Chelsea Clinton drawing water at the well...

(Tim) Within the church today, why are we so reticent to recognize sexual distinctions that go beyond God's command or certain "roles" the result of His command? Pastors and elders can bring ourselves to swallow the very specific biblical prohibitions against women serving as elders, and the equally specific commands for wives to submit to their husbands--even going so far as to defend those prohibitions with some small talk of the nature of sexuality (although we always call it "gender" rather than "sex" because gender is a social construct while sex is a hard biological reality); but still, despite this supposed submission to the biblical command, we show a complete absence of any biblical theology of sexuality.

Why? Why are we so chip-on-the-shoulderish when it comes to a discussion of the nature of man and woman beyond the obvious body parts (which are undeniable and very useful for advertising), and certain small aspects of authority in the church and home? Why do we read sexuality in such a mind-bogglingly narrow way? We claim to love diversity, right? So why such a penurious, such a tight-waddish reading of this one so basic to our lives?

A central part of understanding our culture is seeing the hatred for distinctions at its core, and few distinctions are more despised than this one present in the womb from our earliest days--male and female.

Typical believers in Jesus Christ will think we've seen the goodness of sex when we've decided to marry a woman rather than a man...

and when we've established that in the home we hold "tie-breaking authority" because we are the husband; and turning to the church, when we chose a man for our Sr. Pastor and only men to be elders.

Really? Is that the extent of God's good gift of sexuality; the extent of its significance, it's wiring, it's beauty, its strength? Does Scripture reveal nothing more about the nature of sex than that a man should marry a woman instead of another man; and that the man is allowed to exercise tie-breaking authority in the home (which he'll never have to do if he’s a servant leader); and that ruling and teaching elders have to be men? Really? That's it?

How have we gotten to the place that our most brilliant pastors and elders, the ones with the greatest reputation for contextualizing biblical faith, are publicly known for holding the most narrow reading of sexuality ever known across the history of the Church?

Watch closely and listen carefully as fathers give dolls to their three-year-old sons, and mothers Tonka trucks to their two-year-old daughters; watch closely as you see the equivalent behavior in churches--women standing in the place of elders in serving the Lord's Supper, women receiving the offering, women serving as ushers, women teaching men Scripture and doctrine in church and seminary classes, women leading home fellowship groups with fathers and husbands present, women doing everything but preaching in corporate worship services (and sometimes even preaching, too)--and it becomes clear that today, sexuality is not loved among the people of God. Rather, we're suspicious of it and seek to eradicate its truth anywhere other than where Scripture is too, too clear.

So what? Patriarchalism and its many oppressions across the centuries require this? Is that the need of the church today in the upper and upper-middle class enclaves of reformed church demographics? Are our churches filled with souls who have had fathers who ruled with an iron fist and kept our mothers barefoot, pregnant, and silent?

No, our churches are filled with Chelsea Clintons. And what doctrine of our precious faith would be more evangelistic to Chelsea Clinton than the archetypal Fatherhood of God and His gracious wiring of that Fatherhood into every area of the life of man—not “persons” or “human beings,” but “man?” See our Heavenly Father in all His glory and love--His mercy, His truth, His holiness, His grace, His faithfulness. Look at His great and tender love for His Son. Gaze upon the beauty of His Son and Spirit teaching us to pray to The Father with such tender intimacy, "Abba, Father."

Some years back a well-known feminist was giving the commencement address at a college in New England and she opened her own (and Chelsea Clinton's) wound just long enough to allow this peal of thunder to escape: "We feminists are trying to become the husbands we wanted to marry."

Can we not see it, dear brothers and sisters; can we not hear and feel it? Is there no Gospel for the women at the well, today--no Gospel at all?

When it comes to sex, why are we so faithless? Why do we think we have to prove to the world we’re the good guys who stand on the side of feminism's purported liberation of women?

Feminism's liberation of women?

Is that the liberation of women that’s given us the post no-fault divorce world where women and their children make up the largest growth in those living below the poverty line for the past couple of decades? Is that the liberation of women that’s given us a sexual promiscuity that leaves women bearing the greatest part of the burden of STDs; the liberation that’s given us a huge growth in incest and the sexual abuse of young women and girls; the liberation that's led to the huge increase in anorexia and bulimia; the liberation that's left wives and mothers working full time, just like their husbands, and then coming home and carrying the lion’s share of the household work, too; the liberation that has given women the freedom to work the first decade after college or graduate school to pay off their student loans, and only after completing that duty, allowed them to turn to motherhood--usually when they're in their late twenties or early thirties, and need fertility assitance; the liberation that leaves our mothers and daughters blown to bits on the battle fields of Afghanistan and Iraq; the liberation that requires women to pay men to slaughter the unborn babies tucked in their wombs at a rate so astoundingly high that our churches are filled with mothers’ tears and groans whenever abortion is mentioned in our prayers and sermons; is this the liberation that requires women to carry ever greater church responsibilities and leadership? Is this why we must now turn to women to teach our adult Sunday school classes, to give our announcements, to lead our congregational prayers, to serve on our deacons board without benefit of ordination, to clean our church bathrooms, to take the dirty diapers in the nursery out to the trash, to explain away the biblical doctrine of sexuality and its gnarly manifestations in our particular denomination to new women considering membership in our church, to lead our home fellowship groups, to counself our incest and rape survivors, to serve the Lord’s Supper to us?

Years ago Joe Sobran pointed out that blood-guilt over abortion is the engine that drives the feminist movement. Now there’s a man who’s really good at contextualizing the Gospel.

But Sobran left some things for us to say, didn’t he?

Not just abortion’s blood-guilt, but also the guilt over fornication and passivity and adultery and abdication and pornography and passivity and divorce and not providing for our family and abdication and slothfulness and passivity and slothfulness and abdication and mincing words and rebellion and pride and the love of money and passivity and slothfulness and abdication…

Some will dismiss this with talk about Scripture not requiring that men do this work; that our Westminster Standards don’t prohibit women from doing that job; that the Book of Church Order doesn’t give any rules about who should or shouldn’t be put in those positions; and so on. True enough.

But look at the central thrust of our trimming and self-justifications, and our faithlessness is clear to the world.

Men, either we believe in the Fatherhood of God writ large over all creation and bear witness to His Fatherhood in our father-hating world, or we don't. It's that simple, starting with the federal headship of that "one man" Adam.

After all the ink is spilled, it really is that simple.


"Why do we read sexuality in such a mind-bogglingly narrow way?"

It's because we insist on majoring in ontology (Let us make man in our image) to the detriment of teleology (male and female He made them). I keep coming back to this Chesterton quote: "When a woman puts up her fists to a man she is putting herself in the only posture in which he is not afraid of her." And the whole of feminism is women putting our fists up to men.

We forget that keeping the line of sexual orthodoxy makes women so much more powerful than anything feminism has promised - much less delivered. My egalitarian friends are fond of decrying the construct, "equal in being, different in role (function)" as illogical and, therefore, indefensible. But isn't that the paradox of sex and exactly what Chesterton was talking about? We confuse ontology with teleology at our peril


I'm not sure if you intended to or not, but you've answered my email quite clearly here. Thanks so much.

This post saved me a question to one of the Bayly brothers. I was always wondering what you do allow women to do in your churches and you spelled out at least some of the things that you don't want them to do. Looking at it from your viewpoint and your bigger picture, it seems quite consistent.

OTOH, when I was a late 20's single (mid-80's) and had single woman Christian friends about my age, we had mixed opinions on women in church leadership. But everyone appreciated churches with no ordained females nor women on the church's governing board, but who allowed women to serve as ushers, greeters (without a husband in sight), lectors, and lead us in prayer. Even the most theologically conservative among us thought any of these things meant that these women had teaching authority over men.

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