Since feminism is all of a sudden a hot topic here, I thought I should post a sample from my little book entitled Why Ministers Must Be Men. Since I am waiting for someone at the airport, I will have to include the cover photo and link later on.
Begin with the Background
Any discussion of women’s ordination will obviously revolve around the direct Pauline statements on the subject, and we will certainly spend the lion’s share of our space there. But the Pauline instructions were not delivered in a vacuum, and when he makes his appeals outside his immediate situation, he makes those appeals to the Old Testament, grounding his appeals in both the history recorded there and the law given there. It is a commonplace among feminists that the Bible is a patriarchal book, and this is usually said like it is a bad thing. Value judgments aside, this would seem to be correct. The patriarchs of Israel are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all men. Jacob, renamed as Israel, had twelve sons who became the progenitors of the twelve tribes. In the entire history of Israel, there was only one queen who ruled apart from a king, and she was a usurper and a tyrant (2 Kings 11:1). From Aaron, the first high priest in Israel, down to the last priest when the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., all were men. There were a number of prophetesses, who will be discussed in detail later, but Deborah was the one who also ruled in a civil capacity, and she appears to have done so in her capacity as a prophetess (Judg. 4:4). The general assumption was that women ruling was a sign of judgment (Is. 3:12).
When Jesus came to establish the new Israel, He did so by gathering twelve disciples around Himself (Luke 6:13), clearly declaring that He was reorganizing Israel, reconstituting it, and He did this by appointing twelve men. This is not because there were no available women—He had influential and talented women that He could have picked, but He did not (Luke 8:3). If it was time to overhaul Israel (and it was), why did Jesus not include women in the company of apostles? So when Jesus set Himself to establish Israel again, gathering a new Israel and organizing it around Himself, He picked twelve apostles, all of them men. Just as Moses had the Tabernacle at the center of the camp, with the tribes encamped around, so the Lord took the place of that Tabernacle and gathered His disciples around. The new twelve tribes had masculine leadership, just as they always had. If the new covenant was going to be the time to make a decided break with the old, outmoded patriarchal ways, this would have been a good time to do it. But Jesus did not—why?
The fact there were no priestesses in Israel (and no women apostles) incidentally answers a common objection on this subject, and does so in passing. It is very easy for objectors to say that the reason Christian women were not allowed to become religious ministers back in the “olden time” was because the position of women in society back then would have made the Christian faith disreputable to outsiders if women were allowed to function in this way. Inside the Church, the truth of emancipation was acknowledged (Gal. 3:27-29), but for the sake of evangelizing outsiders, adjustments were made for the time being. Now that we all know better, it is safe for Christians to come out and say what we really thought all along.
The problem with this argument is that it is actually the reverse of the truth. The Christian Church did not have to exclude women in order to fit right in. Excluding women from the ministry was the odd thing to do. The ancient world was crawling with priestesses, and if the Christians had admitted women into their ministry no one would have raised an eyebrow. But the Church took the counter-cultural route, and did something that made them stand out—which is, incidentally, what we are being called to do. It is not that the early church made an accommodation that we in modern times don’t have to make. Rather, the early church refused to make the same accommodation that we are being pressured to make. In short, the early Church was not blending on this issue, it was standing out.
There will be more on this later, but our neo-pagan age is at home with the Great Mother, just as ancient paganism was. And there is no way to reject this resurgent paganism without rejecting the principal form that it takes, which is that of feminine ministry.
Camille Paglia has a skewed view of a lot of things, but there are some things she sees quite clearly.
“The book of Genesis is a male declaration of independence from the ancient mother-cults. Its challenge to nature, so sexist to modern ears, marks one of the crucial moments in western history . . . The mother-cults, by reconciling man to nature, entrapped him in matter”2
If ancient Israel had priestesses, that would not have proven a stumbling block to others. If Jesus had selected some women for the apostolic ranks, that would have “helped” evangelism, and would not have hindered it at all. And yet He refrained. When the prophet Isaiah predicts the day when the Levitical ministry will be carried over into the new covenant, he does so by assuming continuity in the sexual limitation. Gentiles will become priests, but no Gentile women become priestesses.
“And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord” (Is 66:19-21).
The specific background of Paul’s teaching leads us to conclude that women may not be ministers. It is possible to marshal general texts in order to make your own specific applications, but this will not do either. For example, take the common tries to argue from the position that women have as full members of the body of Christ.
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:27-29).
This glorious statement is not addressing the question of church government at all, or social relations within the Church, or marital, but is rather addressing the question of salvation in Christ. At issue is baptism, not ordination. There are no barriers that will keep a man from Christ, or a woman. Slaves can come to be baptized, as can their masters. Jews and Gentiles together rejoice that the middle wall of partition has been torn down. We all have fellowship in Christ Jesus, and are heirs of the promise given to Abraham, the promise of salvation. So if this passage is taken, as it frequently is, and made to apply to a question like women’s ordination, we find that it proves far too much.
Not only may we have women preaching, but we may also have women marrying women and men marrying men (so long as they are in Christ) because in Christ all such distinctions are abolished, and we are required to ignore those distinctions whenever somebody tries to bring them up in any setting. Now we live in difficult times, and I am hesitant to argue a reductio like this for fear that somebody is going to think it a grand argument and cite me in a footnote. So before we can let that happen, we should move on to make our position absolutely clear.