Sunday, April 22, 2007

Welcome, Babylon!

Reports of persecution against Finnish pastors who confessed the Apostolic faith and orthodox practice by not celebrating the Mass with female pastors may seem both at once foreign and alarming. Let the news sink in and become comfortable with it. Such persecution can and most likely will happen in this country one day.

First and foremost, women’s ordination has nothing to do with equal rights. Women’s ordination is a question of scripture’s veracity, reliability, and authority dressed up as an equal rights issue. In 1958 Krister Stendahl, then Bishop of Stockholm, argued that there was a direct connection between women’s ordination and their political and social emancipation. “The question about the ordination of women cannot be separated from the total problem of emancipation of women in our society. In the United States where we have learned to detect the dangerous flaws in the slogan ‘separate but equal,’ that insight gives urgency to our concern for the right place and role of women in our churches and in our ministry.” ( The Bible and the Role of Women: A Case Study in Hermeneutics ed. John Reumann, trans. Emilie T. Sander (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966. Preface). He argued that women’s ordination was not “a pragmatic question but a question of principle, and a matter of deep religious conviction.” Stendahl contended there was a “basic agreement between the exegetes... with regard to the interpretation of the Pauline attitude: for Paul the question of the position of women was of fundamental significance.” Nevertheless, “The problem is not exegetical in the strict sense of the word, but lies at the opposite, or in any case different, principles of application and interpretation. In other words, it is the view of Scripture that is at the issue” (Stendahl, 9).

One’s view of scripture is one or the other: Either the biblical text is God’s revealed, inspired by him, and therefore inerrant, infallible, sufficient and authoritative word—or it isn’t. In this world there are two religions. That’s all. There is the religion God gives of and from himself through his Son by his grace and mercy. And then there is the religion the world gives from itself as it tries to find, define, and describe its god, and then consecrate itself to that one. Satan offered Eve the latter when he told her there was one more thing she needed to do in order to be like God—when in fact she had already been created in his likeness and image. The religion of God’s unaltered word leads to the truth, and where there is truth, there is Christ. With him is the Father, and where the two are together there the Holy Spirit resides with and proceeds from them. There is no path to God save through Christ and his truth. (Jn 14:6).

Stendahl is correct on one point: one’s view of scripture is at the heart of women’s ordination. The quest for equal rights, mistakenly believed to have not already been given through God the Father in his Son already, drive the agenda for women's ordination. The crumbs to the witch’s house have already been tossed upon the trail with little tidbits like these, written by Mary Todd on page 2 of Authority Vested:

Adherence to verbal scriptural inerrancy guarantees that the pastoral office will remain filled by men alone because the authoritative texts the church uses to support its position insist that women keep silent in the church and exercise no authority over men. Taking the words of scripture literally where the service of women is concerned provides the surest case for the synod’s dogged but also relatively recent adherence to a doctrine of verbal scriptural inerrancy and infallibility... (Authority Vested: A Story of Identity and Change in the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans. 2000.)

According to Todd, vested authority in the LC-MS means the synod continues to keep women locked in virtual prisons of inequality simply because it won’t give up on the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility.

The true issue, as has been proven by the facts in Finland, is one of social and political equality. This is vested authority of another kind. It’s the authority of the Law. The ordination of women has not been given by God, but it sure as hellfire will be enforced by the state.

Paul bases his instructions regarding whether women are to be ordained on two things: God created Adam first, and he was not deceived (1Ti 2:13-14) into the first sin. (See Ste. Em Revisits St. Gregory). However, if the church doesn’t necessarily need to believe that God was actually speaking to us in the Bible, or if those words can be determined to be “good for then, changeable for us now,” then we don’t need to be concerned those details of the Christian faith. In fact, it doesn’t even really matter if we are “Christian,” at all.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton recognized that if she was to advance her cause for the emancipation of women, she would need to nullify the effect of the Bible and religion in women’s lives. That was her purpose in writing The Woman’s Bible. She held to the rejection of religion and the miraculous, the acceptance of Darwinism, a strong belief in individualism, and a conviction that human reason will triumph. To this Stanton added her own unique twist: She believed that ultimately woman was the savior of mankind, as if the woman’s movement was the next step in Evolution. This is actually finalized a loop. For, she taught that if there had actually been a fall in an actual Garden of Eden, then “when Eve took her destiny in her own hand and set minds spinning down through all the spheres of time, she declared humanity omnipotent...” (Women Without Superstition: “No Gods-No Masters”. Madison, Wisconsin, Freedom From Religion Foundation. A. L. Gaylor 1997, 134). Reason and knowledge always trumped religion for Stanton. There were no moral absolutes, save that of individual choice.

Stanton was convinced that the Bible only degraded women, especially with regard to maternity and their role as wife and mother. “Her sex was made a crime, marriage a condition of slavery, owing obedience; maternity a curse; and the true position of all womankind one of inferiority and subjection to all men...” (Gaylor 1997, 113). Stanton recognized that her most formidable enemy was the Bible itself. Not only were Pauline proscriptions being used by men against her quest for woman suffrage, women themselves would not join the fight with her because they were still too adhered to their religious upbringing. In order to overcome her enemy, the Bible, she decided to revise it. She said in an interview, “In the early days of woman-suffrage agitation, I saw that the greatest obstacle we had to overcome was the bible. It was hurled at us on every side” (Gaylor 1997, 172). She wrote, “It is one of the mysteries that woman, who has suffered so intensely from the rule of the church, still worships her destroyer and ‘licks the hand that is raised to shed her blood.’” (“An Honored Place for the Bible In English Literature,” New York American and (?), Sunday, October 5, 1902) (Gaylor 1997, 175). Stanton wrote a commentary to a Nebraska newspaper lauding a court decision barring bible-reading from public schools as both religious and sectarian exercise. “Inasmuch as the Bible degrades woman in innumerable passages and teaches her absolute subjection to man in all relations in the State, the Church, the home and the whole world of work, it is to her interest that the Bible in its present form, should be taken from the schools and from the rising generation of boys, as it teaches lessons of disrespect for the mothers of the race” (Gaylor 1997, 157).

Honored place in literature! How deluded the critics of the biblical text are! When God says we shall have no other gods before him, he literally says, "Before his face." Where is his face? Where is it not? He says he is everywhaere, even in sheol. The First Commandment is not one of serial gods, and no god shall come in line ahead of him; rather, no god shall ever be placed by us where God is. Since God is everywhere we are, no other god shall be there also.

How true is that of his word, also. How can his word have an honored place in literature if it is God's word, and therefore separate from literature, which is man's work? To put the Bible in literature, as if it were an equal among others, is to dishonor it. Yet this is precisely what Stanton and feminism has achieved by making the Bible merely a text which can not only be retrofitted at whim to suit the felt needs of each individual. Stanton used the scriptures as a political tool in order to rip religion from women. Instead, she drove women to the Bible in order to revise the text to justify and rationalize their political agendas. Stanton instigated the use of the Bible as a political tool under the guise as religion for and by women.

While Stanton’s efforts were rejected in her lifetime, they have been well received in our own. Current readers find her a blessing. Modern feminism in all its forms finds its foundation in what Stanton began. It is Stanton who gave the political character of the feminist theological pursuit when she formulated the necessity of biblical revision for the sake of women and their emancipation. If scripture needs to be revised in order to achieve the equal status of some members of the human race, then the text which declares itself to be God-breathed and profitable for all teaching is itself not inerrant, infallible and authoritative.

What does this mean?

It means that when Christ said, “It is finished,” it wasn’t. There was more yet for us to do in order to assure the reclamation of some. His redemption of them and Baptism’s delivery of that doesn’t guarantee their oneness in Christ, only the state can assure equality.

It means that that when Christ says no one comes to the Father but by him, he doesn’t mean that literally. He will kindly welcome all religions, even those who don’t believe in him. One of the persistent themes in feminist theology, (which was legitimated by women’s ordination and could not have been so unless women had been ordained!), is ecumenism. Ecumenism allows not merely variances in ceremony, but in confession of Christ. Ann E. Carr admits that “Feminist theology values this diversity of approaches” and was “ecumenical from its origins, as the discussion has included Christians of many denominations, Jewish feminists, and feminists of other traditions or of no tradition at all” (“The New Vision of Feminist Theology,” in Freeing Theology: The Essentials of Theology in FeministPerspective, ed. Catherine Mowry LaCugna (San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 11).

It means that that if you don’t want the savior you’ve been given, then re-imagine and revise until you finally name the one you want.

It means that saying that Christ is the only way to heaven may one day wind you in the lap of the Law for practicing racism. Feminists have already made such threats known. Just as androcentrism is an anathema, so, too, is proclaiming Christianity as the one true religion.

Now, then… how innocuous is Open Communion? How distantly related are doctrine and practice?

Where do we ever hear Jesus say he spoke differently than his own Father’s words, or that he objected to his Father’s authority over him? Instead, where the Father has already spoken and made his will known, Christ takes up those same words and makes them his own. He used Moses and the Prophets to explain more fully the events of his own death and resurrection (Lk 24:27). The Gospel of John records Jesus making clear that he is the Apostle (sent one) of the Father, speaking only on the Father’s behalf (Jn 5:30, 36, 37; 6:39, 44; 8:18, 29, 42; 12:49; 14:10; 17:21). Jesus is definitely culturally and exegetically bound to his presuppositions because he speaks of one mind with the Father’s (Jn 10:30). His Father’s will is his own, even though he did not wish to suffer death (Lk 22:42). Not even the sinless Son of God corrected his Father’s prophets. His apostles follows Christ’s example, being of one mind with him (Ph 2:2-3). Paul is careful to clarify his credentials as the apostle of the Apostle – the sent one of the Sent One of the Father. Paul does not speak on his own behalf, but in the stead of Christ (Ro 1:1; 1Cor 1:1; 2Cor 1:1; Gal 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1Ti 1:1). Perhaps we ought to do as [the sainted] Marquart wisely advised,” [S]imply see how the Lord and His apostles treated and regarded the sacred text, and then ... obediently do likewise” (Anatomy of an Explosion. Vol. 3 Concordia Seminary Monograph Series, ed. David P. Scaer and Douglas Judisch. Ft. Wayne: Concordia Seminary Theological Seminary Press, 1977. 133). (Paragraph taken from author’s own unpublished essay, Feminism and the Church.)

Contrary to the assumptions of some—who continue to maintain that our doctrine is sound even though our practice needs some fixin’—if our practice is unsound, then our doctrine will follow suit. Women’s ordination is a result of a particular presupposition of scripture—that it is not inerrant or infallible, so it may be revised because it is not authoritative for the church today. That is, it is not God who is speaking to us through his Son, but another voice now tells the church how it should live and what it should be. If the text is no longer authoritative today, then who, or what, is in authority? In Finland it’s the state. The Law runs the church. Now isn’t that special?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insightful comments on an perennial noxious weed of an issue. It's really true that there's nothing new under the sun. All ultimately comes back to Satan's challenge to God's authoritative word and Satan's efforts to have us disbelieve it -- from the garden of Eden with Eve, to the challenges of Christ during His 40 days in the wilderness and until He comes again. If we must guard our hearts on any one issue it must be that His Word is Truth in every sense.