December 10, 2011

Women In Ministry II: The Lens Thru Which We View The World

Biblical Interpretation Grid

What I wish to clarify also secondary to my introduction is that I am going to try and maintain as pure a Christian perspective (biblical) as possible for this research. I am really not interested in the culture’s viewpoint on this unless it directly played into the formulation or writing of the books or letters of the New Testament. As such I will be avoiding the modern secular viewpoints, polar extremes such as extreme feminism and even the more radicalized evangelical feminism as these clutter and clog our interpretive screen that we see the world through blocking things that shouldn't be blocked and sometimes letting things in that shouldn't be let in. I will first be presenting the culture that surrounded the writing of the Biblical texts because proper interepretation  is concerned with what many of the New Testament texts meant to the original reads (not us). This will allow us to have the proper cultural/historical context. I will then present the issues in one a hybrid point-by-point or polemic or point-counterpoint as there appear to be only two primary views about women in ministry.

There is the egalitarian view which believes in equality of ministry and opportunity for both genders and there is the complementarian view which sees the roles of ministry differentiated by gender. Most Biblical Christians affirm the equality of men and women with Jesus Christ as the head, but complementarian goes further defining different gender roles. It asserts that "a husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector" and that the "God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the helper of man as outlined in the Genesis accounts and many afterward.

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

This complementarian view holds especially true in some Conservative Evangelical and Catholic denominations. So much so it is extended to the leadership positions of the church and is held to in strict obeyance. Although it is considered a more liberal view to allow for female leadership and ordination in the church, this view it is not always carved in stone for conservative groups as is the case with the Assemblies of God, one of the largest denominations in the world.

The bulk of the complementarian congregations tend to be more traditional conservative protestant and surprisingly the conservative Catholic (the Roman Catholic Church proper). Although this is primarily the case, it is not always the rule as the culture of feminism has begun to enter into even the most conservative congregations of modernity. I will state that it is rather surprising to see this issue make such strange bedfellows of Protestants (minus the AG) and Catholics.

Within the egalitarian position we see many modern congregations have ordained women today in Protestant denominations, including Assemblies of God, American Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America (EFLA, etc.). United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church, USA. Even the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches have entered into serious discussion on these issues. In both groups there are men and women who strongly affirm the leadership roles of women and support women in ministry (Howe 1182).

This topic is hotly debate in today’s society and is often derailed away from the Bible due to secular feminism and postmodern ambiguities. It is important for me to come to some type of conclusion so that I have an apologetic for or against the position of women in the ministry. It will only be a matter of time before I am approached on this matter in the Church and those that approach me will want my positions on this. I take my obligations as a teacher/pastor serious as a heart attack so I do not want to steer good people wrong, God is watching and I will be judged accordingly. As such I want to make the most solid decision possible based on the information available.

Another Disclaimer & Statement

It is irrelevant to me what modern denominations and congregations are doing because they are using the same source material I am to try and determine what is proper. For most people the primary source materials are the Bible and a modicum of extraneous culturally relevant material like early church leaders writing and historians of the period (Josephus, etc.) to validate what actually happened during the early centuries of the Church. How this source material is interpreted and applied makes all the difference in the world. All the aforementioned branches of Christianity have interpreted the Scriptures through their own hermeneutical grid, I will now interpret it through mine in as biblical a manner possible as stated in my introduction.

What I can say for certain is leadership structures did not appear to have been clearly defined in the early church. The New Testament speaks of elders [πρεσβύτερος, presbuteros], there are  bishops, overseers [ἐπίσκοπος, episcopos], deacons [διάκονος, diakonos] and even shepherds/pastors [ποιμήν, poimen] and apostles [ἀπόστολος, apostolos]. The problem is that these terms often overlap and the responsibilities of each position in isolation are often difficult to ascertain. This conundrum applies to the gender issue also. It is even sometimes difficult to ascertain whether or not these are unofficial “positions” in the early church or “offices” that bestow authority on the person that holds them. Depending on socio-cultural area and geographical area, leadership title and function varied. As much as modern conservative evangelical denominations and the Catholic Church claim exclusive male leadership. There often appears to be inconclusive evidences in Scripture to support strictly male leadership in the very early church as evidenced in the New Testament. What we must do is examine what the Scriptures does tell us and try to reach some sort of informed conclusions (Howe 1180). Readers of this work may not agree with my conclusion in the end but it was the most informed conclusion I could make give the data. In the end I had to go with what I believed was a conscience guided by biblical principles, predominant patterns of Scripture and the hand of the Holy Spirit in my life. So into the data and information we dive…

Howe, E.M. "Women, Ordination of." Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Pub Group, 1990. 1180-1182. Print.

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