Equal, but Not Interchangeable

marriageThere is perhaps no greater threat to both the Gospel and to the family today than the sexual identity crisis in our culture. Liberal feminism and LGBT advocates are fighting the same battle. Both deny the essential difference between the sexes. “Equal and interchangeable” might well be their motto. They have the “equal” part correct: equal in terms of dignity and worth. Neither male nor female are any less valuable in God’s eyes, whether your pet sins are of the homo or hetero sexual variety. Christ shed His Holy, Precious Blood equally for all. He is the Lamb of God who became an accursed sinner for us (Galatians 3:13), Whom God regarded as One who committed the most vile sexual offenses against men, women, and children. In Him, there is no male nor female, no gay or straight: we are all equally redeemed and one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). We all equally suffer under the dehumanizing curse of sin. We ought not malign those who struggle with sin, but absolve them.

Sinners all share this in common: we want to call our own shots, to live life on our own terms, to be in charge of our own destiny, to be able to say, “I did it my way.” A good number of Christians even want to attribute the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus to their decision, rather to God’s gracious election of them. Like our first parents, we all want to be our own god. Sin is not the problem: Christ took care of that on the cross. The problem is unrepentant sin; bold, willful defiance of God’s Word. When it comes to matters of human sexuality, whole denominations (such as the ELCA) have rejected God’s Word outright and, by example, have encouraged others to do likewise. For example, they voted in 2009 to ordain active, practicing homosexual men and women.

Men and women are equal (ontologically speaking), but they are not interchangeable. A brief example will suffice: in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, a man between the ages of 18—34 would have needed to run a prior qualifying marathon in less than 3 hours, 5 minutes. For women of the same age, the standard is lower: 3 hours, 35 minutes. Why? Because men and women are different. We are not interchangeable. Men can’t have babies. There’s a fundamental difference between men and women.

Advocates of women’s ordination deny this difference in practice, if not in theory. It’s no surprise that the ELCA allows women and homosexuals to serve as pastors. Again, they are fighting the same battle, one which seeks to obliterate any functional distinction between the genders. But the fastest woman in the world will never be faster than the fastest man. A man will never be able to conceive. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s also worth noting that the issue of women’s ordination has been driven not by theological concerns, but by social ones.  In a document entitled “Can Women Serve?”, the ELCA has said the church is “behind the times.”  They point out that the Constitutional Amendment on Women’s Suffrage was passed in 1919, but the LCMS didn’t grant women the right to vote until 1969.  The Episcopal Church also betrays its non-theological motives.  In a (1966) report to the House of Bishops on the proper place of women in the church, they state that the growing place of women in professional, business, and public life as a major reason for considering their admission into the ministry.  They claim that the Bible is simply wrong on this point, so what it says about this issue is not relevant.

While some today have attempted to provide a theological justification for women’s ordination, the fact is, this whole question has been driven not by theology, but by a social agenda. In the words of Pastor Ken Kelly, women’s ordination is “theological B.S.” (http://homofactusest.com/2013/12/18/crisis-of-identity/). He’s right. Any attempt to justify the position theologically at this point amounts to nothing more than searching for biblical justification for a decision that has already been made. The Biblical texts on male-female relationships and the united witness of the church prior to 1960 are in full agreement: in His mercy, God has not placed the burden of the pastoral office upon women.

The proper starting point for this issue is creation. In Genesis 2, Scripture defines the roles and relationship of men and women.  This account describes not only the fact of God’s creation, but also God’s ordering of creation.  Genesis serves as St. Paul’s go-to text any time he considers the relationship between men & women (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:13—15; 1 Corinthians 11:2—16). The deliberate appeal to the creation account in 1 Timothy 2 is evident by the verbal parallels between his epistles & Genesis (πλάσσω in 1 Timothy 2:13 and also in the LXX of Genesis 2:7-8, 19; see also the allusions to Genesis 2:3, 7—9, 11—2 in 1 Corinthians 11:1ff.). To paraphrase St. Paul: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”  If the Corinthians would just get this straight, they wouldn’t be having any issue with head coverings.  So also if we would get this order straight (God-Christ-Man-Woman), we wouldn’t be having a discussion about women’s ordination.

The Genesis account makes it clear that Eve was created as a helper to Adam: “But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him,” (Ge 2:20).  While women may be equal to men in terms of value (ontology), the fact that woman was created as a “helper” (עֵזֶר) to man makes her subordinate to him (functionally). She is to submit to her husband in all things, just as the Church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:24). This is a blessed subordination, as Eve has the privilege of assisting Adam in his task without having the burden of ultimate accountability placed on her shoulders. Adam has been given to serve his wife with nothing less than the love of Christ Himself (Ephesians 5:25-26).

It’s also worth noting in this respect that although Eve, not Adam, was the one deceived (1 Timothy 2:14), Adam is the one held accountable (Genesis 3:9; 1 Corinthians 15:22, etc.). He is the one who has failed to exercise proper headship, not Eve. Woman’s perpetual tendency is to desire the authority of her husband and act out of turn, as Eve did in the Garden (Genesis 3:16). And rather than display self-sacrificial love of Christ Jesus, man’s perpetual tendency is to dominate her (Genesis 3:16), or perhaps to abdicate his responsibility (so that women are even more tempted to step up and take charge). The sin of women’s ordination is no different than the original sin. It’s a failure on the man’s part to exercise proper headship and a failure on the woman’s part by taking forbidden initiative.

In the church, the pastor is not the “helper” of Jesus.  He acts in Jesus’ stead and by his command. The pastor is given the task of feeding the flock (John 21:15ff.).  He is the earthly head of the church, just as the father is the head of his household and the husband is the head of his wife (Eph. 5:22ff.; 1 Cor 11: 2-16). By creating her as helper, God has not called woman to serve as head of the spiritual household. Lest anyone think “helper” is a derogatory term, God applies that term to Himself in Psalm 54:4 (MT: 54:6).

While a woman may be gifted with leadership, teaching, or even public speaking abilities, and while she even may have more skills, and humanly speaking, make a “better” pastor than some men, this is entirely beside the point.  God does not intend for women to serve in the pastoral office.  Because of this, they take this mantle upon themselves to the detriment of themselves and the whole Church.  The fact that many churches today ordain them does not somehow force God’s hand. He does not call women into the Office for the good of man and woman alike. The Church will profit when She restrains herself from such gross outward violations of Her Lord’s will, and suffer when She does not.

He (or she!) who has an ear, let him hear.

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