I should explain my D-Day metaphor for women in office in the church a little further. The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands just accepted women in office. This is not only in the office of elder and deacon, but also in the office of minister. These Reformed Churches in the Netherlands are sister churches to the FRCA and the Canadian Reformed Churches. It is a major and a dissapointing move, because their church network is one of the most theologically rigorous in the world.
The act of putting women into office on a practical level is like putting a women out on the front lines of a military operation. Only cowardly men do that because they don’t want to be shot at themselves, and so they send out their women in front of them. We see one example of this in Judges 4:8 where Barak tells Deborah “if you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” They are talking about going up and defeating the armies of Sisera.
The book of Judges is a book of failed men and powerful and fearless women. Deborah responds: “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” There is no glory in Barak’s decision. The fact that the book of Judges is full of failed men and powerful and fearless women, is not a reprimand to the women, rather, it is a reprimand to the men. There was no king in the land.
The commission of an office-bearer, is to exhort and to give rebukes in the New Testament times. And Paul sends out Timothy and Titus too the front lines, not Lydia and the other honorable ladies in the church. It would be cowardice to send out a women to rebuke a man who is making trouble or deep in some other form of sin. It is not that a woman is unable to do that, its that she should not do that. That doesn’t mean that women don’t hold a very high role in teaching and encouraging younger women, it simply means that the often embattled offices of minister and elder and deacon should be given to the men. Where are the men? If the men aren’t stepping into these roles, we shouldn’t be blaming the women for this. Yes, their responsibilities are theirs, but we are responsible for us.
The overarching view of the hermeneutic that took over the CRC was a cultural commentary. Paul was culturally bound, and so we are loosing those social constraints on our churches. But this is a poor hermeneutic because Paul was challenging the culture of his day by giving women such an honorable role as He did in the church. Paul was not a malechauvinist or a feminist. Our response to the culture around us is not only insulting to the men, but also the women. Remember that when Paul writes, this is the Word of God.
“This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” This is not jumping topics. The call of marriage in Scripture is to push men to be more Christ-like. This is part of the reason why marriage is between one man and one woman. The call of the Church is to be push men to be more Christlike. It was a man who brought the human race crashing into sin, and it was a second Man who redeemed the human race. For men to give up their responsibilities in leading the church, they deny who Christ is: the second Adam who came to redeem His bride from the curse of sin. Could Christ have been a woman? The very thought is blasphemy, but this question has been asked me. More than once. I always wonder what weird hermeneutical twist brought up that question.
The question for men who might be identified as conservative or fundamentalist Christians is this: will we stand up, grow a back bone, and serve in our churches with grace and love? Gentleness in leadership is a sign of strength because there is a security in your role. Maybe we lack leadership because we lack men, and this criticism hits home with me too. I often see my failings. But the answer isn’t to back down from the task. That’s not courage. If the men at D-day had sailed back to Britain and then sent there women across, the Nazi Reich would be part of our daily life. The key to courage is to be men and to jump out of those ships even when bombs are flying all around, and the artillery from the beaches are wiping out entire platoons of soldiers. It’s not that the woman would be unable to storm Normandy, it’s more that we should not put them in that position. It’s because we know that if we fight today there will be peace tomorrow. It doesn’t mean that we are any less scared. The thought of heading back to Britain is almost weird. But this is exactly what denominations are doing by the score. And then I can say kudos to the Deborahs who stick a goad under the seat of the pants of the Baraks, and the Jaels who pull out tent-stakes, and the women who drop millstones on the heads of wicked kings. But then we have to realize that we are the men in these passages. And that’s embarrassing. For both the men and the women.
I can thank mothers who drive on their sons and husbands to be leaders, and then wives who do that for the next generation of men and take on the task in training the next generation. There is no dishonour to being a woman in the church. That is why the Hebrew meaning of the word for women is fire, and the word for men only means dirt. The woman is the glory of the man. She is the bride, the crowning jewel of the man. Her opinion is of the highest importance. She should be well educated, listened to, loved and cherished. But to put the sword in her hand as we run for the hills is cowardice, and fails to imitate Christ and His church.
Be Watchful. Stand Firm in the Faith. Act Like Men. Be Strong. Let all that you do be done in love. I Cor. 16: 13-14