Friday, April 22, 2005

Scriptural roles of men and women

R.C. Sproul, Jr. has written against women bloggers in, What are you talking about?

But I explain this confusion not for my own sake, not to avoid embarrassment, but to make a point I believe many in the blog world need to learn. People as backward and ancient as I tend to turn to Titus 2 with some regularity. There we see that older women are called to teach younger women. Many of my internet friends recognize this, and so direct their blogs at other women. Trouble is, Titus 2 not only tells us who is the faculty (older women) and who are the students (younger women) but it tells us the curriculum. Older women are told not just that they should be teaching younger women, but that they should be teaching them to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled.

There are, I’m delighted to report, any number of blogs which teach just these things. (Bearing in mind of course the other weaknesses that come with the internet. Serving your sisters in cyberspace isn’t probably what Paul had in mind, especially if you aren’t ministering to those who are, in real life, your neighbors.) But I have seen others, written by women, that set out, or so it seems, to set the world straight about Auburn Avenue theology, the history of the New Testament church, that seek to change this government policy or that, that direct you to this teacher or some other. Now bear in mind that many of these ladies are pushing the very same things I would push. The trouble I’m getting at isn’t that they are pushing against what I think to be biblical wisdom, but that they are pushing at all.

I have grumbled in the past that the internet, for all its strengths, for all its power in diffusing centralized communication, comes with this exact kind of danger. People are teaching who shouldn’t be teaching. And people are learning where they ought not to be learning. A husband who loses his wife to a hook-up with some internet Lothario is probably better off than one who returns from work to find his wife safely at home, but having been seduced into Rome by some charming blogger.

I have to say that reading Mr. Sproul's article brings back memories of being a part of a church that expects only pious behavior out of women who always wear long skirts, long hair and scarves or hats covering their heads. What does scripture teach about women? The ELS tells me this:

The Roles of Men and Women in Church

On the basis of such Scripture passages as Genesis 1-3; I Corinthians 11:3-16; I Corinthians 14:33b-36; Ephesians 5:22-26; Galatians 3:28; I Timothy 2:11-15; I Peter 3:1-7; Romans 16 and Philippians 4:3, we teach:

  1. God created man and woman in his own image, that is, he created them with a true knowledge of Him and with perfect righteousness and holiness. Even though our first parents lost this image in the fall into sin, yet God in his grace promised the Savior and in Him restored this image.
  2. This spiritual equality of man and woman is a blessed reality, as St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
  3. Through faith in Christ all Christians are members of the universal priesthood of believers and as such are in full possession of all its rights and privileges and are exhorted to exercise them.
  4. At the creation of man and woman God established an order, or structure, by assigning individual identities and roles to each sex. According to Genesis 2, Eve was created to be a helper to Adam and as such was to be under his headship.
  5. The headship principle is clearly taught in the Old Testament. In Genesis 3:26 the Lord says to the woman: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." The original structure at creation remained in effect after the fall into sin.
  6. The headship principle is clearly set forth also in the New Testament. In I Corinthians 11:3 Paul says, "the head of the woman is man," and in Ephesians 5 the apostle tells wives to submit to their husbands "for the husband is the head of the wife." (Eph. 5:22- 23) The apostle Peter refers to this headship principle when he singles out Sarah as an example in obeying Abraham and calling him Lord. (cf. I Peter 3:1-7)
  7. The headship of man in his role of leadership to which the woman is subordinate is therefore God's arrangement for good order. (Genesis 1:31)
  8. The prime example of the goodness and necessity of the headship principle is found in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. (cf. I Corinthians 11:3) Biblical Christianity has always taught that the Father and the Son are equally God; there is no difference in their degree of divinity. And yet in I Corinthians 15:28 the Son himself is said to be subject to the Father. It is interesting to note that here the same verb is used for the Son's subjection to the Father as is used for the woman's subjection to the man in Ephesians 5 and I Timothy 2. In I Corinthians 15:28 the purpose of the Son's submitting to the Father is not to put the Son in an inferior position, but to bring about a beautiful plan. The purpose of the wife's submitting to her husband and of the woman's being submissive within the Christian congregation is also to carry out a beautiful plan, viz., the establishment of a marriage that not only lasts but is also a wonderful harmony, and the establishment of an orderly and harmonious fellowship within the congregation.
  9. Our Lord has revealed that He wants the headship principle to be upheld in the church. It is for this reason that the Lord has restricted the pastoral office to men. (cf. I Timothy 2:11-14 and I Corinthians 24:34ff)
  10. The same principle applies to woman suffrage in the church. Scripture forbids the women "to have authority over a man,"( I Timothy 2:12)
  11. However, this principle does not forbid consultation between men and women in the church. Informal meetings or forums may be held, therefore, at which women may have opportunity to seek information and express their views. But the final decisions are to be made by the men. The Lord himself has placed this responsibility upon the men and they are to carry this out in a manner that is sensitive to the feelings and wishes also of the women.
  12. Scripture encourages women to use their talents in areas of church work which do not conflict with the headship principle or the public administration of the means of grace. As members of the priesthood of believers there is much for women to do in church. In Romans, chapter 16, the apostle Paul commends Phoebe to the Christians at Rome as a servant (diakonos) of the church at Cenchreae and sends greetings to women who had been of assistance to him. He mentions Priscilla and her husband Aquilla as "fellow workers in Christ Jesus" (v.3) and a certain Mary "who labored much for us." (v.6) And in his letter to the Phillippians he urges the congregation to "help those women who labored with me in the gospel," (4:2) Nor should we forget the many women who ministered to our Lord during his earthly ministry whose names are recorded in the Gospels. Women may, for example, lend their counsel in open congregational forums; teach parochial school, Sunday school, vacation Bible school; direct choirs; serve on committees in advisory capacities; assist the pastor and elders in calling on the sick, shut-ins and singles; and also assist in works of charity in the congregation and community.
  13. From the above passages it is evident that women used their talents in the Lord's service and they were commended for it. The church today can learn from the early church to do the same, but always within the parameters which God himself has established. In the past there has been perhaps too much emphasis on what women are not to do rather than on what they are to do, thus giving some the impression women's talents are neither needed nor appreciated
  14. While we must continue to uphold the scriptural principles so far as ordination of women and their exercising authority over the man is concerned, it is clear from the passages under study that women's participation in the work of the Gospel is a blessing to the church. God has given the ministry of the Gospel to all believers; it is the office of the pastoral ministry that he has restricted to qualified men.
  15. Finally, Christian men ought to take their leadership responsibilities seriously, and Christian women also have the responsibility of encouraging men to fulfill their obligations and duties of leadership.
  16. When men and women labor together in the Gospel, taking heed to the Word and working within the scriptural limits, then truly God is glorified and the church is edified.

John H. of Confessing Evangelical posted on this article. I appreciate his words of encouragement to women bloggers. I had this comment to his post: "Why should I be surprised that scripture forbidding women spiritual authority over men should be misconstrued by Sproul to mean that women shouldn't proclaim the gospel as a part of their daily lives? I am in the ELS synod, which is often misunderstood as being "against" many things including women. Yet nothing could be further from the truth; my pastors educate and encourage all members to be ready to give account for the hope that is in my heart. There is no scripture prohibiting women from bearing witness to the gospel. I did ask my pastors for guidance before starting Be Strong in the Grace. Each one of them has complimented me, encouraged me and helped me with my blog. Even our churches elders have complimented and encouraged me. As confessional Lutheran pastors, I would take their advice over Mr. Sproul's any and every day of my life. John, I know you didn't post this to depress or discourage women, but it is depressing to think that he wrote this. Sproul's article is a good example of the power of words, even on a blog. " I am glad that I read Sproul's piece; I need to know how to respond to such accusations. It is a part of being strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus to know what scripture says and doesn't say.


Mutti said...

One could extrapolate, from Sproul's comments, that women shouldn't share the Good News with anyone, anywhere! Oh my, one could even extrapolate that because of genetic differences, women are unfit to share the Good News with their own children. I know the role of spiritual leader should be filled by the head of the household, but if my mother-in-law hadn't filled that role in her family my husband wouldn't be faithful or catechised at all. What about women mid-week school teachers? What about Kitty Luther?-- I've read spiritual comments she made.

TKls2myhrt said...

Over at Confessing Evangelical someone commented that I should take my complaint directly to Mr. Sproul. I thought about that for a few seconds as I allowed myself to be bullied by his legalistic misinterpretation of scripture (my own opinion)and then I reminded myself that the Holy Spirit freed me from that tyranny when I became a confessional Lutheran. I think RC was quite clear and understandable. He's a grown man and a pastor and fully knows the weight of words. Besides, he has made it clear that he wouldn't value my opinion as a woman on a computer (not on a home-related website). If he were a confessional Lutheran pastor, I would respond directly or consult another confessional Lutheran pastor before commenting on his work. However, that is not the case and I think it is important to point out his comments.

I liked your comments about your mother-in-law and Katherine Luther. It is one thing to have a first best choice in who should be the spiritual head of household, but thank God for women who aren't afraid to step in when necessary.

In the little of Luther's writings I have read (compared to the volumes available), he seemed to be very keen on educating his children and wife in all areas. He also is clear that all Christians should be ready to give account for the hope that is in their hearts. Although I'm not worried if Luther agrees with me, since I am concerned with what scripture says, I would like to know if Luther ever made specific comments about women and proclaiming the gospel around men.