Friday, March 20, 2009

Where Theology Meets Ecclesiology

I know that for some readers, the subject of women in ministry is a boring one, or one that is not as important as others (it may seem). However, the issue of women is linked to other things—in particular, theology. If women are not allowed to serve in the church, what does that say about their God-given image? And, if women are “less-made” in God’s image than men are, what does this say about the character and nature of God? It’s frightening to think of all the issues surrounding this debate. In any case, the issue of women involves so many other discussions than just whether or not women should serve in leadership positions in the church.

Udo Middleman hits on the aftereffects of Calvinism:

“Recent generations have abandoned the ‘God is in control’ of Calvinism, because of God’s implied complicity in or absence from the horrors of the twentieth century. They also rightly reject the immorality of some Christians who claim to have Jesus in their heart. But they have fallen into two new forms of determinism. The first kind of determinism leads to a fatalistic acceptance of whatever is. Here people submit to a larger whole, a UNITY of being. That determining unity may be GENDER, RACE, COLOR, or SOCIAL CONTEXT. These give a NEW CONSTRAINT to people who thought they had been newly emancipated from God…GENDER, COLOR, and SOCIAL BACKGROUND TELL HIM OR HER WHAT BEHAVIOR CONFORMS TO HIS GENDER, COLOR, AND SOCIAL DESTINY. We have seen this before in the propositions of fascism, nationalism, and forms of biological control” (Middleman, “The Innocence of God,” 212).

According to Middleman, determinism is not just a theological issue—it is connected, for Calvinists, to EVERY AREA OF LIFE! Notice that I made certain words bold in the quote. The reason for so doing is to allow you, the reader, to see the emphasis Middleman places on these things. It is his belief, as is mine, that determinism under the Calvinist agenda spreads to ALL LEVELS of society. In the blog here on women in ministry, Calvinism rears its ugly head in the issue of gender. Complementarians believe that God has given the woman the role of marriage, raising children, and keeping house, while the man was made to lead the marriage, work in the public sphere, and protect his family. When it comes to church life, the woman is supposed to submit to the men in the church—for the men are the only ones who are “called” to lead church life. And why can complementarians get away with these ideas? Because of Calvinism. Most of evangelicalism is Calvinist, which means that, in some indirect way or another, most believers affirm determinism in everything. Because of this nice neat system, where everything “seems” to work itself out, women can grow up Baptist, for example, and believe that God has ORDAINED their place of submission in everything (whether married or not). Such women can easily believe that God has PREDETERMINED their every move to be wife, mother, and babymaker, while the husband’s role is fixed to work and lead. The woman, in their eyes, is supposed to cook the meals and take care of the home. But what about if the husband is better at cooking than his wife? Do you mean to tell me that God would will for the woman to cook and “burn water” while the husband (the best chef) is supposed to sit and eat “burned water”? Surely no! But, if you listen to the complementarians, this is what they’ll tell you. Why is it wrong for the husband to cook? Because it’s the wife’s job. Why is it wrong for the husband to take care of the kids at home while the wife goes to work? Because it’s against societal expectations (and of course, they’ll include the Bible as psychological comfort to ease their guilt over the issue).

The fact that a woman is made a woman (according to the Calvinist) is enough to MAKE her a homemaker. God has ordained this role for every woman, and this is what they should live up to. No wonder 1 Timothy 2 is taken OUT OF CONTEXT! Complementarians (Calvinists at heart) really do believe the woman’s greatest work is in the home. If a woman is married, she should be faithful to her household duties. If the woman is single, she should pray that God send her a mate so she can get married, have children, and take care of the home (in addition to cooking her husband’s meals and ironing his shirts). This determinism is what drives complementarians (such as Thomas Schreiner) to affirm that “When Paul says that a woman will be saved by childbearing, he means therefore, that THEY WILL BE SAVED BY ADHERING TO THEIR ORDAINED ROLE” (“Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” page 118).

Schreiner’s (and all other complementarians) argument is determinism when it comes to how to apply this passage to everyday life. But what about the single woman, or the woman who will never have a family? What is the single woman supposed to do? How does the single woman obey and apply Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2? According to complementarians, her role is to be married, have children, and keep house. But, if God wills this for EVERY WOMAN (as complementarians claim), then what about Paul’s commendation of the single woman in 1 Corinthians 7?

32I want you to be(AM) free from anxieties.(AN) The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35I say this for your own benefit,(AO) not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32-25, ESV).

The unmarried woman has a greater amount of time and opportunity to pursue the things of the Lord—why then, should she NOT preach and teach and pastor?

Middleman shows us a link between Calvinists and Complementarians—both are DETERMINISTIC in their own right: the Calvinist in the salvation of God, the complementarian in the giftedness God gives to His people. Nevertheless, a deterministic worldview will lead to blaming the Almighty for everything—and constraining Him into a sort of domineering parent. Calvinists and Complementarians must learn that, as Richard Weaver’s book title tells us, “Ideas Have Consequences.”

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