Women in Ministry: The View from Eden -- By: Robert L. Hubbard

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 03:1 (Winter 1989)
Article: Women in Ministry: The View from Eden
Author: Robert L. Hubbard

Women in Ministry:
The View from Eden

Robert L. Hubbard

Ph. D., Associate Professor of Old Testament, Denver Seminary

The issue of women in the ministry divides evangelicals. On the one hand, some proclaim that women ministers represent the gospel’s liberation of women from oppressive cultural bondage to men. They celebrate the dramatic increase in female seminary enrollment as a parted Red Sea, offering entrance to a hitherto forbidden promised land. Like Moses and Miriam, they sing God’s praises for routing the Pharoah of sexism. The Christian pulpit is their Canaan, and some of them occupy that land each Sunday.

On the other hand, many staunchly oppose the idea. It reminds them of the tolerant compromise with the Canaanites which ensnared ancient Israel and cost her the promised land. With the fury of Amos, they claim that women clergy threaten the very vitality of the church. Their interpretation of the teachings of Paul arms them against what they believe are the subtle inroads of modernism.

Many evangelicals, however, stand somewhere between those extremes. Some affirm the ordination of women but limit them to non-preaching ministries. Others allow them to preach and to be ordained but deny them authority over men. To complicate matters, both men and women hold these views. Just as there is no one male position on the issue, so there is no one female one either.

This article, however, looks at the issue in light of the Garden of Eden. There God made man and woman, and pressed them into his service. In Eden we glimpse the larger purposes of God for humankind. These glimpses offer the framework within which the debate about the specific roles for men and women in the Christian ministry must take place.

Eden and the New Jerusalem

At first glance, an appeal to the situation in Eden sounds irrelevant. The reader may ask, “So what? Aren’t Christians to follow the teachings of Christ and the apostles? Why should Genesis contribute anything to the discussion?” The answer is that the Bible views the future destiny of Christians, in part, as a return to Eden. To be specific, the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22 has several striking allusions to the Garden of Eden.

Like the Garden, the New Jerusalem is watered by a river (22:1 cf. Gen. 2:10-14) and has the tree of life within its walls (22:2; cf. Gen. 2:9). Also there is nothing cursed present (22:3) —the same situation in the Garden before sin spoiled things so radically (cf. <...

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