I'm continuing to look at some things I'm pretty sure about and some things with which I'm struggling and I hope, growing. Today I follow up on what was said last post about the Church, only this time, where I see women in leadership. I have to say this is one of my weakest areas of theological certainty. This, along with my views on the Second Coming, is going through a major review as I attempt to understand the text of Scripture unencumbered with my particular history and tradition. I'm grateful for both, just attempting to not build my theology on either as, I'm sure, is true of all of you.
Having said that, I need to really begin with a view I now hold, with great conviction, concerning the New Covenant. I have been caught up in past years in building A lifestyle based primarily on performance or the keeping of rules, including the Ten Commandments, that I now see was confusing the Old and the New covenants.
There is a basic difference between the covenant God had with Israel which was founded upon the Law of Moses as the standard of behavior and the New Covenant. Jesus has established the New, ratifying it with His blood, setting aside the Old or really fulfilling it since it was Christocentric in it's ultimate purpose anyway.
The New is, by definition, a Christ centered rather than Law [read rules here] centered covenant. Some people try to make the ten commandments applicable to the New Covenant by dividing the Law of Moses into three parts. Thus you wind up with the ceremonial, the civil, and the moral law. [the ten commandments] With the moral law extending to the New Covenant [in their way of thinking] since it is descriptive of the character of God. The problem is the Jews would not recognize such a division. The law was "one Body" of law and could not be broken into parts. Whatever happened to the Law of Moses happened to all of it. It was, as I said, fulfilled in Christ.
That is not to say the New Covenant is antinomian. [without law] We are "in-lawed" to Christ as I Corthians 9 says. We are to "hear ye Him" as admonished by the Father at the baptism of Jesus. And, by the way, nine of the ten commandments are repeated in the New covenant, with only the "Sabbath" commandment not. In my understanding now, the "sabbath' was a unique sign given to Israel in their covenant with God. We are, as New Covenant people, in an "eternal sabbath" according to Hebrews and rest every day of our lives in the Grace of God.
This is not to say I hold to a two covenant concept as do some Premillennialists, a covenant of works and a covenant of Grace. Nor do I hold to the one covenant of Grace with different administrations as do reformed folks. I'm convinced there were several covenants that prepared the way for the New covenant. I say this because when past covenants are talked about by Paul the Apostle, it is always in the plural as in Eph.2:12 and Rom. 9:4.
All of this to say, Jesus is now our Prophet, Priest, King, and Lawgiver. So we look to Him for instructions for living and the New covenant is the declared guide for behavior. If asked, "how do you read the Old Testament now?" My answer is, Christocentricially. Through the lens of Christ and His work on the Cross. All of the Old was getting us ready for the New. I take everything said in the Old "to the Cross".
Now, this New covenant is different than the old ones in several ways. Let's take an example. The source of authority and power lay with men in the Old. The lifestyle that grew out of the covenant of the Law of Moses was gender based to say the least. The identifying of the wife as part of a man's property as were his slaves, oxen, and asses, in the 10th commandment, certainly shows that.
We are all aware it was based on race as well. God's covenant with ISRAEL made stipulations for foreigners, but they were stipulations, not the norm. Then age was a factor in authority. So that, as one man said, "If you were an 'old Jewish guy' you had it made in that day.
But the New Covenant as announced by Peter was different totally. Remember he said, [after assuring them all there was no drunkeness involved in what had happened] "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all Flesh: [think of how a Jewish person heard this. Gentiles are now included. Forget race as a problem] and your sons and your daughters [forget gender as a problem] shall prophecy, and your young men [forget age as a problem] shall see visions, and your old men will dream dreams; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit and they shall prophesy." Acts 2:16-18
So you can now see my conviction [things I know for certain] about the New Covenant and it's unique lifestyle of freedom in Christ because of the Grace of God. And you can see I believe there is no inherent authority/power or lack thereof because of age, gender or race in the New Covenant. But having said all of that, you can see that brings me to some things I'm still growing in, and it pertains to women in ministry.
When I take this clear statement of the source of Power and Authority being the Spirit of God in the New Covenant, and, upon whom He places that power and Authority is not determined by men or systems of theology or Baptist traditions, but it is by His sovereign will and purpose, I have a problem. I must face and now think through women in ministry if I'm going to be consistent.
What compounds my problem is that I struggle with the meaning of some verses. For example in Romans 16:1-2, Phebe is called a "deacon". I know the KJV says "servant" and I know that's a fair translation of the word. But when used of men it is left "deacon" or translated "minister" most of the time. Why the difference? Add to that, in verse two she is called a [KJV] "succourer". Some translations say "helper". But when used of men in 1 Tim. it is tranlated "manage", "rule". The word literally means order, to arrange, to rule, to manage, or to help. Paul said she did this with him and his ministry. She, of course, helped, but why not translate it as... ordered, arranged, managed, as it was of the men mentioned in 1 Timothy.? I'm afraid there COULD be a bit of gender bias in the translators minds that is uncalled for in the New Covenant.
Add to this my seeing the 1 Corth.14 passage where the women are told to "be quiet" as a word given to several troublemakers in that passage. The tongues speaker who isn't waiting to see if a translator is present. [v27] The prophet who doesn't care if anyone else has a prophetic word.[v30] And the women who think they are more qualified than men because they are women.[My supposition here is based on what I'm about to say] [v34] "Be quiet" is the word to all of them. Why single out women as the group that is forever to keep silent?
This idea of women being created first and superior to men was a staple doctrine of the mystery religions of Corinth and Ephesus and many of the women of these churches in Corinth and Ephesus were new converts out of that particular belief system. It is no wonder Paul had to tell Timothy to not let a woman have "authority" over men. That word is used ONLY in the 1 Tim. verse and was, perhaps, a street word that spoke of using sexuality to take control to men.
The context of all of this is a correction of an old pagan belief system held in the past by these new converts that have now come into the New Covenant where the Spirit is the source of power and authority. So it is a good word for all and anyone who tries to be superior to others in the Body life experience. "Be quiet" and respect others annointed of the Spirit to minister. That same problem was faced in Ephesus with the same admonition. At least this may be the meaning. You see where I'm still trying to grow and learn.
The traditional hierarchical, man is the boss, women are equal in value but their roles are the, "keep quiet and recognize the authority of men because they're men," roles, don't seem to fit the New Covenant as Peter announced it. So, I've got a problem.
The other day I read a marvelous blog by Todd Littleton in which he refered to a statement made by someone who said, "the greatest danger to continued orthodoxy in the evangelical movement [that's the SBC and others] is egalitarianism. [This is evangelical feminism in his thinking] The other side is complementarianism or the same value exists between the sexes but differing roles based on their sex and are compimentary to one another. [But I'm fearful that many really see it as...the man's the boss only he's not to be mean about it.] Todd said he must be, and used a word new to me, in a "liminal" state. [That means...in between, transitional, liminal state.] That's quite a confession for any SBC pastor to make. He made it about himself. I join him in that state. I guess that creates a new catagory of men called "liminaltarianist".
Seriously, I just think there is a lot of praying, thinking, questioning, and researching of the text yet to be done on this very important issue of women and ministry. I've begun my study. It's part of my "some things I'm not so sure about" theological journey at the moment. I'll keep you informed.