Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Women's Witness to the Resurrection: Not as helpful to proponents of women's ordination as they might think.

I was recently listening to an old Issues, etc. program where a leader in Luther Core was being interviewed about some members of his group forming a new denomination.  Todd Wilken asked something like "so, you reject gay marriage and ordination because of it's unbiblical, what about women's ordination?  Is that going to change?"  The leader answer, "no, we think it is biblical.  Look, women were the first people to proclaim the resurrection, since they showed up at the tomb.  So, we're still going to have female clergy."

There's a couple of problems with this response (beyond the contrary proof-texts from 1 Tim and 1 Cor.).

1. This doesn't distinguish between the priesthood of all believers and the office of ministry.  Obviously all Christians have the right, ability and duty to proclaim the gospel because of the priesthood of all believers.  But not everyone has the right to publically exercise the office of ministry.  Part of the confusion about this in the ELCA (and in the WELS) is that these denomination have a strong Pietistic background.  The Pietists didn't make a distinction between the priesthood of all believers and the office of ministry.

2. The real issue with women's ordination is the question of the orders of creation.  Luther and Paul in 1 Timothy note that it was the male vocation to exercise the office of ministry because the man was created first and was given the Word of God to proclaim to Eve, the first Church.  This explains why the Fall is just about the individual sin of unbelief, but also (on Adam's part) a failure to properly exercise the office of ministry.  

3. This explains why Jesus was male.  Technically human nature is human nature whatever gender a person is.  But because it is the male imperative to properly exercise the office of ministry, Christ as the true prophet, priest and king recapitulates Adam in properly fulfilling the office of ministry.  

4. This makes the scene in the garden all the more interesting.  Jesus, the true Adam, confronts the women in the garden as new Eves.  Jesus is the true Adam who held to the Word of God and proclaims it.  This time the women listen to the Word of God, whereas mother Eve did not.  Much like mother Eve, they go and tell the men.  Nevertheless, unlike Adam who wrongly believed Eve about the false word of the serpent, the Disciples don't believe their true report about the Word of God.

5. If the report about the women in the garden validates women's ordination, then why does Jesus instruct them to go tell the men?  In other words, the point of him doing this is so that he can expound the Scriptures to them and finally give the definitive instruction to them in the kerygma so that they can "make disciples of all nations."  What this shows I believe is that Jesus tells the women to tell the men because it is the male prerogative to exercise the office of ministry.  Otherwise he would have simply commissioned them and teach them the kerygma?  

6.  Hence the story of the women in the garden invalidates female ordination, rather than vindicating it.


  1. That does make the garden scene more interesting. I never made that connection. I have, however, for awhile now told ppl that the women in the garden and St. Stephen are good examples to use when discussing individuals' sharing the faith as opposed to the Great Commission since it was given to the Apostles and my extension the Office of Holy Ministry.

  2. I think the women in the garden scene compares to Eden most strongly in John. It might be helpful to look at all four gospels separately first... For example, from Mark we see some hesitation on the part of the women.

    Anyhow, the "first proclaimers" argument is rather strange given the womens' position at Pentecost -- there with the 11 (yes, I think that Luke excluded Matthias in 2:14) -- but the women were not preaching.

    I'm not sure that Stephen and Philip were laymen. Seems to me that their ministry went beyond a human care diaconate. Especially since Philip goes a-baptizing.


  3. George, if you move in ELCA circles, that one is constantly used to validate women in the ministry.

    Also, I think Stephen was clearly a lay person and that Philip was a minister of the Word. That would be my reading.

  4. I honestly don't know what to make of St. Phillip's ministry. Although your reading may be right, I have always lumped Sts. Stephen and Phillip together, and I think most people do. If one was a layman, the other is a layman as well. Although I wonder why the Apostles had to complete the Samaritan's baptism so to speak.

  5. oops meant Samaritans' baptisms. Obviously there was more than one. More specifically this verse has troubled me since I became a Lutheran.

    "but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 8:16 ESV)

  6. Jack:
    I know that's what the ELCA folks say. I took greek at Pacific Lutheran Seminary (Berkeley) and I've heard it all.

    To me all their arguments are self-defeating, and no one would make them if they hadn't already decided what they wanted to do.

    I'm not sure why Stephen was clearly a layman.


  7. Stephen was a layperson because he was a deacon. Jesus established only one office in the Church and that was the office of ministry. Having deacons, while a good idea, was not established by Christ and was rather the idea of the Apostles for good order. In the history of the Church, people have established a lot of offices in the Church for good order, but none of them is divine except the office of ministry. Any office (including DP) functions this way. So, if a person hasn't been called to the office of ministry, then they are a layperson.