To conclude his analysis of how we read and apply the Bible to our lives, Scot McKnight closes The Blue Parakeet with a case study involving the contentious issue of women in ministry. The discussions and arguments surrounding the issue and the manner in which the church puts its beliefs into practice are an excellent subject for analyzing our process of discernment. How has our particular church or denomination come to its position on whether or not a woman can be called to the position of Senior Pastor or even another role in which she would have leadership over men? Is Paul the final word on women’s roles or is there a bigger picture when the issue is considered in light of the whole of Scripture? We must finally ask ourselves whether or not this is an application of that was then, this is now?
Throughout history, women are culturally labeled as inferior to men. Because the scriptures provide a view of a wide swath of history and because men are the authors of these books, one can get the impression that the dominant patriarchal view on the pages is a reflection of the societal opinions through time. These ideas combined become the lens through which the church reads the bible and then fossilizes the idea of the subordinate woman in church tradition. McKnight guides the discussion that follows in the remaining chapters with this key question, “Do we seek to retrieve that cultural world and those cultural expressions, or do we live the same gospel in a different way in a different day?”
In our times there are three broad views that direct how we engage this issue and, more often than not, we will find our thinking in one of these categories. It is not enough however, to identify your thoughts in a theological context. Because of their importance, a believer who intends to apply the Bible to all of the various aspects of life must do the spade work of understanding how we come to the beliefs that we hold. On the issue of female leadership it is especially important because our decisions can have a negative effect on a fellow sojourner.
The three views that we often encounter are:
The biblical context and it teaching are God’s original and permanent design a woman’s responsibility is to glorify God, love Him and her husband and children and others. She must submit to her husband and never seek a role that places her in leadership over him. God ordained men to be leaders. Period.
We are called to find a living analogy in our Western, 21st century context to the teachings of the Bible. This examination is to include gender roles. This system allows a bit more freedom in pursuing leadership outside of the home but she shall never be placed in a church leadership role over men, including the calling of Senior Pastor.
This view taps into the oneness-otherness-oneness restoration theme that arrives with the Lord Jesus. The Bible story is cultural and the teachings reflect the culture. Because Jesus restores our oneness, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our understanding of what God has called a woman to do and this possibility must include consideration of her calling to the Senior Pastor role.
Where do you stand?