Why the Conservatives Are of No Help



The ugly truth is that the refusal by many former cultural conservatives to ordain females to special ecclesiastical was never principled or biblical in the first place. Eventually that refusal became just an embarrassment. Without any basis in biblical revelation opposition to the ordination of females was truly only bigotry.


As I have gone on in the Christian Reformed Church the sticky issue surrounding female ordination has always seemed to be essentially a conversation between those who want men to know the world is flat and those who want women to know their place. In other words, it’s a thinly veiled cultural conversation. Needless to say, the confessionalist is hard-pressed to find a seat at the table.

It has been said that the CRC is on a trajectory toward broad evangelicalism, that she is leaving behind her sideline status and stopping over in the status of a borderline denomination as she quests for the more socially respectable mainline designation. I think this is quite true. The Reformed tradition and the Christian Reformed denomination seem to be at relative loggerheads. Many point to this particular issue as proof. Perhaps. But the logic seems to be that if the tide of egalitarianism were overturned tomorrow all would be well. My sense is that the CRC would simply then be on a male trajectory toward broad evangelicalism, going from borderline to mainline with a hairy chest instead of shaved legs. This is another example of how the values of conservativism pale in comparison to the ethics of confessionalism.

The mere patriarchialism of the past simply was never even close to enough to maintain the scriptural teaching with regard to the criteria of ecclesiastical office. And it was simply a matter of time before top-down authoritarianism must give way to egalitarianism. Evangelicals accuse the Reformed and confessional tradition of placing too high a view on the confessional standards to the point of infallibility, a status reserved for Scripture alone. This is mainly folly, of course. But there may be a point here: if the CRC cannot see the clear biblical case against female ordination then, whatever else it signals, it may be that she has indeed begun to loose vital touch to the enscripturated text. And to add insult to injury, the recent rumblings to castrate the Forms of Subscription from confessional standards into evangelical guidelines seem to suggest that between loss of touch with the enscripturated text and a disdain for confessional formulation there won’t be much left to keep the CRC from being a laughing stock. Though, this member isn’t exactly feeling jocular.

This entry was posted in Christian Reformed Church. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Why the Conservatives Are of No Help

  1. RubeRad says:

    the confessionalist is hard-pressed to find a seat at the table

    So which confessional artifact says anything about ordaining only men? I’ve looked, and found nothing. Seems back then it was so taken for granted that they didn’t see the need to polemicize about in confessions or catechisms.

  2. Zrim says:

    Instead of confessional proof-texting, I suppose my larger point is really one of the taxonomy between confessionalism and evangelicalism. Each is driven by a whole different outlook than the other: a confessionalist has scripture and its cares in view, an evangelical has an eye toward the world. Which is more likely to get caught up in worldly cares?

    (Besides, I’m not sure the “back then certain things were assumed” argument goes as far as one might think. Contemporary arguments for women deacons point back into church history where similar arguments were made, which seems to suggest that, once again, there is nothing new under the sun. In fact, I wonder if the “back then certain things were assumed” argument suggests the bigoted set of cultural premises that Clark is suggesting.)

  3. RubeRad says:

    All well and good, but it seems also to me that it would have been useful in this discussion to have some confessional landmarks to point to. As you note, there exist plausible biblical arguments in favor of Deaconesses, so even the most staunch confessionalist could argue that the silence of the confessional documents is a positive indicator of Christian Liberty in this area, and that’s step one to where we are today.

    If we ever get around to crafting new confessional artifacts, this should be #1 on the To-Do list.

  4. Zrim says:

    Belgic Article 31 uses masculine language: “So everyone must be careful not to push himself forward improperly, but he must wait for God’s call, so that he may be assured of his calling and be certain that he is chosen by the Lord.”

    And the Second Helvetic Chapter 18 does as well: “And even from the beginning of the world God has used the most excellent men in the whole world (even if many of them were simple in worldly wisdom or philosophy, but were outstanding in true theology), namely, the patriarchs, with whom he frequently spoke by angels. For the patriarchs were the prophets or teachers of their age whom God for this reason wanted to live for several centuries, in order that they might be, as it were, fathers and lights of the world. They were followed by Moses and the prophets renowned throughout all the world.”

    Since, be definition, confessions are outworkings of enscripturated text, is language like this not quite enough to settle the question?

  5. mboss says:

    “[I]t’s a thinly veiled cultural conversation.”

    My experience is that too many opponents of female ordination think that the world should look like something out of Little House on the Prairie. Frankly, it’s creepy and offensive, especially when it’s treated by those individuals as a logical extension of confessionalism. Plus, it makes for an easy straw man for vocal supporters in the CRC and elsewhere to demolish.

  6. RubeRad says:

    This devil’s advocate is not convinced. For a sentence that begins with “So everyone must be careful…”, what other pronoun can be used? This is the age-old dilemma that caused the PC to start writing “he/she”, or to play Gender Roulette for each new sentence.

    And besides the fact that 2 Helvetic is not Form of Unity #1, #2, or #3, it is not certain that a description of the excellence of the patriarchs is a mandate for the New Covenant assembly.

    All of these mentions of “any man” or “all men” can be considered grammatically generic, in a way that “only men can be ordained” could not.

    Since, by definition, confessions are outworkings of enscripturated text, is language like this not quite enough to settle the question?

    For those who are already convinced of male ordination, sure. But for those who are not, it seems they can make much progress with the question “Did the original authors intend to allow Christian Liberty?”

    This is similar to the FV assertion that IAOC is not to be found in Westminster, that the existing language is a deliberate compromise with a minority that rejected IAOC.

    This is also similar also to the question of whether “in the space of six days” is meant to imply 6×24.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s