I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.
See Part 1 of this chapter here.
The New Testament and the Ordination of Women by Henry P. Hamann Part 2
Hamann notes that “One might get the impression that the prohibition of female leadership in the church is something of an arbitrary opinion of the apostle…” (21). He argues that, instead, “Paul’s views on this matter [women in the church] are embedded in his theology of creation, the fall of man, and the redemption through Jesus Christ” (ibid).
First, I would note that I believe Hamann is deeply mistaken here in adding the issue of gender roles into the basics of the Gospel. By placing gender roles on the same level as creation, the fall, and redemption, Hamann is dangerously close to adding to the Gospel and taking away from the Lutheran doctrine of Christ alone. He is confounding the Gospel by making it equivalent to the demand that women stay silent (however qualified) in the church.
Second, how does Hamann justify this claim? He does so by arguing that 1 Corinthians has a whole theology of “the place of woman,” borrowing heavily from Peter Brunner. Effectively, by weaving together 1 Corinthians 11, Genesis 2, and Ephesians 5 with Paul’s thought, he argues that “head” must mean some kind of structure of authority (21, 22). Interestingly, Hamann’s own reading seems to undercut this interpretation because he goes on to say that “woman is ‘from’ man” (21), an interpretation that fits better with the typical egalitarian reading of “head” as “source.” Genesis 3 is taken to show that woman is to submit to man because the fall of humanity didn’t occur until “it also became the sin of Adam.” Yet in Genesis 3, we see that each of the players is held accountable, despite trying to shift responsibility. Hamann’s analysis here does little to support the notion that head = authority, and a clearer reading of the account would be source. After all, in Genesis 2, which Hamann seems to take to support his position, woman is taken from man, as Hamann himself states. But that would make man a source of woman, would it not? Moreover, multiple studies of the Greek seem to suggest that “source” is a more natural reading of the text. See here, here, or here for example. Thus, Hamann’s exegesis is critically mistaken on the meaning of the term kephale.
Hamann provides responses to two objections in this section. First, the objection that “the church is inconsistent in prohibiting the ordination of women while allowing women a whole host of other activities which are just as contrary to the apostolic directive as the pastorate” (24). His counter-argument is to say that the things like singing or speaking “would not fall under Paul’s rule” (ibid). But of course this is to simply make an assertion. He nowhere provides any reason for narrowing the prohibitions to ordination, and as noted in part 1 of this review, he himself admits his definition of “ordination” is nowhere found in the New Testament. Thus, Hamann has simply made an invented definition that he then asserts is Paul’s true meaning, without providing any exegetical reason for limiting the scope of his reading of the Pauline prohibitions. I believe this objection carries for a number of reasons, most simply because Hamann fails to provide any reason to narrow the meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and thus makes it a verse he cannot consistently read literally. And, as noted, Hamann simply asserts the contrary without argument.
The second objection Hamann notes is that some would argue complementarians ought to expand the scope of their prohibitions by “protest[ing] against women taking up positions of authority in non-ecclesiastical spheres, in society and in politics” (24). Remarkably, Hamann’s response to this argument is to say that “if anywhere, then at least in the church Christians should insist on the role of women which fits the created order. Not every development in the world can be changed or even challenged by the church, but a witness to the proper state of affairs can be given by what goes on in the church. And the complaint of the prophet may not be so far off the mark: ‘My people–children are their oppressors and women rule over them’ (Isaiah 3:12)” (24-25). That’s right, Hamann simply states that the church can’t stop everything, and his clear implication is that women ought not hold such positions of authority. This certainly allows for a more consistent position, but it is one that means, apparently, no woman can hold authority over men. It is the enshrinement of patriarchy in the church and the world at large. That is what Hamann explicitly affirms.
Hamann then notes various roles women may have in the church. Interestingly, one of these includes the “baptizing those who have been approved by the pastor… and the dispensing of the cup at the Lord’s Supper” (25), despite Hamann explicitly having “the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” as part of his invented definition of ordination (14). Inconsistency looms time and again, and Hamann is not the only one guilty of it in this volume, as we shall see in posts to come.
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I’m sharing this with my Lutheran friends in Australia who long to see women ordained.
Thank you for sharing it! I hope they are edified by it, and the rest of the series!