Archive for October, 2008

Gender and Heaven

A link to this article was posted in a comment by one of our readers, “debrabaker.”  I thought that it would be interesting to have a discussion about gender and its relation to our self, our identity, and who we will be in the new heavens and the new earth.

Here are my initial thoughts on the issue:

A) Marriage as we know it will cease to exist.

B) Because of (A), there will no longer be male headship, since this is specific to marriage relationships.

C) Gender is not based solely on our physical differences (sexual dimorphism), but men and women have deeper differences that penetrate to our personalities, our minds, and perhaps even our very souls.

D) Since gender is integral to who we are as persons, it will therefore still be a part of us in some way in the hereafter (certainly not limited to physical characteristics or sexual dimorphism).

E) We will all have one head, Jesus, who is also our Bridegroom.

F) There will no longer be a need for any of the formal offices of the church since we will all be face to face with Christ (however, our gifts and different abilities will remain with us).

I think where people like Mark David Walton (author of the article mentioned above) go wrong is that they assume that headship/submission is integral to our genders.

Despite my personal beliefs listed above, I would like to say that I am not dogmatic about this issue, because it is, as are so many other things, part of the great mysteries of the Church which will be revealed to us on the other side.

So, what do you think?


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Has Anyone Read…

Has anyone here read Men and Women in the Church by Dr. Sarah Sumner?  I’m in the middle of it right now… I’d love to know the thoughts of anyone and everyone who has read it.


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In Honor of My Namesake

I found this article about Angelina Jolie and I thought it would be fun to post here.

To me she represents the ideal woman: strong, capable, maternal, charitable.


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If there dwelt upon the earth a fatih as great as is the reward of faith which is expected in the heavens, no one of you at all, best beloved sisters, from the time that she had first ‘known the Lord,’ and learned (the truth) concerning her own (that is woman’s) condition, would have desired too gladsome (not to say ostentatious) a style of dress; so as not to go about in humble garb, and rather to affect meanness of appearance, walking about as Eve mourning and repentant, in order that by every garb of penitence she might the more fully expiate that which she derices from Eve,- the ignominy, I mean, of the first sin, and the odium (attaching to her as the cause) of human perdition…

And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve?  The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too.  You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.  You destroyed so easily God’s image, man.  On account of your desert- that is, death- even the Son of God had to die.  And you think about adorning yourself over and above your ‘tunics of skins’ (Gen. 3:21)?

-Tertullian, “On the Dress of Women,” trans S. Thelwall, Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts, 10 vols. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1994), 4:14.

In fact, even though the man was created outside Paradise (i.e., in an inferior place), he is found to be superior, while woman, though created in a better place (i.e., inside Paradise) is found inferior.’ “

-Ambrose, “On Paradise,” quoted in Elizabeth A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, ed. Thomas Halton, Message of the Fathers of the Church 13 (Collegebille, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1983), pg. 30

If it were not the case that the owman was created to be man’s helper specifically for the production of children, then why would she have been created as a “helper” (Gen. 2:18)?  Was it so that she might work the land with him?  No because there did not yet exist any such labor for which he needed a helper, and even if such work had been required, a male would have been a better assistant.  One can also posit that the reason for her creation as a helper had to do with the companionship she could provide for the man, if perhaps he got bored with his solitude.  Yet for company and conversation, how mcuh more agreeable it is for two male friends to dwell together than for a man and a woman!… I cannot think of any reason for woman’s being made as man’s helper, if we dismiss the reason of procreation.”

-Augustine, “Literal Commentary on Genesis”

Hmmm…. doesn’t seem like “equal in value, unequal in role” to me…

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While the political and secular roles of women have been discussed here and elsewhere of late, I thought it might be interesting to bring up the role of women in the church.

I do not purport to be a theologian nor a “teacher” of the Bible, and I am by no means claiming my following opinions to be exhaustive, authoritative, or scholarly… afterall, I’m just writing between breastfeeding, cooking diner, scooping up dog doo-doo in the back yard, and various other domestic activities. With that disclaimer, here we go!

Historically women, though granted important roles, have not been ordained to roles such as pastor, minister, priest(ess), elder, bishop, cardinal, patriarch (matriarch?), or pope. Only recently have women in the Episcopalian church, in protestant denominations and independent churches been given titles such as elder, minister, pastor, and priest. It is, historically speaking, a rather recent phenomenon. However, it is generally accepted that there was once a role for women as deaconesses in the early church, although this role has all but dissapeared in both the Catholic and Orthodox church. So what about that role?

It seems that by the time of the first council of Nicea, there was an established role of deaconess. Many believe the role necessitated a vow of chastity and that their role was limited and not officially ordained:

The principal work of the deaconess was to assist the female candidates for holy baptism…  Moreover they sometimes gave to the female catechumens preliminary instruction, but their work was wholly limited to women, and for a deaconess of the Early Church to teach a man or to nurse him in sickness would have been an impossibility. (From a commentary on the council, emphasis mine.)

According to this article, the Roman Catholic church, in 2002, had an International Theological Commission which stated that the role of female deaconesses “should not be viewed as being equivalent to that of ordained male deacons.” The article further stated that “the Vatican in 2001 ordered an end any to Church supported courses that might prepare women for ordination as deacons.” So it seems that while the Catholic church recognizes the historical role of deaconess as “serving as a bridge or connection between women laity and the local church authorities,” it claims deaconesses never participated in the liturgy or served at the altar. There are some groups that have sprung up from the Catholic church which ordain women, but the Catholic Church officially excommunicates these groups and any woman “ordained” as a priest (see article here). However, some are working from within the Catholic church to try and legitimize women priests (ha! good luck with Pope Benedict!).

Well, the PCA took an official stance against ordaining deaconesses, but said that “commissioning” them is okay. Before you jump up and cry “mere semantics!” think about how much importance we place on words in the church. We have spent years and decades, paper and parchment, and councils and synods, in order to define such words as body, essence, nature, sin, salvation, election, transubstantiation, etc. etc. etc.  So, I would say that it does mean something when a church body rejects a particular word in favor of another, in this case rejecting women’s ordination but accepting their commisioning.

While we are on the subject, here is an interesting article by Frederica Mathewes-Green. I find it interesting that the Orthodox church, apparently, lets women preach from the “pulpit” and yet bars them from the altar and administering (or even helping to administer) the bread and wine. In my mind this fits perfectly with the distinction of teacher and priest. Here and here are two great articles about priesthood and blood sacrifice and how it relates to the church. And, by the same author, here is another article about women and the priesthood. Also, here is a very thoughtful and scholarly article, from the magazine Touchstone, which gives a review of Saint Junia, considered by many as an apostle of the early church.

So, this is definitely a lot to digest, but I would urge you to read the articles I linked to and then to begin a discussion here. I would love to hear your thoughts and arguments for or against women priests. However, offering some substance and some citations or evidence to support your opinions would be most helpful. As far as I’m concerned, I have absolutely no problem with saying “Madame President,” but I just have an odd gut reaction against taking the sacrament of communion from a woman. It just feels wrong to me.  And I also think (minor point–lol) that I have the argument of history behind me! Women can serve many roles in the church, in my opinion, but they ought not to be ordained as ministers of word and sacrament or priests. After all, it just sounds wrong and un-Christian to say: “My priestess recommended this book…”  Hmm… sounds like some weird Neo-Pagan or Wiccan thing.


EDITED TO ADD: Also, I found this collection of citations from early church fathers and documents about the issue of women in the church. It seems legit and is from a reformed site.

Also, since I have so many links in this article, please let me know if any of them don’t work correctly. Thank you.

– Laura Croft

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God Is Great

That God is Great is a simple sentence, but not a simple concept.  Despite having been taught about God’s greatness all my life, it is hard to wrap my mind around a being so powerful that it set the entire universe in motion and so personal that it knows how many hairs are on my head.

Sometimes I think in the complicated theology of our faith, we sometimes forget the most simple complex ideas of all, like God is Great.

It seems that it takes life to force us to look at these ideas.  And now is one of those times for me.  How can I be happy that the little boy I looked forward to homeschooling all his life is now going to be getting on a bus at two years old and going to the public school for the help I can’t give him?  And at the same how can I be unhappy when God has graciously allowed us to live in a place that offers that help and understands what to do and a teacher who adores him and is eager to help?  God is Great.

I think it is in times of personal crisis that we are most reminded of the fundamental truths of our faith.  And it is in these times that we have the most potential for growth as people of faith.  Despite my fears and concerns for the future, I know that God is holding us in His hands and that somehow all of this will work for the greater good, and for His Glory.  For God is Great.

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Newsflash! Here are the seventy-eight official, scientifically verifiable, and outrageous differences between men and women.

(Warning: Some mature/adult content, but mostly benign humor.)

My personal favorite: “If a man knows an acquaintance has given birth to a baby, he will remember the sex and name – if you are lucky. If a woman is told about a birth, she will remember names (first and middle), weight, time, how long the labour took and whether medical intervention was required.”

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