Sunday, September 16, 2007

PET IV: Women in Ministry

Problems in Ecclesiology Today IV: Women in Ministry

Among Protestants, the question of women in ministry is a problem today almost exclusively for evangelical churches in America. The mainline churches decided this issue decades ago. Unfortunately, the cultural changes that brought women into church leadership in mainline churches had the opposite effect among evangelical congregations. As a result, many evangelical congregations tend to be trapped in a kind of reactionary subculture. But unlike the monastic subculture in the ancient and medieval church, conservative evangelicalism has decidedly less biblical and theological support for its views. This is especially apparent in the question regarding women in ecclesial ministry.

In what follows, I will present the evangelical arguments against an egalitarian position on women in ministry along with my critiques of these arguments. I will then briefly discuss the Roman Catholic argument against ordaining women for the priesthood. Finally, I will present the positive arguments for egalitarianism.


1. Evangelical Arguments against Women in Ministry

1.1. Biblical arguments. The two main passages from the New Testament used against women in ministry are 1 Cor. 14:33-36 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15. The former says that women “should be silent in the churches”; they “are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate.” The latter says “a woman [should] learn in silence with full submission,” nor should a woman “teach or have authority over a man.” The passage from 1 Corinthians is less problematic in light of 1 Cor. 11:5, in which Paul speaks about women praying and prophesying in communal worship. In order to make sense of this apparent contradiction, the later passage in 1 Cor. 14 must be read contextually in connection with 1 Cor. 14:33a and 14:30, which state “God is a God not of disorder but of peace” and “all things should be done decently and in order,” respectively. Paul is here exhorting the Corinthian community to keep order and peace in their worship gatherings.

1 Timothy 2 is more complex. I commend the exegesis of Franklin Pyles (the father of my former college roommate), since I do not have time to explore this passage in detail. The attempt by some to ignore this passage because it is not authentically Pauline is not helpful, since it is still canonical. Appeal to this passage on the part of evangelicals, however, is highly problematic because it demonstrates the way modern Christians opt for proof-texting over careful exegesis. 1 Tim. 2:11ff. is preceded by several verses that cannot be ignored if one wishes to take vv. 11-15 seriously. Here the author states that “women should dress themselves modestly . . . not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes” (v. 9). Some Christians take this verse seriously, but most seem perfectly comfortable ignoring this statement as culturally antiquated but taking the next several verses as church law. Evangelical cherry-picking aside, the passage is very strange, textually and theologically. The argument from the order of creation and Eve’s deception is an unpersuasive and idiosyncratic reading of Genesis. More importantly, we have to read vv. 11-15 in light of 1 Tim. 4:7 and 1 Tim. 5:13-15, where the author mentions that women in the community are spreading “myths” and, in their idleness, becoming “gossips and busybodies.” In other words, vv. 11-15 is not an isolated text but is a culturally situated response to a problem facing specific early Christian communities.

Finally, the Pastoral epistles are themselves not theologically determinative texts in the way that the Pauline epistles are; the argument from creation is used to buttress a response to a culturally particular problem, whereas Paul’s arguments in Romans and Galatians are meant as explications of the gospel kerygma. The exhortations in the Pastoral epistles are thus not blanket norms for all Christians; they are given to specific communities facing specific problems in a specific time and place. We cannot proof-text these later epistles as if they carry binding significance in terms of our present-day ecclesial practice. Instead, we must read them canonically and christologically, i.e., according to what the church has traditionally called the “analogy of faith” (Rom. 12:6). We must read each text in light of the whole, and particularly in light of Jesus Christ, who alone is the hermeneutical key to the Scriptural witness.

1.2. Subordination in the Trinity. Because of the massive amount of biblical exegesis arguing against a traditional hierarchical interpretation of passages like 1 Tim. 2, many evangelicals have recently turned toward arguing on the basis of a trinitarian subordinationism. (See the book by Kevin Giles for more on this.) The argument goes something like this: In the Trinity, the Son is subordinate and submissive to the Father. The Father is representative of male fathers and leaders, to whom women are to be subordinate and submissive like Jesus. This argument is faulty for many reasons. (1) First, the argument assumes that we can read human relations off of the divine relations within the Trinity. This is the same move made by social trinitarians, which is why social trinitarianism is fundamentally flawed as an attempt to legitimate egalitarianism, because then the only thing determining human social relations is whether or not the biblical witness demonstrates subordination in the Trinity (which it does). Christians need to learn that the divine persons are not really “persons” in the way we understand persons. The word has only an analogical meaning at best when applied to the divine persons. The Trinity is “wholly other”; there is no way to determine human social relations from the inter-trinitarian relations. We are prevented from making any such move. (2) Second, the argument is entirely arbitrary. Why does the Father represent men and the Son represent women? If anything, the reverse is more justifiable, since only the Son became incarnate as a man; the Father, like all three persons of the Trinity, transcends gender altogether and cannot be identified with any subset of humanity. (3) Third, if we were to identify the Son with humanity, the only human counterpart would not be women but the church catholic, men and women together. Hence, Scripture speaks of the church as the bride of Christ, and Paul speaks of Christians as those who are adopted by the Father and become co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17; Gal. 4:7). If we are going to speak about a particular group of people who are subordinate, it can only be the church as a whole who are subordinate before the Lord. In the end, the argument from the Trinity is a complete dead-end. We need to end this line of inquiry altogether.


Excursus: The Roman Catholic Argument

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains why women cannot be ordained in the following way:
“Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.” The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ’s return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible. (¶1577)
Evangelicals will not find the Catholic argument persuasive for the simple reason that Protestants do not subscribe to the doctrine of apostolic succession. Protestants do not see present-day pastors as the present-tense realization of the “college of the twelve apostles,” precisely because Jesus did not choose a “college” but simply “apostles” to proclaim the gospel in a particular culture. God still calls apostles today, and just as with the original twelve, they are called in the context of a particular culture. They are not prolongations of some primal “college,” but are rather prolongations of the gospel. Apostles are messengers of the gospel, and therefore who can be an apostle is determined by the gospel—by the reconciliation accomplished by Jesus Christ—and not by any apostolic tradition in the church. Moreover, ministers of the gospel need not possess anything, including any physical attribute, in order to be a witness to Jesus Christ. On the contrary, as Paul declared, ministers are “clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). God’s power is not limited by any creaturely distinction, and therefore who may be messengers of the gospel is not limited by any creaturely distinction. We are all equally unworthy of the call, and yet we are all equally called.

That said, even if Protestants did accept apostolic succession, it is not apparent why women are necessarily prevented from ordained ministry in the church. The decision by the Catholic Church to see Jesus’ choice of men for the twelve apostles as definitive for all future apostles in the priesthood is quite arbitrary. The original twelve were all Jews as well as men, but this not made a prerequisite for ordained ministry. As the gospel spread to Gentiles, Gentile leaders were ordained in accordance with this cultural expansion of Christianity. Paul explains the theological rationale for this expansion of the church to all people in Gal. 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” If the division between Jew and Greek is nullified by Christ, so too is the notion that only men are qualified for ordained ministry. In Christ, all are one. The Catholic Church’s limitation of the priesthood to men only is an arbitrary imposition of gender distinction upon the mission of the church—a mission which is about proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. And proclamation was never limited to men. On the contrary, this mission belongs to all who are identified with Christ as his followers and disciples. In other words, mission—not tradition or succession—determines ordination.


2. Arguments for Women in Ministry

In what follows, I present a number of various arguments in favor of an egalitarian position on ordained ministry. So far I have rejected the traditional evangelical and Catholic arguments against women in ministry. In the brief sections that follow, I present the positive case for gender equality in ecclesial ministry.

2.1. Women in Scripture
. The examples of female leaders is extensive: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, Phoebe, and Junia. These women taught men and were leaders in their respective contexts. Any attempt to explain them as aberrations from the norm misses the point: these women were raised up by God in the freedom of God’s grace. God is not bound to any norm of tradition or culture. God calls those whom God determines to be witnesses to the gospel. Men and women are both called to the ministry, and no custom can hinder the exercise of God’s free grace in calling people to this joyful task.

2.2. Spiritual gifts
. This second point is an extension of the first one—viz. that God graciously grants gifts in the Spirit for the ministry of the church (though Paul clearly states that love is greater than any gift of prophecy or teaching or apostleship). According to Rom. 12:6, different persons have different gifts “according to the grace given to us.” Moreover, the parts of the body that “seem to be weaker” are not only “indispensable,” but God gives them the “greater honor” (1 Cor. 12:22, 24). The gifts themselves are not divided according to gender; they are freely given to all as God sees fit for the consummation of God’s reign on earth.

2.3. Biblical exegesis. Evangelicals generally know the Bible very well, but knowing what the Bible says is not enough. Christians have to know how to read the Bible, and this is not something most Christians know how to do. I have discussed 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2 above already, but much more thorough exegesis is necessary in order to do justice to the complexities in these passages. In particular, we have to remember that the Bible is a document of its own particular culture and time, and readers of the Bible must therefore faithfully attend to its cultural specificity, especially in the Pastoral epistles.

2.4. Theological anthropology. Against the argument in 1 Tim. 2:13, Gen. 1:27 speaks of male and female as together constituting humankind: “male and female [God] created them.” Male and female are each constitutive in defining human identity, and thus no division of labor between men and women is justified on the basis of the creation account. Karl Barth’s axiom for theological anthropology is basic for understanding the human person: “I am as Thou art.” In other words, there is no “I” without “Thou,” no “me” without “you.” Human identity is essentially relational. Who “I” am is never independent of the social matrix in which “I” exist. The same can be said for ecclesial ministry, in which the “I” of the pastor only exists in light of the “Thou,” which includes men and women both.

2.5. Christological unity. Several passages in the New Testament are axiomatic for the Christian faith in terms of understanding human social relations. These include the following: Rom. 8:14-17; 1 Cor. 12:12-13; 2 Cor. 5:14-20; Gal. 3:27-28; Eph. 4:4-5; Col. 1:17-18, 3:3, 3:11. What these passages have in common is a universal emphasis on the unity of the church—the unity, even, of all humanity—in the person of Jesus Christ. The passage from Romans and 1 Corinthians speak about this unity as a unity in the Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ and the unity in the Spirit is only possible because of the reconciliation that Christ accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. If we are going to construct a theology of ministry, we must begin with the reality of our unity in Christ. Any attempt to distinguish between humans—whether according to gender or something else entirely—must first recognize that we are united as one people under one Lord in one Spirit.

2.6. Baptism vs. circumcision. The Old Testament initiation into the community required circumcision, for this was the sign of the covenant given to Abraham by God (Gen. 17). Circumcision, of course, is only for men, and thus women are identified by their male counterparts. In the New Testament, however, circumcision is replaced by baptism of water and Spirit. Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration and incorporation into the body of Christ, and unlike circumcision, men and women are equally baptized before God. Passages like Gal. 3:28 are in a way glosses on the “new creation” marked by baptism: a new reality in which men and women are equally reconciled, equally sanctified by the Spirit, and equally called by God into the mission of faithful witness to Jesus Christ.

2.7. The presence of the Spirit. Connected with baptism, of course, is the indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the ground for the church’s mission and practice, and those who are called into the service of the gospel are called in the Spirit. The Spirit is not bound to the structure of the church, but rather the structure of the church is determined by the workings of the Spirit. In his first address to the crowd at Pentecost, Peter quotes the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . . Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts. 2:17-18). Here we see that prophecy—a spiritual gift, according to Paul—is extended to all people without restriction or distinction. Clearly, women cannot be subordinate if they are equally included within the gifting of the Spirit. Later, in Acts 15, at the Jerusalem Council, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit is the basis for the argument that Gentiles are included within the church. Peter here declares: “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:8-9). This is reminiscent of Paul’s statements in 1 Cor. 12:12-13 and Gal. 3:28. The point is that the Spirit is poured out equally among both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, and this pouring of the Spirit is what determines the being, structure, and mission of the church. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and thus it is not surprising at all that the Spirit brings unity and equality to humanity. As long as we continue to baptize both men and women—a baptism in both water and Spirit—then we must leave ordination open to all, lest we think the Spirit is subordinate to our own human traditions.

2.8. Jesus’ own example. Not much needs to be said here. Jesus was radically subversive in his treatment of women. He spoke to them and taught them in a way that paid no attention to the mores of his own day, which did not view women as equal partners in dialogue and especially not as pupils. Furthermore, we must not forget that women bore the message of Jesus’ resurrection to the (male) disciples. John only has Mary Magdalene as the first witness to the resurrection. Matthew and Mark both note that Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James first witnessed the resurrection and reported it to the disciples. Luke goes even further and says that “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them” told the apostles about Jesus’ resurrection. Details aside, the accounts all agree that women were the first apostles of the good news of Christ’s resurrection. The Gospels go out of their way to make it clear that no male disciple was the first witness.

2.9. The eschatological thrust of the biblical narrative. One of the more important argument is what some call the “historical trajectory” argument. This is espoused well by John Stackhouse in his book, Finally Feminist. I wish to expand upon that view somewhat with a more robust eschatology. There are, in my view, three temporal dimensions to the eschaton—past, present, and future—represented by Jesus Christ, the church from Pentecost until now, and the coming New Jerusalem, respectively. In each dimension, we see an eschatological movement toward or realization of equality and unity. First, the unity achieved by Christ has already been discussed above (2.5). Our equality before God is already an accomplished fact in him. We might speak less of a movement and more of an eschatological actualization of equality in Jesus Christ, which establishes the basis for historical development in the church. Second, we see an eschatological thrust toward equality in the life of the church. We see this, for example, in the way the early church, as recorded in the New Testament, challenged the social norms of their day with regard to women and slaves. That the ancient church did not eradicate patriarchalism or slavery is no argument against the fact that there has been a progressive realization of equality throughout history. Because such equality is rooted in what Christ himself accomplished for us, we can see this progression as a movement in the Spirit who conforms us to what we are already in Jesus Christ. Finally, the eschatological vision of the New Jerusalem is decidedly egalitarian. There is no human hierarchy in heaven, for all social divisions have been nullified in light of the fact that we are now one family gathered together before the Lord. This eschatological vision, once accepted, places a radical call upon the church here and now to embody this vision in its corporate life. The present-tense church is called to manifest the eternal reign of God in its sociopolitical existence, and that includes relations between men and women in ministry. The church’s progression through history is always a movement toward this final eschatological vision. The mission of the church is therefore to manifest the coming New Jerusalem in its corporate existence as the people of God who witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the New Jerusalem is a community of equals, then so too is the church. And both the present church and the coming New Jerusalem are grounded in the equality established by Christ himself.

2.10. The mission of the church today. My final point is a practical one. If the mission of the local church is to proclaim the gospel to the local culture, and if the local culture is no longer patriarchal in nature, then it follows that any attempt to hold on to a patriarchal framework is a hindrance to the gospel—or, if not a hindrance, at least not an aid. The exhortations in the Pastoral epistles were written to churches as a way of improving those churches’ ministry. Having male leaders and silencing certain women who were hindering the gospel were necessary at the time to strengthen the ministry of those ancient communities. Today, however, such considerations no longer apply. Is it still necessary to keep women in a subordinate teaching position? Is it still necessary to have a male as a head pastor in a church congregation? Does a male leader actually further this church’s mission in any tangible way? Are the church’s views on women in ministry law or gospel? In other words, do the church’s views on women follow from the gospel and aid the spread of the gospel or are they following what they think are hard-and-fast laws in the Bible? These questions do not apply simply to the SBC; even some progressive “emerging” churches are still caught up in such questions. The question, finally, is this: How is our view of women in ministry consonant with the mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ?


3. Conclusion

It pains me to think about this issue, because I’ve seen what disagreements over this issue have done to local congregations. A major church in Portland is currently dealing with this problem. Unfortunately, this particular church has decided to compromise and find a via media between the two opposing sides. What it did not do is seek to articulate a position that is grounded Scripture and theology and risk making one of the two sides upset. In this brief engagement with the problem of women in ministry, I hope that I have shown which side this church should have taken—and perhaps still will. I can only pray, with Paul, that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give [these churches] a spirit of wisdom and revelation as [they] come to know him” (Eph. 1:17).

11 comments:

WTM said...

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said: "Start Ordaining Women, or Stop Baptizing Them."

Touche.

Halden said...

This is a well-thought post. The truth is that this is really one of the major issues that makes me hesitant about entertaining the notion of becoming Catholic. Were their view of women's ordination to change, I might not be able to help myself. Or I still might.

bobby grow said...

I've only read your evangelical section. You go with the cultural argument, what is Paul saying to those first cent. Christians in particular; and why can't what he says to them be universally applicable for us?

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

What's weird is that evangelical feminists gave the best biblical arguments for this back in the '70s. Mainline feminist Christians moved on to other issues--evangelical feminists could not because they had to keep arguing the same points over again. Also, they had to fight new organizations like the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which were begun just to stop and reverse evangelical feminism!!

As for WTM's bumpersticker, that is particularly appropriate for those of us who are Baptists or Anabaptists since, for us, baptism IS ordination (of ever believer) in a very real sense. The Catholic view against women's ordination is tied up with its very false view of ministry: a huge clergy/laity split and a heirarchical understanding of power--completely alien to the NT, but borrowed from the Roman empire.

It's sad to see Protestants and even Free Churches buy into so much of that same model to various degrees.

WTM said...

Michael,

Barth seems to have a similar understanding of baptism as ordination. Interestingly, his son Markus attended / was a member of a baptist congregation during his time in Chicago...

D.W. Congdon said...

Bobby,

Your question is a good one, and I will try to answer it briefly. But first, I need to stress that I am not a qualified exegete of these passages. I highly recommend the exegesis of Franklin Pyles (which I link to), and there is plenty of other great work out there which will do a more than adequate job of explaining why these passages are not universally applicable.

1. The prohibition in 1 Cor. 14 is clearly not universal because of 1 Cor. 11:5. Even though Paul seems to state unequivocally that women cannot speak, a few chapters earlier he speaks about women prophesying in the community. Consequently, 1 Cor. 14 speaks toward a specific situation, one that does not have universal application.

2. You can only view the prohibition in 1 Tim. 2 as universally applicable if you also wish to take every other passage about church worship, decorum, order, etc. absolutely literally. (It would still be wrong to make it universally applicable, but at least it wouldn't be hypocritical cherry-picking.)

3. 1 Timothy (like all of the Pastoral epistles) is as universally applicable as the Acts of the Apostles. They are authoritative in two ways: (1) first, they give authoritative insight into how the church in the first century carried out its mission, and (2) second, they provide authoritative principles for how churches should conduct themselves.

The second point is the important one. To apply the details literally is exegetically and historically foolish, not only because it forgets that these are pastoral letters for specific churches but also because the church itself changes with time and cannot be bound to one specific form. We see this development within the NT itself, and many of the letters are written because of the need to adjust to these new situations. The cultural concerns over how men and women dressed and wore their hair no longer apply to us today, so to maintain those rules in the absence of any external necessity would be another form of pharisaical legalism. It would be of no concrete benefit to the church. It would turn an exhortation meant to benefit the gospel into a law that only hinders the gospel.

We need to get beyond biblical literalism and see the basic principles which guide the thought process of the Pastoral epistles. The basic principles are easy to identify: decorum and order in worship, prevention of gossip and myths that might confuse the message of the gospel, cultural sensitivity. These are the concerns of the Pastoral letters. Any attempt to imitate them exactly misses the point. In fact, to imitate these churches exactly might actually contradict the principles Paul and others are seeking to uphold in the church. By preventing women from speaking in church today, we end up confusing the gospel message (that all are one in Christ Jesus) and undermining our sensitivity to our culture (which recognizes equality for men and women both). We certainly should not let the culture dictate how we conduct ourselves, but in this case, equality between men and women in ministry is funded by the gospel message itself. It is simply a happy coincidence that Western culture affirms this as well.

To return to my comparison with the Book of Acts, when we read the stories about the early church, we don't feel the need to model ourselves after them in every detail. It would be impossible to imitate them exactly. The point is rather to adopt the same underlying principles. That may not mean selling all property and living together, but it may mean selling a lot and forming an intimate community of mission in the midst of our own contemporary empire. We have to remember that the church grows and changes and matures with time. The early didn't have creeds, but that's no reason to dispense with them. The early church didn't have a lot of things which we view as essential to Christianity in terms of theology, but we recognize and affirm that the church changes and develops as new cultural and intellectual shifts take place. The beauty of the gospel is that it can adapt to these changes, because Jesus Christ is the same "yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). We can be confident that the message never changes even though the form which it takes today may be different from the form it took yesterday or will take tomorrow.

My question to you is whether you think every detail about the early church needs to be adopted wholesale? I think it goes without saying that picking one detail but not another is out of the question. We cannot pick and choose which aspects of Paul's exhortations we feel like implementing today. But we also need to consider the genre of the work, the nature of the letters, what they seek to communicate, and the relation between these passages and other passages in the NT.

Are these Pastoral exhortations on the same level of importance as Paul's explications of the gospel? I answer no. The notion that Romans and Galatians are equally important and authoritative as 1 Timothy is fundamentally flawed on a hermeneutical level. Christ is the hermeneutical key to Scripture, and thus we need to read and interpret the Bible in light of his work of reconciliation. What he accomplished for us is the lens through which we must read Scripture, and that means giving priority to those passages which explicate this christological reality. Ecclesiological concerns are subordinate to what is eternally true on the basis of what Christ accomplished.

Anonymous said...

From Jessica Carter: This is an interesting post, and I'm glad to see a post involving a more canonical approach to this issue. One noted evangelical NT scholar, Gordon Fee, also addresses this issue quite thoroughly in his works.

A few other worthwhile arguments/debunks to add to the discussion:

1. Some scholars argue that women are excluded from ministry because all of Christ's apostles were men. But they ignore the fact that all of Christ's disciples were also Hebrew. No one would ever suggest that non-Hebrews are not welcome in ministry because of the ethnicity of Christ's disciples. It is inconsistent, then, to argue that they are excluded on the basis of gender. (Same argument applies to the priesthood!)

2. Along the same lines, remember in Acts how Peter was SHOCKED that God poured the Holy Spirit out on the Gentiles? And the others contended with Peter when he arrived home that he had been around Gentiles. There is plenty written in the OT about Gentiles joining God's people, rejoicing with them, etc.. Not to mention that Abram himself was a Syrian, so that God had first visited the nations when choosing a people for Himself. But no one understood what was ALREADY written. Much the same with women in ministry.

Here's an example: the Old Testament has Huldah the prophetess saying "Thus saith the LORD", and the priests (all men) came to her for the Word of the Lord. And Jeremiah was Huldah's contemporary. Haven't heard a sermon yet on why the priests went to Huldah and not Jeremiah--maybe folks haven't figured out yet that they were contemporaries.

Or when Micah the prophet describes God's deliverance of Israel by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam!

Lots more to say, out of time.

All the best.

D.W. Congdon said...

Jessica,

Excellent point about Jesus' disciples being Hebrew. You succinctly stated what I was trying to get at in my response to the Catholic argument very well. The argument on the basis of gender is entirely arbitrary.

Great points, also, regarding the prophets. I think we forget how amazing it is that in such a patriarchal culture, the OT includes such important examples of female leaders who teach and rule over men.

Thanks for the comment!

bobby grow said...

David,

Thank you for the lengthy response . . . sorry it has taken me so long to return.

Let me briefly say that I absolutely agree with your points on the cultural conditioning and context, as well as the occasional nature of all of the epistles in the NT (not to mention the whole of the NT); as well as the general principles to be gleaned and transferred to the church today.

I am not an egalitarian, surprise, at least when it comes to our created function and role within nature; but I suppose you could say that I am an ontological egalitarian in the sense that we all are indeed one in Christ (the good news/gospel message).

I don't agree with your christological/ecclesiological distinction in the sense that one is more important, or has more interpretive weight than the other--I think if we use these categories on scripture, as an analytic or interpretive paradigm then we artificially fragmentize the pieces of the whole, by way of priority, than we are warranted. Is the final canonical shape important to interpreting scripture indeed, intertextuality (or the analogia scriptura) is important; but INTRATEXUALITY is the first step that I think we need to take, prior to discussing intertextuality. In other words we need to look at the particular themes, motifs, and theological concerns that I Timothy, for example, is dealing with on its own terms. I think when we do this, egalitarianism and hierarchialism will clearly not be the issue (as you've appeared to frame it), and ecclesial order will emerge as an the emphasis Paul is concerned with here. In other words, I think women are not given place to fulfill the "office" of elder, presbytr, bishop, etc. in this passage; and I further think that I Tim. 3:1,2 makes this clear. These passages simply assume that a "man" might aspire to the office of overseer, and that this "man" will be the husband of one wife. Does this mean that a woman cannot function within her "spiritual gifting" of teaching? Absolutely not. But I think I Tim. in its own intratextuality asserts that the office of overseer is reserved for the man.

I think our difference on our hermeneutical approaches is obviously what leads us to disparity here, David. I do think canonical criticism has value, but I also think LGH does as well (exchanging the "Literal" for the "Literary").

You have provided much more for discussion, but that's all I have time for; in fact we are moving to a new house so I am going to be unavailable for a couple of weeks--I'll check back then.

peace.

Freder1ck said...

Heh. Just saw this and couldn't resist adding a word.

Baptism is ordination even for Catholics (the baptismal office of priest, prophet, and king), and Catholic lay women can do almost ALL of those things that Protestant ministers do: there are even women that hold the office of pastoral associate. Now, I don't think that a lay person (male or female) can normatively be the official witness of a wedding, but the ministers of marriage are the couple themselves.

The reader who is interested in the apostolic mission of the Church may wish to read Joseph Ratzinger's discussion of it in his speech, The Theological Locus of Ecclesial Movements (especially Part II, which discusses the historical development of the apostolic mission).

Few arguments for women's ordination do justice to Catholic sacramental theology. So, can women exercise ministry in the Church? Absolutely. Sacramental priesthood is another matter that requires other considerations...

~Fred

Michael J. Pailthorpe said...

Thanks David, for your approach here. Very helpful.