Tuesday, March 14, 2006

opening the can...(part 2)

(please read a can of worms and opening the can...(part 1) before reading this post)

The more I look into the arguments presented supporting the egalitarian view of women in the ministry, I am more and more confused how one could arrive at this position if we look at the Bible as it lays itself out. I attempted to address the wrong way of interpretation that uses general verses or vague verses to trump (so to speak) the explicit and clear verses. Let me give you an example.

Bible verses concerning women and ministry1:

  • 1 Tim 2:12 "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
  • Acts 18:26 "and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
  • Romans 16:7 "Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."
  • Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Egalitarian Conclusion: Because we know that we are all one in Christ Jesus, and we know Paul uses the Fall (as well as creation) to denote who should or shouldn't be elders or pastors, we now understand that Paul was not making statements about all women being elders or pastors in the passages like 1 Tim 2, but he was addressing only specific groups of people with no ramifications other than that. Gal 3:28 shows us that there is no distinction in Christ, and we have many examples of women who held these roles that have been thought to only be for men. Basically, the effect of salvation is the breaking of the roles or curses imposed by the fall.

Value/Worth verses Role

This is an overriding issue that seems to come up in this argument, and it is not really relevant. The thought is this: If men and women are equal in God's eyes (being equally redeemed and equal valuable because of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice), there is no cause for distinct gender roles once we are saved and in Christ.

If this were a true comparison and it was correct to understand that equality of worth necessitates no distinction in function or role, then what are we to do with the Trinity? This may seem to be a question or comparison that is not fair or relevant, but hear me out. I agree that men and women cannot be compared to the Trinity in worth, value, or role, but the intrinsic working and function of the Trinity may shed some light on how we need to view the workings between men and women.

We know and understand that God the Father, the Son (Christ Jesus), and the Holy Spirit are all equally God - they are equally worthy of praise because they are equally God. There is no hierarchy of godness. That being the case, no one can disagree that the Father has a different role than the Son who has a different role than the Spirit.

"There is, apparently, a subordination within the Trinity in regard to order but not substance or essence....The Father creates (Isaiah 44:24), the Son redeems (Gal. 3:13), and the Holy Spirit sanctifies (Rom. 15:16)."2

We can also see this difference in role by looking at John 6:38 (as well as the surrounding verses) where Jesus says, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." Let us not make the mistake of equating a role with the value of the one who fulfills the role.

A primary verse that seems to be used to dissolve the distinctions between male and female roles is Galatians 3:28 (cited above). In my estimation, the incorrect usage of this verse for this purpose cannot be overstated. This verse is not talking about what roles we have, it is talking about our identity in Christ. To say that the meaning of this passage is a dissolution of gender roles that were only a result of the fall is not good. If Paul were so adamant about this idea that once we're in Christ, no more are we bound by male or female roles, why didn't he include the "no male or female" comment in the parallel passage in Colossians 3:11? Why did he write about the qualifications for elders and overseers and use male language. Why didn’t he write qualifications for elders and overseers and use male and female language? It is true that there is female language referring to female deacons (deaconesses), but there is not a verse in Titus 1 referring to the qualifications of elders that says, "a woman must be the wife of one husband, not a malicious gossip, or lazy with her children...." There is no verse like that. It is also important to note that a deacon is not an elder, and an elder is not (necessarily) an apostle. The roles of deacon and elder or apostle are different, and they have very different functions. (Acts 6:2)

What about Phoebe, Aquilla, or Junius? Aren't they examples of women in the ministry?

What about these examples of women? The paper that I read is filled with many examples of women in ministry roles.3 I want to deal with the more prominent of these different examples individually:

Junius (Romans 16:7): Junius is refered to as being "kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were Christ before me." Even though this is the only cited example of a woman apostle,4 the same section affirms that we don't even know if Junius was a man or woman. I actually laughed when I read this portion of the paper...I confess. If there is something so disputed as to the sex of the person in this verse - how can we use this as a biblical example of women in traditionally male roles? Furthermore, how can we use this as the only example of a woman apostle? Perhaps I shouldn’t have laughed as I did, but in truth – using this example is laughable and unfortunate.

Priscilla (Acts 18:26; Romans 16:3): "The passage reveals that Priscilla was involved in discipling and teaching Apollos. There was a church that met in the home of Priscilla and Aquila. It is difficult to imagine that she did not exercise her teaching gift there."5 This passage (Acts 18:26) is more specific than the reference to Junius in that we understand that Priscilla and Aquilla were a husband and wife team and that we see that they were both involved in the instruction of Apollos. The problem is that we are not told what Priscilla actually did. I think that it would be a monstrous argument from silence to say that this shows that Priscilla instructed him by herself in certain circumstances. Also, I think that the phrase “It is difficult to imagine that she did not exercise her teaching gift there” is a betrayal of the actual methods of interpretation being used by the author of the paper and a revelation of what information is actually weighed out when coming to a conclusion on women in the Ministry. To use this text and this speculation as proof for how Priscilla fulfilled the role of a teacher over men, while it is not as laughable as the text cited for Junius being an apostle, is still a stretch and not worthy of building any serious doctrinal understanding upon.

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong (in my understanding of the Word) with a husband and wife sitting down with a different man and discussing the scriptures, reading them, and growing in holiness together. In that circumstance, it is possible that the wife could say things that are very beneficial. This is totally different than this same wife leading a gathering of the saints in a sermon or tending the flock of God. Again - we cannot miss or fudge the issue here. The prohibition for women teachers and elders does not forbid women from learning, discussing, or teaching scripture - they just prohibit women from teaching or instruction over men as an elder (teacher) would do.

Phoebe (Romans 16:1): The language used to describe Phoebe seems to show that she held the position of a deaconess. I think that 1 Timothy 3:8-13, which gives the qualifications for deacons, is the only biblical text that includes women in any of the offices (elder, pastor, deacon, apostle) of the church. This is a huge deal. It looks like Paul wanted to let us know that qualified women are to serve as female deacons (deaconess). If he did this with the role of a deacon, why did he not do it for the role of overseer (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:7-9) or elder (Titus 1:5-6)?

We also must understand the difference between these roles. A deacon is not an elder, nor are they responsible for the same things. In Acts 6 we see that the original deacons were chosen to tend to the needs of the believers. This was so that the apostles would not "neglect the Word of God in order to serve tables." (Acts 6:2) Caring for the physical needs was and is an important ministry in the church, but it was not the same task as the preaching of the Word.

Phoebe was to be accepted taken in by the Roman church because, "she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well." (Rom 16:2) The paper puts a great big emphasis on the word "helper."

"Phoebe is called a “prostates.” According to the Liddell and Scott Lexicon, it literally means “one who stands before; ruler; a chief; a leader of a party.” According to Thayer’s Lexicon, it means “a woman set over others.” The verb applies to elders in many places, where it is translated “to rule” or “manage” (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Tim. 3:4). This is what Phoebe did in the church." 6

What, exactly, is this paper contending that Phoebe did? Is this saying that she ruled or managed the apostle Paul? So, there was a position of authority and leadership of the early church above an apostle? Really?

No, not really. I do believe that Phoebe was a deaconess, but that is it. There is no legitimate basis for thinking otherwise.

I will attempt to conclude my comments on this paper as well as this issue in an upcoming post. I apologize that this one has ended in an abrupt fashion.

1 These are verses that "The Role of Women in the Church" use to make it's argument.

2 "The Role of Women in the Church" pg 12-15

3 "What is the Trinity?

4 "The Role of Women in the Church" pg 15

5 Ibid. pg 14,15

6 Ibid. pg 14

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