Christian Feminism? (III)
It has been a quiet week in Yorba Linda. Either everyone hit the “delete” button on the last Ethos I sent out or no one was able to come up with any cold hard facts about our discrimination of females in the Christian Church in general and in the PCA in particular. For the present, I’m going to take the lack of response as an indicator that even though we’re still struggling with our sinful natures that things are relatively harmonious and biblical in our churches. Again, I’m not saying that things are perfect, but it’s becoming increasingly evident to me that some of the instances of the “squashing” of our sisters in the Lord is somewhat contrived.
The other thought that keeps rushing into my one functioning brain cell is that this issue might be located more in academia than in the local congregation or it might very well be the product of church planting and a lack of willingness on the church planter’s part to lay his cards on the table up front about what Scripture says even to intelligent women. I find this phenomenon surprising in that I have been married to an awesome woman now for almost forty years. She has a B.A degree and, until we moved from Toronto, was a 4.0 GPA student at Ontario Theological Seminary in a Masters program. My wife is well-read—for a woman—, highly competent, a financial genius, a godly woman, great speaker, and a strong personality.
Granted, there are times when we have intense fellowship, but her gifts are not a threat to me or the members at Grace and she knows full well—and accepts it as biblical—that there are role differences between men and women. So with all the hoopla in the modern Church about the roles of women it seems to me that Yogi Berra hit it on the head when he said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Are we now being required to go back and fight the same battles we fought back in the early 1970s? What is all the more intriguing to me is that some of very pastors who had to endure the “consciousness raising” battles “back in the day” seem to have less problem with women’s roles in the Church today. Or, maybe the whole thing is just a hoax or one huge exaggeration. We certainly know that ideologues can be given to that. One example will suffice.
In 2005, one of my personal favorites, Katie Couric (she’s right up there with Diane Sawyer and Rosie O’Donnell), checked in with feminist guru(ess) Ms. Gloria Steinem. The thrust of the interview was to ascertain how feminism was faring thirty years down the road. As you might expect, Steinem “lamented that women still faced gross wage discrimination.” What made Steinem’s comments doubly funny was that Couric makes $13 million a year with NBC. I wouldn’t mind a little of that discrimination. What Ms. Couric might have said to Ms. Steinem was something along the lines of, “Well, you know, Gloria, sex discrimination in salaries has been against federal law for over forty years now in the United States as well as the hard fact “that average wages don’t reflect the number of hours worked or relative experience or the laws of supply and demand.”
But the Couric/Steinem debacle was just another piece of fraudulent disinformation living under the guise: If it’s on TV it must be true. In actuality, that interview was little more than the culmination of decades of indoctrination and brainwashing. Unfortunately, many of the tenets of Feminism taught or otherwise disseminated through the culture have found their way into the modern Church so that few ever stop and ponder the presuppositions of why we are having the discussion about the role and place of women in the Church today. In fact, the modern discussions about “women in the church” is pretty much the same old rigmarole that we had in the mid-1970s. Again, one example will suffice. I have a copy of Dr. John D. Crocker’s article, “How Much Does Gender Matter Here?” It seems that the good doctor wants to present his congregation with some insights into the matter. Predictably, the same old worn-out, hackneyed mantras from the 1970s “hermeneutical discussions” are trotted out and dusted off under the guise of being “fresh” and “new.”
Dr. Crocker’s Crock
Dr. Crocker can do no better than to deliver the screeds that 1) certain texts in the Bible are culturally-bound or culturally-conditioned; 2) What about Deborah?; and 3) Galatians 3:2,8 [sic] obliterates the distinction between males and females. Dr. Crocker also reminds us that “Hermeneutics is one of the most important courses in an evangelical seminary for those who would become pastors.” This is true and it would have behooved Dr. Crocker to have paid closer attention to those lectures.
First, all of the Bible is culturally conditioned if we mean by that that it was written in particular Eastern languages (Hebrew and Greek), to particular people, and in particular times. In this sense, not only is the Bible “culturally conditioned,” but everything ever written is. Of course, Dr. Crocker has a (hidden) agenda. What he wants to do is to get us to the point where we place greeting each other with a holy kiss is on par with Paul’s prohibition against women teaching. It is really quite amazing how Dr. Crocker is willing to jump through all kinds of inconsequential hoops to make his point. His method qualifies him as a finalist as King of the Non Sequitur.
What do I mean? Let me explain. Dr. Crocker—and a whole lot of others like him—want us to believe that if we can locate one text—greet each other with a holy kiss—that we can apply the principle of culturally bound to any text we want. Wrong. For example, Paul’s text in question (1 Timothy 2:8-15) is considered to be culturally bound based on the “kissing” principle. Since his text is 1 Timothy 2:8-15 it is to the text we shall go. What is the reason that Paul gives for a woman not teaching or exercising authority over men? Is it culture? No, it is creation (cf. vv. 13-14), but Dr. Crocker is either dishonest or has not read the text carefully. His agenda is located in his heading about this text where he claims that “The responsibility of teaching in the New Testament era was different from today.” For those who have not been to seminary and taken advanced courses in hermeneutics, this approach is known as the “truth by declaration” hermeneutic. Dr. Crocker has given us no convincing reason why we should suppose that the responsibility of teaching in the New Testament was different from now nor has he demonstrated from the text that his thesis is actually the case. This is irresponsible interpretation.
I thought we had actually beaten the Deborah story to death, but apparently Dr. Crocker wants to “pile on” just one more time. Two of the best expositions of Deborah’s case are located in books still available to Christian readers. The first, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem is entitled Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and of more recent vintage Rebecca Jones’ work Does Christianity Squash Women? I only have time to touch on these valuable works briefly, but I’d encourage you to get them and read them carefully. In addition, I’d also recommend that you visit the web site of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (http://www.cbmw.org/) on a regular basis. The resources there will enable you to cut through Dr. Crocker’s (and his ilk’s) superficiality.
Dr. Crocker’s brand of “just mention the example” hermeneutic hardly does justice to God’s redemptive-historical dealings with his people. Back in the 1970s people were clamoring about Deborah (and Huldah) as prophetesses. Thomas Schreiner has written an article (“The Valuable Ministries of Women in the Context of Male Leadership: A Survey of Old and New Testament Examples and Teaching”) where he observes that it is clear that women prophesied in both testaments. Looking at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Schreiner asserts that this text is “absolutely crucial for rightly understanding a woman’s relationship to man as she prophesies.” The thrust of this text is “that women who prophesy do so with proper adornment. Why is Paul concerned about how they are adorned? Because a woman’s adornment says something about her relationship with men.” (We need to hold on to this last sentence because it will come back into play when we assess Crocker’s interpretation of the 1 Timothy 2 text.)
At the same time, however, it is essential to note (hermeneutically) that “Both Deborah and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20) exercised their gift of prophecy differently from the men who possessed the gift. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other male prophets exercised a public ministry where they proclaimed the word of the Lord. But note that Deborah did not prophecy [sic] in public.” Huldah “did not publicly proclaim God’s word. Rather, she explained in private the word of the Lord when Josiah sent messengers to her. She exercised her prophetic ministry in a way that did not obstruct male headship.”
Moreover, when you do a comparison (hermeneutically) of the other judges in the book of Judges, we are explicitly told that they were raised up by the Lord. The case of Deborah was different. There “is no explicit statement that the Lord raised her up.” Why is that? Rebecca Jones believes that “Deborah appears in the book of Judges, which describes the moral degradation into which God’s people slide when each man does what is ‘right in his own eyes,’ and there is ‘no king in Israel’ (Judg. 21:25 ESV).” Dr. Crocker would have served us all better had he mentioned some key aspects of Deborah’s function as judge.
First, he could have easily pointed out that in the book of Judges “Deborah is a special case because she seems to be the only judge in Judges who has no military function. The other judges also lead Israel into victory in battle, but Deborah receives a word from the Lord that Barak is to do this (Judges 4:6-7).”
Second, “It is instructive to note in the Old Testament that some women were prophets, but never priests.” It would be very helpful in order to interpret this text properly—within its context—if Dr. Crocker—and others like him—would be willing to point such matters out, even if they do not fit with their agendas.
I want to make three more observations and then move on to other things is subsequent installments.
First, Dr. Crocker instructs his readers that in 1 Timothy 2:12 that he does not permit a woman to teach “he had a different kind of teaching in mind from what we envision today.” Moreover, “The tense of the Greek word which Paul used for ‘permit’ should be interpreted in the sense of ‘permit for now’. Literally ‘I am not permitting,’ which does not imply a timeless principle. Okay. Let’s deal with his assertions in turn.
It is very interesting (hermeneutically) how Dr. Crocker concludes from the text that there was a different kind of teaching envisioned in the text than what we experience today. Another possibility is that Dr. Crocker is intentionally attempting to blunt the thrust of Paul’s words. A possible answer would go like this: “A third attempt at blunting Paul’s teaching is to give the Greek word translated here ‘to have authority’ a negative meaning such as ‘to domineer’ or ‘to control.’ Thus Paul would be prohibiting a patently negative activity—‘I do not permit a woman to teach or domineer a man.’ This would allow women to teach and exercise authority over men as long as it is not done in a controlling, domineering way. Though the word could mean domineer in some contexts, it cannot mean this here. The reason is that the word ‘or’ (oude), which connects ‘to teach’ and ‘to have authority,’ always requires that both words be either positive or negative. If they were negative, the phrase could read, ‘I do not permit a woman to teach error or to domineer over a man.’ But this cannot be the translation here because ‘to teach’ is always viewed positively in the New Testament and in its many uses in 1 and 2 Timothy.”
Another attempt to set the impact of Paul’s words aside in this text is precisely the argument that Crocker employs. That is to say, when Paul writes that he does not permit a woman to teach “it is in the present indicative and not in the imperative, and that he is therefore speaking personally about a temporary arrangement.” Generally speaking (hermeneutically of course), if this were true of the text in question, it would be true of all New Testament texts where we find the present indicative. Therefore, the New Testament would be full of “temporary arrangements.” But Dr. Crocker does not desire that all texts be treated this way, although he has not given any sufficient grounds or reasons why he wants this particular text to be treated in such a fashion. Indeed, his approach ignores “the fact that Paul often used present indicatives to give universal and authoritative instruction (cf. especially Romans 12:1 and 1 Timothy 2:8). Also, to argue that Paul’s instruction is temporary ignores the context because in the next verse he immediately rests his prohibition against women teaching and exercising authority on the unchanging order of creation. Paul’s prohibition here is universal and enduring.”
This being the case, it would appear that Crocker has neglected the present indicative in 1 Timothy 2:8 (part of his text) and has applied his hermeneutical principles quite selectively.
One in Christ
Finally, as far as the Galatians 3:28 text is concerned, I thought Crocker’s assertion (Paul makes it clear that in Christ the distinction between males and females in Christian life is obliterated—emphasis mine) passed out of existence among thinking people a long time ago. Apparently, it did not. At face value, this is a ludicrous, ridiculous statement. Thankfully, the distinction between males and females is still alive and well. What does Dr. Crocker mean by the word “obliterated”? If we limit ourselves to dictionary definitions, we are left with the following: “to erase,” “to blot out,” “to efface,” “to cancel,” “to render imperceptible,” “to destroy,” or “to leave no clear traces of.”
But that can hardly be the meaning of the apostle in the context of Galatians three, which deals with the notion of justification by faith. Martin Luther interprets the text not to mean that all distinctions are obliterated, but rather the various offices that God has ordained for us do not affect our standing “in Christ” as justified sinners. This is precisely what a “normal” reading of the text gives us. Few would come away from reading what Paul wrote in Galatians 3 with the idea that every distinction known to man is now obliterated. All you have to do is look around you and understand that as much as the social engineers and utopians would like it, there will never be a “level playing field.”
The Dutch New Testament scholar, Herman Ridderbos, writes concerning Galatians 3:28: “This is not to maintain that the natural and social distinction is in no respect relevant any more (cf. e.g., Eph. 6:5, 1 Tim. 6:1, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18, 1 Cor. 11:3ff., 14:34ff., and 1 Tim. 2:11ff.). From the point of view of redemption in Christ, however, and of the gifts of the Spirit granted by Him, there is no preference of Jew to Greek, master to slave, man to woman.”
Theodor Zahn (a commentary with teeth!) agrees that Paul’s words are descriptive of the believer’s union with Christ and not with the obliteration of distinctions. In fact, Zahn believes that an “unpacking” of the words “to put on Christ” is a commentary on what Paul is saying in Galatians 3:28 and is concentrated on bringing “in Christ” into relationship with being a member of the Church of our Lord in the very first place, taking precedence over all other “offices” to which we are called.
Of course, all of this has been known for quite some time. The problem is that there are those who insist on disregarding all of this research and rush headlong into “domino-like” ground. We need to keep in mind that not only is Dr. Crocker operating—consciously or unconsciously—under a clearly discernible set of presuppositions, but others like him are as well.
 Kate O’Beirne, Women Who Make the World Worse, (NY: Sentinel, 2006), p. 48. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 54.
 Dr. John D. Crocker, “How Much Does Gender Matter Here?” Inside First Free, (Winter 2007), p. 3.
 John Piper & Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991).
 Rebecca Jones, Does Christianity Squash Women? A Christian Looks at Womanhood, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005).
 Schreiner, RBMW, 209-224.
 Ibid., 215.
 Ibid., 216.
 Ibid. Comp. Othniel (3:9), Ehud (3:15); Gideon (6:14), Jephthah (11:29), and Samson (13:25; 14:6). Schreiner goes on to comment: “Less prominent judges are only treated with a summary of one to three verses: Shamgar (3:31), Tola (10:1-2), Jair (10:3-5), Ibzan (12:8-10), Elon (12:11-12), and Abdon (12:13-15). The author devotes more attention to Abimelech (9:1-57), but he was clearly wicked and there is no indication that the Lord empowered or called him.” (p. 504, note 4.)
 Jones, Christianity, 74.
 Schreiner, RBMW, 216.
 Ibid., 217. Italics mine.
 R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), p. 67. Italics mine. Comp. George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, in the series The New International Greek Testament Commentary, (W. Ward Gasque & I. Howard Marshall [eds.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), p. 141. See also, William Hendriksen, Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 19865) and Herman Ridderbos, De Pastorale Brieven, (Kampen: Kok, 1967).
 Hughes, Timothy, 67.
 Ibid., 67-68.
 From the Latin oblitero, erase.
 Martin Luther, Der Galaterbrief, Vorlesung von 1531, (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980), p. 208 where Luther comments: “Denn in Christus sind alle Stände nichts, auch wenn sie von Gott verordnet sind. Mann, Frau, Knecht, Freier, Jude, Heide, König, Untergebener etc. sind zwar alle gute Kreaturen Gottes, aber in Christus, d. h. wenns um das ewige Heil geht, sind sie mit all ihrer Weisheit, Gerechtigkeit, Religion und Macht nichts.”
 Herman Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia, in the series The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (F.F. Bruce [ed.] & Henry Zylstra [trans.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p. 149. Italics mine.
 Theodor Zahn, Der Brief des Paulus an die Galater, (Leipzig: A. Deichertsche Verlagsbuchhandlung Dr. Werner Scholl, 1922), p. 187 states, “Durch den Glauben sind sie Söhne Gottes geworden, und sie sind dies, sofern sie in Christus sind.”
 Ibid., 188 where Zahn writes that the words "put on Christ" comprise “…das große Wort von der Aufhebung jedes nationalen, socialen und geschlechtlichen Unterschiedes unter den Menschen, sofern es sich um sie als Glieder der Gemeinde, als Personen im Verhältnis zu Gott handelt.”