Give me a break.

November 14, 2007

Seen on Al Mohler’s blog

“Furthermore, the issues of women’s ordination and the normalization of homosexuality are closely linked. It is no accident that those churches that most eagerly embraced the ordination of women now either embrace the ordination of homosexuals or are seriously considering such a move.

The reason for this is quite simple. The interpretive games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s proscription of women in congregational preaching and teaching roles are precisely the games one must play in order to get around the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexuality.”

I’m not 100% comfortable with women priests myself, and it’s certainly not coincidence that the more liberal denominations are open to both women and gays serving … but to say that the interpretive problems are analogous is, well, just not true.

For the cases to be truly analogous, you would need:

  • An OT death sentence for women in leadership
  • Examples of gays leading Israel in the OT
  • Examples of NT gay church leaders

Etc. Mohler seems to be playing a few “interpretive games” himself.


23 Responses to “Give me a break.”

  1. Lee Says:

    Hmm. Did Mohler say that the same passages needed to be
    “gotten around”, or that the same proscriptions (and thus penalties) needed to be argued away? I’m not sure what you’re bothered about here…

  2. Ben Says:

    Well, his primary charge is that the interpretive problems / “side-stepping required” are equivalent when asking these two questions:

    1) Can homosexuality be Christian, in spite of frequent condemnation?

    2) Can women be in leadership in the church, though some passages are against it?

    My counter-thesis is that question #2, even if the answer is “no”, is much more of a gray area, and to equate them is incorrect.

  3. Lee Says:

    Put another way, once one is satisfied to relativize the biblical texts limiting the congregational teaching office to men, one can (and almost surely will) be satisfied to employ those same strategies on texts condemning homosexuality. In both cases, the texts are relativized by postmodern ideologies.

    I don’t think he is saying they are equal. He’s saying that the techniques used to make the end run are the same. In fact, one can read the paragraph above as saying that it is easier to overcome the proscription against women teaching (not the same thing as your 2) above, btw).

  4. Lee Says:

    …break me off a piece of that Chrysler car…? Grey Poupon…?
    apple sauce…? football cream…? Fancy Feast… Nailed it!

  5. Tato Says:

    Lee, you watch the office? That was one of the funniest endings.

    Before I got to Pres I just assumed that they “didn’t read their Bibles” and then I realized how ignorant that viewpoint is. Sometimes I feel like Complementarians often borderline that viewpoint a little too closely. Or maybe that was just my arrogance before I realized the view point. Not that I agree with it, but it is hard to say that they are dishonest in their means of interpreting scripture.

    Homosexuality is active sin… being a woman isn’t. Big difference in my opinion in regards to leadership (although to most being a woman in leadership is). I don’t think the techniques are equal because there are “descriptive” scenarios where women are acting as leaders – especially in the OT, which gives a lot of pause in the minds of egalitarians in regards to the prescriptive/descriptive nature of the 1 Tim passage and other like it. There are no descriptive examples of homosexuals in leadership in the NT or OT (unless you believe liberal ideas that Paul was “inactive” – not sure where I heard that before, but I have somewhere).

    FYI some interesting stuff here:
    from a biblical scholar who is egalitarian. I haven’t read all of them just this one:
    The example of Huldah is especially interesting.

    No offense to Mohler, he is a much wiser and smarter man than I will ever be. However, I disagree with this logic here. And it is just another example of why my church is considered liberal by conservative churches even though we preach the gospel and call people to repentance.

  6. Ben Says:

    “employ those same strategies” is what I’m referring to, Lee. What I mean is, I think the strategies / problems are different … in one case, as Tato said, you have only clear injunctions against homosexuality, but in the other case, there are many points on both sides. I don’t think a reasoned, biblical defense of women in leadership requires the “same strategies” that an endorsement of homosexuality requires.

    I think Mohler is assuming that women in leadership was the first case in history of trying to make a difficult doctrine square with the Bible. I’m pretty sure that’s not true. A perfect example would be monergism … nobody believes it for 1500 years, and it requires some fancy footwork to square with the Bible.

  7. Lee Says:

    Tato – fact: The Office is the best sitcom on television!

    I think you mixed complementarian and egalitarian (at least in terms of labels) in your comment… Egalitarians don’t have a problem w/ women pastors.

    Very interesting post and subsequent comments on My position is basically outlined by Dan in comment #13. I know that many do restrict beyond the church, and improperly restrict within the church, however.

    It may or may not be that Mohler holds to what you and Ben are saying, that women shouldn’t be “leaders in the church” – but that is not what he states in the quoted blog entry. He specifically refers to pastoral and congregational teaching ministries only.

    On a side note, I visited a friend’s church up north for the 2nd time this year (it had been years since I had been to their church), and had the opportunity to again hear their new female executive pastor preach… for the 2nd time since she joined the staff. I’m two for two!

    Ben – I’m fairly certain Mohler was not assuming that, actually πŸ™‚

  8. Ben Says:

    You have a good point there, Lee … he may be defining the problem differently than I am. If he is, in fact, referring mostly to “women can’t be preaching and teaching” … well, really, he’s talking about one verse, right?

    “I do not permit a woman to speak in church … let her ask her husband”

    To me, there’s a big difference between interpreting that as cultural and interpreting homosexuality passages as cultural. It’s like apples and oranges. It could be wrong to dismiss the “women silent in church” passage, but either way the problems do not seem to be analogous.

    As to the assumption claim — doesn’t it seem to you as if he is working without a historical frame of reference here? Certainly this is not the first time that the church has been confronted with an interpretive question of the same general category as “women in ministry”, particularly if you broaden it so much that the “gays” question falls into the category as well. Mohler’s own denomination, for instance, was formed because the general baptist group they belonged to elected not to allow missionaries to own slaves. You could just as easily say, “The same fancy footwork that barred slaveholders from ministry opened the doors to gays in the clergy.”

  9. Tato Says:

    I don’t think I misused them… egalitarians use examples such as women in descriptive leadership roles as reason to “pause” over the automatic assumption that passages like 1 Tim are “prescriptive” (automatically).

    And my other comment was that there are quite a few complimentarians who borderline (in my opinion) a little too closely to the viewpoint that I used to hold of – “oh they just don’t read their Bibles”.

    I think Dan’s point is interesting: the idea of women not being ordained as priests is fairly interesting… and makes me wonder why the NT writers (esp in Hebrews and 1 Peter) take up the idea of the priesthood of all believers… not just the priesthood of all men. I don’t think priest automatically=pastor… Also, I think some egalitarians would argue that some women may have functioned as overseers – like Lydia who held church meetings at her home (I have at least heard that one before). FYI, this isn’t my argument, just some of what I have heard. The point being that egalitarians don’t just chuck the Bible out the window.

    This next paragraph is not an argument for women pastorship… but one of how we view women in the church.

    Pragmatically a lot of churches do more to oppress women and neglect to have them participate in any of the corporate worship – except for singing of course! This is actually one of the biggest reasons that younger generations have a problem with church. Not that the church isn’t “complimentarian”, but that they view that there is no open spot whatsoever for women to gifting except for women’s ministry and of course that magical role of Children’s director (can’t call it pastor of course). I think that complimentarian churches should really be challenged on whether or not they really esteem women biblically, and if so do they actively recruit women with spiritual gifting as much as men for roles that are open to female involvement in “leadership” whatever that may be.

    I know that Dan (in that comment) also mentioned Deaconesses… and we know that there are churches in the community that would disagree with him there.

    Ben in response to your comment: How about the example of believer’s baptism? Pedobaptism was the norm for about 1200 years in the church… why doesn’t Mohler use that as his example – you do just as much “interpretation” as you do with women in leadership? The reason being that there are evangelicals whom are esteemed highly in the blog/scholarly circle who are infant baptizers.

  10. Ben Says:

    Look out Lee, this is a liberal tag-team! You’ll need to call for backup πŸ™‚

  11. Tato Says:

    I am not necessarily expressing personal views, but just my assumed knowledge from personal experience. I came into my job with arrogance – never really knowing the other side – and have learned a bit of perspective.

    Also, I am sensitive to the homosexual/women in leadership correlation because in my opinion the women in leadership question is much (much, much, much) more gray than the homosexual question.

  12. Lee Says:

    Tato – re: egalitarianism: see Wikipedia and CBE. But perhaps I misread your comments – weren’t you saying that egalitarians struggle to some degree with women in leadership?

    What are your views, Tato? And how do they differ from your views on women in the NOBC?

    Ben – more than that – the qualifications for an elder would be included, possibly more passages… Also, do those who say homosexuality is OK w/ God get rid of all those proscriptions as being culturally specific? My response on the assumption question had to do with my certainty that Mohler would say that there have been many, many attempts at “fancy footwork” through the millenia. This is definitely not the first.

    I thought the jury was still out on your being labeled a “liberal” πŸ™‚

  13. Ben Says:

    Oh, yeah, I didn’t think of that (elder qualifications), although to my understanding it is easily dispensed with in the same way. You know, honestly, I guess I don’t think that the gay Christian defense really holds water … some of the proscriptions cannot possibly be cultural. Probably to truly evaluate this correctly I would have to study their viewpoint, something I’m not super interested in doing.

    As to Mohler being conscious of past fancy footwork — I assume you are referring to heresies? I was referring to him possibly not being conscious of the fact that it took some fancy footwork for his own beliefs to make it to the 20th century; that is, not all fancy footwork results in an incorrect belief. Sometimes the church does encounter generally difficult questions that require fancy footwork. The requirement of said footwork does not in and of itself condemn the idea.

  14. Tato Says:

    I think you misread me… I was pointing out that egalitarians look to passages where women are in descriptive leadership roles as a reason to pause about the absolute nature of the 1 Timothy passage. There are also some passages that I can look up when I have more time that refer to “when” a woman does this______ (prayer and prophesy) that give the thought that women can take part in corporate leadership – since prophesy is a corporate act… and a lot of the “equality” passages – “neither this nor this” – give a lot of thought to the egalitarian about what a woman’s role really looks like. I know the basics about complimentarian thought and egalitarian thought.

    And from my talks with folks who are egalitarian it is beyond just a cultural argument, when asked “when did the women in leadership issue start in the church?” I got the response: about two hundred years ago. Implying that at one time it wasn’t a problem theologically, but over time it became so.

    The reason why it is such a gray area for them is because of some of these descriptive examples. Anyways, going back to my angst… I know from personal experience within my denomination that the logic for women in leadership is different from logic used to justify homosexuality… there are really no solid biblical arguments for the latter and like many “free will” arguments they are justified based on an assumption of God’s character – that if he is loving and if he made them this way it must be ok… just like if God is loving he doesn’t make robots…

    Women in leadership stems from a few verses… in the NT and from how some women in the OT and NT were perceived to be in leadership – which is a different means of interpreation from the homosexual interpretation. The homosexual argument is largely based on cultural and presumptions and presuming upon who we think God is. A lot of conservatives want to lump the two together and it ticks me off because people question whether my church is really a “church” even though people are coming to know Jesus there and oh yeah the Bible is taught. We cannot assume that people don’t seek to interpret scripture with a sincere heart just because they don’t object to women pastors. Most people I have talked to personally do have a desire to know the word of God and draw their conclusions off of their interpretations of problem passages. Not all of their arguments are cultural.

    I would prefer to hold off on stating my direct opinion on an online forum… but I will say my women in the NOBC issue wasn’t about equality or anything – it was just based on my wrong assumption that it was a guys group.

  15. Lee Says:

    Ben – certainly heresies, but there’s also the slavery issue, divorce, etc. You do have a good point in that there are difficult theological issues which solid theologians will disagree about.

    Tato – sorry about that – I did misread what you wrote. When you say “give a lot of thought to the egalitarian about what a woman’s role really looks like” are you saying it gives them… credibility? (I seem to be really struggling to catch what you mean by some of your uses of “pause” and “thought” in this thread.)

    Really? 200 years ago, when they couldn’t own property or vote, couldn’t become professionals, but went to finishing school in order to learn how to become good wives — back then, women had more freedom (due to a better theological understanding of the issues at the time) to take positions of leadership in the church? I find that hard to believe.

    For whom is it a gray area (due to descriptive examples)? The egalitarians? If so, I’m back to being confused…

    You guys could be right – that Mohler is equating the the two topics in terms of the specific interpretive leaps needed to hold the respective positions. I don’t know how to get that question to him, though – his blog isn’t exactly interactive.

    Danny – is there a way?

  16. Lee Says:

    Oh – why did you assume that the NOBC was a guys group?

    Also, did you happen to notice the PCA in this list of Complementarian advocates?

    Finally – Ben – do you happen to know what the Orthodox church thinks about women in leadership?

  17. Andrew Says:

    Ben, I’m with you… Mohler’s comparing footwork is like comparing salsa to a middle school slow dance.

    The issue of homosexuality should be settled. It’s a sin. An unrepentant sinner is not a believer and therefore has no business as a pastor or having any position within the church.

    The women issue, while I can’t quite agree with having a woman pastor, is nowhere near as clear.

    Enjoyed reading you guys’ discussion.


  18. Ben Says:

    Thanks, Andrew. Feel free to stick around and comment on the other posts on the blog … we always enjoy another perspective in any discussion.

    Lee: I’m not sure what the Orthodox stance is. I imagine that it varies by tradition. I’m not even sure if they have a direct equivalent to “deacon”, but I don’t think there are any women Orthodox priests. Maybe I will ask Bonnie’s mom.

  19. Lee Says:

    Ben – yeah, I’d be interested in the Orthodox position on women deacons (which seems to be supported to me), and women as pastors or elders (which does not – again, to me).

  20. Lee Says:

    Whoops – I should have said priests or overseers, which would be what – bishops?

  21. Tato Says:

    Lee – I meant two thousand (the response that I got from the person I was talking to) -implying that in their estimation women had always been able to take part in church leadership.

    And just FYI, we are PC USA. The PC USA – PCA split happened over women in ordained church leadership.

    My comment was that the passages that have women acting in leadership capacity makes passages like the 1 Tim one not as “clear cut” to the egalitarian… which makes them re-think the passage to being a historical/cultural issue instead of a prescriptive issue.

    As far as the NOBC thing goes – I just remember it coming up in our founding conversations. But, then again I am probably a “pig” for thinking that it is ok to have a guys only group reading literature. I just thought it originally started out as a guys thing within our group of friends… my comments weren’t meant to be offensive or anything.

  22. Ben Says:

    And yet, you will never be able to live them down. πŸ™‚

  23. Tato Says:

    So… I went and actually read the blog posting by Mohler. I actually agree with what he has to say until he started talking about the “interpretative games” and correlation between homosexual ordination and the ordination of women…

    It is not a mystery to those who attend church that more women attend than men, and if the husband/father/man comes to church the family usually follows… It does seem like most women are usually more open as far as time and receptivity to functions around the church… (and to generalize further) most men will gladly back out. I think this is part of what Paul was addressing in the first part of the 1 Tim passage when he encouraged men in every place to pray 1 Tim 2:8… it isn’t that women shouldn’t pray, but he directed toward the men because (in my opinion), it probably wasn’t unlike today’s church climate. Men seem to be more spiritual disengaged. There are many books about the church and the problem that it has with engaging men in meaningful ways… could it be that it was the same in AD 60? Just food for thought.

    Another interesting points/questions:

    “The feminization of liberal Christianity grows more and more complete with every passing year. In the United States, the number of women enrolled in Master of Divinity programs now represents almost a third of total enrollment.”

    – Why is female enrollment in M. Div programs negative/representation of “feminization”… Even if I wasn’t involved in ministry I am still learning a lot through my program and would encourage anyone to pursue higher Bible knowledge. I do know of some denominations/schools that exclude women from higher education programs… and I never quite got that. Sure you don’t want them ordained in the denomination, but why not educated?

    Mohler’s article was interesting, I probably should have read it in its entirety before I commented earlier.

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