Women in Ministry – A Response to the PCA Report

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The World Reformed Fellowship asked if I would like to respond to a paper produced by the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) on the question of the role of Women in Ministry.  To be honest I was reluctant to do so but since they asked so nicely I wrote This

It is more a personal and practical reflection than an academic or deep analysis – for which I would recommend the actual report – PCA Report on Women in Ministry

The following is my response:

The PCA committee reports on the role of women in the church will doubtless cause some controversy when it is reported to this year’s general assembly. Although I have no idea why! It is balanced, biblical and gives a variety of different viewpoints whilst providing clear teaching and guidance for the denomination. It may be that there are those who will read between the lines and find some concern for a potential downgrade, and I suspect that there are those who will think that it does not go nearly far enough and who will be disappointed at its conclusions. As a member of a sister church, with a great many friends in the PCA, I’m very interested in this report. What follows is not a comprehensive analysis just a few reflections.

Firstly I want to say I am grateful for the report – it is a very useful summary of the biblical, historical, theological and contemporary positions. It will be very helpful in the future as a resource. Those who produced it should be commended for their hard work and the clearly prayerful, biblical and detailed manner in which they went about it.

Secondly as someone from another culture it is clear to me that there are underlying cultural questions that I am not qualified to comment on. But I thought it might be helpful for our Reformed brothers and sisters in different parts of the world, to see how we in St Peters, a congregation of the Free Church of Scotland, approach this issue. The Free Church is wholeheartedly committed to the doctrine of the Westminster standards and our practice must fit in with that as a subordinate – always subordinate to Scripture.

As such, like the report, we do not believe that (whatever the culture says), women can be ordained as elders within the church. Ministering within a contemporary context in which a large number of people come from outwith the church, I am often asked about this. It is a question that should be taken seriously and not automatically dismissed. I remember one German lady who had just been converted who asked me why women did not preach or were not elders in the church. I asked her to write the Kirk session with her questions and they responded in an excellent manner. They asked Rev Alistair I McLeod, a professor in what was then the Free Church College, to present a paper to the congregation along similar lines as the committee’s report. It was for congregational purposes and so was not nearly as detailed. But I always remember her response at the end – she said she could not agree, and yet she thought that what was presented was biblical. She was also deeply appreciative of having been taken seriously and she accepted that her previous suspicion that we were a bunch of misogynistic, patriarchal male bigots, was wrong! In other words we were doing what we did because we believed it was biblical, not because it reflected our culture.

However I do not believe that the idea that women should never take part in any leadership in the church is biblical. In my predecessors day, (I am in the church of Rev Robert Murray McCheyne), he appointed Bible women to evangelise and visit in the local area. I grew up in a tradition where it seemed as though women were not allowed to do anything, except work in the church kitchen, unless you happened to be a female missionary in a foreign land. Then you were permitted to speak, even in the church. I always found it quite amusing that, when one particular lady missionary from our home congregation spoke about the work and always brought in a word of Scripture, that was warmly welcomed. It seemed as if you were a nurse in Africa you were able to speak, but if you were a nurse in Scotland it would have been a sin!

Another example of a woman teaching was in what is now known as Edinburgh Theological Seminary. When we didn’t have a New Testament Greek professor there was a very capable woman who was certainly the best Greek teacher, and so it was obvious that she should teach our students biblical Greek. Surely that principle applies in other areas? What would be wrong with a woman teaching in her area of expertise in an adult Sunday school class – given that this is done under the authority of the local kirk session?

Another issue that came up early in my ministry was the whole question of women being silent in the church. I have never yet met anyone who thinks that that is an absolute prohibition. Do we really think that women should not sing? I think the report deals with this particular aspect very well. It is clear from the New Testament that women prayed and prophesied – Therefore in my own church we are quite happy to have suitable gifted women pray in public and also read the Scriptures. Equally there is no problem in women giving some of the notices, sharing their testimony or giving the children’s talk. The only things the women do not do is that which is reserved for the elders and the Minister.

Like many churches in the United States we have women involved as part of our staff. This can be done in an administrative or indeed a pastoral role. In fact the greatest need in my congregation at this moment is for a woman’s pastoral worker – this is because of the continued growth of the congregation and the particular societal constraints on men working with women.

What about ordination? I must admit I’m not a big fan of the term. The discussion in the report on this I also found particularly helpful. We do not ordain women as elders or ministers. Although I personally would be in favour of ordaining women as deacons, that is not the position of the Free Church, and so instead we have the diaconal assistants. In effect they fulfill the same function as deacons. There is a sense in which we set apart (ordain?) women in other roles as well – Sunday school teachers, clerk to the deacons court, church office manager etc.

One of the beauties of the New Testament church – is that it lacks the detail and organisation of the Old Testament temple. It is therefore able to be much more flexible in different cultural contexts. This does not mean that we make things up according to our culture – it rather means that there are basic biblical principles that we then have to apply in the context of that culture. In this regard I take as my basic principles – the following, which I think are also reflected in the report.

1) Men and women are equal in Christ. There is no difference in that regard.
2) We are equal but different in other respects. Equality does not mean sameness – hence the complementarian position. But the working out of what it means to be complementarian will vary in different cultures.
3) The Lord has ordained that only men can be elders in his church. Everything else is open.

I once heard of a Professor who told his students “David Robertson is a feminist by nature and culture but constrained by his understanding of the Bible.” I think he meant it as an insult, but I take it as a complement. Here I stand, I can do no other. My conscience and practice should be determined by Scripture, not by tradition or culture. But that works in different ways – some times we take our culture as absolute and interpret Scripture through its eyes. Instead we must always be taking our culture (including our church cultures) and judging it through the eyes of Scripture. This PCA report does that. I commend it to the wider Church.
David Robertson
Minister of St Peters Free Church
Dundee
Scotland

Associate Director of Solas Centre for Public Christianity

10th May 2017

 

This old blog from a woman is very helpful – A Young Womans Perspective on Womens Ordination

 

 


40 thoughts on “Women in Ministry – A Response to the PCA Report

      1. Indeed. But as I say that is not easy in this issue to know with certainty. The weakness no doubt lies in us rather than Scripture. Thus we must make judgements that are tentative rather than certain. And here I return to my original point; if I must err, or possibly err, I’d rather do so supporting freedom than denying it.

      2. Thanks John – but I don’t agree. It is as clear as it can be that elders in the NT church were men and only men. There are ‘grey’ areas but this is not one of them. And I don’t understand why you are equating this with freedom – as though to be for the biblical position is somehow to be against freedom!

      3. I agree church leadership is male. I believe authoritative teaching is male. I believe Scripture unambiguously champions patriarchy. However, how do we reconcile 1Cor 14 (women must be silent) with 1 cor 11 (women pray and prophesy)? The silence of 1 Cor 14 seems fairly absolute. I accept, with some reservation, that it probably refers to the judging of prophesy yet this is by no means clear cut.

        My point is, reconciling these two texts in particular is not easy.

      4. We reconcile it, as I point out in the article, by the simple principle of letting Scripture interpret Scripture and always reading in context – and therefore 1 Cor 14 cannot be absolute on its own because of what has just been said – the Holy Spirit and Paul do not contradict themselves. I don’t find reconciliation of these texts at all difficult!

  1. I’m probably too tired to make comment here, save to say that in a recent email to you on the recording of full services at St Peter’s I mentioned that I’d recently attended the funeral of a friend at a CoE church. Notwithstanding what I wrote, I support what you have wriiten here. I could write more but it could be too personal for friends. God uses sometimes surprising means and people for His purposes.

    It’s interesting that there has been a recent ordination of a man to Bishopri, by a South African Anglican Bishop, outwith the CoE structure through a fairly local, robustly reformed, Anglican Church, where there is already female female Bishop.

  2. It must be very difficult for you, as a man to begin to comprehend the damage this does to women. You couldn’t possibly see this though any lens other than your own. Women aren’t the only ones who should be silent in the church.

    1. It must be very difficult for you as a woman to being to comprehend the damage your comments do to men. See how that works? Claim hurt and damage and no one can contradict you. Well – I will. It appears to me that the rather silly name calling and mud slinging could just as easily be reversed on to you – are you really saying that you can see this through any other lens than your own? I am trying to see it through the lens of Scripture..it seems to me that you are judging scripture through your own prejudices and self-centredness. You have no more right to say that you speak on behalf of women than I have to say I speak on behalf of men….overall a very disappointing and ill thought out prejudiced comment.

    2. Damage is most done to women when men don’t live out their God-given responsibilities, not when they do.

  3. To see clearly I would suggest you rewrite the entire article and change genders throughout. For example, whatever is man, is now woman. Whatever is woman is now man. This would give you a better idea of the inferiority you, as a man, impose on women. I recently bought a Bible that was gender neutral in wherever it could be without changing the perceived Biblical intention. It was hugely enjoyable to read, for once, a book written to everyone, not just men.

    1. And again that crass arrogance and smug superiority (all done whilst playing the victim card) asserts itself. You assume that you see clearly and others who disagree with you do not. I don’t impose any inferiority on women as I don’t believe that any woman is inferior. You on the other hand clearly believe I am inferior. The Bible is a book written for everyone and you don’t need to change the language to make it such. It is an incredible arrogance for you to think that you can change the language without changing the perceived biblical intention – something which you apparently just know! I’m sorry, whilst I accept there is often gross discrimination which is often excused and justified (wrongly) by some religious men – I don’t buy into your outrage and hurt. Your comments show a lack of biblical understanding and rational thought and a level of prejudice and discrimination which I actually find both sad and disturbing. Maybe you need to look away from yourself and your own ideology and take a more humble look at the word of God? Meanwhile I suggest you don’t bother posting on here unless you have something constructive to say and actually engage with the article. Take your name calling, faux pas outrage and abusive comments elsewhere – please…

      1. I apologize for offending you. It was not my intention. Your comments are from men and I thought a view from women would be welcomed. I looked at my comments wondering about the name calling and arrogance. I didn’t see it, but you did and each person’s perception is their reality. I am truly sorry and will do as you requested with no more comment. Truly sorry to offend.

      2. And my turn to apologise…perhaps I reacted too strongly….lets begin again! Not all my comments are from men – and womens perspectives are always welcome – there is no gender discrimination here! You are welcome to comment – but lets avoid the generalisations and the ad hom (both of us!)…David

    1. No, but I guess my comments were offensive, not my intention. Being silent to me, was suggesting receiving whatever God might give us…regardless of gender.

  4. There aren’t many issues in the church that engender more passion than this one. Noting the previous posts may validate that. My thinking around this issue is multifaceted. There is the emotional response, where I could feel anger at men who restrict the gifting of women to be in leadership. How dare they, I say, the church is missing out on all those leadership skills! However, this does not mean scripture isn’t correct in not allowing women in leadership. Scripture stands whether I respond emotionally, culturally or whatever. It’s me that has to adjust my worldview to the scriptural one.

    I am still undecided. It seems the overarching worldview in scripture is that men and women are equal but have different roles. However, we are unable to truly understand this worldview because of our fallen state. Therefore, we will interpret this issue within our different cultural settings (different lenses). Paul, in 1 Timothy 2, was relating to a first century church in a dominant Roman culture, so does this prohibition apply to us now? In Scotland, in a Free Church, it may be appropriate and/or scripturally interpreted for women to not be in leadership.

    We need each other and good Theologians to help with interpretation of scripture. We will always keep wrestling with the difficult texts and what are biblical directives versus biblical principles.

    1. Thanks for your helpful comment. The only response I would make is that it is very sad, with all that is going on in the world, this issue engenders so much passion in the church. Would that we were more passionate about Christ! Also the argument about culture only has limited validity. It can be used to negate almost anything – besides which Paul does not argue from culture but from Scripture..

  5. Dear David,

    As ever a very helpful posting. Please could you let me know where I can get hold of a copy of the report – not the entire handbook just this report. I could run it off on my printer but I’m guessing the ‘real thing’ might be cheaper!

    By the way do greet David Ellis from me next time you bump into him. He runs a very efficient marriage bureau – he’ll fill you in on the details!

    Derek Foster

    On 11 May 2017 at 19:47, THE BLOG OF DAVID ROBERTSON wrote:

    > theweeflea posted: ” The World Reformed Fellowship asked if I would like > to respond to a paper produced by the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) > on the question of the role of Women in Ministry. To be honest I was > reluctant to do so but since they asked so nicely I wro” >

  6. I assume the Professor gave you a compliment instead of an insult – he was a complimentarian but not a complementarian.

  7. I don’t think you can address the subject of women in leadership or ministry without also addressing or having a common understanding of the terms and the distinctions between them. I believe Scripture teaches that leadership is male, and whatever else is involved that has to include authority. With that authority comes responsibility in particular for the direction the congregation is going, including guarding against error. My understanding is that Scripture strongly suggests that women are more prone, although by no means exclusively so, to being deceived. As for ministry (small m) I don’t see too many restrictions on women in Scripture: Acquilla and Priscilla both taught, Anna, Mary and Miriam not to mention Philip’s 4 daughter prophesied, Lydia hosted a church. While men have often misinterpreted authority for power, failing to follow their servant king’s example, the feminist clamour for ‘equality’ completely misunderstands ‘equal but different’ and intrusion of these ideas into the church is not guided by the Spirit. In a way I suppose it serves men right for failing to act as men.

  8. “She said she could not agree, and yet she thought that what was presented was biblical. She was also deeply appreciative of having been taken seriously.”

    If only this were to happen more often.

    Who is right and who is wrong in disagreements over interpretation of scripture?

    Sometimes God judges by saying OK have it your way and things going to hell.

  9. I’m coming late to this but what interests me about the complementarian position is that there is not a strong reason stated for why it should be held. Yes, there are various interpretations of Scripture but on any other important issue of interpretation there is always a solid answer to ‘why?’ For example, it’s very clear why penal substitution is a necessary doctrine and it’s also clear why infant baptism is something Christians should practice. I’ve yet to hear why women should not be elders except that a particular interpretation of the relevant texts says so (I know someone who was told that elders could not be single – and presumably also not be childless – based on a simplistic reading of an elder having to be the husband of but one wife and be someone who managed his family well). There is the odd hint (including in one of the comments above) that the reason is that women are more easily deceived. The evidence of Scripture that the vast majority of false teachers were men probably indicates this is not a valid argument. Or is the reason just that advocating for women in leadership disrupts the ‘natural order of things’?

    The apostle Paul neither advocated the overthrow of the culturally ingrained practice of slavery nor for a new way of doing government but from history we know that Christianity has had major influence the abolition of slavery and the formation of modern democracy. Likewise, Paul didn’t advocate the overthrow of patriarchy but again Christianity sowed the seeds for that to happen (or is it a mere coincidence that it happened only in the Christianised West?).

    Without really knowing the ‘why’, it’s hard in practice to know which roles women should or should not have in a complementarian church. David, you list a few above, but again, it’s hard to see your basis for doing so without a better framework for why. I’m not saying that we should disobey the Bible if we don’t have a ‘why’ – the ‘why’ should primarily arise from the Bible in the first place. But there must be a better way to explain the complementarian view than a simplistic ‘the Bible says so’ (which, in my experience of this debate, often means, ‘I’ve interpreted it to say so based on my received tradition’). Full disclosure – I’m not complementarian and I’m part of a church that is egalitarian and evangelical (evangelical in the proper, traditional sense of the word) but I did arrive at my position through serious study and having experienced churches with both positions.

    1. Tom,

      Firstly, I would argue strongly that ‘the bible says so’ is the basis for all Christian truth including the role of women if it is expressed there. In my view, the bible does speak about the role of women and in the main it’s teaching is not hard to discern.

      Firstly, the whole of Scripture is patriarchal in perspective. By this I do not simply mean it was written in a patriarchal culture but that it champions patriarchy; Scripture teaches not simply that patriarchy is but that is what ought to be. The form patriarchy takes may be open to debate but the fact of it is not. It is as I say part of the warp and woof of Scripture. It’s foundation, as with many truths, is laid out in Genesis 2. Man is created first. Woman is derived from the man and intended to be his helper. In the fall Adam is not deceived the woman is. It is Adam God holds primarily responsible for the fall. None of these narrative comments are incidental. They are teaching that God intends patriarchy to be the order in human culture in marriage at least. All of this is explicitly stated by Paul in the NT; patriarchy is creational not merely cultural.

      Further patriarchy, lies everywhere in biblical theology. God is Father Son and Spirit. The Spirit is referred to as ‘he’. Humanity is ‘mankind’. The forefathers of faith to whom the promises are given are male. The priests in Israel are male not by accident but by divine instruction. The leaders are overwhelmingly male and exceptions are true only of extraordinary situations and usually reveal the weakness of the male.

      In the NT, Jesus, the founder of the Church is male. He chooses twelve male apostles and not simply to fit in with culture. Jesus was never bound by culture and openly contradicted it when it was seriously misguided. I.e. His teaching on divorce. When the apostles forbid women to teach they expressly root their teaching in God’s order in creation. When speaking of marriage the husband is the head of the home for creational reasons not cultural ones. The strong implication in Paul instructing male elders only is that only male elders existed. Elders in Israel were male and it seems clear in the church. Authority Paul says is male

      Regarding slavery. Firstly Scripture never roots it in creation. Secondly it never insists upon its continuance as an institution. Thirdly, some forms of slavery the OT allows were quite different from what we think of when we think of slavery. I.e. Voluntary indenture to pay off debts. Fourthly, the NT condemns slave traders.

      No doubt much of this you are aware of since you have considered the issue. However, I’ve given this outline to demonstrate that such a belief is not naive or outlandish. Male leadership has been the overwhelming position in the church throughout its history and not merely because it wished to echo its culture but because it believed patriarchy was a creational truth.

      In the final new creation it appears such gender distinctions, if they exist, will have no relevance. Though even there it seems as if there may be heirarchies (meritocracies of faith???). Full blown egalitarianism does not seem to feature even in the final new creation. However, while we live in the old creation we are expected to honour the structures that God built into it. Patriarchy is one such structure. To repeat, there seems to me to be some room for discussion as it’s forms but it’s creational fact seems to me indisputable.

      1. Thank you John for your comprehensive reply. I would never want to suggest that your view is naïve or outlandish. I note that you don’t answer the reason ‘why’ and simply state an observation of what Scripture appears to teach – this is not biblical theology. Any biblical theology has to take Genesis chapter 3 very seriously which you don’t mention at all. There are two Christian responses to the curse in Genesis 3:16. One is the complementarian view which seeks to redemptively transform patriarchy to be more loving and inclusive of women while maintaining male ‘headship’ in marriage and church leadership. The other is the egalitarian view which says that this redemptive move goes further. But patriarchy, in the form that we observe it in the culture of the Ancient Near East and in many world cultures today is a result of the curse of Genesis 3:16. So the question really is: to what extent should this redemptive move apply? Is egalitarianism an ‘over realised eschatology’ or is complementarianism an ‘under realised eschatology’?

        Related to this discussion, slavery is rooted in the curse of Genesis 3:17 because if work had not become toil, there would have been no driver for the practice of slavery. I don’t think God pronounced these curses in order for humanity to pursue sin but rather so that we would seek him and his ways and his heart. You mention the transformation both the OT and the NT bring to slavery (which eventually resulted in its abolition through Christian influence) but you don’t mention or else downplay the transformations the OT and the NT bring to women under patriarchy. It’s also interesting that Christian egalitarianism was what drove Western society to treat all people equally under the law.

        Genesis 2 does not present patriarchy as a normal unfallen state – the fact that Adam was created first tells us little (animals were created first before him). What Paul has to say about it is certainly not as simple and straightforward as saying that because Adam was created first, patriarchy was established. Genesis 1 presents male and female as mutual, co-rulers of creation under God’s lordship.

        Space doesn’t permit a full discussion of all these things here but it’s a discussion worth having especially as my experience of many who hold the complementarian view is that they are often subject to ‘confirmation basis’ and only read what will support their view. My experience of many who hold the egalitarian view is that they hold it because they think it should be so without much in the way of biblical reflection. These days there’s really no excuse for either because so much has produced on the egalitarian view from evangelical writers.

    2. Hi Tom

      Thanks for your equally comprehensive response. I did not address the egalitarian aspects of the gender debate largely because I was seeking to defend the patriarchy aspect. For me the way Scripture invites us to think about the sexes is equal in value with distinctions in role. I agree I did not address the ‘why’ and realised I should have addressed this. Tacitly I was by suggesting that ‘the bible says so’ is the only ‘why’ we need. I have argued patriarchy is God’s creational design. Why he should create this ‘order’ is in the final analysis of secondary importance. Obedience flows from obeying the command whether it appears to make sense or not. Abraham’s offering of Isaac being a good example. God does not always explain the ‘why’.

      That being said Paul considers marriage and the mystery it embraces as ultimately Christological modelling the relationship of Christ and the church. Among other aspects marriage models is that of Christ’s authority in the church and the church’s submission to that authority.

      I noted that Paul’s patriarchal perspective is based on Genesis 2. It is for him God’s pre-fall creational design.. In this sense, as you note, complementarians (rightly in my view) view the fall as distorting patriarchy not devising it. Part of this distorting is judicial… ‘he will rule over you’. The curse focuses on the particular aspect of the creational mandate relevant to each. In each case the area of responsibility would bring problems. Work for Adam once a delight would produce obstacles and difficulties similarly for Eve male leadership would not be what it ought to have been producing angst. However, just as Adam’s difficulties with a less than ideal work environment did not cancel the creational mandate to work similarly for Eve, male oppression does not cancel the creational mandate of patriarchy. Unlike you Tom, I think Scripture is clear on this and makes good sense. We have yet to see the full impact of a full blown egalitarianism in society but I suspect the results will not be good.

      I have read some egalitarian literature and I find many of the arguments wanting. There is to my mind an unwillingness to allow Genesis 2 to have its full force. The tendency is to treat patriarchy as post-fall. This I see as exegetically weak and, to be honest, biased. However, it is good to discuss. Thank you for responding.

      One final point, I agree slavery is a post fall entity. It is not creational but the result of the fall. That is why slavery and patriarchy are not a legitimate comparison, we are not comparing like with like.

      1. John, thanks for the interesting points you make. I still think the ‘why’ question is important and of course, we do now know why Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac because we have the full cannon of Scripture.

        The question of how male leadership operates in practice is interesting. I’m a Presbyterian and our form of church leadership involves mutuality amongst elders which is more of an egalitarian concept. The PCA report does seem helpful in that it gives women more of a voice in leadership through involvement in committees. My experience of Presbyterian leadership is that having a voice is often more influential than having a vote.

        Egalitarianism distorted by sin is already showing adverse effects on society. But from my experience in other parts of the world, patriarchy opens the door to horrific sins against women and children. Therefore, neither view has within itself an antidote to sin. What we do know is that biblical egalitarianism is our future in the new creation – so it comes back to the question of how our eschatology shapes our current practice. We might also ask what leadership looked like before the fall. If Adam didn’t ‘rule over’ Eve, what did his leadership look like (in a complementarian view)? It’s fairly easy to see what mutual leadership would look like in an unfallen state in which selfishness played no part.

  10. Perhaps our Lord recognises that, whatever His own opinion or intention on the matter, no man ever, anywhere, truly in his heart will take “leadership” from a woman. Even the Thatchers and Mays of this world are seen as a temporary aberration.
    And the resurgence of “traditional” culture will soon save you the trouble of defending it.
    Regarding women singing in Church: in our choir there are ladies still living who remember first being banned from membership: then made to sit hidden at the back; and even after full admittance, being physically barred by the men from entry. The old Adam simply doesn’t care what the Church thinks 😦

  11. It seems plain to me that patriarchy must be part of the Fall: before it, the only authority that existed or was necessary was that of God. Both humans were at all times completely submitted to His Will, with their own wills equally conformed to it, and no divergence or conflict of interest could possibly exist that might require the enforcement of one’s will upon the other. It was the introduction of conflict that required the force of authority for one partner to “master” the other.
    And the result is that I read through man after man giving us *his* view of women’s place in God’s Kingdom, as if the very Word had not chosen to give Himself to us through a woman’s body, or first revealed His own risen one to several more. But then they weren’t believed by the disciples either *wry smile*

    1. Karen

      I hear what you are saying. I see the apparent force in it. Yet, it’s hard to know how relationships would work out in a perfect world. Would children be subject to the authority of their parents? Authority doesn’t seem to exist to simply quell rebellious tendencies. It seems to be God’s intention to administer his perfect kingdom through delegated authority. Jesus, in the gospels, describes authority structures in the age to come…. reign over ten cities… Luke 19.

      Certainly, in this world, a husband ought to demonstrate his authority by loving his wife as Christ loved the church and a wife should submit as the church submits (or ought to submit) to Christ.

      In any case, the case for a creational patriarchy does not rest on our speculations but on the narratival implications of Gen 2 and Paul’s NT exposition of the chapter. 1Cor 11; 1 Tim 2.

      Incidentally, it was men (Moses and Paul) who gave us these texts. And in one, 1Cor 11, where Paul stresses patriarchy, he also balances it by pointing out that as woman creationally is from the man, so man by generation is from the women. His point is not that one cancels the other but rather to prevent abuse and overstatement of the patriarchal principle.

      1. In that perfect world, children would no more need to take orders than Our Lord does from His Father – they are at all times in perfect concord, as we may hope to be in that day when He shall wipe away every tear along with our sins.
        And Luke 19 is a parable, using the current affairs of the day where Archelaus had recently travelled to Rome to be invested by the Emperor with the local kingship, in the teeth of the Jews’ refusal: (‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ ) Do we think the blessed will be literally given sums of money (which could never be spent) or rulership of cities where there is only one Heavenly City? Certain it is that when He promises his disciples that they will “sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel”, He also warns that “many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

      2. But that’s just it; God the Father informs the Son not vice versa; they have a lead/follow relationship. And yes, of course Luke 19 is a parable but it is a parable revealing pictorially a corresponding reality; what we do with the gifts we are given now will be the basis of our place in the kingdom.

  12. In which case I can only assume that when He gives obvious gifts of spiritual leadership to women, they should (notwithstanding that parable) inform Him He has made a mistake and would He kindly take them back and give them to someone with the proper staff of office? Meanwhile we wait in vain for the wave of dedicated males taking up the burden, now it no longer carries the power and status that it did.

    The relations of Father and Son crucially depend on the Son knowing His Father is wholly good and totally trustworthy and will never abuse His power: the sort of man who uses God as a weapon to enforce his will on someone already physically, financially and socially weaker than himself should think carefully before presuming to demand the same level of submission.

    1. Karen, I think you have a good point about the failure of males to lead. This is presumably in part due to male weakness and in part to a culture which is emasculating men. There are of course abuses of patriarchy that should be addressed. However, Paul does not make the failure of authority ground for overthrowing it. Poor government should still be obeyed as should poor masters. The same applies to poor husbands. The bible gives little excuse for divorce (though separation for a time it allows may be necessary). I am not trivialising the troubles abused authority creates. For Paul, as for many who have found themselves in difficult relationships the key lies in giving obedience to the authority figure as though it were really to the Lord. Although this does not remove suffering it alleviates it and enables submission. The promise also enables – our suffering results in far excelling glory. Such teaching of course is not intended as a trite answer to abuse but as a real way to overcome in very testing circumstances.

  13. Gifting is not a side issue – God breathes His Spirit where He will, and if physical, financial, sexual and societal power was the measure of a God-chosen leader not only would David have been overlooked by Samuel but Jesus’s life story would have been a lot more like Muhammad’s. If authority was of itself untouchable, and never to be challenged or escaped, we would still have the Divine Right of Kings and your own Church as well as mine would not exist. And even more dead wives and children who’d “gone back to him one last time” than we already do.
    Far from being “emasculated” in this age of Donald Trump, modern males desert the ministry precisely *because* it demands humility and sacrifice and service and poor wages, rather than as in former times the parson, minister and priest being drawn from the monied and educated classes and treated accordingly. (Scots mileage may vary?)
    Many other professions have gone the same way – I have long said that you can tell when a profession is losing its prestige and financial rewards precisely by the number of women admitted and allowed promotion. I respect those men who have stepped up to serve, in an era when Christianity and its ministers are viewed with open contempt, all the more.
    When I see men willingly and meekly submitting to legitimate authority in the same way they demand from us (and the history of both Church and State, or even most places of employment, shows us precious little of that) I’ll take their arguments a tad more seriously. In the mean time it sounds all too like those politicians constantly extolling “hard work”, while ensuring they and their children stay as far away from it as possible.

    1. But you are setting up a straw woman. No-one is arguing that ‘physical, financial, sexual and societal power was the measure of a God-chosen leader’. Your history is also simplistic and clearly shaped by your pre-judgements. It was not the case that the ministers etc were drawn from the monied classes – but I would assume you would agree that education is essential to ministry? Your prejudice about men and your ability to judge by what you see is not helpful – who made you the judge over whether men are ‘willingly and meekly submitting to legitimate authority’? I of course agree with you – every minister must submit, by definition to the courts of the Church, to the Word of God and to the Lordship of Christ. If they don’t do so then how can they minister? But my concern is your setting yourself up as the judge. What you see or don’t see should not be the criteria!

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