13 June, 2006

DVC: The Role of Women in the Church

It's funny how things work out.

Our pastor is our small group leader. He is taking us through the Da Vinci Code rebuttal by Josh McDowell and some other guy. He is on vacation this week, but the group decided to go on with the class in his absence, and to have me lead it. That's all pleasant, if surprising.

The funny thing is that for the week the pastor is out, we are covering the chapter on the role of women in the church according to Dan Brown.

The pastor knows I am an egalitarian, so there's no ambush in the works. It's just odd, because this is one of the two subjects in DVC with which I have some sympathy. I think Dan Brown hit on a couple of valid points, and this is one of them. He twists it beyond any profitable level, but that's not a surprise.


I think that one of the reasons the DVC discussions in most churches are kind of flat is that we don't see them as pertinent to our situation. To that end, I intend to bring a little "currentness" to the subject with these quotes, then let Josh McDowell take over.

Tertullian is known as the first of the Latin church fathers. I know precious little about him, but he did have this to say about women:
Do you not know that each of you is an Eve? God's sentence on your gender lives even in our times, and so it is necessary that the guilt must also continue. You are the one who opened the devil's door; you unseated the forbidden tree; you first betrayed the divine law; you are the one who enticed him whom the devil was too weak to attack. How easily you destroyed man, the image of God! Because of the death which you brought upon us, even the Son of God had to die.

The old church fathers are not alone in their views that women should have a limited role in the church:
Together for the Gospel conference Article XVI
We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful minstry in Christ's kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.

I don't imagine you can have been a blog reader for long, and not know Grudem and Piper. Here is a statement of theirs answering the question in bold:
Are men and women equally in the image of God?
Some have answered in the negative because of Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 11:7, "A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man."
I agree with C. K. Barrett that "in this context Paul values the term image only as leading to the term glory." The reference to "image" is incidental to Paul's purpose, and therefore not mentioned with respect to woman; but it notifies his readers of the Old Testament basis for saying that man is the glory of God, "glory" and "image" being roughly, but not entirely, synonymous.

I have not searched out harsh statements, but only the limits that are currently being discussed.

But, lest it appear that the church fathers all believed women should be relegated to the confessional, let me quote this from Jerome (HT: Suzanne's Bookshelf.) He is writing to Paula, who has been his comfort, friend and muse in the Lord for many, many years. She was the driving force behind many or all of his works, and he dedicates many of them to her.
There are people, O Paula and Eustochium, who take offence at seeing your names at the beginning of my works. These people do not know that Olda [Huldah] prophesied when the men were mute, that while Barak trembled, Deborah saved Israel, that Judith and Esther delivered from supreme peril the children of God. I pass over in silence Anna and Elizabeth and the other holy women of the Gospel, but humble stars when compared with the great luminary, Mary.

Shall I speak now of the illustrious women among the heathen? Does not Plato have Aspasia speak in his dialogues? Does not Sappho hold the lyre at the same time as Alcaeus and Pindar? Did not Themista philosophize with the sages of Greece? And the mother of the Gracchi, your Cornelia, daughter of Cato, wife of Brutus, before whom pale the austere virtue of the father and the courage of the husband --are they not the pride of the whole of Rome? I shall add but one word more. Was it not to women that Our Lord appeared after His resurrection? Yes, and the men could then blush for not having sought what women had found


Hopefully, after those quotes, everyone will be a little more interested in what McDowell has to say on the subject.


Anonymous said...

I actually end up more interested in what the Bible has to say...


Milly said...

Was it not to women that Our Lord appeared after His resurrection?

I have always felt that this was very important.

(More to say after work.Milly loves this one. :-)

codepoke said...

Dust off your elephant gun, Ellen. :-)

We'll be going back in, if all goes to plan (but not for a while yet.)

Andreia said...


Danny Kaye said...

Are you really gonna open your lesson with that Tertullian quote?
I think, perhaps, that you might reconsider holding that one off until you have expressed how YOU view things, that way the rotton tomatoes won't fly atcha before the women-folk know how you stand.

I am not trying to tell ya' what to do. I'm just sayin'...

When the full lesson is complete, let us in on it, eh?

Milly said...

You are the one who opened the devil's door

Adam held it open for her, he joined her. He never said “Why you gotta be like that Eve?” He wanted it just as much, he stood next to her, he wasn’t grabbing her hand to stop her. Other wise it would say, then Adam a righteous man, walked away knowing that his mate would be banished from the Garden. It also says that man must also suffer for those sins. Hmm how is it that the men of our past missed it. Adam was the first to point a finger at someone for what he had done.

Isn’t this full circle for you and I codepoke? I believe our first real discussion was about how important women are in the Bible.

Women had very important roles, it is our teachings that have suppressed how important they were. (Yes I am a COC woman.)

I loved posting about Eve and I love this one. I'm looking forward to the next one. :-}

codepoke said...

Danny Kaye,

When the full lesson is complete, let us in on it, eh?

You know that I am never one to keep a secret. :-) But, this is not my lesson. I am just trying to create a little stir so that everyone will find Josh McDowell's video lesson a little more interesting. Hence, I will lead with Tertullian. The other quotes are just to say that there's more than one side to the story.

codepoke said...


Isn’t this full circle for you and I codepoke?


At my current rate, I will get back to the role of women in 5 weeks. This was just a little surprise reminder. :-)

codepoke said...

BTW: Now that historical methods have been applied to the question, it appears that 60,000 is the best estimate of the number of people executed for witchcraft. Dan Brown quotes the figure at 5,000,000.

That any group associated with Christ would burn anyone in this way is appalling, but Mr. Brown's manipulation of the facts is embarassing.

There were 110,000 trials (by secular estimate), of which about 48% resulted in conviction. Those were divided between religious and political authorities, and 20-25% of those burned were men.

Gendercide.com believes that these numbers are significant, and they are right. Nonetheless, the conclusions Mr. Brown reaches on this subject are appallingly misleading.

And most of the convictions were probably greed induced - the accuser was entitled to the possessions of the condemned - not patriarchy induced.

Milly said...

I so love it!

codepoke said...

Uh, yeah, ummm. I did a little lesson prep just now, and the book is by Gary Poole and Lee Strobel.

That's a mite embarassing. :-)

Patchouli said...

Code, you might try godswordtowomen.org as a resource for your next RWC class.

You give em hope...

codepoke said...

Thank you for the reminder, Patchouli. I will do that.

They seem to need a little encouragement on their blog.

Andreia said...

I looked up gendercide.com and there was nada. Can you help me out?

DugALug said...


This is intersting stuff, thanks for the info.

This is such a temper-raising debate, I am surprised there aren't more fireworks.

Seperate, but equal before God. When I was single I used to argue that Adam's answer to God should have been: 'yes, I ate from the tree'. After marriage, I am convinced the answer is, 'yes, we ate from it.'

The point is that decisions that are made in our home are made through the agreement of a course of action, between my wife and I. It is I who represents our house before God for that decision. None the less, it was a decision based on input from both of us. This is an important issue for addressing the 'head of the household' thing.

Now as for leaders in church, I think I have mentioned this before, but the Corinthians it says somewhere that if a woman wants to pray as a man, let her shave her head and act as one. In other words, if she choses to act as a man, it is not like a cafeteria: she can't pick the things she likes while embracing her womanhood. She should take on the full responsibility of being a man/leader.

Sorry if this sounds sexist... I've been accused of being cromagnon before... and probably will again.

God Bless

Milly said...


"The day will come when men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation. Then, and not until then, will there be the perfect comradeship, the ideal union between the sexes that shall result in the highest development of the race."
—Susan B. Anthony

Seperate, but equal before God. When I was single I used to argue that Adam's answer to God should have been: 'yes, I ate from the tree'. After marriage, I am convinced the answer is, 'yes, we ate from it.'

Because you agree with me on this point in no way do I think you sound sexist. I posted on Eve.He was standing with her. My next post is on feminism. Please join in. :-}

codepoke said...

Sorry, Andreia,


Gotta run. Tennis balls are bouncing without me. :-)

DugALug said...


I am going on vacation, so I will be out of the loop for a couple weeks.

God Bless

codepoke said...

This is such a temper-raising debate, I am surprised there aren't more fireworks.

Saving any fireworks for sometime in July/August. Enjoy your vacation!