December 16, 2011

Women In Ministry IX: Where the Preponderance of The Bible Rests

As I begin to wrap up this short series I will make a very clear preliminary statement concerning the fairer of the created order:

Women in the scope and scale of Scripture and humanity in general play an invaluable and pivotal role in the progression of God’s/Jesus’ redemptive story. Without women we would have none of the Bible. Our Savior Jesus would not have been born of a woman. God deemed it fitting that Jesus would come into the world just as every human before and after Him did. Through a birthing…a savior would arrive. Through a woman came the Abrahamic lineage. Through a line of men and woman our Savior Jesus descends. It is often women who first respond to Jesus’ ministry in Luke 8:1-3; Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41 (Kroeger 1182). It is also women who were the first at the tomb on the morning of the third day…invaluable in the sacred plan.

That being said, there is no denying that women played a huge role in Scripture but they are also given specific roles by the Director of this Biblical and world narrative (God). While speaking of those roles it does not appear that spiritual “leader” in the New Testament Church is one of them. Sorry, I didn’t make the rules I am just conveying them as I have interpreted them. The Biblical pattern (Old and New Testament) and the application of Biblical pattern in the history of the nascent Christian Church is weighty and hard to ignore as is the obvious pattern in Judaism from which Christianity emerged from.

When it comes to the leadership role of women in ministry, I must take the opposite or at least neutral tact in relation to the Assemblies of God’s as stated in their Position Paper “The Role of Women in Ministry as Described in Holy Scripture”. I do so with the understanding that I have taken many of the very same Scripture references they used to defend their position and interpreted them from the original Greek differently or have approached through a different hermeneutical perspective. I believe I have interpreted them through what I believe was as objective a hermeneutical grid as possible. As such, I do not believe as the Assemblies of God have stated that:

“These instances of women filling leadership roles in the Bible should be taken as a divinely approved pattern, not as exceptions to divine decrees.” (Role of Women, AG)

If anything I believe women in leadership are indeed exceptions not the rules or patterns. The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'random' as "Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard." This does not describe what I see in Scripture when it comes to women in leadership roles in the early church. They do indeed at times appear to have purpose and are guided by our Savior Jesus Christ.

Equally, the definition of “pattern” comes from the French word patron and is “a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements. These elements need to repeat in a predictable manner to be considered a ‘pattern’ ”. This sort of describes what we see in terms of women in ministry…but not quite. We miss the predictability element. In its place we see something more akin to “irregular” evidences. If it is a pattern it is a weak one compared to the eclipsing pattern of male leadership that I have repeatedly demonstrated from both complementarian and egalitarian sources. This concept of pseudo-randomness suggests a non-coherence in sequence…therefore a scarcely intelligible pattern by comparison. Although Scripture does not seem to overwhelmingly support women in the role of spiritual leadership (based on the greater pattern of Scripture), it does not outright forbid it either.

This is where the waters become muddied and the roads begin to diverge in terms of the egalitarian and complementarian viewpoints. Is it worth discussing though to avoid division in the body of Christ. As outlined by Craig Keener (who is egalitarian) in Two Views on Women in Ministry, even he states in reference to patterns that:

“…although we have no women pastors named in the New Testament, in specific sense we have no male pastors named either.” (Keener 43)

My contention with this statement is the probable reason there are no males named in a “specific sense” is because male leadership, based in a multitude of historical precedence and based in the male-dominate culture…is assumed. For Keener to assume otherwise is to work against the Sitz im Leben or “setting in life” of the letter, the people written to in the letter and the person who wrote it--which was Paul. Paul who eventually pens the specific requirements of eldership in the Church and specifically states they must be the husband of one wife (no disambiguation necessary).

Keener continues…

“Women appear at least occasionally in most ministry positions in which men are attested frequently in the New Testament…” (Keener 45)

He goes on to state that although…

“…We cannot list many specifically titled senior pastors of either gender in the first century, but if we can accept women as prophets and other ministers, there is no reason to exclude women from the pastoral office. Men clearly predominated-but so did free persons and, in the earliest period, Jews."

It is within these last three statements in his conclusion that Keener makes my case for the unclear and vague nature of leadership (pattern) of the burgeoning Christian church. The pattern that does begin to solidify by the 2nd and 3rd century AD is predominately male as we can see by the statements of Post-Apostolic Church fathers. Additionally, the pattern that begins to solidify and is adhered to by later church fathers is also the predominate Scriptural precedent of the Old and New Testaments and is reiterated by Paul’s qualifications in 1 Timothy 3.

Within Keener’s statements I also sensed additional bias towards egalitarianism when he attempts to force a fallacy of logic to prove his point (just as my latent Complementarian bias can be sensed in this paper). In the face of a pattern of men predominating in pastoral office (Keener own statement), he used confused categorical distinctions and incorporated “free persons” and “Jews” into a gender based argument. Two non-gender comparisons or at least gender neutral ones are used to validate his point. This is no different than someone saying, we should accept and include round rocks in in a basket of fruit because they are the same shape as an orange. This is a combination of fallacies called (1) “Fallacy of Accident or Sweeping Generalization” combined with (2) “Fallacy of Composition”.

If the women in Scripture and a few outside of it are exceptions, their quantities fall short of constituting a pattern up against the overwhelming and imposing archetype of the entire Bible, specifically the New Testament as that was my specific control group. If these quantities constitute something less than a pattern, which I believe they do, I will err on the side of caution every time. Failure for me to do this comes too close to the possibly of disobedience or sin by omission/ignorance. To make a rock solid decision for women in leadership based on the ad-hoc nature of the early church I believe I run the risk basing leadership on a human construct rather than a divine mandate. A divine mandate which I believe we begin to see materialize towards the end of Paul’s life in letters to Timothy is then silently moved forward as evidenced by the implied movements of the early church.

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