Prodigal Thought chides me and a few other complementards for missing the main point of N.T. Wright’s piece on women’s ordination, which was the fact that the resurrection was absolutely transformative when it comes to issues like Jew/Gentile, slave/free, or male and female. The issues about Mary Magdalene, Junia, and Phoebe were side issues. What are we to make of the glorious fact that Jesus Christ remade everything by coming back from the dead?
Well, He didn’t quite remake everything, did he? We still have bishops in pointy hats up front, and plebes in the pews out behind the third stone pillar, craning their necks to hear. It seems that resurrection power might not be all that.
This is not a gratuitous jab at prelacy. Anglican ecclesiology illustrates a point in high relief, a point that could be just as clearly made by pointing to the government of my own church. If all Christian ministry begins with witnessing to the resurrection, as Wright maintains, then what is with ordination? What is that about? Can an unlearned man be a witness of the resurrection? Sure. Should an unlearned man be ordained to the ministry. No. Did the man born blind testify more powerful to Jesus Christ than the whole bench of bishops (Jn. 9:25)? He sure did. Should that man have been made a pastor in the early church? No idea. There are other factors that would have to be taken into account.
Ordination is an act of government, and it is an act that involves criteria other than the rudimentary confession that all Christians must make, which is that Jesus rose from the dead.
Wright says, “All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead.” Well, okay. But telling us where Christian ministry begins is not the same thing as telling us what Christian ministry is. All ministers should be baptized, but not all the baptized should be ministers. All bishops should be faithful witnesses to the power of the resurrection, but not all faithful witnesses to the power of the resurrection should be bishops.
More than that. If you rounded up all the faithful Anglican women in the world, those who would testify robustly to their faith in the resurrection, not leaving out the Nigerians, you would have a collection of women who would laugh in your face if you offered them a bishopric. And flipping it around, if you rounded up all the Anglican women who would kind of like to be a bishop one day, you would have a bunch of Sadducean ladies who were more than a little wobbly on whether things like resurrection can actually happen.
The reason for this is that broad, expansive, set-the-world-free principles like the resurrection of Jesus are principles that require guidance and direction. It is like the command to love. Sounds grand, but what does it mean actually? The impulse of love requires the definitions of the law. The impulse of new life requires apostolic guidance, which is why we have a bunch of the New Testament. The fact that Jesus rose does not make it okay for a Corinthian lady to let her hair down, shake it all out, prophesy like she was the Delphic oracle, thereby embarrassing her husband Casper. So Paul tells her not to do that. Cool it. Put a sock in it (1 Cor. 14:34).
But, but, the resurrection . . .
Look. I grant that the power of the resurrection, and the new world Jesus created, could have meant what the egalitarians say Gal.3:28 means. That is possible. It is God’s world, and He has every right to remake it however He wants. But when we head out to check our thesis, we run spang into passages like 1 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Cor. 14:34. Huh, some folks say. Must not mean that.
But others, intent on testifying to the power of the resurrection that is so powerfully and obviously at work in the women of the modern feminist movement, say that we must plunge those troublesome verses into the murk of exegetical confustication. We need some serious scholarship to work these babies over.