Is it now your view that God can call a woman to serve as president of the United States? Are you prepared to renounce publicly any further claim that God's plan is for men rather than women to exercise leadership in society, the workplace and public life? Do you acknowledge having become full-fledged egalitarians in this sphere at least?
The Bible calls women to specific roles in the church and home, but does not prohibit them from exercising leadership in secular political fields. Therefore we must be careful to not go beyond the teaching of the Bible. A president is not held to the same moral standards as an elder of a church. While it is a blessing from God to have ethical or even Christian political leaders, the Bible places no such requirements on secular governments. Even though the Bible reserves final authority in the church for men, this does not apply in the kingdom of this world.
Vision Forum Ministries Responds:
1. Dr. Gushee has identified a genuine inconsistency in the position of our semi-complementarian/semi-
egalitarian friends. In our view, this inconsistency cannot be justified on the grounds of Scripture, nor of sound reason.
Also, I think it is important to begin by observing that our friends at CBMW have not provided clear answers to several key points raised in the five questions by Dr. Gushee. The question was asked: "Do you acknowledge having become full-fledged egalitarians in this sphere at least?"
No answer is given by CBMW. Yet it seems clear that this is exactly what has happened. At this point, there is no clearly distinguishable difference between the feminist understanding of male/female distinctions and civil leadership and the position of CBMW. As to their view of the jurisdiction of the state, both are full-blown egalitarians. If substantive differences exist between the two positions, they are not immediately apparent, and the burden of proof is on CBMW to explain to us what they are.
2. CBMW responds by making four assertions: (1) the Bible does not prohibit women from serving as civil magistrates: 2) Presidents are not held to the same moral standards as pastors; (3) The Bible does not establish any ethical standards for the leadership of "secular governments."; and (4) the leadership distinctions between men and women which apply in the Church do not apply in "the kingdom of this world." In this blog post, I will address the first claim.
First, the claim that the Bible does not prohibit women from serving as civil magistrates is false. In fact, the Bible has a great deal to say about the requirements for civil magistrates, which you can read about here, here, and here. It is true that there is no verse that says, "a woman may not be a civil magistrate," but it is also true that there is no verse which says "a woman may not be an elder." The case for the biblical requirements for elder and civil magistrate are both based on: (1) the doctrine of the creation order distinctions between men and women; (2) the positive commands about the distinctive role differences between men and women; (3) the negative commands and warnings directed against those who would violate this creation order principle; and, importantly, (4) the positive commands which specifically require that both civil magistrates and elders be male.
Second, the undefended assertion that the Bible does not prohibit women from being civil magistrates is irresponsible in light of the fact that such a perspective is inconsistent with the majority view of orthodox Christianity throughout Church history articulated by such great Reformers as John Knox and John Calvin, the former of whom write that: "To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, [and] a thing most contrary to his revealed will and approved ordinance. . . ."
Third, to get around the many commands of Scripture found in the Old Testament, semi-complementarians must argue that the general precepts and patterns found in the Old Testament are largely obsolete and inapplicable to modern society. (The one exception to this rule is that they want to be able to cite the Israelite prophetess Deborah as an example of a civil magistrate, an argument which: (a) shows their inconsistency, and (b) has been defeated by Reformers and present-day theologians like William Einwechter)
3. The arbitrary restriction of the doctrine of complementarianism and the creation order to the realm of church and family is not only illogical, it is a departure from CBMW's position in the past in which they formally opposed women in combat, freely citing extensive precepts from the Old Testament, building their argument around the doctrine of the creation order itself, and showing the clear link between complementarian responsibilities in the home and those of manly civil responsibility through military service.
Below are segments from their position paper on "Women in Combat: A Resolution From CBMW," which was adopted on November 23, 1996:
WHEREAS, God created male and female with specific and complementary characteristics (Gen. 1:27), declaring them "good" (Gen. 1:31) so that male and female in relationship constitute a complete expression of the divine order for humanity, yet without blurring or denying the meaning or significance of gender-based distinctions established by God in the created order; and
WHEREAS, The equality of male and female as to dignity and worth, following from their creation in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), is fully consistent with and is in no way contrary to gender-based distinctions as to roles and responsibilities which are also established in the created order; and
WHEREAS, God, by creating Adam first (Gen. 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:8) and also by creating woman for man (Gen. 2:18,20,22; 1 Cor. 11:9), has set the gender-based role and responsibility of males in the most basic unit of society (the family) to be that of leader, provider and self-sacrificial protector (also cf. Eph. 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7), and likewise has set the gender-based role and responsibility of females to be that of help and nurture (Gen. 2:18) and life-giving (Gen. 3:20) under male leadership and protection (cf. 1 Peter 3:7); and
WHEREAS, Intentional rejection of the connection between male headship in the family and the male protective role that defines and justifies service as a soldier in military combat necessarily strikes at the complementary nature of male and female relationships established in the order of creation, and unavoidably undermines the order, structure, strength and stability of families within any society that determines to ignore, deny or erase this gender-based distinction; and
WHEREAS, The pattern established by God throughout the Bible is that men, not women, bear responsibility to serve in combat if war is necessary (Gen. 14:14; Num. 31:3,21,49; Deut. 20:5-9,13-14; Josh. 1:14-18; 6:3,7,9; 8:3; 10:7; 1 Sam. 16:18; 18:5; 2 Sam. 11:1; 17:8; 23:8-39; Ps. 45:3-5; Song of Sol. 3:7-8; Isa. 42:13); and
WHEREAS, Biblical examples that record women serving in combat (Jud. 4:4-23) are presented as contrary to proper and normal gender-based distinctions between male and female roles and responsibilities, and as caused by a failure of male leadership that is worthy of shame (Jud. 4:9-10); and . . .
Note that the 1996 statement by CBMW wisely reminds the Church that those rare and non-normative examples of role reversals in the Scripture such as Deborah (Jud. 4:4-23) are reminders of male abdication "worthy of shame." They are not meant to be examples for emulation, CBMW argues, nor does their inclusion in Scripture justify the suspension of the duty of men, not women, to lead. Yet this is precisely what semi-complementarians such as CBMW's Executive Director David Kotter are attempting to do in 2008 by excluding the numerous patterns and precepts found in Scripture that demonstrate the complementarian mandate for male leadership in the civil jurisdiction while attempting to justify support for Sarah Palin based upon the non-analogous and non-normative example of the Israelite prophetess Deborah. CBMW has done an about-face on Deborah by using her example to justify Sarah Palin's bid for the vice presidency while stating in 1996 that it was a sign "worthy of shame."
Note also that, in the 1996 Resolution, the Old Testament patterns and precepts are widely invoked to build the case that gender distinctions apply to the civil responsibility of military service. Why in 2008 are the Old Testament passages on qualifications, male responsibility, and civil jurisdiction ignored or dismissed as irrelevant? Has the Word of God changed over the last twelve years?
Furthermore, if CBMW was correct in their 1996 Resolution that these principles apply to non-elected representatives of the United States military serving the federal government, how much more should these same principles apply to an elected Commander in Chief who would preside over all of the military?
Finally, note that in 1996, CBMW was willing to reach the conclusion that it is the duty of men, not women, to lay their lives on the lines in military service because: (a) women are to be nurturers and helpers "under male leadership and protection," but not leaders; (b) God requires men to be leaders, providers, and self-sacrificial protectors. In fact, CBMW even argued that placing women in combat "unavoidably undermines the order, structure, strength and stability of families within any society that determines to ignore, deny or erase this gender-based distinction."
We believe that excellent organizations like CBMW cannot reasonably argue that having women serve in military combat "unavoidably undermines the order, structure, strength and stability of families within any society that determines to ignore, deny or erase this gender-based distinction," but that promoting a mother of young children to rule over a nation (including her husband) as Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the military does not. The argument strains credulity.