(Tim) A reader asks: "(D)id I understand your introduction to say that you agreed with Warfield's approach inasmuch as 'deaconess' could be a valid office in the church as long as it did not entail the exercise of authority over men, and thus was not conflated with the male diaconate?"
I respond: Yes, but I think such an action on the part of the PCA right now would be unwise in the extreme, given the conflation of the biblical office of deacon and these various helps women performed at times in church history. Furthermore, as Warfield points out quite clearly, Scripture itself cannot be said to provide a biblical basis for woman deacons. Warfield's exactly right.
What we find is that at various times the church did precisely what our Book of Church Order (BCO) allows: namely, to create ad hoc or ancillary groups of women for service to the church--including helping those officers called "deacons." Those women might be called "deaconesses," but across church history they were never exercising authority over men.
And this is where the practice of so many churches of the uber-hip metro-sophisticate variety leave us in a position that we must oppose woman deacons...
They want--make no mistake about it, they want--women to exercise authority over men in places other than the pulpit (I hope this is still true) and session (elder) meetings.
Again, as I've said so often before, read the documents. These men put women forward to lead in their churches in every place they possibly can without actually making them ruling or teaching elders (pastors). This is the entire purpose behind their constant refrain, "A woman can do anything an unordained man can do."
This is why I'm opposed to any change in the PCA. I think we have many, many, many men who either have never come to understand the Creation Order of man and woman, or who are opposed to it and seek to undermine it in every way possible that will not bring them up on charges.
Men think if they give the rest of the backward, southern, church the bone of teaching and ruling elders, the rest of the church will let them alone with woman deacons serving alongside man deacons (in the same office), women doing everything in corporate worship except for preaching (and occasionally, even that), women administering the Lord's Supper (keeping a man at the table itself, of course, to maintain appearances), women exercising authority over and teaching men in small groups, women exercising authority over and teaching men in Sunday school classes and various other adult education forums, women vision-casting for the entire church, women discipling men, women teaching Saturday forums on women in the church, and the list goes on ad infinitum.
When we discuss any part of the woman deacon issue in the PCA, we must always bring up two things: First, that what is practiced today in PCA churches around the country is directly contrary to our BCO and the Word of God; and second, whatever is done by women in the church must faithfully represent the Creation order of Adam first, and then Eve; and consequently, must not involve woman teaching or exercising authority over man.
Do I sound like a broken record? Well actually, it's the Apostle Paul exegeting Moses' record of God's action prior to the Fall, all written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So don't blame me.
Still, if I were to decide to oppose the Word of God in a way that would make me uber-hip and allow my church to grow-grow-grow, I'd not waste my time opposing the women-prohibited-to-teach-or-exercise-authority-over-men part. That's fiddling with the deck chairs on the Titanic.
As Harry Blamires would put it, let's start with the "If-any-man-wants-to-follow-me-he must-take-up-his-cross" part. Why waste our time on anything else? That's the heart of it.
Unless our practice and doctrine opposes egalitarian feminism in a way that is constantly clear, unabashed and sending no mixed messages, we haven't begun to contextualize the Gospel in our bloody, rebellious, immoral, egalitarian, feminist culture.
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By the way, if you haven't read Harry Blamires' The Christian Mind, you might put it on your reading list. My Dad gave it to me to read thirty years ago, and I'd simply say that if everyone who read The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind would, instead, have read The Christian Mind, Google wouldn't return as many as many hits for "Henry (sic) Blamires," and Christian scholars all over the world would have learned better how to discern between the pursuit of truth and what Chesterton refers to as "a giggling excitement over fashion."