There are five main arguments against the ordination of woman:

  1. Women cannot represent the fullness of Christ in so much as they are female.
  2. Woman do not have the natural ability to teach and lead.
  3. Church tradition has been against female ordination
  4. Women are subordinate to men, as such are barred from ordained ministry.
  5. The argument of silence.[1]

These arguments, which I intend to show in error, must be put to the test of scripture. Each one must stand on its own merit in light of the ultimate Christian authority, The Holy Bible. It is my belief that not one of these will pass such a litmus test. Let us take each argument one by one.

The first argument is that by being female women cannot represent the fullness of Christ. John R. Sheets supports this reasoning, arguing,

“The anamnesis of the person-event, that is to say, the representation of the saving event through sacramental sign, demands a congruence in the psycho-somatic-pneumatic identity between the person of Christ in his event-full act of making a gift of himself through the paschal mystery, and the psychosomatic identity of the minister who makes present through sacramental sign the unique act of Christ. In other words, the minister has to be a man.”[2]

According to Sheets, the Jewish view of a person differed from that of the New Testament view in a substantial way. This difference was based on the Jewish perception that mind, body and soul were seen as the encompassing of the whole person, i.e. “pyscho-pnuematic-identity.” This is in contrast to the New Testament view of a separate body and soul. This Jewish view, he claims, is the view that Jesus would have been using when giving his discourses on “sacraments” such as communion and baptism. Since, he argues, that the ordained minister must represent Christ’s whole being in delivering such sacraments, ordination must necessarily be limited to men.

The problem with representation argument is that it does not take the whole of scripture into account. Let’s suppose for a minute that Sheets claim is valid. How is one supposed to apply the Biblical teaching of marriage to the present problem? As early as creation, the Bible declares, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). This presents quite a problem for Sheets’ argument, since woman was also created in the image of God. This cannot be reasoned against. As Nicole observes,

“If anyone were to doubt whether the image of God terminology applies to women (perhaps by some misunderstanding of  1 Cor. 11:7), it is quite apparent from Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9 that the term applies to females as well as males, since the sinfulness of murder or of cursing is not different whether women or men are in view.”[3]

Sheets would be hard pressed, I think, to answer the following question: If a married woman is one flesh with her husband, thereby encompassing the image of God within that one flesh, does this not mean she has become the fullness of Christ’s representation? If this is indeed the case, then a married woman most certainly could be ordained.

The next argument against the ordination of women is the lack of natural ability to lead and teach. This argument is quickly dispelled by a short survey of Biblical text. In Exodus we find Moses’ sister Miriam in a leadership role (15:20-21).  The book of Judges describes the actions of the prophetess Deborah (4-5).  Esther, as a queen, brought salvation to the Jews from Persian persecution in the book of Esther. Euodia and Syntyche are referred to as equals or at the very least co-workers of Paul (Phil. 4:2-3). This short survey demonstrates that God certainly did not see women as inferior leaders or teachers. On the contrary, it shows a great respect for such abilities of these women.

This brings us to the Church tradition argument against women being ordained. This argument lacks veracity due to the Reformation Period. “With the Reformation the political/religious alliance with the Roman Catholic Church in the west was broken probably sowing the seeds that would later lead to emancipation of serfs, slaves and women…” This broken alliance would lead to Methodists and Presbyterians ordaining women in 1956. This was followed by the Lutherans (1970), Episcopalians (1976), and Anglicans (1992).

Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholics still do not allow for the ordination of women. This impassable stance seems a bit hypocritical. Their own tradition points to women in high authority within the church. Kroeger and Kroeger point out, “[T]here was a strong tradition of Thecla as apostle and associate of Paul, and there is indeed evidence for her life and ministry,”[4] Combine this with the Biblical Church history of Romans of women deacons. (Rom.16:1-2; 1 Tim. 3:11). It seems clear that church history is not adamantly against the ordination of women.

The fourth argument for barring of women’s ordination can be described as complementarianism (different roles for men and women) over egalitarianism (equal roles). Bruce Ware argues from 1 Corinthians 11:3 that there is a hierarchy in the roles of the Father and Christ within the trinity that is reflected in the male and female genders.[5] However, this seems highly unlikely since both female and males were ordained by God to prophets. If the hierarchy displayed in 1 Corinthians applies to gender, what represents the role of the Holy Spirit? This does not seem to bear the burden to be called a biblical “truth.”  For “truth denotes something that conforms to actuality, is faithful to a standard, or involves sincerity or integrity. The ground for truth is  reality itself.”[6] The reality is that since both male and female have occupied the same roles within the bible at God’s ordination, egalitarianism would fall more in line with Biblical “truth.”

The final argument, Silence, does seem to have some scriptural basis. Paul instructs his apprentice Timothy,

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (1Tim 2:11-14).

The key to understanding this verse is found in Paul’s word usage. The word translated quietness in verse 11 was used by Paul earlier in verse 2 and it is translated peaceful. In verse 12 the word for teach and quiet in verse 12 can denote babble and chatter. In these verses, Paul instructs Timothy that a woman should remain quietly and learn peacefully from the male leadership. The reason for this is given in verses 13-14. Eve was deceived, but Adam sinned.

The reference to “The Fall” refers to Adam’s failure to communicate properly God’s command to his wife. Adam received a direct command from God, yet when confronted by the snake, Eve misquotes it (Gen. 2:15; 3:2). In a society in which women had very little educational opportunities for education, Paul was instructing Timothy to teach women to learn first, before speaking. In this way, they would not utter incoherent “babble” and useless “chatter.” This is not a prohibition against ordination of women or even the prevention of women teachers. It was, rather, a wise pastoral decision given the cultural climate of the time.

Having adequately shown the prohibition of the ordination of women to be in error, we can turn our attention to the specific problem at hand, namely women fulfilling the role of deacon and elder.

The term deacon means one who serves; while an elder is a teacher highly esteemed in the church. And since it is the Holy Spirit who determines who gets what gifts (1 Cor. 12:4). There is absolutely no reason that a woman could not fulfill these office. The only exception to this rule would be the failure to meet the qualifications of such offices as set by the scriptures. Paul spells these out in great detail in his letters to Timothy and Titus. These qualifications include sobriety, martially faithful, manages his family well, obedient children, gentle, mature in the faith, and honest (1 Tim 3:2-12; Titus 1:6-9).

It is unfortunate that such a debate still exists within the body of Christ. The evidence for the ordination of women seems to be overwhelming. Yet, there is still great reluctance to establish women in their rightful place within church hierarchy. It is my sincere prayer that the Spirit of Truth will bring a unified teaching upon the doctrine.

 

[1] Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed. s.v. “Women, Ordination Of.”

[2] John R. Sheets, “Forum : The Ordination of Women,” Worship 65, no. 5 (1991): 459.

[3] Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed. s.v. “Woman, Biblical Concept Of.”

[4] Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed. s.v. “Women in the Church.”

[5] Adelle Banks, “In Gender Debate, Jesus Is ‘Subordinate’,” The Christian Century, 2007 Feb 20 2007, 13.

[6] Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed. s.v. “Truth.”

Bibliography

Banks, Adelle. “In Gender Debate, Jesus Is ‘Subordinate’.” The Christian Century, 2007 Feb 20 2007, 12-13.

Clark, D. K., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI:Baker House Publishing, 2001.

Hoggard-Creegan, N., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI:Baker House Publishing, 2001.

Kroeger, R. C. Kroeger and C. C., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI:Baker House Publishing, 2001.

Nicole, R., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, MI:Baker House Publishing, 2001.

Sheets, John R. “Forum : The Ordination of Women.” Worship 65, no. 5 (1991): 451-461.


 

Advertisements