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...

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