Monday, February 15, 2010


I just finished reading this post, entitled "Why women cannot be head pastors", by C. Michael Patton, whose insights I usually find spot on.

However, I must disagree with his argument on this one, for the simple reason that it's not rooted in anything but a generalization, as several of the egalitarians, and a couple of the complementarians even, have pointed out in the comments (to his post, not this one — as of the time of writing at least).

I am a complementarian as well, and as such it pains me to see this kind of argument being offered, because of it's weakness. Since it comes from someone who normally offers great insights, my fear is that people will get the impression, as one commenter did, that this is the best complementarians have to offer.

EDIT 2/16/2010 10:33PM PST: Mr. Patton has clarified that he was not making an argument for complementarianism, but rather speculating on God's reason for the design, assuming it's true. However, I believe this post speaks to that as well.

So what do I have to offer better? Well, in this case not I, but the Eastern Orthodox Church. (One might hope they would, since they are about at patriarchal a hierarchy as one will find anywhere!) I am particularly enthusiastic about this explanation, because it is not rooted in opinion, or subjectivity. It is an argument from theology, clearly backed by Scripture.

As a preface, I offer the following:
  • This is a long post; but if you hang in there to the end, I think you'll find it rewarding.
  • The following quotes come from the book, The Faith: An Orthodox Catechism, by Mr. Clark Carlton, a convert to Orthodoxy, previously Southern Baptist. In particular, they come from the Special Study entitled "God and Gender", found at the end of the chapter "The Mystery of Love."
  • The running commentary is mine. :)
  • All emphases are in the original, unless otherwise noted.

Ok, now that that's done, let's get started.

Few issues are as explosive in our society as those involving gender and religion.

Well, we're off to a good and obvious start. :) Moving on...

The Orthodox Christian addresses these issues within the framework of the Church's self-understanding as the Bride of Christ. Whether the issue at hand is "inclusive language," the role of women in the Church, or homosexual desire, the answer lies in the great mystery: Christ and the Church.

Well, that's a new angle! No, seriously, I'd never seen anyone come at it from this angle before. And to lump having women pastors together with homosexuality? Well, this is either going to be really good or really rubbish. Let's find out...

The peoples of the ancient world frequently worshipped[sic] female deities, accepted priestesses, and thought nothing of homosexual behavior. Israel, however, stood alone in rejecting all of these practices. The reason for this lies in God's revelation of Himself as being radically distinct from His creation.

We have said that the world was created ex nihilo [this was covered in an earlier chapter]. Between the being of God and the being of the world there is an irreducible gulf. The world is not God, has never been God, and will never be God. The fact that God has united creation to Himself in the Incarnation in no way destroys the distinction between the Uncreated and the created. In Christ we participate in the uncreated grace of God, becoming by that grace what He is by nature, yet we never cease being creatures; our created nature is never transformed into the divine nature.

Ok, he's saying is that there is a huge difference between us and God. While it is true that through Christ we are partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), we have not been, are not, and never will be "transformed into the divine nature." That is to say, none of us will ever "have life in himself" (John 5:26); we will always be created, contingent beings. This is the the difference between God and His Creation.

Once again, I'm encouraged by the obvious nature of his propositions. Hopefully, he'll keep it up...

This difference between God and the world is expressed iconically by the disexuality of human nature. In the Divine Scriptures, God is always represented by the male and creation by the female.

STOP!!! Or rather, don't stop. Reading that is. Before you point out that female imagery is sometimes used to refer to God (e.g. "as a mother hen", and others), etc. — don't worry: he's getting to that.

Remember, he said at the beginning of the study that this is in relation to the Church's "self-understanding as the Bride of Christ." This becomes immediately apparent with the next sentence.

God is the Bridegroom, and the world — or more precisely, the Church, which is the world recreated in Christ — is the Bride.

Go back and read that sentence again, since it is foundational to the whole argument. Got it? Ok, let's keep going.

Here's the part where he caveats about the female imagery:

God, of course, is neither male nor female; He is beyond all such created concepts. Nevertheless, He has given us certain images and concepts whereby we have come to know Him. Though these concepts can never fully describe or define the indescribable God, we are nonetheless bound by them.

It is true that the Scriptures occasionally use female imagery in regard to God. For example Christ said of Jerusalem: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicken under her wings, and ye would not (Matthew 23:27). This is, however, a simile. Christ called God "Father," not "Mother." Christ is the "Son" of God, not the "Daughter" of God.

Now is where it start really getting powerful. However, he commits a whole paragraph to "inclusive" language. This paragraph is well-written, but not apropos to the discussion at hand, so I'll skip it. Moving on, we find:

From this [i.e. the iconic relationship of God/male and Creation/female] it should be evident why it is impossible for the Church to have priestesses [or female pastors]. The male, because he is a creature, can represent God only iconically. The female, however, is creation. The Church is essentially female.

Even though it's in the middle of a paragraph, I'll pause for you to re-read that last sentence, and absorb it.

Ok, ready to continue?

If, therefore, the priest — who is the image of Christ the Bridegroom — is a female, then what happens to the male principle? ...[T]he distinction between Creator and creation is destroyed, and a new religion is born.

Wait, what?

"[T]he the image of Christ"? Since when? Phrased this way, this statement seems to espouse a distinctively non-Protestant doctrine. Well, let me explain. First off, for those of you worried that he is advocating popish dogma — he is not. In the Orthodox tradition, the priest is not viewed as the "vicar" of Christ — that doctrine is (rightly) viewed as a Roman heresy.

But as I said, the statement, when phrased this way, can be confusing to the non-Orthodox. Let me elucidate:

Even in Protestant circles, the pastor is viewed as the under-shepherd to the One Shepherd. In the same manner, the pastor, as the visible leader of the assembly, is viewed as "head" (distinctly lowercase "h") of the church (distinctly lowercase "c") he leads.

So is the priest/pastor Christ? No. Most emphatically not. But does his role in the service mirror and symbolize that of Christ? Yes. I have heard many times in various Baptist churches that in Heaven, the departed saints are "doing church" at the same time we are, and Christ Himself is the Pastor. (This is also a very Orthodox teaching, even if the Baptists do not realize it. :))

The logical implication, if they would care to think about it, is that the pastor in the earthly church service is the "placeholder" for Christ in the heavenly one. He is "image", however imperfect, of the One Head of the Church.

Most Protestants will better understand this when stated symbolically, instead of iconographically; but the concept is the same.

Putting this understanding back into Orthodox parlance, we get, "the the image of Christ the Bridgegroom."

Now that we've got that under our belt, let's continue. I'll back up a little to get us back in the flow:

If the priest[/pastor] a female...the distinction between Creator and creation is destroyed, and a new religion is born. Actually, it is an old religion that is reborn — the religion of pantheism, which Israel and the Church rejected.

The last two paragraphs of the Study apply the argument against homosexuality, and so are not relevant to this discussion (although they are, IMHO, brilliant in their own right).

So we see from this that the Church understands herself as inherently female. To have a female head of the assembly, or even a plurality of heads which included some females, would destroy the imagery that is so clear in the Bible, actually recreating ancient paganism in it's place.

I would like to point out, from Scripture, some additional supports to this argument.

First, the apostle Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians (5:22ff) clearly spells out this understanding of the Church as inherently female. It also applies this imagery to the marriage relationship.

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church...

(This, by the way, is one reason [among others] why homosexuality is wrong, and homosexual "marriage" also: it destroys this imagery. But I digress.)

It is to this relationship and imagery that Paul is referring in his letter to Timothy, which is the passage mentioned by Mr. Patton in his blog post: 1 Tim. 2:11-15.

Paul's support for his instruction is not that women are not able to be aggressive in confronting heresy. One could, I suppose, make the argument that, since Adam was not deceived, and Eve was, men are somehow better at spotting heresy.

But "one" would be wrong; Adam did not confront the heresy at all, but rather actively succumbed to it. He just did it with his eyes wide open.

Paul's statement that the woman "was in the transgression" is not to say that Adam was not. In fact, "death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression," (Rom. 5:14, emphasis mine).

Rather, he is pointing to two things: first, the headship of the husband ("For Adam was first formed, then Eve."), which we have already asserted, and secondly, the headship of the second Adam (Christ [1 Cor. 15:22, 45]) over the second Eve (the Church).

How so?

The first Adam actively transgressed, and the first Eve "being deceived was [also] in the transgression." But the second Adam never transgressed. And if the second Eve looks to her Head for direction, (as the first Eve did not) and not to the other created beings and things (as the first Eve did), she will not be deceived, and will not transgress.

This understanding is also the crux of Paul's argument in 1 Cor. 11:2-10. But this post is already too long, so I will leave that one for now. ("Whoso readeth, let him understand.")

So, to borrow a phrase from Solomon: "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter," which I believe I have shown to be fully supported by Scripture.

For an assembly to set up a female leader for itself is for that church to to blur the distinction of God and His creation; or rather, to obliterate it! Even worse, they deny the imagery of Christ/male/head-Church/female/body, and also lose the visual reminder of their protection in Christ, the Reality to Whom the image points.

And that is why I believe we ought not have women pastors — not because men are more aggressive.


  1. as one commenter did, that this is the best complementarians have to offer.

    Oh, come now. She has a name. And I don't actually think that CMP's argument was "the best complementarians have to offer." I would agree that attempting to root their system in the imagery of God/Christ, Christ/Church with a little help from their pal Trinitarian Subordinationism is the best shot complementarians have.

    But I would still reject it. These are some of my reasons:

    ~ The Scriptures do not portray God as exclusively male. The early Christians understood Christ as the person of Wisdom from Proverbs 8 and the intertestatmental Jewish Wisdom literature, and Wisdom was distinctly female. My friend J. P. Holding from Tekton Apologetics wrote an article on this here (note that his article has nothing to do with egalitarianism).

    ~ There's also far more feminine imagery for God in the Bible than what the article you cite alludes to, such as Malachi 2:13-16, where God portrays himself as the grieving wife of a faithless, adulterous husband (Israel). To dismiss these examples as "just simile" while insisting that the masculine examples of divine engenderment are literal revelations of God's nature is beyond arbitrary.

    ~ I seriously question the equation of the Levitical priesthood with the pastorate. The New Testament never makes such a connection, and while such an equation might work for the Greek Orthodox church with their exclusive priesthood, in Protestantism we affirm a royal priesthood of all believers with Christ as our great High Priest. Egalitarianism is the only thing that is consistent with that.

    ~ I also question the notion that the Levitical priesthood functioned as the spiritual, authoritative head of Israel. David, Solomon, all of the kings, most of the Old Testament prophets, and all of the Twelve apostles could not be Levitical priests. Seems like a person could have significant spiritual authority and headship without being a priest.

    ~ If the earthly sex of Christ as the head of the church was significant and must be matched by any person wishing to emulate him as the head of a local church, then I think the race of Christ was likewise significant and must be emulated. After all, Christ taught that "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and Christ never made any Gentiles apostles---with the possible exception of Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7). Oh wait . . .

    That's probably more than enough for today, I do have homework to get to.

    several of the [STRIKE]feminists[STRIKE]egalitarians . . . have pointed out in the comments

    I think this is rather immature of you. I can't speak for the other egalitarians, but I don't believe "feminist" is a dirty word and I'd be happy to wear it. It's because of them (not male headship advocates) that I'm allowed to vote, hold property, attend graduate school, and have a job outside the home---things a woman couldn't have done or would have had an incredibly difficult time doing less than 100 years ago---and I'm grateful to them for it.

    If you want to advocate for complementarianism, go for it, but I think you'll get much further and win more people over if you don't have a cavalier attitude towards what feminism is and what it has accomplished.

  2. Appreciated your information. Would you speak to the idea of women teaching men and women in a bible study class? Is it the same as head pastor? If so, please make the comparisons for me. If not, will you please make the distinctions? Thanks

  3. @Mrs. Myers,

    I apologize for not including your name. It was late, and I was just skimming the comments, and just remembered that someone had made the comment in question, but was too lazy to go look up who did so. I suppose I should have linked directly to the comment as well.

    Secondly, when I see the word "feminist" (or think it), what comes to mind is usually the excesses of the movement. But you are right: the strikeout was immature, and I'll take it out as soon as I finish this comment.

    Thanks for pointing out these areas in which I can improve. :) Also, thank you for reading the whole post: I know it was rather long and somewhat rambling. Finally, thank you for taking the time to respond with these well-stated thoughts. You truly honor me by doing so.

    Regarding your specific points, I would offer these responses:

    ~I understand that the Scriptures hold many images of God as female. However, as I and Mr. Carlton pointed out, when it comes to Christ and His Church, God/Christ is most definitely male, the Church most definitely female. It is on this imagery that the argument is based.

    ~Your assertion that the LORD is portrayed as female in Malachi 2:5 is incorrect. I don't have room in this comment to detail the reasoning behind that statement, but I will do so in my next blog post.

    ~Regarding the Levitical priesthood, you are correct, there is no correlation of that to the Protestant pastorate. The Levitical priesthood is under the Old Covenant, and is only relevant in that they were the spiritual leaders of the visible people of God at the time of the ancient paganism mentioned. However, the article does not equate the pastorate with the Levitical priesthood, but the Orthodox priesthood, the function of which, within the assembly, includes all the things the Protestant pastor does. Also, I showed how, at least in my experience, Protestant pastors generally view their own office in the same light. But perhaps I'm generalizing Baptist to Protestant where I shouldn't be.

    ~As I said, the Levitical priesthood of Israel is not particularly to the particular argument; regardless of whether they were actually the spiritual leaders of Israel or not, the pastors of the churches /are/ the spiritual leaders (physical, at least) of the Church. However, regarding the Levitical priesthood, there is ample evidence in the Scriptures that they were, in fact, supposed to keep Israel "on the straight and narrow", to put it in modern terms. Unfortunately, this also is too large of a discussion for this comment; but I will definitely put it on my discussion list as the blog after next (the next being an explanation of Mal. 2).

    ~It's not about race, or even gender, per se. It's about imagery. And the imagery happens to explicitly include gender. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put a clear emphasis on the male/female imagery; and as equally a clear emphasis on the fact that race has nothing to do with it.

    You are correct in that I need to work on my humility and respect. Please forgive me, a sinner.

  4. ^^ correction: Malachi 2:13-16. Not sure where I got vs. 5 from.

  5. @Rebecca,

    I will address these items in a follow-up post. I need to think through it first. :)

    Thanks for asking!

  6. I agree with what has been stated thus far about marring biblical imagery. I would also like to bring another point forward if I may, that I believe would be helpful to consider: the point that God has created men and women with specific roles in mind. Though one can't say that either is superior to the other, they are distinctly different, namely that males were designed by God to be the leaders, women the helpers. To put that into the context of leadership in the church, I will let John MacArthur speak:

    As a footnote to that [refering to the first part of his statement; I left it out due to its indirectness; you can read it here if you wish], perhaps it ought to be said that from a biblical standpoint, there is no tolerance in Scripture for women leaders in the church, apart from women leading other women--older women teaching younger women and leading their children and so forth.

    It is so patently obvious that God created Adam and that Eve was made as a helper to Adam. So, man and woman were designed in the way that man leads and a woman helps, and comes under his leadership. What literally sent the human race down the proverbial drain was when woman stepped out from under submission, acted independently and sinned, taking the male role by leading. Man then, went under woman. He wasn’t even deceived! He just sinned because his wife sinned. And before you get too mad at him, think men: we’ve done things because our wife did them too. And if you were the only man in the world and she were the only woman, there might be a sort of a compelling there that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

    But, Eve steps out from under the authority of Adam, Adam steps under the authority of Eve--the whole thing is convoluted. But it’s interesting to me that when we go back to who is responsible for man’s sin, Paul doesn’t say, “As in Eve, all died.” He says, “As in Adam, all died.” Because even though Adam vacated his role of leadership and Eve usurped it, God still held the leader responsible, and that means He sees male headship.

    When you come into the New Testament, out of all the patriarchs it never says “the God of Rebekah,” it never says “the God of Sarah,” it never says “the God of [any woman]”; it’s “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” It’s not the God of Rachel, not the God of Rebekah, not the God of Sarah. Why? Because God sees male headship. There was never a female priest. There was never a queen in northern or southern kingdom. There was no woman who wrote any book out of the 66 books of the Bible. There was no woman chosen to be an apostle. There were some women God uniquely used, as Deborah, to speak His Word on one occasion, though she--you remember--gave up the leadership role to someone else. There was occasion when the four daughters of Philip spoke for God, but as far as we know they had no ongoing ministry.

    So, there is a very clear indication in scripture, from front to back that leadership belongs to men. And what I was saying this morning kind of fits that, doesn’t it? How God has designed us genetically to fit that role.

    Side note on MacArthur's last sentence here: I don't think men are to be leaders "because they're more aggressive", yet I believe God created men to be more equipt to handle leadership, be it named aggression or whatever. I think there is a some weight to that, though it would not be my first approach either to dealing with the question.

  7. Continued from above.....

    I was reminded also, while reading through the comments, the example we have from the early church in I Tim. 3:1-13, which clearly implies the roles of church leadership being given to the male gender. Again, I will use an outside source to comment here. Okay, so the article is from a Methodist site, which I am not, but I believe the writer is accurate with the Biblical principles given under the section Reasons Against Women Being Pastors.

    So, to conclude, I do not believe it is right for a woman to be in a position where she is in authority over men, be it preaching, or teaching in a Bible study with men present. I don't have a problem with women speaking in church, say in a setting where the pastor is asking questions and such, but for a woman to be "running the program", I see that as being contrary to God's intended design.

  8. ^ Correction: I meant to say the article was taken from a Mennonite site, which I am not.....


Hi! Feel free to comment. However, I was getting posts from different Anonymous people, and it's difficult to know who is who so I can keep the conversation straight in my head. So I'm requesting that you please bear with my weakness, and identify yourself. Even if you want to use a different name than your real name -- that's fine. But give yourself a handle for me, please. :) Thanks...