Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Arguments Against Women In Ministry Aren't Biblical

Biblical scholar and author Ben Witheringon III has written a column on his Beliefnet blog entitled: Why Arguments against Women in Ministry Aren't Biblical (Sunday October 25, 2009). As he explains:
[I]n this post I am going to deal with the usual objections to women in ministry, one by one. Some of these objections come out of a high church tradition, some tend to come from low church traditions, some are Catholic/Orthodox some are Protestant, but we will take on a sampling of them all without trying to be exhaustive or exhausting.
Agree or disagree with Dr. Witherington, you should read his post and the comments.

FWIW, I contributed the comment "EricW October 28, 2009 10:53 AM," which I have revised and expanded for this posting in order to ask the following question:

What is the status or relationship of man vis-a-vis woman in Christ? I.e., to what state has Christ restored the sexes?

I see at least four main possible understandings or viewpoints (with some subpoints) of this:

I. Christ has restored man and woman to where they were just after the Fall - i.e., with the woman desiring her husband and him ruling over her, and the woman being in (having fallen into) transgression (1 Timothy 2:14).
A. This may also include seeing the woman as still having a greater propensity to being deceived. See comments below at II.B.1. re: 1 Timothy 2:13-14.
II. Christ has restored man and woman to where they were in Genesis 2 before the Fall in one of the following two ways:
A. Man and woman are essentially equals in all respects (other than physical/sexual), with no hierarchy of superordination/subordination between them.
Note: There is no essential difference between this and viewpoint III. II.A. relates the status of the man and the woman to the Genesis 2 creation account, whereas III. relates it to the Genesis 1 creation account.
B. The woman is subordinate to the man because the man was created first and the woman was created from him as a helper corresponding to him and for his sake.
1. Viewpoint B. may also include seeing the woman as still having a greater weakness or propensity when it comes to sin or deception (or enticement), per 1 Timothy 2:13-14:
13 Aδαμ γαρ πρωτος επλασθη, ειτα Eυα: 14 και Aδαμ ουκ ηπατηθη, η δε γυνη εξαπατηθεισα εν παραβασει γεγονεν.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived*, but the woman, having been deceived*, has fallen (lit. "has become") into transgression.
* or "enticed"
III. Christ has restored man and woman to where they were in Genesis 1 - i.e., both created equally and equal in the image and likeness of God (or perhaps "male and female" together being the image and likeness of God), with no sense of one being subordinate to the other.

IV. Christ has done away with the Genesis 1 "male and female" as Paul may be saying in Galatians 3:28 where he changes the conjunction joining his pairs from ουδε ("nor"; lit. "and not") to και ("and") when he says that there is not "male and female" (i.e., the LXX phrasing of Genesis 1:27) - unless it's normal Greek practice to make the last in a string of ουδε's a και instead). I.e., in Christ there is not simply a restoration of the original creation, but a New Creation, One New Man, whose Head is Christ and whose Body is the church in which there is no "male and female," but all the members, male and female, are also the Bride of Christ.

When it comes to the topic of women in ministry, I think questions that need to be asked and answered include:
  • What did Christ accomplish and inaugurate?
  • What did He restore and/or establish?
  • What of His work is to be evident and put in place now, and what must await the eschaton and/or the restoration of all things?
I think how one answers these questions and the one question that these derive from - i.e., "What is Man and Woman in Christ?" - both affects and effects one's beliefs and assumptions about women in the church and in ministry.
What do you think of my list and questions? Which viewpoint I. - IV. (or another one you might propose) reflects how you see Christ's work and women's consequent position in the church, and why? Please indicate if you are a man or a woman, and your approximate age or stage in life.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's very helpful to delineate the various starting points because your understanding of Genesis does indeed affect where you end up. In fact, if you're thinking that broadly, it affects your view of eternity (i.e. eternal subordination of the Son and/or women; or the idea that manhood and womanhood are central to God's ultimate purposes...)

    A fifth bullet point might be a pre-Genesis 1 point: male and female distinctions "belong at the center of God's ultimate purpose....God designed them precisely so that they would serve to display the glory of His Son dying to have his happy, admiring bride." (a la Piper) This would be a heightened version of point 2, I suppose.

    As you know, I think point 3 is the best framework for explaining the rest of Scripture.