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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Ground Beneath Her Feet

In Jonathan Welton's book, The School of the Seers, he mentions a medley of passages that are theologically more important that they would seem at first glance. "The Word says that we move: from grace to grace (John 1:16) because grace and truth trump the law given through Moses; strength to strength (Ps. 84:7); Faith to faith (Rom. 1:17) because the righteous live by faith; glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18) because it is the Spirit that forms the image of Christ in us. Last but not least, he cites Prov. 4:18 which reads "The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday" (Holmans). He goes on to state, "The Kingdom of God is never stagnant; it is always progressing forward and taking ground" pp. 173-174.

And that is exactly why, in our day and age, when a church or a denomination continues to deny leadership and pastoral roles to women, they are falling prey to a false doctrine, the consequences of which become more serious as time goes by. The New Testament gives 3 justifications for denying women full leadership status. One is that she was created second, so she was created in the image of man rather than the image of God. Patriarchal men have long thought that men were more intelligent and competent than women. The second reason is that Eve was in the transgression, suggesting that women are morally and intellectually weaker than men. Reason 3 is that women were punished by being put under submission to men by God Himself. These are all seen as being timeless, unchangeable situations that not even the very grace of Christ's death on the cross can alter.

Leaving women in this stagnant, barren limbo ignores the authority that Deborah, Hannah, and Huldah exercised as prophetesses in the Old Testament. It ignores the promise of Joel 2:28, 29, in which God pours out His Spirit on all humanity, including male and female slaves. It bypasses the courage and insight of women like Ruth, Rahab, the New Testament heroines, and the woman at the well. Women showed their mettle in the Roman arenas where death was the result of refusing to deny Christ.

Quenching the Spirit of God is a serious matter, a sure-fire way to guarantee that God will stifle the ambitions and aspirations of those who participate in shutting off His work.

I had a discussion with a fellow Bible College student many years ago. Rueben came from Romania, a very patriarchal country. A woman in the congregation had a prophetic gift which the pastor resented because she was exercising too much influence and authority. He told her to stop using that gift. She complied for a year, but finally came to him with this message: God is very grieved because you have not just cut off this servant of God but have denied the work of the Holy Spirit. If you don't take back the ruling about the woman's gifting, God will take your life within two weeks and your brains will be smeared across the wall.

Talk about courage! I personally would be terrified to deliver such a message, even if Gabriel himself shook his fist at me and said deliver it. The pastor did not believe the warning. The church waited with bated breath to see what would happen. Ten days later the pastor was walking down a street lined by a wall. A car ran off the road and hit him pressing him against the wall and literally smearing his brains against it.

In Josh. 1:3 the Lord promised Joshua that he would give him every place where his foot treads. When Reuben was telling me his story, he suggested that maybe women were too sensitive to be pastors. I reminded him that even as we were speaking there was a female astronaut in outer space helping to fix the Hubble Telescope. I said, "Do you have any idea the competence and training it takes to be in that position? Do you know how much money the US invested in preparing her to be there? Why are we having this conversation?"

The feet of women have tread the halls of Congress and the White House. We have marched across the mission fields of the world. Women have been the presidents of nations. They are university professors and deans, including in conservative evangelical colleges. They have run charities, been spies, fought in wars. What will it take for evangelical men to realize that the first century view of the perfect woman is a repressive abomination in our day? How can we say that we are loving people when we insult and repress half of our own population, which includes our wives, mothers, and sisters?