Thursday, March 11, 2010

Old Testament Theology...and Women?, Part III: Living the Conclusion

“The church ought to encourage women to minister according to their God-given gifts by, among other ways, opening up avenues of ministry such as those listed in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12-14, and if appropriate, in connection with honoring them financially (Rom. 16:2; 1 Tim. 5:17). The Bible commends the equality of women with men in their being, dignity, GIFTS, and ministry. THE SPIRIT VALIDATES THIS BY CALLING AND GIFTING WOMEN TO THE SAME KINDS OF MINISTRIES AS MEN, SUCH AS PROPHESYING (Acts 20:9), TEACHING (cf. Acts 18:26), PASTORING, evangelizing, and helping the church in all sorts of ways (cf. Romans 16). Nevertheless, the church should not appoint women (Greek ‘gune’) to an office, such as being an elder (‘presbyteros’)...wherein she has authority over her husband (Greek ‘aner,’ Heb. 13:17)” (Bruce Waltke, “An Old Testament Theology,” pages 245-246).

I’ve spent the last few days discussing the problems with Bruce Waltke’s view of women and their ministries in his work on Old Testament Theology. And this post will be no different in that respect: once again, I will deal with more statements from Bruce Waltke’s assessment of women in ministry.

The first thing I’d like to note is his assessment that the Spirit equally gifts men and women: “The Spirit validates this by calling and gifting women to the same kinds of ministries as men, such as prophesying...teaching...PASTORING...”

This statement most surprised me! I mean, Waltke has noted earlier in the same chapter, titled “The Gift of the Bride,” that women have equal access to the gifts; but here, he actually says that one of the ministries that women have is “pastoring.” I never expected him to say such a thing!!!

However, while applauding Waltke for this bold statement (which I’ve never read from the hand of a complementarian), I must also disagree with the statement he provides following this remarkable acknowledgement:

“Nevertheless, the church should not appoint women (Greek ‘gune’) to an office, such as being an elder (‘presbyteros’)...wherein she has authority over her husband (Greek ‘aner,’ Heb. 13:17).”

There is a problem with the last statement Waltke provides: that is, that Waltke is actually advocating something devastating to the church. He is basically saying that, while women are gifted in pastoring ministries, and God has gifted them equal to men, they are still not to hold down pastoral authority (for example) over men in the church. Notice as well that he is talking about “women” and “husband.” I infer from this that he means “wife,” but all throughout the chapter, it seems that he has been referencing all women:

“...He [Jesus] IMPLICITLY confirmed the role of men as rulers by not appointing A WOMAN as one of the twelve apostles on whom the church is built...” (Waltke, 235)

“My thesis, in brief, is that the two creation accounts reveal God’s design for men and women. They are written to help them understand their natures and THE ROLES FOR WHICH THEY WERE CREATED...” (232)

“The sexual, social, and economic equality of all believers will be obliterated in the eschaton, but until the redemption of our bodies, believers still participate in the first creation with its sexual, social, and economic distinctions. The biblical instructions regarding the distinctive roles of MEN AND WOMEN...address that reality and serve the best interests of BOTH SEXES” (243).

From the above quotes, it doesn’t seem as if the so-called “rule against women” is just for wives---but instead, for ALL women, whether wives or not.

But what about single women, women who have no husband? Are they subject to this rule? It seems to be the case that single women are just as referenced as the married women. The only reference made to 1 Corinthian 7 regards the children of a married woman who is “holy” despite the fact her husband is “unholy.” (1 Cor. 7:14, page 238) There is no reference made to single women, who are also mentioned in that same exact chapter (vv.8,25,34). Why is this? I have no clue. I guess Waltke will have to produce another revised edition and clue us in on this one...

Now, on to the task at hand. Waltke has stated that women do have the “pastoring” gift (Waltke, 246), but that women are not allowed to actually “be a pastor” of a church. So women can’t be elders, pastors, nothing of that sort, that will allow them to be in leadership over men and lead men in church administration whatsoever.

Is there a problem with this view? YES! Simply put, Waltke is telling women that regardless of their gift, they can never serve in leadership. If a woman has the gift of “pastoring,” she can be a “Pastor’s Wife” and aid her husband---give him advice, make suggestions, etc. However, she could never be a Pastor--- UNLESS, in the minds of most conservatives (and yes, I’m being honest about my own background!), her husband is a pastor. She can be a “co-Pastor” IF and only IF her husband is a Pastor. Her gift will never place her over her, if she is a called Pastor, she cannot actually DO pastoral ministry unless her husband is also made a Pastor. Her giftedness and place in the body of Christ is dependent upon her husband’s.

What makes it worse is the fact that in many cases, wives cannot pastor (simply because their husbands do not feel called to pastoral ministry). But what about the lazy and slothful servant do we not understand (Matt. 25:24-30)? The wicked servant failed to use his talent---and he was punished eternally for so doing (Matt. 25:30). How can the church advocate that women, although possessing leadership gifts, disobey Christ and not use them...and then turn around and tell the women that they must obey Christ by being submissive to their husbands? How can they say, “Disobey Christ and obey Christ in this matter,” all at the same time in the same way???

Last but not least, what are the gifts for if they are not given to the church to be used? Paul answers this question:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, FOR THE EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS FOR THE WORK OF MINISTRY, FOR THE EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST...”(Ephesians 4:11-12, NKJV)

The purpose of receiving the gifts is to use them. How then, is the church obeying Paul’s words here if women, no matter how great the pastoring ability, are not able to pastor churches? How can a woman lead with skill and diligence if she is sidelined or placed in the nursery, or given a young children’s Sunday school class? How will she “equip” the saints if she is supposed to watch over the flock of God...but told that she can only counsel and talk to young girls, teenage girls, young adult women, and elderly women instead? How is she pastoring and counseling effectively as an overseer if she can only “oversee” one half of the church congregation (that being, the women)???

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about the necessity of all gifts and abilities within the church:

“And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No. much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary...God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that THERE SHOULD BE NO SCHISM IN THE BODY, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:21-25).

Paul instructs the congregation that EVERY PART (i.e., EVERY GIFT in the context of the chapter itself) is needed in the body of Christ. If this is true, then women and their pastoring abilities are NEEDED in the body of Christ. Women who are called to pastor, for example, are needed in the pastoring role so they can implement God’s will for His church through their gift.

If the foot is amputated, how can the foot help a person walk from place to place? A person cannot have their foot amputated and still say, “That’s my is effective in helping me travel.” Humans understand that if we have a body part that we call our own, there is something that it should do for us. In the same way, if we have women in our churches who are called to pastor, they should be allowed to pastor. Why would God give them a gift and then tell them to not use it? It seems that when one follows the complementarian logic, God begins to contradict Himself---which is one clear sign that we should not listen to the complementarian nonsense...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old Testament Theology...and Women?, Part II: Assessing Waltke's Use of 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

In my last post on Bruce Waltke, I made the point that he seemed to affirm that men and women are on equal terms in the Old Testament regarding spiritual gifts (such as the case of Huldah the prophetess). However, Waltke decides to separate gifts and offices not for the purpose of demonstrating the will of God, but for the purposes of arguing against women in leadership:

“Paul gives governmental priority to the many BY THE SEQUENCE OF CREATION of man and woman and by the purpose for which the woman was created” (Waltke, “An Old Testament Theology,” page 242).

Since he cites 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 as his argument, let’s take a look at that here:

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9, NKJV).

This is Waltke’s proof text for why women should not be in leadership. However, what Waltke forgets is that there is a text after this passage. Let’s look at the following verses:

“Nevertheless, NEITHER IS MAN INDEPENDENT OF WOMAN, nor woman independent of man, IN THE LORD. For as woman came from man, EVEN SO MAN ALSO COMES THROUGH THE WOMAN; but all things are from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12, NKJV).

Funny how Waltke’s interpretation looks skewed now, doesn’t it? What Waltke fails to do (as well as most complementarians) is read through the rest of Paul’s argument. If he had done so, he would see that Paul sets up the Genesis origin account, but nullifies it when he says, “nevertheless,” and “man also comes through the woman.” When he states that “neither is independent of each other in the Lord,” he states that there is an even keel in spiritual authority that does not mandate that a woman wear a “sign” or “symbol of authority.” Notice in the text, as I stated it in the last post, that both men (v.4) and women (v.5) are praying and prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11.

One could easily think that this would be the end of the post, right? Well...think again!! Our dear friend Waltke has a response to my interpretation (egalitarian):

“According to 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, THE MAN AND WOMAN ARE DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER FOR THEIR EXISTENCE. Their interdependence, however, does not rule out male priority in government. Likewise, the United States Supreme Court does not exist independently from the people, but the people are subordinate to its rulings” (“An Old Testament Theology,” page 243).

I have two responses to Waltke’s argument. First, notice that he affirms what I did above. However, what he does next, though, is he uses an argument from logic that nullifies the context and Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11. What he attempts to do is say, “even though man and woman are dependent on one another in the Lord, men can still be over women in the church.” However, if this was the intention of Paul’s letter, why would he tell us that both men and women are praying and prophesying (same activities and gifts, 1 Cor. 11:4,5), as well as use the word “nevertheless”? The word “nevertheless” used here is the Greek word “plen” (pronounced “plain”), which means “moreover, besides, but, except,” etc.

I looked up the word “moreover” in The Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus, and I found this definition:

“further; besides. Furthermore, not only that, MORE THAN THAT, WHAT IS MORE; to boot, into the bargain, IN ADDITION.” (The Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus, “moreover”)

The words in the definition of “moreover,” tell you that what Paul says after “nevertheless” (as the NKJV translates it) outweighs what Paul said in his previous argument. The word “plen” (“plain”) also means “however,” or “but,” which is a contrast with the material just before it. The word is a Greek conjunction; and conjunctions are “connective words,” which bridge sentences together. So if Paul is saying “however” or “moreover” here, he must be saying, “Listen up; what I am about to say contrasts with what I just said.” And if Paul is giving a contrast with his prior discussion of the man being above the woman, then he is not affirming such a hierarchy here---which puts Waltke’s interpretation on the sidelines.

Secondly, Waltke does not provide us with support from Scripture. All he does is give us a rational argument. When it comes to showing why women should not be in leadership, complementarians spend time “making inferences” instead of showing Scripture for what it is. Waltke’s argument breaks down, and all he can say is, “this still does not rule out my presupposition.” How does it not, when the text explicitly places man and woman in an equal balance in spiritual authority, when Paul does not mandate women to wear head coverings (which would have been the sign of a man’s authority over the woman, a sign of the husband-wife relationship)? Waltke doesn’t have an answer for this. Instead, he attempts to resort to logic. But that seems to be what the complementarians do these days...instead of finding explicit references from Scripture to support their points.

Anyone can read the English words like “nevertheless” and conclude that Paul is contrasting his next statement with his last statement. And this is the problem with Waltke and the complementarians: they make a mountain out of a mole hill. Why do this if the process of reading Scripture is so simple? Because they desire to uphold tradition...and they will do it at all costs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Old Testament Theology...and Women?, Part I: Bruce Waltke's Argument

I’m taking a seminary course this semester titled “Old Testament Theology.” And for the last several weeks, my class has been going through the basic features of OT theology, like poetry, prose, narrative, etc. We’ve been looking at all the types of writing in Scripture and how the writers of Scripture crafted the writing the way they did to give us a certain message. Paying attention to the message involves paying attention to form of the text, that the form helps shape the interpretation.

But I never thought that this course would also involve an entire chapter on women and their “prescribed” roles in the home and the church.

Now, before I continue, let me first say that I count myself to be a conservative theologian. What this means is that I believe that when Scripture tells the wives to submit to their husbands, I believe Scripture to be true. However, I believe that husbands are called to be like the “Lord” (uppercase L); and by serving as the ‘lord’ (lowercase L) of their homes, men are to “love their wives as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). Men leading in their homes can lead with love, concern, and the utmost care for their spouses and children. In the same way that humanity is to have a God-given, benevolent rule over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28), so men are to be benevolent leaders in their homes.

But I disagree with the assumption made in most conservative circles today, which says that men are to lead in the home and, therefore ARE CALLED TO LEAD IN THE CHURCH. I don’t see that labeled in Scripture. Rather, I see both men and women called, and both genders provided for in terms of work in the church. More specifically, I don’t see where men are told that only THEY can be the elders, pastors, and leaders. And it is my whole-hearted belief that such passages like 1 Timothy 2 have been twisted in the name of “old Southern tradition.” In reality, the “stretched metaphor” of the men ruling in the churches because they rule in the home is an inference drawn from Scripture (or so believed)---but where is the cold hard proof? In the end, if there are no explicit texts that give men full leadership in the church, then men ruling in the churches becomes about as necessary as the color of the carpet, or the style of worship. And if these things just mentioned have no explicit texts to uphold a certain belief, then I think it’s wrong to say that the carpet MUST be red, or the worship style MUST be traditional...or that men MUST rule in the churches. Paul gave a loud declaration when he said that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 4:15; 5:23-24). If Christ is the head of the church, then no matter how powerful the male leader, he is still not the head. No deacon, preacher, elder, or otherwise will ever be the head of the church. That is reserved for Christ alone. All the pastor will ever be is the “undershepherd,” or “overseer,” which is a position that lies beneath the Lord, who is “the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25, NKJV).

Bruce Waltke, author of “An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach,” writes the following regarding 1 Corinthians 11:

“God establishes this pattern (the order of creation) by creating Adam first and the woman to help the man (Gen. 2:18). As Paul notes in a passage dealing with the role of men and women, one that demands its own study, ‘man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man’ (1 Cor. 11:8-9). In other words, Paul GIVES GOVERNMENTAL PRIORITY TO THE MAN BY THE SEQUENCE OF CREATION OF MAN AND WOMAN AND BY THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH THE WOMAN WAS CREATED. Is it not plausible to assume that if God intended equality in government, he would have formed Eve and Adam at the same time and made them helpers suitable to each other? If he had wanted a matriarchy, would God not have formed Eve first and created the husband to be a suitable helper to his wife?” (Bruce Waltke, “An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, page 242)

There is no doubt where Waltke stands on this one: he is a conservative...and a die-hard complementarian. His argument is not surprising, but I will examine it nonetheless.

Let’s look at the passage that he quotes. In 1 Cor. 11:8-9, the discussion in the church involves the issue of women wearing head coverings. Notice in verses 4 and 5 that the men AND women are doing the same things: “every man PRAYING OR PROPHESYING” (v.4), and “every woman who PRAYS OR PROPHESIES” (v.5). The only difference is that the men should not cover their heads (in this verse), while the women should (v.5). Both men and women are equally acknowledged in the ministries of prayer and prophecy.

Waltke actually acknowledges equal gifts among men and women, and emphasizes that even the Old Testament testifies to this very fact:

“Huldah is a most remarkable prophetess with regard to the question of women’s roles in worship and ministry...Josiah directs five leaders to inquire of I AM (God) about the book. INSTEAD OF GOING TO JEREMIAH AND ZEPHANIAH, they go to their contemporary, Huldah, to verify the book (2 Kings 22:8-20)” (caps mine) (Waltke, 240).

Waltke’s comment about Huldah and prophetesses? “In the Old Testament, women are called to be ‘prophetesses’ ON AN EQUAL FOOTING WITH THE PROPHETS” (Waltke, 240).

It looks as if Waltke understands that the gifting of the Spirit places women on an equal footing with men. He actually titles five sections around the theme of equality: “Equality in Creation, Equality in Parenting, Equality in Charisma (Gifts), Equality in Prayer, Equality in Worship” (Waltke, 239-240).

But then, Waltke gets to leadership in the church...and he blows it entirely! Waltke’s first mistake after the above equality affirmations is to separate gifts and offices:

“Here we need to distinguish clearly between call to ministry and appointment to an office since they are not the same thing” (Waltke, 241).

I agree with Waltke. For instance, being a helper in the church is not the same as being a deacon. While a deacon has the “ministry of helps,” every person who possesses this gift does not end up serving in the office of deacon. A deacon can possess the gift, but possessing the gift does not guarantee the office. In this manner, I affirm what Waltke says. But I disagree when Waltke tries to show why women should not serve in the offices of pastor and elder:

“Male authority in the home and in the church is founded on the order of creation and reinforced in the order of redemption as presented in both the Old and New Testaments” (242).

In response to Waltke, I’d like to say two things: first, male authority in the home is not founded on the creation order, but in the very words of God Himself as a punishment to Eve for her sin in the Garden(Genesis 3:16). If God had clearly intended to appoint Adam as the head of his wife in the home, then why is it that we only find God saying these words to Eve in Genesis 3 with the fall and not earlier?

Complementarians such as Waltke like to play with vague generalities and draw inferences. But when are conservatives gonna get back to finding EXPLICIT references in Scripture---and when are we gonna stop using vague references to emphasize our points? If God says it in Scripture, there will be some place within the canon of the text where the concept will be as clear as day. Every text in the Bible is not a vague generality; and I despise this sort of technique used by complementarians to attempt to validate their personal belief.

Secondly, there are no texts that give men the right to be the head of the church (not even 1 Timothy 2 does this). I have interpreted this text dozens of times here at the site. For all those who desire to read my thoughts, go to the blog sections on the right of the main page and click on the section “1 Timothy 2.” Respond to this post or the others if you have comments, questions, observations, etc.

The point being made here is that the order of creation does not place the man over the woman in the churches. And 1 Corinthians 11 works against the complementarian position. What does it say? Well, I’ll get to that in my next post.