December 16, 2011

Women In Ministry VIII: A Brief Old Testament Detour

This will be a twofer today since this is such a short post (by my standards). I will post this minor digression into the Old Testament and then post the first half of my conclusion next. Since I was mainly concerned with the New Testament church I pretty much neglected the Old Testament women. We should probably scrutinize women’s roles in the Old Testament quickly as they are often cited as examples of Biblical precedents of women leadership for the New Testament. We see women leaders in the form Miriam in Exodus 15:20-21 but it appears to be a special gift to Israel per Micah 6:4. Also we saw Deborah served as judge, a general, and prophetess in Judges 4-5, while Hulda(h) the prophetess made a declaration about an old scroll to be indeed the Word of God and called people to repentance which resulted in a great revival in 2 Kings 22:8-20, 2 Chronicles 34:14-28). Another account of female leadership was Esther. We saw female prophets functioned throughout the history of Israel in places like Exodus 15:20; Nehemiah 6:7, 14; Isa. 8:3; Ezekiel 13:17-23 and we even see them breech into the New Testament in Luke 2:36-37. There are many accounts but in none of them are they clear cut leaders except Deborah (and other female leaders in the time of Judges). In her case it appears that God appoints her because there are no kings and no men willing to step forward to lead God’s people, “…in those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In addition, although I do view her position as a form of eldership, I do not view Deborah’s position as purely spiritual as it was also civil as she leads people in battle, therefore I would classify her leadership more akin to civil-based (Harkness 157, Kroeger 1182). Even Barak defers leadership responsibility in the case of Deborah. Esther, although she is queen of King Ahasuerus, she is far from sovereign in her role and only marginally a spiritual leader as it is often others that reveal her purposes to her like Mordecai (i.e.: who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”) . She approaches the king initially in fear for her life. I view these Old Testament examples of female leadership as dubious at best as support in for female leadership in the New Testament and modern church. Even Georgia Harkness’ feminine point of view in her book “Women in Church and Society” acknowledges that the women of the Old Testament are clearly exceptional women. Therefore, from this statement, we can conclude by inference that they are exceptions (Harkness 157).

On the other hand there are thousands of pages and thousands of years of Bible to stand on in terms of male leadership in the Church and as acting intercessors between God and the rest of humanity. In my mind I cannot overturn this preponderant pattern of Scripture and overwhelming support from Scripture for male based spiritual leadership based on a scattering of attestation. This is especially true since I view some of the aforementioned sporadic Old Testament examples like Esther and Deborah as not fitting the “spiritual leadership mold” or are not purely spiritual leaders as we/I would view them today…like a pastor or elder. When I think of spiritual leadership I am thinking more along the lines of a new testament elder not a prophet or a queen/stateswoman. We need to be sure we draw distinctions between Old and New Testament prophets and leadership as Jesus Christ, His ministry, and His Crucifixion, burial and Resurrection was momentous and changed many things forever including how we are to view prophets and how leadership is disseminated in the Church.

I will now rest my case and draw my conclusions and offer a few deductions.

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