In the "Colloquium Fratrum" of the most recent Logia (Epiphany 2007), I was reminded again of the ongoing debate in the LCMS regarding the "Order of Creation" as it applies to the service of women in the church. Dr. Matthew Becker, in response to an earlier article by Pastor Holger Sontag ( which dealt with the propriety of women teaching theology at the seminary in reaction to an article by Becker - see below), remarked that,
.."the 'the order of creation,' in which men are 'the head' of women and women are ontologically subordinate to men, these texts no longer make any sense in contemporary Western, scientific societies. The cosmological foundation on which such an 'order of creation' argument rests has been overturned by knowledge from the natural sciences and by cultural changes in the East over the past three hundred years. To argue that God actually created the man first, and then the woman from the rib of man, and that this chronological sequence has significance for the ontological authority of men over women, is outdated as the traditional interpretation of those biblical texts that speak of the earth being founded on pillars, of the earth not moving,...." (47)
The original article by Dr. Becker ("Female Teachers of Theology"), to which Pr. Sonntag initially responded, can be found on the DayStar site here. Other articles addressing similar topics in the DayStar Journal (Reformation 2005), can be found here. It should be noted for those who are not familiar with DayStar or its online journal, that the articles on this site represent the more liberal views within the LCMS today, and I believe demonstrate where the major pushes in theology will come from in the years to come.
Reflecting back to the 2004 convention, I suspect that the germinal seeds of Dr. Becker's theology were already evident. The resolution which opened to women all offices of the church, save the pastorate, from this delegate's perspective, largely ignored the "order of creation" argument presented by those on the CTCR who dissented from the majority opinion. I did not support the resolution, and it was one that I had my name publicly listed as opposing. Nevertheless, in true LCMS fashion, while the resolution claimed to be based on Holy Scripture, it did not insist that all congregations submit to it and change their constitutions in accordance with it. I wrote to the CCM with questions on this situation, and, well, I didn't seem to get anywhere. Since then I have simply lived as if the resolution did not exist. It seems as if that is what they wanted me to do - or did they? I'm still confused.
There has been an undeniable shift in the theological understanding of men and women in the LCMS in the last several years. This shift is reflective of changes that have occurred in other denominations over the last several decades. While those warning that the ordination of women is the next, logical step in the progression of things is a huge overreaction, I propose that it is quite on target. However, I suspect that outright ordination is not critical to the plan. My prediction is that the participation of women within the public ministerial acts normally reserved to the Office of Pastor (preaching, leading the liturgy, reading of scripture, etc.), will be gradually expanded until their ordination is a virtual de facto reality.
I am disappointed, but not surprised, by Dr. Becker's dismissal of the "order of creation" as essentially "outdated." His argument, though, is reflective of an older liberalism which is firmly rooted in the Enlightenment, and although seemingly flushed out in the mid-70's, appears to be finding a renaissance among us again. Still, his arguments are carefully couched in appeals to the Lutheran fathers and enthusiastic appeals to biblical witness.
It should be further noted that Dr. Becker would not be counted among those supportive of a literal understanding of the Genesis creation account, upon which any argument of the "order of creation" is based. Note his remarks in an essay from 2005:
"How many people in the past three hundred years have rejected the Christian faith, or have never given it a second thought, because they were told, or they thought, they had to accept a literalistic reading of Genesis (and similar biblical texts with cosmological connections) as an essential element of that faith, when all the physical evidence and rational argument goes against such a literalistic understanding?"
(2005 Pentecost issue of the DayStar Journal)
With this biblical under girding compromised, it really is a logical step to call into question any "ordering" which God may have imposed even at that early date. We need to beware of these shifts among us. There is certainly more to come....
[P.S. For those interested in subscribing to the very fine Lutheran theological journal Logia, should visit their website here.]