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.