Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I thought it would be worth stopping briefly before term starts and making a note of where I'm at with regards to various controversial issues in the Christian world.

Labelling: I don't like it, because labels tend to aid division rather than unity and because "insiders" and "outsiders" usually use the same label to mean different things. If I have to use labels other than "Christian", I tend to go for moderate conservative evangelical Anglican, which is sufficiently long that it gives people an idea of where I'm at without necessarily referring to a clearly defined group. I am aware that there are moderate charismatics and "open evangelicals" with whom I would agree almost 100%.

Uniqueness of Christ: Absolutely. He is both perfectly God and perfectly man; salvation is found only in him, and only through his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

Scripture and Revelation: Scripture is perfect, authoritative. My view comes very close to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. I don't think there is subsequent revelation with the same authority, but I don't see that necessarily means there is no further revelation, but that further revelation is not binding in the same sense and would need to be tested against Scripture.

Ordination of women: I think by the time someone asks the question, they've already missed the point. In the Bible, the nearest equivalent to ordination is functional rather than ontological - it is ordination for a specific purpose rather than for being able to put Rev in front of your name. People were chosen as leaders of specific churches rather than just flying "church leaders" (with the exceptions of apostles, but the ordained ministry in the C of E is functionally much closer to the pastor / teacher / church leader than that of the apostle). The way the C of E sees ordination is generally at least partly ontological. Given that we've got this ontological status thingy, that women are clearly meant to be doing at least some of the jobs it covers and that the NT doesn't really address the question, I don't see any reason why women shouldn't be ordained. It could be argued that in Acts, Priscilla and Aquilla seem to act like an ordained couple would today; I think there's useful scope in that idea.

Women leading churches: This is closer to the real question on whether there is a gender-based difference as regards ideal roles within the church. To be honest, I'm not sure. I don't think either side's Biblical arguments are particularly persuasive; my instinct is therefore that we should treat it as an issue of conscience. I certainly don't see arguments for men refusing to submit to women who are in a position of authority in churches. There are however big questions of how marriage relationships work if the woman is a church leader and the man isn't...

Roman Catholicism: There's a regular commenter on here who I think is an evangelical charismatic Roman Catholic, and I don't have a problem with that. I think some of the official teachings of the Roman Catholic church are seriously flawed, but I also think the same of some of the official teachings of the Presbyterian Church and the Anglican Church (I might comment on those at a future date).

Cessationism: Seems to have no valid Scriptural support. But neither does the view that God follows our every whim.

Praying for the dead: Is good, pastoral and wise. The old doctrine of Purgatory is, however, complete tosh. That's a very bad reason for praying for the dead, but just because one reason is stupid, doesn't mean the rest are.


PamBG said...

I certainly don't see arguments for men refusing to submit to women who are in a position of authority in churches.

One point I'd make as a dyed in the wool egalitarian: I don't believe in top-down authority structures.

Complimentarianism does seem to assume a hierarchical authority structure as a 'given'; as far as I can tell, complimentarianism doesn't really examine its hierarchical presuppositions.

That's not a slam-dunk argument for the ordination of women, but I feel that it really does put me in a completely different paradigm.

I think I object more to the concept of hierarchy - even a God-give 'functional not ontological' hierarchy - than I object to banning the ordination of women.

(seeker963 from SOF who just popped by the check out your blog)

Ginger said...

"There's a regular commenter on here who I think is an evangelical charismatic Roman Catholic"

Is it me? If so, I'm not sure about the 'charismatic' bit, but then I haven't had any identity crises for a while so it may well feature one day.

For what it's worth I think that some of the RC teachings are flawed, but not so much so that I would want to leave. Besides I think all the other denominations are flawed in places. As am I.

Just as well God's got it all sussed, eh?

John said...

It was intended to be you.

On the whole disagreeing thing - precisely.

On the hierarchical thing - I think authority does exist but should be used as service rather than as ruling and the question is whether that service/enabling role is restricted to men.

It does raise the question of what authentein means in 1 Tim 2 though - if it means something that men shouldn't do either (which is possible), then the sense of the verse does move away from the classic conservative evangelical position...

Daniel Hill said...

'I certainly don't see arguments for men refusing to submit to women who are in a position of authority in churches.'

Surely if one thinks that it is wrong for women to be in such positions of authority one would have to think that it would be wrong to submit to them, since such submission would be (a) a tacit consent to the arrangement and (b) material co-operation with the arrangement?

John said...

Daniel - exactly the same arguments could be used against submission to a repressive government such as Nero's, yet Paul and Peter urge submission.

Anonymous said...

What sort of wrong might women leading churches be ?

To clarify, it might be wrong for X to be a bishop because he was useless at it. In that case there would seem no case for refusing that bishop's authority.

It might be wrong for Y to be a bishop because he didn't believe in God. In that case there would seem a case for refusing his authority.

Whether Daniel Hill's argument applies seems to me to depend on what sort of wrong he thinks it is.

Daniel Hill said...

Thanks for the comments, Custard and Jeremy.

The problem with your analogy between the state and the church, Custard, is that it is usually possible for an objector to attend a church that isn't led by a woman, whereas it isn't usually possible for the citizens under a repressive government to go to another state. It certainly wasn't possible for the Christians that Paul was writing to in Rome to escape the Roman empire. I'd say that even if someone objects to women in authority that person should nevertheless have no conscientious objection to attending such a church if there really is no alternative.

Concerning Jeremy's comment, I had in mind those people that object on biblical grounds to women's being in authority. In other words, they think (rightly or wrongly) that there is a breach of God's law involved here.

John said...

Worth adding that all the best people I know for leading churches are male.