“Are there legal regulations in the New Testament?” (centennial; August Pieper)


And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
Matthew 27:50-51a
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17
Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.
Galatians 5:2-5
. . . In the way in which it is stated in the Ten Commandments the love toward God and toward the neighbor is to express itself unconditionally on the part of absolutely all human beings and under all circumstances (except if he himself should make exceptions) and not a tittle differently (Mt 5:18ff).

Continue reading

A specious argument against ordaining women as pastors

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 (NLT)

An unjustified denial of women’s ordination as pastors

The interpretation of the above passage that has been adopted by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) obscures Paul’s clear argument, leaving the synod without any warrant for its practice of forbidding women from being ordained as pastors. Here are the logical steps of Paul’s reasoning in 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

  1. Adam was created before Eve.
  2. Therefore, a woman may not have authority over a man.
  3. Therefore, a woman may not teach in the church.

Since the 1960s, the LCMS has with increasingly consistency argued in its adopted position papers that the conclusion (#3) follows from the first premise (#1) even while denying the second step (#2). Under the assumption that Paul made a valid argument, what should Step 2 be replaced with to make the logic valid? In other words, how would Step 3 follow from Step 1 without considering Step 2? That is exactly what is missing in the current LCMS exegesis.

Since the LCMS no longer has any credible rationale for its refusal to ordain women as pastors, its practice is left vulnerable to attack.

The argument from the masculinity of the Father and the Groom

Prof. William C. Weinrich attempted to fill the breach by proposing that since pastors represent Christ when they teach his word and since Christ was a man, the Son of the Father, it follows that it is fitting that only men serve as pastors (“‘It is not Given to Women to Teach’: A Lex in Search of a Ratio,” Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, 1993, esp. pp. 28-31). Other theologians bearing the Lutheran name also hold this “Christological view of the ministry” (John F. Brug, 2009, The Ministry of the Word, NPH, pp. 316-331). Weinrich explained, “In the context of the pastoral office a male pastor remains the apt representative of the Father’s grace whereby all, male and female alike, hear the words of Christ and become the Bride of the Groom” (pp. 29-30).

That is eerily recognizable as a version of the male-representative defense of the papacy’s uncategorically barring of women from the priesthood:

  • “The Church has recognised that only those who have received a calling to serve by acting in the person of Christ can be ordained. The priest, therefore, must be a man because he represents a man, the God-Man: Jesus Christ. By his ordination, a priest acts in the very person of Christ the Head, who is the Bridegroom of His Bride, the Church” (“Why not Women Priests”  — accessed 21 December 2014)
  • “The church is the bride of Christ, and presbyters and bishops represent Christ to the church; women cannot represent the bridegroom” (Arthur A. Vogel, “Christ, Revelation, and the Ordination of Women,” in Towards a New Theology of Ordination: Essays on the Ordination of Women — accessed 21 December 2014)
  • “John Paul II places the inherent differences between men and women within the context of ‘an order of love’ rather than ‘an order of creation’ . . . Why can’t we have spiritual fathers (priests) and spiritual mothers (priestesses)? The answer is one that feminists do not like to hear . . . namely, that the priest is an icon of Christ and acts in persona Christi at the altar and in the confessional. In 1976 the Vatican issued Inter Insignores or “Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood.” As this document says, we cannot ignore the fact that Christ is a man. He is the bridegroom; the Church is his bride. This nuptial mystery is proclaimed throughout the Old and New Testaments. One must utterly disregard the importance of this symbolism for the economy of salvation in order to make an argument for women’s ordination. There are actions “in which Christ himself, the author of the Covenant, the Bridegroom and Head of the Church, is represented.” At these times, Christ’s role (this is the original sense of the word persona) must be taken by a man. This is especially true in the case of the Eucharist, when Christ is exercising his ministry of salvation” (Jennifer Ferrara, in “Ordaining Women: Two Views,” First Things, April 2003, accessed 22 December 2014).
  • “If Christ-by his free and sovereign choice, clearly attested to by the Gospel and by the Church’s constant Tradition-entrusted only to men the task of being an “icon” of his countenance as “shepherd” and “bridegroom” of the Church through the exercise of the ministerial priesthood, this in no way detracts from the role of women, or for that matter from the role of the other members of the Church who are not ordained to the sacred ministry, since all share equally in the dignity proper to the “common priesthood” based on Baptism” (“Letter of Pope John Paul II to Women,” John Paul II, Vatican, 29 June 1995, Libreria Editrice Vaticana — accessed 21 December 2014).

Doctrinal errors connected to the male-representative argument

Followed consistently, that line of reasoning—that the literal maleness of the pastor is necessary for adequately representing the male Christ—must conclude that all male believers are literally feminized in their relationship with Christ, as occurs to some extent in bridal mysticism. Such sublimated sexuality has no support from the biblical texts portraying certain aspects of God’s covenant with his people in terms of betrothal and marriage (e.g., Hosea 1-2; Ephesians 5:21ff). Rather, its roots lie in Augustine’s Caritas-synthesis of the Eros motif of ancient Platonism, gnosticism, and Origin with the Agapē motif of apostolic Christianity, Irenaeus, and the Lutheran Reformation (Anders Nygren, 1982, Agape and Eros, University of Chicago Press). Regardless of how widespread Caritas’s contempt of women has become, it has no place in the church of the Augsburg Confession.

Weinrich’s attempted solution creates another serious problem in its denial of the confessional Lutheran doctrine of church and ministry as opposed to the doctrine held by the papacy. According to Ephesians 4:11, pastors indeed represent Christ, serving as his gifts to the church, not as mere representatives of the church. The New Testament also teaches that they do so not because they are his exclusive representatives in the service of the word but rather because they are spokesmen of the church, which represents Christ in obedience to his commands to proclaim the gospel in word and sacrament. The church is the communion of all believers, not only pastors or even a confusing mix of pastors and laity, much less an organization. According to the Gospels and Peter’s first epistle, every believer, male or female, is a priest called to announce the good news of God’s saving deeds as a sent representative of Christ himself. One way believers do that is by choosing pastors from their midst to teach the gospel and administer the sacraments as their representative. Once called to the public ministry, the pastor continues to represent Christ as a priest, but now also as a representative of other priests, no longer only as an individual. In short, pastors publicly represent Christ through the church because it consists of the women as well as the men who represent Christ originally. Since Christ found it fitting that believing women represent him, delivering the gospel message in his name, Weinrich’s reasoning to the contrary is uncanny from the Lutheran perspective.

Thus, the male-representative argument of Weinrich and the papacy has unsettling connections to two grave errors: the semi-pagan Caritas synthesis and its historically related view of church and ministry.

Back to Paul’s simple argument

The reason Paul did not allow women to teach the congregation has nothing to do with the supposed unfitness of female teachers to represent the male Christ. Since Paul was not issuing a new ceremonial law or other legal regulation in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, his directive cannot be grasped without a clear understanding of his supporting argument.

The context and Greek grammar of v. 12 together suggest that “man” serves as the object not only of “to have authority over” but also of “to teach” (G. W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, Kindle location 2487; T. R. Schreiner, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” Women in the Church: an Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Kindle location 2252). In that case, the clause may be accurately translated, “I do not permit a woman to teach a man or to have authority over a man,” as is made clear by the Complete Jewish Bible, the Easy-to-Read Version, the New Life Version, and the New Living Translation, quoted above. That Paul specifically prohibited teaching men as opposed to representing Christ is clear in the whole structure of the tightly connected argument, from the submissive learning of the women in v. 11 to the differences between Adam and Eve in vv. 13-15 (Mark Braun,1981, “An Exegesis Of I Timothy 2:11-15 And Its Relation To The CHE Statement: ‘The Role Of Man And Woman According To Holy Scripture’”). The problem with Paul’s argument is not a lack of clarity but rather the sharp conflict between its conclusion and values in current Western culture.

In conclusion, there is no need to search for a rationale for Paul’s statements on the roles of women, much less to find one in the assumed propriety of having male teachers as the sole representatives of a male Bridegroom. Believers already have the simple word of Scripture. Paul stated his rationale in plain language. It is not lost.

Acknowledgments

Constructive criticism from Rolf Preus and David Jay Webber is gratefully acknowledged.

Should New Testament commands be obeyed as new laws?

Since everything a Christian is required to do is already in the moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments and as revealed at least to some extent in natural law, the New Testament issues no new laws, ceremonial or otherwise. The New Testament instead proclaims freedom from the law as a tyrant without abrogating the moral law, which it applies to specific cases.

Christ’s commands are not legal in character. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ pointed out that the ancient prohibitions of murder and adultery had always condemned hatred and lust. Rather than issuing new laws, he commanded the oral and visible proclamation of the gospel and freely gave apostles, evangelists, pastors, prophets, etc. (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11).

Nor can legal regulations be found among the numerous directives in the Pauline epistles. The fact that Paul gave specific instructions on the qualifications of deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13), on head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2-16), on appointing presbyters (Titus 1:5), and on Sunday collections (1 Corinthians 16:2) does not mean those instructions are new rules binding in all circumstances (on 1 Timothy 3, see A. Pieper, “Are There Legal Regulations in the New Testament?,” pp. 7-8). Rather, they are inspired applications of timeless wisdom to the current church setting.

Similarly, Paul did not give any new regulation when writing to Timothy about the role of women but rather appealed to the order of creation. Any conclusions drawn from what Paul said are only binding if they can be found in the moral law. For Paul did not appeal to his own authority in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 or any new regulation but instead to the creation account of Genesis 2-3. For example, 1 Timothy 2:14 is readily understood as an application of Genesis 3:17 (M. Braun (1981) “An Exegesis Of I Timothy 2:11-15 And Its Relation To The CHE Statement: ‘The Role Of Man And Woman According To Holy Scripture,’” p. 11).

In fact, Timothy could have learned from the Pentateuch not only what Paul said about the role of women but also what he said about paying elders who govern well (1 Timothy 5:17-19). The cases are similar in that the specific instructions are relevant applications of the will of God already revealed. Any interpretations of those instructions that do not follow from the Pentateuch go beyond what Paul actually argued.

For example, the contention that it is not fitting that females speak on behalf of a male Christ (W. C. Weinrich, “‘It is not Given to Women to Teach’: A Lex in Search of a Ratio,” Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, 1993) has absolutely no support from Paul. Rather, it reflects a papal form of the ancient Eros piety and conflicts with what the New Testament says about church and ministry. Recognizing the non-legislative nature of the New Testament can prevent such extreme positions on the ministry of the word.

3 January 2015. Hyperlink updated 6 July 2016.

Doctrinal differences between LCMS & WELS: A concise comparison

What happened to the Arians in that trope by which they made Christ into a merely nominal God? What has happened in our own time to these new prophets regarding the words of Christ, “This is my body,” where one finds a trope in the pronoun “this,” another in the verb “is,” another in the noun “body”? What I have observed is this, that all heresies and errors in connection with the Scriptures have arisen, not from the simplicity of the words, as is almost universally stated, but from neglect of the simplicity of the words, and from tropes or inferences hatched out of men’s own heads.

—Martin Luther
Bondage of the Will, J. J. Pelikan, Oswald, H. C., Lehmann, H. T., ed.;
Luther’s Works, Vol. 33: Career of the Reformer III; Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1999, p. 163

Major differences between Missouri and Wisconsin

Doctrinal divisions between the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) include two long-standing differences in official statements:

Other possible differences are either more recent or less clear.

Church and ministry

For an example of what may be another long-standing difference between the two synods, many within the LCMS hold the WELS doctrine of doctrine of church and ministry to be in conflict with the position adopted by the LCMS. The differences between their interpretation and the WELS doctrine of church and ministry arise from different ways to understand a few passages of Scripture.

Acknowledgement: Much of the material of the posts on church and ministry arose from discussions with Daniel Gorman, Paul Jecklin, Rolf Preus, and David Jay Webber. The opinions expressed are my own.

Evaluation

As Luther observed, doctrinal divisions do not arise from ambiguity in Scripture but rather from insufficient regard for the passages that teach on the topics of controversy. Every article of the faith is directly derived from perfectly clear passages of Scripture. That is why the history of theology is only helpful to the extent that it points back to the word of God.

It does not follow that no preparation is needed. In evaluating doctrinal differences, prayer, meditation on the Scriptures, and the cross are essential.

New LCMS/LCC doctrine regarding women

 1Timothy 1Corinthians
The Ev. Lutheran Church accepts the whole written Word of God (as God’s Word),
deems nothing in it superfluous or of little worth but everything needful and important . . .
The Ev. Lutheran Church distinguishes sharply
between what God’s Word commands and what it leaves free . . .
The Ev. Lutheran Church has thus all the essential marks of the true visible Church of God on earth
as they are found in no other known communion,
and therefore it needs no reformation in doctrine.

—C. F. W. Walther

With those bold words, a founding father of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) set the course for the newborn synod. Does she still show herself to be a synod of the church that “accepts the whole written Word of God,” considering nothing in it to be unimportant (Matthew 5:18-19), and therefore needing “no reformation in doctrine?” A controversial passage will serve as a test case.

The Apostle Paul wrote 1 Timothy 2:11-15,  an insignificant and outdated passage by today’s standards:

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. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

 

On the basis of that Scripture, the LCMS originally taught:
1a. Women are to make use of their distinctive gifts rather than to teach in the church service since in doing so they would “exercise authority over a man.”
1b. Such an exercise of authority is forbidden because it is contrary to the fact that Eve was formed after Adam.
1c. Thus, Paul prohibited all exercises of authority contrary to the created order,  even those unrelated to the performance of pastoral functions.
As a result, women did not hold office or even vote in church meetings.

 

That teaching began to change as the roles of North American women evolved in the 1960s. Both the LCMS and the Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) now reinterpret 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as follows:
2a. Women are to make use of their distinctive gifts rather than to “exercise authority over a man” in the form of performing pastoral functions.
2b. Such an exercise of authority in the form of performing pastoral functions is forbidden because it is contrary to the fact that Eve was formed after Adam.
2c. Other exercises of women’s authority over men are not contrary to the fact that Eve was formed after Adam.
Accordingly, women as non-elder officers such as congregation presidents may now exercise authority over men since those offices do not involve performing any functions of the pastoral office.

 

While the adoption of the new doctrine is completely understandable in terms of pressures to conform more and more to modern culture, the logical reasoning behind 2b and 2c is not clear. How could Paul forbid women from  performing pastoral functions on the grounds of the created order but not forbid other exercises of authority over men on the same grounds? That could be clarified by explaining why the fact that Eve was formed after Adam should prohibit exercises of women’s authority over men in the form of performing pastoral functions but not in any other forms. Unfortunately, if such an explanation exists, it is not readily available, not even in the relevant committee reports. None of the commentaries in the bibliography even mentions the novel LCMS/LCC approach to interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

 

In fact, that approach appears to be not so much a careful exposition of what the passage says but more of a pragmatic compromise between the traditional approach (1a-1c) and the progressive approaches of those who favor the ordination of women as pastors. For example, Towner implies that the text can be best understood by imagining a situation in which some women in the church at Ephesus tried to dominate based on a misreading of Genesis 2-3—a situation does not pertain today. That speculation, while creative, is implausible in light of Paul’s exhortation to silent learning not just in Ephesus but also in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). Similarly, Keener argued that Paul’s exhortations do not apply to women who are much better educated than those of the first century. However, Paul did not ground his exhortations on the women’s level of education but rather on the order of creation (1 Timothy 2:13) as recorded in “the law” (1 Corinthians 14:34). In view of 1 Timothy 2:13 and 1 Corinthians 11:8-10, Paul’s appeal to “the law” was a reference to Genesis 2:15, 22 (Ciampa and Rosner; Johnson; Knight; cf. Matthew 5:18-19). If those progressive opinions had more credibility, they might support the new LCMS/LCC doctrine by indicating that 1 Timothy 2 is unclear on the points that seem to establish the traditional view.

 

If, as is much more certain, the traditional doctrine is the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 after all, two options remain: rejection or acceptance of the authority of the passage. Each has its own difficulties. Rejecting the authority of that Scripture would call into question the authority of other Scriptures. More radical theologians resort to this approach, with Johnson looking for flaws in Paul’s logic and with Collins denying that Paul wrote the epistle. Accepting the authority of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 would mean rejecting deeply cherished attitudes of modern society. Biblical scholars taking that stand include Knight and Yarbrough.

 

The LCMS and LCC still tolerate their former interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Each congregation is allowed to teach that doctrine and to enforce it in its constitution even though it is contrary to the newly adopted doctrine of those synods. Unlike the LCMS and the LCC, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod remain in agreement with the traditional understanding of the passage and do not condone different teachings:

 


Bibliography

 

Changes leading to the current LCMS/LCC doctrine:

 

 

Expositions closer to the original LCMS doctrine:

 

 

Commentaries and related works:

 

Ciampa, Roy E., and Brian S. Rosner. The First Letter to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, Mich. Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Apollos, 2010.

 

Collins, Raymond F., and Daniel J. Harrington. First Corinthians. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2006.

 

Collins, Raymond F. 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus : a Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

 

Johnson, Luke T. The First and Second Letters to Timothy: a New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New Haven London: Yale University Press, 2008.

 

Keener, Craig S. Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992.

 

Knight, George W. The Pastoral Epistles : a Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich. Carlisle, England: W.B. Eerdmans Paternoster Press, 1992.

 

Towner, Philip H. The Letters to Timothy and Titus. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2006.

 

Yarbrough, Robert W., “Progressive and Historic: The Hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” in: Köstenberger, Andreas J., and Thomas R. Schreiner, editors. Women in the Church: an Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005.

 

Trinity made in the USA

Jesus and the FatherJesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity by Kevin N. Giles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many conservative evangelicals have been teaching that Christ was always submissive to the Father from eternity past, before the creation of the world. As Giles points out, their rejecting aspects of Arianism does not absolve them of the subordinationist error inherent in that teaching. He cites the Athanasian Creed as a clear witness to Scripture’s condemnation of all forms of subordinating the Son to the Father apart from the Son’s human nature:

“Accordingly there is one Father and not three Fathers, one Son and not three Sons, one Holy Spirit and not three Holy Spirits. And among these three persons none is before or after another, none is greater or less than another…”

According to Giles, those evangelicals interpret 1 Corinthians 11:3 to teach the subordination of the Son to his Father, even before becoming a man, in order to support the submission of wives to their husbands. Ironically, Giles’s opposition to that subordinationist error may have led him to a different Trinitarian error. Perhaps in unguarded statements, he seems to teach that the now-exalted Christ, in his human nature, is no longer subordinate to the Father. That is also clearly condemned by the Creed:

“…our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at once God and man … equal to the Father with respect to his Godhead and inferior to the Father with respect to his manhood.”

Giles, at least in this book, failed to affirm the inferiority of Christ with respect to his human nature. By making such an affirmation, he could have more consistently followed his wise advice to echo Scripture’s clear teaching on the Trinity without being clouded by social agendas.

[Quotations of the Creed are from Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (The Three Universal or Ecumenical Creeds: III, 1-40). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.]

More book reviews

Deism of natural law

The [Stoic] concept of [natural law] also implies a deistic conception of God. It thinks of God as having written certain ethical principles on the human heart, at the creation. Even when he is out of fellowship with God he has these principles in him and can direct his life accordingly. But Paul believes in God as living and ever active with men, even with the heathen, in life’s concrete situations, showing them what is good and what is required of him… He has written "the works of the law" in their hearts so that, if they do otherwise in the concrete situation, they are aware they have done evil.
 
Anders Nygren. Commentary on Romans. New edition. Augsburg Fortress Pub, 1978. On Romans 2:1-3:20 (2).

Deism of natural theology

Natural theology assumes a deistic view. It postulates a God who, after creation, withdrew from the world and concealed himself behind that which He had made. And it looks upon men as left to themselves and desiring nothing more than to find God by means of the evidence of Him which creation bears; for they would worship and serve Him.

But Paul believes that God is living and ceaselessly active. Ever since creation He has been active in the life of man. In His work He reveals His eternal power and glory. As to mankind, Paul holds that, though God ever comes to meet with him, man does not honor him as God or give thanks to Him.
 

Anders Nygren. Commentary on Romans. New edition. Augsburg Fortress Pub, 1978. On Romans 1:18-32.