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This fifth article in our series addresses the thorny question of whether Feminist Theology does or does not come connected to homosexual entailments. That is, Are there also built into the theological underpinnings of Women’s Ordination (WO), elements which, if accepted, must mean even further conflict in the church? Would the acceptance of ordination for women lead eventually to its extending similar rights to those desiring to engage in homosexual acts as members of the church? And should the larger world church tire of dealing with the onerous behavior of the North American Division and decide to permit Ordination on a per-division basis, will there at last be resolution?
Could such a decision bring peace? Or, would that only mark a shift in the argument, so that conflict continues but in its next phase over the alleged “rights” of practicing homosexuals to be in the church and ordained? Is there, in relation to Feminist Theology, an inevitable correlation with “Queer Theology”? The existence of a connection between Women’s Ordination and a homosexual agenda has been widely alleged and as widely denied. The stakes are high indeed.
Scripture and Interpretation at the Center of the Issue
Remember that we began this series (first article) with mention of three basic approaches to Scripture: 1. PROTESTANT (accepting the whole of Scripture), 2. ROMAN CATHOLIC (accepting the Bible plus tradition), and 3. NEO-PROTESTANT (an approach accepting only a subset of Scripture—i.e., less than the whole of the Bible—as authoritative). The authority of Scripture and the method of its interpretation is baseline to the entire question of Women’s Ordination. This series of articles has shown that Feminist Theology rises from the third category, finding its theological home in neo-Protestantism, accepting only some parts of the Bible as authoritative and making other parts not.
Likely the reader knows that the terminology “Neo-Protestant” is another way of saying that a denomination has accepted either the historical-critical approach to biblical interpretation (or its postmodern quasi-opposites with their similar outcomes). Kurt E. Marquart, writing about the theological confrontation that arose in the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod conflict in the 1970s illustrates the effect of historical-critical theology:
To put it very crudely, the ‘formal principle’ or ‘Scripture-principle’ (that is, Scripture as sole authority, sola scriptura) is simply the door of the gospel’s hen-house. The door is there not for its own sake but precisely to protect the whole house. If it is gone, it would be foolish to say smugly, ‘Oh well, that was only the door—the rest of the hen-house is still safe!’; Once the door is gone, the historical-critical fox is free to take whatever he pleases. The hen-house will be quite empty eventually, even if not after the first two or three visits! (Kurt E. Marquart, Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict, p. 131).
As soon as we approach the Bible and its interpretation with a tool that, because of its design, grants human reason an unfettered sovereignty over what the Bible says, it is “game over.” When we can disallow those portions of the Bible that come up against our preferred understanding of reality, the outcome is predictable: we shall exploit such tools. The door is off the hen-house; the authority of Scripture is removed and replaced by human authority. It is for this very reason that the Seventh-day Adventist Church concluded that
In recent decades the most prominent method in biblical studies has been known as the historical-critical method. Scholars who use this method, as classically formulated, operate on the basis of presuppositions which, prior to studying the biblical text, reject the reliability of accounts of miracles and other supernatural events narrated in the Bible. Even a modified use of this method that retains the principle of criticism which subordinates the Bible to human reason is unacceptable to Adventists.
The historical-critical method minimizes the need for faith in God and obedience to His commandments. In addition, because such a method de-emphasizes the divine element in the Bible as an inspired book (including its resultant unity) and depreciates or misunderstands apocalyptic prophecy and the eschatological portions of the Bible, we urge Adventist Bible students to avoid relying on the use of the presuppositions and the resultant deductions associated with the historical-critical method (“Bible Study: Presuppositions, Principles, and Methods.” This statement was approved and voted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Executive Committee at the Annual Council Session in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 12, 1986).
Articles in this series have demonstrated the correlation of the historical-critical method with Feminist and associated theologies from their beginning. Differing approaches to the Bible lead to different results, and open the way for different progressions and developments. Holding to essentially the “plain reading” of Scripture, the historical-grammatical method, would have preserved the Adventist Church from much mischief. But there has been further departure from best methods of interpretation. And so, now we turn to our current question: Does Feminist Theology entail, or come loaded, with fundamental commitments folded into itself meaning that a “Queer Theology” is included for free?
From the Horse’s Mouth
Although some advocates for Women’s Ordination deny a connection to homosexual practice, it is important to investigate such claims. Evidence to the contrary is abundant. For example, Roy Clements had been a prominent evangelical leader in Britain, pastoring the Eden Baptist Church in Cambridge, UK. In 1999 he left his wife and children and resigned his pastorate after revealing that he was in a homosexual relationship with a man. Clements later published the following statement on his website:
Christian homosexuals, who formerly would have remained ‘in the closet’ protected by a conspiracy of sympathetic silence, have little choice but to ‘come out’. . . . For most this has been a profoundly liberating experience, in spite of the bullying hostility to which they have often been subjected. In many ways their experience has run parallel, if a little behind, that of Christian women in the last few decades. In the wake of the secular feminist movement, women have found a new confidence to claim a role for themselves within the church. They have developed a hermeneutic to deal with the biblical texts which had been used to deny them that role in the past. Of course, this was not achieved without resistance from a conservative rump mainly within the older ecclesiastical establishment, but the majority of evangelicals have now moved very substantially in the direction of welcoming women into Christian leadership. Gay Christians are using exactly the same kind of hermeneutic tools to challenge tradition in regard to homosexuality. If it is taking them rather longer to succeed than the Christian feminists did, this has more to do with the inferiority of their numerical strength than of the justice of their cause (Cited in Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?, p. 238, from royclements.co.uk/essays08.htm, accessed July 18, 2006).
Clements’ admission should not be lightly passed over. “[Women] have developed a hermeneutic to deal with the biblical texts which had been used to deny them that role in the past. . . Gay Christians are using exactly the same kind of hermeneutic tools to challenge tradition in regard to homosexuality.” Notice: the Bible creates problems for those who hope to bypass what it says. The means of bypassing its content consists in new methods of interpretation. Advocates of Women’s Ordination use these means; advocates for homosexual practice use the same means.
Advocates of “queer theology” agree. Consider the following sample:
Queer theology is, in many ways, a branch of Liberation theology, sharing much of the same methodology and seeing theology as a tool in addressing the oppression which many queer theologians believe is perpetrated on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people by wider society in general and, in particular, the religious establishment. A reader of feminist theology or womanist theology would recognise a similar approach in queer theology. . . . Argentinian Queer theologian Professor Marcella Althaus-Reid argued in a 2005 contribution to a work on Latin American Liberation Theology (“From Liberation Theology to Indecent Theology—the Trouble with Normality in Theology from Latin American Liberation Theology—The Next Generation,” Ivan Petrella, editor) that mainline liberation theology was not being true to itself by ignoring the liberation of queer people (http://lgbt.wikia.com/wiki/Queer_theology, accessed 2013-04-08).
That is, Althaus-Reid argued that in order to be consistent, those practicing liberation theologies must carry their principles forward to where they inevitably lead, and that means that advocates of Liberation and Feminist Theology must also support Queer Theology. Why? Because Queer Theology is a subset of Liberation theology. Remember, God allegedly is always automatically “for” the oppressed. In Latin America this group was the poor; then, it was women; today, it is the homosexual. It would not be far of the truth to say that Queer Theology is Feminist Theology, and that Feminist Theology is Liberation Theology, in each case with adaptations distinct to that oppressed grouping. In the majority of other respects, roughly the same. The wheel needs little reinvention; it is basically the same “liberationist” wheel.
Ten Parallels in Theological Argumentation
Lutheranism in the decades of the past century has traversed the same questions. One of the contributing authors (John T. Pless) in the 2008 book Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, lists ten parallels in theological argumentation between what we have above called Feminist and Queer Theology:
- The advocacy for women’s ordination and for the ordination of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions is put forth in the churches as a matter of social justice.
- Churchly acceptance of women’s ordination, the ordination of homosexuals, and the blessing of same-sex unions has been fueled by powerful liberationist movements within the culture rather than by biblical understanding.
- In the case of both the ordination of women and the ordination of homosexuals, Galatians 3:28 is used in such a way as to sever redemption from creation.
- Opponents of women’s ordination and those who resist the acceptance of homosexuality as a moral equivalent to heterosexuality are both labeled as fundamentalists and legalists.
- In making the case for women’s ordination and for the ordination of homosexuals and the blessing of same-sex unions, biblical texts once taken as clear are argued to be unclear or dismissed as culturally conditioned and time bound.
- Ordination of women and ordination of homosexuals is seen as a matter of necessity for the sake of the gospel and mission.
- Arguments for both the ordination of women and the ordination of homosexuals along with churchly blessing of same-sex unions are often made on the basis of what Alisdair MacIntyre has identified as an ‘ethic of emotivism.’
- Women’s ordination and the ordination of homosexuals are urged on the church for the sake of unity and inclusiveness yet both practices fracture genuine ecumenicity.
- Ordination of women, ordination of homosexuals, and ecclesiastical recognition of same-sex unions are at first proposed as a matter of compromise or as a local option, but they will eventually demand universal acceptance.
- It is argued that by refusing to ordain women and homosexuals to the pastoral office the church is deprived of the particular spiritual gifts they possess that these individuals are unjustly denied the opportunity for spiritual self-expression (John T. Pless, “The Ordination of Women and Ecclesial Endorsement of Homosexuality: Are they Related?” Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, Matthew C. Harrison, John T. Pless, eds., pp. 231-245).
Pless’s chapter runs 14 pages, while we list only the bare points. The history of the Lutheran Church offers but one example. Still, evidence of ideological commonality for Feminist and Queer Theologies is abundant. It seems fair to ask in the more general sense, how far shall the church go in setting aside holy Writ for cultural grit?
None dispute that the movement for the alleged rights of women and homosexuals is fueled by currents in the culture rather than by biblical understanding. Only after the fact are advocates of the women/homosexual agenda perusing the Bible in search of justifications. Today’s culture makes holding church office and experiencing personal sexual fulfillment matters of entitlement. To bar from any position is inherently unacceptable. “Social justice” demands changes. A secular worldview becomes the de facto reality. The secular viewpoint is that the church is an agency of patriarchal oppression, supporting and perpetuating patriarchal social structures whose shelf-life is considered as having expired.
As Christians we consciously embrace a different view. God ordered His creation heterosexually. Consider that all gendered species are designed for procreation. When He made men and women, He made them male and female. Their gendered bodies were procreative bodies. Human procreative bodies are heterosexual bodies. If God is Creator and the Bible is His revelation to us, He created humanity fundamentally binary (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7-25). It is this, at base, that some find unacceptable: that God is Creator. And so, all must be renamed, revisioned, remade; creation must happen again. God’s image, revealed in two distinct sexes, must be erased.
The manner of erasure is to draw a different image, superimpose, deface, and replace. Because God has ordered His creation heterosexually, and because the sexually binary social structure of church so far has proven only semi-malleable, search continues apace in Christianity for useful angles that might be exploited for bringing the non-negotiable change into being.
Tools include the use of Galatians 3:28 to cut creation away from redemption; the claim that all Scripture is culturally conditioned and time bound; the proposal that baptismal identity overrides sexual identity; and more. The effect of these strategies is usually to pit Scripture against Scripture or to pose contemporary life as superior to ancient. Our culture is allegedly morally advanced today in comparison to 2,000 years ago. Culture is ahead of the church morally; the church lags behind in appropriate change. Obviously, such thinking means the deauthorization of Scripture. Straightforward readings of the text, when they yield undesirable results, are dismissed.
Advocates of both WO and homosexual “rights” tend to view the ministry as an avenue for the expression of personal charismata rather more than as being an office established by Christ and filled according to His mandates. Here is seen the move from objective, Bible-based, revealed specifications, to subjective, personally-defined ones. Who has been “called” is determined based on one’s feeling of being called; other means of measure are deemed of limited consequence. Bible passages that unequivocally present gender-particular role differentiation and specify maleness as a prerequisite for office are overruled.
God created humans—from the beginning—male and female. Adam and Eve were designed to compliment each other; they were a matched set. A man together with a man, or a woman together with a woman, would be a mismatch, a non-set, a representation of something entirely other than the Creation picture.
If the image of God is given, not just in a generic humanity that has never existed, but in humanity male and female particularly, what image is given in a male-male “union,” or a female-female “union”? Not even a half-image. Only distortion is reflected by such combination.
In his conclusion, Pless writes
Reviewing arguments made for the ordination of women in Lutheran churches in the middle years of the twentieth century, it is hard not to conclude that variants of these arguments are currently being used to advocate the ordination of homosexuals and to provide for an ecclesiastical recognition of same-sex unions through an elastic definition of marriage that ignores both ‘nature and institution.’ Creation is left behind in pursuit of purely spiritual categories and relational qualities. . . Creation is seen as secondary, if not irrelevant. But without creation there is no incarnation. Without creation, the new creation is reduced to a spiritualistic construct of one’s own imagination. . . . In the current move to sanction same-sex unions and provide access to the pastoral office, the gnosticism and enthusiasm that were magnetic for a departure from the New Testament mandates regarding man and woman in the church have seductively drawn Lutheran churches further away from their apostolic foundations. Those who celebrate these changes rightly see that they have created something new (Ibid., pp. 244, 245).
Nothing is standing still; approved ideologies inevitably run their course. Like a weed that successfully reaches maturity, seed is produced, released on the wind, and carried to nearby soil. Let’s investigate more specifically now from the standpoint of a prominent Lesbian Theologian. . .
The Telos of Feminist Theology
We turn now to the experience of Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (b. 1932), a key author and participant in Second Wave Feminism. A chronological listing of her written works hints at her journey:
- Adamant and Stone Chips (1967)
- In Search of Balance (1969)
- Adam Among the Television Trees (1971)
- Women, Men, and the Bible (1977; rev. 1988)
- Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? (1978; rev. 1994), co-authored with Letha Dawson Scanzoni
- Speech, Silence, Action: The Cycle of Faith (1980)
- The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female (1983)
- Views from the Intersection (1984) with poems by Catherine Barry
- Godding: Human Responsibility and the Bible (1987)
- Women of Faith in Dialogue: essays by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women (1987), ed. V. Mollenkott
- Sensuous Spirituality: Out from Fundamentalism (1992, rev. 2008)
- Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach (2001)
- Transgender Journeys (2003), co-authored with Vanessa Sheridan
- Gender Diversity and Christian Community (2005)
Mollenkott’s major involvement in Second Wave Feminism came with her 1977 Women, Men, and the Bible, said to be one of the four most prominent books in the movement (Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism, p. 237 fn). Mollenkott fights patriarchy almost from the beginning. The centrality of this issue finds voice in several of her books. We read here especially from a 2007 volume:
Compulsory heterosexuality is the very backbone that holds patriarchy together. And it seems to me important that the backbone be named prominently and repeatedly. If ever society is to turn from patriarchy to partnership, we must learn that transgender, lesbian, bisexual, and gay issues are not just private bedroom matters of ‘doing and being whatever turns you on.’ They are wedges driven into the superstructure of the heteropatriarchal system (Virginia R. Mollenkott, Sensuous Spirituality: Out From Fundamentalism, p. xiii).
Mollenkott follows the Scripture-as-object plan already seen in Liberation and Feminist Theology.
. . .[S]ometimes feminists must hear old words in new ways, deliberately turning those old words into ‘New Words’ for purposes of self-empowerment. That, I think, is what feminists should be doing with the Bible, and what I now want to do with several phrases from the story of the annunciation (Ibid., p. 25).
I turn again to the Scriptures to see what we ‘off-norm’ people can make of them for ourselves (Ibid., p. 33).
Unfortunately, [the Bible’s] Wisdom literature contains some exceedingly misogynistic adages. But again, in the spirit of ‘Diving into the Wreck’ to find the treasure within the debris, and in the spirit of turning old words into New Words, I would like to focus our attention on the personification of Wisdom, or Sophia, as a powerful agent who brings salvation to those who obey her voice (Ibid., p. 43).
“Deliberately turning those old words into ‘New Words’ for purposes of self-empowerment” is an illustration of the plan already seen. A Bible passage or text is reinterpreted in the service of an agenda externally imposed. It is all about self-empowerment, about “making something of the Scriptures for our own purposes.” The Scriptures are likened to underwater wreckage, a sunken ship into which one may dive in search of useful treasure. This view of the Bible stands in extreme contrast with that of Seventh-day Adventists, who see the Bible as “the infallible revelation of His will,” “the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history” (Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs 1).
As seen in Ruether and Shüssler-Fiorenza, Mollenkott’s ethic not only permits but demands that believers engage in subversion.
Subversion means a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a political system by persons who work secretly within the system involved. . . . We need to face the fact that there will never be equal rights or full civil rights for women (or those men who are treated like women) as long as the heteropatriarchal system is in place. . . . The best that women and ‘queer’ people can do under heteropatriachal domination is seek some relief, some improvement, all the while we are subverting the system as rapidly as possible. . . I am suggesting that we toughen up mentally, calling subversion by its correct name and holding our heads high as we practice the situation ethics that are forced upon people in occupied or ‘enemy’ territory (Mollenkott, p. 40, emphasis in original, 41, 43).
Among preferred means for “subverting” the system is deception.
Lesbian women and gay men who want to be ministers often have to subvert the heterosexist system by implicitly denying their homosexuality and pretending to be heterosexual (Ibid., p. 39).
This is held as acceptable behavior, because a church that seeks to uphold biblical values (i.e. what Mollenkott labels “heteropatriarchalism”) is, in essence, “’enemy’ territory.” This is similar to what we discovered in our fourth article. There, the reader will recall Rosemary Radford Ruether’s plan for women clergy to take over congregations, targeting them for transformation into “liberation communities.”
Where Will This Lead?
It is not wrong to ask, Where might all this lead? Mollenkott may have the answer.
She states with satisfaction that Bernard Gert “carries my [Mollenkott’s] argument forward” (Mollenkott, p. 136). How? Gert:
Unless it can be shown that nonmarital sexual relations between consenting adults cause harm to someone, public reason does not prohibit such activity. On the contrary, given that sex can provide some of life’s most enjoyable moments, it would seem that the deprivation of this pleasure is itself immoral unless one can show that such deprivation is necessary for avoiding greater evil. . . . Certainly the burden of proof is on those who seek to deprive all unmarried people of the pleasures of sex (Ibid., p. 137 op. cit., Gert, 113).
Over the top? Definitely. And a bit too clever, for how do you show empirically that sexual immorality including adultery between consenting adults harms others? How shall we reckon in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, or emotional wreckage or other collateral damage resulting from serial illicit relationships? Christians have never claimed that all biblical claims can be empirically demonstrated. Rather, “The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later” (1 Timothy 5:24 ESV). This is true of sins and of the consequences and entailments of sinning. All is not known in this life. The Christian lives by faith. He accepts the analyses and declarations made by God through revelation. He does not and need not understand all; He is called to respond, creature to Creator, finite to Infinite, respectfully as the knower of less to the Knower of more.
Again, when did “public reason” become the standard for spiritual decision-making? And what exactly is public reason? What does this term mean? It would seem here to indicate that which can be known apart from revelation. The “public reason” is an entirely secular outlook, a de facto not-revelation-informed perspective.
But there are other issues. For example, the idea of “deprivation.” As soon as the language of “deprivation” is employed it is known that alleged entitlements are at center. Mollenkott affirms that individuals have an entitlement to sexual pleasure. To deny them this alleged entitlement, we are told, is for us to act immorally. Is there found in Scripture an entitlement to sexual pleasure? There is not.
We believe that God designed human sexuality and sexual pleasure uniquely for expression in the context of the covenantal commitment between one man and one woman. In contrast, Mollenkott affirms the legitimacy of casual sexual encounters (“I have no objection to the casual sharing of sexual pleasure and tenderness except to note that people who never get beyond recreational sex eventually report boredom with it,” Ibid., p. 111).
We do not expect that Mollenkott will have the creation perspective of the Adventist, understanding that the two holy institutions that come to humanity from Eden are Sabbath and marriage. Indeed, her view is that “like my elder Brother, Jesus, I am a sinless self traveling through eternity” (p. 2). “Sin” seems to be a highly compromised category for Mollenkott, existing in those she claims would deny sexual pleasure to others, or who dare to think or express thoughts she would call “heteropatriarchal.” But she is “a sinless self,” pressing for a world offering few moral boundaries.
What of this claim that believers who oppose sexual sin are seeking to deprive all unmarried people of the pleasures of sex? Those who accept the biblical call to sexual purity seek nothing of the kind. They believe that such sexual encounters are immoral and they will seek to persuade others not to subject themselves or others to that behavior. But they do not seek to deprive all unmarried people of sexual expression. People are permitted to think for themselves and to understand for themselves. Consenting adults determine for themselves what activities they engage in and what they deem to be moral or immoral. Valuing certain behaviors and expressing a personal opinion on this topic does not cause one to be guilty depriving others “of the pleasures of sex.” Opinion expressed and behavior coerced are two very different things. But in Mollenkott’s rainbow world of pansexuality, no non-psychadelic colors are permitted, even in thought.
Mollenkott criticizes the church:
There are so many ways that congregational ‘families’ could be more compassionate than we currently are! Do we show compassion for the struggles of those who have been so repelled by heteropatriarchal policies and language that they have been forced to organize their own witches’ covens or other alternative spirituality groups? . . . And for the sake of those previously mentioned people who either cannot or will not get legally married, couldn’t the churches offer ceremonies that would provide community support for such relationships. . . ? (Mollenkott, p. 154).
Because Seventh-day Adventists seek to follow a Scripture-based kind of Christianity, are they guilty of forcing others to organize witch’s covens? And the church should validate immoral and illicit relationships by offering ceremonies and support of them? Many denominations have begun to conduct just such ceremonies and to legitimize same-sex relationships with “blessing” ceremonies. Groups including Quakers, American Episcopalians, the Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, major Lutheran bodies, and others have accepted the redefinition of marriage considering it to include “committed monogamous relationships” between persons of the same sex. Shall Adventists join in?
How are 1900 years of Christian biblical understanding and practice turned upside-down?
. . .[R]esponsible morality requires that we learn to think in terms of degrees and situations rather than remaining at the comfortable level of sweeping moral absolutes (Mollenkott, p. 156, context homosexual “unions” and abortion).
In other words, when a biblical standard for morality is abandoned, a replacement must be found. That standard is found in the exercise of human decision-making. Supposedly, an application of rationality or of feeling can be applied and the result can be a responsible morality. Good luck with that.
Although we did not mention it in our last article, both of the Feminist theologians from whom we quoted at length (Rosemary Radford Ruether, p. 233; Elizabeth Shussler-Fiorenza, p. 349) wrote in favor of lesbianism in those volumes.
Does Mollenkott believe that in the power of God the Christian can have any kind of ultimate victory over sexual desire?
[H]undreds of thousands of trans-les-bi-gay Christians have tried to sacrifice their sexuality to their spirituality, myself among them; but if we live long enough, the will to live more fully will assert itself, and sexual passion will triumph over abstract doctrines and promises (Mollenkott, p. 108).
She does not. Her basis for this belief is her own experience. The reader will recall, having read the previous article, that in Feminist Theology, the final authority has been moved away from being God and Scripture, to being woman and her experience. Eventually it must be asked what—and who—is the problem? Mollenkott answers:
The behavior of the heterosexual and gender-normative majority is the problem, particularly their refusal to educate themselves concerning human sexual orientations and gender identities (Ibid., p. 219).
There we have it. Heterosexual Christians, are the problem. Mollenkott holds that everyone has a right to benevolent self-definition and self-expression (p. 86), that sex and gender are only social constructs, arbitrary, varying from society to society (p. 87). She favors friendly, casual sexual encounters (p. 110, 111). She demands her “religious human rights”:
. . .[W]hat we need is not theological approval so much as equal access to ordination, marriage, ritual, and so forth—in other words, our religious human rights (p. 212, emphasis in original).
This is a different belief system than conventional Christianity in virtually every department, but she is insistent that those who believe as she does should be placed in positions of leadership, have their immoral relationships celebrated by the church, and be free to have causal sexual relationships with persons to whom they are not married.
Mollenkott’s Stated Hermeneutic
We are now brought to the question of Mollenkott’s hermeneutic. In her own words:
. . .[W]hy I switched from the traditional hermeneutics I believed for the first thirty-five years of my life to the pluralistic hermeneutics I have outlined here . . . I was desperate for authenticity, for the healing of my own self-esteem, and for the use of my gifts. . . . the second reason. . . in response to the normative love ethic that you should love your neighbor as yourself. . . . Third and finally, I chose the pluralistic hermeneutic because I discovered that it is more honest, contextual, and scholarly than the traditionalist method (Ibid., pp. 65, 66).
Mollenkott’s explanation: first, she was experiencing a personal desperation to be valued; second, her claim to embrace a vague love ethic; and thirdly, in her judgment, the idea that there are a zoo full of conflicting stories in the Bible seemed more correct to her than the idea that the Bible was fundamentally a unity. In Feminist thought there is movement away from specificity to generality, away from God over all so that the unity of Scripture is dissolved into a cacophony of disagreeing voices. There is also the siren call, the glittering potential, to take control of the Scriptures and become their master—a temptation addressed by Eta Linnemann in a moment. But for now, more specifically, how did Mollenkott’s reassessment take place?
Although I had read Genesis dozens of times and held a Ph.D. in English literature, my fundamentalist belief in inerrancy had kept me from noticing the apparent contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2 until I was about thirty-five years old, when my armor was pierced by a feminist book. After that, I began to apply to the Bible the precise literary techniques that I had learned during my doctoral studies. At first my realization that there were indeed two creation plots made me exceedingly upset, but perseverance yielded rich insight and rewards. So I am glad now that my protective filter was stripped away, although I certainly was not glad when my fundamentalist confidence first was shaken (Ibid., p. 202).
It never crossed Mollenkott’s mind that Genesis chapters one and two could conflict with each other—at least not until she read someone’s feminist book. Afterwards, she “began to apply to the Bible the precise literary techniques that [she] had learned during [her] doctoral studies.” Although at first upset, she persisted in believing the new idea and applying her literary principles until her “protective filter was stripped away.”
Mollenkott is wrong here; there is no contradiction between Genesis one and two. She is also wrong in her approach to the Bible. She began to use the same methods, the precise literary techniques she had before employed with uninspired materials. This was her undoing. Seventh-day Adventists urge a different approach:
We should exert all the powers of the mind in the study of the Scriptures and should task the understanding to comprehend, as far as mortals can, the deep things of God; yet we must not forget that the docility and submission of a child is the true spirit of the learner. Scriptural difficulties can never be mastered by the same methods that are employed in grappling with philosophical problems (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 599).
When the creature approaches the Creator, there is a submission involved. Adventists believe that the Scriptures cannot fail, but do not claim inerrancy. Mollenkott was raised in the Plymouth Brethren, an inerrancy-teaching church. She flipped completely. Eta Linnemann, in contrast, recovered her submission to the Word and left behind her former allegiance to the historical-critical method. Here, Linnemann describes what Mollenkott described, but from a different angle:
. . . [E]very sentence is suspected of containing Luke’s theology rather than a reliable report of what actually happened, and that theology is presented as practically obverse of good theology. Using grotesque literary methods which would lead immediately to absurd results if they were ever applied to the work of a poet or a theologian—say a Goethe, or Barth—claims of inauthenticity are established for the pastoral letters (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus), Ephesians, and Colossians. . . Differences between individual books of Holy Scripture are blown out of proportion and played up as inconsistencies. . . . one finds in the Bible only a handful of unrelated literary creations. . . they are not considered to be revelation. They are regarded merely as literary and theological creations. . . . Since the content of biblical writings is seen as merely the creations of theological writers, any given verse is nothing more than a non-binding, human theological utterance (Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology?, pp. 85, 86).
As Linnemann points out, to the historical-critical scholar,
Because one has decided that the thought content of the Bible should actually be recognized independently [its materials as atomized, disparate, contradictory stories], the unity of the Bible is dissolved and God’s Word can no longer serve as its own interpreter (Ibid., p. 121).
No wonder Linnemann famously added, “One can no more be a little historical-critical than a little pregnant” (Ibid, p. 123, emphasis in original).
In our first article we noticed the following principles from Edgar Krentz. He outlines the basic principles of historical criticism:
(1) the principle of criticism or methodological doubt, which implies that history only achieves probability. . .
(2) The principle of analogy makes criticism possible. Present experience and occurrence become the criteria of probability in the past. This ‘almighty power’ of analogy implies that all events are in principle similar. . .
(3) The principle of correlation (or mutual interdependence) implies that all historical phenomena are so interrelated. . . The third principle rules out miracle and salvation history. . . .
But it is inescapable. Admitted at one point, it [historical-criticism] is a leaven that ‘changes everything and finally destroys the dogmatic form of method that has been used in theology’ (Edgar Krentz, The Historical-Critical Method, p. 55).
As the ancient dogmatic formula put it, the scriptures are panta anthropina, completely human. This basic recognition about the nature of the Bible entails the axiom that one interprets the Bible by the same methods and procedures used on any other book. No serious Bible student denies this evaluation (Ibid., p. 62).
If the Scriptures are “completely human,” we can understand Krentz’ observation that the same methods and procedures are to be used as with any other book. Thankfully, the Scriptures are not completely human, but God-breathed—breathed into being for those upon whom the ends of the age have come.
A Word Concerning “Ordination Without Regard to Gender”
It is of special interest that the language used in the current phase of the Women’s Ordination debate within the Seventh-day Adventist Church has largely shifted. The current terminology preferred by the pro-Women’s Ordination lobby, is for the church to engage in “ordination without regard to gender.” On the surface, this may appear to most church members as merely another way of saying that the church would ordain males and females to pastoral ministry. Most members are likely thinking in straightforward terms of biological sex.
However, recent decades have seen quite important shifts in the English language, so that the word “gender” has changed meaning. Today the word “gender” can mean “male” or “female.” However, “gender” today can also mean homosexual, bi-sexual, transgender, or just about any other sexual variation. “Gender” has reference not merely to biological sex but to alleged sexual orientation. Since “gender” can carry either the biological or the “orientation” meaning, the term is ambiguous. Considering the close connection between Feminist and Queer theologies—and their goals as “advocacy criticisms” (Soulons, p. 1)—such a wiggle-term is extraordinarily dangerous.
Any unit of the church which has voted to approve “ordination without regard to gender,” has already voted to ordain homosexuals. The terminology is an end-run, the killing of two birds with one stone, a subterfuge—or a remarkably convenient coincidence. Assuming that the matter of Women’s Ordination goes before the Church in a General Conference session 2015, the only acceptable language by which to frame such a question would be to refer explicitly to biological sex, whether the church will or will not ordain women.
This article has considered the alleged linkage between Women’s Ordination and the homosexual agenda. The same methods are employed in Queer Theology as in Liberation and Feminist Theology. We can commend the Queer theologians on one point—they seek to be consistent. Unfortunately, consistent use of a wrong method is no virtue, and must lead to consistently wrong conclusions. The verdict is in from the horse’s own mouth as well: there are theological entailments which attend Feminist Theology and which lead to the same results for a different allegedly oppressed group: homosexuals.
That is, as these matters have historically developed, it is undeniable that the same baseline assumptions about approaching the inspiration of Scripture and the interpretational methodologies used there, is shown to be essentially the same in both cases. We have not taken the space to review them here, but for the “Feminist to Homosexual” histories of other churches, we point readers the chapter “The Iceberg in Other Waters” in C. Raymond Holmes’ The Tip of an Iceberg, (pp. 157-176). Another source of interest is Frederick Sidenvall, “Forty Years of Female Pastors in Scandonavia,” in Matthew C. Harrison, John T. Pless, Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, (pp. 217-229, particularly the later pages). Another source of interest for the world of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, is Virtueonline.org which outlines the division of that religious communion, especially precipitated by the appointment of Gene Robinson as a practicing homosexual Bishop as recently as 2004.
Just a few days ago (May 31, 2013), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America chose The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin as bishop, and he became the first openly gay man to be so chosen by that communion. It goes without saying that preceding the foray into pro-homosexuality involvement, all of these churches advanced through a process in which they accepted key tenets of Theological Feminism.
This is no mystery or maybe. Only the intentionally blinded miss the connection.
Our next article will zero-in on Evangelical Feminism—the subset of Feminist Theology which, until more recent signs of radicalization, has been the most influential pro-Women’s Ordination advocacy within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick has served churches in Nevada, Utah, California. They presently serve in the forest fastness of Northern Idaho where Larry lives with his wife Pamela and their children Seamus (age 7) and Mikayla (age 6).