In the past month I have seen both a button and a bumper sticker that read:
If you’re not going to ordain women, stop baptizing them!
The logic is impeccable.
If that’s impeccable logic, I’d hate to see the peccable kind. I don’t want to disagree with someone who describes himself as a “consumer of dark chocolate, brewer of dark beer, reader of Flannery O’Connor, [and] watcher of the Coen Brothers,” but I have no choice. How have we lost the ability to make distinctions among the Scriptures? I mean: how is it that a record of the pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit at Pentecost is suddenly a proof-text for the ordination of women? How is it that the gift of salvation in holy Baptism (and this point may be where the real disagreement begins) suddenly makes all people not only equal before God in Christ, but the same? (If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?) How is it that prophecy, or the boldness in the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the acts of Jesus, automatically means the Office of preaching and administering the Sacraments? (And, again, here we may be already past the point of where we agree.)
Read Acts 2 again. I don’t see Peter saying that the Spirit wipes out all created distinctions. He clearly says, quoting the prophet Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” (vv. 17-18). But the argument of Prof. Kirk seems to be that since the same Holy Spirit is poured out as gift (the Spirit is the gift) upon God’s people in Christ (as Acts shows by describing the Spirit moving the Apostles from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the end of the earth), then that Holy Spirit must also give all people as the same gifts to the Body of Christ (see below).
But that’s exactly the opposite of Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 12:
Now there arevarieties of gifts, butthe same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. … Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Doall speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts [namely, love] (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 27ff., ESV).
Further, Paul speaks of gifts not as the ability or intelligence to do the work of the various offices described in the New Testament, nor as the call to or the feeling that I should be in one or another office; he speaks of the Office or the vocation itself as the gift. See Ephesians 4:
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it [Paul’s paraphrase of Psalm 68:18] says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave[! see the psalm] gifts to men.” … And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, the teachers, to equip the saints[,] for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith… (Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13, ESV sort of).
Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (I am convinced the last are two distinct aspects of the one Office) are all gifts that Christ gives at His Ascension for the sake of the one Body, made up of different members. It has nothing to do with how I feel about it, whether I feel called, what I think God should do, or that I think He should have given different gifts to His Church. Even in those traditions that, following the Scriptures, hold that the Office of the Holy Ministry is restricted to men, this is not automatically extended to all men by virtue of their baptism. God has not given the same gifts through all men, nor has He given the same gifts through both men and women.
Prof. Kirk ought to have continued reading the book of Numbers, as apparently some in Israel took the pouring out of the Spirit in Numbers 11 to be a justification for all to serve in exactly the same way (thanks to Prof. Kirk, perhaps in spite of himself, for helping me make this connection). Hear Miriam in chapter 12: “Has [Yahweh] indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken to us also?” (v. 2) Or Korah and his friends in chapter 16: “They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and [Yahweh] is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of [Yahweh]?'” (v.3) God had not given the Spirit so that everyone could be exactly the same in Israel, nor does He do so in the Church (as Paul, echoing Numbers 11-16, makes clear).
What does baptism have to do with call or ordination? Beyond being the sine qua non for being given as gift to the other members of the Body, nothing. Baptism makes you a member of the one Body; you share in the one Spirit, the one Faith, the one Hope. But the one God and Father of all does not give to all the baptized the same grace when He gives them as gifts to the rest of the Body. Baptism is the joining of sinners to the holy Body of Christ, crucified and resurrected, by the singular Word of God’s own promise. It is a gift, and gifts imply no rights whatsoever. Sinners have no rights before the holy God by virtue of His gifts. He gives, and gives, and gives, and we receive, and receive, and receive. On the other hand, if baptism is a symbol (a symbol we perform) of something that God is doing elsewhere, apart from His specific words of promise in Christ, then it makes sense that baptism gives us rights within the community. But baptism is not your certificate of membership that gives you all the rights and privileges attending thereto, like a diploma (I often wonder what rights and privileges actually do attend to my diplomas, but that’s a different issue). Baptism is, as Stephen Paulson puts it, God’s attack on the sinner. God’s work, God’s gift, God’s promise, all in Christ. Just like apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. All gift.
The question remains: how do we know whom God has put into that Office? Well, He says in other parts of the Scriptures. But that’s for another time. (Or, just read this.)