What about women in combat...

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Here is the Majority Report of the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly's Ad Interim Study Committee on Women in the Military whose recommendations were adopted by General Assembly in 2002. Being this report's principal author, naturally I commend this document to our readers. If biblical Christians today studied this report and by faith embraced its doctrine of Creation Order sexuality, it would be a significant step toward the restoration of the unity of the Church. Too, these United States would again have salty salt and lighty light in the public debate raging over the meaning and purpose of sexuality. (TB)

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We, the undersigned, endorse the Consensus Report, while realizing that Report lacks unity on the crucial matter of whether the recommendations it contains constitute the church’s wise counsel or a Christian’s scriptural duty. Believing that this is a matter of scriptural duty, we have joined together in writing this report to the end that we might set forth with confidence and clarity the full counsel—both New and Old Testaments—of the Word of God concerning this matter. Our report attempts to summarize three areas of evidence, as follows:

First, God the Father wages war in defense of Israel, His Bride; Christ our Savior fights to the Death defending His Bride, the Church; the Holy Spirit calls men as officers to guard and protect His Bride; the duty to protect the Garden of Eden and the warning not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given by God to Adam; husbands protect their wives, not wives their husbands. Thus we are taught the binding nature of man’s duty to guard and protect his home and wife.

Second, woman is the weaker sex and part of her weakness is the vulnerability attendant to her greatest privilege—that God has made her the “Mother of all the living.” Men are to guard and protect her as she carries in her womb, gives birth to, and nurses her children.

Third, we are to renounce every thought and action which tends towards a diminishment of sexual differentiation since God made it and called it “good.” [E.g. Scripture’s injunctions concerning women exercising authority over men (1 Timothy 2), women or men wearing clothing of the opposite sex (Deuteronomy 22:5), sodomy (Leviticus 20:15-16), etc.] Rather than a stingy attitude which minimizes sexuality’s implications, we ought to rejoice in this, His blessing.

It is our conviction that these areas, taken together, provide a clear and compelling scriptural rationale for declaring our church’s principled opposition to women serving in military combat positions.

When a man loves a woman, he will lay down his life to defend her, just as Christ loved His Bride and gave Himself up for Her. Men have proudly fulfilled this duty from time immemorial, demonstrating what A. A. Hodge in his commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith referred to as the law of nature, common to all nations, that is “unchanged” to this present day. Dying for their wives, regenerate and unregenerate men have done “by nature (the) things required by the law.”[1]

Hodge divides the Old Testament law into four categories...

pointing out that the laws of Scripture which “regulate the relations between the sexes” are not “civil and judicial laws” meant only for “particular circumstances,” but a different class of laws which “have their immediate ground in the permanent nature and relations of men,” and therefore “continue unchanged as long as the present constitution of nature continues, and are of universal binding obligation.”[2] He writes:

All the divine laws belong to one or another of four classes. There are either:

(a.) Such as are grounded directly in the perfections of the divine nature, and are hence absolutely immutable and irrepealable even by God Himself. These are such as the duty of love and obedience to God, and of love and truth in our relations to our fellow-creatures.

(b.) Such as have their immediate ground in the permanent nature and relations of men, as, for instance, the laws which protect the rights of property and regulate the relation of the sexes. These continue unchanged as long as the present constitution of nature continues, and are of universal binding obligation, alike because of their natural propriety as because of the will of God by which they are enforced; although God, who is the Author of nature, may in special instances waive the application of the law at His pleasure, as He did in the case of polygamy among the ancient Jews.

(c.) Such as have their immediate ground in the changing relations of individuals and communities. Of this class are the great mass of the civil and judicial laws of the ancient Jews, which express the will of God for them in their particular circumstances, and which of course are intended to be binding only so long as the special conditions to which they are appropriate exist.

(d.) Such as depend altogether for their binding obligation upon the positive command of God, which are neither universal nor perpetual, but bind those persons only to whom God has addressed them, and only so long as the positive enactment endures. This class includes all rites and ceremonies.[3]

Failure to recognize that the laws of Scripture governing the relation of the sexes are “of universal binding obligation” has produced the confusion we suffer in the Church today, out of which has come this present debate over the propriety of women serving as military combatants. Furthermore, if we understood that “God, Who is the Author of nature, may in special instances waive the application of the law at His pleasure,” we would no longer use extraordinary cases in Scripture, such as Deborah, Jael, and Abigail, to deny the man’s duty to protect the woman. (In all cases, though, God provides the victory.)[4]

History does, in fact, provide corroborating evidence of the “universal binding obligation” of these laws, and if at some point in history a nation’s men had proposed to sit home while their wives and daughters defended them, those men would be infamous for their betrayal of the weaker sex. The twenty-first century seems, though, to lack the capacity to feel shame; thus women make up an increasingly large percentage of our nation’s armed forces and the idea of wives and daughters giving up their lives to protect their fathers, brothers, and husbands has lost its moral repugnance.[5]

The feminization of our armed forces is not only due to technological advances which have rendered the strength of men irrelevant, but the Church neglecting Her duty to be the “pillar and foundation of the Truth.”[6] Within Western culture, sexual distinction is suffering a sustained attack, as it did also in the Roman Empire when Paul wrote: “God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another….”[7]

Chrysostom comments that this text “is an evident proof of the last degree of corruptness, when both sexes are abandoned, and both he that was ordained to be the instructor of the woman, and she who was bid to become an helpmate to the man, work the deeds of enemies against one another.”[8] Western culture is awash in this same corruption—both sexes are abandoned and men and women are “enemies against one another.”

While parts of the Church are still refusing to give in to some of the more egregious expressions of this attack, including the normalization of same-sex physical intimacy, the rootstock of androgyny and sexual anarchy is vigorous and continues to bear poisoned fruit. In the Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis writes, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings to be fruitful.”[9] This is our condition today, and unless we return to fulfilling our obligation to teach what the Word of God says concerning the meaning and purpose of sexuality, our sons and daughters will be helpless to oppose the demands our country will place upon them to do things contrary to their nature.

If our church finds herself unable to say more than that it is “unwise” for her daughters to enter the military because of the “difficulties attendant to her service there,” what possible reason will PCA daughters give for refusing conscription? Will they tell their Selective Service Board that their church believes women should have “freedom of conscience” in this matter, but that such freedom of conscience is a matter of their church’s counsel—not duty under the Word of God? Such an apology for conscientious objector status will not suffice.

We, the undersigned, are convinced that the creation order of sexuality places on man the duty to lay down his life for his wife; and further, that those who, in a sustained way, deny this duty in word or action thereby oppose the Word of God.


The dearth of men ready to serve their country in defense of their wives and children is a concern shared by our entire committee. Further, we rejoice that the Holy Spirit brought us to consensus in these statements:

The history of the Church’s views on women serving in the military reveals that the Church has stood opposed; this was never a significant issue because warfare was a male duty.[10] 

* * *

By eating the fruit, Adam betrayed his duty to protect his wife, the race, and all creation. …By calling the woman a weaker vessel, Scripture indicates that there is a greater vulnerability attendant to womanhood, and calls upon her husband to be considerate of this fact. This vulnerability of the woman and the duty of the man are further confirmed by Scripture’s command that a husband serve and lay down his life for his wife. (We) have come to unanimous agreement that women ought not to be conscripted. [11]

Still, our Committee remains divided over whether the Word of God speaks with clarity concerning the meaning and purpose of sexuality as it bears on the normal practice of women serving in military combat roles. Thus our consensus report states:

We confess that, while we also are unanimous in stating that the above doctrine of sexuality gives guidance to the Church concerning the inadvisability of women serving in offensive combat, some among us believe that such guidance should be limited to pastoral counsel that does not bind the conscience while others among us believe that this counsel rises to the level of duty.[12]


First, in claiming that men have a duty to defend women, we are not denying that there are extraordinary circumstances in which a woman might properly engage in physical combat. Exceptions to the rule of male defense are recorded both in Scripture and Church history; still, the evident absence of a man to take up this duty is a tragic aspect of such exceptions. As one such example, Turretin writes of “homicide (in) the defense of chastity…as the examples of brave virgins stand forth, who killed those attempting to violate their chastity, when they could in no other way escape.”[13]

When a wife or mother is the last line of defense, she will do what is necessary to protect her home, children, and purity. Across history, though, such women neither denied the duty of men to protect them, nor sought by their actions to blur sexual distinctions or gain independence from their fathers and husbands. This is the context in which to understand Jael’s courage when she slew Sisera as he slept in her tent.[14] Jael’s victory was to the discredit of Barak because “the Lord (sold) Sisera into the hands of a woman.”[15] Similarly Deborah took leadership in time of war, but that leadership was to call men to take up arms against Israel’s oppressors, and in her leadership Deborah was called a “mother in Israel.”[16]

In an effeminate age, it is this aspect of the text which must be driven home lest we miss the forest for the trees: God commanded a man (Hebrew ‘ish’)[17] to lead other men to battle in defense of their nation; that man then asked a woman to come to battle with him; that woman reproved that man for his cowardice; and under God’s authority, that woman also decreed that the man’s cowardice would be punished by the glory of victory going to a woman.

Thus even (and especially) here, the Word of God makes explicit what is implicit in the scores of Old Testament texts dealing with military matters: it is men God calls to defend their nation, even when that call is issued through the mouth of a mother, and it is to the shame of man when woman is the agent of victory or defeat. A few chapters after the account of Sisera and Jael, we read of a woman throwing a millstone on Abimelech’s head, crushing his skull. What was Abimelech’s response? “(Abimelech) called quickly to the young man, his armor bearer, and said to him, ‘Draw your sword and kill me, so that it will not be said of me, “A woman slew him.”’ So the young man pierced him through, and he died.”[18]

There are circumstances in which a woman may well engage in physical combat, because she is the last line of defense, but such exceptions in no way invalidate the “universal binding obligation” of man to be manly, laying down his life in defense of his bride, home, and nation.

Second, the spirituality of the Church is not jeopardized by fathers and elders proclaiming that God has placed the protective duty on man. On the propriety of the Church addressing the State, John Murray wrote:

When laws are proposed or enacted which are contrary to the law of God, it is the duty of the church to oppose them and expose their iniquity….The functions of the civil magistrate, therefore, come within the scope of the church’s proclamation in every respect in which the Word of God bears upon the proper or improper discharge of these functions, and it is only misconception of what is involved in the proclamation of the whole counsel of God that leads to the notion that the church has no concern with the political sphere….

If it is to be faithful to its commission (the church) must make its voice heard and felt in reference to public questions. The church may not supinely stand aside and ignore political corruption, for example, on the ground that to pronounce judgment on such issues is to intermeddle in politics…. To deny such a prerogative belongs to the church is to compromise on the universal relevance of the Word of God and on the testimony which the church must bear to the world.[19]

Third, we have no desire to bind consciences in matters where Scripture is silent; the question, though, is whether Scripture is indeed silent on this matter? And if Scripture speaks with clarity concerning man’s protective duty, silence would be a betrayal of the Church’s calling and glory. Our duty is to speak faithfully what the Word of God says, even when some claim that fulfillment jeopardizes the unity and peace of the Church.

(F)ault must not always be found with the servants of Christ, if they are driven with violent force against professed enemies of sound doctrine, unless one is perhaps disposed to accuse the Holy Spirit of lack of moderation….(T)he vehemence of holy zeal and of the Holy Spirit in the prophets was like that, and if soft, effeminate men think it stormy, they do not consider how dear and precious God’s truth is to Him.[20]

Fourth, to warn commissioners that the Assembly’s adoption of the duty position might make those who disagree with that position “subject to the discipline of the Church”[21] is a hermeneutic that allows hypothetical outcomes to take precedence over the primary import of the text. Such warning is needed by no responsible commissioner; fear of disciplinary entanglement is a constant in our work and ought never to be used as a tactic to silence the Word of God. Moreover, General Assembly is not the court of original jurisdiction for the implementation of this doctrine in our congregational and familial life.

Fifth, when the Consensus document speaks of the “absence in the New Testament of parallel specificity with regard to the civil realm,”[22] we do not mean to indicate by that statement that it is our conviction that the New Testament is silent on the matter of the meaning and purpose of sexuality in the civil realm. Rather, we mean to say that the New Testament does not speak to the civil realm as explicitly as it speaks to the realms of Church and family, nor as explicitly as does the Old Testament. Yet there is a clear doctrine of sexuality presented with great consistency throughout the pages of Scripture, Old and New Testaments, and that doctrine has clear application for all men and women in every sphere of life.

Finally, we have made every effort to be guided by the Scriptures in writing this paper, heeding these instructions of our Confession of Faith:

(T)he whole counsel of God…is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture… (WCF I.vi).

(T)he moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof… (WCF XIX.v).

The “judicial laws,” the Standards state, “expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”[23] Some would argue that to establish that husbands have a Scriptural duty to defend their wives requires the demonstration of one or more of the following: first, that this duty is an express commandment of the Moral Law; or second, that this duty is a deduction from Scripture which is both good and necessary; or third, that this duty is required by the general equity of Old Testament judicial law.[24]

In using the term, “general equity,” the Westminster Divines were appealing to that which rises above the Jewish character, an expression of the “law of nature, common to all nations” that is “universal and permanent.”

This is in keeping with the Apostolic use of Scripture. The Apostle Paul, for instance, states that the Scriptures “were written for our instruction.”[25] Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul employs a hermeneutical principle demonstrated in the following texts, in which he calls us to learn from the Old Testament: Romans 15:4—a Psalm obeyed by the Lord as an example for us; Romans 4:23-24—words spoken by God to Abraham, repeated by Paul as God’s principle for dealing with all men; 1 Corinthians 9:8-10—theocratic case law for an animal cited here by Paul as analogical instruction for men; 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11—numerous negative examples of the sin of Israelites, cited by Paul as follows, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”[26]

These texts are relevant to our study because they are non-didactic passages in which Paul asserts that each was “written for (the) instruction” of Christians, those “upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” The Apostle says this not only about these particular passages, but he also states his principle as a general principle in Romans 15:4: “whatever [Greek osa, “everything that”] was written in earlier times was written for our instruction.” Paul is stating here what he will repeat later when he writes, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for…instruction.”[27] Both the “all” before “Scripture,” and the “whatever,” affirm that the Bible in its entirety and particularity is profitable to instruct us because it was for that purpose that it was written.

Therefore, when we read in Scripture details concerning the duty of the husband (and men) to defend his wife (and women), this reflects a law of God binding on all men—not simply an anthropological or sociological record of what was true in ancient societies. It was men God enrolled for combat duty. The LORD spoke to Moses and gave him the following command: “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man (zakar) by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army” (Numbers 1:2-3; cf. also Numbers 26 and Numbers 32:25-27). The explicit reason for the census (or mustering) is that these men will be prepared “to go out to war.”

When the reformers, answering the Anabaptist attack upon the doctrines of war found in the Old Testament, cited the Sermon on the Mount and other texts as proof of the abrogation of Old Testament law at this point, Turretin’s comments are typical of our reformed fathers’ response: “There are three opinions about (the Judicial Law’s) abrogation: the first in defect (of the Anabaptists and Antinomians, who think it is absolutely and simply abrogated as to all things). On this account, whatever reasons are drawn against them from the Old Testament for the right of the magistrate and war…they are accustomed to resolve with this one answer—that these are judicial and pertain to the Israelite people and the Old Testament, but are now abrogated under the New.”[28]

Note that Turretin cites Old Testament judicial laws concerning war as laws not “abrogated,” and those who say they are abrogated are “in defect.” Since the Reformers uniformly answered this attack upon the laws of war mounted by the Anabaptists in this way, even in the face of New Testament texts which might reasonably be advanced in favor of their abrogation—for instance, our Lord’s command to “turn the other cheek”—we would be deceiving ourselves to think that, in today’s context of gender anarchy, the Reformers would be less clear in opposing the abrogation of the Old Testament laws of war related to the duty of men to protect women.

The Old Testament laws of war must not be relegated to the ash heap of “abrogation” under the pious guise of forswearing theonomist visions of the restoration of a theocracy today. Really, those who oppose the Old Testament laws concerning the “relation of the sexes,” claiming to be guarding freedom of conscience in matters indifferent, are repeating the errors of the Anabaptists and Antinomians, and ought to be condemned as firmly as our reformed fathers condemned this error in past centuries.

Throughout the Old Testament, it was men God mustered to fight. For example, see Numbers 31:3-4; Joshua 1:14; 6:3; 8:3; Judges 7:1-8; 20:8-11; 1 Samuel 8:11-12 (contrast verse 13); 11:8; 13:2; 14:52; 24:2; 2 Samuel 24:2; 1 Chronicles 21:5; 27:1-15, 23-24; 2 Chronicles 17:12-19; 25:5-6; 26:11-14; 2 Kings 24:14-16; and Nehemiah 4:14 (“fight for…your wives and your homes”). Similarly, in Deuteronomy 20, a chapter devoted to matters concerning war, exceptions to combat were given for various reasons, but in every case the one excepted is a man (cf., e.g., verses 7 and 8, “Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.…Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too”). Nowhere in the Bible does God call women to be mustered for combat duty in the army; rather, this duty belongs to man.

This is not merely theocratic judicial case law with no binding obligation on us today. Rather, the “careful examination of the reason of the law” here recorded in this paper “afford(s) good ground of judgment as to (this law’s) perpetuity.…the original reason for its enactment (being) universal and permanent, and the law (having) never been explicitly repealed.” It is for this reason that we believe it “abides in force.”

Long prior to the institution of the theocracy over Israel, sexuality is given by God as part of His creation order, and it is the outworking of that order we see in the Old Testament record of war—not God’s conformity to an ancient patriarchal norm which we are now free to disregard. Thus it is that the moral teaching of the Old Testament and the general equity of the judicial laws continue in their relevance to us who live in the New Testament age. Then too, with A. A. Hodge we may agree that the “relations between the sexes….have their immediate ground in the permanent nature and relations of men (and that they) continue unchanged as long as the present constitution of nature continues, and are of universal binding obligation.”

But again, a clear example of an Old Testament moral teaching not explicitly found in the Ten Commandments nor repeated in the New Testament is God’s demand for capital punishment for those who willfully take the lives of others (Gen. 9:5,6). Yet this teaching is recognized in our Westminster Larger Catechism’s statement that “the sins forbidden in the Sixth Commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice …” (answer 136). The Westminster Divines indicate that, not only Christians, but also the “public,” must adhere to this law of God. And in the New Testament, we find several examples of male soldiers (cf., e. g., Matthew 8:9; par. Luke 7:8; Acts 10:1; 23:23; cf. also Romans 13:4), demonstrating again that those who do not have the law, do “by nature things required by the law” (Romans 2:14; cf. also 1 Corinthians 5:1 and 1 Timothy 5: 8).

Thus it must be concluded that the general equity of the laws surrounding sexuality as instituted by God in His creation order leads unambiguously to the conclusion that man is called to lay down his life in defense of his bride, home, and nation; and that this practice is a “law of nature, common to all nations.”


We cannot know the nature of man until we learn the nature of God. Our Lord taught us to address God in prayer, “Our Father....” Nothing in all of Scripture speaks to the debate before us more succinctly and eloquently than the Fatherhood of God. Why do we call God “Father?” 

We do not call God “Father” simply because our knowledge of our human fathers will help us to have a picture of Him as we pray. On the contrary, we call our own fathers “father” because they are a human reflection of God’s archetypal Fatherhood from which all fatherhood gets its name. The late F. F. Bruce wrote:

Ephesians 3:14 probably means that God is “the Father [pater] from whom every fatherhood [patria] in heaven and on earth is named,” “every patria is so named after the pater.” God is the archetypal Father; all other fatherhood is a more or less imperfect copy of his perfect fatherhood.[29]

The debates which rage today over the language of worship and the proper translation of gender markings in Scripture have at their heart the nature and meaning of sexuality in God’s order of creation. The root question of this debate is whether the Fatherhood of God is anthropomorphic or archetypal—whether patriarchy is merely a human habit we have inherited from our ancestors and therefore expendable, or God’s decree, and therefore universally binding. David Lyle Jeffrey comments:

In theological terms…‘God the Father’ is not really a metaphor at all—at least not in the minds of the writers of Scripture or early interpreters in Christian tradition.…As Jaroslav Pelikan puts it: “(U)sing the name Father for God was not…a figure of speech. It was only because God was the Father of the Logos-Son that the term father could also be applied to human parents, and when it was used of them it was a figure of speech. (Emphases in the original.). [30]

It is our conviction that in studying the Fatherhood of God we learn the nature of human fatherhood. Such knowledge is God’s perfect balm for the hearts of all whose earthly fathers have failed them: Our Heavenly Father will never leave us nor forsake us. When we are abandoned by our fathers here on earth He will pick us up and carry us tenderly in His arms. Why can we be certain of this?

Because He is a judge for widows and a father to the orphans, taking up the cause of all those weak and vulnerable by virtue of their age, sex, life circumstance, or spiritual bondage. Thus concerning those in spiritual bondage, Scripture promises, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him.”[31] Concerning foreigners: “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”[32] Concerning the poor: “He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and He set the world on them.”[33] Concerning the fatherless and widows: “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.”[34]

Those who hold positions of power and authority are to pattern themselves after God’s fatherly attributes in their care for the weak and vulnerable: “Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.”[35] And if they refuse, here is their condemnation: “Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them.”[36]

It is worth noting that Scripture speaks of God taking up the cause of widows, not widowers, and this aspect of God’s revelation has passed largely without comment by exegetes and expositors, needing no explanation until our own time when men have forgotten that a widow is vulnerable because of the absence of her husband. For those without husbands and fathers, our Heavenly Father is a warrior, mighty in battle: “The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse [His] zeal like a man (ish) of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.”[37]

Note that God is “like a man of war,” not like a woman of war. Scripture indicates it is shameful for any nation to have womanly warriors: “The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, they stay in the strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are becoming like women; their dwelling places are set on fire, the bars of her gates are broken.”[38]

God is the Father from Whom all fatherhood gets its name, and He shows Himself strong in behalf of the weak and oppressed, taking them under His wings and defending them from all harm, particularly the sojourner, the poor, orphans, and widows—women with no husband to support, guard and protect them.


(T)hen comes the end, when (Christ) hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:24-25).

Jesus Christ engaged Satan in battle, vanquishing His foe and purchasing the freedom of His Bride.[39] Our Lord “was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Our Savior fought valiantly and unceasingly for His Bride until He rendered Satan powerless.[40]

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil… (Hebrews 2:14).

On this passage, Calvin comments:

(Christ) has so delivered us from the tyranny of the devil, that we are rendered safe….(T)he destruction of the devil, of which he speaks, imports this—that he cannot prevail against us. For though the devil still lives, and constantly attempts our ruin, yet all his power to hurt us is destroyed or restrained. It is a great consolation to know that we have to do with an enemy who cannot prevail against us.[41]

Only an age of prosperity and peace could fail to note the military imagery so often used in Scripture to describe our Savior’s work. Tertullian comments:

(Christ) came to wage a spiritual warfare against spiritual enemies, in spiritual campaigns, and with spiritual weapons. (Christ) also must be understood to be an exterminator of spiritual foes, who wields spiritual arms and fights in spiritual strife…. Therefore it is of such a war as this that the Psalm may evidently have spoken: “The Lord is strong, the Lord is mighty in battle.” For with the last enemy death did He fight, and through the trophy of the Cross He triumphed.[42]

Thus is the Creator’s Christ mighty in war, and a bearer of arms; thus also does He now take the spoils, not of Samaria alone, but of all nations.[43]

The divine warrior theme of the Old Testament reaches its fulfillment in the spiritual victory won by Christ on the Cross.[44] Thus it is that, in Ephesians 5:23-27, the Apostle Paul refers to Christ as “Savior of the body” and commands husbands to love their wives “as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her.” The sacrificial love of our Bridegroom for His Bride sets the standard:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the Head of the Church, He Himself being the Savior of the Body. …Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for Her… (Ephesians 5:23,25).

Christ loves the Church in many ways; He prays for Her, leads Her, provides for Her, and protects Her, and each of these redemptive acts of love finds a scriptural echo in the practical love a husband owes his wife.[45] But what about Christ’s definitive act of love, His substitutionary death for His Bride? Is there no counterpart in a husband’s duty? When the death of Christ is held out as the supreme example of the love human husbands are to have for their wives, is it enough to relegate such sacrifice merely to emotional and spiritual realms?

Paul writes that Christ “gave Himself up for” (Ephesians 5:25) the Church. Jesus took our place, offering Himself up to God as our substitute, dying “on behalf of” the Church, taking upon Himself what we deserved so we might be washed, cleansed, and sanctified.

This is the example and challenge before us as husbands. But how do we apply this to our lives? Obviously, this entails sacrificing our own interests and desires for our wives, but the terminology of the passage pushes us even further. Paul’s emphasis here is not ethereal; he talks about bodies, sex, and becoming “one flesh.”[46] Jesus is the Savior not just of souls but also of bodies, and husbands, called to love as the Bridegroom loved His Bride, must see it as their duty to lay down their own lives for their brides.

How could a Christian husband possibly think that self-sacrifice is his duty towards his wife in spiritual matters, yet deny it in temporal matters? What does it mean for Scripture to call husbands to follow in the footsteps of their Savior, if it doesn’t mean that husbands have a unique, sex-specific duty to lay down their own physical lives for the bodily salvation of their brides?

The analogy of Christ’s love for His Bride to the love of a husband for his wife comes from the pen of the apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the archetypal Bridegroom, fighting to the death for His archetypal Bride, the Church.[47] He is the Victor,[48] defending and protecting His Bride by engaging and vanquishing Her enemy:[49]

Through the Second Man, (God) bound the strong one, and spoiled his goods, and annihilated death, bringing life to man who had become subject to death.… Wherefore, he who had taken man captive was himself taken captive by God, and man who had been taken captive was set free from the bondage of condemnation. (Irenaeus; Against Heresies; III., 23. 1)

Who would deny that husbands have a sex-specific duty to defend their wives, engaging and vanquishing her enemies? Their own Master is Savior of His Bride, and they are to follow in His footsteps, laying down their lives as He first laid down His.


One of the great privileges of knowing Jesus as our Groom is to be called to be an undershepherd of His Flock. Yet, as the subsequent history of Jesus’ first twelve undershepherds demonstrates, such a calling is not the domain of cowards. Shepherding the Flock of Christ requires taking up the Cross in Her behalf, fighting not with physical but spiritual weapons.

These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “…as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.… A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! …Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples… (Matthew 10:5,16-18,24-25,32-34; 11:1a).

This warning of impending warfare is given specifically to the Twelve. The passage begins and ends with Jesus warning His apostles that they have been called to follow their Master, not merely in what they preach, but also in the opposition, hatred, and death at the hands of God’s enemies they will face. Who were these men commissioned by Jesus to this service?

First, they were men—men chosen by God. Prior to calling the Twelve Jesus prayed through the night about the selection process before Him;[50] at the end of His life Jesus referred to the Twelve as those the Father had given Him.[51]

There was nothing accidental about the composition of the Twelve. In this light, we note also that these individuals chosen by God were exclusively Jewish and male. Here again God’s creation mandate that declares that men—not women—are to carry the burden of leadership and authority comes into view. God’s Word calls men to serve as officers of Christ’s Church, modeling their protection on the example of their glorious Master and the great cloud of faithful undershepherds, who throughout history have followed in their Master’s footsteps by laying down their lives for the Flock. Such an understanding of the eldership informed our own PCA fathers when they wrote of the “guardianship …which the church maintains over its members” through the discipline applied by her officers.[52]

Though our first Adam failed in his exercise of this duty, our Second Adam, the Good Shepherd, fulfilled this mandate to perfection, and it is He that all faithful undershepherds of the Church march behind as they guard the household of faith.[53] Paul commands the young pastor, Timothy, to “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18). Timothy is to “Suffer hardship… as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:1,3-4). Ambrose writes: “This it is the true fortitude which Christ’s warrior has, who receives not the crown unless he strives lawfully.… Affliction on all sides, fighting without and fears within. And though in dangers, in countless labors, in prisons, in deaths—he was not broken in spirit, but fought so as to become more powerful through his infirmities.”[54]


In the Garden of Eden God revealed the pattern of man’s protective responsibility by communicating two duties to Adam, the federal head and father of mankind: first He commanded him to cultivate and keep, to protect, the Garden; and second He commanded him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).

The same Hebrew root used in the command to keep the Garden (shmr) is also used in Cain’s rhetorical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”[55] Then too, in Genesis 3:24 the Lord Himself posted a guard of Cherubim to keep (shmr) Adam from intruding into the Garden where he might avail himself of the Tree of Life. Since Adam failed to fulfill his duty to guard the Garden and his wife by slaying the Serpent,[56] he was ordered out of the Garden and an angelic guard was posted with flaming swords to guard the Garden against Adam himself.

God commanded Adam to guard the Garden, and it was not until after He made Adam the first line of defense that He created Eve. From the beginning Eve was dependent upon the protection of her husband, and this point was not lost on Satan. Luther notes the significance of Satan tempting Eve:

Satan’s cleverness is perceived also in this, that he attacks the weak part of the human nature, Eve the woman, not Adam the man….Just as in all the rest of nature the strength of the male surpasses that of the other sex, so also in the perfect nature the male somewhat excelled the female. …Satan, therefore, directs his attack on Eve as the weaker part and puts her valor to the test….[57]

Similarly, Calvin:

Moreover the craftiness of Satan betrays itself in this, that he does not directly assail the man, but approaches him, as through a mine, in the person of his wife. This insidious method of attack is more than sufficiently known to us at the present day, and I wish we might learn prudently to guard ourselves against it. For he warily insinuates himself at that point at which he sees us to be the least fortified, that he may not be perceived till he should have penetrated where he wished.[58]

There was danger in the Garden of Eden and God revealed that danger directly to Adam, commanding him to flee it. If some wish to negate Adam’s protective responsibilities by pointing out that Eve sinned first, let us note that when God investigated the Fall, He approached Adam alone: “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”[59] E. J. Young writes:

It is to Adam that God first calls out, for…the primary responsibility rested upon him. God had prohibited Adam from partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and so it was that God now in calling spoke to him. We may notice that the Bible expressly says, “And God said to him:” God’s address was directed to Adam, the guilty one.[60]

Scripture places squarely on Adam’s shoulders the responsibility for the Fall.[61] Instead of killing the serpent and rebuking Eve, Adam “listened to the voice of (his) wife” and ate from the forbidden tree.[62] The results of “one man’s disobedience” are catastrophic, as “creation is subjected to futility,” to “slavery to corruption,” and is groaning and suffering the “pains of childbirth until now.”[63] Herman Bavinck writes concerning Adam’s protective duty and subsequent failure at that duty:

(T)he first man received a double task to perform: first, to cultivate and preserve the garden of Eden, and, second, to eat freely of all the trees in the garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.…Adam (was to) watch over it, safeguard it, protect it against all evil that may threaten it, must, in short, secure it against the service of corruption in which the whole of creation now groans.[64]

If Eve needed protection in Eden, how much more does she require her husband’s protection after the Fall, especially considering the imposition of the curse. Luther notes how Adam’s protective duties are “fraught with much danger” today, necessitating the use of swords, spears, and cannons:

God assigns to Adam a twofold duty, namely, to work or cultivate this garden and, furthermore, to watch and guard it….(T)he land is not only tilled, but what has been tilled is also guarded. …(In the garden) defense or protection would have been most pleasant, whereas now it is fraught with much danger. By one single word, even by a nod, Adam would have put bears and lions to flight. Indeed, we have protection today, but it is obviously awful. It requires swords, spears, cannons, walls, redoubts, and trenches; and yet we can scarcely be safe with our families.[65]

Instead of fulfilling his duty and engaging his mortal enemy, Adam refused to stand in the breach. He listened to the woman and ate of the forbidden fruit. He was called to lay down his life in defense of his bride and his garden-home, but he betrayed his calling and abandoned his post.


Adam’s descendants also are to model their fatherhood after God, the Archetype Father. In a poem written as a dedication of his first book to his father, George MacDonald wrote, “Fatherhood is at the world’s great core.” There are many aspects to fatherhood; here John Piper reduces it to its essence: “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women….”[66] This third aspect, the protection of women, is our central concern, and we see this duty confirmed in a command given to husbands by the Apostle Peter who writes, “You husbands in the same way, live with [your wives] in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”[67]

Among the many strengths that the Bible affirms for femininity, the Bible also affirms a weakness that is distinctive to the female. This weakness is not because she is a wife, but precisely because she is a woman; and if the husband patterns himself after God the Father, he will defend the weak just as His Heavenly Father defends them. The Old Testament confirms this weakness in addressing the importance of keeping vows. In the Westminster Confession’s chapter “Of Lawful Oaths and Vows,” we read, “No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God.” Note the Scripture proof chosen by the Divines to support this doctrine:

But if her father should forbid her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the LORD will forgive her because her father had forbidden her... But if on the day her husband hears of it, he forbids her, then he shall annul her vow which she is under and the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself; and the LORD will forgive her... But if her husband indeed annuls them on the day he hears them, then whatever proceeds out of her lips concerning her vows or concerning the obligation of herself shall not stand; her husband has annulled them, and the LORD will forgive her. Every vow and every binding oath to humble herself, her husband may confirm it or her husband may annul it (Numbers 30:5,8,12,13).

Fathers are to protect the weaker sex, “annul(ling) her vow which she is under and the rash statement of her lips by which she has bound herself….” By citing this text in their Scripture proofs, the Westminster Divines demonstrate their thoroughgoing commitment to the biblical doctrine of male headship.[68] The Divines here teach us that a woman may properly be barred from both taking and fulfilling a vow, due to a prior subordinate relationship—in this case, that she is by virtue of the creation order under the authority of her husband or father. Commenting on when vows are non-binding, A. A. Hodge writes, “A vow cannot bind…when made by a child or other person under authority and destitute of the right to bind themselves of their own will (Numbers 30:1-8).”[69]

Hodge’s comments and direct citation of Numbers 30 are typical of our reformed fathers’ understanding of the man’s duty to guard his wife and daughters, and of the woman’s inability to act independently of that male authority which God has placed in her life for her own well-being and protection. God the Father provides this covering of authority when the widow and orphan no longer have protection under their natural sovereign: “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.”[70]

Beyond the danger of “rash statements,” a host of biblical texts indicate that it is man’s duty to defend his wife, children, and nation.[71]

When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken (Deuteronomy 24:5).

Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the LORD’S vengeance on Midian (Numbers 31:3).

Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them, until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as [He gives] you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them (Joshua 1:14).

When Jacob went to meet Esau, he sent his servants ahead with the gifts,[72] then he himself went in front of his wives and children.[73] Joseph was called by God to stand with Mary in her time of need;[74] then later, God called Joseph to protect Jesus from Herod’s slaughter: “(B)ehold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’”[75]

Small parts of God’s Word are worthy of the closest scrutiny, including that minimalist picture drawn by the Apostle John, of Jesus, as He hangs on the Cross, assigning John the duty of caring for His mother, Mary. It would have been unthinkable for Jesus to have given this duty to a woman; here too, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness—even that of His sex—by transferring to a man His duty to provide for and protect His mother:

When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household (John 19:26-27).

E. L. Hebden Taylor writes, “Christ…accepted His responsibility as a man. One of His last acts from the Cross was to turn over to His disciple, John, the care of His own beloved mother. To Mary He said, ‘Woman, behold thy son,’ and to John, ‘Behold thy mother’” (John 19:26).[76]

God is the archetypal Father from Whom all fatherhood gets its name, and the fatherhood of man is vindicated when men show themselves strong, not only in behalf of their wives and daughters, but in behalf of all the weak and oppressed—including sojourners, the poor, orphans, and widows.


Prior to this point we have approached the question of women in combat from the perspective of fatherhood, beginning with the Fatherhood of God, expanding into the work of Christ, the Bridegroom; then descending to human fatherhood—familial, cultural and ecclesiastical.

As we turn our attention to biblical teaching on womanhood, let us remember that there is implicit instruction on womanhood in Scripture’s teaching on fatherhood. When God specifically links His works to His character as Father, when the Son’s behavior is linked to His Husbandly love for His Bride, and when corresponding human duties are established in the Word as the province of the man, it behooves us to recognize that such teaching constitutes implicit guidance on the role and responsibilities of womanhood.

But Scripture also teaches explicitly on womanhood; let us start with this explicit biblical principle: “Husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman…” (1 Peter 3:7). One part of the weakness attributed to woman by the Word of God is the vulnerability attendant to her nature as the “Mother of all the living.”[77]

With all due respect, perhaps the simplest and most eloquent argument against woman serving in military combat roles is the fact that she has been endowed by her Creator with a womb and breasts. A woman constantly carries with her the demands and vulnerability of motherhood. Picture an attack upon any family unit: the enemy approaches, the mother retreats with a baby at her breast and the rest of her little ones gathered under her skirts, and the father stands his ground to intercept the enemy. Our Lord issues a dire warning concerning these same aspects of womanhood: “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!”[78]

Read Scripture with the nature and purpose of womanhood in mind and it is striking how central the theme of childbearing appears, from the consequences of the Fall, to the blessings of the godly, to the necessary qualifications of women seeking to be enrolled as widows in the Church:

To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children… (Genesis 3:16).

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table (Psalms 128:3). 

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work (1 Timothy 5:9,10).

Devoting herself to her children and home is a central part of the curriculum older women are to teach younger women of the Church, warning that those Christian women who turn away from these things dishonor the Word of God:

(E)ncourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, [to be] sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the Word of God will not be dishonored (Titus 2:4-5).

Therefore, I want younger [widows] to get married, bear children, keep house, [and] give the enemy no occasion for reproach (1 Timothy 5:14).

And what of the “excellent wife” of Proverbs 31? Her focus is the same as that commended to the younger women in Titus 2: she “gives food to her household,” with strength she buys and sells land, “grasps the spindle,” and “extends her hand to the poor,” her “household (is) clothed with scarlet” and she “looks well to the ways of her household;” thus it is that “her children arise and call her ‘blessed.’”

The Apostle Paul writes, “women shall be preserved through the bearing of children….”[79] While there has been much debate over the meaning of this statement, no one has ever doubted that childbearing is at the center of woman’s calling, and that this work of woman is akin to warfare, requiring the greatest courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice. Therefore, it should be understood that any attempt to absolve woman of military duty recognizes that her service to man as life-giver already carries with it the most severe consequences of pain and bloodshed, even to the point of death.

Because of his love and respect for femininity’s essence, past generations of man made every effort to shield mothers, daughters, and wives from the ravages of war, whether in body or spirit. Even battlefield nurses who cared for men, nursing them back to life and tenderly binding up their wounded bodies and hearts, were ordinarily protected from frontline horrors:

April 16, 1945

Dearest Family:

The war has been moving so fast it makes you wonder where the catch is, and if there isn’t some surprise they’re going to spring. It is strange to be sitting in Germany—in the middle of a conquered country….(We) are in a Nazi city now and for the first time I’m beginning to feel real hatred for the German people. It’s in the air. Stories come back to us from men who have visited the concentration camp nearby. Hundreds of bodies of slave laborers were discovered, including three American airmen—some burned, some starved, all emaciated, stacked up like cordwood. The German mayor, or Bürgermeister, and his wife were taken out to see the place after the Americans took over. They went home and hanged themselves that night—whether from shame and remorse that they belonged to such a murderous race, or from fear that we might do the same to them, I don’t know.

Our girls have wanted to go, too—one of those morbid things that attract and fascinate even though they’re revolting. But our Army bosses won’t let us. Their refusal made our girls awfully mad, and they couldn’t see that the restriction was intended as a compliment. The Army felt that it would be unbecoming for us to view a stack of starved, nude male bodies. While at first I thought I wanted to go, too, now I’m glad they wouldn’t let us—and pleased that our men thought that much of us. It is just little things like that which set us apart from the rest of the world and make me glad I’m an American. Maybe we aren’t very good warriors, but we’re certainly a better people.


Angie (Angela Petesch, Red Cross nurse.)[80]

Finally, we turn to one of the most horrific aspects of the feminization of the military—an aspect which has passed without comment in the Church’s discussion of women combatants: mothers in battle. Throughout history, soldiers have intentionally slaughtered pregnant women and their unborn children by thrusting their weapons into the mother’s womb:

Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” Then he answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up” (2 Kings 8:12).

In his commentary on Exodus 21:22, Calvin indicates that it is “atrocious” for an unborn child to be killed in his mother’s womb:

The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being, and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to life.

Yet this is precisely what must happen in any military force which deploys women of childbearing age as combatants. Unborn children will be destroyed as they rest in the place God has designed as their most secure refuge. Are we such monsters that we fail to recoil from this in horror?

In the work of this committee, one of our committee members held a lengthy discussion with Professor Vern Poythress of Westminster Seminary about the implications of pregnancy among female combatants in our armed forces. Following that conversation, Poythress wrote:

Within the just war theological tradition, we believe that Scripture gives to governments the power to conscript soldiers and to accept volunteers. But to conscript women is immoral, because it unnecessarily endangers the lives of fetuses. The fact that the commanders and/or conscriptors cannot know  with certainty is the problem. Principles like the goring ox and the rail around the roof of houses show that we must not only not be guilty of willfully taking innocent life, but must protect against opening the possibility of accidental taking of life.

What about women volunteers? For the sake of argument suppose one grants that an adult woman has the authority to volunteer herself, to risk her life (as women do risk their lives when they give birth!). But she does not have the authority to “volunteer” her fetus, because, as we have seen through the abortion controversy, the fetus is a distinct human being.[81]

Illustrating our nation’s confusion and consequent inconsistency, though, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 4888 last year, prohibiting states from executing a pregnant woman until after the safe delivery of her child. H.R. 4888 reads, “It shall be unlawful for any authority, military or civil, of the United States, a State, or any district, possession, commonwealth or other territory under the authority of the United States to carry out a sentence of death on a woman while she carries a child in utero. In this section, the term ‘child in utero’ means a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”

So although we have enacted laws as a nation to protect the in utero children of criminals, Congress offers no such legal protection to the in utero children of our women soldiers—and this, despite the dramatic frequency of pregnancy among women members of the U.S. military. The problem is not that women become pregnant or bear children; this is the very essence of femininity, as indicated by the name Adam gave his wife: “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.”[82] Rather, the problem is that we have placed our daughters and sisters in the untenable position of seeking to be killers even as they naturally, and even at the same time, seek to bring forth life.

Is it ever possible to deal with woman as an abstract entity without considering her essential nature as life-giver? We answer “no.” Woman is woman: she can never be less, God be praised!


God made man male and female and this foundational diversity of sexuality He pronounced “good.”[83] Since all the glorious variety of God’s creation ought to be the occasion of our rejoicing, sexual differentiation should be no exception to this rule. Rather than a stingy attitude through which we seek to minimize sexuality’s implications in our lives, we ought to maximize this diversity, renouncing every thought and action which tends to diminish it. This is the biblical context to understand the texts which deal with the clothing of men and women: clothing is not to confuse, but rather to clarify, our sexuality:

A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.[84] 

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man.… Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering.[85]

In his exposition of the Seventh Commandment, John Calvin speaks of the immodesty of women who clothe themselves as warriors:

This decree also commends modesty in general, and in it God anticipates the danger, lest women should harden themselves into forgetfulness of modesty, or men should degenerate into effeminacy unworthy of their nature. Garments are not in themselves of so much importance; but as it is disgraceful for men to become effeminate, and also for women to affect manliness in their dress and gestures, propriety and modesty are prescribed, not only for decency’s sake, but lest one kind of liberty should at length lead to something worse. The words of the heathen poet (Juvenal) are very true:

“What shame can she, who wears a helmet, show,

Her sex deserting?” [86]

Similarly, Clement of Alexandria:

What reason is there in the law’s prohibiting a man from “wearing woman’s clothing?” Is it not that it would have us to be manly, and not to be effeminate neither in person and actions, nor in thought and word? For it would have the man, that devotes himself to the truth, to be masculine both in acts of endurance and patience, in life, conduct, word, and discipline by night and by day; even if the necessity were to occur, of witnessing by the shedding of his blood. Again, it is said, “If any one who has newly built a house, and has not previously inhabited it; or cultivated a newly-planted vine, and not yet partaken of the fruit; or betrothed a virgin, and not yet married her;” — such the humane law orders to be relieved from military service: from military reasons in the first place, lest, bent on their desires, they turn out sluggish in war….[87]

Deuteronomy 22:5 declares that God abhors woman camouflaging herself as a man (and vice versa). Man and woman are not to exchange clothing because to do so is an attack upon the glory God has attached to sexuality.[88] Thus it is that the Church has condemned women warriors. [89] For example, Luther comments on this text:

A woman shall not bear the weapons of a man, nor shall a man wear female clothing.…for it is shameful for a man to be clothed like a woman, and it is improper for a woman to bear the arms of a man. Through this law (God) seems to reproach any nation in which this custom is observed.[90]

If men and women exchanging clothing is condemned because such actions explicitly deny one’s sexuality,  is it any surprise that womanly armies are loathsome and pathetic? So, for instance:

In that day the Egyptians will become like women, and they will tremble and be in dread because of the waving of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which He is going to wave over them (Isaiah 19:16).

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).

A sword against their horses and against their chariots and against all the foreigners who are in the midst of her, and they will become women! A sword against her treasures, and they will be plundered (Jeremiah 50:37).

The mighty men of Babylon have ceased fighting, they stay in the strongholds; their strength is exhausted, they are becoming [like] women; their dwelling places are set on fire, the bars of her [gates] are broken (Jeremiah 51:30).

One can understand, then, why golden-tongued Chrysostom, whose preaching was used by God in the conversion of Augustine, would express himself in this conservative manner concerning women’s roles:

Woman was not made for this, O man, to be prostituted as common. O ye subverters of all decency, who use men, as if they were women, and lead out women to war, as if they were men! This is the work of the devil, to subvert and confound all things, to overleap the boundaries that have been appointed from the beginning, and remove those which God has set to nature. For God assigned to woman the care of the house only, to man the conduct of public affairs. But you reduce the head to the feet, and raise the feet to the head. You suffer women to bear arms, and are not ashamed.[91]


The contemporary push to normalize women serving in offensive combat positions is part of a larger ideological movement aggressively seeking to redefine the meaning and purpose of sexuality. Patriarchy is the enemy and any steps taken to vanquish that enemy, even to the point of turning men into women and women into men, is seen to be justified because of the justice of the larger cause. We oppose that movement, not because we are politically conservative, but because the movement is contrary to the express will of God revealed in His Word. This movement is diametrically opposed to the creation order God ordained, but those seeking this deform will continue to pursue it with the greatest fervor, without blushing in the face of its consequences. Consider the following excerpt from the Los Angeles Times:

[Due to a high casualty rate which has caused a growing shortage of able-bodied men within the rebel armies of Sri Lanka, the Los Angeles Times reports that women and children are taking up arms, and that they now comprise over a third of rebel forces.]

In a land where women are prized for their quiet passivity, one of the world’s most ruthless guerrilla groups is riding toward victory on the strength of its female fighters. The women of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, rebels waging a war for an independent homeland in this island nation, are emerging as the movement’s most important weapon after thousands of men have died in battle. 

With vials of cyanide hanging from their necks [to kill themselves, if captured—a requirement of all rebel soldiers], women Tigers are shooting their way into government bunkers and police stations. They are hacking to death men, women and babies. Women Tigers are wrapping their bodies with explosives and killing dozens in suicide attacks.

…Seetha, a 22-year-old leader of 1,500 women fighters, stands just over 5 feet tall, wears her hair neatly trimmed and says she might one day like to have a family. Dressed in camouflage fatigues and toting a machine gun, she talks with the cool confidence of a battle-hardened commander.

“It’s difficult to say how many people I’ve killed,” said Seetha, who gave up her real name when she became a Tiger. “Sometimes after a battle, there might be 50 or 75 bodies lying around. It’s hard to say how many of them were mine.”

Seetha is one of thousands of Sri Lankan women who have joined the Tigers, changing not only the face of the notorious rebel army but also challenging long-held views of their gender in this traditional society.

* * *

Anton Raja, a Tiger spokesman, said the use of women in war is part of a larger vision of the guerrilla leadership to liberate Tamil women from the bonds of tradition. “In the old society, women were cultured and nice. We loved them, but they had no major role outside of the kitchen,” Raja said. “We went around to the women and told them: ‘You are the equal of men, you have the same rights, you can join us in the struggle.’”

* * *

Sri Lankan officials have long charged that Tiger leaders recruit children, who are easier to mold into pure fighters. Rebels deny the charge, but the women’s camp here contained at least one girl, code-named Yadusha.

Yadusha, a quiet 14-year-old with close-cropped hair, said the Sri Lankan army killed her uncle, Pushpara, in 1988. Another uncle, Thiyagarajay, died fighting when he was 19. When her brother, a Tiger commando named Dayaparan, died three years ago, Yadusha decided to take his place. She said she hasn’t seen any action yet, but she already wears a cyanide pill around her neck. “When they call me, I’ll go,” she said.[92]

Times have changed from the days of the Early Church when Clement of Alexandria wrote:

We do not say that woman’s nature is the same as man’s, as she is woman. For undoubtedly it stands to reason that some difference should exist between each of them, in virtue of which one is male and the other female. Pregnancy and parturition, accordingly, we say belong to woman, as she is woman, and not as she is a human being. But if there were no difference between man and woman, both would do and suffer the same things. As then there is sameness, as far as respects the soul, she will attain to the same virtue; but as there is difference as respects the peculiar construction of the body, she is destined for child-bearing and housekeeping.… For we do not train our women like Amazons to manliness in war (although) I hear that the Sarmatian women practice war no less than the men; and the women of the Sacae besides, who shoot backwards, feigning flight as well as the men.[93]

Vietnam veteran and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Walter A. McDougall, writes: “…one of the central goals of the feminist movement is to establish a fully sexually integrated military, trained, fit, and ready to engage in combat.…The United States today is the only serious military power in history to contemplate thorough sexual integration of its armed forces. And thanks to an adamant feminist lobby, a conspiracy of silence in the officer corps, and the anodyne state of debate over the issue, the brave new world of female infantry, bomber pilots, submariners, and drill sergeants may lie just around the corner.” [94]

No doubt women can fulfill many duties traditionally carried out by men, and do it with great competence. But that is not the point. Women are capable of preaching, but may they preach—that is a different question. The Apostle Paul answered “no” and gave the Holy Spirit’s reason, “For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.”[95] But our postmodern age hates, and seeks to obliterate distinctions, particularly those related to authority. Other ages have suffered a similar curse by God: “O My people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray and confuse the direction of your paths.”[96]

The connection here made between women ruling and children oppressing adds another aspect to our understanding of man’s duty to protect those under his care: in a nation which has decided to use its women as warriors, what is to stop our civil leaders from asking the infirm, the aged, and children also to pick up arms?

We, the undersigned, are convinced that the creation order of sexuality places on man the duty to lay down his life for his wife. Women and men alike must be led to understand and obey this aspect of the biblical doctrine of sexuality, believing that such will lead to the unity and purity of the Church, and to the glory of God. Those who deny this duty, whether in word or action, oppose the Word of God.

Taken together, we believe the above arguments provide a clear and compelling scriptural rationale for declaring our Church’s principled opposition to women serving in military combat positions. It saddens us to see how common it has become for the reaction against certain modern theological positions (such as theonomy and dispensationalism), to diminish our confidence in the entire Word of God. In discussions of the biblical teaching on women serving in offensive combat positions, it has struck us how pervasive is the disregard for the contemporary utility of two-thirds of the written Word of God. This we regret deeply.

There is no glory to God in a view of the Old Testament that relegates its clear teaching on the relations of the sexes merely to “wise counsel.” How much better off we would be to echo the respect for the Old Testament’s teaching of those church fathers cited above who have so clearly spoken of the normative nature of Old Testament law governing the behavior and proper relation of the sexes.

Historical theologian, Harold O. J. Brown, has written: “Within both Judaism and Christianity, indeed almost universally in all human culture, the military profession has been reserved for males. …Ephesians 5 (tells us) that Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her…. (H)usbands should be prepared to die for their wives rather than vice versa.”[97]

With this weight of testimony enumerated above, it becomes clear that the burden of proof does not rest on those who claim that man has a duty to defend woman, but those who deny this duty. Meditating on the glory of the divine institution of marriage, the nineteenth century Southern Presbyterian pastor, William S. Plumer, wrote:

Some persons far removed from all sickly sensibility never witness the solemnization of a marriage without strong emotion. Behold that noble, generous young man, full of energy, courage and magnanimity. He has sincerely plighted his troth. He would not hesitate a moment to step in between his loved one and the stroke of death, and thus save her from all harm. By his side stands a lovely female clothed in all the freshness of youth, and surpassing beauty. In the trusting, the heroic devotion, which impels her to leave country, parents, for a comparative stranger, she has launched her frail bark upon a wide and stormy sea. She has handed over her happiness and doom for this world, to another’s keeping. But she has done it fearlessly, for love whispers to her, that her chosen guardian and protector bears a manly and a noble heart. Oh woe to him that forgets his oath and manliness.[98]

Fathers and brothers, may God cause us to remember our oaths and manliness.


TE Timothy B. Bayly

TE Stephen W. Leonard

RE Bentley B. Rayburn

RE Keith Stoeber

RE Donald B. Weyburn

[1] Romans 2:14.

[2] While the approach of Hodge here is weighty for historic Presbyterian thought, another less deductive approach is possible. This would be the inductive model of moving from the general equity of the civil law of Israel that proscribed military service to women, to the universal or general legal reality of the proscription of military service to women in all cultures, not only in the Ancient Near East, but throughout recorded history until the recent novel sociological initiatives  of the twentieth century. General equity implies that which is universal to all nations. Special equity is that legal obligation which is particular to the needs of Israel as a theocratic commonwealth. Israel’s denial of military service to women as part of its civil law was not for its own interest as a chosen theocratic nation, but was in fact a reflection of God’s moral reality for all nations.

[3] A. A. Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Education, 1869), p. 338-339. See also, A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1990), pp. 271-289.

[4] “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away” (Job 12:23).

[5] Currently, women comprise 14% of those on active duty but 20% of new recruits. See Steven Lee Myers, “The Armed Forces Soften Their Touch,” New York Times, April 2, 2000; also Lucian K. Truscott IV, “Marketing an Army of Individuals,” New York Times, January 21, 2001.

[6] 1 Timothy 3:15.

[7] Romans 1:26-27.

[8] Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, Homily 4 on Romans 1:26, 27.

[9] C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (New York: Macmillan, 1947), p. 35.

[10] Consensus Report, Section V: “Relevant Viewpoints from Church History.”

[11] Ibid, Section IX: “Scriptural Premises.”

[12] Ibid.

[13] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1992), 2:115.

[14] Judges 4.

[15] Judges 4:9.

[16] Judges 5:7.

[17] “Now she sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali, and said to him, ‘Behold, the LORD, the God of Israel, has commanded, “Go and march to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men (ish) from the sons of Naphtali and from the sons of Zebulun”’” (Judges 4:6).

[18] Judges 9:54.

[19] John Murray, Collected Writings, 4 vols., (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), 1:253.

[20] John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 13:10.

[21] Wise Counsel Position, p. 1.

[22] Consensus Report, Section IX.

[23] WCF XIX.iv.

[24] Cf. 1 Corinthians 9:8-10; 10:1-13; 1 Timothy 5:18; also Romans 15:4.

[25] Romans 15:4 NASB; cf. Romans 4:23-24; 1 Corinthians 9:8-10; 10:6 and 11.

[26] 1 Corinthians 10:11.

[27] 2 Timothy 3:16.

[28] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1992), 2:166.

[29] Colin Brown, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), s.v. ‘Name,’ by Frederick Fyvie Bruce, 2:657.

[30] David Lyle Jeffrey, “Inclusivity and Our Language of Worship,” Reformed Journal, August, 1987.

[31] Psalm 103:13.

[32] Deuteronomy 10:18.

[33] 1 Samuel 2:8.

[34] Psalm 68:5.

[35] Psalm 82:3.

[36] Isaiah 1:23.

[37] Isaiah 42:13.

[38] Jeremiah 51:30.

[39] “He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things, both waging war against our enemy, and crushing him who had at the beginning led us away captives in Adam, and trampled upon his head, as thou canst perceive in Genesis that God said to the serpent, ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall be on the watch for thy head, and thou on the watch for His heel.’ For from that time, He who should be born of a woman …was preached as keeping watch for the head of the serpent.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 21; “Christ Is the Head of All Things.”

[40] Genesis 3:15; Revelation 2:7; 19:1-8; 22:2,14,17,19.

[41] Calvin’s Commentary on Hebrews 2:14.

[42] Tertullian, The Five Books Against Marcion, Book 4, Chapter 20.

[43] Ibid, Book 3, Chapter 14.

[44] See Tremper Longman, “The Divine Warrior: The New Testament Use of an Old Testament Motif,” Westminster Theological Journal, 4 ( Fall, 1982), pp. 292-307.

[45] 1 Corinthians 14:34-35; Ephesians 5:23-24; 1 Timothy 5:8; etc.

[46] Ephesians 5:28-33.

[47] “(T)he Lord, Who has subdued under His yoke all earthly kingdoms in the bosom of His Church spread abroad through the whole world, will not fail to defend Her from wrong….” Augustine, Letter 35 (To Eusebius).

[48] Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of the Atonement, (London: S.P.C.K., 1953).

[49] Longman writes, “in many New Testament passages the ‘Day of Yahweh’ the Divine Warrior is transformed into the ‘Day of Christ’ the Divine Warrior (1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6,10; 2:16)” Ibid., p. 292.

[50] John 6:12, 13.

[51] John 17:6, 12b.

[52] Book of Church Order 27-1.

[53] On the fatherhood of church officers, see Vern Sheridan Poythress, “The Church as Family: Why Male Leadership in the Family Requires Male Leadership in the Church,” in John Piper and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), pp. 237-250.

[54] Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, Book 1, Chapter 36, Number 183.

[55] Genesis 4:9. On the Hebrew root, shmr: “(To) ‘take care of,’ ‘guard’ …involves keeping or tending to things such as a garden (Genesis 2:15), a flock (Genesis 30:31), a house (2 Samuel 15:16). Or it may involve guarding against intruders, etc., such as the cherubim guarding the way to the tree of life in Genesis 3:24, or gatekeepers (Isaiah 21:11) or watchmen (Song of Solomon 5:7). …Cain asks, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (Genesis 4:9) [and] David touchingly admonishes Joab, before he enters battle against Absalom, to ‘watch over Absalom for me’ (2 Samuel 18:12).” R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols., (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:939.

[56] Romans 16:20; Revelation 12:1-17; 20:1-3, 7-10.

[57] Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, 55 vols. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 1:151.

[58] John Calvin, Commentaries on …Genesis, tr. John King, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), pp. 145-146.

[59] “God’s question is addressed only to the man, even though both the man and his wife are in hiding. Also in the following verse, the man comments only on his behavior, ‘I hid myself’ (rather than) ‘we hid ourselves.’” Victor Hamilton, The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), p. 193. Similarly, “The man was the first to be tried, because the primary responsibility rested upon him, and he was the first to receive the Divine command.” U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis Part One: From Adam to Noah, (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1998), p. 155.

[60] E. J. Young, Genesis 3: A Devotional and Expository Study, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1966), p. 79.

[61] “Though Eve sinned before Adam, Rom 5:12-19 traces human sin back to Adam, giving to him the ultimate responsibility for the fall.” John M. Frame, “Toward a Theology of the State,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 51, No. 2, Fall 1989, p. 207.

[62] Genesis 3:17.

[63] Romans 8:19-22.

[64] Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), p. 187.

[65] Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, 55 vols., (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), 1:102-103.

[66] John Piper, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity,” in Piper and Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), pp. 31-59.

[67] 1 Peter 3:7.

[68] Some may object that the Scripture proofs were not adopted at the same time as the Westminster Standards, but slightly later, and are, therefore, not what we adhere to when we subscribe to those Standards. While it is true that strict subscriptionists call men only to subscribe to the Standards, and not the proofs, those proofs were developed in the historical context of the Assembly, being prepared by a select group of the Divines, and hence may be taken as accurate reflections of the mind of the Assembly.

[69] A. A. Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Education, 1869), p. 395.

[70] Exodus 22:22-24.

[71] Cf. Exodus, Deuteronomy, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, etc.

[72] Genesis 32:13-18.

[73] Genesis 32, 33.

[74] Matthew 1:20-24.

[75] Matthew 2:13.

[76] E. L. Hebden Taylor, The Reformational Understanding of Family and Marriage, (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press, 1970), p. 67.

[77] Genesis 3:20.

[78] Matthew 24:19.

[79] 1 Timothy 2:15a.

[80] Andrew Carroll, “Annals of History: American Soldiers Write Home,” The New Yorker, 27 December 1999 and 3 January 2000, p. 93.

[81] Poythress went on to call into question the United State’s ability to wage a just war in such circumstances: “It follows, then, that the present U.S. government policy of allowing women in combat requires commanding officers to act immorally….I believe the implication is that the PCA (and other true churches) must…counsel the government that its policy is immoral….”

[82] Genesis 3:20.

[83] Genesis 1:26-31; 2:18-25.

[84] Deuteronomy 22:5.

[85] 1 Corinthians 11:8,14-15.

[86] John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, tr. Charles Bingham, 22 vols., (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, repr. 1996), 3:110.

[87] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, Book 2, Chapter 18.

[88] The word (kli) used to reflect “what pertains to a man” in Deuteronomy 22:5 indicates more than apparel. In Genesis 27:3, this same root is used for “weapons,” and in his Annotations on the Pentateuch, 1639, Ainsworth writes, “The Hebrew kli is a general word for all instruments, vessels, ornaments, whatsoever; and here for all apparel and whatsoever a man putteth on him, in time of peace or of war, and so the Chaldee translateth it armour or weapons, which is also forbidden a woman to wear. And this precept concerneth natural honesty and seemliness which hath perpetual equity (1 Corinthians 11)….(Thus) men should not change their nature.” C. M. Carmichael writes, “‘No woman shall put on the gear of a warrior (kli-geber),’ is an accurate translation.” Cf. C.M. Carmichael, Law and Narrative in the Bible: The Evidence of the Deuteronomic Laws and the Decalogue, p. 162.

[89] “Two years ago, John Knox in a private conversation, asked my opinion respecting female government. I frankly answered that because it was a deviation from the primitive and established order of nature, it ought to be held as a judgment on man for his dereliction of his rights just like slavery—that nevertheless certain women had sometimes been so gifted that the singular blessing of God was conspicuous in them, and made it manifest that they had been raised up by the providence of God, either because He willed by such examples to condemn the supineness of men, or thus show more distinctly His own glory. I here instanced Huldah and Deborah.” John Calvin, “Letter DXXXVIII to William Cecil” in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, ed. Henry Beveridge & Jules Bonnet, vol. 7, (Philadelphia, 1860), p. 46.

[90] Luther's Works, vol. XIV, p. 700-01. Similar translation and comment is found in Calvin, J. Ridderbos, S. Driver, Peter Craigie, J. Maxwell, E. Kalland, The Targum Onkelos, etc.

[91] Chrysostom, Homily on Titus 2:14.

[92] Dexter Filkins, “In Sri Lanka, Dying To Be Equals,” Los Angeles Times, February 21, 2000, page A1.

[93] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, book 4, chapter 8.

[94] Walter A. McDougall, “The Feminization of the American Military” February 4, 2000, E-Notes, distributed by the Foreign Policy Research Institute <fpri.org>.

[95] 1 Timothy 2:13.

[96] Isaiah 3:12.

[97] Harold O. J. Brown, “The Goddess and the Bride,” Chronicles, February 2000, pp. 42-43.

[98] William S. Plumer, The Law of God, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1864; repr. 1996, Sprinkle) p. 455.