Monday, August 8, 2011

Dr. David Scaer's Article on the Validity of Churchly Acts by Ordained Women

Pastor H.C. Curtis, in addition to referencing C.S. Lewis, who I included in the previous post, also mentioned what he termed the "seminal" article on the subject by Dr. David Scaer.  Predictably Dr. Becker scoffed at the 'seminal' idea of it all, suggesting that even his peers at St. Louis had issues with what he wrote.  At any rate, for those who may not have read this essay, a pdf copy of the CTQ article, "The Validity of the Churchly Acts of Ordained Women" from 1989 can be found here.  It is worth reading, despite Becker's disapproval.  Dr. Scaer does refer to his writing as "an exploratory essay," recognizing that responses to the issue of women's ordination is a relatively new challenge for the church to face (perhaps much more then than now.)  He notes well how the movement toward WO may also bring about adjustments in other theological areas, including our view of God Himself (as in the intrusion of inclusive language substituting for that of scripture).

Recognizing that how one views ministry determines in large part how one approaches the question of WO, Scaer writes:

With certain views of the ministry, to be sure, it would be perfectly proper to ordain women. If the ministry is viewed merely as function (i.e., activities which the church is required to carry out irrespective of the agent)," then there can be no ultimately effective argument against giving this function to any man, woman, or child. If the ministry is seen as an extension of Christian faith and sanctification and not as a unique office, then the same tolerance of any lay person is not only proper but even encouraged. One may add to this view the idea that Christians are endowed with spiritual gifts which they are encouraged to discover. Each has his or her own ministry. Thus, if one's mother, wife, sister, or daughter discovers that she has the gift of leadership, she and the whole congregation with her may with good logic conclude that she may serve as minister or at least exercise some of the functions commonly assigned to this office. The problem is not helped by the lack of clarity about the word "ministry."

To understand the approach of Dr. Becker, and undoubtedly many proponents of WO today, you must understand that their view is largely functional.  

The view one has of the church, likewise, determines how one approaches WO.  Scaer again writes: 
Another factor in whether one finds women acceptable as public ministers is one's view of the church. If the church just happens to be any ad hoc gathering of Christians gathered for devotions, Bible study, or prayer, then women leaders or pastors might be acceptable.

Ultimately the reality of the living Christ must drive the discussion more than the approach of proof-passaging your opponent into submission.  It is at the heart of the issue.  Scare writes: 
Should a functional view of the ministry be seen as correct in the sense that the pastor is a representative not of Christ in His church, but of the church members themselves, then there is little which can be said against the validity or legitimacy of the churchly rites administered by women. The only wall left standing in the functional view preventing the introduction of women pastors are some Bible passages which hang suspended as prohibitions behind or under or over which nothing substantive exists. The biblical and confessional principle that behind the divine word of revelation there exists an even greater divine reality which supports the divine word must prevail. This greater reality is the incarnation. This view must prevail over a fundamentalist type of Barthianism which refuses to go behind the word of revelation to the reality of the incarnation....
The argument against women pastors cannot be that God simply forbids women to preach the word and administer the sacraments because He takes some kind of sadistic joy in seeing us weak humans saddled with still another negative commandment. The prohibitions against women pastors rest in a prior, deeper understanding of the incarnation and the divine reality of God Himself. Even the quite valid argument that women may not be pastors because Christ chose only men as apostles rests on the prior more fundamental reality of the incarnation. God did not choose to become incarnate in a male, as if He had a choice between male and female, but rather because He was the Son of the Father...
Where women serve as pastors, the doctrines of God and Christ are distorted, because women cannot represent God and Christ in His incarnation. God is of such a nature that He could not have become incarnate in a woman and He could not have chosen women to represent Him as apostles and pastors.
In these last comments Scaer illustrates well the real divide in the debate with Becker, especially since he tends to view God in more 'androgynous' terms and uses gender-specific labels only as incidental and critical to the issue at hand. 

In the end the issue must be seen in the full sense of what it means to be the Church, not in the isolated sense of personal rights or other such arguments.  Scaer thus notes: 
Resolving the difficulty by saying that the women pastors have the word and sacraments is at best a superficial and finally an inadequate judgment, because such a resolution of the problem looks at rites by their outward appearances and not as integral parts of the whole of the church and its theology. The Formula of Concord in denying the Supper to the Reformed at least alerts us to the possibility that what looks like a sacrament may indeed not be a sacrament. Preaching, just because something is being proclaimed, is not necessarily the word of God. Speaking and performing ritual acts inside of a church building do not necessarily qualify as word and sacrament. Here is a case in which what looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, flies like a duck, eats like a duck, and swims like a duck may indeed not be a duck after all. Gnostics simply were not Christians, though they called themselves Christians and engaged in what appeared to be certain New Testament rites and were Bible scholars. Ordained women pastors are not a phenomenon isolated from the remainder of a church's theology.

After rereading Scaer's article I can see how Dr. Becker foams in disgust.  The two men are miles apart and so, too, the church at present.  Although I have excerpted sections for your review, I still commend the article to your review in its entirety.

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