Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Should not appointment to Church leadership depend on ability and not sexuality? While the late Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis, admitted that “We men may often make very bad priests,” he argued that the same logic also applied to being a bad dancer:

·       He may make a bad male partner in a dance. The cure for that is that men should more diligently attend dancing classes; not that the ballroom should henceforth ignore distinctions of sex and treat all dancers as neuter. (God in the Dock, “Priestesses in the Church”, 239)

Lewis applied this analogy to the Church. The Church should be like the ballroom and not ignore sexual differences. Consequently, if a woman showed more pastoral promise than her male counterpart, the male should attempt to get up-to-speed. However, Lewis assured us that his judgment didn’t rest upon any consideration of female inferiority:

·       No one among those who dislike the proposal [of women serving as priests] is maintaining that women are less capable than men of piety, zeal, learning and whatever else seems necessary for the pastoral office. (235)

Lewis cited the example of the Middle Ages in support of his claim:

·       The Middle Ages carried their reverence for one Woman to a point at which the charge could be plausibly made that the Blessed Virgin became in their eyes almost ‘a fourth Person of the Trinity.’

How then did Lewis justify barring women from the priesthood? The priest had to “represent God,” and only the male could do this. Lewis anticipated the thinking of the female-priest proponent:

·       Suppose he suggests that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, and the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son. Suppose, finally, that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride.” (237)

Well, what’s the matter with these arrangements? Lewis countered that this would envision a “different religion.” He cited the fact that this scenario would violate the “masculine imagery” of the Bible:

·       We know from our poetic experience that image and apprehension cleave closer together than common sense is here prepared to admit; that a child who has been taught to pray to a Mother in Heaven would have a religious life radically different from that of a Christian child. (237)

This might be so, but it probably wouldn’t impress the egalitarian thinking that has been seeping into the Church.

Lewis adds that to dismiss sexual role distinctions is to transform male and female into “neuters”:

·       To say that men and women are equally eligible for a certain profession is to say that for the purposes of that profession their sex is irrelevant. We are, within that context, treating both as neuters. (237)

Lewis also argued that our marriage to our Lord was to parallel earthly heterosexual marriage:

·       One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical [non-sexually distinct] figures. (238)

According to Lewis, if human marriage is based on sexually-based role distinctions, so too should the Church’s relationship to her Savior. This would make a male priesthood mandatory.

Why didn’t Lewis base his stance more directly on Scripture? He could have cited:

·       But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3; ESV)

Since the Father and the Son share the same Divine Essence but yet are distinguished in terms of role, this same relationship pertains within the oneness of husband and wife, even in view of their role distinctions.

More to the point, Paul argued in favor of a sharp male-female role distinction based upon the order of creation and the Fall:

·       I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:12-14; also 1 Cor. 14:34-35; Eph. 5:22-31)

Paul’s reasoning grounds these role distinctions in two considerations that will not change until Christ’s return. I do not understand why Lewis didn’t ground his case in these Scriptural evidences. Perhaps someone else can provide some illumination.

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