‘Why are some choosing to be “biblical” on this issue of women in ministry and not others in the Western world? And, in light of so many studies about women in ministry, why are they choosing to be “narrowly” biblical? That is, why are they focused on 1 Tim 2:11-15 or 1 Cor 14:34-35 and not on “what women did do and making sure that they still can do those things”?’
Here is my answer — the seven (yea, eight) faces of fear — and I keep thinking of more and other ideas.
When it comes down to it, there is fear on all sides … fear coming out in a host of emotions and reactions. There is no one answer; there is nothing simple here; the reason this is a big issue is because it involves all of us — male and female — in all kinds of theological and ecclesial settings and it includes our marriages and our children and our basic decisions. There are two basic groups — traditionalists and egalitarians — though this is too simplistic. They approach the issue from a variety of angles — and they all end up at the fire shouting at one another too often.
I offer this post today to you for consideration, discussion and I hope some understanding of one another. If I knew how to make a poll with eight answers, I’d ask you to vote on which is most significant in your view, but I do think all (and more) come into play.
1. Traditionalists with a domestic security in husband-wife relations and any change provokes disorientation at the storm of changes that may follow. Those with a traditional sense of family are disoriented when they think it might lead to “House dads” or women pastors or eliminating traditional roles. It disorients their being. This disorientation is mostly the result of cultural shifts — modernity, postmodernity, birth control, breakdown of family structures, more women with careers, and the rise of feminism. Out of all these changes freedom has been created for women in ways previously unknown — and freedom changes things.
2. Traditionalists with a biblical theology provoking dismay at perceived disregard of cherished conclusions. Obvious isn’t it? Yes, some think the whole issue is Bible and exegesis and if you figure out what “headship” means or 1 Cor 14:34-35 or 1 Tim 2:11-15 then you’ve got your answer. They’ve worked these texts; they’ve come to conclusions; anyone who questions their hard-earned traditional views must not believe the Bible. Next comes the word “inerrancy” and the “authority” of Scripture and now the Cairn Terriers arrive and start growling and nipping at others. (This can be reversed as well; some egalitarians are just as nippy in their responses.)
3. Egalitarians and progressives with a sense of justice provoking anger. Bathed and baked in either a biblical theory of egalitarianism or a Western sense of freedom and rights and justice, these folks think preventing women from ministry positions equal to men is just a blatant disregard of hard-earned rights and conclusions. Is “rights” a biblical argument?
4. Egalitarians and progressives with an obviousness , sometimes bordering on snobbery, provoking bewilderment. Some today are so reared and nurtured that when they hear some think women shouldn’t be senior pastors, preachers, and teachers they are physically bewildered — like a modern scientist arriving at Aristotle’s laboratory. I have students like this; you should see the look on their face when they encounter someone from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. “What planet are you from?” is the question all over the face.
5. Traditionalists with a sense of ecclesiastical tradition (RCs, EOs, etc) provoking accusations of yet one more schism. The Church settled this long ago; anyone who questions it is full of hybris and must be wrong in some fundamental way.
6. The undecided with a confusion provoking timidity. There are plenty today who just don’t know what to think — and they land on a blog like this or read some book that sorts out all the options and evidence and interpretations and they say “Well, if these folks can’t figure it out, then there is no reason even to weigh in on it.” They hang back and hope someone will bring clarity.
7. Traditionalists with an authority provoking threat to power. Well, here’s a real one — and there is no reason to deny it. There is also no reason for egalitarians and progressives to pin this one on everyone who thinks traditionalist views are right. But, some are powerful and they see women as a threat. Power is an issue in and of itself. But, the general “strength” of men has played a considerable role in the power and authority about women and men in relation.
Now, the last one:
8. gender and sexuality. Some males, and I think this is more male than female, are just spooked by women — and “spooked” is too light of a word. They are threatened by female sexuality and femininity and they charge everything with sexuality to the degree that they draw unwise conclusions that are less connected to redemptive realities and new creation than to fallen realities and cracked Eikons. Since some relationships between males and females lead to adultery, it is better to avoid all cross-gender relationships they contend. Or, women are sexualized so that their very appearance behind the pulpit or on the platform is described as temptation — I kid you not.