In Part 1 we looked at biblical patterns for a distinction between the sexes, and the differing roles laid out in Scripture. Here's Part 2 . . .
That men and women have been "given" ministries does not mean that men or women are never to step outside the ministries to which, by creation, they are best suited.
There are times in this fallen creation, when due to circumstances or the failure of men or women to do their part that the partner will need to do what must be done. This is evident in Scripture. Also it is true that while men and women differ considerably, they do not differ totally and that we do embody the traits of one another in varying degrees. Because of this it is possible, in emergency situations, for one partner to assume the responsibility that would normally belong to the other.
Since God by design has made us male and female, we are to understand and rejoice in our created nature as male and female. In the Bible the central and defining aspects of masculinity and femininity are found in the order and ministries of male headship and female support. Whenever this order of creation and these ministries are ignored or denied, equality is defined as interchangeability.
Competition replaces complementarity. This is evidenced dramatically by the society in which we live. Our culture generally and erroneously asserts a unisex interchangeability of men and women. It tends to deny the difference between men and women with the exception of the erotic sexual aspect and it depersonalizes, commercializes, and exaggerates that. This departure in principle and practice from traditional and biblical norms has proven to be a devastating error, as we can see in the state of things today.
While we cannot take the space to look at the various texts in the Bible that refer to our topic, we must consider one particular text because it is often cited as abolishing male headship for all who are in Christ. Some have suggested that Galatians 3:28 is a master New Testament text about the relationship of men and women and that it removes male headship in family and Church. It is thought to do this when it states that in Christ there is "neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female."
The context of this text, however, makes it clear that the text refers to God's gift of salvation. The gift of salvation received through faith and depicted in baptism rests upon grace and not works. In matters of salvation there is no distinction as Paul frequently points out. God is no respecter of persons because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
However, the Apostle Paul certainly did not mean this "neither male nor female" to obliterate all distinctions in male and female reality and relationships. Such a view erroneously extends the meaning of this text. Men remain men and women remain women, as Christians. Christians are husbands and wives as well as parents and children. These relationships do not cease to be such when we become Christians. The point is that Galatians 3:28 does not refer to headship and submission at all. It does not address the ministries of men and women in family or Church. It is therefore not a master text defining all New Testament teaching on the relations of men and women. It does not even define all of Paul's teaching on the subject. It certainly does not cancel the order of creation to which the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers repeatedly turn to affirm male headship and female submission in family and Church. (See 1 Cor 11:3-4; Eph 5:22-33; 1 Pet 3:1-7).
Finally, in First Timothy and Titus, we find explicit and significant treatments of the place, the duties, and the character of those who are to be overseers or elders. These texts provide the primary basis in the New Testament for our developed offices of priest/minister and elder. In both sets of texts, the persons referenced are men. There is no hint of women serving as elders in the texts that discuss these ministries. Just the opposite is the case; it is clear that it is men who are to serve in these ministries.
The conclusion regarding the teaching of Scripture is that the Scriptures do not envision, or permit women to exercise the headship that is contemplated for those ordained to be priests/ministers or even consecrated as elders. It is contrary to the mystery of the Trinity, to the character of God's act in creation, and to the created nature of men and women that mirrors the life of the Trinity in marriage, the family, and in the Church. The Scripture having said "No," the Adventist Church has no right or authority to ordain women to these offices.
There is significant corroborative evidence for Scripture's position found in the observation of nature, and, the experience of life in society and in Church history. One such is that the symbolic character of the offices of priest/minister and elder make them unsuitable for women. The ordination of women symbolically distorts the scriptural revelation of God due to the intimate connection between the nature of God and the symbolic character of the ministry of priests/ministers and elders. Symbolism is powerful in effect and defies easy explanation.
The Christian worldview is theistic. The one and only God transcends the world that he has created while at the same time sustaining the world and acting within it. God has no female consort. His action is likened a few times in Scripture to the action of a mother, for he acts in motherly ways showing that He also has the attributes in himself that are mirrored more fully by women. However it is always clear in Scripture that His attributes adhere in Him and are exercised by him who is beyond the world and not to be identified with it.
In contrast, some of the religions of the world are pantheistic not theistic. Feminine symbols and images of the divine-goddesses, female consorts, and the like giving birth to the universe-are widespread. So too are and were priestesses. When the feminine is given the same prominence and ministry as the masculine, pantheism is the result!
At almost every point, pantheism is a worldview and a religion in direct contradiction to God's word in Scripture. Even when the ordained woman is orthodox in faith and not a theological feminist, by being a woman serving as a priest/minister or elder she has imported a contrary symbolism into the representative nature of the ordained ministry. Such symbolism will inevitably push matters in the wrong direction in the Adventist Church. We can already see it to be doing so.
Men and women differ biologically, psychologically, and relationally. Ministries are meant to reflect the differences. Biologically the male is physically more outwardly directed and the woman more inwardly. This is evidenced in a number of ways. The male bone structure is generally heavier and better shaped for addressing obstacles in the environment whereas the woman's bone structure is weaker and shaped for the bearing and taking care of children.
The male hand is stronger and the male striated musculature is more capable of strong and sudden contraction. The arm and chest muscles are generally larger and more developed in the male. The bodily form of the male is more rugged than the female, with wider shoulders and narrower hips that are suitable for outward action. Whereas, the female form is more rounded and smoother with smaller, narrower shoulders and wider hips, suitable for the bearing of children. Recent studies have stressed the benefits of breast-feeding of the newly born and the measurable, beneficial impact upon the IQ of babies of being reared in the early years by the mother. Women are biologically oriented toward the family, and men are oriented toward the world.
Descriptive psychology studies the consciousness of human beings. Building upon the physical differences, different mental and emotional traits are found between men and women. Our sexuality or gender pervades our person. Men usually have more distance from their emotions and evidence a tendency to detach themselves from immediate reactions whereas women tend to be more immediate and spontaneous in their responses.
In patterns of thought, men tend to analyze, objectify, disassociate, classify, and synthesize whereas women are more prone to be intuitive, personally related, and to exercise empathy. Men tend to be more visual/spatial and women more verbal. Men are less aware of their bodies than women tend to be. Men are more goal-oriented, and women are more care-and-need-oriented. Women are more holistic in viewing a situation, and men tend to focus on some given aspect that will lead to a particular course of action. Women are more capable mentally of multi-tasking and nurture. Men are more inclined toward sequential planning, goal setting, and achieving. Women are more welcoming in orientation whereas men are more aggressive and competitive.
Societies differ in many respects; sociologists have discerned a number of trans-cultural or common traits that characterize every healthy society. These common traits reflect and build upon the biological and psychological factors listed above. They are as follows:
1. Sexual division of labor are found,
2. Complementary roles in the communal and domestic spheres are present. Men bear primary responsibility for the larger community. Women bear primary responsibility for domestic management and the rearing of young children.
3. Some form of female subordination to men exists. Men govern the larger communities while women exercise their responsibility for domestic management and the rearing of children under the oversight of the husband.
4. Cultural expressions of gender differences between men and women are evident. Sociologists have observed that in societies such as ours where these traits are weakened or obscured, the following consequences appear:
1. family life is weakened,
2. sexual relations become troubled,
3. women often lose a sense of value,
4. womanly roles are neglected,
5. manly roles are neglected, and
6. men and women develop psychological instabilities.
The above data drawn from the observation of God's creation, simply confirms what is clearly taught in Scripture. This should come as no surprise for the Creator and the Redeemer who authored both the book of nature and the book of Scripture is one and the same. He does not contradict Himself. To place women in authority over the congregations is to violate the natural order of things as taught throughout the Scriptures and observed in the sciences.
Thus, when considering a change as radical as the ordination of women as elders or to the pastorate and in the Church's practice with regard to the ordained ministry, the burden of proof lies with those who make such a proposal. And when this proposal arises from a secular society and amid a compromised Church, and when it is a request from but a tiny minority of the Adventist Church universal, the burden of proof required to legitimize the change becomes even more demanding. Such proof has not been forthcoming-quite the contrary.
The teaching of Scripture and evidence cited above from God's book of creation are both contrary to the innovation of the ordination of women to these offices. In summary, there are compelling reasons to affirm a male priesthood/pastorate and eldership. First and last, Scripture does not allow for the ordination of women to these offices as these offices function within Adventism. Serious exegesis only serves to substantiate that statement.
In addition, we have indicated some of the important theological, ecclesiastical, social, and scientific reasons that corroborate the teaching of Scripture. We are very desirous that women exercise their full ministry in the gospel, in the Adventist Church, in the family and in society (and to be well paid for it!). We want the full flowering of womanhood and manhood in complimentary partnership to be modeled in our families and in the Church. To ordain women can only hurt the family, the Adventist Church, and society. It will hurt, not help, women and it will do damage to all.
"My people are ruled by women, and they lead thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths" (Isaiah 3:12).
James Beldin attended Enterprise Academy and studied History/English/Education at Union College. He taught elementary school at Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and is currently retired and living in Cohutta, Georgia.