Theses on Women in the Church – Part Two
Arnold J. Voigt
Excursus: “The Order of Creation” or “The Orderings of the Creator”?
□ “…because it is a woman…” [emphasis added] (CTCR-WIC, 36)
□ “The Order of Creation” paragraph is followed by the words “the concepts which these terms denote are of long-standing importance… Luther for example…” (CTCR-WIC, 21).
The purpose of this Excursus is to set the static “order of creation” theology found in CTCR-WIC in dialogue with biblical material and Lutheran insights which posit God’s dynamic ordering of creation for the well being of humanity. The CTCR concept of “the order of creation” (with reference to male “headship” and female “subordination”) transmutes into a concept of structured hierarchical relationships and is derived from Calvin rather than Luther. Lutheran theologians have understood Luther’s “station” and “calling” as God’s dynamic ordering for the care of human existence. When we talk of the CTCR’s understanding and Luther’s understanding we are not discussing identical concepts, but apples and oranges.
□ “The Order of Creation. This refers to the particular position which, by the will of God, any created object occupies in relation to others. God has given to that which has been created a certain definite order which, because it has been created by Him, is the expression of His immutable will. These relationships belong to the very structure of created existence” (CTCR-WIC, 21).
□ There are “two themes clearly present in the Word of God: 1) the positive and glad affirmation of woman as a person completely equal to man in the enjoyment of God’s unmerited grace in Jesus Christ and as a member of His Body, the church; and 2) the inclusion of woman (as well as man) in a divinely mandated order which is to be reflected in the work and worship of the church” (CTCR-WIC, 4).
(A)The CTCR definition of “the order of creation” posits the following understandings:
(1) an emphasis on the order and structure of the creation rather than the Creator and his working;
(2) God’s creative work is placed only in the distant past;
(3) hence the CTCR posits relationships which are fixed, unchanging, immutable;
(4) a created structure apart from redemption (an area where Christ’s work is not applicable).
(5) hierarchical rankings between males and females (persons are defined over and against others and not in relation to Christ);
(6) the man is to be number one; the woman is to be number two.
(7) builds the relationships on the basis of the Law, not the Gospel
(B) The reasoning undergirding this definition may be amplified as follows with reference to the CTCR-WIC document:
(1) Created objects need orderliness and unity between themselves.
□ Page 32: Subordination is for the sake of orderliness and unity.
(2) To meet this need God mandated certain hierarchical relational structures.
□ Page 21: “…the particular position… any created object occupies in relation to others.”
(3) For man and woman this is the headship/subordination principle.
□ Page 27: “The idea that God desires man to be the head of woman and woman to be subordinate to man is rooted deeply in the Old and New Testaments… this biblical truth…”
(4) This begins with our first parents prior to the Fall.
□ Page 22: “According to the order of creation, God has assigned individual identities to each sex. He ‘from the beginning made them male and female’ (Matt. 19:4). The identities and functions of each are not interchangeable; they must remain distinct.
□ Page 24: “When the New Testament talks about the origin of the subordination of woman to man, it does so on the basis of Genesis 2 and not on the basis of Genesis 3. The foundation for this teaching is not the ‘curse’ of the fall but the original purpose of God in creation… Man was woman’s head from the first moment of her creation”
□ Page 31: “…she has been subordinated to man by the Creator…”
(5) God does not want this order changed.
□ Page 21: “…by the will of God… a certain definite order… the expression of His immutable will.”
□ Page 21; “The obligatory character of these orders of things derives from the Creator Himself.”
(6)Therefore even in the Church this order prevails: women must be subordinate to men.
□ Page 36: “Assumption of that office [the office of ministry] by a woman is out of place because it is a woman who assumes it, not because women do it in the wrong way or have inferior gifts and abilities.”
□ Page 4: “… 2) the inclusion of woman (as well as man) in a divinely mandated order which is to be reflected in the work and worship life of the church.”
□ Page 18: “… 2) the proper relationship between man and woman which God established at creation and how that relationship is to be specifically maintained in the church;…”
□ Page 36: “The theological matrix for the apostle’s inspired teaching on the silence of women in the church and the exercise of authority is again the order of creation.”
□ Page 37: “The creational pattern of male headship requires that women not hold the formal position of the authoritative public teaching office in the church, that is, the office of pastor.”
(7) In fact, because this order is the immutable creative will of God, this relationship is outside redemption’s purview and unaffected by it.
□ Page 14: “The Apostolic Constitutions make the point: Jesus did what He did, and He has delivered to His church no indication of women priests because he ‘knows the order of creation.’ What he did, being Creator of nature, He did in agreement with the creative action. Similarly, since Jesus is the incarnate Word in whom the creation is being made new, He, as head of the church, the new people of God, typified in His ministry the new life of the church not only in its ‘spiritual’ but also in its fleshly contours.”
□ Pages 25-26: “The biblical view affirms that the New Testament discussion of male-female relationships is rooted in a divinely instituted order and that this order is not overthrown by the new creation… the relationships between man and woman must bear the elements of the structure given in creation (Rom. 8:18-25; 1 Cor. 7:17-31).”
□ Page 26: “The division into male and female established in the order of creation is not relevant in reference to Baptism into Christ.”
(8) Male and female are “spiritually equal,” but relationally unequal (the woman is subordinate).
□ Page 20: “She is in every way his equal before the Creator. …Man and woman are equal in having the same relationship to God and to nature.”
□ Pages 22-23: “But these passages [Genesis 2 and 3] also reveal an order in their relationship to one another. Equality before God—spiritual equality—does not mean sameness. The word which Paul uses to describe this order—subordination–… does not carry with it any notion of inferior value or oppression. This term is used by Paul simply to refer to order in the relationship of man and woman to one another.
□ Page 24: Quoting Clark (28): “… it is a very specific kind of subordination—the kind that makes one person (sic) out of two. He was the head of the relationship, head of a relationship that was “one flesh.”
In contrast to the CTCR document, Luther’s understanding of God’s “stations [which] maintain and preserve righteousness in the world” emphasizes not hierarchy or ranking but placement.
(A) Luther, in his commentary on Psalm 111 (referenced in CTCR-WIC, 21, footnote 22), writes:
“This is the second reason for praise. Here the psalmist approaches the festival of Easter and the Easter lamb. But once again he refers to all God’s works in general, not especially to creation or other wonderful acts but to all His ordinances and institutions which He established by His Word and command — such as the station of father and mother, of priests and levites according to Moses’ Law, of servant and maid, marriage, the station of lords and subjects, Sabbath and feast days, worship and church order, and the like. All this is His work or His undertaking, for He commanded and instituted it. The psalmist also says that these undertakings and institutions of God are honorable and glorious, that is, noble and fine, praiseworthy and beautiful, so that whoever knows them must praise them as fine stations. But the ungodly do not understand them, and so despise them. Where such stations operate as they should, there things go well in the world, and there is the very righteousness of God. But where such stations are not maintained, it makes for unrighteousness. Now God declares concerning these stations that they must remain if the world is to stand, even though many oppose and rage against them. Therefore the psalmist says that His righteousness endures forever. All sects and man-made righteousness will finally perish, but these stations remain and preserve righteousness in the world” ([emphases added]; Luther, “Selected Psalms II,” LW 13:338).
(1) One of Luther’s underlying concerns is that the various “stations” in which people find themselves not be disparaged because they are not that of clergy or priest (a common denigration in his day). No one’s station is to be despised. God’s “ordering” of creation includes many roles, myriads of vocations, thousands of “stations.” God’s calling to these roles is just as important as his calling an individual to the priesthood or ministry of the church. These are “all God’s works … honorable and glorious … so that whoever knows them must praise them as fine stations.”
(2) When Luther uses the term “Stand” or “Beruf,” the term does not signal hierarchy, but a positioning, the role in which people find themselves. With “station” Luther discusses fields of service or arenas in which people live out their “callings.” In “The Office of the Keys and Confession” in the Small Catechism, Luther writes, “Here consider your station [italics added] according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any person by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.” (Indeed, it can be questioned whether Luther ever uses the concept “order of creation” [Schoepferordnung].)
(B) Whatever these roles are, wherever the Christian finds himself or herself, the Christian views his or her “station” as a calling, the place where one lives out his/her life as a faithful servant of Christ.
(1) For Luther, God’s ordering of creation is part of his work of creating and preserving, his “left-handed” work, and in Lutheran theology ordering refers not to placing genders into static hierarchies, but involves placing people each in his or her own particular biography, the place where one lives out life in faith or unfaith, using those factors that are part of his or her own particular biography.
(2) Luther understands that God’s orderings are an ordering of all of life in such a way as to let all function properly in his total economy for the well being and preservation of all of creation.
(3) “By faith we confess that ‘God has created me and all that exists,’ which is something quite different than claiming to know that once upon a time in the far distant past God created the very same structures in which we now participate.”
(4) “The point of this doctrine is to affirm that Christians like all other human beings exist in a framework of universal orders which are there prior to and apart from the fact that they believe in Christ and belong to his Church. God has placed all human beings in particular structures [not hierarchies] of existence, such as nationality, race, sexual identity, family, work, government, which in some form or other are simply the givens of creaturely existence” (Braaten, 35).
(5) “The orders of creation are the common structures of human existence, the indispensable conditions of the possibility of social life. Through these structures human beings are bound to each other in various relationships and mutual service. Luther said, ‘You will always be in a station. You are either husband, wife, son, daughter, servant, or maid.’ ‘Saint Peter says that the graces and gifts of God are not all of one kind, but various. And each one is to realize what his own are and use them so that he may be of use to others’” (Braatan, 38).
Luther understood superordination/subordination hierarchy as stemming from the Fall, and not part of the Creator’s ordering.
(A) In reading Luther’s commentary on Genesis, we find Luther’s perspective. Note the following quotations [emphasis added]:
(1) “… and that He governs and preserves these creatures by the power of His Word, by which He also created them” (47).
(2) “… because she is your wife, she is the mistress of the house just as you are its master, except that the wife was made subject to the man by the Law which was given after sin. This punishment is similar to the others which dulled those glorious conditions of Paradise of which this text [Genesis 2] informs us. Moses is not speaking of the wretched life which married people now live but of the innocence in Paradise. There the management would have been equally divided, just as Adam prophesies here that Eve must be called ‘she-man,” or “virago” because she performs similar activities in the home. Now the sweat of the face is imposed upon man, and woman is given the command that she should be under her husband. Yet there remain remnants, like dregs, of the dominion, so that even now the wife can be called ‘virago’ because she has a share in the property” (137-138).
(3) “This means that Eve’s sorrows, which she would not have had if she had not fallen into sin, are to be great, numerous, and also of various kinds” (200).
(4) “Now there is also added to those sorrows of gestation and birth that Eve has been placed under the power of her husband, she who previously was very free and, as the sharer of all the gifts of God, was in no respect inferior to her husband” (202).
(5) “If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males” (203).
(6) “On the woman obedience to her husband was imposed …”(203).
(7) “We heard above that the punishment of being under her husband’s power was inflicted on the woman. An indication of that power is given here. It is not God who gives her a name; it is Adam, as the lord of Eve, just as he had previously given names to the animals as creatures put under him. No animal thought out a name for itself; all were assigned their names and received the prestige and honor of a name from their lord Adam. Similarly even today, when a woman marries a man, she loses the name of her family and is called by the name of her husband. It would be unnatural if a husband wanted to be called by his wife’s name. This is an indication and a confirmation of the punishment or subjection which the woman incurred through her sin” (219).
(B) Luther is never as consistently systematic as we would like, yet it seems clear that he does not understand the superordinate role of the male and the subordinate role of the female as a pre-Fall static order established by the Creator. Rather he reads the Genesis texts as indicating that woman’s subordinate role and the male’s superordinate role is initiated after the Fall as consequence and result of sin. For Luther the hierarchical aspects of the relationship result from sin, not from creative intent, contrary to the CTCR’s understanding.
The texts of Genesis 1 and 2 can be easily and fairly read to indicate an “equity with differences” theology of the creation of Man (male and female) in the image of God.
(A) See the exegesis in the earlier part of this paper.
(B) Read in the light of what the texts themselves say (without viewing them through the template of the humanly devised construct of “order of creation”), these texts in themselves offer no indication of a “single divinely mandated immutable order of creation” that demands superordination and subordination order as posited by CTCR-WIC.
(C) That God would structure and mandate a fixed “order” in the Old Testament (and carried over into the New) to subordinate one gender contradicts the New Testament’s insistence that “to subordinate oneself” stems from “faith active in love.”
(D) A static “order of creation” shifts the focus from God to some creation of God. As part of that logic, even Jesus is “bound” by and subject to the order of creation (cf. CTCR-WIC, 14-15).
(E) If we want to argue for the order of creation in the sense of a static hierarchy (“woman should not usurp authority over man”), we need to look elsewhere for that argument. Otherwise we commit eisegesis. In the past we’ve used Paul’s “insights” to inform our understanding of Genesis; now it’s time we ask what understanding the Genesis account adds to our reading of the New Testament texts (otherwise we have a reverse Marcionism).
A useful distinction to understand the difference between the CTCR concept and Luther’s concept is that of “ranking” verses “positioning.”
(A) In Lutheran theology, the Creator’s ordering does not refer to a static hierarchy, but to God’s placement of people on the field of life. Ed Schroeder provides a useful image to help etch the distinction between a static “order” (“the order of creation” [hierarchy, rankings] and the dynamic of “God’s ordering of all of life” [placements of people in roles]):
(1) “God’s creating is an act of ordering, that is, he arranged the species of the cosmos in their places – the sun over there, the moon over here, the earth in its own place, and so forth – and he also gave placement to the man and the woman who live here on earth in God’s creation. This is a ‘spatial placement’” (167), similar to the beginning of a baseball game when “everybody is at his appropriate place: pitcher, catcher, fielders, umpires, batter, and so forth. And even more – certain ‘things’ are appropriately placed: the pitcher has the ball, the batter has the bat, the base bags are in place … This order is physical placement at a particular spot in a larger web of relationships” (169)
(2) The other concept of “order,” which Schroeder sees the CTCR as using, is that of “rank,” “to be in an order of ranking with reference to each other, a placement in primordial social stratification. That is, in their common life the man and the woman relate not only locally in the same garden on the planet, but personally in terms of superordination and subordination.” (167). The CTCR concept is not placement, but hierarchy, “that of the organization chart of rankings” (169).
(3) Schroeder is helpful here with his distinction between “batting order” and “placement on field”: “One might also be a bit more folksy and talk about batting order of a baseball team. Somebody is first, and then someone else follows in sequence” (169). Then he concludes the image: “But there is not ranking of placement – the shortstop is not subordinate to the center fielder” (169). This baseball image reminds us that God’s ordering has to do with placement, not organizational charts.
(B) In God’s ordering, God is designating the multitude of placements where God calls a person to be his person.
(1) Quoting Harless, Schroeder concludes, “In sum, Harless sees the Creator’s orders as the substantive givens that make up a person’s specific biography” (171).
(2) “Here one is to live out the commandment to love his neighbor and is to be God’s faithful person in all of the different ordainings God has made for him in his unique life” (172).
□ The CTCR argument depends upon the “hierarchical principle” of “headship/subordination” being the immutable creative intent of God. The document says, “God has given to that which has been created a certain definite order which, because it has been created by Him, is the expression of His immutable will” (CTCR-WIC, 21). The CTCR specifically applies this to the “headship” of the male and “subordination” of the female (CTCR-WIC, 21-22).
□ Convention Workbook (1968), p. 144, offers a very succinct equational definition: “…order of creation (usurping authority over men”).
(C) CTCR-WIC needs the ranking emphasis so it can support an “order of creation” hierarchy.
(1) “… in our Synod the needed refocusing is away from the organization-chart notion to the base-ball-field image” (172).
(2) Schroeder summarizes: “The logic that seems intended [by the CTCR] is as follows: God the Creator does not want the ranking reversed. His spokesman, St. Paul, makes that very clear. Faithful believers wish to conform to what God does want; therefore they should not reverse the ranks” (167).
□ CTCR-WIC stresses the hierarchical aspects as it understands the “order of creation” to consist of “the particular position which, by the will of God, any created object occupies in relationship to others” (21) and “which belong to the very structure of existence” (ibid., 21).
The Creator’s “orderings” “remain and preserve righteousness in the world,” but they are stations and callings and placements, neither “prisons” nor immutable assignments vis a vis another person.
(A) These “callings” are not static or immutable “orders.” They can change in life.
(1) Luther does not conceive of these orderings as permanent or immutable.
(2) For example, “the station of father and mother”: early in life, before marriage, one is not called to this station; one is single, one finds oneself in a role other than father or mother. After marriage, with the gift of children, one’s calling is different than it was before. If children die, one finds oneself no longer in the calling of parent.
(3) And God’s ordering is part of his continuing creating: a woman is widowed, hence finds herself put into a new ordering; she remarries, and again enters a new order. Braaten’s example: “Women experience the gift and task of motherhood [a new ‘ordering’] immediately within their conscience once they become mothers” (39). The Small Catechism asks, “In what station do I find myself? … There I am to serve God and neighbor.”
(4) Luther mentions “Sabbath and feast day” as part of God’s orderings. These change. The Sabbath changed from Saturday to Sunday. Feast days are to help focus us on Christ, but are adiaphron, not divinely appointed orders. “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
(5) Braaten: “God did not create once upon a time and then let things run their course, as the deists maintained” (39). God continues creation and ordering even through today.
(B) “The orders of creation,” being historical “givens” and “relationships,” are subject to the conditions of sin and death; there is nothing created that is “uncorrupted” by the Fall.
(1) The “orders” cannot evolve into perfection, or into “the order,” which includes permanence (else we would have another God), but are provisional, penultimate, and not infused with a divine attribute of immutability (they are part of the historic order of things).
(2) “God continues to order the natural life of humanity by means of the concrete historical structures that actually impinge on our existence – the particular systems of government, economics and family that frame our life. There is no ideal state, no ideal marriage, no ideal economic system, as though God’s Word should be equated with some abstract ideal structures of life” (Braatan).
(3) “The assertion that the Holy Spirit has solved our problem for all time through the admonitions of the apostle can be neither the beginning nor the end of our deliberations. According to evangelical doctrine, there is no final form of church order that can be Biblically or legalistically maintained for all time” (Brunner, 13).
◆ “The identities and functions of each are not interchangeable; they must remain distinct” (CTCR-WIC, 22).
◆ “In this passage [Galatians 3:28], then, one sees the vision of that one body into which Christians have been incorporated as living members together with all baptized believers – that Body of Christ in which He is the head and where racial, social and sexual distinctions have no validity. [And this validity is defined in the next sentence:] All share in the blessings of Christ’s redemption” (CTCR-WIC, 26). [Comment: distinctions are part of God’s creation, do have validity, and do impact our relationships. When sin enters the picture, the distinctions are made into divisions. Redemption’s work reorders these relationships from ones of exploitation and destruction to ones of equity and care — even in the historic order!]
◆ “The individual characteristics of believers are not abolished by the order of redemption. The things ordained by God in His creation and the divisions in this world which reflect in some measure the creation of God are not annulled” (CTCR-WIC, 27). [Comment: The individual characteristics of believers are not abolished by the order of redemption; that is true. They are affirmed as gifts and blessings, until sin distorts them into divisions. And if we are talking about what happened at Creation, prior to the Fall, so we are – should be – talking about all humanity, not just believers.]
◆ “ … a second principle … Distinctive identities for man and woman in their relation to each other were assigned by God at creation. These identities are not nullified by Christ’s redemption, and they should be reflected in the church.” (CTCR_WIC, 27). [If given at creation, why are they not to be reflected among all humanity? “Identities” are here confused with functions, with roles of subordination and superordination.]
◆ Page 27: We have not properly understood the interrelated concepts of headship (1 Cor. 11:3 and subordination (1 Cor. 14:34) if we take them to be equivalent to superiority or domination.
In CTCR-WIC we note a certain fuzzy impreciseness in the use of concepts.
(A) The document uses the English terms “identities” and “functions” as synonyms (22).
(B) There is actually a difference between these two:
Identity: is the substance, personality, the “givens” of the person (for example, femaleness, race, date of birth, physical characteristics, mental capabilities, etc.)
Function: is that which the person is called to do, the role he or she enacts on the stage of God’s creation (which can be separate from or undetermined by “identity,” e.g., parent, child, servant, maid, lord, subject, etc.).
(C) This fuzzy impreciseness leads to problems:
(1) If we are saying, as the CTCR-WIC seems to do, that both of these are “immutable,” that would imply, for example, that a child can never grow up to become a parent, that a maid could not work her way to ownership, a woman once married could never be a widow, etc., all of which come from change.
(2) The “unchangeables” are the elements of identity, e.g., race, date of birth, parents, physical build, sex differentiation, etc. God always maintains his creative and preservative “stations” “of father and mother, of priest and levites … of servant and maid, marriage, the station of lord and subjects, Sabbath and feast days ..,” but these are subject to historical change.
(3) The “identities” are not interchangeable, but the “functions” do change. Not understanding this leads one to fail to understand that distinctions and identities are part of God’s creative work, and what is sinful are the divisions which sinful people create because of those distinctions (Jew versus Gentile, etc.).
◆ Pages 37-38: The order of redemption, while affirming that men and women are one in Christ and joint heirs of the grace of life, does not abolish the order established at the time of creation … far from annulling the order of creation, the order of redemption sanctifies it… The Lordship of Christ spans both creation and redemption
“The Order of Creation” theology of the CTCR is rooted in Law; in Christ where there is giving, receiving, and returning what man and woman has received from God, this giving and receiving is not bound by Law, but is shaped by the Gospel. The question becomes whether it is Law or Gospel which rules the people of God. Is a person made for the Sabbath, or is the Sabbath made for people, and what/who is the Lord of the Sabbath?
(A) An “order of creation” teaching ends up separated from the Gospel.
(1) The focus as seen by the CTCR is a divinely mandated immutable one-dimensional framework (scaffolding) that created objects occupy in a particular position and in a certain definite order: man is first, woman is second (“… because it is a woman” (36).
(2) Even Jesus is bound by the Law of the order of creation: “Jesus did what he did, and he has delivered to His church no indication of women priests because He ‘knows the order of creation.’ What He did, being the Creator of nature, He did in agreement with the creative action” (14-15). Jesus who knows the order of creation is bound not to change it; it is “divinely mandated” (page 4), relationships which ”belong to the very structure of created existence” (page 21), relationships which “must bear the elements of the structure given in creation” (26), and “His immutable will” (21).
(3) The focus is now on a principle (headship) and structure (superordination, subordination) and how people relate to each other in light of the principle, in light of the law.
(4) The motivation becomes Law instead of Gospel
(5) Natural reason instead of Gospel provides the rationale: God maintains order in a very “reasonable way”: “when there is more than one of us, someone has to have the last word.”
◆ In speaking of the term “order of creation,” CTCR-WIC notes that the concept is “of long-standing importance in Lutheran theological tradition” (21). Then it goes on to say: “Luther, for example, spoke of the social relationships (such as marriage and family, people, state, and economy) in which everyone finds himself, including the Christian, and in which he is subject to the commandments which God gave as Creator to all people. Husband and wife, parents and children have their own respective positions in relation to each other. The obligatory character of these orders of things derives from the Creator Himself. Luther employed such terms as Stand (“station”) and Beruf (“calling”) to refer to the relationships in the order of creation” (CTCR-WIC, 21).
(B) Lutheran theologian Einar Billing, in his essay, “Our Calling: A Statement of the Relationship of Christian Faith and Christian Living,” discusses “the German ‘beruf,’ the English ‘calling,’ which binds closely together the vocabulary of religion and everyday work” (6).
(1) Billing pictures Luther’s understanding of beruf differently than the CTCR. Luther relates “calling” to the Gospel, not to the Law: “… the call is the forgiveness of sins. Or, more specifically expressed: my call is the form my life takes according as God Himself organizes it for me through His forgiving grace. Life organized around the forgiveness of sins, that is Luther’s idea of the call” (11).
(2) Providential deeds, including God’s ordering activity, are rooted not in a desire “for …. orderliness and unity” (CTCR-WIC, 32), but in God’s approach are for God’s “striving to come so close to me that He might confer on me His highest gift, the forgiveness of sins” (Billing, 11).
(3) “Whoever knows Luther, even but partially knows that his various thoughts do not lie along side each other, like pearls on a string, held together only by common authority or perchance by a line of logical argument, but that they all, as tightly as the petals of a rosebud, adhere to a common center, and radiate out like the rays of the sun from one glowing core, namely, the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Anyone wishing to study Luther would indeed be in no peril of going astray were he to follow this rule: never believe that you have a correct understanding of a thought of Luther before you have succeeded in reducing it to a simply corollary of the thought of the forgiveness of sins” (7).
(4) The danger of misunderstanding God’s calling and ordering, Billing says, comes “when the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins has shrunk to one among other teachings, central maybe, yet only one among others” (17). “The forgiveness of sins means ultimately nothing less than the totality of all the ways God has taken in history to build His kingdom. The kingdom of God is nothing else than the actualization of the forgiveness of sins” (18).
(5) The Gospel does effect change in the historic created order. The Gospel effects change within the self understanding of individuals, and sequentially, within the church and its orderings as well. The Gospel works to overcome and undo the destructive and distorting power of sin. The Good News is that God through the dying and rising of the Christ is at work to bring about God’s purposes of restoring humanity to its intended purposes. This means that through the forgiveness of sins each is restored to her or his Creator and each is restored to the other through the forgiveness of sins. The redemptive work of Christ means that the recreated relationships are built neither on the idolatry of “being male” nor on the Law of “an order of creation,” but upon a redemption that affirms differences as blessings and gifts of the Creator. This faith affirmation refuses, then, to make such differences into damaging divisions (Ephesians 2:11-22). Those in Christ are, indeed, a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-18).
(6) Billing keeps the focus on the dynamic and present tense of God’s ordering: “I believe that God has created me and all that exists, that he has given me…” (Meaning to the First Article).
(7) God has been doing “the ordering” since the beginning for the preservation and care of the world. That these “orderings” are historical means for us that here and now is the place and time where God is doing his creational placing of humanity, in the midst of the realities of life in America as we move into the third millennium.
(8) In whatever ordering a Christian finds oneself, there the Gospel has the power that enables one to (a) see this ordering as a calling (beruf) and (b) by the power of the Gospel to live faithfully in that station of life (e.g., not with eye service, not greedily, not with exploitation, etc.). Each person, woman, man, adult, child, in whatever race or nationality, is related to the other through Christ and the forgiveness of sins.
(9) “The orders of creation are the media through which the command of God addresses the conscience of all human beings … Spanning the entire spectrum of creation, whether in terms of sex, politics, or religion, God is speaking through the law written on human hearts, with their consciences picking up the signals, either accusing or excusing them … God speaks his law through the ordinary things of daily life; but his extraordinary Word is spoken in the End time [Hebrews 1:1] through Jesus Christ, who fulfills and transcends the law of creation”(Braaten).
(10) We live in the grace of the One who said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28) and Lord of all creation.
(11) “If the Lutheran confessing movement has stood for anything, it has waged war against works-righteousness in the name of the gospel. But that’s the only kind of righteousness that we can expect from the most virtuous accomplishments in the orders of public life. The righteousness of Christ available through faith alone is something totally other. It is totally a gift from God, received freely through faith apart from the works of the law”(Braaten).
(12) “We live in the tension between the dignity of creation and the dis-grace of sin, between the joy of being God’s creatures and the shame of perverting this status. The orders of creation are subject to the conditions of sin and death, and nevertheless they are still the object of God’s continuing and present act of creating, as Luther so clearly stressed” (Braaten). These “givens,” like the rest of creation, are corrupted by another ordering, the law of sin and death. (Romans). God works in and through his ordering for the purpose of preservation and for the purpose of extending his kingdom, even though we as humans corrupt and distort that ordering to our selfish ends. “The whole creation has been groaning … as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons …” (Romans 8:19-25). There is no realm of nature that is not under the curse of sin (that’s what Genesis 3 is all about).
(13) We cannot elevate God’s work of creation and preservation above his redemptive work in Jesus Christ.
◆ “Not surprisingly, therefore, early Christian groups which evidenced syncretism often had women in prominent positions and assigned to them real theological significance” (CTCR-WIC, 15).
The CTCR-WIC document uses several pages to outline the heretical effects which followed when the polytheism of Rome and Greece infected the Christian community. Any good gift can be misused. In rebuttal we can also document the failings of “order of creation” theology.
(A) Reformed tradition theologian Karl Barth introduced the idea of superordination and subordination in Church Dogmatics. The CTCR uses Brunner’s the order of creation, although Brunner never considered it “immutable.”
(B) Although Francis Pieper teaches the subordination of woman to man, he uses the term ”order of creation” infrequently in his three volume Christian Dogmatics (Volume 1: 524-526). The German term is “Schoepferordung”(“the Creator’s ordering”) and not “Schoepfunsordnung” (“order of creation”) as it is translated in the English Pieper.
(C) Ed Schroeder says that the order of creation theology was introduced into Missouri Synod through Albert Merkins, who found Fritz Zerbst’s The Office of Women in the Church in Germany, translated it, and then had it published by Concordia Publishing House. In his work Zerbst cites Luther only twice, but time and time again quotes from Calvin. “It is from Calvin that Zerbst gets his crucial quote about an ‘order’ at the time of ‘creation’ ‘subordinating women’ generically to men’ (170). Talk about the Creator’s ordering rather than the orders of creation may seem insignificant, but it does shift the focus to the God who in the present tense created me (171).
(D) The “order of creation” theology, Schroeder reminds us, is a concept that did not surface in Missouri Synod convention literature until 1956. “Previously the question of women suffrage was answered by simple reference to the biblical texts wherein St. Paul says women are not to usurp authority over men and that they are to keep silent in the church” (Schroeder, 165).
(E) “As a graduate student in Tuebingen, 1969/1974, I spent the last year on contract with Ulrich Duchrow and Wofgang Huber (the latter now Bishop of Berlin-Brandenburg in the EKD) for the Dept. of Studies of Lutheran World Federation. My task was to research the misuse of Martin Luther’s ‘Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms’ especially in 19th and 20th century Germany theology. What we found was that beginning with German conservative and nationalist theologians of the 19th century there was a growing tendency to justify all manner of subordination of the church to German nationalist goals, or at least to completely divorce the ‘two kingdoms; from one another so that the political and theological realms no longer had any effective contact – in effect, liberating the secular order to operate under a form of ‘Eigengesetzlickheit’ (operating under its own rules), which the theologian no longer has any valid right to address. Finnish pastor and theologian Ahit Hakamies (may be spelled Haakemies) wrote his (published) theological dissertation on some of the worst misuses of this doctrine. Prominent in the arsenal of arguments used to justify this split (completely foreign to Luther) was the use of ‘orders of creation’ ideology. Later the National Socialists took ‘orders of creation’ and used them to justify all manner of National Socialist ideological constructs (recall the Nazi endorsement of ‘fruitful women’ who knew their subordinate place in society)” (Reith, personal correspondence).
(F) “Order of creation” ideologies have also been used to teach that one race is inferior to another and to defend slavery (e.g. in Genesis 9:24-27 Noah ordered the slavery of black races after the flood) and to ignore child abuse in the home (“the father has the right to punish the children”). Pro-slavery arguments parallel anti-ordination arguments: “Jesus reversed polygamy and divorce but did not mention slavery” compared to “Jesus never ordained women but chose twelve male disciples;” etc).
(G) The CTCR document is heavily dependent on Clark’s Man and Woman in Christ, which it calls “one of the most significant studies to be published in recent years.” CTCR-WIC often parses directly from “Man and Woman in Christ.” Clark writes, “We can see God’s intention for the human race purely in his original creation of the first human begins. In other words, we have to go back to the first chapters of Genesis to understand some important elements of God’s purpose for the human race ….It is not possible to understand the New Testament teaching on men and women without understanding how it is founded on the creation of Adam and Eve.” Clark approaches the questions backward, without going through the Center, through Christ.