Ordination of Women: Is the Church Out of Step With Society? - Island of Sanity

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Ordination of Women: Is the Church Out of Step With Society?

Gender discrimination appears to becoming [sic] as abhorrent to the public as racism. Conservative denominations may well be under increasing pressure to conform to the non-sexist standard found in liberal faith groups and secular groups. Faith groups will be expected to evaluate candidates for ordination on the basis of the candidates knowledge, sense of calling from God, personality, commitment, ability, etc -- but not on the basis of gender. Gender discrimination will be viewed by many as a millstone around the necks of conservative denominations. It will present a serious barrier to the evangelization of non-Christians. Whenever religious institutions are perceived by the general public as operating to a lower ethical standard than the rest of society, religious conversion becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.

I am writing this article in response to the article I quoted above. I could write a similar article about many similar statements made about Christian teaching. But let's use this example.

The writer of the above-quoted statement appears to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Christian Church is.

The purpose of the Christian Church is to proclaim the message of God, as revealed in the Bible, to the world. We cannot change this message to conform to what may be more popular today. I do not say that we will not change it. I say that we can not change it. To do so would be fundamentally dishonest. We are like a journalist assigned to report on a speech by some important public figure. The journalist's job is to report what this person said. He is not to report what he wishes the person said or what he thinks he ought to have said or what he thinks he really meant. He must report what he actually said. If he reports anything other than what the person actually said, it is simply wrong. A journalist who reports anything other than what was said is at best incompetent, and at worst a liar and a fraud.

In the case of the Christian Church, the person we are quoting is God. The role of the church is not to whine, "Oh, well, if the latest Gallup poll says ..." The purpose of the Church is to thunder, "THUS SAYS THE LORD ...".

Of course, you may not believe that the Bible is God's word. You may not believe that there is a God. Fine. But the Christian Church does believe these things. If you do not agree with us, don't join.

The Bible says that women are not supposed to preach in a Christian church. 1 Corinthians 14 is pretty clear on this. If you don't agree with that, fine. Criticize Christianity for failing to conform to your opinions. Join a religion that agrees with you, or start your own. I was about to write, "Please don't ask us to change God's word." But I won't write that. You can ask whatever you like. We will ignore you. This may come as a shock to you, but some of us care more about what God says than about what some guy who writes a blog says.

We could discuss why God gave such a rule. I have had many such conversations with Christians who find this rule puzzling or troublesome. I'd be happy to have such a conversation with a non-Christian who is interested in having an intelligent conversation with mutual tolerance. (I can't think of a time when it's come up in such a context, but I'd be happy to discuss it if it did.) I am not going to bother to have such a conversation with someone who believes that the latest opinion poll supersedes the Word of God. Such a conversation would simply be unproductive. We have no common ground. If you believe that the commandments of God must be "updated" to conform to whatever is popular at the moment, then our disagreement is about much more than the ordination of women. Our disagreement is about the nature of God and the very meaning of moral standards. There's no point debating a trivial side issue like ordination of women until we have resolved the more fundamental questions.

The writer says that following the Bible on this issue "will present a serious barrier to the evangelization of non-Christians". Excuse me while I roll on the floor laughing for a while. Okay, I've composed myself. Have you actually read the Bible? Did you get to the part where it says that you must not get a divorce, you must not have an extramarital affair, you must not even look at a woman with lust, you must not steal, you must not cheat, you must not be greedy, you must not even envy your neighbor for having more than you do, you must not be lazy, you must not get drunk, you must not hate your enemies, you must not be jealous. Do you really, honestly believe that the question of women preachers is what is going to keep people from joining the Church? I think a lot more people will be unwilling to become Christians because it requires them to work a full day for a day's pay, give up pornography, and limit their drinking, then will be unwilling to become Christians because the Church doesn't have women preachers.

The writer says that people will be unwilling to join a church if it is "perceived ... as operating to a lower ethical standard than the rest of society". Of course the underlying assumption here is that if the Church disagrees with "the rest of society", then society must be right and the Church must be wrong. You think that if you and God disagree, that we should just naturally assume that this proves that God is wrong? Excuse me, I have to roll on the floor laughing some more. I don't doubt that if you took an opinion poll, the majority of the people would say that they disagree with many of the things in the Bible. I don't doubt that if you took an opinion poll, the majority would have ideas that disagree with many facts of science or history. A popular opinion poll does not determine what is true; it only determines what is popular opinion.

Okay, I suppose there are some number of people who would not join such a church because they believe strongly in gender equality, regardless of whether they themselves are male or female or have any desire to be a preacher. In that case, they are saying that they want a church that places the opinions of people over the teaching of the Bible on this issue. But then their fundamental problem with the church is not ordination of women, but the authority of the Bible. If they are not willing to accept the Bible as authoritative in all areas, then they have a very basic disagreement with the orthodox Christian Church. They do not believe in our scriptures or in our God. They are not qualified to become members. We don't want them. Go away.

To answer the question in the title: Is the Church out of step with society? No. Society is out of step with the Church.

The very definition of evangelism is that the Church seeks to convince the world to adopt the Church's beliefs. If the Church changes its teachings to be more popular, then the Church is not converting the world: the world is converting the Church.

Afterword: Yes, there are sincere, Bible-believing Christians who think that the Bible does not really mean what the simple reading would indicate, and that Christians who oppose women preachers are misinterpreting these statements in the Bible. That's a fair discussion. If the writer had said, "Hey, look, here's this other verse that seems to say something different, let's try to reconcile these statements", or "Let's study the original Greek, I think the translation here is misleading", that's the sort of debate we have within the Christian Church all the time. We often discuss how historical facts or scientific discoveries might affect our understanding of scripture. But that's not what the writer said. He said that we should reject the Bible because it disagrees with popular opinion. Sorry, no.

© 2013 by Jay Johansen


Himanshu Oct 3, 2015

very clearly that she was also a judge. And Deborah, a pposheters, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time. And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Judges 4:4-5.This brings to mind Ellen White. Ellen White had the gift of prophecy but never referred to herself as a prophet. She, in fact, said that her work encompassed much more than that of a prophet. This is significant, since many today, ironically those who believe in her writings, want to limit her work to that of a prophet. At the very least, this shows us that God does not consider it a sin for women to be in spiritual leadership posts. Whether elected by people or called directly by God, women can be used in leadership. To make the critical issue whether a woman is selected by God (which makes her calling valid) as opposed to selected by people (in which case she does not have a valid calling) begs the question of how do we know whether someone is called by God? And, can there be cross-over can someone who is called by God also be selected by people and vice versa? Are only prophets called by God while pastors and others are not? Additionally, to be consistent, those who argue for the creation/pre-fall headship of men over women (something that cannot be concluded from a carful reading of Ellen White and the Bible) must also argue for men to be in headship not only in the home and church but also in every other area of life politics, the workplace, etc. This lack of consistency really is based on nothing other than culture. If we were living in Ellen White's day many would be arguing that women could not vote or hold public office, etc. issues that Ellen White chose to remain silent on in her day much like Paul did on the slavery issue in his day (due to it being an issue that the society of his time was not ready to confront).

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