"I'm asking YOU why God created women, what did/does He ask us to do/be? I presume you have already decided what He asks you as a male to do."
" I don't have any idea how to prove that I have 'looked more deeply' into whether my arguments 'take account of the fullness of humanity, in creation and in redemption, a fullness in which men and women share completely.' You have set up the answer in this way. "When you delve more deeply, you will end up agreeing with me." Disagreement thus becomes evidence of not having 'deeply delved.' It's an impossible burden that I can never meet. "
First, I do not think God created women to be sent out for coffee. One reason why I am prepared to bat for women being able to share in all the ministries of God's church is the suspicion I harbour that lurking beneath arguments which sound principled may be a basic denial that women are equal to men. Take this comment as an instance (which I linked to in the previous post):
"I love the way that Doug Wilson writes. I might not always agree with what he writes but he has a beautiful way of putting things that only enhances what he’s saying. So, in a series of recent posts on the Women Bishops nonsense in the Church of England, and particularly N.T.Wright’s contributions, he has come up with some corkers,
Wright also says that Junia is listed among the apostles (Rom. 16:7). He earlier was dismissive of the unusual words in 1 Tim. 2, but here is apparently unaware of the uses of the noun and verb forms of . An apostle is a “sent one,” and the verb means “to send.” Jesus was an apostle of God (Heb. 3:1), the twelve were apostles of Christ (Luke 6:13), and Paul and Barnabas were apostles of the church at Antioch (Acts 13:2-4). How much authority is involved is a pure function of the sending agency, and what the sent one is commissioned to do. Of course Junia was a sent one. But whose? To what purpose? The mere use of the word gives us no basis for promoting someone who was sent for coffee to the ranks of the Twelve."
It is not a beautiful way to put things to ascribe the apostolic Junia as "someone who was sent for coffee." It sounds belittling to me.
Nevertheless, I accept that there are principled arguments for denying women may share in all the offices of the church. In respect of the second comment above I do not want to (and apologise if I set things up in the previous post to look as though I do) set up an unwinnable argument about looking more deeply into the fullness of humanity of women. If I implied that I could not accept any look in depth that disagreed with my own conclusions then I went too far. The point I am trying to make I will now put this way: I think we (especially we men) owe it to women to check, re-check and double check that any argument we bring against women being ordained to roles such as presbyter and bishop does not hide within it a diminution of women's full humanity.
If, having checked, re-checked and double checked that no such diminiution is overt or covert then we may have an argument against women's ordination that is coherent with the full humanity of women. (Obviously I think Mr Wilson, cited above, fails my standard on the matter! And I wonder if the writer who commends him would write so approvingly if he checked, re-checked and double checked what he has written. Sent out for coffee? Yeah, right!).
So, back to the first comment: positively, what do I think God created women to be and to do?
First and foremost I think God created women and men to people the earth, to enjoy its goodness, to steward its resources, and to praise its Creator. To people the earth, men and women come together in marriage in order to create families, for without one another the peopling of the earth fails, and following this particular aspect of God's purpose for men and for women, men become husbands and fathers and women become wives and mothers.
Secondly, God created women and men for service: serving God and serving one another. At the heart of Jesus' own vision for humanity is a vision for serving one another: the least is the greatest, the last is first, love one another. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many. I sense that from this perspective we should understand the word 'helper' in Genesis 2:18-25: a 'man' alone (whether a male or a female) has no equal counterpart to form human society, so 'man' alone became 'male and female he created them' (binding both Genesis 1 and 2 together). Neither beast nor bird creates human society: men and women do. But each is to be 'helper' (or, in the language of Jesus, 'servant') to the other. What Adam exclaims when he discovers Eve is not 'At last, a helper' but 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.'
Inevitably, in our service of God and of one another, specific directions are given. As people met Jesus on the way, some were called to literally follow him, others were sent back to their place of residency, but all were asked to live the lifestyle of the kingdom (cf. the Sermon on the Mount and other teaching). Within the kingdom there seems to be only one constant role for its citizens: service.
When New Testament talk moves to 'church' it seems to reckon both with the question of diversity-in-unity (so talk about the body of Christ, members of one body, diverse gifts, one Spirit) and practical arrangements for the daily and weekly life of churches (who hosts, leads, serves, teaches but, as noted here in the last few days, without mention of who presides at eucharist). Previously, I have argued that the early days of the church were days of pneumatological flexibility: the charismatic church rather than the institutional church. Within that flexibility offices were created as required (e.g. Acts 6), instructions were given to fit local conditions (e.g. 1 Timothy - and they were local conditions because in different conditions today we ignore most of 1 Timothy's instructions about practical arrangements for church life: men do not raise hands in prayer, widows are no longer organised according to Paul's instructions).
What has God created men and women for in the church? To serve one another, to serve the cause of the gospel, to love one another through the power of the Spirit. The richness of talk of submitting to one another, of being fellow workers working together with God is a richness which comes from the profound foundational truth of the church that it is birthed through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on men and women, a baptism of the Spirit in which there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek because the church is the one body of Christ inclusive without distinction of all humanity who make its members.
God created men and women for freedom in Christ, constrained only by the law of Christ which is to love one another. This profound gospel truth, vehemently propounded by Paul in Galatians, is our guide to the roles of men and women in the church. What has God created us for? To love God, love our neighbour, love our enemy and love one another.
ADDENDUM: John Richardson at The Ugley Vicar has posted something which relates very closely to what I am trying to say here. My quick, and initial comment (also in a comment below) is this:
In that post I suggest John R is coming very close to what I am saying and veering away from it at precisely the point which worries me: by emphasising woman as image of the image-bearer, whether he wishes to or not, he sets up the conditions under which women may be treated as lesser than men.
In a slightly larger comment I suggest we need to consider whether his understanding of adam as 'collective singular' precisely fails to acknowledge that as a collective singular noun it includes the one collection Genesis 1:26 and 5:1b-2 refers to, 'male and female.' Crucial here is Genesis 5:1b-2 (noted by John, so fascinating that he understand its implication differently to me):
"When God created man (adam), he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man (adam) when they were created." (ESV).
The adam is collective singular: they are male and female - it (adam-kind) is male and female.
Further, in setting out the relationship between 'Adam' and 'Christ' he drives this to settle an argument that Adam (the male) is the image-bearer of God and this Eve (the female) is the image of the image-bearer. But the Adam in whom we all sin and therefore die is the collective in action, the male and the female engaging together as humankind falls - each is culpable (as, perhaps ironically in this present discussion, is drawn attention to by 1 Timothy 2:13-14). It is 'humankind' which falls and Christ is the representative and first fruit of the new humanity in whom we live. Paul, I suggest, understands this in at least two places in his writings. In Galatians 3:28, the new humanity, those who are 'in Christ', are 'neither male nor female'. In 1 Corinthians 11:11, he writes, 'Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman'.
To ignore these texts when attempting to argue that men image God as image-bearers of God and that women are images of the image-bearers (a derivative relationship) is a problematical theological exercise because it does not seem to allow for what Genesis 5:1b-2, Galatians 3:28 and 1 Corinthians 11:11 are saying, men and women as one humanity image God, scar that image and in Christ are restored as that image.