Friday, March 3, 2017

The dogged pursuit of modernity. . .in Australia

As I have written here many times before, modernity threatens to steal our truth.  It tells us that the passages we read do not mean what they say and may not even say what we read.  It tells us that truth is relative and not concrete, that it is subjective and not objective.  It tells us that every age must define for itself who God is, what God does, and what this means for us today.  Modernity shrugs its shoulders against the historic and consistent condemnation of homosexual behavior, against the wholly other nature of God who must reveal Himself for us to know Him, against the Biblical definition of marriage, family, and children, against the inherent value of life and its sacredness, and against a pastoral office for males only.  Modernity insists that it is all up for review, for redefinition, and for readjustment (either the Spirit is at work contradicting Scripture and tradition or else the church must abandon its faith to survive).

No church body is immune from the temptation and pressures of modernity -- not Rome, not Wittenberg, and not Geneva.  Each of them fights in its own way against the tide of change that threatens to disconnect us from our theological ancestors.  We fight in the Missouri Synod against those who pit mission against faithfulness.  Rome is in a stir over what the Pope's words mean in relation to settled questions relating to everything from intercommunion to the communion of divorced (and remarried) to the rekindled liturgical wars of post-Vatican II.  Geneva is fighting to see whether there really are any Calvinists left in the world or whether everyone has sold out either to Arminianism or evangelical minimalism.

Now in the Lutheran Church of Australia the old battle for the ordination of women has rekindled around the same old saw -- the passages in Scripture that we thought meant one thing, probably do not, and there is nothing in Scripture to address the topic of the ordination of women.  Just weeks ago we focused on an article in the official LCA periodical in which feelings and hurts seemed to be offered as cause for reassessing the church's stance against homosexual behavior.  The two causes may not be the same cause but they are joined at the hip because the same people are promoting both deviations from Scripture, Confession, and tradition.

The LCA has produced a Draft Doctrinal Statement:  The call and ordination of both men and women to the office of the public ministry (Version 1).  While as it says, This statement is not an official opinion of the CTICR but a statement produced at the request of the 2015 General Convention, this clearly shows the direction of things.

The first thing this draft does is disconnect the current question from the statements of the past.  This doctrinal statement takes the first ten theses of TA 6 as its starting point but not thesis 11, since this is the thesis that has barred women from the ordained ministry.  The second thing it does is to conclude at the beginning that nothing really would change by ordaining women -- not a change to the Church's doctrine of the ministry and not a change in the Rite of Ordination.  The texts that underpin the LCA’s teaching on the doctrine of the ministry and those that are used in its Rite of Ordination (John 20:21-23; Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26) may be applied equally to men and women. Therefore, the ordination of women to the office of the public ministry does not require any change to the Church’s doctrine of the ministry, as set out in TA 6. Apart from TA 6.11, the ordination of both men and women does not change the LCA’s doctrine of the ministry as articulated in the Confessions, the Theses of Agreement, or the LCA’s Rite of Ordination.

Then the document proceeds to a fallacy -- pastors offer the Word and Sacraments not representing themselves but Christ and so since both men and women are created in the image of God and belong to the body of Christ, both can represent Christ.  In the next fallacy, the document concludes that apostolic custom is mere suggestion and apostolic practice does not inform practice today:  precedent does not establish a requirement of the divinely instituted office.  Then is the old argument that Jesus was counter-cultural and He did not exclude women from His inner circle.  Finally, the conclusion:  The doctrinal basis for the ordination of both men and women recognises Christ’s institution of the office and understands that the prohibitions in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12 do not apply today in a way that would exclude suitably qualified women from call and ordination to the public office.

What follows are then a series of very brief discussions of relevant texts that all support the theses above.  In general, prohibitions to the office were shaped by disorder in the church and not doctrine and the primary doctrine of Galatians 3:27-28 is a positive affirmation that the distinctions made against the ordination of women are null and void.  A historical fallacy adds that women were always involved in leadership in the church (but, of course, fails to note that they were not ordained).

19. Although the gospel transforms people, relationships and communities, the early church was careful and cautious in its practice so as not to create undue offence. With its home in Judaism, where women could not serve as priests in the temple or as leaders in the synagogue or study the scriptures with a rabbi, the church would have failed to make significant inroads with the gospel if all previous restrictions on women were immediately lifted. St Paul’s regulations regarding the conduct of wives in worship and in society at large were driven by his overriding missionary imperative, to ‘become all things to all people, so that [he] might by all means save some’ (1 Cor. 9:22).
20. Neither 1 Corinthians 14:33b–36 nor 1 Timothy 2:11–15 records a command of the Lord that would prohibit the ordination of women. In a different social context today, the equal standing before God of all the baptised means that we can remove the role restrictions that have prohibited women from being ordained.

21. The ministry of word and sacrament has been instituted by Christ so that people may come to believe in him and be built up in faith, hope and love. The New Testament does not insist that those who hold the office must be male; they could also be female. The ordination of women to the office of the ministry is compatible with the doctrine of the ministry, as articulated in AC 5, TA 6.1–10 and the LCA Rite of Ordination. Therefore, duly called, qualified and authorised women may be ordained alongside their male colleagues and exercise the office of the keys, by proclaiming the gospel, pronouncing the absolution, and administering the sacraments (John 20:21–23; Matt. 28:18–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–26).
So, dear friends, the slippery slope has been greased up by some rather shallow exegesis and some rather shoddy doctrinal maneuvering.  The end result is that the press is clearly tilted toward breaking faith with the articles of agreement that established the LCA and its theological stance the grounded that merger and the full embrace of the ordination of women.  In other words, pray for our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church of Australia.  What would Hermann Sasse think!


Carl Vehse said...

The 2018 LCA General Convention skids have been greased.

At 1:10:00 into the October 28, 2015, Issues, Etc. interview with LCMS President Matthew Harrison it was noted that the Lutheran Church of Australia had narrowly decided not to approve the ordination of women.

Rev. Todd Wilken: "Had they decided to ordain women what would that have done to any hope of pursuing real fellowship—real unity—with that Australian Lutheran Church?"

President Harrison: "It would be over!"

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the ELCA. My very simple take on women's ordination -- Jesus did not pick one female disciple. I believe there is more in Scripture to defend against. I just don't think it's that complicated. I became convinced many years ago, from Scripture, that women cannot be clergy/priests. Women who try to be are fakers. I specifically asked Matthew Becker for one single Bible verse that allows for women to be ministers. He could give me Nothing. Not one exists. There is a much bigger case against.


ErnestO said...

My faith tells me:

The Divine Call comes not for any woman or any other sexual orientation. I read this modern call for woman to be ordained from Satan (human hiring much to the pleasure of the devil).

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Having said what you all posted above, one wonders about missionary evangelists in the past and presently. An ordained minister and his wife go where most preachers are not usually volunteering, an obscure and poor village somewhere in the world, far from the comforts of home, further still from family and friends. The minister conducts worship services in a plain makeshift hut, standing on a dirt floor. So many souls hurting and in need of Christ. So many hardships to endure, which the minister and his wife gladly accept....for they love Christ more than most people, even some professing Christians back home. The wife is not an ordained minister, but she acts in that capacity without the title in many ways, as she shares the Gospel with the poor, and witnesses for Christ. So what do we think of this? We who are legalistic and self righteous about the role of women in the church? Should we ordain women in the LCMS? Probably not, but let us not pretend that Jesus forbids women from witnessing for the Kingdom in places where there are no male preachers, or in times when ministers are in short supply, or where and when much of a country's male population are off to war. But I suppose the role of women in ministry, official and unofficial, will be argued for many years to come.

David Gray said...

If you believe the Book of Concord the number of the elect will not be increased by sinning (which is what giving women authority in the church is). If you don't believe the Book of Concord then this is an entirely different discussion.

Anonymous said...

This is the product of strenuous extrapolation and good example of arguing from silence. LCA, you are trying to put a square peg into a round hole.