I’m learning more and more all the time to ask one specific question when dealing with a Biblical text. This question alone has proven (and is proving) so very helpful in understanding and really going deep into specific passages. The Spirit of God is using it greatly to help me understand His word better. What is the question?
“Why did God say it THAT way?”
What I mean is this… God could use ANY word, ANY phrase, ANY description He wants in order to say what He needs to say. He knows communication and writing better than any of us. So we have to assume that the words He chooses and the phrases He uses are EXACTLY what He intends to communicate. If He leaves something out – there’s a reason for that. If He includes something that seems “off track” or “out of the blue” – there’s a reason for that too. It’s our job as readers of the Biblical text, to be asking that question repeatedly… and allowing the Spirit of God to illuminate us through the answers we begin to discover.
So how does all this relate to the issue of women in church leadership? Well, as I was pondering the roles of men and women I started thinking back to the very beginning, when man and woman were created. I had to because Paul goes there in His prohibition of women as church leaders (see the last post). Here’s where my thinking and my consideration of that extremely helpful question took me…
When looking over the detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2), we find that God created and gave Adam work to do – name the animals and tend the garden. One of the things that pops out at me when I ask “Why God said it THAT way,” is that He intentionally points out that Adam was created first, and was all alone (the only human). What makes this most interesting is the fact that God COULD HAVE created them at the same time. But He didn’t… hmmmm, why is that?
It’s not a case where God created Adam and then suddenly realized the ramifications of what He had done (created a man who was lonely) and decided on the spot to implement a corrective measure! God wasn’t surprised by Adam’s loneliness! He wasn’t shocked that Adam’s loneliness was “not good.” God wasn’t taken off guard and playing “catch up” here!! God created Adam first and put him in the garden all by himself because God had a purpose in doing so! Don’t miss that fact…
What was the purpose? It was at least partially to tell the account in a way that lent itself to an introduction of Eve and the SPECIFIC REASON she was created. Do you see that? If God had left it as “male and female He created them” (chapter 1:27) and never gone on to tell us the specifics of how it happened (chapter 2), then we’d have never had the opportunity to know God’s mind behind the creation of Eve.
So here’s how GOD HIMSELF lays out the account: First, He created Adam, then later (how long, we don’t know) God created Eve… and in doing so He opened the door to describe the SPECIFIC PURPOSE for which Eve was created! He says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” From the original Hebrew that’s a decent translation. If we want to be really technical it says, “a helper that corresponds to Him.” We have to pay attention to that. What reason was behind God’s creation of Eve? To be a companion for Adam, yes. But also to HELP him in a way that fits him! That’s her PURPOSE as a woman! We can’t let ourselves miss the significance of this! God did not describe Adam in a similar way… He didn’t say, “Adam’s purpose is to help Eve too…” (though most loving husbands do “help” their wives in various ways). God set things up in the way He did INTENTIONALLY.
Many women feel slighted by this. They feel demeaned or put down by it. But the reality is this… God created the male/female dynamic in this way FOR A GREAT PURPOSE! How about an example… Antonio Stradivari did not create his famous violins to be used as hammers, or canvas for paintings, or firewood. He didn’t even have much “nobler” things in mind, like pieces of art or family heirlooms. He intended for them to be played, to make beautiful music! That’s what a violin is made for! Thankfully, we are not talking about violins here, but about wonderful, talented, outstanding works of God’s creation – people! What we (men and women) need to understand is that we will be more fulfilled, more effective, and more joyful when we operate within the ROLE that God created us for!
Many of the proponents of male and female sharing of all roles within the church say that simply because Adam was created first, that doesn’t mean that he was created to be “in authority.” I would normally agree… IF… If the language God specifically chose did not say anything about Eve’s PURPOSE. But it does… Her purpose was NOT to be Adam’s leader or even His equal (in the sense of performing the same function), she was made specifically for the purpose of being a “helper” to Adam. God intended her to come alongside Adam, to help him to fulfill his God-given role as a man!
I think when Paul references the creation account in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, that’s what he’s getting at. He’s not simply saying that Adam came first and so he MUST have been intended to be the leader. He’s getting at the idea that Adam was created first… then Eve was created to COMPLEMENT HIM and HELP HIM! It’s not that Adam came first and that makes him the “leader” of the family – it’s that God specifically says that Eve was made to “help” him. She was not intended to be the leader, she was intended to be the helper. Again, it’s not an issue of value or competence, it’s an issue of God-ordained ROLES!
CAUTION: You think I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest up to this point? What I have to say next is very difficult for many to hear, but I believe it to be wise observations based on God’s word. I don’t say it with a mean spirit, but with a passion to see people protected from the harm of these vain and empty ideas, and the church spared the damage that comes with it. Read with caution…
I believe that GREAT DAMAGE is being done to women, to men, and to the church through the insistence that women be allowed to take on leadership roles in the church and in the marriage relationship.
For example: What I’ve come to see is that when women begin making a stink and start to step up, men get intimidated and step down. Call it the “fragile male ego” or whatever you want, but it’s true. Most men won’t admit that to you, but just look around you. How many marriages do you see where the wife is very dominant and the husband is very passive? He may be a hunter, a bungy-jumper, etc. – but when it comes to leadership at home or in the church, the wife is the one who shines! Men are lazy this way (I can say that, I’m a man too). The relational part of life is very difficult for men (another reason we need our wives to help us), and if our wives step up and take the lead, most men let them.
In the church, this is equally true. Spiritual leadership involves a great deal of relational work… something men have a difficult time with. If the women push their way forward, the men will step back, almost emasculated, and eventually will be unwilling to step back up – ever. That’s not what men are wired for, but that’s where they wind up when women push to take on the leadership of the church. Look at the Apostles – they were truly courageous, willing to give up their lives for the radical message of forgiveness and freedom in Christ. They were strong, bold, risk-taking kind of guys. How many Christian men today would you describe that way? Unless you are in a very unusual setting, I’d wager not many. It’s happened in large part because of the feminist movement… and it’s crept a long way into the church.
What does this actually DO to the men and women involved? Over time it makes men more timid (not a very “manly” picture, is it?) and the women become overpowering (not a very feminine picture, is it?) How many women do you know who are looking for a “timid” guy? How many men are looking for an “overpowering” woman? It’s counter-intuitive, yet it’s what is being pushed on us as “right.”
I believe this push is creating an improper and un-Godly mindset in the minds of little boys and girls regarding women and men, and their differences. Boys are being trained to be wimps from a very early age and girls are being taught that they can do anything a boy can do (and maybe they can, but that’s not their PURPOSE!) The roles are being reversed and it simply isn’t working!
I can’t make definitive correlations between this issue and the things I’m about to mention, but I have to ask how much is coincidence and how much is directly related in some way. Divorce and the breakup of the family are still rising, even within the church. Men and women are having an increasingly difficult time learning how to get along and be productive in marriage (I normally do a LOT of marriage counseling, believe me, I know of whence I speak). Women are becoming just as prone to abandon their families, have an affair, live an immoral life, etc. as men have typically been in the past. Can all of this be coincidence when we’ve turned the Biblical model for male/female roles completely upside-down?
In the church, I believe that the promotion of this idea is doing God’s work in OUR way… and I can’t imagine that being of much benefit. It’s forcing round pegs into square holes… and “by God we’re going to MAKE them fit!”
Don’t get me wrong… I know that many of the people on that side of the debate sincerely believe that they are making their case from the scriptures and are therefore right before God in doing so (their opinion). I’m not questioning their motives at all. I’m questioning their ACCURACY and UNDERSTANDING of the truth. I don’t believe that God lays out things with such specific language as this (this passage is only one example) so that we can explain it away to our own liking or preference.
And understand this too… I know there are many people whom I love, whom I serve alongside, whom I have relationships of various sorts with, who disagree with me on this. I mean them no ill, and have no hard feelings toward them. I simply believe they are honestly wrong on this issue. While many attempts (some VERY GOOD attempts) are made to glean a different meaning from the Biblical texts on this issue, I cannot see those attempts as being legitimate. In my view they do harm to the Biblical text in their treatment of the pertinent passages. And I believe whole-heartedly that it’s bringing great damage to our culture and to our churches!
Next post I’ll summarize the series…