Sanctifying androgyny: "a woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do"...

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Some may be unfamiliar with the saying, "a woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do." Trust me, this is a mantra in PCA and other Reformed leadership circles and it has received precious little critical scrutiny. Here then are several reasons why a woman can't do everything a non-ordained man can do.

First, a woman cannot impregnate her husband. A non-ordained man can impregnate his wife. There. I’ve written it. If this biological fact doesn't seem to have any application to the mantra, we can see how the androgyny of our world has seeped in and permeates the church's thinking.

An unordained man penetrates, but a woman receives. And this isn't simply biology...

This reproductive truth is written into the core of our being. A woman carries the child while he or she is formed in her womb. A woman gives birth to a child. A woman nurses a child. And, by God's gracious design, each of these functions are hard-wired into her brain.

A man can do none of these things. By God's gracious design, man's brain is hard-wired to provide for and protect his wife while she carries and gives birth to and nurtures their child(ren).

Biology is destiny. These facts (no sliding scale here, no continuum, no “today I feel a little this way, but tomorrow I may feel a little that way”) shape who we are as male and female. Yes, the world and the flesh and the devil are all working overtime to feminize men and to masculinize women. Yes, there are men who long to nurture and women who long to fight. What else would we expect in a sin-cursed world where we delight to call evil good and good evil? But the more you reflect on these things, the more you are drawn to warm and beautiful, hard facts.

God made them male and female and it is very good.

Second, a woman cannot be the head of her home while her husband is still alive. A non-ordained man is the head of his home. “Headship” is not simply a title or a term, but it actually means authority, having it and using it, wisely and warmly. When God placed his Fatherhood in man rather than woman, He decreed man as the head of the race and the husband as the head of his home. This was no arbitrary decision. Men are the heads of their home because this is how God made them. It is not a matter of personality or gifts; it is a matter of God’s creation of man as father, as male. And women were created differently. 

The greatest predictor about whether or not the children in a family will follow Christ as adults is the faith (or lack thereof) of their father. This is a visible demonstration of the truth of Ephesians chapters five and six. A father will either be a good head or a bad head, but the head of his home he will be.

Third, a woman cannot ever become an elder, pastor or deacon. A non-ordained man could, at some point in his life, become ordained to one of these offices. It is not a question of her not being gifted by the Holy Spirit for these offices and work. It is a question of God’s plan.

In most of the discussions of this topic, gifts trump everything. If the Spirit has gifted a woman (in teaching or leadership or administration), then she must be allowed to exercise those gifts in any and all settings. Not to do so is to run the race with only one leg. Who would be so foolish as to be an advocate for the church to “hop” along, not utilizing (or under-utilizing) the gifts of half of its members?

Fortunately, there are an increasing number of men and women who can see through this faulty reasoning and know what is going on. Younger disciples are telling us old folks that the same Spirit who gives gifts to the body (as He wills) is also the same Spirit who has inspired the writings of the prophets and the apostles and these Scriptures regulate and control and limit the use of these gifts. Let’s thank God for these young people and learn from them.

The pastoral office is for men only. The office of presbyter (elder) is for men only. The office of deacon is for men only. These truths are clear from Scripture and from the church’s polity; at least in the PCA. A woman, regardless of her gifts, can never serve in one of these offices. Some ask, "why would God the Holy Spirit give gifts to women and then tell them only to use them in certain contexts? Wouldn’t we do well to set aside those texts that limit the use of gifts by women or interpret them in such a way as to free women up to do everything in the church that man can do?"

No. But rather, we should live by faith, trusting in the omniscience of the Spirit Who searches all things, even the depths of God.

Fourth, assuming there would be men working under her, a woman cannot serve as a country leader or a team leader on the mission field. A non-ordained man could serve in these capacities. 1 Timothy 2:12 is clear: a woman is not to teach or to exercise authority over men. I’ve often talked with mission leaders on this point and they insist, 1 Timothy was written to regulate things in the church (see 3:15). "The mission field is not the church," they say, "and therefore this verse does not apply."

Oh my. This is scary and I hope you can see why. It serves to cut off work on the mission field from the authority of the Bible. Is that what we want? Where are we going to look for a guide as to how we should do things if we can't really look to the Scriptures? I fear that we will look to the business world and that’s not good. It calls to mind how Dr. Lloyd-Jones spoke of American pastors as reminding him of businessmen. Is that what we want for missionaries?

The question I usually ask mission “executives” (now where did that word come from?) is this: if God wanted to make plain in His word that women should not serve as country leaders or team leaders exercising authority over men on the mission field, how could He have done it more clearly than he did in the second chapter of 1 Timothy? An increasing number find this reasoning to be compelling.

Frequently, however, pragmatism wedded to a sense of holy urgency impels us to disregard the plain teaching of the Bible on the mission field.

But what kind of a model are we setting for our African and Asian brothers and sisters? How does that square with our profession of adherence to sola Scriptura? Thank goodness an increasing number of believers in the majority world are telling us westerners to go back and think again. Thank goodness their thoughts and hearts and wills are captive to God’s inerrant and infallible word.

Shouldn't we learn from their devotion to Christ and His word?

You know, my friends, I could go on. Readers of the Baylyblog could help give points five, six and seven (and I invite you to add them in the comments section), but I’ll stop here.

Women and men are different. God made us that way and it’s good. Sanctification is not an exercise in the pursuit of androgyny. Let’s delight in our differences and not try to kick against God's goads. That hurts and dishonors our Lord. Let’s do everything we can to encourage male leadership and let’s also encourage our women to delight in how God made them, in how He has gifted them, and in the restrictions He has placed on the exercise of their gifts. Won't this be pleasing to our Master?

David Wegener

David is an ordained Teaching Elder (Pastor) in the Central Indiana Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. Formerly serving in theological education in Africa with Mission to the World, he and his wife currently live in their hometown of Bloomington, IN.