A TALE OF TWO OFFICES
Written by Albert Mohler
Sally Quinn wonders how Christian evangelicals -- and Southern Baptists in particular -- can affirm a woman as President or Vice President of the United States and yet believe that women should not serve as pastors of churches. "Is it hypocritical to think that a woman can lead a nation and not a congregation?," Sally and Jon Meacham ask.No, it is not hypocritical -- it is simply the application of biblical truth to different spheres of life and meaning.Sally Quinn's two essays on Gov. Sarah Palin raise fascinating issues, and reveal a basic lack of sympathetic understanding when it comes to conservative Christians.
In her first post, she wrote:Southern Baptist leaders like Richard Land and Al Mohler have praised McCain's choice. But these are the same men who support this statement from the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message: "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation."Indeed, I do support that statement, drawn from our denomination's confession of faith. I stand by it without hesitation or mental reservation. It is drawn from the Bible, and explains the Bible's teaching that men and women are equally created in the image of God, but are assigned different but complementary roles in the home. In a separate article of the Baptist Faith & Message, we affirm what the Bible teaches about the different roles for men and women in the church -- and the fact that qualified men are to be called as pastors. The New Testament contains clear prohibitions of women in that role. This conviction was not invented by Southern Baptists. It was, and now remains, the honest conviction held by most Christians around the world, and for good reason.Our confession of faith does not speak to the appropriateness of women serving in political office. It does speak to the priority of motherhood and responsibilities in the home, but it does not specify any public role that is closed to women. The reason for this is simple -- the New Testament does not speak to this question in any direct sense.The distinction is perfectly clear. Where the New Testament speaks, we are bound. Where it does not speak, believers are not bound. The structure of our confession of faith simply reflects this principle.Portraits of Elizabeth I of England and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hang in my personal library, along with other portraits. I see no biblical injunction against their leadership in these roles.Is that all there is to this issue? No. Feminists are bewildered and frustrated by the fact that the vast majority of women find their greatest joy and fulfillment in the roles of wife and mother. Most women do not want to be Vice President of the United States, nor to make the sacrifices necessary in order to succeed in the public arena.This is not a question of intelligence, ability, toughness, or talent. I would love to see Margaret Thatcher at the top of her game take on any public figure. Just ask the leaders of the Labour Party in her day -- or the Argentinian generals who invaded the Falkland Islands during her tenure.This is a question of calling. I believe that God has placed in the hearts of most women a deep desire for the fulfillment of marriage and the raising of children as life priority. Furthermore, I believe that women are given unique abilities and gifts for these callings -- affirmed by common grace and common sense.When Gov. Palin was announced as Sen. John McCain's choice as running mate I was elated about her pro-life commitments and political philosophy, and I remain so. I also told The Wall Street Journal that, if I were her pastor, I would be concerned about how she could balance these responsibilities and what this would mean for her family and her roles as wife and mother. The news that broke over the weekend would make me only more concerned. But my concern would be for her and for her family -- not for the nation.I am doing my best to be honest -- and not hypocritical -- about how I see this new situation. I could not imagine this in my own family, nor, I am confident, could the vast majority of those conservative Christians who are celebrating the nomination of Gov. Palin as Vice President. I have full confidence that my wife Mary can lead and run anything, from General Motors to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Nevertheless, I also know that I, along with our children, would find our worlds turned upside down. Beyond this, I believe that she would be less happy, less fulfilled, and less strategically deployed. She runs a program that influences the lives of hundreds of women and serves on the board of directors of our local crisis pregnancy center, but her most significant impact will be on the lives of two children who cannot imagine life without her -- and without her active engagement and motherly love.
In her second posting, Sally Quinn raises the stakes:I would like to hear what women think of her priorities. Do they believe that her first priority is as a mother or as a governor? Will her first priority be as a mother or as a Vice President or a President? One in three Vice Presidents become President. John McCain is a 72-year-old cancer survivor. As Vice President, Palin could ascend to the highest office in the land at any moment. Do women believe she should relegate her job to second place or her children to second place? Does she have to make such a choice? Every woman, and particularly every woman who works, including me, understands that the conflicts and the guilt are always there in a way that they are not for men.Further:Well, I can understand an evangelical Christian asking that question. But how does a feminist ask that question with a straight face? Isn't this precisely the kind of question feminists have long insisted were completely out of bounds?It would be hypocritical of me to suggest that I am not troubled by these questions. It would be hypocritical of me to suggest that I would be perfectly happy to have Christian young women believe that being Vice President of the United States is more important than being a wife and mother.Yet, I am encouraged by Gov. Palin's nomination. I believe that she brings something unique, admirable, and urgently needed to this presidential race. The question of my vote in this election is clear to me. The meaning of all this for the Palin family is less clear. In one sense, I think it might be very helpful for the American people to see a real family struggling with these real issues. I do not fear that this will lead millions of evangelical women to leave the home in order to run for national office.At the end of her article, Sally Quinn concludes: Women can be presidents but not pastors? I don't understand. I would like somebody to explain this to me.Well, I have given this my best shot within the limits of this article. The Bible states that women are not to hold the office of teaching authority in the church, and sets forth a portrait of different but complementary roles for men and women in the home and in the church.Can we see implications of these principles to the larger culture? Yes, but not in the same sense as is ordered by Scripture in the arenas of the home and the church. We do not find this question directly addressed in the Bible. This is why biblical complementarians can affirm that a woman can be President but not a pastor. This is not about equal employment opportunities, but about the command of God to his church."Is it hypocritical to think that a woman can lead a nation and not a congregation?" No.