Digitized and edited versions:
Unedited scanned translation (pdf) — (large file, 8.5mb)
A study document arguing for women’s ordination within the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB, Igreja Evangélica Luterana do Brasil) has been obtained by Christian News. Dr. Alexander (or Alexandre) Vieira, is listed as the author of this alarming and heterodox paper which is likely a translation from Portuguese. The IELB was started by the LCMS, became an independent church body in 1980, and is still in fellowship with her.
Dr. Vieira studied partially for his M.Div. (2011), and received his S.T.M. (exegetical theology) and Ph.D. (in exegetical theology, 2018) from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. On September 16th, 2021 it was announced that he had taken the call to become a professor at one of the two small Lutheran Church of Canada seminaries:
Rev. Dr. Alexandre Vieira accepted the call to serve as Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology. Dr. Vieira previously served as pastor of Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canoas, Brazil. The congregation is a member church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (Igreja Evangelica Luterana do Brasil – IELB), a partner church of Lutheran Church–Canada.
Dr. Vieira received his Ph.D. from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 2018, writing his doctoral thesis on the subject of paraklesis in the books of Luke and Acts. He previously had received a M.A. from the seminary. Dr. Viera received his M.Div. from the IELB’s Seminário Concórdia in São Leopoldo, Brazil.
This church body is also a “partner church” of the LCMS and has close ties to her.
The document itself is obviously a very poor treatment of God’s Word. In this lengthy theological study the main issues and two key Bible passages (1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2.11-14) are deconstructed to undermine the practice of ordaining only men to the office of public ministry. Dr. Vieira picks apart the texts and provides many logical and exegetical arguments to the effect that we can’t be certain what these passages truly mean and why the extent of any biblical prohibitions on women to the pastoral office are only temporary.
While it is offensive and sad that this St. Louis-educated man is advocating for women’s ordination, it is the basic attitude toward Scripture and our received theology (he argues extensively against the LCMS’ 1985 CTCR document: “Women in the Church: Scriptural Principles and Ecclesial Practice”) that is most troubling. Unfortunately, this scholar, regardless of his official stance in the terse, practical response sent to CN (though he refused to clarify his authorship or withdraw any words or statements from the study document with his name on it) has an attitude toward Scripture which allows for no binding theological conclusions. Yet, this man is teaching men to be pastors within the LCC (Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), which like the IELB, is in fellowship with the LCMS.
Read Dr. Vieira’s official statement on this matter on page 10. Notice, that he does not show any sign of regret or repentance for the repugnant words attributed to him, but wants to lay the blame on his church, which the reaction actually argues against. Is true doctrine really supported by false doctrine? He maintains the official view publicly, while writing against it—and maintains that his intention was to affirm the IELB’s position on women’s ordination. But one cannot treat Scripture wrongly and advocate for false doctrine and call it the promotion of the truth.
Dr. Vieira explains in the conclusion to the translated reaction paper:
What really motivated me to share was the feeling that, because I have doubts (and opinions contrary to those accepted at the time) on this subject, I would automatically be seen as someone who opposes the authority of God’s Word. Perhaps I am the only confessional Lutheran who lives the drama of conscience to see that there may be problems in our church, but shut up for fear that their restlessness will be considered heresy. Maybe there are others who live the same dilemma. In fact, regardless of how many there are, I needed to try to demonstrate that this drama is caused exactly by my attempt (perhaps frustrated, and accept[ing] corrections) to be faithful to the Word of God.
After making Scripture doubtful, vague, and unclear in regards to the order of creation and playing the Spirit’s gifts against the male/female order laid down by St. Paul in Scripture, he states:
Frankly speaking, from personal experience, I decided to share this because I have had difficulties (perhaps intellectual, perhaps of another kind) to realize that the argument in our church regarding female ministry is biblically and theologically coherent. I have not yet been able to assimilate any connections and assumptions, nor to relate the conversations about female ministry to Lutheran confessions. By this I do not mean that there is no coherence and relationship between these things. In fact, one hope I have in sharing these texts is that the conversation will continue, and more arguments of the Word of God (and Confessions) be brought into the conversation, so that we can all submit to the will of the Lord of the Church.
Should we start ordaining women in pastoral ministry? Today, I would not see any problems with this, and I think our church needs to study the subject in the light of arguments from the Word of God. I do not share this text with the first intention of changing this aspect of our church (because, as a good Lutheran, I know how difficult it is to change culture!).
For the purpose of this reaction, the rest of the response will be on the arguments and approach in the actual words of the paper itself (also published below). Dr. Vieira is invited to respond to the substance of them, the accuracy of the translation, and to make his current position theologically clear—and how his treatment of God’s Word can be reconciled to our shared doctrine and practice. A bland agreement just on the current practice glosses over the real danger of false doctrine and how the Bible functions to establish true doctrine. Notice how Scripture is treated in the analysis below (other responses are welcome—please submit them to Christian News). [Read the paper above]
Strong Authority in Uncertainties is Worthless
Despite the repeated emphasis that “the Bible is the Word of God!” and “the Bible is authoritative in ALL matters” (1, page numbers from pdf), that generic confession of the Bible’s authority is worth very little when the Bible is made to be unclear and uncertain in its meaning and current application. How the Spirit’s words in Scripture are treated is where the rubber meets the road. Good intentions are not helpful when the actual obedience to and exposition of God’s Word is contrary to its revealed meaning and in practice Scripture is treated like a “Stretch Armstrong”—a flexible, indefinite toy—or “waxen nose,” so that it can mean almost anything, except what it plainly says.
Simply using the text, wrestling with it in any which way, and citing some Greek words and dictionaries is not true, godly biblical interpretation The authority of Scripture is not separate from the words we have been given by Spirit. Speaking well about them and intending to uplift them in theory does not mean we can do anything we want with them, just because their meaning it not clear to sinners who do not accept them.
Nice introductory words about the Bible do not mean “controversial passages”—at odds with our culture—which denies God’s created design for male and female—can be obliterated by scholarly evasiveness without sinning against God Himself. There is no authority without definite words and firm doctrine. The authority of Scripture is not disassociated from individual passages, sitting far above the text, but resides in what God communicates in real language. This is a major theological error that has been endemic among professors in the LCMS who, by virtue of their worldly scholarship and credentials, think they can do whatever they want to the Bible’s words, as long as they give nodding approval to official statements publicly. Dumbed-down teaching among pastors and laity allows expert scholars to be gods on earth in the church—allowing them to teach whatever they wish to foist upon the church with impunity—in apparent “TOTAL submission to the Word of God” (1).
The paper sows doubt into God’s clear words incessantly: “the relationship between order and leadership is not so evident in the pages of the Bible (especially in the accounts of the creation and fall in Genesis)” (4). It needles the text and provokes it, by making it obtuse by constantly questioning it in a nagging way: “for Paul, the order of creation may not have to do (first) with ideas of authority and certainly has nothing to do with the idea of ‘leadership’ ” (7). The refusal to assert what God says through Paul, is buttressed by what it cannot possibly mean. How can uncertainty and timidness towards the text lead to such convenient certainty of what God cannot be saying? “Nor is it clear that 1 Tim 2:9-15 is speaking of the ministry of the Word” (7, ft. 13). It cannot be clear to those who have already accepted that female pastors cannot be wrong. But sinners do not have the authority to rate the clarity of God’s Word or critique the Spirit’s authorship.
Under the heading “Final considerations on 1 Tim 2,” we find this astounding statement: “Some certainties arise from this study, but perhaps the greatest of them was that there are still many uncertainties in the question of the content and scope of Paul’s prohibition on teaching by women in 1 Tim 2.12” (39). To clarify, the greatest certainty, after an extensive study, is that the text is uncertain, especially when it comes to applying Paul’s words to people today. We should not be surprised that man’s arrogant certainty breeds uncertainty in the Bible’s words. We should rather start out with the assumption that the text is clear and certain, even if we do not yet perceive it. The very approach used in this paper rules out the Bible being a deciding authority to appeal to in the matter of women’s ordination, or any other doctrinal conclusion, for that matter.
Wrong Theological Themes
The narrative technique of atomizing Scripture and the thoughts of the human authors, plays literary, “theological themes” against each other. This method destroys any picture of coherent unity in the text, or between OT and NT. “Some verses later Paul states, from his theology of creation and the redemption,” making Paul a very human author who argues from different theological concerns which are not necessarily compatible. This allows scholars the room (though it requires jettisoning the content of the doctrine of inspiration), to get into the human author/redactor’s mind—and play his differing themes against each other.
An important example is justification by faith and the fact that there is no “man or woman” (Gal 3). Although our inclination is to say that these texts speak of our position before God and not of our functions in the Church, this does not mean that the reality of justification has no direct implication on interpersonal relations (Jew and Gentile, man and woman, etc.) and in the organization of the Christian community. Similarly, the accounts of creation also have no relation to the pastoral ministry, but we understand that a connection is established from a biblical text (1 Tim 2), and we bring a series of other passages that speak of the subordination of the woman to give weight to the idea that the order of creation is decisive in the subject of ministry (6).
So, because “It is well known that the doctrine of justification and restoration of things is central to the Apostle Paul”, “for Paul, the order of creation may not have to do (first) with ideas of authority and certainly has nothing to do with the idea of ‘leadership’ ” (7). This extreme leap is unproven and most certainty does not come from the text of the Bible. The doubt becomes certainty—at least when it comes to women doing publicly what men should be able to do competently. Headship, if it has nothing to do with leading, has been entirely gutted and becomes meaningless.
Working at the altitude of conceptual themes, while allowing for pithy, high-level soundbites, evades the actual words of Scripture. It is a step away from the text itself. Isolated, malleable themes replace solid doctrine, united in God’s mind, allowing for shorthand reference to the text, without directly connecting such thematic ideas. This method has been employed in the LCMS among scholars who do not want to get into the nitty-gritty of the authoritative conclusions of the Bible.
Headship vs. Subordination
In response to the standard arguments against women’s ordination, this paper hits upon the order of creation, which it denies:
Sometimes the impression that remains is that the document is less about the ordination of women to ministry and more about the submission of women to the man. The study document seems to assume what the American CTCR tries to demonstrate: that the subordination of women in creation is an established doctrine, and that this is the hermeneutic lens for reading the texts that speak of the service of women in the church (3).
It is hard to say headship is unbiblical, since it is directly mentioned (1 Cor. 11). But notice how headship is pitted against other potential biblical ideas: “why does the “kefalê structure” (I recommend abandoning this terminology) have so much weight in this discussion? We need to strive to make more explicit the exegetical and theological movements that allow us to emphasize some and ignore other areas of biblical theology” (8). The movements we make are sinful. The text is clear enough. The recommendation (to abandon headship) is a satanic move that destroys God’s order.
A healthy “head” is not disconnected from the body, but implies unity and oneness. We do not let our feet determine our movements. The Bible does not say that man must dominate or overpower woman to become the head, but that man is the head—that is God’s own design and placement. Any movement against this is against our Lord who created male and female for the purpose of marriage. Our Lord did not create us for earthly equality in what we do (which is why babies and childbirth are so despised and hated in the world). Submission, which the paper fails to acknowledge, implies willingness and love (“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” Eph. 5:22). It is replaced with the harsher, worldly word “subordination.” This removes Christ’s loving will and Word from the equation—leaving only Marxist power plays to remain (merely worldly, unbalanced power structures, denoted by “subordination”).
If the Church accepts disagreements regarding the specific interpretation of the doctrine of subordination (is it a doctrine?), provided that we are not based on ideologies that go against the Word of God, but on biblical exegesis and theology, the Church would be willing to reread biblical texts that speak about ministry and about women in the church considering other doctrinal aspects of our theology (ecclesiology, soteriology, etc.)? (8).
This fracturing of the Word, making it a cacophony of fractious aspects, is freedom to the scholar, but death to the church. Scripture was not written for the almighty scholar. It is not written in code or for our intellectual satisfaction, though it does require the Spirit to understand. It is to rule over the Christian, the family, and the church. This sort of thinking and “academic freedom” has no place in the church. It is an engraved invitation to Satan himself that will allow all sorts of evil.
The Bible used against itself
Every Christian submits, but in different ways under Christ. Order in the civil realm and in every estate is God’s institution (Rom. 13). But this erroneous study document plays the brotherly submission of Christians against any every other scriptural submission: “in addition to the apostles (perhaps), which pastors have an independent responsibility? What would this independent responsibility be in the Christian’s ministry and life (since every Christian must submit to others)” (3). Mutual love and respect under Christ to all human beings does not undo earthly authority, which would be chaos. The Gospel does not eradicate God’s authority in human order, rather it is good and necessary in all spheres, including in marriage and the church. Scripture is contradictory if the mutual submission of believers rules out all possible authority, since God’s Word does recognize authority among Christians by pastors (Acts 20:28, Heb. 13:17) and husbands (Eph. 5:22), and even between master and slave (Eph. 6:5, Col. 3:22). It seems as if authority among Christians is being presented as something bad in itself:
for he revealed to the prophetes[ses] of the OT [Old Testament] and the NT [New Testament] what to speak in his name; similarly, we know that women taught (and we understand that they still can) at various times. The big question is why not in public worship? (5)
This satanic doubt is sowed by assuming first there is no real difference in men’s and women’s roles (by virtue of redemption presumably). It is then said that “authority lies in [God’s] Word (prophesying women spoke with this authority) and in teaching him (women can teach elsewhere) and goes on to convey the idea that worship is a service of men (human beings, and male)” (5). Authority in the Word is played against authority in public offices, including that of the pastoral office. But just because God can work through and give wisdom to a little child, does not mean ordained men should give up their pulpits to a two year old.
The Word’s authority, which is intrinsically God’s, does undo respect and submission to human order owed on account obedience to God by Christians. God’s Authority in the Word and respect for how that Word is used outwardly in an orderly way among men are not incompatible, but rather complementary. Jesus said to respect the office of the pharisees: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice” (Matt. 23:2-3). This does not mean that Jews who deny Jesus should be automatically ordained in our fellowship.
The document seems to argue that if any woman used authority at any time, then all authority is moot—any use of that is permissible today. This is a grave error, one that denies that God’s order built into creation is valid when dealing with spiritual matters. “For example, the American CTCR, even recognizing that there were women leaders exercising leadership positions in certain situations” (2), does not do away with the order of creation, but upholds it. Without going through them carefully, the study paper simply makes the naive assumption that because God used women in a public way a few times, in exceptional circumstances, that makes it permissible for women to them to do whatever they wish, acting as if they were men.
It is further suggested: “why not bring to the discussion the prophesy[ing] women of the Bible?” (2). Not that women speaking authoritative is impossible or always wrong, but it is not God’s will for earthly order in church family. In each case, when analyzed more carefully, the men who allow this or require correction and leadership from women have shamefully abdicated their role. It is to the shame of men when God’s good order is perverted, but God’s Word must rule. Men speaking the Word is not an absolute rule, but a principle that the Christian should love and honor, since it is God’s will and built into our very nature.
This headship should be taught as a duty and responsibility to men, not as an intrinsic limit upon women, since women are told to teach directly in Scripture: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children” (Tit. 2:3-4). The teaching and urging they do which does not pervert God’s order is good and commanded. It is to be done out of respect for Christ, since it is ultimately His authority, order, and Word, which are not contradictory in the least.
The paper fails to do a more careful study of these “prophetesses” and give more close attention to how God used them. This paper does not even attempt to prove, but merely assumes, that women were regularly called prophets, just like the male prophets God used. It ignores that all the females used in this way were in morally bankrupt times for Israel, when the men were not faithful. In the New Testament public teaching by women over men is not commanded, nor suggested.
After all, using the same human logic, God also used a donkey to speak—should we therefore start ordaining donkeys? The high priest Caiaphas prophesied truthfully about Jesus—even belief in Christ is not a requirement for God to speak through him (Jn. 11:50). God is not limited in His instruments, while we must look to what God has laid out in His Word for His will for us today. Just because God has acted in a way that seems odd to us, does not give us permission to be gods without any accountability to Christ’s holy Word.
This is a fatal theological mistake: “And why, apparently, the function of pastoral ministry is a function of leadership and authority that cannot be assumed by women, while the role of prophet and teaching outside of worship can?” (4). Of course, women can act as pastors, preach, and give out the sacraments—no one says they are unable physically or mentally to carry out such a task. But God’s will, spoken in Scripture, tells us how we should live in the body, which is different for men and women. This worldly thinking does not understand that the order of creation is God’s will and to assume men are women and women are men is destructive in the extreme. Having the Spirit and His gifts (even prophesy) should not make us functionally genderless as we live in our God-given bodies. Gifts are still to be used within God’s order—and not against the God who actually gives them. The Creator is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the same God who blesses us in Christ with salvation. We must not assume that physical power to do something equates to God’s permissive will.
In the same way, one can find much immorality in the Bible. It is replete with murder, adultery, lying, polygamy, and false prophesying—by men and women. Does the fact God did not destroy all these people in the OT, and that many were forgiven and saved, make sin acceptable for us today? Of course not—that is a very shallow, inconsistent reading of Scripture.
The questioning of the text is insistent throughout this document. “It is imperative to offer a profound exegesis of the account of creation where this submission is demonstrated as part of God’s good creation, and what it means today” (5). The counter-point to this demanding of God, is to say: isn’t it enough for God to say it once? How many times must it be said it to be convincing enough to doubting man? If one verse is not enough, it is doubtful ten will be. God’s Word tells us that the law demonstrates God’s order: “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says” (1 Cor. 14:34). That alone proves it, no further human explanation can vindicate God’s Word and make it authoritative—by man’s word. The resurrected Lord does not have to prove it to us, His Word is authoritative, even when sinners reject it.
Another demand is issued: “Even if our understanding of creation and authority can be biblically demonstrated, it will be necessary to offer the reasons why the order of creation is decisive for the understanding of ministry” (6). The reason should be clear. The order of creation governs all people that were created. The ministry, which occurs on earth, deals with a subset of all people. The Word and the apostolic custom of ordination do not erase our biological or earthly distinctions. God’s order for the world—all people, male and female, is much wider than the particular issue of men called into God’s churchly service to preach.
But because the paper assumes that does make sense rationally, it demands more proof for Madam Reason: “there are many ‘loose ends’ that need to be considered to demonstrate satisfactorily that that text and biblical theology as a whole are permanently uniting ministry, authority, and the difference between man and woman in creation” (6). But all of God’s doctrine is united by virtue of its Author. This splintering of theological themes allows for humans to pick at Scripture like the dead bones of a rotting carcass. No certainty will ever be achieved from the text itself by assuming Scripture is unclear and incoherent.
Women can be Pastors if we Assume there is no Public Ministry?
This sounds good, but the “gift” of God is used to erase gender: “The question is not ‘who has the right’, but what is the will of God, who instituted and gave the ministry as a gift to the church” (9). The gift is not given for us to manipulate as any sinner deems good. It remains God’s gift to be used according to His will. Women can teach and speak God’s Word, but men can also. The pastoral office itself is part of God’s order. To uphold it, is to say order is good—and that not everyone (even most men) should publicly preach. It is God’s will for the called man to lead and use the authority of God publicly. If men won’t do it, women certainly can, but it will be to the shame of men—who are allowing God’s order to be subverted.
The subtle question actually assumes the pastoral office is nothing, or must be open to every Christian: “We should ask ourselves whether the distinction between public [teaching] (and worship) and private [teaching] is clearly established in the NT, or whether the NT’s emphasis on teaching is more on content (which confers authority) than on occasion” (30). So, female pastors makes sense, if there is no such thing as earthly order at all. What a confused way of arguing!
Further, it is asserted: “we know that [Paul’s] theology about gifts is not based on distinctions of public and private, or male and female.” That is quite a large leap, and contrary to the Bible. But it allows the rather bold conclusion: “If we read the words of 1 Tim 2:12 as they are in the text, without considering the distinction we make between the work of the pastor and the laity, we can come to other conclusions about the prohibition of the apostle.” So if we assume there is no public/private or male/female distinctions, we can completely ignore what God says concerning public/private and male/female distinctions—and (however we choose to define the term) women can do whatever office is made up, including that of pastor, which we started by saying did not really exist. The text has to be manhandled roughly to make the gift of teaching so powerful that it makes women to be men theologically.
Using the Wrong Bible Verses
Verses that speak of mutual standing of Christians in relating to one another are pitted against the classic proof texts: “Therefore, a deeper treatment of why these verses (one is dependent on the other in the Lord) do not gain primacy in the discussion about the role of women in the church is necessary” (7). Instead of honing in on the clear principles of Paul in the NT, the paper argues strenuously for emphasizing the women who “proclaimed” first about Christ’s resurrection—equating their private telling with public proclamation:
Considering the account of the resurrection and [its] centrality to all aspects of Christianity (including the ministry of the Word), we can also raise the hypothesis: “if Christ did not want women for pastors, he would not have let it happen (or at least be narrated in the Bible) that the first people who proclaim the resurrection were women” (7).
The paper is correct that many have argued that because Christ and the apostles are male, pastors must be male. There is no doubt a connection in God, but this type of analogy proves nothing. The desire to not be tied to an explicit text is a problem on the pro and con side of women’s ordination. God’s Word is the only authority that ultimately can change hearts. Cute man-made connections will fall, because they have no authority. This shows that the appeal to the Bible’s authority, in genral, can still be an evasion of what God says in words: “Whatever the decision on the [ordination] of women, it will be based on a set of biblical principles, not just on isoated passages” (40). If God is not allowed to speak clearly on specific issues in particular passages, than nothing can ever be said with conviction.
The women do speak of the resurrection and women certainly do not lack the power to use the Word. But we dare not place that fact against God’s desired order for the church. The study document seems to think that if women can use the Word at all, that makes all modern attempts to limit what they do illegitimate. Not at all. The issue is not one of permission or capability, but what God plainly says.
Historical examples do not doctrine make: comparing female pastors to the women who went to tomb, but encountered the living Christ, is a silly, rational argument. Female submission does not mean avoiding use of the Word—it is the very Word that gives the will of God for men and women, and tells us the best ordering for humanity under Christ. Even Luther could say that women can preach and should, but only if there is no suitable man willing and able to do it.
Many women must be the spiritual head of their household, but this is not grasping for authority—it is for the sake of God’s will and the Word, which grants salvation, which are above all broken human ordering. But godly ordering is not to be cast aside, just because it does not save. Good order on earth preserves the Word, and helps guard sinners from disorder, Satan, and sin. After all, the fall into sin is primarily about perverted order, between God first, and then male and female. To sever the relationship between His differentiated creatures is to seek to destroy the One who ordered us.
In this time of vast sexual rebellion, mass worship of the murder of unborn innocents, and when the offense of divorce is commonplace, to say women can do anything is ignorant and tone-deaf. Do we expect female pastors to be the cure, when marriage and family is already despised—I wish such males effeminately advocating and passively arguing for more women in the public sphere would actually take their own medicine and become quiet stay-at-home dads and let someone else speak. We are all bound under God—and He knows better than we do.
Blatant Historical Criticism
Not all words of the Bible are given to all people of all times. But the text must tell us these limitations, not the authority of sinful scholars. Putting every timeless word of God safely in the past isolates the modern and allows no divine authority to touch his life or creative ideas (or the modern church): “aspects that reinforce that the Apostle Paul was dealing with a local problem (‘it was certainly necessary to act in that way to preserve the teaching of the church of Ephesus. When there is no such risk, there is no prohibition’)” (10). But male and female are not mere shadows Christ did away with— like the eating of certain foods or ceremonial feast days—Christ did not die to change the role of men or women on earth. And we are not yet in heaven and like the angels, but must live in God’s creation which has been wonderfully ordered.
While not out-right claiming the texts don’t apply today, the intention is made known: “Is there reason for us to see a ban on women from speaking/teaching in church as something historical and circumstantial? What other texts on the theology of the ministry could be brought for this reflection?” (11). The paper tries hard to find any reason whatsoever. It starts from the assumption that creational differences in role would make women inferior to men, confusing redemption in Christ with biology on earth:
Not even the idea of “submission” of Christians in the Bible is correctly expressed through the word “leadership”. The use of this term shows that it is possible that part of our reflection on the relationship between man and woman in the order of creation receives cultural, non-biblical influences that inferiorize women (9).
It is assumed that any lasting, non-temporary reason for different roles would be offensive and unacceptable. This pits the redeeming Christ against the creating Christ, through whom all things were made.
It is claimed that a “hypothetical reconstruction of Ephesus’ religiosity in the first century has historical testimony” (38) and explains the troublesome passage of 1 Tim 2. Gary H. Hoag’s book, Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy: Fresh Insights from Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus, is used to explain that in 1 Tim. the Ephesians are “to abandon the myths” surrounding the female goddess Artemis (39). 1 Tim 2:15 (“she shall be saved by childbearing”) is also explained away by fanciful historical speculation. It is said to give hope to “Women who chose to serve God over the goddess of pregnancy.”
Of course, if this approach is valid, the Bible has no validity for Christians today who have never worshipped the goddess Artemis—and the Bible is simply useless as a real authority for the church. Anything in culture can be accepted with this quarantining of the text by historical distancing. Historical criticism limits the scope and context of the text to the past—freeing it from the present—so any criticism or limiting of it is allowed. While a boon to scholars who must publish to survive, it is not good for the church. It makes Scripture dependent on such fanciful and new reconstructions—while saying nothing with finality or real doctrinal integrity.
Female Submission is Offensive to Sinners
In the final analysis, female submission and male headship, under the Creator, in our created bodies, is considered illogical and absurd. It is ruled out by default in this document. That is the underlying assumption.
The paper takes a brutish and crass approach to describing the biblically-ordained relationship between men and women. It is claimed that “Without the proper considerations suggested, it may seem that the CTRE document is arbitrarily elevating the so-called “kefalê structure” (“head”) to prove that the woman cannot be ordained to the ministry.” But headship determines the relations between all people, male and female, on earth. Pastoral ministry does take place in heaven where absolution originates. Our heavenly citizenship does not flatten the essential will of God revealed in creation—that men and women were built for different purposes. If headship is biblical (and it is certainly is), there can be no elevating it arbitrarily—it is God’s will explained clearly in Scripture by Christ, who is head of all things.
The document causally dismisses the terminology of headship, even though it is quite biblical, but instead assumes a female “doctrine of subordination” (8). We all subordinated under God, because we are not God. But this is not harsh or a reason to join the “me too” movement against Christ.
The Gospel is not a license to do whatever we please. Justification is not a steam-roller leveling creation, rather it is freedom before God to live according to His created will in the Spirit. The believer does not change bodies or exchange earthly functions when they are baptized into Christ. Marriages are not undone and spiritual gifts do not make us all earthly kings. Any spiritual gifts should be used according to our Redeemer’s will. And creation is Christ’s good will—there is no contradiction.
The very idea that women are different seems to be denied: “It seems that the biblical passages that speak of women are interpreted from the pre-established idea that they could not have independent responsibility because of course they need to be subordinate” (3). This is a human, bottom-up approach, while the Bible starts with God (Christ who is the head of man) as the source of all authority on earth—yes, even between men and women. This is God’s created reality and will–not simply bare, meaningless power structures. The Gospel does not undo creation, but affirms and sanctifies it, since it was created good originally.
1 Corinthians 14.34-35
This passage reads: “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”
A large bulk of words is spent on this passage, with the end result that it is said to mean that Paul is “breaking taboos for the time” telling them to learn in quietness “at least until they know more.” (15) Since speak, (lalein in Greek), “the word itself is neutral, and does not concern the content of what is being said,” Paul can “not mean a ban on women to ministry, since this ‘speak’ without the object does not seem to be used in the Bible as preaching or authoritative teaching” (13). Of course, speaking in a general sense publicly would include the much more narrow activity of preaching, but this is ruled out, by sleight of hand, as patently absurd.
Since speaking, in general, can’t be the issue in the assembly, passages not dealing with male/female relations are brought up to elucidate this text: “Hardly, in this context, he would forbid women not to speak things that build (preaching the Word) without giving any explanation that is using the term ‘speak’ very differently from more than 20 times in this context.” So “women should keep silent,” we are told, really means women should speak anytime, as long as it is positive, and not negative, speaking. After all, despite the injunction of Paul, we are told “silence is not just for women,” so this verse about women must actually be about men and women equally (15).
Since Paul is speaking broadly, somehow the narrow activity of preaching is excluded from the (now declared temporary) ban: “Precisely because Paul does not explain the extent of silence and does not qualify the forbidden ‘speaking,’ we must first seek in context the meaning for these verses” (15). The prior context of good order, which does not bring up the male/female distinction yet is used to downplay that latter, by making women doing anything ok, as long as they do it in good order, as if they were men.
Reminiscent of Satan’s questioning of God’s Word in the garden, the text is further limited: “Is it clear in the text that Paul’s prohibition (whatever it may be) applies to all females? Or could the text be talking about wives and the way they were behaving at the service?” (16). In this way the text is picked apart so that is says little to nothing about men and women, though maybe something about marriage:
[Paul is] fleeing some of his writing patterns, both with αἱ γυναῖκες and with the supposed use of λαλεῖν to refer to pastoral ministry. However, as we read the verses 1 Cor 14:34-35 carefully, we realize that the apostle’s message is quite similar to other passages in which he is teaching about the relationship between husband and wife, and not about pastoral ministry (16).
Since women can prophesy, it is assumed that telling women to be silent in the public assembly makes no sense and defeats any order restricting the public use of the Spirit’s gifts. “… does this mean that this important subject in the life of the church (and worship) is not contemplated in 1 Cor 14?” (17).
In the end, due to Paul’s so-called ambiguous language (“women should keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak”), it is asserted that: “Surely what we need to ask ourselves is: Did Paul imagine that women could be part of this ministry? According to its rules for worship in 1 Cor 11 and 14, everything indicates that yes, [as long as] certain parameters were observed.” Paul’s imagination, not his words, are appealed to. His intention though, really God’s, is only known in the text itself. Paul’s imagination is not accessible, nor provable. In fact, treating God’s Word in this way, as if Paul is such a lousy communicator that he says the opposite of what he actually intends, is shameful. It is said that Paul can’t mean what he really says:
… if Paul were against the ordination of women to ministry, why did he establish a strong connection between prophets (including women) and their teachings on pastoral ministry? Or, put another way, why did he not clarify that the “doctrine” of women’s submission should have more weight than her vision of “prophecy” in pastoral ministry?
The Spirit’s gifts and earthly roles, along with the public and private sphere are conflated and flattened, as if they are intrinsically incompatible. This is a denial of God’s creation, as if the Gospel undoes what God originally intended. God’s Word is said to be so unclear that when it says “women do not speak,” it must be implying that “women speaking (well) is good.”
1 Timothy 2.11-14
Paul appeals to the creational ordering of Adam and Eve for establishing the distinct roles for men and women: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. In dialogue with this passage it is stated, “Some, from this passage, end up saying more than Paul and what is taught in Genesis” (24). Yet, we are told that Paul is not really talking about women, but those not yet instructed (which were women at that time): “the point here seems to be that Paul is saying that ‘the appropriate way for any novice to learn was in submission and quietly’ ” (26). “One might ask, ‘But the order to learn quietly and with all submission to teaching should not be for everyone, and not just for women?’ We have to answer affirmatively!” (26).
So Paul’s most pointed words, after careful analysis, are not about men and women at all, but rather “Paul teaches general principles to the church while addressing specific issues between men and women” (27). Since singling out either male or female, based on biological or other factors, is ruled out by default, “we should understand that the principle of learning quietly and in all submission to teaching is for everyone” (27).
“1 Tim 2.12 offers great difficulties in interpretation” (29). So Paul’s mind, not his clear words, is appealed to in order to figure out “whether he has in mind a permanent or temporary principle” (28). But Paul used weak grammar, according to this expert: “If instead of ‘not allowing’ (present [indicative]), Paul had written ‘let the woman not teach’ (imperative), we could say with more certainty that he was establishing a universal norm” (29). God evidently cannot write strong enough to convince sinners. If only Paul had been more careful when writing the Spirit’s own words!
If Spirit gives the gifts, then obviously they can be used in creation—if we ignore Scripture’s plain words:
The Spirit may decide not to grant the gift of teaching (to be “teachers”) to any woman of all baptized. But if this is the case, should we not find in the Bible a specific caveat to a gift of the Spirit that, unlike the others, would only be distributed among members of the body of Christ who are male? It is remarkable that in times when he deals with gifts, Paul does not make the distinctions that we usually make. In other words, we need to be very sure to state that what he writes in 1 Tim 2.12 qualifies teaching about gifts elsewhere (31).
But God’s creational order is placed in contrast to God’s Spirit and His gifts. But can prophesying be done privately, outside of worship? Of course it can, but the paper does away with the most this basic distinction, with the appeal to only God’s authority in heaven. How this is used on earth is then made to be a free-for-all.
Other words of Paul militate, it is supposed, against any male/female ordering: “it is at least noteworthy that, in general, the apostle does not emphasize the same distinctions as to occasion and sex when it comes to teaching, but emphasizes the content and fact of [it] being a gift of the Spirit” (32). This assumes the Spirit cannot be bound by any order (His own even), as if He is not even involved in choosing pastors to be shepherds in His church—or creating male and female.
Instead of this supposedly murky passage, “There is, however, a clear passage in which Paul speaks of the exercise of authority in the relationship between man and woman” (33). 1 Cor. 7.4 is suggested, which speaks of the physical, mutual self-giving in the marriage duty—which is not public or a matter of the Spirit at all. This passage explaining the consequences of the one flesh union does not deal with leadership or authority, which is explained elsewhere, but the marriage bed itself. Yet, this one example of the husband not having more bodily rights than the wife, over one another, is used to level any differences between male and female in leading the public service: “Is this teaching of mutuality not behind the other passages that we usually see as central to the vision of a certain hierarchy between man and woman?” (34). Non-equality in any sense is presented as a non-sequitur, so that the nuances of God’s Word are used against each other, making the Bible say not very much at all.
In the end, a clear verse about male/female roles is made genderless, with no mention of male or male at all: “The permanent principle: anyone who has not submitted to the authoritative teaching of the Word of God continuously, cannot have room to teach those who are already more prepared, because he will trample steps and be more susceptible to error” (37).
The Heart of the Matter
This paper, challenging the accepted practice of only male ordination, appears humble, but does so by abusing the Bible, history, and language itself. But it does bring up the key issues, including this important question: “In order to be confessional Lutherans who submit to the Bible as the Word of God and Lutheran confessions as an exposition of biblical truths, do we need to accept the exposition of the relationship between man and woman in creation as set out in the Documents of CTRE (and CTCR)?” (8) This is vital for the church to decide. Anyone who fails to distinguish between male in female (in earthly role and biology) as God’s good creation is a theological transgenderist. This is where the assumption of those who think females should have the public ministry leads: a homosexual equality which destroys all creational differences, which is a more fundamental error than those who simply promote same-sex or biology-destroying transgender actions.
Behind such a move is a satanic spirit which cannot abide by God’s clear and unequivocal Word. It is covered with the fig leaf of asserting the Bible’s authority, but the text must be attacked, divided against itself, and made so dark that only scholars can tease a tiny bit of meaning out of it.
God’s people must resist this academic arrogance. We do not need extra history beyond what the Bible provides to decode it. To make an interpretation dependent on anything extra-biblical is to set up a new authority. God does not need to be told how to speak more clearly. He does not need to revise the Bible. If God’s words trouble and challenge us, that is good, because we are not holy—but we dare make our unbelief and doubt the Bible’s problem. The Spirit has spoken just fine—and God’s Word still stands firm, if only we will listen to the Creator’s clear and unassailable will made plain in the inspired words for all Christians, who must live as God called them bodily—either male or female. Amen. —ed.