All that is not eternal,” wrote C. S. Lewis, “is eternally out of date.” The Christian Church throughout its history has struggled with the thrust and counterthrust of adhering firmly to the revealed truth of God while seeking simultaneously to communicate that truth in power to an ever-changing world. Changes made by the Church merely to accommodate changes taking place in the world have resulted in a loss of power. This week’s “relevance” is next week’s irrelevance.
The question of the ordination of women has been raised inevitably because of the women’s liberation movement. The confusion wrought by this question in the Church is one of many symptoms of a general malaise. As Christians we ought always to be testing our assumptions and priorities against the Word of God, for we are daily subjected to undermining by the secular presuppositions of our age. Among the presuppositions of 1975 are (1) that equality is no longer only a political term but implies the interchangeability of all human beings, and (2) that there is something immoral about making distinctions. The concepts of authority, subjection, and obedience have fallen into disrepute in the secular world. There has been an attempt to impute guilt to the Church for denying to women equal status with men: why must the Church be so irrelevant, so obscurantist, so implacable? The Church, in painful self-doubt, is asking whether the time may have come to jettison certain principles and practices that have become highly distasteful to the modern palate.
One of these principles is the subordination of women. Have we outgrown the need for the subordination of women and reached a point where the ordination of women is called for? The answer must rest finally in the command ...1
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