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.