This message was delivered October 5, 1998 in Riga, Latvia, at a Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church conference titled "Gender Theology: Questions, Problems, Perspectives." At the time, as well as serving as Sr. Pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd (now called Clearnote Church, Bloomington), I was Executive Director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Latvia had won her liberty from the Soviet Union late in 1991 and the Latvian church was facing very hard times, financially. The Lutheran World Federation was promising to help, but there were strings: before they made any financial commitment, they required the Latvians to hold a conference that openly explored the question of wether or not women could exercise authority over men as church officers. The Latvians were resistant to the idea, but needing the money, they agreed to hold the conference.
The Clarity and Simplicity of Scripture's Order of Creation
October 5, 1998
It is a great joy to be here with you and to think of how impossible this time together would have been just a few years ago. How good it is to be able to cross borders so freely--without even the necessity of a visa--and to be able to join together in fellowship and worship with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
But then too, I am particularly pleased to be able to speak to you on the subject of Biblical manhood and womanhood. Here it may be appropriate to insert some biographical information, but first please allow me to clarify my own vocabulary:
So when I refer to the different positions taken by Christians today concerning what Scripture has to say about manhood and womanhood, I will use these terms:
First, the words 'complementarian' or 'patriarchal' will be used to indicate the Church's historical position which calls for a distinction in roles between men and women in the government of the Church and home; and particularly to the necessity of men holding positions of authority.
Second, the word 'egalitarian' will be used to indicate the position held by feminists today when they call for women to hold leadership positions of authority equally with men.
Now for some personal history: Although today I myself believe in the Church's historical, patriarchal position, it was not always so. Back in 1976 when my wife and I were first married, both of us were committed egalitarians...
When I was first ordained as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, it was within a presbyterian denomination that, in its constitution, required the ordination of women to all offices--including the pastorate and eldership. Because of this I have worked extensively with women pastors and elders down through the years and I myself have participated in their ordination to ecclesiastical office. Then in 1991, along with my congregation, I departed from one presbyterian denomination and entered another.
The elders and I could no longer allow ourselves to be in fellowship with a denomination which endorsed abortion as "an act of faithfulness before God," winked at infanticide, promoted fornication, perpetually debated the morality of homosexuality, failed to practice any form of church discipline, and, generally speaking, called evil 'good' and good 'evil'.
It was evident to us that our denomination had forsaken the Word of God and, instead, had taken to ordaining to the Ministry of the Word and Sacrament women and men who would say whatever their congregation's itching ears wanted to hear.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4, NIV).
Itching ears have given us gender anarchy and a cult of androgyny within the church today.
As our own congregation grew in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and devotion to His Word, the Bible, we found ourselves returning to all the old truths which our denomination was abandoning. One area where we saw dramatic change in our community life was this matter of the ordination of women to the pastorate and eldership. Although historically our congregation had been led by both men and women elders, now as our congregation grew, spiritually, women who in the past had often served as elders began to decline election to this position, and at the same time we saw an increase of men who were willing to take on leadership in their homes and in the church.
In a few years, one of the two congregations I served (it was a yoked parish) no longer had any women on its board of elders and this led to our coming under the rebuke of our denomination since we were violating the constitutional requirement that women and men hold office in equal numbers in each local congregation.
After about a year and a half of deliberation within our board of elders, we decided to leave that denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and join another denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America.
This second denomination still honors Scripture and she is a community of believers still confessing what Scripture clearly says: that abortion, infanticide, fornication, and homosexuality are sin. Further, church discipline is still practiced within this ecclesiastical fellowship, the Bible is still honored, and only men are eligible for the offices of pastor and elder.
While I was in the process of transferring my credentials, I was examined by the local presbytery I was seeking to enter within the PCA and was asked the following question: "Do you believe in the ordination of women as pastors and elders?"
I answered, "No; in the past I have ordained women but I repent."
Why did I (and do I) repent of ordaining women to the eldership?
Because the Bible with great clarity and simplicity forbids women to exercise authority over men.
Anyone who intends to love God and His Word will not have an easy time of it. It will often hit him between the eyes, and the love will often become the kind that the devil sours and embitters for him. Hence we need the ability to hold tight and to be devoted to the Word of God.
- Luther's Works, Volume 21; edited by Jaroslav Pelikan; Concordia Publishing House; Saint Louis; "Sermon on Matthew 6:24," p. 191.
The clarity and simplicity of God's commands concerning these matters is devastating to those moderns and postmoderns who try to use Scripture for their own purposes. This is why I have a certain respect for the original feminists such as the late Paul King Jewett of Fuller Theological Seminary who, in his classic work, Man as Male and Female, had the integrity simply to say that the Bible is clear and the Bible is wrong (pp. 118-119). It is also why I respect secular feminists who, having no need to honor Scripture or its Author, put it bluntly as they see it saying: "The Bible is hopelessly patriarchal," by which they mean that because of its patriarchy we must reject Scripture.
Yet many claim the Bible is much more nuanced on these matters than the church, historically, has recognized. They would claim the overwhelming theme of Scripture concerning manhood and womanhood is egalitarianism, and that the texts cited by the Church to prove that women should not hold authority in the Church and home were misinterpreted in the past but now are, through the latest scholarship, finally having their true meaning become clear.
This I deny, remembering G. K. Chesterton's warning:
Nearly all the talk about what is advanced and what is antiquated has become a sort of giggling excitement about fashions. -The Thing, G.K. Chesterton, p. 62.
So what has always been clear is becoming quite confused due to the desire of biblical scholars to appease the political and ideological idols of our culture. And in the process of this appeasement, the reformed doctrine of the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture no longer seems to apply to even the most basic areas of Scripture's teaching on sexuality.
Improvement makes strait roads; but the crooked roads without Improvement are roads of genius. -William Blake
But whose genius--God's or man's? Are we still willing to walk Christ's straight and narrow path? Is it human genius and creativity we should seek, or Divine Revelation?
To this pastor it seems the choice is not between various hermeneutical systems, but between obedience and disobedience to the Word of God. Further, it seems there are many within the "Household of Faith", the "pillar and foundation of the Truth" (1Timothy 3:15), who with great sophistication are meticulously erroneous here in this area of Christian doctrine.
To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong; That is the definition of decadence. -G. K. Chesterton
A bold statement, but can it be proven? Test it and see. Turn with me, please, to the Word of God and let us see there the simplicity with which the Holy Spirit speaks to this issue of the meaning and purpose of sexuality.
God created Adam and Eve "in His Own Image" thereby revealing their essential equality in bearing His image.
Genesis 1:26-28; Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
This is a part of the truth that is the basis of the Apostle Paul's statement concerning the community of saints:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28).
But there are other truths that must be brought forward also in this debate. They are as follows:
First, God created Eve after Adam (order of creation).
For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:13).
Second, God created Eve for Adam (purpose of creation).
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him."
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." (Genesis 2:18-23).
Third, God Created Eve from Adam (his body was used).
For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man. (1 Corinthians 11:8).
Fourth, Adam named Eve just as he named the animals.
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.
22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man." (Genesis 2:19, 22-23).
Fifth, in Adam we all died; not in Eve. Nowhere does Scripture lay the blame for the Fall at Eve's door.
The order of creation establishes timeless principles for the relationships between men and women which we often are reminded of in discussions of biblical manhood and womanhood today, but here is one of those principles which too often is passed over by the Church.
God, walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, inquires of Adam "Where are you?" When Adam responds by explaining that he and Eve found themselves naked and hid, it is notable that God directs His follow-up question again to Adam asking him:
"Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Genesis 3:11).
It was Adam, not Eve, who was required to explain the tragic alienation from God they both had suffered, and this despite Eve having been the one deceived, the first one to sin, and the one who enticed her husband to follow her into that sin. This is neither a small or unimportant aspect of the Genesis account: it was Adam whom God first held responsible for the Fall despite Adam being the second sinner in the Garden.
It is because of the sin of Adam--not Eve--that the race of Adam remains under the curse of judgement and death down to this present day.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14).
Some years back my father noted that, despite efforts to neuter the language of our Faith, he had yet to hear anyone propose that the Church become a 'he' or Satan become a 'she.' Similarly, it seems ironic that feminists do not object to the essential inequality between the sexes revealed by this portion of the Biblical account of the Fall. Shouldn't Eve be recognized as the leader in the Garden? Shouldn't Eve have been penalized more severely since it was she who took the lead in the sin of the Garden? Aren't we being patronizing when we attribute the cosmic penalties of the Fall to Adam's account?
Perhaps feminists fail to argue the issue because this particular point happens to be one where they rather like the clear meaning of God's Word. There's no question but that the Bible is quite specific on this issue... as the New England Primer (one of the most widely used textbooks in the early history of the United States) succinctly sums it up:
In Adam's fall
We sinned all.
God's Word makes clear that because God made Eve for Adam and placed her under his authority, it was Adam whom God called to account for the Fall. Adam was the patriarch of his home and his race. (This is not to say that Eve escaped personal accountability; in Genesis 3 we read that God also placed Eve under a curse- the punishment that even today brings suffering to all women in childbirth. So too the serpent and his descendents suffer under God's judgment.) Yet it is through Adam alone that death comes to all men, it is because of Adam's sin that all creation groans awaiting its release from the corruption of sin (Romans 8:22,23), and it is in Adam that we all die:
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
God has named the human race 'adam,' and this name reinforces what the whole account of the creation of Adam and Eve reveals-that the first woman was made after and for the first man and that for all time this structure is to be mirrored in the lives of God's people by their living together under patriarchy, not matriarchy or egalitarian utopianism. Further, this name also makes clear that every woman or man ever to live has been born under the curse of a God-decreed solidarity with the First Adam, our federal head, and that only those who come under the Head of the Second Adam can be saved.
When we leave the Genesis account and move into the New Testament epistles, we see that the Apostle Paul prohibits the exercise of authority over men by women by saying:
I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, for Adam was created first, then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:12a).
Thus Scripture demonstrates that the principles enumerated for us in these first three chapters of the Bible are timeless boundaries for all mankind. We are dealing here, then, with an order of creation which is timeless in it's principles and application.
This is a perfect example of the analogy of faith, Scripture interpreting Scripture.
With this simple statement (I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, for Adam was created first, then Eve [1Timothy 2:12]) Paul explicitly affirms what is implicit throughout God's Word, that the order of creation establishes patriarchy as God's pattern for leadership in human relationships. Addressing the matter of propriety in prayer, the Apostle Paul again emphasizes this order:
For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake... (1 Corinthians 11:8,9).
Does this mean that the Bible only says God's 'no' and never God's 'yes' to women?
Not at all. Titus 2 provides a beautiful picture of the positive roles and duties that God has given to older and younger women down through the ages.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 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 2:3-5).
What is God's loving and perfect 'yes' to women?
-Older women likewise are
-to be reverent in their behavior,
-not malicious gossips
-nor enslaved to much wine,
-teaching what is good, so that they may
-encourage the young women
-to love their husbands,
-to love their children,
-to be sensible,
-workers at home,
-being subject to their own husbands,
-so that the word of God will not be (maligned or) dishonored. (Titus 2:3-5).
Note here that God's reputation is at stake with our obedience to these commands.
How beautiful this Scripture is, and how full of possibilities for those who are not in rebellion against God. Here we have a profoundly simple list of duties which have consumed the lives of Christian women down through the ages, and women who give themselves to these duties hear the words of Proverbs 31:28 repeated by their own loved ones:
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her (Proverbs 31:28, RSV).
Looking at this list helps us understand how the Apostle Paul could boil down these positive callings even further, stating:
Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty (1 Timothy 2:15, RSV).
God be praised, I am surrounded by such women. My mother, mother-in-law, wife, and the women of our congregation are seeking to honor God by following these simple commands. (Incidentally, one indication of the Biblical commitments of these women is their fertility; my mother-in-law has ten children, my mother eight, my wife five, and the average family in our congregation has around five.)
It's clear some will not be satisfied by the above Biblical summaries, but note well that in both passages the Apostle Paul wrote these words, and only these words. If a man were to think our culture requires something different-something more substantial-he would be helped by studying the cultures Paul was addressing and realizing they are not much different from our own.
Allow me, then, to ask this question: Is sexual differentiation part of God's good creation; did God make it and call it good? Discussing 1Timothy 2:13 with Dr. Gordon Fee when I was a seminary student, I asked him one-on-one, "What does Paul mean when he says, 'For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve'?"
He responded, "Oh, Paul was just being rabbinical there."
So the argument simply is not one based on Scripture-no matter how loudly this claim is made by feminists wanting to wrap themselves in the credibility of a high view of Scripture. May God grant us all repentance whenever we depart from His Truth.
*Calvin on Acts 4:19,20:
But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:19,20)
Let us remember to whom they made this answer. For this council did undoubtedly represent the Church; yet, because they abuse their authority, the apostles say they are not to be obeyed... The apostles further make clear that obedience offered to evil and unfaithful pastors, even though they exercise lawful authority in the Church, is contrary to God.
Whatever title then men may hold, they are to be listened to only on the condition that they do not lead us away from obeying God. So we must examine all their traditions by the rule of the Word of God. We must obey princes and others who are in authority, but only in so far as they do not deny to God His rightful authority as the supreme King, Father, and Lord. If such limits are to be observed in civil government, they ought to be of still greater importance in the spiritual government of the Church. ...whenever men (or women) become so proud that they shake off the yoke of God and desire to lay their own yoke upon us... let us recall the sacred authority of God, which blows away the vain smoke of all human excellency.
-Calvin's Commentary on Acts 4.
Make no mistake about it: the Western World will invade your nation and church with its egalitarian ideology and will seek to force your submission to that ideology.
There is one other matter I would like to mention before closing. Within the evangelical church of the United States it is often said that those holding to complementarian (or patriarchal) convictions ought graciously to allow for their own subjectivity and fallibility by carefully acknowledging, publicly, that their own understanding of Scripture on this matter may, in fact, be wrong.
Despite the irenic tone of this proposal it assumes that this is an area in which God's Revelation is lacking in clarity, and while I am ready to admit that I am unable to see the clarity of the Word of God on a number of doctrinal matters which the Church has been debating for many centuries, this is one aspect of the doctrine of Scripture which is most decidedly not lacking in clarity. Consequently I am unwilling to grant as a virtue the doubting of oneself by those holding the only Biblical position on this matter. No.
Rather, here we must contend for the Faith once delivered. And considering our duty, I am reminded of a statement made by Solzhenitsyn immediately prior to his departure from the US in 1994:
Back in the study, I asked Solzhenitsyn about his relations with the West. He knew that things had gone wrong, but had no intention of making any apologies.
"Instead of secluding myself here and writing The Big Wheel, I suppose I could have spent time making myself likable to the West," he said. "The only problem is that I would have had to drop my way of life and my work. And, yes, it is true, when I fought the dragon of Communist power I fought it at the highest pitch of expression. The people in the West were not accustomed to this tone of voice. In the West, one must have a balanced, calm, soft voice; one ought to make sure to doubt oneself, to suggest that one may, of course, be completely wrong. But I didn't have the time to busy myself with this. This was not my main goal."
-The New Yorker, February 14, 1994, p. 74.
Will we be faithful to our Lord honoring His Word in this matter, or rather bow the knee to Baal?
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. - (widely attributed to Martin Luther, but the closest parallel lacks the specific wording above)
It is my firm conviction that feminism is an evil like communism-equally destructive to the souls of men and, therefore, equally in need of forthright and bold opposition from Godly men who are willing to spend their lives honoring God and opposing this wickedness with every fiber of their being. And I sincerely hope that the men and women fighting this great evil in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are not paralyzed by the fear of men, and that they never give in to doubt as they guard this part of the "good deposit."
May God protect us from Satan's lies and may He raise up more faithful shepherds to call His flock back to obedience in these matters so that our homes and families and the Church of Jesus Christ may again reflect the marriage of Christ and His Bride, the Church, with all purity, beauty, and love.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Amen.