ministry candidates

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Some say things are improving for women in ministry. I’ve met one or two. I know some online. It will persist as long as men hold the power and make the decisions concerning this issue. The problem isn’t “when will the power-brokers relax the rules?“. The problem is “who are the power-brokers?“. The argument around the boardroom table shouldn’t be, “Should we allow women in ministry?” but “Let’s relinquish our hold on the power and share it equally with women.

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  • you never fail to make me smile….. statements like these take some balls!

  • Our denomination has women pastors.

    I have to say that I am not too crazy about it.

    Not that there are a few good ones who are Christ centered, gospel centered.

    But the majority of them are political, left wing Democrat Party at prayer types. I think this is so because (painting with a broad brush here) they are more emotional than men and have greater instincts to take care of people.

    Yes, Virginia, women ARE different than men.

    Unless you are a grad student, and your brain has been twisted by the left wing twaddle of the university.

  • Sister Marie

    The key to increasing the number of women in the ministry is to erase the image of either craziness or mediocrity established by Schuller’s daughter, Aimee Semple McPherson, Marilyn Hickey, etc. That’s how the general public views women minister and God help us!

  • Dena G

    Our local “ministerial alliance” hosted a National Day of Prayer service on our courthouse lawn last week. Six men led prayer on a variety of subjects. A woman played the piano. Some people were offended by my comments that apparently only men knew how/were allowed to pray here in “red-neck land”.

    It’s obvious who the “power brokers” are here in my local faith community and obvious they have no intention of relinquishing any hold.

    Some things ARE improving. Some things are definitely not. And sometimes the answer lies in working to redefine what we mean by “ministry”…I believe that’s where the broader brush strokes should land.

  • gibby

    This is one of those “white elephants” in the room. I look forward to the day when “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…”

    grace and peace…

  • Martha

    While I have championed the cause of women in ministry through the years, I’ve run across an inordinate number of women pastors whose demeanor was less than appealing (see Sister Marie’s comment above). But, are there not male ministers who also are repugnant? Seems like they are given a “by”. At least the whole of male ministers is not judged by the manner/behavior/attitude of a few, as it seems women ministers are. I will say, too, that in very recent months/years I have encountered some delightful women who I would be blessed to have as my pastor. Is it because it is becoming less necessary to be pushy and obnoxious to enter “the ministry” for a woman? I hope so. I hope things truly are changing and “plumbing” will no longer be the standard for determining fitness for ministry.

  • @Steve

    “Yes, Virginia, women ARE different than men.

    Unless you are a grad student, and your brain has been twisted by the left wing twaddle of the university.”

    So, if I read you correctly, what you’re really saying is that Women are different from uneducated men… 😀

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist… Well, that’s not true, I could have resisted, but what would be the fun in that…

    By the way, on a more serious note, I would think “greater instincts to take care of people” would be a huge asset in being a pastor.

  • I guess I now tend to look at this argument differently than I used to in my former life as a pastor. For me it is now no longer a question of male vs female “ministers,” but rather what constitutes real ministry as opposed to simply another religious exercise. The gender issue has become totally irrelevant to me in my current walk with the Lord.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking cartoon.

  • Or for that matter, any other form of “ministry” which is really all about caring for people in one form or another…

  • David dear, I hate to correct your lovely artwork but men who ban women from ministry don’t have any balls. 🙂

  • Darrow Woods

    My wife has been a pastor as long as I have. In the United Church of Canada, issues of gender and of orientation are generally less important than are commitment, passion, and ability to serve. Denominations that do not treat women with equal respect and dignity are often also missing the freedom and joy of Jesus’ message in other ways!

  • “For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.”

    It seems to me, the picture of a male leading the congregation is the best representation of God to man. The female can represent man to God, but I have doubts about the former representation. I think this is why we see most scripture designating men as the leader of the congregation.

    “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife”

  • @Darrow

    In general, Canada is pretty progressive when it comes to women in ministry, some provinces and denominations more than others. I’m originally from Newfoundland and a Pentecostal background where women in minisitry was never much of an issue. Some would credit this to the fact that Pentecostalism was originally brought to Newfoundland by a woman. In any event, I was suprised when the church I was attending here in Ontario held a discussion on women in ministry as I sort grew up without the sort of restraints that I later learned were in place in some denominations within Canada and in far more within the US.


    You are aware that there is also female imagery of God in the bible and that Genesis does tell us that God created male and female in his image. To suggest that women cannot reflect the image of God does great violence to the scriptures.

    Also, if you are going to suggest that the patriarchal system that was so prevelant in biblical times must be enforced for all times then you should show a little consistency and insist that slavery is still acceptable as well. Or you could choose instead to believe that in Christ we are all equal, male and female, Jew and Greek, slave and free….

  • Cindy,

    “To suggest that women cannot reflect the image of God does great violence to the scriptures.”

    You are assuming too much here. I said males were a better representation of the relationship of God to man. This has nothing to do with reflecting the image of God we were all created with.

    Could you point out some verses that give female imagery for God?

    One more question: Do you honestly think that God wanted slavery and that he meant for the Israelites to have slaves?

  • Quoting scripture to support an argument is always a double-sided proposition. It appears as a simplistic statement in the authority of scripture, but is really masking a deep authority issue, such as by what authority do we hold sacred the hand picked passages we choose to uplift (versus the ones we choose to back burner), thus making the authority of scripture (or any sacred text) a circular problem at best. Who decides what’s authoritative? This is the reformation question. And to say “all of it” is just to stick one’s head in the sand at very basic literary, historical, social, and text critical issues before you even get to theology.

    Many Christians have faith in Jesus, not faith with Jesus and I’ve always thought the point of Jesus and his ministry and teaching was pointing to a God that could never quite be pinned downed (hence the parables and analogies and such). Most Christianity today is, in my opinion, not a religion that Jesus preached, but a religion made up about Jesus by various authorities, and as the cartoon points out, some still have a lot of issues with gender, sexism, sexuality, power and control.

  • Giggy said it right, “there’s neither jew nor greek, slave nor free, male nor female.”

    God can talk through anyone or anything for that matter (remember the donkey who spoke in the OT and even Jesus said the rocks would cry out if the children didn’t).

    Male and females are different. They are different from the womb. But God made us all in His image, “Male and Female He created them.”

    There are some ways He can speak through a woman He cannot speak through a man. Yes, there are some kooky female pastors but the same is said for male pastors. Why do we judge a group by one “bad” one instead of judging them all by a “good” one if there is to be any judging at all? There shouldn’t be though.

  • Can nobody tell the ‘men’ that Spirit is a feminine noun in Hebrew as is Wisdom in Proverbs.

    I’ve never heard that preached on in any church I’ve attended.

    Love the comment Becky!

  • I don’t think I’m assuming too much Daniel. To suggest a woman cannot represent the relationship of God to man and to suggest that a woman cannot bear God’s image to the extent that a man can are one and the same to me. I do not see a distinction there.

    I’m at work at the moment and don’t have time to go searching for specific feminine imagery at the moment, but to get an idea of where I’m coming from you can read a short blog post I made on the subject last year here: We can discuss that more later if you’d like.

    As to the question you posed about me believing that God wanted slavery, no I most certainly do not believe that. But my not believing that is consistent with my overall approach to scripture. Your not believing that on the other hand is not. That was my point. I do not believe that God wanted the Israelites to have slaves, but I also must admit that there are select instructions attributed to God in scripture that would strongly suggest otherwise. I also don’t believe that God wanted only men to be in positions of authority within the church, but I also must admit that there are select instructions attributed to God (or at least believed to be inspired by God) in scripture that strongly suggest otherwise. Do you see the parallel here?

    As for what I believe personally, there are many things attributed to God in scripture that I do not believe to be a fair and direct expression of His will. For example, I do not for one minute believe that God actually wanted the Israelites to slaughter entire races, capture and enslave people, rape women, etc, but that doesn’t mean that I can deny that these things exist and are attributed to God in the bible. I have been re-evaluating my understanding of scripture on an ongoing basis and I currently lean more to the idea that the bible more accurately portrays our understanding of God and what he wanted at different points than it does portray exactly what he actually wanted at those times. That is the best that I can put into words where I am currently at in my understanding of scripture as a whole, which is evolving at times rather slowly, as is my understanding of God. Perhaps that confuses more than clarifies my position but I’ll be the first to admit that I have not yet found the clarity that I seek and yet I would rather be where I am now than in the blind certainty of previous years when I thought I had it all figured out but was in fact wearing blinders that made it easier to look straight ahead but caused me to miss out on so much of the beauty of God all around me.

  • I really think that this all comes down to your definition of “ministry”. In reality, there are numerous ministries in the church; some that are designed for men, and others that are more appropriate for women. I don’t think that anyone (here, at least) would say that there’s no room for women in *any* ministry in the church, but perhaps that there are certain ministries that women are more equipped for (both “more equipped for as women” and “more equipped for than men”). Women tend to be more nurturing than men, yes. But they’re more emotional… let’s face it, more vindictive and malicious. Being a woman, I’m not afraid to admit this. I don’t think that emotional, vindictive, or malicious are listed in the qualities that a pastor should have. And I don’t know of a single woman who isn’t, or at least hasn’t at times, been one or all of those things (and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll agree with me. If you don’t, that’s fine, too). Not that men aren’t *ever* any of those things, but men tend to be more level headed and impartial. Anyway, all of that to say what I’ve said already, and that’s that it really boils down to definition of terms.
    I find it interesting to learn that “Spirit” is a feminine noun. It doesn’t surprise me that Wisdom is in Proverbs, though, since it’s widely believed that those first few chapters were written to Solomon from his mother. I don’t know what that has to do with women in ministry, but I did find it interesting, Dylan. Thanks!

  • @Heather
    “I don’t think that emotional, vindictive, or malicious are listed in the qualities that a pastor should have.”

    Those aren’t listed in the qualities that a wife should have either. Does that mean that by your reasoning men make better wives than women? Seriously, I’ve never heard anything more ridiculously sexist than that before. I’m sorry, but just because you are a woman that doesn’t disqualify you from having seriously messed up views of the differences between men and women.

    “And I don’t know of a single woman who isn’t, or at least hasn’t at times, been one or all of those things (and if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll agree with me. If you don’t, that’s fine, too)”

    I don’t know a single person that has never been one or all of those things to some degree or another at least at times. It’s called being human. Seriously.

    “Not that men aren’t *ever* any of those things, but men tend to be more level headed and impartial.”

    I’m not sure where you’re from, but clearly we converse in very different circles of men.

    Sorry, if this comes off as some super-sensitive defensive reaction, it just struck me really odd as I’ve only ever heard one person phrase the differences between men and women quite that way before and it was a man who was also an engineer which he kept bringing up to point out that that made him more analytical than any woman was capable of (apparently they don’t have women engineers where he comes from).

  • @Cindy
    I wasn’t saying that men don’t have flaws–I’ve been married to one for over 7 years, and believe me, he *is* flawed. My point was merely that there are differences between men and women, that God designed us that way. Earlier, someone quoted the verse in Genesis, “male and female, he created them”. We’re *supposed* to be different. I don’t think that women are only emotional, vindictive, and malicious. But they can be. Most aren’t always that way, but there are some that are. And I’m not saying that *only* women can be that way. You’re right, everyone is human, and everyone can be one or all of those things at one time or another; but the fact is that women are more that way. You proved it for me with what you called your “super-sensitive defensive reaction” to my post. And I don’t mean to be offensive to anyone, I’m just stating my opinion, and I don’t pull punches, if you know what I mean.
    “I’m not sure where you’re from, but clearly we converse in very different circles of men.” That’s too bad. I’m from New York, originally, and I don’t think I’ve come in contact with very many men like the ones you seem to have. As for the engineer–he’s an imbecile.

  • A Different Michelle

    I like the cartoon, but @Becky Garrison–You nailed it! I have noted this phenomenon, figuratively speaking, of course, in a number of the men who wholeheartedly believe that men were created to be leaders of the church and the home.

    @Daniel, this page has a list of a scriptures that use feminine imagery for God. I have not double-checked this person’s work so I cannot vouch for it, but I am referring you to this page because I am somewhat familiar with the feminine imagery for God, and want to provide you with a potential resource, yet lack the time right now to do the research on my own.

    Also, may I ask for a clarification? You state, “You are assuming too much here. I said males were a better representation of the relationship of God to man. This has nothing to do with reflecting the image of God we were all created with.”
    If man is not made more in the image of God than woman is, then how does man leading church better represent the relationship of God to man than a woman leading church would?

    @Heather, please share a list of the scriptures that identify which qualities God gave to men and which qualities God gave to women. I know what the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” says, but not only was it poorly researched, but the idea in the title itself, since men and women both originate from God, is unscriptural.

  • I wasn’t suggesting that you were saying that men don’t have flaws Heather. But just because you say that men are such and such and women are such and such, and just because that has been your experience does not make it a universal fact. And if my becoming defensive proved your point then I have to say that you have a very low threshold of proof which I suppose explains why you are so comfortable making such sweeping generalizations based on no more evidence than your percieved experience. No I do not accept that women as a whole are more vindictive than men, nor do I accept that men as a whole are more level-headed and rational than women. Are there differences between men and women? Of course there are. But apart from the biological differences they are at best statistical and as soon as you start to subscribe to these broad generalizations you lose some of your ability to see and treat each man and each woman as an individual. Furthermore, I would dispute that all of these statistical differences in personalities are inate and charecteristic of how we were created. I think if you did a more careful analyis of many of these “differences” between men and women you would find that both the degree of difference and the prevalence for many of them would vary greatly from one culture and time to another as they are largely influenced by our environments and societal attitudes.

    As for the engineer being an imbecile, that seems a bit strong coming from you considering that with the exception of the engineers are more analytical than the rest of society aspect, most of what he said was very much the same as what you are saying.

  • shelly

    Can nobody tell the ‘men’ that Spirit is a feminine noun in Hebrew as is Wisdom in Proverbs. (Dylan)

    The word for “spirit” in French — l’ésprit — is feminine as well, not to mention one of the descriptions of the Holy Spirit is the “comforter”, which is a role often attributed to women.

    Many Christians have faith in Jesus, not faith with Jesus and I’ve always thought the point of Jesus and his ministry and teaching was pointing to a God that could never quite be pinned downed (hence the parables and analogies and such). Most Christianity today is, in my opinion, not a religion that Jesus preached, but a religion made up about Jesus by various authorities, and as the cartoon points out, some still have a lot of issues with gender, sexism, sexuality, power and control. (Tony)

    THIS. *nods* I agree completely.

    And like Gibby, I look forward to day when we’re ALL truly equal.

  • Tony

    I agree with Heather and I’m glad to see that she is not afraid of the left-leaning bullies and their mumbo jumbo…

  • Shelly, Gibby, Tony,

    The scripture never guarantees us equality in ability or equality in position in this world. It does, however, guarantee us equality in the opportunity of salvation and the equality of value. We are all of equal value in God’s eyes.

    Jesus wasn’t sent to earth to make absolutely sure that women could be pastors. He was sent to advance the kingdom of God which is in the hearts of humans. Actually, the scripture is FULFILLED ALREADY that says “there’s neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” We are equal in value and worth and position in the kingdom of God, not in government or the church. There exists no guarantee of equal scope and scale for any institution, compared to the kingdom of God, in the material world of humanity.

  • Great cartoon David!

    At the risk of offending some … My husband has a great question whenever this topic comes up, “Why does having a vaginal disqualify someone from anything?”

  • @Daniel
    I responded to your earlier questions in an earlier post which is was oddly awaiting moderation for some reason, perhaps because it has a link, I don’t know, but it’s up now if you go back. I just wanted to make one small point regarding your latest post:

    I agree with your stance that the scripture is fulfilled in that we are equal in God’s eyes. But does that mean that we should not care if it is ever fulfilled in a practical sense such that the equality innate in Christ is seen and experienced in the real world amongst men? What if we continued to take the stance (as the church did for many years) that while slaves may be equal in Christ they should remain subject to their masters? There is absolutely nothing biblically that mandated us to change that reality as long you are content to say that scripture is fulfilled in Christ as far as equality goes without ever needing to be manifest in this life. Fortunately, as a society, we eventually moved beyond that with slavery and it is now also fulfilled in the practical sense. Society has also largely moved beyond (moreso in some areas than others) racial inequality and the then “equal but different mantra” that was chanted for many years. Sadly, the church was not leading the way in this but rather trailing far beyond society. And now we are slowly seeing the same with the male/female divide. Again, sadly, the church is trailing far beyond society in equality for women, though we have come a long way from the women as property upheld in the Old Testament and still prevalent in many other parts of the world today. My questions is, why must the church always be the ones trailing behind in all matters of equality if we truly recognize that we are all equal in God’s eyes? Something to think about…

  • Kim

    and the disabled, poor, non white, ill educated…I just blogged about that today as I was at a conference where we were talking about how to reach unreached groups or sections of society, but we don’t let anyone else in to play. I think we need to hear a much wider range of voices and dismantle our power structures.

  • Darrin

    Hilarious Dave! It takes balls to put this one up! (and not overlooking the fact that I wouldn’t know how to say that if you were a woman!) 🙂

  • thanks darrin. glad you appreciate it. and thanks everyone for your comments. i’ve had a busy day at the school so i haven’t been around much today.

  • MLE

    nakedpastor said:
    The problem isn’t “when will the power-brokers relax the rules?“. The problem is “who are the power-brokers?“

    Thank you! We’ve seen what happens when us women, and like-minded men, passively wait for the power-brokers to relinquish power. NOTHING. How often do those in power (in any situation) willingly share that power? Yeah, not often. That’s why it’s imperative to kick up a stink, question prejudice, and be courageous in our ministry.

    The oppression of women in general is very much a peace and justice issue. It’s embarrassing when the church perpetuates systemic issues rather than fighting them.

  • i agree MLE. it’s not the presenting problem. like an illness, it’s just a symptom. what’s causing the problem? that’s the more serious and disturbing question.

  • Cindy,

    Ha ha…very good. :D.

    On a serious note, the instinct to take care of people is great, but not at the expense of the gospel. Too many women place taking care of people, not offending people, being tolerant of other religions, etc., OVER and above the proclamation of God’s law and His gospel.

    That, IMO, is not a good thing.

  • steve: about your “serious note”… men are guilty of the same you accuse “too many women” of.

  • faithlessinfatima

    It appears to me and so Sad-u-cee

    That the old Phar-i-see

    Is the new Phallus-ee.

  • Yes, David, that is true.

    But in denominations that have women clergy, that denomination almost always (maybe always) lurches left.

    I believe leftward is not a good direction for the reasons I stated in my previous comment.

    The goal is (should be) to remain non-political, and Christ centered, not political and human centered.

  • Ian

    On many occasions Steve I don’t get where you are coming from – surely the gospel is about taking care of people.

  • Ian,

    No, not really. The gospel is about Jesus forgiving sinners. Taking care of people is (should be) the concern of all of humanity, no matter if we are Christians, or not. There is nothing inherently Christian about taking care of people.

    The #1 job of the church is to proclaim Christ. And for many liberal churches this is way down the line, if it is still there at all.

  • MLE

    I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a denomination that isn’t political.

  • A Different Michelle

    @Daniel & @Heather:
    Please don’t miss my comments and questions in one of the earlier posts. It was moderated because it contained a link.

  • MLE,

    Our denomination is VERY political, but our congregation is NOT.

    We are concerned with Christ and His gospel. Outside of the sanctuary, we are free to engage in whatever political causes we will.

    Our congregation is made up fairly evenly between liberals and conservatives. (I know because I have been there 13 years and know just about everyone well enough to know their politics)

  • This 30 second read:

    expresses our congregation’s philosophy on political gospels.

  • Ian


    I was taken aback by your comment that above but I see my problem – I’ll just get my black Texta out cross out James 1:27. Fixed now.

  • I’d like to cross out a lot of what James says. Not because the things he mentions aren’t things we ought not be doing, but because he places on emphasis on works rather than an emphasis on what Christ has done.

    Then you end up with Christians trusting in what THEY have done, rather than what Christ has done.

    That is the main reason Luther called the book of James the “epistle of straw”.

  • Kim

    odd how in the Gospels some people did ‘see’ what the parables were about and some didn’t. And today.

  • Ian


    thanks for confirming my suspicions – so you do pick and choose verses (and in this case a whole book) on what to believe and what not to.

    I have a problem though. I keep looking for the book or letter of Luther in the table of contents of the Bible I have here – darn just can’t find it. What version are you using?

  • At first I was just curious why you called this blog nakedpastor. So you are a cartoonist. Thanks for the cartoons. They are funny and instructive.

    As for women in the ministry the objection is rather theoretical. Women have been in the ministry as far back as Deborah and beyond. We will always have women ministers.

  • thanks Jose!

  • Cindy,

    Sorry I didn’t respond quickly, I had a couple interviews to attend.

    The image of God that we bear deals with our value and our essential makeup consisting of body, soul, and spirit. We have a three in one essence which mirrors the image of God in the trinity. Gender is not a consideration when we talk about the image of God.

    Now, when I talk about the relationship between God and man, I’m referring to how he relates to us. And, time and time again in the scriptures, he describes his relationship as a male to a female. Most of the description is overwhelmingly from a male perspective. Another description is one of a parent to a child. And yet again, much of the qualities found in the Spirit are naturally found in the female motherly role. All this imagery illustrates the trinity of the family, just as God the Father relates to the Son and the Spirit. Both the Son and the Spirit recognize God the Father’s role and they are in subjection to that role. Basically, God is a relational being within himself and that “community” is illustrated in the family and in the essence of every human.

    Although God is neither male nor female, I can only conclude that God thinks that we can relate to him best as we relate to a male. I think this not because males have a penis, but because of the roles given to the different parts of the trinity of human essence, the trinity of the family, and the trinity of God.

    In relations, we all play a role where we can best relate to one another. The child cannot best relate to a mother while acting like his mother’s mother. Moreover, it is in our subjection to one another and our acceptance of each other’s roles that harmony can exist within the respective trinities.

    With all this is mind, when a women takes the role of the pastor I would not necessarily call it wrong, just not ideal. We relate best to God as we relate to a male and therefore God’s bride the church best relates to the male head of the church, but only as long as the male is focused on his responsibility of care for the church. Any deviation from that and abuse will occur.

  • Christine

    Steve –

    Churches have women clergy because they are left-leaning (right-leaning ones tend not to admit them because the right tends not to believe in equality for women) – they are not left-leaning because they have women clergy (not all women lean left – as this blog often demonstrates).

    And you do seem political – you criticize anyone or anything on the left, but have not at all been critical of the right. This seems to betray your own political allegiances, even if you claim you don’t have one. (Generally people don’t acknowledge their biases as biases.)

    And it’s not just James – it’s Jesus. “Whatever you do for the least of these…” Jesus’ whole ministry between baptism and the cross (something I’ve mentioned before that you seem to ignore) is mostly about caring for people and is focused on compassion. And then for you to say there is nothing specific to Christianity about helping people? What Christ is your Christianity about?

    And I have to disagree that the gospel isn’t political (although I fully acknowledge that it doesn’t fit into our modern right-left spectrum). Jesus challenged the status quo and, as demonstrated at His trial, the religious authorities he rebuked were also the political authorities. Jesus demonstrates that if politics involves religion and persecution, than we must confront that.

  • Christine

    Daniel – “We relate best to God as we relate to a male.”

    Wow. Misogyny at it’s worst.

    And you based this solely on the fact that there are more (or you are more familiar with!)analogies of God as a male.

    First, this is a skewed perspective. Chuches highlight the male analogies more because they are run by men. The description is not “overwhelmingly from a male perspective”.

    Second, would that really matter? Think about it. You acknowledge that those analogies do not mean that God has a gender. So, the purpose of the analogies is not to establigh the gender of God, it is to explain how God behaves. If a specific woman and a specific man behave that way, then the analogy applies equally to each of them, as the sole purpose of the analogy is to indicate behaviour.

    (Some behaviours would have been difficult to demonstrate using a female perspective *at that time* because gender roles were more rigid *in those cultures*. If Jesus were here today, those analogies wouldn’t need to be as gender-specific – whether male or female – for us to get their meaning.)

    What we can’t forget is that these analogies were chosen in order to explain things that are constant (God’s character, God’s love for the church) in ways that people in those cultures would understyand (gendered relationships).

    The gender part is NOT the eternal part. It is the cultural, temporal part.

    When Song of Songs, for instance, uses metaphors for body parts (stone pillars, fawns, flowers) it is using analogies that make sense that the time. It doesn’t mean that we can eternal relate to those body parts best when we relate to actual stones pillar, flora and fauna.

    But that is exactly what you are sayign when you say we relate best to God as we relate to a male. You are making the analogy, the representation for illustrative purposes only, more important than the thing it is meant to represent.

  • Daniel: I’m trying to wrap my mind around what you wrote also. If you claim “Most of the description is overwhelmingly from a male perspective,” did you consider the fact that in a male-dominated culture and society of course this would be true?

  • The main problem I see with your assessment Daniel is that it completely ignores the context in which these scriptures were written. Of course the majority of scripture invokes imagery of God as father or husband. How else could God have possibly related to the people of that day? We are talking about a time where women were viewed as property; owned by their fathers until such time that the father agreed to sell the daughter to a man when she would then be owned by her husband. The fact that any female imagery of God made it into the picture is actually pretty astounding considering the culture of the day and I think that speaks volumes as to God’s very real desire to relate to all of us without these self-imposed barriers that too many continue to cling to even to this day.

    And I will say this again, as you have still failed to address it, if you choose to treat the scriptures as timeless, willfully ignoring the context of the culture in which they were written, then you should at least be consistent in that. At present you are not. Please tell me why slavery (as just one example) in scripture does not receive the same treatment that you give to the patriarchal model presented in scripture. I am not asking you this to push your buttons or upset you, but rather to get you to give some serious consideration to the inconsistency of your approach.

    I believe that God related to people on the level that they could receive and still continues to do so today. I do not believe that that excuses us from continually growing in our ability to relate to God and all of his incredibly diverse creation. There are times to play with the hand you are dealt and work within the system you find yourself, but there are also times to push the boundaries and stretch beyond your comfort zone all the while working towards the ideal that we might all (man/woman, jew/greek, slave/free, black/white, rich/poor) be one with no divisions.

    To me no biblical writer demonstrates this dichotomy better than Paul, who, as a result, can seem very contradictory at times. There are times when he was very pragmatic and worked within the system he was in and urged others to do the same. But there are other times he was very idealistic and progressive much to the chagrin of the establishment of his day (even the Christian establishment if I may call them that). Despite his pragmatism at times, I think he made the ideal very clear and that can be summed up in his famous line that there is no longer Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male and female. Did you know that the oldest manuscripts we have indicate that the male/female dichotomy in that passage was written different than the others. Properly translate it did say there is no longer male AND female, but many translations have chosen to change it to male NOR female because they assume it is an error because it is not grammatically correct and is inconsistent with the rest of the passage. I don’t think it was a mistake at all. I think Paul was making a clear allusion back to Genesis and that it makes a stronger statement to say that we are no longer male and female. We are now all the same. The old divisions no longer apply. And I believe that eventually we will see all those divisions fall away and truly achieve the unity that Jesus prayed for us to experience in practice and not merely in a spiritual detached sense. We have come a long way in that progression since Paul’s day, but we still have a very long way to go. What saddens me is that the church, which should be leading the way in that regard, proves itself again and again to be the greatest stumbling block to that unity.

  • Nakedpastor,

    I just don’t read the Bible like any other book in history. I read it as the source of truth and authority. If you think that the cultures of the past have distorted the Bible, then feel free to reject what I said. I just don’t put such a high priority on aligning my thinking to this modern time or any time in history. But, if you think that truth is found in the scripture, then use the scripture to debunk what I said.

  • Daniel: “I just don’t put such a high priority on aligning my thinking to this modern time or any time in history.”

    You have completely deceived yourself if you believe that my friend. You in fact place an extremely high (an unhealthy) priority on aligning your thinking to a specific time in history. It just isn’t the modern time, but rather the time span in which the bible was written. And you have so blinded yourself that you cannot even see the changes occurring over that time span.

  • Cindy,

    Why would I necessarily have to confine myself to thinking like the cultures found in the Bible. The prophets were constantly challenging their societies to turn from their wicked ways and follow the ways of the Lord. Jesus challenged the religious leaders of his day too.

    In fact, it seems that God meets the cultures where they are at and nudges them in the right direction. God is an accommodationist. Slavery might not be the ideal, but God still provided rules that would provide for better treatment of slaves. Those laws also provided for the eventual termination of that practice. In the same way, the anti-slavery movement before the civil war was a religious movement meant to better society. God accommodates us too. He meets us where we are at and brings us to himself without requiring a change first. He then puts his laws into our hearts do that we eventually work toward the ideal. God accommodates the evil in this world too, choosing to delay the eradication of evil in order to allow evil people to be brought to him.

    The truths contained in the Bible are constantly bucking up against the cultures of its day and the cultures of this day. To view it in light of modern culture makes the truths contained within change to fit the agenda of the day. Which makes it not really truth at all. Allow yourself to change instead.

  • Daniel,

    It truly boggles my mind that you can say all that and still remain completely blind to the double standard that you employ when dealing with gender issues and the bible. You can see the progressiveness in dealing with slavery that would eventually lead to its demise long after the fact, but you remain blind to the same progressiveness when it comes to gender equality and insist that we should progress no further than where we were at say in New Testament times. I don’t know where the difference lies. Perhaps it is because you are a man but you’ve never been a slave master, so one is personal and the other is isn’t. I’m not sure but it really does boggle my mind.

  • If it weren’t for women in leadership in my denomination (Lutheran), we’d have sunk a long time ago. Most candidates for ministry in our seminaries are women. That said, I know it continues to be a struggle for women particularly when it comes to receiving subsequent calls.

    I did my undergrad at a fundamentalist bible college (Moody Bible Institute) and remember bristling at the rules against women becoming student president or preaching in chapel. They could “share” but preach? Hell no! Crazy #%@!

  • A Different Michelle

    How is it that an inspired woman could write scripture (e.g., Mary’s song), and an inspired woman could determine for both a king and a high priest whether something is scripture (e.g., the prophet Huldah in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34)–or at least could do these things in the time of the Old Testament–but an inspired woman cannot now teach about God?

  • Johnfom

    It occurred to me that the ‘We relate best to God as we relate to a male’ debate is perhaps moot as one who is in the position of mediating the relationship is surely a priest… a position we apparently have no need for since the incarnation.

    Having said that I’d suggest that the fact that Jesus, THE priest, is male bears out, in part (but not all pervadingly), a qualified conclusion that ‘God thinks that we can relate to him best as we relate to a male’ in that Jesus is the male that we relate to God through. So not ‘any male’, but the particular male, who is Jesus.

    With that in mind, the prophetess as God’s voice, as judge, as apostle, as leader has precedence in the scriptural history of God’s people as far back as at least Judges and as recently Acts, to saying nothing of those who have been recognised as particular saints since then (although I’m not RC I don’t deny there are people worthy of particular honour).

    To my mind, if one is looking for a priest, then sure, restrict it to males (although that is still a debatable restriction), but if one recognises Jesus as the one and only priest (1 Tim 2:5*), there is no debate, and excuse for exclusion.

    *I love the irony of that verse being in a letter to and from the same people as the main proof text used for exclusion of females.

  • Johnfom

    ‘there is no debate, and excuse for exclusion.’

    Should be ‘NO excuse’

  • Ian,

    There’s law and gospel in that book. We use the law to accuse and condemn (because no one can keep it) and the gospel to liberate and bring forgiveness and new life.

    I know this is probably new stuff for you. You should read a bit of Luther to see what I mean. read some of his commentary on Galatians. Good stuff. Best he ever wrote in my opinion.

  • Ian

    It’s cool Steve. The arguments between works and faith are well known to me – my roots were in a fundamentalist denomination some 40+ years ago.

  • Cindy,

    I can’t ignore the form and structure of the church and the family indicated in the scripture. I also can’t ignore how God changed the form and structure for the family after the fall. And no, the form indicated is not ideal modeled in the Garden of Eden, but God chose to change it. I think he did it to give us some hard lessons. And, I do not see any indication of a future change in this form in the New Testament until we get to heaven, especially when the earthly model is reinforced. “The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” These instructions are superimposed over the cultures, not originating from them. Moreover, the form and structure of the trinity is reflected in the indicated form and structure of the church and family. I can safely say that God is not reflected in slavery which is why I don’t treat it the same as I treat the family and church. In our fallen states, the Bible has given us a form to follow. Once we leave this world, that form (as far as I can tell) no longer applies.

  • Was thinking about this the other day.
    Should we men allow women into “ministry” or should we seek to move beyond our understanding of laity and Priesthood and look for an alternative.
    What we’re are ultimately discussing here is the even distribution of power.
    I just can’t see a priesthood / ministry as we have currently modelled in the NT…only a priesthood of believers. All equal, male/female, slave/free, Jew/Greek…
    All are called to ministry through all walks of life.
    I think the “ministry” is a red herring.

  • For anyone to state that the Bible is not misogynistic is a real stretch. Since Christianity is based on the Bible, it is inconceivable how one can reconcile progressive attitudes towards gender equality with what is written in scripture without being an extreme semantic acrobat and moral contortionist.

  • Christine

    So, Daniel, here is where you give us the bait and switch.

    You began talking about the essential nature of God, how God’s relationship to us is mirrored more in (any) man than (any) woman, regardless of the gender of the person in question. This was an existential eternal question.

    When that fell through, you promptly switched gears. Now, you are telling us that it’s about the “proper order” of temporal, natural things here in this world (family, church) which, as far as you know, will cease when we get to heaven.

    These seem to me not only to be different arguments, but inherently contradictory ones.

    Let me start by saying that your claim that your reasoning couldn’t apply to slavery is ludicrous. People claimed for centuries that there was a God-given hierarchy of races, a “proper order” to the species in exactly the same way you claim it for family and church. I don’t think the distinction between the issues is as biblical as you would like to believe.

    Second, let me say that, if we go with your second argument, then we could say that we agree that all distinctions are not the ideal, but just disagree on when we should see, want to see, or start to see those distinctions disappear. On that point Jesus talks about the kingdom of God / kingdom of heaven coming even before his death and resurrection. The manifestation of the increased inclusion starts immediately with the gentiles being included among the people of God. Waiting until heaven to bring about God’s kingdom, including the gender equality alluded to by Paul, ignores Jesus’ ministry. The Fall begins to end with Jesus, and the more it ends, and the faster, the better.

    But what I really think is going on is that you have a sense of what you believe is right and you’ve learned (as we all have, because we were taught to) to use the Bible, intentionally or not, to shore up that position.

    So, you’ve seen families and churches with hierarchies, and you don’t know how it could work any other way (just as many knew no other way but to have slaves).

    But you see the injustice in that – how arbitrary it is to deny women certain rights or positions or opportunities (with men being denied nothing) and figure there must be a good reason (because you’re a good guy). And that image of God, relating to God crap seemed to make enough sense out of it.

    But really you believe in the image part because of the hierarchy part, and not the other way around. Because the first would exist without the second, and likely the second would not without the first.

    Because here’s the thing: even with the “head of the wife” bit (what I’m sure we can agree is the most solid verse to back you up) you are missing the point and mistaking the analogy, meant to illustrate only, as the thing itself.

    That passage was not advocating that men be in charge in the family – they were already, in every instance. It was a cultural absolute; Paul would not have needed to say this. Paul is using the analogy of Christ and the church to illustrate that authority can be loving and self-sacrificing – and that submitting to it does not have to be humiliating and devaluing (I think we agree this is the crux of the message). But really the idea of *who* should be in charge is not even under consideration, but merely taken as a given. What’s at stake is actually the how. How (ask the women, I image) are we expected to endure our situation, when we are equal in Christ? The same question asked by the slaves. And the get the same answer as the slaves.

    If we discovered a lost matriarchal society tomorrow, I think the proper interpretation of the passage for them would be to have wives be head of their husbands the way Christ is head of the church, because that is the situation (the not ideal situation of power and control and hierarchy and distinction) that they have to live with (at that moment). Trying to make their society male-dominated would create chaos – the exact kind Paul is actually trying to avoid by giving these instructions in the first place.

    But here’s a test – We know that Paul is sending mixed messages. IF he wanted to send a signal that men should be in charge always, the more progressive the society, the more liberated their women, the more such instructions and warnings would be required. One the other hand, IF he was trying to be practical in not creating too much upheaval but ultimately thought there should be no distinction between men and women in this life, it would be in the more repressive conditions that he would talk about the “proper” relationship between women and men to improve their lot as much as seemed feasible. With me so far?

    So, what do we actually see. Well, the most “sexist” (from a modern perspective) passages are to Greek cities (Timothy, Corinthians), while the most inclusive language, with no such sexist sentiment is found in the letter to the Romans. Now the divide between Greece and Rome on the place of women at the time was quite pronounced. Women in Greece could barely go out in public on their own and had their social lives nearly entirely separated from men. On the other hand, Rome was experiencing a sort of proto-feminist movement at the time, with women participating more in social, public and political life.

    Now, you tell me – if Paul’s message was that, in the natural order, men are on top, why encourage the Roman women in this manner? And if the Greeks had it right on hierarchy, why spend so much time harping on it to them? You see what I’m getting at here? Paul is most concerned with giving instructions on gender roles in places where women are being subjugated and seems entirely unconcerned, even sympathetic to their increasing power when it happens on its own.

    Paul seems almost an extremely pragmatic proto-feminist himself. At a minimum, it seems the only thing at issue was how already-existing power structures were to be used (or, more precisely, not abused) than about trying to ensure the status quo.

  • Being limited to a position or a role, even a submissive one, is not contradictory to equality. I will give you three supporting reasons.

    1. Equality with limited position is modeled for us in the Scripture.

    2. For two powers to progress in the decision making process, one must be dominant and the other submissive.

    3. We are not excluded from the curse of the fall which provided a form for the family to follow.

    First, let me give two examples of equality with limited positions. Jesus stated that he was equal with God the Father. Jesus “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God” and “took upon him the form of a servant”. He also stated, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” Equality with a limited submissive role is modeled for us in the trinity. This does not only apply to while Jesus was on earth. Paul that there is a future time for Jesus “when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him.” Jesus and God the Father are equal and all in one, they just have different functions related to their respective positions or roles.

    Another example is the conflict that is within us daily to deny the flesh and mind the things of the spirit. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” And again “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” This obviously doesn’t just have to do with the flesh we call our arms and legs and such. It involves our mind, will, and emotions which comprise the soul. We have a fight within us for control in decision making between the soul (called the flesh) and the spirit. Both are equal in value and necessary for our existence, but they have different functions. The soul (mind, will, emotions) should willingly be subject to the spirit “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” This is another example of equality with limited positions and roles.

    We can gather from the previous examples a theme of dominant and submissive. This supports the next point that for two powers to progress in the decision making process, one must be dominant and the other submissive. Our Constitution says “all men are created equal” yet it also designates that one man gets to the President. Both are true. I am equal to the President in worth and in personhood. But I don’t sign bills into law. That’s his job, not mine. We’re both subject to the law of the land and natural law, but they don’t call me Mr. President. Compare the president with the chief of staff of the Army. The President says “Let’s invade Iraq” and the chief of staff has the responsibility and the power to go make that happen, but he’s bounded by the decisions of the President. There’s a good reason for that. If the general decided to do whatever he wanted and went and invaded Mexico instead, the whole country would fall apart.

    Equality cannot practically work with two dominant roles or positions. Consider the following: We could have a country with two Presidents with equal power, but everything would not work fine. Imagine George W. Bush and Barack Obama are President at the same time, both with equal ability to appoint, to declare war, and to sign bills into law. How long before anarchy sets in, or civil war? This is not how a home can be run with husband and wife as equally responsible. Just as the President was given authority for a reason, the dominant person in the marriage is given authority for a reason, and that is to take responsibility and care. Authority for the sake of authority is abuse. Somebody has to say “I’m the one who will take the hit if this goes wrong.” –or- “I’m going to take this job and it’s going to be my fault if it turns out to be a bad idea. I won’t blame you because you’re not responsible.”

    Think of the marriage team as two super powers. If two leaders always agree then one of them is irrelevant in any social dynamic. They may come to a consensus on some decisions, but they will not always agree. An efficient decision making relationship decides beforehand who has the final say or anarchy and civil war will ensue. Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

    Finally, now that we’ve established that a dominant/submissive relationship is needed for efficient decision making, and indeed for peace itself, why think that the man should be the head of the household? Women are just as capable as men and just as equal. Setting aside the scriptures supporting male dominance, why not turn to the ideal found in the garden? Here’s why not: We are indeed free from the curse of the law, but we are not free from the curse of the fall. In Genesis 3, the conditions of the curse are listed. (1) Sorrow in childbirth (2) the woman’s desire is her husband’s responsibility (again, authority for the sake of authority is abuse and God is not abusive) (3) the ground is cursed to bring thorns and thistles so that man’s toil in caring for his family is overly laborsome (4) as a result, sweat (hard work) is now necessary just to eat. Now, if we are free from the “husband is the head of the wife” factor of the curse, as some fallaciously suggest, why are all the other factors still in play? Thorns and thistles still grow in the ground, childbirth is still full of sorrow, and it takes hard work to eat (even if we pay someone else to do the hard work). Christians are just as subject to the curse as the rest of the world is, and there is no reason to think that one of the factors is lifted when none other factors are lifted.

    I hope we can see that equality and limited positions or roles go hand in hand, and are not contradictory.

  • Ian

    My goodness. What a tortured piece of logic! You have picked a very thin slice of reality to support your dominant / submission power relationship dynamic which underpins the rest of the argument. There are other paradigms for shared power relationships and even those which eschew power as the primary dynamic – ever heard of love?

    Here in my home state our parliament is currently composed of two parties – labour & greens. Each separate entities but share a consensus of opinion in order to obtain the numbers for a majority.

    Personally I don’t need the Bible to tell me what is essentially a human rights issue but take a look at a classic example from 1 Corinthians 12. How many sermons, books, articles, etc have you heard on the church as the body or on spiritual gifts and how some have precedence over others. I’ve heard 100’s. Then read verse 31 “And now I will show you a way that is beyond comparison” which effectively makes anything preceding it redundant – in a word useless. Paul then goes on to talk about the way of love.

    So sorry, but I think your example is flawed and that there is a better way.

  • daniel: marriage as two super-powers? better just to have one super-power? your argument falls when it comes to love i think. love overcomes your categories.

  • Really Daniel, I don’t know what kind of marriage you have, but my wife and I do not need one of us to have veto power over the other in order for our family to function. That’s ridiculous. Love my friend, as Ian pointed out above, is a much better way! When a family functions like a government, it’s not a good thing. Likewise for a church, though that is sadly how most churches are structured these days, much to their own detriment.

  • Christine

    Wow, Daniel. I feel sad for you.

    I don’t dispute that equality and different levels of authority can and often do coexist (and your example of governments illustrates only that we have set up certain human institutions that need this dynamic to function). But I (and clearly others) strongly dispute that it is the *only* way to function, and I would go as far as to say that it is not at all the most suitable model for a family (and thank God our current social circumstances make it unnecessary).

    (On a side note, I think you are reading too much into that fall bit. 1. It says a woman’s desire will be to her husband, not his authority – and demonstrably women do not always desire their husbands, or their authority. 2. The point of the passage is to explain the division of roles between men in society – something, again, that has been essentially undone it a significant portion of the world. 3. Jesus is spoken of as the second Adam, reversing in his physical death humanity’s spiritual death – so there is a sense that the fall is also being undone in Jesus, but that this is coming into fruition gradually, in the sense that the kingdom of God coming both has come and is coming – so a gradual progression away from the curse of the fall should actually be the expectation. 4. To demonstrate that further we have increasing control over vegetation (including thorns and thistle), are decreasing the amount a labour needed to produce a particular quantity of food, and developing medical treatments to reduce the pain of childbirth – all through technology, humanity’s increasing mastery over our environment. I, particularly, don’t believe that is essential to demonstrate the point, but you seemed to think it was important, so I thought I’d point out the progression away from the curse of the fall in these areas as well, in case you find that that really is a significant indicator.)

    I guess what I’m also missing is why what you are advocating isn’t authority for it’s own sake. If women are equally capable, as you admit, how is it not arbitrary that they are always the ones in submission? (Unless you are saying that you are not being arbitrary, but that God was and is being arbitrary, but that somehow God doesn’t have to be as moral as the rest of us.)

    But I guess here is the biggest question: You think someone has to be in charge for a relationship to work. Doesn’t the fact that so many people have well functioning relationship where there is an equal distribution of authority just completely decimate that idea all on its own? How do you explain the success others have had with other models? Or do you just think we are all lying through our teeth just to make you angry?