December 8, 2011

Women In Ministry I: What is Woman, What Is Man?

I will be beginning a (10) ten-part series on the issue of women in ministry. In a day in age the requires people to be pluralistic, gender sensitive and open to every form of diversity, Christians that even attempt thinking that takes them outside the mainstream of thought usually garners them the labels like: "hater", "intolerant", "misogynistic" or "chauvinist". This is a hotly contested issue even within the Church itself and unfortunately it is being heavily influenced by godless cultures that surround us instead of being influenced by the Bible interpreted through a proper lens. When I debate this topic I will use the Bible as my source of influence...not the culture. The world system is of the Devil and cannot add anything productive to an argument that should be purely Bible-based for the Christian.

People are either for women in ministry or they are against women in ministry. It obviously breaks down into two camps which I will be debating/arguing from two sides: Egalitarian (for) and Complimentarian (against).

From the CARM web site we see the definition of Christian Egalitariansim is:
"...the general idea of equality [or being completely equal in function and role]. The egalitarian idea is that people, no matter what their race, gender, religion, etc., are all equal in value. Egalitarianism in politics means that both male and female are equally capable of holding an office."
Christian Complimentarianism is defined as:
"...the view that males and females complement each other in their different roles and duties. In the context of Christianity, men are to be leaders in the church and the home, where women are not. Likewise, women are to assist the husband in raising children and expanding the kingdom of God."
Neither view is meant to "slam" women in ministry but because hostile and militant feminism has crept inconspicuously into the Church over the last four decades, and difference of role is viewed in a negative light and during the course of this paper you will see the different roles do not always constitute "lesser" roles. If anything, in some cases they constitute a more glorified role in God's eyes if understood properly in God's economy. As with any topic that I do in series...please understand this will be broken into multiple posts and you may be best served by reading all of them before jumping to conclusions...until I have reached my conclusion and offered my synopsis. If you still differ in opinion then that is fine. As Christians we can agree to disagree.
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What Is The Being of Woman?

I guess the very first thing we should do when writing a series on the delineation between men and women in ministry is to define what a woman and man are or at least try to delineate between the two. I believe the deep theological issues within this conundrum are beyond the scope of this series but I also believe to some extent I must try to at least delineate the differences and/or similarities at a spiritual level because it is a spiritual leadership role that we will discuss. The physical distinctions are obvious but the physical aspect is not wholly what defines what amounts to a spiritual role in the Church, is it? Along this line it is also clear then God deemed man as a spiritual leader as a predominate pattern in Scripture as the Old Testament shows. Men, not necessarily better suited to the role, are usually chosen or placed in the role regardless…or we wouldn’t have had so many male spiritual leaders in the Old Testament. At the same time we need to ask the question did the weight of this pattern of male dominance carry over to the New Testament…or have things changed as of Jesus’ first advent? Some say yes, some say no.

A quick examination of the Bible shows that "humankind" both male and female are created in the image of God. Since our God is Spirit and is genderless per se, the physical aspects of this need to be looked past to something deeper (so thinks me). So we begin to look at things like love, goodness, wisdom, and creativity and we see that they are attributes and characteristics that can be attributed to humans and God. They do not limit God but help to define who and what He too us. The relationship “flow” is top down. God to humans: God created man and then subsequently created woman as man’s helper. People are dependent on God not God on humans. As such we, woman and man owe Him our allegiance and our obedience because in Christ we have our existence (Heb 1). When humans sin, we do so against God foremost.

So what does this have to do with the dual ontological nature of the human race? If it is not a biological differentiation, what is it? We are told to multiply (sexually relevant) but we are also told to do what? We are told we’re stewards of the world God has created. We are created to “tend” to the Garden and in this way I believe we emulate God in actions. God is a creator God and He worked or created things by action. We too are called to do the same in Genesis thereby being like Him male and female together but how we work and what the roles are for each sex tend to differ. Being like Him we bring Him glory. To bring glory to God is the highest call or chief end of man in the Westminster Catechism.

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
(Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 1)

We are created in two sexes and both bear the divine image to do the will and the work of God in the world. To do His will we do it together, not one or the other...both. No one gets a pass or bye. Without this union the work is somehow incomplete. Somehow some way it is through this union of men and women that we as human best emulate the image that is God. It is a multiplicity of personality joined together in unity action. Perhaps that is why marriage is one of the earliest institutions instituted in the Bible (singleness is fine, the Church at large still has a combination or both male and female singles). Whenever those of either sex disregard this divine order by mixing and matching sexes, roles, quantities and even kinds, all sorts of evil and detrimental consequences result in the end. It is most likely the reason that things like homosexuality and bestiality are considered such an abomination to God. It is why those that engaged in polygamy always paid the price in the end. It is a perversion of the intended order by God. These consequences appear even in our time. These unions or order bespeak of a God of order that wants things done certain ways. He is the God that initiated the Sinai covenant. Not because He is a mean tyrant but because it was to humanity’s greater good. Humans, who are beings that incessantly drifted towards sin rather than God. His will was and still is to get us to our own eternal benefit as a body of believers, which in turn brings Him all the glory as it is through His Son we gain our salvation.

Man and woman in unity is the intended order. Most likely this is as pure an image of the Trinity as we will ever get in this life. A unity that is in reality a unity or covenant of three: the man, the woman in Christ or God. As stated before though…it is not sexual or physical that is the main distinction between the genders at the spiritual level. So again I ask, what is it?

So why do we see a predominate pattern in Scripture of the subordination of women in spiritual roles? This question requires us to discern the divine image or impression within us and we need to look to God’s grace as that is what the entire redemptive story is about. The purest example of divine grace is the fact that God Himself in the form of the Son was willing to condescend and come as human only to be crucified on a cross and to take upon His own being the sins of the world. I believe it is a spirit of grace that constitutes the divine image within humankind. It is our capacity for being gracious, loving, reasoning, ability to discern and make judgment. It is also accumulating wisdom, the ability to form goals and pursue them at great personal cost, freedom to act responsibly and most of all, the ability to be gracious and merciful to others…this is where humans begins to transcend the mundane and enters a realm of something more.

What of woman? In terms of spirit there isn’t one distinguishing characteristic of the human spirit that a woman does not possess that a man does (and vice versa). It then comes back to the ontological nature that is the dividing line. Otherwise identical to men, women are very much like men from the standpoint of “being” or "ontology" but it is also here that the greatest differences reside spiritually or begin to manifest themselves in subtle ways. It is not necessarily what woman are, so much as what God has made them in their roles or functions being distinct from men. Physically women give birth to the child but they “mother” children, while men “father” them. 

We hear the words "mother" and "father" when we say them aloud and they conjure distinct images in our mind yet they really are the same from a parenting standpoint. Both are parents but what the man and woman are in the parenting of a child is unmistakably distinct in “being” in terms of function and role as given by God. In a time honored tradition of yesteryear the mother was maternal and nurtured a child where men were paternal and tended to protect and provide. It is in the mutually supported unity of man and woman, in “proper” roles arranged by God that families are formed anew by this union and then birth. It is this balance of parenting that produces the balance of the offspring or both essences in them as they mature. The ability to be the gender they are genetically created to be but to also be empathetic to the other gender as a form of mutual reciprocating grace. When there is too much of one and not of the other we see the detrimental outcome. We see things like identity crisis, gender confusion, disunity, social dysfunction, etc. In the end we see the destruction of the family unit if unity and balance is not reestablished or restored. If God is love, and God is three persons in one Being then fellowship in love is the ultimate expression of love…and we see this in the unity of the Trinity and also between a man and woman with Christ as the head.

Even though the Trinity is three persons that are co-equals in nature in one entity it is clear there are distinctions in the roles of the Trinity. When Jesus deferred to the will of the Father, it was functional subordination of role not a divestment of position or an inferior position. Jesus had said things like:

“…no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. Matthew 24:36

Subordination of the Son to the Father in function (not to be confused with Subordinationism which is essentially Arianism, a heresy). Jesus wasn’t limited in power here, far from it. He deferred to the Father by choice. It is Jesus’ willing subordination to the Father (in passive obedience) with respect to his function only, NOT His true nature. Subordination of the Son means that Jesus Christ is eternally the Son of God, equal in essence and in eternal divine nature with the Father, that the Father exercises eternal authority over the Son in function, and the Son eternally submits to the authority of the father (Robinson “Subordination of the Son” CBMW).

The article on the web site The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood goes on to state:

"There is, then, an eternal and immutable equality of essence between the Father and the Son, while there is also an eternal and immutable authority-submission structure that marks the relationship of the Father and the Son." This doctrine is rejected by some scholars, including many who hold the egalitarian position regarding gender roles in the home and church, but it is has been affirmed among many evangelical scholars and teachers throughout the history of the church…” (Robinson “Subordination of the Son”)

We see the passive obedience and subordinate in function when He allowed Himself to be crucified according to the will of the Father (also His will). So, although I am not saying this is the reason why women are subordinated in the leadership in the Church as a preponderant pattern in Scripture, it does offer a biblical precedence from a qualified source for woman to take a subordinate role (by deferral) spiritually and it is seen right within the Trinity. It is a submitting/submission in role but not in nature.

Let me state categorically and unequivocally that women are not lesser beings. Ohhhh no....this is what the culture wants us to believe about what the Bible says when it approaches this argument. Culture has purposely framed this argument completely wrong not so women get equal rights so much as it is an attempt to paint the whole of Scripture and therefore Christianity in general in a negative light. They paint it as misogynistic and that it is hated by those that do not understand it fully. Satan doesn't care about women or men. This isn't an argument by the system of the world (Satan) about giving women equal rights, its about destroying the patterns of Scripture and institutions of Scripture thereby destroying the sway of Scripture over the culture/world. Thereby destroying the Church.

So we can still read Galatians 3:28…

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

… and we can still allow for the “appearance” of “inequality” in nature between men and woman but still allow for a distinction in subordination in role as it is a divine pattern. What we are really seeing though is being interpreted through a sin-stained filter. If it is a divine pattern it is therefore glorified in its very nature as it is of God, not "unequal" or "unfair" as sinful humans would view it. From a human standpoint this may not make any more sense than it did before I started explaining it but it does show a solid reasoning for why God allows it and why we should deem it acceptable. This idea of subordination of function in the Godhead is crucial because it tells us much about the nature of God, which sort of demonstrates how God intends that His Triune nature be expressed in our human relationships. There is both unity and diversity. The function or role of subordination should therefore not be viewed as a "negative sum" since we see it in the role of Jesus to the Father. It should be exalted as the Father did for the Son (Philippians 2:5-11).

All this being said about women and men we must NEVER assume that even the spiritual aspects of humanity and their relationship to one another are even remotely equal to the relationship of the Persons of the Triune Godhead. In this respect we must realize that the Son and the Father’s will was the same. Something two humans could never do…unless (ironically) they are in Christ.

Instead of viewing a subordination of role for a man or woman as a negative we should view it as an emulation of the Godhead. I have taken submissive roles volitionally quite often in my life and I am male. This is Christ-like behavior. Unfortunately, we as sinful beings often think we are actually thinking correctly or thinking fairly about submission being a bad thing. Sadly, we in our sinful nature fail to see them from the Trinity’s perspective which is clearly above and beyond us. In our arrogance we think we know better.

We do not.

Robinson, Jeff. “Eternal Subordination of the Son: The Basics, Part I." CBMW. The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

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