Conniving at our people's sins...

Why, look at us! Check it out! We have women deacons. Unordained, of course, but women they are and they do everything our male deacons do--disciple, teach, cast vision. Look at us! Check it out! We have women serving the elements at the Lord's Table. Women, mind you! Aren't we forward-looking and progressive? Can't you iPod joggers settle into this comfy chair? We've made it just for you. No fuddy-duddy patriarchs holding us down or setting us back. We've captured the center of the city because we're the only ones that can do it without making asses of ourselves. Look at us! Check us out! We do art. We write music. We have important people who are rich in our congregation. And they respect us because they know we can be trusted to think through the implications of Scripture for our time and culture without falling into the many errors of past centuries. You know, errors like fuddy-duddy thinking about women in leadership.

(Tim) For most of the first ten years of pastoral ministry, I served in a denomination whose polity required each church to elect female elders in proportion to the number of females in the congregation. Also, every pastoral search committee was required to sign an EEO-type contract promising they would give equal consideration to women for their pastoral position. So I’ve had experience working with women elders within the local congregation, as well as female pastors and elders at the presbytery (regional) and general assembly (national) levels. There were some wise and godly women elders within our congregations (I had a yoked parish of two churches), and still today my wife and I are close to several of these sisters in Christ.

And yet, wise and godly women placed in the position of elder are tenaciously focused on the protection of relationships within their congregation. It is both their strength and weakness that they want to deny or postpone any threat to relationships, even when the good of the larger household of faith would be put at risk by inaction or the postponement of discipline...

Say, for instance, there’s a curmudgeon among the church members who’s spent fifty years making a stink at congregational meetings. Women are intent on protecting the curmudgeon’s place in the church family, reassuring him and everyone watching that he’s loved, that he has a home.

Telling him to cease his schismatic behavior might jeopardize family unity, and that’s a hill too high. On the other hand, male elders are willing to see him dealt with—yes, in love—but firmly. If his behavior is nasty and it’s cast a pall over congregational meetings, male elders are much more inclined to tell the loveable curmudgeon “No” and thus restore peace to their flock.

This is no surprise, is it? We’ve each experienced it within our own marriage. There’s a natural tension between fathers and mothers concerning the discipline of their children. While mother is facing a rebellious child and hasn’t yet admitted defeat in her wheedling and cajoling, father’s patience is gone and he’s ready for discipline.

Of course this is a generalization. There are exceptions to this sex-specific rule. Some mothers are ready to spank long before father is, but it’s an unusual situation—it’s the exception that proves the rule. Generalizations are generally true, after all.

You remember Margaret Thatcher, the United Kingdom’s prime minister from 1979-1990? Many thought her a perfect specimen of women in leadership. She was a woman. She was strong. Yet at a time when the whole world was clamoring for feminist role models, that most-hectoring-of-all-newspapers, the New York Times, would refer to Ms. Thatcher as “The Iron Lady." Here the Times finally had the genuine article—a woman they could point to as a living example of women exercising authority over men. And at Number 10 Downing Street, no less! So what did they do with her?

They mocked her, calling her “The Iron Lady.” Feminists derided Thatcher precisely because she was a woman who lacked the softness and gentleness the unborn, newborn, toddlers, teenagers, and husbands cling to and find precious in their mothers and wives. No Feminist Majority awards, no Room of Her Own for Margaret Thatcher. She was too conservative, too tough, too hard, too firm. In a word, too manly.

But really, we’re not dependent upon sociological, political, or anecdotal evidence for truth about the nature of woman. God in His Word has already provided objective truth on this subject—what we used to refer to as “special revelation.” He hasn't been silent, but has explicitly addressed woman exercising authority over man:

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. (1 Timothy 2:12,13)

Thus if women are reticent to exercise discipline, can we begin to think in a larger way about the connection between sex and leadership? It’s not simply that the Word of God prohibits “a woman from exercising authority over a man,” but that God has put inside woman a feminine nature that, in keeping with her sex, does well with some kinds of work and less well with others. Would we expect anything less from our Wise Creator? Should it really surprise us if the sex on whom He has placed the burden of bearing and nursing our little ones He also would have blessed with psychological, emotional, and spiritual gifts that reinforce the biological and physiological ones?

Some may argue with my observation about the particular way women demonstrate an incapacity for exercising authority over men. I’m happy to grant them freedom to deny those observations as long as they come up with observations of their own. After all, Scripture reveals the universal principle God has written into His creation, that He has created man and woman in an order that determined woman exercising authority over man is contrary to nature. God’s creation order of man and woman is the reason woman is not to exercise authority over man.

To deny that there is any aspect of the feminine nature that reveals and testifies to this principle is to deny the principle itself.

If there’s ever a place for holistic thinking, this is it. We may talk about the evil of sexual stereotyping all we want, but in the end political ideologies can never defeat real things like body parts, hormones, and the Creator’s intent. And it’s right at this point that we find whether we live by Christian faith or by this world’s wisdom—what our good and wise God calls foolishness (1Corinthians 3:19).

For several decades the Western world has been undergoing a dramatic movement away from patriarchal, toward matriarchal leadership. It was many years back, now, that Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister under Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. Here in the U.S., Nancy Pelosi now sits as Speaker of our own House of Representatives and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, a member of what the Bible calls the “weaker” sex, is currently the front-runner in the presidential campaign. Women comprise around half the enrollment of training schools historically associated with the development of leaders—law schools, medical schools, and seminaries.

This sea-change has had a profound impact within the Church, not just in the most obvious way as the number of women serving as pastors and elders grows, but also in less obvious ways. The feminization of leadership has changed the affect, posture, and methods used by male pastors and elders. Congregations are now comprised of souls who have become acclimated to female leadership and want their male leaders to be more feminine, to be softer in the way they lead and preach. Knowing their market, seminaries, presbyteries, search committees, elders, and pastors have complied.

Other forces push in this direction, too. Lesbians, metrosexuals, and sodomites talk a lot about gender and seek to move everyone toward the middle of what they claim is a continuum of “gender identity.” Neutered Bible translations are released by seminary professors eager to remove from Scripture the Hebrew and Greek terms feminists and those with feminist sensibilities find offensive. Future pastors are trained by theology professors who urge them not to focus on repentance or the law, but grace; homiletics professors who urge them never to speak in a way that could be misunderstood as arrogant or dogmatic. Rather, they are to make sure they doubt themselves and admit they may, in fact, be wrong.

“Thus says the Lord God Almighty” is out; “I wonder whether” is in. “Follow me as I follow Christ” is out; “Wounded healer” is in. “Let him be anathema” is out; “Although I differ with my good friend and colleague on this, I respect her opinion and accept her as a sincere Christian who happens to have a different perspective than I” is in.

There’s a recurrent theme in the Old Testament concerning warriors who are not warriors at all, but “women” incapable of defending their wives and children. Concerning the destruction of Nineveh, Nahum writes:

Behold, your people are women in your midst! The gates of your land are opened wide to your enemies; Fire consumes your gate bars. (Nahum 3:13)

Obviously, God is not saying the warriors of these nations are women masquerading as men, trembling under their uniforms. Rather, these soldiers lack the male principle. They’re men, biologically, but they aren’t manly.

Calvin gives the sense of it:

(T)he hearts of them all would become soft and effeminate… We now then perceive the Prophet's meaning, when he says, that the people would become women, or effeminate, in the midst of the city, in its very bowels; as though he had said, that they would not cease to tremble, even while they were dwelling in a safe place.

The world’s wisdom denies that biology is destiny and lashes out at it blindly, only to become infuriated at finding out that a little girl given a Tonka truck for her Christmas present will turn the wrapping paper into a blanket and cradle the truck in their arms, rocking it like a baby and singing it lullabies; that a little boy given a doll will grab Barbie’s arm in his left hand, her leg in his right, aim her head like a gun sight at his older brother, let out a “Bang! Bang!” and proudly announce “I gotcha! You’re dead!”

And if little girls give positive testimony to their Creator’s intent, we can expect that it will be “Like daughter, like mother.” The femininity of older women also will out. To pick just one example, the feminine nature gives negative testimony to her Creator’s purpose by demonstrating a lack of suitability for the work of exercising authority over man. Conscript woman for that duty and her nature shows itself.

Ding dong! Are we really so dense? So rebellious? Hasn’t our Creator revealed to us in His Word that women exercising authority over men is contrary to nature--not because of sin, but because “from the beginning” it was not that way? To repeat, woman is not allowed to exercise authority over man. And here's the Holy Spirit's reason for that prohibition: “It was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.”

Pathetically, compromised believers sputter something about the limited application of this creation order, saying something foolish like “Paul only meant it was wrong in the church—not anywhere else.” But then that bubble is burst by the Holy Spirit making it clear the creation order is applicable to the marriage relationship, also.

But hope springs eternal and we have another go at it, saying the creation order of man and woman “only applies to the church and the home; nowhere else.” Really? So the order in which God created Adam and Eve has no application—no application at all—to unbelievers? It’s just a private truth that applies to believers--and maybe Jews? Adam being created first, and then Eve, has no application to the way men and women relate to each other outside the home and Church?

This is absurd. When we step out of our houses Monday morning we don't leave our sex just inside the front door. We are man. Woman. All day long.

But really, compromised believers aren’t even willing to say sex matters in the Christian home and Church because even there we are snipping away at the edges of God's creation order. After all, there’s a reason so many of us take a secret delight in having intensely competitive daughters and sensitive or musical sons. How on earth did it happen that a whole generation of us gave our daughters Tonka trucks, anyhow? Was it an accident? And is it an accident today that our sons pierce their ears and spend an inordinate amount of time looking at themselves in the mirror? Can anyone among us deny that we’re now on the second or third generation of Christian sons coming to adulthood vain and gelded?

And in the church?

"Why, look at us! Check it out! We have women deacons. Unordained, of course, but women they are and they do everything our male deacons do--disciple, teach, cast vision. Look at us! Check it out! We have women serving the elements at the Lord's Table. Women, mind you! Aren't we forward-looking and progressive? Can't you iPod joggers settle into this comfy chair? We've made it just for you. No fuddy-duddy patriarchs holding us down or setting us back. We've captured the center of the city because we're the only ones that can do it without making asses of ourselves. Look at us! Check us out! We do art. We write music. We have important people who are rich in our congregation. And they respect us because they know we can be trusted to think through the implications of Scripture for our time and culture without falling into the many errors of past centuries. You know, errors like fuddy-duddy thinking about women in leadership."

And so it goes...

Somewhere, sometime, somehow we’re going to be given the gift of repentance by the Holy Spirit, and we’re going to seek the return of our sons’ hearts to their fathers, and the return of our husbands’ hearts to their sons. We have a nation and many thousands of churches filled either with momma’s boys or macho dudes—both of whom are contrary to God’s creation order.

Here’s an idea: When Senator Hillary Clinton is elected President of these United States, let’s repent, admitting this is shameful. And let’s begin to rebuild the walls we ourselves have torn down with our own hands.

The Church awaits shepherds after God’s Own heart who give up their lives to protect their sheep—shepherds who know a wolf when they see one, and that it’s their God-given duty to kill him, or die trying.

Comments

I made the observation several months ago, elsewhere, that there seemed to be a growing trend of "metrosexual" pastors with preaching shows on those twin embarrassments of "Christian" television programming, Daystar and TBN. One looks like he wears eyeliner, another wears shirts untucked with no tie, and yet another obviously spends more time and product on his hair than I do (and it's not because he's working on a bad comb-over).

I'm not about to swim the Tiber, but EWTN just keeps looking better and better - programs teaching young people how to lead a pure/chaste life, programs on abortion and Dale's program on Chesterton. Although, I have trouble watching the program on abortion because they have a "world abortion" counter in the corner of the screen showing how many abortions occur in the world during the time the program is aired.

I wonder, though, if a new reformation doesn't have to start with Worship? All the solid expository preaching in the world probably in't going to turn things around if the worship that leads up to it is so much soft and fuzzy dreck.

Methinks we're in trouble,

Kamilla

Pr. Tim,

Lady Thatcher -- at least at a distance -- resembles a feminine figure who does not suffer fools, found in Scripture in places like Proverbs 1 or 9. I submit that fools would find Lady Wisdom just as "iron-ish" as they found Lady Thatcher, and for the same reasons.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, appears to have a problem pithily presented by Peggy Noonan back in June:

"Hillary Clinton doesn’t have to prove she’s a man. She has to prove she’s a woman.

"She doesn’t have to prove to people that she’s tough enough or aggressive enough to be commander in chief. She doesn’t have to show she could and would wage a war. She has to prove she has normal human warmth, a normal amount of give, of good nature, that she is not, at bottom, grimly combative and rather dark.

"This is the woman credited with starting and naming the War Room. Her staff has nicknamed her 'The Warrior.' Get in her way and she’d squish you like a bug. This has been her reputation for 20 years. And it is her big problem. People want a president to be strong but not hard.

"A longtime supporter of Mrs. Clinton’s spoke with candor some months back of her friend’s predicament. 'We’re back where we were in ‘92–likability. Nothing has changed.'

"Back then, when the Clintons were newly famous, their consultants were alarmed to find the American people did not believe Hillary was a mother. They thought she was a person with breasts in a suit. She had a briefcase and a latte and was late for the meeting, but no way she did she have a child."

Read the whole thing here: http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110010239

I think Kamilla is spot on about worship. An effective reformation must begin with worship, precisely because evangelicals' worship is the ever-expanding beach head for the feminist invasion of the churches. What expository preaching might offer with the right hand is swept away by Jesus-is-my-boyfriend choruses, droned into everyone's heads by 50 repetitions with a bridging key-change between iterations 49 and 50.

Dear Father Bill:

Thanks for passing on the Noonan quotes. Spot on.

David

I hate to belittle Lady Thatcher, as it did appear that she did do a lot of good despite what I'd admit is an un-Biblical position. However, I must wonder if the "Iron Lady" persona and Hillary's similar mood is simply what happens when a lady tries to take on these roles; they get distorted in translation--much like the "sex roles" played by homosexuals.

Loved the last line about the shepherds and the wolf, by the way. It wonderfully illustrates the reality of grim duty out of love.

Is it just me, or has this thread changed names more than once?

More than twice, Barbara. In fact, thrice. But with the present title I've returned to what I'd done at first and thought to be too raucous. Changed my mind.

Sometimes, a slight change in title causes a huge jump in readership, although this particularly post has been well-read from the beginning. You wouldn't know it from the comments but I know it from watching the stats.

So, if you ever want to suggest a title change, let me know and you too can get in on the action, too. The price of computers is infinite tweaking.

I'm a bit miffed that such a fine heavy metal band like Iron Maiden is used for the title of an article about women pastors and such. Iron Maiden rocks; women pastors don't.

Pittsburgh Steelers and Iron Maiden.

...all I need to know about you Brandon. How did you ever marry an opera singer? LOL

Love to you both.

Well, of course, Silly, a change in the title will cause a huge jump in readership, if many of your readers are like me, blonde (emotionally speaking), and think, upon seeing the new title, "Oh goody, something new to read!" and then click on the "read more" link. Slippery way to increase readership among the gullible, if you ask me

Archie: You know, I often find myself wondering how I managed to marry such a wonderful lady! A redneck from northern Indiana farmland marrying an attractive, intelligent young lady from an upscale suburb of Pittsburgh. She definitely has an improving influence on me. Sometimes I'll do something that's normal for me, and she'll stare at me in wonder of the uncouthness of my behavior. God's certainly been gracious.

So who is feigning ignorance at the sin, the Biblical pastors or the churches where everything is okay because it's our modern culture, men are pigs, and gender is irrelevant to roles?

Dear Barbara, I found out where all the readers were coming from, which caused me to rejigger the thing to their needs. So I did a bunch of editing, added 150 words, a pull quote, and another new title. It's not that I want to snooker people into re-reading it. Rather, it was all about (ahem!) contextualizing.

Brandon, as a fellow Hoosier from NW Indiana, I feel compelled to remind you that there is a world of difference between an Iron Lady and an Iron Maiden--but that the Iron Maiden is an apt metaphor for what is done to Biblical sexuality by feminism. It even seems to be a relatively modern invention, just like feminism, and apparently wasn't used much until the 20th Century.

Sorry, Eddie.

The Iron Maiden is a relatively modern invention? I saw a horror film which used one once. Still have the willies whenever I think of one. Perhaps it is an apt metaphor for feminism in the Christ's church after all?

Kamilla

At least according to Wiki, and the article was extensively footnoted. Evidently, it was a 17th century invention in Nuremberg (also apropos, methinks), based on a "coat of shame" used to humiliate (but not perforate) ladies of the night. Add the spikes and make it a whole body thing, and you've got your "Eisener Maedchen."

Interestingly, there appear to be no credible examples of the use of it until the 20th Century.

Thankfully. And apropos.

Actually, the feminists in the UK hated Mrs Thatcher (she was never known as "Ms"). The reason why is that the pro-family, pro-capitalist values she stood for are the near antithesis of the socialism advocated by many (not all) feminists. She was a good friend and supporter of your President Reagan, don't forget. Women's leadership in civil society is not quite the same thing as women's leadership in the Body of Christ.

That said, what are you PCA types going to do if Hillary does become President end of next year? ;-)

[Ross in the UK]

As a feminist child during the '70s, I always appreciated and was inspired by Prime Minister Thatcher's example. I have always interpreted "The Iron Lady" designation as a supreme compliment, rather than mockery, an aknowledgment of both her strength ("iron") and the fact that she is a woman ("lady"). Obviously I don't know the particular context you are recalling in the New York Times, but I recall even the liberal journalists on 60 Minutes using the phrase in admiration.

Of course, many (or perhaps most) feminists did not love Prime Minister Thatcher as I did. But I don't think feminist dislike of Thatcher had anything to do with her persona, but rather with her policies. I would expect most mainstream feminists today to defend the right of Thatcher and Hillary Clinton to adopt a strong, firm, "manly" leadership style, even while criticizing these women's policies.

As a feminist, I agree that it is ludicrous to expect that women can be assigned a submissive role at home and then be taken seriously in leadership positions outside the home.

God assigned it, and it's not a "role" but intrinsic to feminine sexuality as He created woman, Eve.

Tim,

"God assigned it, and it's not a "role" but intrinsic to feminine sexuality as He created woman, Eve.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! That has long been one of my chief complaints against the view that calls itself complementarianism. Ophelia is a role, Desdemona is a role, Wife is a relationship. If it is intrinsic to our being, then it CANNOT be a role - as a role is something that is taken up and put back down again.

Kamilla

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