Is patriarchy just a private Christian thing...

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Over the years I've heard many Christians confidently declare that, though Scripture is clear on the role of women in the Church and home, it's silent concerning their role in secular society. But those making such statements mean by "silent" only that there's no silver bullet text forbidding a woman to serve as a queen, president, CEO, general, or judge.

Many doctrines central to our Faith are not laid out in Scripture explicitly, but implicitly, and both methods are a legitimate path for God's Truth to come to us. There are times when God is pleased to reveal His Truth with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer: "And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12).

Other times it pleases God to speak in parables. In fact, on more than one occasion the People of God were rebuked for approaching God's Word with a wooden literalism when the truth being communicated was meant to be understood on a different level. Consider this exchange between Jesus and His disciples:

And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. And Jesus said to them, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, "He said that because we did not bring any bread."

But Jesus, aware of this, said, "You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12)

Yes, as Protestants we hold to the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture, and therefore oppose the notion that a believer must have a college or graduate degree in order to understand God's Word. Rather we confess that:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. (Westminster Confession of Faith I:7)

Yet again, this is not to say that the meaning of Scripture must always be what occurs to us at first blush (or most immediately). Many of the doctrines of our Faith are inferences and deductions from the study of God's Word; they're the product of coming to understand types and anti-types, of "getting" the point of the story. In fact, it may even be said that much of Scripture is intentionally hidden so that some people won't "get it." How else are we to understand the answer Jesus gave to this question posed by His disciples:

And the disciples came and said to (Jesus), "Why do You speak to them in parables?"

Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." (Matthew 13:10-13)

For these reasons, I've never put much stock in those who say the Bible is silent concerning the proper roles of men and women outside the Church and home. The Apostle Paul was not limiting the application of the order of creation of man and woman to the Church when he wrote, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve" (1Timothy 2:12,13).

Rather, he was applying the universal order of the sexes that God established for all His creation in the Garden prior to the Fall to the particular needs of the church of Ephesus in his own time. And those who have eyes to see and ears to hear will understand the application of those same Creation truths to their time and place, whether it is the year AD 62 or AD 2004, whether the place is Ephesus or Bloomington, whether the society is ecclesiastical or domestic or civil.

Granted, it is generally true that Christians are not in a position to enforce God's order of creation of the sexes in the corporate or legislative or military or judicial worlds as they are in the church and home, but to jump from this admitted difficulty in living out God's Truth to denying that truth's application in those spheres shows a lack of faith--not a sensitivity to the limits of Biblical truth and application.

The sincere student of Scripture will see that proper inferences and deductions from God's Word hold as much of the Holy Spirit's authority over our lives as Scripture's explicit commands. Again, as the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. (Westminster Confession of Faith I:6)

So let's not be sloppy in our application of Scripture, carefully adhering to those commands "expressly set down" while eagerly claiming freedom in other places which are only deduced through "good and necessary consequence." It is the second category of revelation that is more likely to show whether our obedience is aimed at pleasing men or God.

And while I recognize that over the centuries the People of God have been placed under many rules that were a direct violation of the freedom of conscience that the Holy Spirit gives to us in all matters where Scripture is silent, the relationship of the sexes is not one of those areas. Scripture is clear in revealing that from the beginning God created woman for man, from man, after man, that man named woman, and that through man (not woman) death came into the world.

When we walk out the front door of a Christian home or church, then, we do not cease being sexual creatures--specifically men and women. Nor does our sexuality cease to have the meaning God gave it in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall. We may hate that meaning; we may deny that meaning any application in our lives and the lives of our family and church; but we may not claim that Scripture is silent concerning the meaning and purpose of sexuality outside the church and home.

To do so would be to deny truths deduced by "good and necessary consequence" from God's Holy Word.