how it works. What they CAN’T do is preach in a worship service. What they CAN’T have is a leadership position in the church such as elder, deacon, minister. But they can be held in high regard and respected. They can teach younger women. They can teach children. Sunday School is tricky, but I would have no problem with a woman teaching even junior high students of both sexes. I would be uncomfortable with a woman teaching male high school students. That should be an elder I think, but that’s sort of my opinion. There isn’t really much in Scripture about that. Certainly you can have a church that doesn’t have Sunday School at all and still be a true Church. Sunday School isn’t mandatory, so what rules about it can you claim? Nonetheless, it would be a very unwise decision to have a woman teach an adult Sunday School class. At the very least, it sends the wrong message to the people in the pews, but it would also tend to soften hearts to women’s ordination, I think, because people would say, oh, I learned a lot from her, why can’t she become a pastor, she’d be good at it!

    As for Elizabeth Elliot, I see no reason why she should have any relevance. People were surely saved through the ministry of men who were later found to be visiting prostitutes or even gay drug users.

    Phi 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.
    Phi 1:16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
    Phi 1:17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.
    Phi 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

    So in other words, if EE preached and people were saved, that doesn’t mean that women can preach, it just means God can still use it, even though a woman shouldn’t have been doing it.

    The end of the matter doesn’t justify the means, but God. After 9/11, church attendance went through the root. Generally, that’s thought to be a good thing. But does that mean that 9/11 was not a great evil? That God used it for good doesn’t justify 9/11, but God. That God can even use the preaching of a woman to save some doesn’t mean that a woman should be preaching, it means God is gracious.

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — August 27, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  6. Not through the “root” but “roof”. Whoops.

    PS I’ve learned lots of things from lots of women in private conversations.

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — August 27, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

  7. I think for most sensible people it is the “gray area’s” of this debate that come into question. Echo brings up a sort of arbitrary age where Women can teach males (junior high). While this may have a particular wisdom behind it, it also serves to muddy the waters just a bit. Is it the age or the maturity level the students that makes it OK?

    With the rights and education that woman have today we aren’t necessarily bowing to the culture as much as working with what we’ve got, when a woman is asked to teach a particular class.
    Does the rule only apply to “ordained” positions under a worship service on a Sunday? If so then why can’t women teach at seminary?

    Perhaps the most difficult thing about this debate is how rarely churches tend to follow the instructions of I Timothy chapter 5 in caring for widows and laying on of hands etc. It’s the churches that are inconsistently insist upon keeping parts of the verses while ignoring others within the same context that lead to so much frustrations.

    An interesting argument could be made (and is partially made) by mentioning Philip’s daughters who “prophesied”.

    It has been stated by some within our blog community that NT “prophesy” is the equivalent of “Preaching” today. If that is the case then I Corinthians 11, which talks of women “prophesying” is quite disruptive and problematic to the “Women can’t teach men” crowd.

    Comment by danielbalc — August 27, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  8. I agree that tehre are lines that ought not to be crossed, i.e. women shouldn’t be pastors, but where those lines fall is hardly concrete.

    i.e. can a woman write a theological book? Is that not “teaching” men?

    can a woman teach a group of married couples?

    can a woman lead worship?

    can a woman share the gospel?


    Comment by danielbalc — August 27, 2007 @ 2:31 pm

  9. I will follow Bruce’s “kind and gentle” example here.

    Echo, I think we agree quite a bit on this point, but, to clarify, Elizabeth Elliot did NOT preach to men. She taught some discipleship material because NO OTHER MEN WERE SAVED YET. Once men got saved, she wrote material for them, and they taught it. But she still wrote it. Hmmm…

    We agree in principle, but I think Deborah may allow for exceptions to the rule.

    Comment by Albino Hayford — August 27, 2007 @ 6:01 pm

  10. Well, Albino, one day a donkey spoke. God was behind that. God brought it about. But donkeys can’t talk. God is behind that too. Is the donkey speaking an exception to the rule? Does it mean the rule didn’t apply, or that God chose to display his sovereignty in working above and beyond the rules, since he is the author of them and that’s his perogative?

    But in the case of a woman who becomes a missionary – see, here you have a woman seeking out this sort of thing. I think it’s crossing a line.

    Daniel’s right. There are grey areas. I think a key concept here is authority. I think the Scriptures are clear on that. A woman shouldn’t have authority over a man, such as the teacher/student relationship. When a pastor preaches a sermon, the people in the pews are charged with believing it, submitting to it. That’s how they’re supposed to react: belief. That means that the preacher has an authority over what they believe. A woman shouldn’t have that authority. AUTHORITY.

    I guess a woman can write a theological book, but while it’s teaching, in some sense, it’s not authoritative teaching. I’ve never read a theological book written by a woman, unless you count JK Rowling. (Because while I enjoy the Harry Potter series, I do find it to be a sort of…teaching, though one need not be taught by it and is under no obligation.) Anyway, usually when I read a book written by a woman I find that I simply can’t read it. It just doesn’t connect with me somehow. That’s probably taste as much as anything. Though one of my professors did have us read a book on epistemology written by a woman, which I hated at first and then came to appreciate…but I digress.

    Seminary professors are ordained, Daniel. So that excludes women. Notably it also excludes unordained men. You also need a PhD or you need to be working on it. Yep, the qualifications are pretty stiff. It’s not only women being excluded. I doubt I’ll ever be a seminary prof. I don’t feel excluded. I feel releived.

    But despite all of my answers to your questions, Daniel, I think you’re asking the wrong questions. You are asking questions that boil down to this: how much stuff can a woman get away with that’s kind of like teaching but isn’t? Where do you draw the line?

    My answer to THIS question is that it’s not about drawing lines and staying on this side or the other, where if you are on this side you are in the clear, that side in the wrong, and it’s anyone’s guess where the line is. There are plenty of puzzling things like this that aren’t spelled out in Scripture clearly, point by point.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a Bible that tells me what time to wake up in the morning and which side of my mouth I should brush first when I brush my teeth, which had better be three times a day withing 15 minutes of eating. I don’t want that kind of Bible. If we had that kind of Bible there would be no end to it for one thing, and for another thing, it would deprive us the joy of having to think about things, having to mull things over, and the risk of possibly coming up with the wrong answer and learning that fact the hard way.

    Albino thinks that “Calvinists” think that we’re all robots. You know Daniel that nothing can be further from the truth. The Bible is a rich source of godly wisdom, but it purposely doesn’t always give us all the answers. Grey areas are left grey, that there might be the need of wisdom.

    And lo and behold, he has given us wisdom in the men that he has set over us. They have been given wisdom, and therefore, whenever we stumble across a problem too difficult for us, we may bring it before them and seek their counsel, whatever it might be. They are God’s gift to us for that reason.

    And God has said that that gift comes only wrapped in male packaging. God has said, over there, under the tree, are blue-wrapped presents and pink-wrapped presents. In the blue you will find wisdom and leadership. In the pink, you may find wisdom, but not leadership. Etc.

    Men who are ordained are chosen by God, and placed in those roles by God. He has very graciously told us a great deal about what these men look like. They aren’t women, they aren’t drunks, their children are believers, everyone thinks they’re swell, etc. When you see a man like that, set him over you, because God has sent him to you for that purpose.

    If a child asks his parents for a new bike, he won’t go looking for it in a shoebox.

    Comment by Echo_ohcE — August 28, 2007 @ 8:21 pm

  11. Can’t find too much to disagree with, other than I would view Mrs. Elliot as an exception to the rule.

    BTW, you might be interested to know that Daniel is also a Calvinist. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?

    Comment by Albino Hayford — August 28, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  12. I echo Albino and say that I don’t disagree, echo.

    Albino, Echo does know that i’ve espoused many of the reformed doctrines. I think that’s why he said what he said how he said it.

    So Echo, you hold the same questions as do I and albino as to what roll precisely women should take in ministry but we all agree that they shouldn’t (in ministry) hold authority positions over men.

    Let’s join hands and sing kumbaya around the camp fire.

    Comment by danielbalc — August 29, 2007 @ 10:00 am

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