Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The issue of gender roles as it pertains to ministry within the church

With John MacArthur's two word answer to the question "Beth Moore" being "Go home," the issue of women in the church has risen again to the forefront. The assault against complementarianism it seems continues unabated. One of the defenses excuses concerning Beth Moore in ministry is that she is not preaching to men but merely "sharing," especially on special occasions such as Mothers' Day. But is that defense even valid at all?

Complementarianism, or the biblical teaching concerning the roles of men and women extending to the rejection of the validity of woman pastors and elders (and perhaps deacons), is based upon the whole of Scripture concerning what God has commanded concerning how men and women ought to function in the world and in the church. Since gender is a creation construct, therefore distinction in gender roles are not caused by sin and are to be celebrated. Although the teaching on gender roles permeate all of Scripture, there are particular texts in the Bible that specifically deal with the topic. One major text is that of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, and it was for that reason that I had read up and written an exegetical paper on that passage, which is entitled Gender Roles: Ordained order of mankind towards the Creator. This was written when I was in seminary nearly seven years ago, but I continue to stand by what I have written, and I reject the notion of gender egalitarianism in any form it manifests itself.

The question of the place of women in the church of course runs deeper into just whether women can be office bearers. In total's sharply (social) egalitarian society, there is pressure towards bringing that egalitarian mindset into the church. One way of doing that is to simply have women doing the functions of the special office, without the office that comes with those functions. Thus, Beth Moore merely "shares": she doesn't "preaches," even though for all intents and purposes she is preaching. Another way is to blur the line and be involved in radio programs where ordained men discuss theological issues affecting the church (e.g. Mortification of Spin), and say that you are not preaching by being on the program, which is technically correct. That is, unless you are a regular, where you are in effect given a platform with equal status alongside other ordained men. The sheer number of ways the sinful human mind can think of to attempt to circumvent God's prohibition on women preaching is truly astonishing.

Along this same line however is the focus on the issue of the special office itself, which is also under attack as being unfair at best and a "laity control" system or worse when egalitarianism comes knocking. Both gender roles and the special office are similar in the fact that God has ordained them both and limit people under both. But they are not the same thing. Gender roles is a creation ordinance, while the special office of the church is a redemptive ordinance. Yet, there is sufficient similarity that, in the context of the church, it can be said that unordained men are like women, in that just as women cannot partake of the ordained ministry of the church, so likewise unordained men cannot partake of that ministry of the church. The key point in positing this similarity is to show that gender restrictions in the church are not purely arbitrary since the restriction against ministry applies likewise to unordained men.

This analogy is sometimes framed as saying that women can do whatever unordained men can do in the church. But if that is the case, then conversely it can be logically inferred that unordained men cannot do what women cannot do [If p, then q = If ~q, then ~p]. But how does that affect ministry within the church? Well, if unordained men cannot do what women cannot do, then, when you wonder if an unordained man should be doing this ministry in the church, ask yourself, "Would I be comfortable with a woman doing it in the church?" If yes, then go ahead. But if no, then clearly, no unordained man should be doing that ministry in the church.

This applies particularly to preaching in the church, where many church plants have a practice of allowing anyone that the church planter feels is able to preach to bring the Word. But if the church plant rejects egalitarianism, then they should not have any unordained man preaching. They can have licentiates (who have been licensed to preach) or even those under care of the church to preach, but the pulpit should not be open to anyone else! Church plants are not free to violate the commands of God just because they are church plants! Did God give a special dispensation to church planters so that they can violate the commands of God because they have the "good intention" of starting a new church? Where is that taught in Scripture?

This goes for all aspects of the church's ministry, especially including the liturgical elements of the reading of the Law and the declaration of pardon. It should be abundantly clear that unordained men do not have the authority of the church to declare God's forgiveness of sins (Te Absolvo) upon the people, so upon what basis should they be asked to conduct that section of the liturgy? Neither do they possess Christ's authority to call the people of God to worship Him (Call to Worship), or take the authority of Christ to represent the church in public prayer to God in the service (Remember that this is public prayer not private prayer). If unordained men cannot do what women cannot do, then there is no difference between asking unordained men to do the Call to Worship, do the Reading of the Law and the Gospel and the Declaration of Pardon, doing the public corporate Prayers of the church, and asking any woman to do the same. Any church or church plant that does this is no different from a church having a woman pastor who regularly conducts the services of the church! It is sin, it is treason against the most holy God, and must be repented of! No two ways about it!

The problem with us living in a society of radical individualism and autonomy, with an unholy entitlement complex, is that we subconsciously bring this mindset into the church. We think that ministry is an entitlement that we can grasp, and see God's good commands as limitations upon our ambitions of "service." We resent the fact that God has only called SOME to serve, not all, and we are constantly thinking of new ways to circumvent God's holy ordering of the world and the church. This is something that we all have to repent of constantly, and submit to Christ in all things in our lives, both men and women, ordianed men and unordained men. Amen.

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