Saturday, April 27, 2024

Proof! or Proof?

It seems that the subject of the ordination of women is always current.  In part, the reason for this is that there is no clear Biblical support for the ordination of women nor is there any hint in history to support the ordination of women.  Of course, those who are in favor of this break in continuity with the past will not let the lack one Biblical passage in support of the idea curtail their insistence that it is, indeed, Biblical.  So from time to time we get another version of the common attempt to discredit those passages in Scripture which would preclude the ordination of women.  Now there is one more.  The most recent edition of Lutheran Forum includes a spirited defense of the ordination of women which is less an exegesis of passages that support the idea than it is an attempt to deal with those which do not.  While it may seem to be a fresh attempt, the article breaks no new ground and reflects something that is common to most readers of Lutheran Forum and many within Lutheranism -- they have already decided to ordain women and they know it represents a significant disconnect from the position of Lutherans until the most modern of times and want to reconcile their departure from history to that history.

In any case, a curious assertion was made.  The author insisted that the burden of proof lie on the side of those to show that women should not or cannot be ordained.  

Those opposing women's ordination bear the burden of proof and so must establish their case beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.  Lutheran Forum, Fall 2024, p. 57

I will certainly grant that the author in his own mind has come to that conclusion and is thoroughly convinced morally, historically, theologically, and Biblically that this is the right time and the right decision for the ordination of women.  The fallacy of his argument is this.  Tradition does not have to prove itself.  For nearly two thousand years the uncontroverted and consistent Biblical exegesis and doctrinal stance of the Church was that women were not to be ordained.  For Rome and Constantinople as well as Missouri, this remains the case.  The exception does need to be proved but the rule does not.  It is a false premise that Protestant practice or evangelical decision or liberal action somehow is enough to trump the clear and consistent teaching and practice of the Church over the ages.

The problem is this.  Canterbury and Chicago have buckled to the pressure of feminism and culture and now are looking for a justification for their break with tradition and their new understanding of Scripture.  Even break off groups like the ACNA and NALC who have disdained the LGBTQ+ positions of their former jurisdictions cannot bring themselves to even discuss or review the ordination of women.  It has become for them just as much a sacred cow as the sex decisions were to their former church bodies.  So when they sit down with Missouri, they do not know what to say about this break with the past except that it is beyond challenge within their churches and so it is not on the table.  It is for his reason that this doctrine is a lex in search of a ratio and it will not find one.  It will remain what it is -- a break with the tradition that these bodies claim to uphold that they are duty bound by their very existence to observe.  Their only hope is this.  Eventually Rome, St. Louis, and Constantinople will eventually cave as they have done and then they will not feel so conspicuous.

Over my lifetime I have known two women who were ordained in the then Lutheran Church in America and who blamed their church body for deciding to ordain them without a sufficient justification in Scripture or theology.  Both were actually quite accomplished individuals.  At some point, however, both of them abandoned their former churches, renounced their ordination, and became Roman Catholic.  I blame the reason for this more on the way this decision to ordain women was reached and the continuing lack of a clear theological, Biblical, and moral imperative to justify it.  

Sadly, they did not even consider Missouri because of the sour taste in their mouths from decades of being told that saying no to the ordination of women was misogyny. The real haters of women are those who would put them in an untenable position by ordaining them without first establishing a theological and exegetical reason for departing from 2,000 years of unbroken confession and tradition.  The real abuse of women comes from the notion that she has value only if she can replace a man.  That is certainly alien to the gift of God in creating them male and female.  That said, as soon as a certain outcome is decided and the voice of Scripture and the historic tradition of the faithful are disregarded, the faith has lifted anchor and becomes as subjective as feeling or reason decides.  When that happens, we must prove what is faithful, orthodox, and true but are willing to accept without challenge the break with Scripture and tradition -- not only in the ordination of women but in all sorts of other truths and issues.


William Tighe said...

Fall 2024 issue?

Pastor Peters said...
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