So am I the minority report in saying that I have no biblical problem with these scenarios, and would not chastise a woman for accepting such positions (with obvious caveats that she didn’t abandon a family in the process)? I mean, I can’t help but be thankful we have Sarah Palins out there counteracting the abomination of limp-wristed male politicians who buckle like a belt at the least confrontation.
Being a biblical woman outside the church and home
Why do we move things around & split conversations?
Probably in Sanityville, yes.
And the Israelites were grateful for Deborah. But the Bible is clear that it is a curse for women and children to rule over us. Besides, it makes no sense to simultaneously condemn men for being womanly and praise women for being manly in this way.
Okay, help me think carefully through this, because I would not agree that civil or commercial rule is restricted to male headship in the Bible. I am willing to have my mind changed on it, but I’d be very interested in what passages, in their surrounding contexts, could be brought to bear to achieve such a conclusion. This is the first time I’ve been exposed to this idea.
My second thought is that I was not condemning men for being womanly but for being cowardly. I don’t think you are equating cowardice with femininity, and I wouldn’t guess that anyone would see strength of conviction as an inherently male characteristic.
Isaiah 3:12 makes clear the fact that it is a cause for lament when women rule in the civil realm.
I’ve no time to answer further right now. But let me ask you this question to help you start thinking down the path: Is there any difference between the way that women and men should act outside the church and home, or does their sex become irrelevant once they walk outside those two places? If their sex still matters, then what would you say the consequent differences in behavior, role, work, outside the home & church would look like? If we claim that women still need to be womanly, then we need to be able to tell them what that means. If we deny that they need to be womanly we better have an awfully good biblical justification. (And it doesn’t exist.)
Ok, doing some careful thinking on the fly. Don’t try this at home.
Obviously it depends. They should act exactly the same with reference to the law. They should act the same with reference to the generic fruits of the Spirit, e.g., showing mercy, seeking peace, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and so forth. I think you are asking, “Does the family/Church order laid down for men and women in the Bible extend to the civil realm?” Even that appears to me to be a “it depends,” with the question resting on heart motivations. Let me paint two pictures.
Woman A has always chafed under whatever male leadership she’s experienced. She longs to lead to finally show men that “women can do X just as good as men.” She works her way to the top of an organization, working long hours, doing objectively excellent work, and obtaining promotions in the process until she is recognized in her field and in charge of men. This is sin, but traced back to its root one can easily discover the sin of Pride. Even if this woman were removed from a position of formal leadership, she would remain miserable and in her sin, for she was acting out of a heart that refuses to bow the knee - both to God as Father, or to any man, in any context, for whatever reason.
Woman B submits happily to male leadership in her Church and home. Let’s assume she is young and unmarried, and shows a particular aptitude in a STEM field, for instance. She has a teachable heart and a brilliant mind. As she works through college, she develops something with public marketability. It is her idea/product and she gives God the glory for it. She decides to move to market with this product and finds herself running her own startup company with both male and female employees. Eventually she gets married and has a child, deciding to stay at home with the child, but unavoidably maintaining some amount of decision-making power in her company which is in caretaker status.
While I realize I may be brushing up against a straw man, I’m not sure how else to frame it. These two archetypes do happen in various ways. I would find the idea that Woman B violated God’s law by exercising her God-given ability to the best of that ability in the civil/commercial sphere; that she sinned by not finding a male to run the business for her - I find this idea unsupportable in and foreign to Scripture.
So to answer your question: It’s not a question of shouldness but isness. Men and women simply will be different in all sorts of contexts, attack problems differently, strategize differently, assume risk differently, resource things differently, relate differently. Whether these differences inhibit or facilitate the task at hand in the commercial/civil domain, is the it-depends.
Where you sit is where you stand. I’m not a pastor, I’m not a welder, I’m not a construction worker. All I can go off of is my experience in the military and DoD. I’ve had great female bosses and terrible female bosses. I’ve had great male bosses and terrible male bosses. The good bosses shared certain qualities across the board that I would not associate with masculinity or femininity. They include truthfulness, clarity, organization, timeliness, urgency and fairness. The bad qualities also are not associated with masculinity or femininity: they include insecurity, incompetence, dishonesty, complacency and hypocrisy. I have never run into sexual tension over reporting to a woman as another commenter suggested would be inevitable. Perhaps that is because of the military emphasis on mission execution. Perhaps it would be different if I were fitting pipes, I don’t know.
But a woman shows mercy differently than a man shows mercy. For example, when I see a car with a flat tire stopped beside the road, I stop to help if it’s a woman, but my wife should not stop to help a man. A man often helps using his physical strength; a woman often helps through thoughtful deeds, relational connection, and compassionate understanding.
You need to read the PCA position paper on women in combat.
Historically the law has not treated women and men the same and therefore women and men cannot act identically with regard to the law as you claim until we enter a radically egalitarian society where we don’t mind forcing women to take up arms to protect men and allow men into their bathrooms as a starting point. Claiming that because the law refuses to notice that there is such a thing as men and women today therefore men and women should behave identically to the law is simply to beg the question. Nor does God give identical commands to men and women in His law. One example is telling us how women should dress and how the hair of men and women should differ. Both of those extend outside of the home and church.
Go back and re-read my question and you’ll see that you’ve answered a different one.
I’ve already given you a couple of examples where women should behave differently based on the fact that they are women, and Daniel has given a bit of a weak one as well. (Sorry Daniel. But I’ll strengthen it. ) Take it a step further and ask whether interactions between men and men should be exactly the same as between men and women. The answer is obvious. No. What your position demands that the Pence rule be considered sexist, something that some Christians are indeed arguing (but I’m assuming you don’t).
Women should cover their breasts in public. Men need not. The reason is not because men don’t need to be modest but because God made men and women different and those differences continue to exist and affect us outside the home and church. Until you acknowledge this principle we won’t make it much further. Once you do, then we can begin to discuss what that principle means for politics, business, etc. And there is plenty of room for discussion and argument in there, along with need for a whole bundle of wisdom as we try to apply things there, as you can see from this conversation.
Hi, so I think I used too much shorthand and assumed too much in my response. Let me try to clear up some confusion before addressing anything else:
When I say that the behavior of men and women “before the law” should be the same, I only mean that men and women are both expected to adhere to the law; nothing more, nothing less. I mean that neither incur legal penalty nor preference merely for being a man or being a woman. A man and woman are obligated to give honest testimony in a court of law. A man and a woman are expected to park in legal parking spots without reference to gender. A man and a woman are both obligated to respect and obey law enforcement personnel. I was not envisioning today’s tangled web of legal revolution specifically concerned with eliminating gender distinctions, but the most basic and objective of laws that must undergird any functional society. In that sense men and women operate under identical obligations to obey those statutes, and in the same way.
Second, I think two things are being conflated here: First, the distinctiveness of the genders, which I absolutely uphold. For example, in answering Daniel’s post, and I think we are talking past each other a tiny bit, but I would say that of course women typically show mercy differently than men (though both can show mercy in the same way - men can serve tables and prepare food, and a woman can show an elderly person how to work a computer) but that was never really the point I was opposing. I was simply trying to say that both men and women are expected to show mercy. The manifestations will frequently differ, but one gender does not get a pass on showing mercy because they are a man or woman.
A separate issue from basic man-woman distinctiveness is the morality of a woman serving in a civil or commercial leadership position. I have no problem with this second issue and find the theology as thus far presented to be somewhat flimsy. In other words, I remain unconvinced that a prohibition of the second must necessarily follow an affirmation of the first.
Lastly, regarding the PCA statement on women in combat; I have no issues with this. Combat is unique. Beyond the clear Biblical implication that men are to defend women (which is enough), there are mission impacts as well. The prosecution of combat involves extreme demands on the mental and physical. Given the goals and contingencies of combat, it is absolutely reasonable to limit it to men. Combat demands a certain level of dehumanizing your opponent and ‘animalizing’ oneself. Introducing a woman into combat will either expose that woman to risk of assault from an animalized male, or will endanger the unit in the case of the chivalric impulse.
However, a minority of the military actually engages in combat. Intelligence, my own field, is a discipline of getting inside the enemy’s mind. The differences of men and women, I have found over my career to be an asset, not a liability. The empathetic nature of women has more than once yielded insights that a room full of men may very well never have stumbled upon. The converse is true too; sometimes a sort of gut-level male impulsiveness provides the best insight. This is the domain with which I am most familiar; I can only say that I have found the full participation of both men and women to be a benefit. It is in this context that I’ve worked for women and men, been mentored by both women and men, and supervised both women and men. I count myself a more competent professional for the experiences, either way.
All of this is offered against the backdrop of my (humble) conviction that Scripture, through silence in the New Testament, and through abrogation of Civil Israel, gives women the right to participate to a level commensurate with their abilities in the civil/commercial area, and have a clean conscience before the Lord in doing so.
No one has said they would chastise the woman. What we are saying is that it is contrary to God’s created order. How it is handled is a pastoral issue, as well as whether the woman was wrong to accept the position. Start with the doctrine, then work out from it pastorally is what everyone here would say. But the doctrine is clear as our Reformed fathers including Calvin taught. Calvin thought Knox shouldn’t have taken on the Queen, though, so there you have some idea of the many slips twixt the cup and lip in this issue. Love,
First of all, I’ve been chuckling about that all afternoon. Isn’t that what argument is all about? Thinking on the fly. Lord willing, we will be better for it. And I sincerely appreciate your perseverance, Eric - I am better for it. Now onward…
To paraphrase your words, your current position is that the very real distinctions between men and women do not mean it is wrong for a woman to serve in a civil or commercial leadership position. That’s a fair statement of your position, right?
I think that approaches this issue the wrong way. Back in our parent topic, Tim said,
I think that is the key place to start. Let’s keep 1 Timothy 2 in mind:
9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
The point being made here is that the authority of Adam over Eve comes from his being the man and being created first, and those things don’t disappear when he walks out of the home and the church. And so the question is not, “which occupation is morally permissible and which aren’t?” The question is, instead, “how do I live out my God-given masculinity/femininity outside of the church and the home?” When you ask it that way, the whole discussion happening over here comes to life.
Hi Lucas, it’s nice to meet you, at least virtually. This has been an interesting discussion and I’ve also benefited a lot since joining up here. I am currently an elder nominee at my church and want to think through this stuff as carefully as I can.
And yes, that is a good description of my conclusion.
I don’t disagree with that when speaking man qua man (mankind). Men and women never cease to be men or women. But those real distinctions matter more or less in different biblical contexts. In the context of the Cross, they do not matter at all (Gal. 3:28 - a verse egalitarians like to stretch, but that does apply in specific contexts). In the context of broad commands, they do not matter at all (both are to confess sin, both are to demonstrate love, both are to do all to the glory of God). In the context of Church order, they matter a lot. In the context of the family, they matter a lot. It is God Himself through the pens of His Apostles who delineates these contexts. And this happens all over the place. David was a mighty man of valor and commended by God as a man after His own heart, but was prohibited from building His temple for the blood on his hands. Sex is good and God’s ordained way of procreation, but it is bad in every context save one.
I remember a discussion with an Orthodox priest I know. He insisted that it was sin for Christians to serve in the military. He said that it is impossible to “love one’s enemy” by shooting at them. He said that the veneration of “men of valor” doing great acts in war ended in the Old Testament and in the New, we have a different command. I was obligated to argue from the silence of Scripture. Why was it that Jesus and John the Baptist never condemned soldiering as such? They never told the centurions or soldiers to leave their profession but to serve honorably. The silence speaks louder than words.
In the same way, if Scripture stands in opposition to female civil/commercial leadership, the Apostle had the best opportunity in the world to correct Lydia, to tell her to leave off her ungodly leadership and give place to a man, so that he might run her enterprise and she would be assured of not violating the will of God on this issue. But this is not what happens. Look at Acts 16:14-15.
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.”
See the words that the Scriptures render no moral judgment on whatsoever:
- a seller of purple
- she was baptized, and her household
But the most critical aspect that should close this argument is right here:
“If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there.”
Okay, here is Paul’s opening. Does he say, “No, Lydia, you are not being faithful to the Lord by being the head of your household (logically including males) or by being the CEO of your own purple fabric enterprise. However so lovingly, we must call you to repentance on this matter.”
No, Luke records Paul’s response:
“And she constrained (or ‘prevailed upon’) us.”
Here was the opportunity to close this issue - a Christian woman with her own enterprise - and Paul by abiding with her, affirms her query: he judged her to be faithful to the Lord and entered her house.
This is precisely what you are claiming with regard to the clear and explicit teaching that it is a curse to be ruled by women. Yet you have only silence in the NT on your side. We know almost nothing about Lydia or what paul said to her or didn’t say. Yet you are attempting to make that silence into a contradiction of the OT principle, the exact opposite of what you did with acts of war.
I am not trying to make a contradiction in Scripture and that’s cruddy of you to frame it that way.
We don’t know a lot about Lydia but we do know some things that are true:
- She led a household
- She ran a business
- Paul was okay with this when she asked if she had found favor (which actually is action, not silence).
I can own contradictions in myself, and I can admit that my apologetic methodology is/was flawed. But contradictions in my methodology do not eliminate the need to perform Cirque du Soleil-style contortions to escape the fact that Paul approves of Lydia’s position.
You have so far provided one verse to hang your hat on; that is Isaiah 3:12 so let’s handle that. What do the Reformers say? Beza says in the Geneva Bible that ‘children and women’ in this usage are metaphors for leaders who are “fools and effeminate”; both words being common insults to use against disappointing men at the time. Others point out that the Hebrew word for “women” and “creditors” (both נשים , differed through the use of vowel points) are similar. Two English renderings of the verse you use are:
My people—children are their oppressors,
and women rule over them.
O my people, your leaders mislead you,
and confuse the course of your paths. (NRSV)
Oppressors treat my people cruelly;
creditors rule over them.
My people’s leaders mislead them;
they give you confusing directions. (NET)
I think your argument is not well served by simply handwaving the textual uncertainty of this verse and saying “it’s clear and explicit.” To say there is textual uncertainty here is not to push an agenda but to simply admit reality.
If Scripture is to interpret Scripture, we have to interpret the more unclear parts of Scripture through the lens of the clearer parts. I will rely on Acts 16:14-15 in this issue - not to draw a contradiction, but because the voice of Acts is a plain, historic, un-poetic voice and its plain meaning is clear. When Paul affirms Lydia by going into her house, it’s simply not possible to take that in a range of senses but only one sense. When God says through Isaiah, speaking of children/women ruling over Judah in the pejorative, it IS possible and in fact incumbent on the Christian to examine the range of senses - for looking at it in a woodenly literal way, we would be forced to view Esther and Deborah as curses upon Israel.
To draw a contradiction in Scripture I would have to say, “Here God said this, but here God said this other thing, so God is confused.” To accuse someone of that is serious business and does not reflect well on you when I am trying in good faith to work through this issue. What I am saying is, “God revealed this quite plainly here, and God said something else here in a more poetic/prophetic way - the two things must fit together. God is not confused. Consequently, this poetic language is likely doing something besides condemning female leadership in every context.”
Hello, Eric. When Lydia says, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay,” she surely is not claiming that, having just believed and been baptized, her entire life is now morally blameless. She’s not asking the Apostle Paul to judge every aspect of her sanctification. She’s saying, “If you have judged me to be a true believer…” It’s quite a stretch to think that Paul’s answer in the affirmative was a comprehensive statement of her entire sanctification. She was a new Christian. We don’t need to guess about Paul’s instruction to her as a new believer; we have it all over his epistles. Many of his instructions are remarkably sex-specific and would surely have a bearing on the particularities of her life:
1 Timothy 5:3–8
Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:9–10
A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
1 Timothy 5:14–16
Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
All of that is what is clear, not an assumed stamp of approval from Paul on all the actions of a baby Christian woman.
Not at all what I meant, so please don’t be offended. Your argument is dependent on being able to dismiss OT verses as no longer applicable. That would require NT abrogation of those verses. It’s not problematic, for example, to say that the NT dietary laws contradict and supersede the OT dietary laws. It wasn’t meant to be some sort of accusation.
Regarding Isaiah 3:12, Beza’s interpretation only supports my point. If it is bad for men to be effeminate in their leadership, then it is because it is particularly bad for women to lead. But you’ve already indicated above that you can’t see any particular ways of leading as manly or womanly, so let me back up to something you said before:
What Scriptures would you use to defend this statement, and do you think that men have an obligation outside of war or their own family, to do so? For example, suppose a man sees a woman being abused on the bus. Does he have any particular obligation to protect her because he is a man, more-so than another woman that sees it?
It should worry you, dear brother, that I’ve been reading fathers on this issue for decades and I’ve never heard anything remotely like your argument concerning Lydia; and that’s not even to mention that it’s a scary argument since it’s from silence.
This when we have the clear command of Scripture that man’s federal headship/being created first requires woman not to teach or exercise authority over man (1Timothy 2:12, 13). Full stop.
All that’s left is figuring out how to live in unclear situations where there are competing laws. Husband had a stroke. Boss sends me out on a sales call and puts me over a man. No man to inherit kingdom; I’m the next in line; and I’m a woman. All kinds of specifics, but all across church history everyone everywhere in the Christian Church has had the same understanding of 1Timothy 2, that being rooted in the order of creation prior to the Fall, it is universally applicable. True. End of story.
One can get most naive people today to talk on this subject without reference to Scripture’s commands nor any reference to 2,000 years of settled church doctrine. Thankfully, though, some of us still at this late, rebellious, and decadent date know church historical theology and will refuse to wander off on rabbit trails, instead passing on faithfully the Apostolic doctrine. With love,
That is a stretch, and one I can’t locate in anything I’ve written. The rest of what you’ve quoted from Scripture is certainly true but doesn’t really have anything to do with the matter at hand.
Understood, no hard feelings!
That is entirely incorrect. My argument about Isaiah has to do with textual uncertainty and the problems with resting one’s practical theology on single verses whose application is uncertain even among conservative, Reformed scholars and theologians.
I am not sure if you are doing this intentionally, but I am finding arguing with you on this topic to be very tiring as you seem determined to play “so what you’re saying is…” I never said that there are no distinct male or female ways of leading. I said that the qualities of good leadership I’ve seen demonstrated over my career have been demonstrated by men and women alike.
I see that I have transgressed a particular hobby horse here. My goal is not to waltz in here and drop a grenade over this. If that’s your conviction, stick to it. I have laid out mine and it may be read and discarded as you see fit. I find what has been presented to me so far to be unconvincing and believe that it binds consciences beyond what is Scripturally supportable, but is not a salvific issue at bottom. Thus I can live and let live on this one and genuinely wish you the best.
Thank you for the warning, honestly. I will run this discourse past my own church leadership just to make sure I’m not veering off course, and to make sure they understand fully my position prior to ordination to office.
If I were to want to lend aid to the feminist rebellion across the secular world, I’d suggest trading Lydia in for Deborah. Yet even there, Calvin and all our fathers reject the spin I’m guessing you’d put on it. Again, with love.
I don’t see how else to interpret your statements thus far, but if I’m wrong, it would help to understand your position if you described masculine leadership in contrast with feminine leadership.
I do also wish that you would have answered these questions before giving up. I think you’ll find that it is very hard to defend without acknowledging some of what we have said: