This is a response to Bert den Boggende’s article, “The Lord’s Prayer and Women in Office” as printed in the last issue of The Banner.
Den Boggende’s first point is that textual exegesis, though “interesting”, misses the Reformed practice of “starting with a major biblical theme.” I will assume he means to speak against “isegesis” – the practice overemphasizing one or two texts over and against the message of Scripture as a whole. But I do hope we Reformers have not forgotten that it is textual exegesis that alerts us to biblical themes! Establishing biblical themes without textual exegesis leads to the power of personal opinion and, if left unchecked, heresy (though I certainly do NOT mean to assert that Den Boggende is a heretic!).
Den Boggende also asserts that the love found in the Kingdom of God means that women should be elders. I stand in full support of love in the Kingdom...but there could be another conclusion. For instance, if God’s Word says that only men should be elders because of certain gender and role distinctions (and in my mind 1 Timothy 2.12-15 is clear on that point), then would it not be loving for us to adhere to what God has commanded for His church? And also loving therefore to argue for such obedience?
I do think we could use some more textual exegesis when we are found trying to use Galatians 3.28 as evidence for the discussion of whether women should be elders or not (see post below). I'm not sure this text has much to do with authority in the local church, but rather has everything to do with our standing before God in Christ. Paul insists here that we are equally welcome in God’s sight through Christ, despite any human distinction.
And this equality is the central point of the conversation. Den Boggende insists that, because there is equality in the Kingdom of God, all offices should be open to women. I hear this in his thinking: “to be equal in value is to be identical in role.” Hmm. With such argumentation, could we not also say, “We should not have any ruling pastors at all. After all, we are equal in Christ!” Well, I don’t think so. Of course, we are equal in Christ and each believer has great worth and value in God’s sight. But equality can include role distinctions. For instance, as a pastor I share equal standing before God with any of my parishioners who trust in Jesus. And yet God has given me some authority in the church. Equal value with role distinction is a major biblical theme!
Consider this: Who is more “God,” the Father or the Son? The answer? They are equal in essence and value – both fully God. And yet 1 Corinthians 11.3 reads, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (ESV) What we see here is that equality with the distinctions of headship and submission are found in the infinite perfection of the Trinity. For another example, who is more “human”, a husband or a wife? Neither! They are equal in value and worth! And yet Ephesians 5.23-24 insists, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (ESV) This headship and submission (O, how this important word needs to be carefully defined! But I do not have time here.)
This is the powerful truth: God, in both the Trinity and the gospel (Christ and the church) is glorified as we live out our role distinctions within our equality!
I, with Bert den Boggende, am also praying for our families, churches, Synod, and denomination. And I am praying that God’s name will be hallowed as we honor the truth of His Word despite the demands of our culture and that His Kingdom will come as we obey those commands. But the Lord’s Prayer does not assert women as elders. It may, in fact demand the opposite. And so we plead to God for wisdom in handling His Word, and courage to obey it. For to Him be the glory, both now and forever.