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> May 15, 2012 - James P. Steel
This is a whole lot more important than the dusty title sounds!
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The Ordination of Women
(Are you an egalitarian, a complementarian, or something even better?)
Numerous media sources have reported on Saddleback Community Church’s Mothers Day ordination of women to the ministry.
The decision by pastor Rick Warren and his elders to ordain women is a watershed. Not only is it a shot across the bow of the good ship S.S. Southern Baptist (already at odds over Beth Moore’s departure over similar issues), but it is also a shot which will reverberate throughout the evangelical community.
This discussion is important because it reflects a far broader undercurrent being observed in evangelical schools of higher education that involves not only ordination but the whole scope of women’s roles in the Bible, especially as seen in biblical marriage models. As a biblical issue, the ordination of women embodies a fresh attempt to change our paradigm by placing heavier emphasis on what is commonly called the egalitarian (equality based) marriage model. For this reason, the issues of marriage models and women’s ordination share some common talking points and need to be discussed together.
How Marriage Models Play in the Issue of Women’s Ordinations.
First, we will offer a brief overview of marriage models. Then, we will weigh in on the issue of women’s ordination.
I. Understanding Marriage Models
A. The purpose of the egalitarian marriage model.
When we speak of the egalitarian relationship between men and women, we are acknowledging that men and women were both created in the image of God. Therefore, they are equal in every way. While men and women are equal before God in every way, equality does not imply being identical any more than being made in the image of God makes us identical with God. The fact that males and females are not identical does not speak to their inequality. Both men and women are inheritors of the same rights and privileges as defined by God (1 Peter 3:7).
B. The purpose of the complementarian marriage model.
Note: Because this model is under attack, we draw a little more attention to it.
Definition: When we speak of the complementary or complementarian model we are reminded that, for at least one purpose, woman was created to be a helpmeet (a helper fit) for man. Man needed an equal with which to commune, and a helper for him to carry out his divine mandate. But don’t miss this point: By virtue of her creation, woman was also given the mandate to have dominion over the creation. It is clear that that dominion was to be asserted in the context of her relationship with man, but the mandate is clear, she too, is to have dominion (Genesis 1:26-28). This is an important point because this does away with the idea that a woman’s only creative purpose is to free up the man for his creative role and that woman has no purpose outside of man.
Basic Facts: When we think of the complementarian model, we understand that there are at least three considerations which shape our thinking.
1. First, the complementary model is for all time. God imposed this model before the fall. Its scope precedes Adam and Eve’s lapse, so we may conclude it is not punitive, and it is extended to all mankind in all time (Genesis 2:20-24, esp. Vs. 24; Matthew 19:3-6). When we discount this model, we discount the very words of Christ.
2. Secondly, the complementary model is good. Its value can also be associated with the overall goodness of God when providing the curse for fallen men to live under. Men and women experience the curse equally, but in different contexts (Genesis 3:16-19).
When we speak of “the curse” we become aware that four entities were affected. Satan was affected, men and women were affected, the creation was affected, and God Himself was affected. Satan’s curse was clearly punitive. The curse placed upon the creation, however, was no fault of the creation. It was a merciful act on God’s part for our benefit. If we can imagine fallen men and women living in a paradisiacal world without the effects of the curse, we soon get a glimpse of the wisdom of God.
By requiring both men and women to struggle daily against the effects of the curse, God has saved us from our own natures. The struggles of men and women, however, are both similar and unique to their gender. In an overall context, the man struggles against the thistles and the woman struggles in maternal matters. The consequences of the curse are lovingly tailored to each gender. God did not dissolve marriage as a result of the curse. He strengthens marriage as Adam and Eve face the issues together and share in their struggle against the curse. The complementary model, then, is a gracious gift from God to help men and women navigate the effects of the curse together in their respective gender identities.
3. The complementary model corresponds to our natures. Gender roles relate to how God made us. They are not externally imposed through environmental conditioning, though they may be perverted and abused. By nature, men and women respond differently to their worlds in a variety of ways. This does not make one gender superior to the other. Both are “good” in the eyes of God and both enrich the other gender (Genesis 1:1-31).
One major gender difference is cited by the apostle Paul, when arguing forward from the creation and the fall. Paul asserts one dominant differential which is inherent in our physical bodies and will not be erased either by culture or by spiritual regeneration until the resurrection. Due to her nature, and for good reason, the woman is more easily deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). While we do not understand the full implications of this statement, we understand that its immediate context has to do with spiritual perception. We can mitigate this by pointing out other areas where the female gender outshines the male gender, but the fact itself remains. The woman is more easily deceived, as was evidenced by the fall of the proto woman. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that she is not to lead or assert spiritual authority over the man. The complementary model, then, is graciously given by God for the woman’s benefit and protection as well as the man’s.
C. The Purpose of the Christological Marriage Model.
Will the best marriage model please stand up?
As the women’s ordination conversation moves toward center stage in evangelical discussion, it is important for the Bible student to understand that these two aforementioned marriage models are not intended to be pitted against each other. Both the egalitarian and complementary models are alive and well and, pardon the pun, complement each other equally. It is not a question of which has priority in a particular cultural context. This is because the Old Testament models of marriage have been enhanced by a yet to be revealed mystery, an all-encompassing New Testament model. This pastor prefers to call it the Christological model. As beautiful as Old Testament marriages could be, they were not enriched by the doctrine of Christ and the mystery which was yet to be revealed. Ephesians 5:22-33 articulates this glorious truth in words so glowing, yet so concise, that they form the basis of most biblical marriage ceremonies. Careful readers will notice that this passage blends the egalitarian and complementary models under an even higher authority, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who represents the head of both the man and the woman. The old models are not negated (they had nothing to do with the law) but, rather, are gloriously enriched and finely balanced in Christ. The Christological marriage model goes far beyond mere marriage contracts. It celebrates our essential oneness and unity in Christ.
Herein lies the danger underlying the ordination issue. A lion’s share of the argument offered by those in favor of the ordination of women will be built by insisting that we have overstated the complementary role of women in marriage. There will be a pendulum effect (in step with our rights-obsessed culture) which will emphasize the egalitarian rights of women while diminishing their complementary role. That is why we call this issue a watershed. It is paramount that the biblical pastor be able to explain and impose the Christological marriage model, a model which places Christ at the head of both our homes and churches.
II. How marriage models do and do not relate to the ordination of women.
Let’s summarize the truths which inform this discussion of women as pastors (and/or elders). They are, as follows:
1. Ordination is not an equality issue either in our homes or in our churches. Both men and women are heirs of the promises of God, both are recognized equally in scripture, and both are integral to God’s plan and program. Equality is not on the table.
2. Ordination is an authority issue. God is a God of order. God commonly establishes lines of authority through primogeniture and headship. What comes first is first in both responsibility and authority. Adam was first created, then Eve (1 Timothy 2:9-13). This is not a matter of intelligence. Outside of the creation, Jesus Christ is in submission to the Father, though He reigns co-equally with Him. He is not inferior.
3. Ordination is a church issue. Because the church is a large composite family consisting of multiple families, the same dynamics can be observed. More importantly, Paul insists that the same dynamics are in play as we have noted in Ephesians 5. The relation between a man and his wife is reflected in the relationship between Christ and the church. This is the point where marriage models and ordination models converge. The relationship between Christ and His church are reflected in marriage and vice versa.
4. Ordination is a spiritual issue. As with the role of the husband in the home, the role of elders and pastors concerns itself first and foremost with biblical and spiritual issues, and in this respect, the male is most highly qualified, albeit imperfect and less qualified than the female in other contexts. The spiritual welfare of our homes and churches are directly related to the commands of a God who knows what is best for us, even when we cannot see it ourselves.
Rick Warren is to be admonished for flying against the direct admonitions of the Word of God. He has been cited with numerous biblical references by numerous men of God. He follows in a long line of men and women who prefer to kowtow to the dictates of a modern culture gone awry.
Be aware that the arguments Saddleback has employed to loosen biblical standards in the church, will be used to weaken and dissolve the biblical dynamics God has embedded in the biblical home.