Sunday, February 05, 2006

Response on Women 3

In this post I want to distance the question of husband headship from the matter of women in ministry.

The New Testament teaching distinguishing the role of women from that of men is strong and clear. It is so well established exegetically that any attempts to deny these clear teachings require the type of violent methods that, rigorously applied, will spare nothing of the epistles... As always on major issues for the church, the true discussion is exegetical. If we can reject what the New Testament teaches regarding different roles for men and women it seems to me that we can/must also reject what is taught concerning homosexuality and other issues.

First of all, as long as husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church, I will not be too zealous to argue against husband headship in the home. I've said enough elsewhere I think for you to get my gist on that issue. Since Aristotle says the husband is normally the head of the wife and household, there is nothing uniquely Christian in this specific claim. The direction in which Paul modifies the given cultural framework gives us what is uniquely Christian on this topic.

But I will agree to disagree on this question... the Wesleyan Church has no official position on headship in the home.

But good exegesis bids us distinguish the question of husband headship from the question of women in ministry. For example, notice that I have not said male headship, as if the NT teaches that every male is the head of every female. I've been careful to say "husband-headship." The "household codes" of Ephesians 4, Colossians 3, Titus 2, and 1 Peter 3 have to do with husband wife relationships, not with the generic relationships between male and female in general.

So your comment is partially correct. The epistles give a fairly clear sense of the normal roles in which husbands and wives relate to each other. I say "normal" because, as my last post shows, the general sense of much biblical injunction seems to presume the possibility of exceptions.

I would be surprised if you will find too many scholars (if any) who would argue that these household passages are about all men being the heads of all women.

And don't give me some lame argument like the one Calvinists sometimes give about God's sovereignty: "Humans can't have free will because then God wouldn't be in control." Here's a thought, what if it is God's will for humans to have free will? Is God not sovereign enough to choose to give humanity free will? Sorry God, You're just not allowed to do that because You're sovereign. Give me a break.

So what if a husband head delighted in the call of his wife to a senior pastorate? How would that contradict his headship? And of course, if he is submitted to God and God calls his wife, then he would not be allowed by God to use the excuse of headship to keep her from ministry. "You decide whether we should obey God or humans" (Acts 4:19). Let's see, whose headship trumps... God's or a husband's? If she is called and he says no, then she must obey the superior head, and he must repent before he loses his soul for disobedience to God.

So don't give me any feeble minded argument against women in ministry based on the headship passages. Your case will have to stand or fall on either 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 or 1 Timothy (next post). Of these two, only the exegetical argument from 1 Timothy has any real weight on this issue. Let's see how well established exegetically these arguments are. The well established exegetical basis of fundamentalists against women in ministry mostly boils down to one verse in the entire Bible.

And then (final post), let's look at the passages whose principles form the basis for the Wesleyan Church's "reasoning." Yes, the Wesleyan common sense on this issue predates secular feminism and the women's rights movement. It comes from the spiritual sense of the New Testament read as a whole rather than when a particular interpretation of 1 Timothy is shoved down the rest of the NT's throat.

No comments: