Pro-OW Fundamentalists

There are those in the LCMS (a small minority, perhaps) who continue to advocate the ordination of women into the Office of the Holy Ministry. Perhaps it’s time. After all, we have no proof-text that can be shown to irrefutably say, “Thou shalt not ordain women to the pastoral office.” I guess that’s it. Ordain ’em.

On the other hand, have we suddenly become fundamentalists (the pro-OW faction’s favorite four-letter word), that we must have an explicit, one-verse prohibition of something before we will allow the Scriptures to speak to us? As if that would silence the pro-OW advocates! If they will not listen to the prophets and apostles, neither will they listen to a direct, unadorned word from the Lord Himself.

But let’s play the game for a minute. I suggest that they are at least partially right about the passages in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. That is, these passages primarily address husbands and wives in a marital relationship. Nevertheless, it is interesting that Karl Wyneken on the DayStar Network Journal site stops with 1 Corinthians 14:35. Apparently, he didn’t think verses 36-40 were relevant:

Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Further, in v. 33, Paul makes it clear that his instruction is, at the very least, not bound to the congregation at Corinth: “As in all the churches of the saints…” Let us have sound exegesis, not proof-text eisegesis.

But, let’s put that aside for the moment, and grant, for the sake of (ad infinitum) argument, that these verses have nothing explicitly to say about the ordination of women. Perhaps they apply only to married women. Thus, if we are to justify the centuries-old “subjection” (a word that Wyneken uses, but which is nowhere used in the Scriptures) of women that excludes them from the pastoral Office, we must look elsewhere. But you will quickly find that there are no other proof-texts. Hence, the pro-OW faction rests their case. Nowhere (goes the argument) does Jesus, Paul, or any other apostle or prophet explicitly say that women shall not be pastors.

This is the real Biblical fundamentalism. If we must have a verse or two that say everything explicitly, let’s be done with the Trinity and the baptism of infants. See where such lovely sophistry gets you?

But Lutherans are not fundamentalists (however much some have acted like it in the past, especially the past 40 years). We do not set doctrine based on controverted passages (though it should be noted that very rarely did anyone prior to this century find anything doubtful about what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy–naturally, these people will do their best to cast doubt on Paul’s authorship of at least 1 Timothy). We must have clear Scripture, and, if what they say is true about these passages (I am granting it for the moment), we must find our foundation elsewhere or be forever rid of the church-dividing practice of not ordaining women.

The more interesting part of Wyneken’s essay is this:

5. What about texts that seem to call upon women to be in subjection or submission to men? Wouldn’t these have a bearing on whether women may be pastors?

This is one of the arguments our synodical theologians in particular have used to support the exclusion of women from the pastoral office. It is claimed that hierarchical arrangements that include the subjection of women to men were in God’s original creative plan (the so-called “Order of Creation”) and are therefore to be considered still in force and to be enforced. A careful reading of Genesis l and 2 rather, if anything, suggests equality. Hierarchy is introduced as a result of the fall in chapter 3, thus its intervention is a part of what might better be called “the Order of Fallen Creation.” A Roman Catholic theologian has referred to the insistence on male domination as “a celebration of original sin.”

I, for one, would like to know which Roman Catholic theologian. The fact that he (she?) remains nameless is not without significance. Could it be a theologian who is not upholding the teaching of Rome? If so, is it proper to call him (her?) a “Roman Catholic theologian”?

Wyneken loves loaded words. “Exclusion,” “hierarchical,” “subjection.” Those terms carry far different connotations in our culture than they did for, say, Paul in Ephesians 5. (The word there is “subordinate” [“to order under”], not “subject.”) Wyneken states, without any exegetical support whatsoever, that “Hierarchy is introduced as a result of the fall in chapter 3, thus its intervention is a part of what might better be called ‘the Order of Fallen Creation.'” However, if the relationship of men and women is “hierarchical,” then how must we interpret the relationship of God the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ? 1 Corinthians 11:3: “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.” To follow Wyneken’s logic, the relationship of the Son and the Father must also be a part of the post-fall creation. No doubt an explanation will follow along the lines of, well, of course, Jesus only became Man after the fall. But Paul nowhere suggests such a thing.

Does the New Testament, for example in Ephesians 5, call for a one-way, hierarchical “submission” on the part of women to men? One simple response to this is to note that the opening statement that heads this whole section on various roles, verse 21, calls for submission to be mutual. True Christian submission is gender-neutral. Every member of the Body of Christ willingly offers it in servant love for the good of his/her fellow human being. This submission is voluntary and in no way is to be confused with the coerced submission often demanded in the world, as in past it has been of women.

Next, we have the tired assertion that “True Christian submission is gender-neutral,” based on Ephesians 5:21. This exegetical leap is untenable. Once again, when we read the whole passage in context, we find that ridiculous things logically follow. For example, if we hold to Wyneken’s argument, parents must obey children and masters must obey slaves. Mutual submission in the sense that Wyneken means it is not only not what Paul had in mind, it is absurd and impossible. Rather, v. 21 is both the conclusion to the previous section and an introduction to the next. Ephesians 5:22 ff. describe what that mutual submission looks like. Not everyone submits in the same way, lest children be in charge of parents and slaves tell their masters what to do.

Instead, how should husbands, wives, parents, children, slaves, and masters submit? Notice, first, that these are all relationships, as is God the Son’s to God the Father. Husbands submit to Christ, wives submit to husbands, parents to God, children to parents, slaves to masters, and masters to Christ. Further, God the Son willingly submits to God the Father and the Church submits to Christ. If this passage should be understood as Wyneken understands it, not only would we have anarchy in the home and in the workforce, but the Church should rebel against Christ and take her rightful place as head of the household of God. Shall we not, in a sort of French revolutionary way, cut off the Head, and let the Church take His place? See what sort of absurdities and blasphemies follow from the pro-OW faction (sect?)?

If we as Christians want to speak of ourselves as in or under some kind of “order,” why would it not be that of the New Creation, the Order of Redemption?

And, though Wyneken is blind to the fact, that is exactly what Paul is doing in Ephesians 5. He is not speaking about unregenerate people between Fall and Redemption; he explicitly has in mind the Church of Christ.

While on this subject of the order of creation we might mention that the way the Biblical creation accounts have been used for support may actually be quite un-Lutheran, that is, contrary to Luther’s actual exegesis of Genesis 1-3. Luther, it appears, did not understand these texts to be saying that subordination and hierarchy was an inherent feature of the original creation. He held that it was introduced with the Fall, in chapter 3. It was John Calvin, some suggest, who advanced the notion that the original creative design included hierarchical orderings. Today most interpreters, including Calvin’s Reformed descendents, would probably find Luther’s insight preferable. The sad irony is that we have some Lutheran theologians now who prefer Calvin’s view and advocate it.

This is a nice, old device, and Wyneken uses it beautifully. See, if you disagree with his sort, he will trot out the second favorite four-letter word of the (for lack of a better word) liberals in the Missouri Synod: Calvinist. (You will also find yourself labeled as an evil Calvinist if you speak of anything resembling the dreaded “Third Use”–I prefer “function”–of the Law.) I especially like this part: “It was John Calvin, some suggest…” “Some suggest”? Who? Once again, the nameless authority comes out to prop up an argument.

It should be noted, before I attempt to counter this false interpretation of Genesis 1-3, that those associated with DayStar (at least all the ones with which I’ve had the pleasure of speaking) hold that Genesis 1-3 are a mythic depiction of the origins of the creation, which speaks of the reality of sin without attempting to describe how the creation actually came into existence (because, as everyone knows, God used evolution to accomplish His creative will. I mean, it’s right in the Creed: “I believe in God the Almighty, divine orchestrator of beneficial mutation.”) But when it suits them, they will use it as support for any cause for which they advocate.

In order (no pun intended) for Wyneken to win the argument, he would have to argue that the curses in Genesis 3 are mere arbitrary and capricious examples of the subjective will of God. Instead, we see that they are specific curses based on the specific roles of the first man and first woman in the unspoiled Garden.

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

Next, Wyneken will argue that both men and women gave birth pre-fall, and that both men and women had “husbands.” Thus was pre-fall humanity “gender-neutral.”

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Other than the last part of the passage, which clearly applies to both men and women (since both return to dust), the curse is primarily directed at what had been Adam’s primary role before the fall, i.e., working the ground of the Garden. Further, Adam did not fulfill his role by warning Eve not to eat of the fruit, so his curse is directed at the fact that he “listened to the voice of [his] wife” rather than fulfilling his role as the protector and head of the family. These are not gender-neutral curses. The roles of the man and woman prior to the fall were not the same, nor were they interchangeable. They had specific duties and responsibilities to carry out, and their curses are the distorted image of those roles. Their individual, God-given roles before the fall are apparent from the fact that they did not receive the same curse, but different consequences of sin followed for each of them. To deny this goes against everything that is said in the first three chapters of Genesis. Wyneken is simply disingenuous when he asserts otherwise.

A couple more comments: Galatians 3:28 as a fundamentalistic proof-text for radicalized equality of men and women should be done away with forever. It does make sense that they would continue to use it, however, considering that their forerunners the Montanists used it as well to justify their enthusiast prophetesses. Why don’t they follow their logic all the way, and use it to justify homosexual relationships? No men and no women, right? (Some of them have seen the logical end of the argument, and have gone there. I suspect most are afraid that their agenda will be seen for what it is and the LCMS will finally be done with them.) Galatians 3:28 has absolutely nothing to say about the relationship of men and women, other than the fact that whether you are male or female, slave or free has no bearing on whether you can be a Christian. Surely they have something stronger than “In Ephesians 5, Paul wasn’t being consistent.” That’s the usual mode of argument with people who can’t be trusted to believe all the Scriptures. It makes it easy, though. If I have trouble reconciling two passages, I can just say that Paul didn’t write the one I don’t like. See? No problem.

Finally, what is driving the unrelenting promotion of the ordination of women? I do not think that it is the culture of our society (although it certainly fits very comfortably with our culture, doesn’t it?). Rather, as with most of the agenda items of this group of people, it is the false dichotomy they have built between Law and Gospel. They truly believe that if women are prohibited from the Office of the Holy Ministry, it is a Law–even if it is Divine–that must be done away with. And, according to their understanding, the Gospel is that which does away with Law. This is the deeper and more subtle antinomianism with which they are infected. They will deny that they are antinomian, but by the way that they pit Gospel against Law, they cannot avoid the logical consequences of such argument. They will cry “Gospel, Gospel, Gospel!” but theirs is a Gospel by which God “trumps” His own Law, and by which Law has no validity for the Christian other than its accusation. Surely, lex semper accusat. But just as certainly, the law cannot only accuse. But, in fact, the Law is simply what God has built into His creation as the way it runs. Hence, to go against the Law is to go against His creation. To put women into an Office into which Jesus would not put them is to go against both Law and creation, and the rotten fruit of such a decision has already been reaped in such places as Her Church. (Interesting video here.)  It is significant that the Jesus who was not afraid to say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” did not call even one female out of twelve to be an Apostle.  They love the radicality of Jesus’ preaching, but when it comes to women, “He didn’t want to upset the culture in which He was living.”

If you think Her Church and the like are an anomaly, you aren’t paying attention. They have another spirit, and they have another god. The ordination of women is nothing less than the precursor to worshiping a god other than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They may do that if they choose, but it is not the God of the Christian Scriptures.

Let us be done with eisegesis and sophistry, and let them go to their own elsewhere. Yet I have no doubt that they will try to take the LCMS down with them, if and when they go.




3 thoughts on “Pro-OW Fundamentalists

  1. That’s well argued. But just for “devil’s advocate” purposes, where do you get “Adam did not fulfill his role by warning Eve not to eat of the fruit.” Not warning Eve seems to be a bit different from “listening” to her and doing what was forbidden by God.

    I like the point you make about “their” use of Genesis 1-3 for purposes of OW, but would never consider those chapters to actually be an account worth paying attention to when it comes to how everything got here.

  2. In Genesis 1:28-29, when God is speaking to “them,” there is no mention of the prohibition to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, in the more detailed account in Genesis 2:15-17, where God is specifically speaking to the man (because the woman had not been created yet), it says, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'” The man’s responsibility was to work and keep the garden, and it was to the man that the command was given not to eat of the tree. Since Eve was not yet there, Adam surely had the responsibility of keeping Eve from eating the fruit. (It seems clear that he had already told her the command, since she repeats it back to the serpent.)

    So instead of reminding Eve of the command, Adam listened to her (without saying anything) and thus disobeyed God–twice, really.


  3. Having given a good deal of attention to this issue myself, I appreciated the use of the term “fundamentalist” here. Those proof-texting in favor of OW are indeed practicing fundamentalism in the most common sense of the word. Thanks for that insight. It is too bad that the CTCR (the LCMS Committee on Theology and Church Relations) and some theologians defending the practice of ordaining only men into the OHM have been drawn into the fundamentalist trap themselves. The later CTCR documents have all but abandoned Paul’s argument from “Order of Creation” and reverted merely to proof-texting 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14. By adopting a fundamentalist argument against the ordination of women, they have actually weakened their argument.

    As to the question of Adam’s responsibility: The word “listen” conotes more than merely hearing. Adam listened to the voice of his wife – meaning he did as she said or followed her advice – instead of fulfilling his responsibility to her of reminding her of God’s command.

    Good post Tim.

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