I know I’ve dealt with this issue a few times at the blog, especially in my series on Margaret Kostenberger’s book, “Jesus and the Feminists.” Well, I’m here to tackle it again—this time from the perspective of Rebecca Merrill Groothuis.
A lot of time has been invested over the last few weeks studying Groothuis’s work in chapter 18 of her edited book, “Discovering Biblical Equality,” called “Equal in Being, Unequal in Role.” We’ve seen that this phrase (the chapter title) is illogical on the basis of the fact that it is a self-refuting statement. I’ll provide a definition of a self-refuting statement here:
A self-refuting statement is one where something said contradicts something previously said.
For instance, I’ll use a modern quote I was told from my friend Eunice regarding Dorothy Patterson:
“She[Dorothy] is PREACHING AGAINST women PREACHING.”
Notice the words highlighted? Dorothy Patterson is telling women not to preach—but she is PREACHING herself! If women are not supposed to preach (according to Dorothy Patterson and other complementarians), then why is Dorothy Patterson preaching? Her preaching CANCELS OUT her campaign that tells women not to preach.
This is not to make fun of Dorothy Patterson. As I’ve written in other posts, she is well-accomplished and deserves to be commended for her educational achievements. I just used this self-refuting statement to show how one thing can contradict another in close proximity. Other such statement would be “Being nosy about NOT BEING NOSY,” and so forth. As you can see, self-refuting statements are quite a laugh!
In any case, back to my original point. “Equal in Being, Unequal in Role” cannot be true if women are equal in being, but UNEQUAL in role because THE UNEQUAL role is dependent on the EQUAL BEING!
Today’s post will concern one of many analogies that complementarians use to argue women’s subordination to men: the Levitical Priesthood. Regarding this false analogy Rebecca Merrill Groothuis writes:
“Furthermore, while God chose the Levites to perform a ministry of lifelong duration, it was not a PERMANENT decree as is the (supposed) divine decree that women be subordinate to male authority. The authority/status difference between women and men is deemed AN ESSENTIAL FEATURE of God’s creational design; thus it is permanent not only in the sense that it endures throughout a person’s lifetime but also in that it pertains to all men and women EVERYWHERE FOR ALL TIME. The Levites’ role, by contrast, WAS NOT PERMANENT but PROVISIONAL, in that it pertained only to a temporary religious system at a particular time and for a particular purpose in history” (Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, “Discovering Biblical Equality,” page 327).
The role of the Levite priest was temporary. As the writer of Hebrews says,
“If, then, perfection came through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there for another priest to arise in the order of Melchizedek, and not to be described as being in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must be a change of the law as well. For the One about whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, from which no one has served at the altar. Now it is evident that our Lord came from Judah, and about that tribe Moses said nothing concerning priests” (Heb. 7:11-14, HCSB).
Because Jesus was the high priest of a different order, then the Levitical priesthood is abolished (because it has been supplanted by a better one). The Levitical priesthood was only to last for a limited time. This is not a good example by which to argue for women’s subordination, since those who believe women should be subordinate argue for ETERNAL subordination of men to women (or at least until the end of human mortality).
Also, notice the differences between Christ and the Levitical priests:
“Now many have become Levitical priests, since they are prevented by death from remaining in office. But because He remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:23-25, HCSB).
Because the Levitical priests were human, they could only serve for a limited time—that time being their life span, whether it be 50, 60, 70 years, etc. Jesus, however, lives on forever, so there is NO LIMIT OF TIME to His priesthood—His is an ETERNAL one.
For those who care to read other comments on the priesthood, please see my series on Margaret Kostenberger’s book; the title of the series is “Justifications for a Patriarchal Hermeneutic.” In that series I also address the issue of the “priesthood of all believers,” how, even in Exodus 19, God desired that the entire nation would be a “Kingdom of priests,” although the Israelites forfeited their mass priesthood because of fear.