Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WOMEN AND CHURCH LEADERSHIP: Part Three

III. Genesis – Creation

Michael Rosenzweig notes that in examining Gen 2:18, “I will make him a “helper” suitable for him”, should be more properly rendered “a helper equal to him.”[1] This “more accurate” interpretation may not adequately address what, if any, role differences that may apply, but according to Rosenzweig the best answers to these questions would be dependent on the times and culture we live in.[2] He further notes that whatever the answers are, they must not disrupt any male or female degrees of self esteem; for “only she knows how she feels.”[3] If a man or woman does not “feel” good about any particular role they may find themselves in, then it is assumed it must not be God’s plan. Self esteem becomes logically prior to God’s word if in fact one interprets the texts to contain any established roles at all. The assumption that God may have given different roles to men and women will ultimately be understood only within a theological framework that seeks gender “equality” and this “equality” appears to be dependent upon one’s self-esteem.

Raymond Ortlund defines “male-female equality” as - “Man and woman are equal in the sense they bear God’s image equally.” He further defines “male headship” as - “In the partnership of two spiritually equal human beings, man and woman, the man bears the primary responsibility to lead the partnership in a God-glorifying direction.”[4] While the creation account in Genesis 1 teaches the equality of man and woman as image bearers and vice-rulers, Genesis 2 adds a more complex paradox; created equally in His image, but also He made the male the head and the female the “helper.”[5] Genesis 2:23 records the first recorded human words – “This is now the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” Man was not created to help the woman, but she was created to help the man. The word “helper” is the woman’s supportive role.[6] In essence, the woman completed man, because God had said (Gen 2:18) “It was not good for the man to be alone.” There is also the parallel of being of one flesh, not only in the creation, but in marriage – verse 24. It can also be observed that although God could have, He did not sit Eve down and explain to her who she was and what relation she had to man; He allowed Adam to define her, and this was in keeping with Adam’s headship, which was clear to Eve.[7] Before the fall, God had ordained his male headship and this “headship” should not be confused with domination in any sense; “headship” does not imply that only men have authority, for both have authority and both are under authority – just as Jesus is both Lord and Servant.[8]

Some have asked whether there are there two creation stories – one of which fits female leadership and one that does not. Paul K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 119 concludes:
Both in I Corinthians and in I Timothy appeal is made only to the second creation narrative as the sole text for understanding the meaning of human existence as male and female. Thus this second, supplementary narrative is interpreted in isolation from the first. . . . Furthermore, in reasoning this way, Paul is not only basing his argument exclusively on the second creation narrative, but is assuming the traditional rabbinic understanding of that narrative whereby the order of their creation is made to yield the primacy of the man over the woman. Is this rabbinic understanding of Genesis 2:18f. correct? We do not think that it is, for it is palpably inconsistent with the first creation narrative, with the life style of Jesus, and with the apostle­s own clear affirmation that in Christ there is no male and female (Gal. 3:28).[9]

Is Paul simply mimicking traditional rabbinic teachings, thus making Paul wrong in one instance of scripture and correct in another? Does Jewett’s interpretation explicitly call into question the authority of scripture by his implication that in one sense it is authoritative and yet in another it is not? If this question is answered in the affirmative using any method of interpretation, divine revelation then becomes the subject, not what Paul may or not have been influenced by.

Benjamin Merckle addresses what many have called an inconsistency in Paul’s reference to creation in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and 1 Timothy 2:13-14. Merckle argues that what should be obvious in the first half of 1 Corinthians chapter 11 is not head coverings, but the Corinthians’ desire to rid themselves of any creational and gender role distinctions.[10] Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:-7-9 “For a man ought not to have 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; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but the woman for the man’s sake.” Merckle concludes:
Paul appeals to creation to demonstrate the differences between men and women that God established from the beginning—and violating these distinctions brings shame instead of glory. By covering his head the man brings shame on Christ (since he is the image and glory of God) and by not covering her head the woman brings shame on man (since she is the glory of man).[11]
Therefore, it would be argued that any claim that these passages only apply to first century Christians must be rejected, lest bringing glory to God’s image is simply a cultural matter. Merckle concludes women are created differently than men and this distinction must be maintained in both the church and the family – therefore the command in 1 Timothy prohibiting women from having authority over men should be upheld in the church today.[12]

Charles Hodge in his Systematic Theology II writes this about headship:
The principle involved in the headship of Adam underlies all the religious institutions ever ordained by God for men; all his providential dealings with our race; and even the distributions of the saving influences of his Spirit. It is therefore one of the fundamental principles both of natural and of revealed religion. …Men may dispute as to the grounds of the headship of Adam, but the fact itself can hardly be questioned by those who recognize the authority of the Scriptures. It has therefore entered into the faith of all Christian churches, and is more or less clearly presented in all their authorized symbols.[13]

The historical understanding of male headship may not alone be a convincing argument for its truthfulness, but it must be considered if one is primarily concerned with the influences of either culture or social norms and the historical implications it may have upon correctly interpreting the texts. The rise of what may be called “feminism” could clearly be viewed as a more recent event from any historical viewpoint, and it is either relevant or not relevant to a proper exegesis. In other words, are “roles” being defined by the church via God’s word, or is the church simply building theology around what the world currently thinks? Francis Schaeffer has said “Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying seven years from now.”[14] It appears if female “equality” equals “freedom” to lead men in church, then the church has started off with the answer, and thus molded the biblical texts to fit accordingly. Theologically, this method of forming doctrine appears to directly offend Paul’s command in Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

[1]Michale L. Rosenzweig, “A Helper Equal to Him,” Judaism 35, no 3 (Summer 1986): 279.
[2]Ibid., 280.
[3]Ibid.
[4]Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship: Genesis 1-3,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 95.
[5]Ibid., 99.
[6]Ibid., 104.
[7]Ibid., 102.
[8]John M. Frame, “Men and Women in the Image of God,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books), 231.
[9]R. Kent Hughes, “Living Out God’s Order In The Church,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 10, no.1 (Spring 1999): 103.
[10]Benjamin L. Merkle, “Paul’s Argument From Creation In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 And 1 Timothy 2:13-14: An Apparent Inconsistency Answered,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological 49, no. 3 (September 2006): 533.
[11]Ibid., 534.
[12]Ibid., 548.
[13]Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology II; The Parties to the Covenant of Works, Chapter Five [book on-line] (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed 7 February 2009); available from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology2.iii.vi.v.html?highlight=headship#highlight; Internet.
[14]Elisabeth Elliot, “The Essence of Femininity: A Personal Perspective,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 395.

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