Women in Combat According to the Bible

Over the last few years, the topic of gender has been prevalent.  From same sex marriage to transgender bathrooms.  America has been changing and it is important for us as Christians to be informed, with both what the world is believing, and what the Bible says to us.  Recently, the topic of gender has intersected with the issue of military combat.  On January 23, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the restriction on women from serving in front line combat. More recently, this change has carried itself out into the Army rangers and Navy Seals, the most elite branches of the US military.

The root of this change comes down to a very basic question.  Is there a difference between men and women?  In recent days, the culture has answered that with a resounding no.  On both sides of the political spectrum, it has become assumed that claiming a difference between the genders is patriarchal and discriminatory.  But this past week has seen a major test to that answer in a proposed change to the United State policy on the draft.  The Washington Post tell us,

The top officers in the Army and Marine Corps testified on Tuesday that they believe it is time for women to register for future military drafts, following the Pentagon’s recent decision to open all jobs in combat units to female service members.[1]

At the end of the day, this is only a sensible outworking of the sexual revelation.  If there is truly no difference between men and women then why would we force men to go into frontline combat but not women?  If men can cary forty pounds of gear on their back and storm into war situations requiring hand to hand combat with strong, male enemies, why can’t we force women do the same?  The world says that it is demeaning to women if we do not force them into war with and against other men.  This is the voice of our culture.

Biblically faithful Christians have a different and, as I would argue, a more sensible and caring perspective.  A perspective that values women more than the feminist culture does.

From a Biblical perspective, forcing women to sign up for selective service and forcing them to enter frontline combat is absolutely unthinkable. Though the world sees it as freedom and equality, Christians must see it as demeaning and uncaring to women. We must speak against the forced inclusion of our mothers, daughters, and sisters into frontline combat.

Here is why. According to the Bible, God’s Word, men and women are created equal in dignity and worth in the sight of God (Gen. 1:27) yet women and men are different. Furthermore, women are to be more highly esteemed and protected than men, not because they need to be but because they aught to be.  Take for example 1 Peter 3:7, “husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

With the eyes of an unbeliever, the idea of husband treating their wives as “someone weaker” or a “weaker vessel” is offensive and moral wrong at best, hate speech at worst.  But if you have eyes to see, what this text is saying is quite amazing.  Take for example your beautiful dishes that you love.  Are you going to take those dishes and throw them around, or are you going to value, cherish, and take care of those dishes?  If you really love them, you will treat them with dignity and care, even better than you would treat yourself.  Women are not precious and valuable dishes but they are precious and valuable fellow bearers of God’s image, to be protected and valued above men in every situation.

Take also Ephesians 5:25-33,

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Do you see how from a Biblical perspective, forcing women to sign up for selective service and forcing them to enter frontline combat is absolutely unthinkable?  Though the world sees it as freedom and equality, Christians must see it as demeaning and uncaring to women. As Christians men and women who see God’s wonderful creation of Man and Women with gender roles, that are good and God given, we must speak against the forced inclusion of our mothers, daughters, and sisters into frontline combat.

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/02/02/army-and-marine-corps-chiefs-its-time-for-women-to-register-for-the-draft/?tid=sm_tw

Gender Roles Part II The Church & Home

The NT gives even stronger support for the complementary understanding of gender (that men and women are equal in worth and dignity but distinct in callings and roles).  Ephesians 5:22-33 tells wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord and husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church.   1 Peter 3:1 calls wives to be subject to their husbands, even if they are unbelieving and husbands in v. 7 are called to show honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, not to be mistreated but protected and loved.  In Titus 2:3-5, women are called to be homemakers, submissive to their own husbands.  Not only do men and women have different roles in the home, but they also have different roles within the Church.   Even though God has given spiritual gifts to both men and women in the church, and even though He calls both men and women to serve the church together, He has also made clear that he has called men and women to different tasks within the church.   Women in Titus 2:4 are called to teach younger women, but the task to teaching and exercising authority over men in the church is reserved for men only according to 1 Timothy 2:8-15 (also see 1 Cor. 14:34-35).  Women must be encoraged to serve in the church and even exercise the right to vote, but specifically in v. 12 there are two prohibitions for women in the church.  Women are not to teach men in the church and women are not to exercise authority over men in the church.   Egalitarians are quick to push this passage away along with the many other that have been sighted on the grounds that they are simply cultural, but v. 14 grounds these differences in creation.  God created men and women differently, and God calls the church to recognize and abide by these differences, for his glory, and our joy.  Rejecting biblical manhood and womanhood is a rejection of God’s good design for the family, the church, and human flourishing.

Priests, Bishops, Elders, Pastors, Popes, Archbishops, Elders… Congregation?

It seems like there are as many church titles as their are churches but you may be surprised to hear that in the Bible their are only two offices given to the church, elders (also called pastors) and deacons.  You may be even more surprised to hear that God has made the individual members of the church responsible for what goes on in the church, not simply the leaders.  So with all the different churches with their own branded form of leadership and decision making, what is the biblical patter of church government? The first issue with church government what are the biblical church offices.

Pastor/Elder

The terms elder, overseer, and bishop are used interchangeably in the New Testament (NT) to refer to the same office in the church (See Acts 20:17-38 and 1 Peter 5:2-5).  These terms refer to the same office of Pastor emphasizing different aspects of it.  Churches in the scriptures always have a plurality of elders who oversaw the church in many aspects. The qualifications for this office are given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

Deacons

Next there are deacons who are the church servants.  These individuals did not take part in the official leading of the church like the elders but were in charge of taking care of the physical needs of the congregation (Acts 6:1-6, 1 Tim. 3:8-13).  Many churches have deacons who serve as leaders in the church and this is simply not biblical and unhealthy.

What about Apostles?

Apostles were existent in the early church though this office fell out of use after the eyewitnesses of Jesus all passed away as this was one of the requirements to be an apostle (Acts 1:21-22).  This office was part of the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20) laid in the first century, not intended to continue to the present day.  Even thought there are no more apostles living, a faithful NT church is still led by the apostles through their writings now gathered into the NT.

Who Makes Decisions?

The NT pattern seems to suggest it was the responsibility of the church members to install and remove church leaders (Acts 6:3, Acts 15:22, 1 Cor. 5:4). This fits into the congregationalist form of church government which makes the congregation the final court of appeals when it comes to the decision making of the church.  This reality is seen most clearly in the fact that the congregation is always responsible when there is false teaching in the church (Gal. 1:3), immorality in the church (1 Cor. 5), or the need to excommunicate a member of the church (Matt. 18:15-20 esp. v. 17).  These things are never merely left up to the leaders of the church.  The elders (pastors) of the church are never charged with these things or rebuked for failing to do these things, the congratulation itself was called to do them.  In this form of government, the elders lead the church and present things to the church but the church votes as the final court of appeals.  This means the the elders (pastors) lead and teach the church, the deacons take care of physical needs, and the congregation moves forward with decision making under the guidance and leadership of the elders.

Episcopalian Alternative

Contrary to this form of structure there is the Episcopalian form of government which includes Archbishops, bishops, and priests who preside over the congregations in that order of authority.  This form is built off of presumed church tradition rather than the scriptures as these offices as they are used never appear in the Bible.

Presbyterian Alternative

Then you have the Presbyterian form of Church Government which includes a teaching elder and lay elders that form a session in each congregation and some of these elders are part of a regional presbytery and some of these are part of a general assembly which presides over the local churches.  This form of government is argued largely based on the example of the Jerusalem counsel that is formed in Acts 11:1-18 which was made up of the churches “throughout Judea” (v.1).  This group came to a conclusion that was accepted by the churches through Judea and beyond.  This form of government also is meant to bring visible unity to the global church, stability and protect against false teaching though this is not always effective (look at the PCUSA for example). A big problem with this view, though more biblical than the Episcopalian view, is that the local church in the NT is given responsibility to make decisions under the authority of Christ.   Each local church was autonomous and was responsible to Christ, not to a body of higher leadership.  My opinion, based on what I see in the Bible, is that denominations are good for cooperation, not for control or governing. You can find a more in-depth explanation of this position from a Presbyterian pastor here.

Woman Pastors

The final issues when it comes to church government relates to women in pastoral ministry.  According to the scriptures, the teaching and leading role in the church is reserved for men, not because they are superior in value but rather because God made men and women different in roles both in the home and in the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14, 1 Cor. 14:33-3 1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, Eph. 5:25-33).   This practice is rooted in creation as is made clear in 1 Timothy 2:11-14, not in culture or preference. As the text says

“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Ti 2:11–14)

Notice the reason that Paul gives here. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve”. This makes clear that Gender roles are not a result of the fall but are rooted in the goodness of God’s creation and in the wisdom of God in creating Man in Woman as equal is worth but different in function.  Furthermore, Paul points to the fall as another basis for gender roles as he says “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor”.  This is by no means saying that the woman was gullible and the man was not.  Paul is pointing out that the serpent did not go to the man and try to deceive him.  Rather the serpent usurps God’s good creation order and goes to the woman who is the helper (Gen. 2:20), instead of the man who was called to protect and lead.

I hope this article go your mind thinking about the way God intends his churches to be ordered.  We should be thankful for God’s clarity on this issues and be zealous about patiently bringing purity to the church in this area.

If you are interested in reading more about this issue, check out this book of Church Government that I recommend.  Also check out these books below: