Hope you’ve all had a merry Christmas, and I hope you all have a happy new year. During my Christmas vacation between these holidays, I’m currently reading (finally!) T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. It’s an awesome little volume (maybe too little, but I suppose it packs enough of a wallop that were it longer it might border on the uncharitable or abusive–something the author was concerned about, and which delayed his writing of it). I’m a slow reader, so I haven’t finished it yet. I just finished chapter two, “Why Johnny Can’t Preach, Part 1: Johnny Can’t Read (Texts),” and one passage in this chapter led me to consider something about the scriptural mandate that men (specifically, males) are God’s appointed medium in preaching. Concluding chapter two, Gordon writes:
In a sense, then, the few conversations there have been about preaching and preachers in the last generation have been relatively pointless. Whether a sermon is preached by a man or a woman is comparatively unimportant; whether it encourages a liberal or conservative sociopolitical agenda is comparatively inconsequential; whether its “how-to” advice or pop psychology is helpful or not makes little difference. What would make a difference would be Christian proclamation that is consequential, that is concerned less with current events than with the history-encompassing events of creation, fall, and redemption. What would make a difference would be Christian proclamation that did not panic every time a court rendered a decision on some pet geopolitical concern, but called our attention instead to the certain judgment of God, with whom we have to do. What would make a difference would be Christian proclamation that was less concerned with “how-to” and more concerned with “why-to,” why humans are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. What might make a difference would be Christian proclamation that was less concerned with the latest news from the Beltway, and more concerned with the stunning and perennial good news that God in Christ is reconciling sinners to himself. But any one of these preferred alternatives requires a sensiblilty for the significant; a capacity to distinguish the weighty from the light, and the consequential from the trivial (pp. 59-60; emphasis mine).
Perhaps I didn’t need to transcribe the entire paragraph, but it’s all such sorely-needed information, I decided not to resist the temptation. The main point of the paragraph is beside the point of this post. Like a poorly expounded text of Scripture, I’m going to launch off onto a question raised by only one minor aspect of the paragraph mentioned only in passing, and as only one item in a long list of other items. My question is raised by the highlighted reference at the beginning of the paragraph to the comparative unimportance of whether a sermon is preached by a man or a woman.
I, and most of my readers, are well aware that Scripture certainly does prescribe that in corporate Christian worship, a male is the appropriate kind of person ordained by God to preach. Gordon’s point is not to deny this divine prescription, but to argue that the content of the sermon is much more important than the sex of the preacher, as important as that is. This point, made this way by Gordon, moved me to consider the reason behind God’s stated reason (a dangerous exercise, I’m sure) for the command that women are to neither teach nor usurp authority from the man (1 Timothy 2:12). Verse thirteen of 1 Timothy 2 appeals to the fall of Adam and Eve, and hence ultimately to the roles of husbands and wives and their typifying of the hierarchy of roles between Christ and his Bride, the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:22-33).
Perhaps my question is simply an unnecessary reduction of the husband/wife hierarchy, but, is it simply that males are God’s ordained medium for preaching because of the authority which males inherently and by Scriptural injunction represent? R. C. Sproul in his series on Recovering the Beauty of the Arts explains the basic principle that “all forms are art forms, and all art forms communicate something.” Sproul makes this his fundamental point in arguing for the benefit of many of the traditional forms that have come down to us from previous generations in the context of corporate worship–for example, pulpits and other aspects of traditional church architecture. Thinking in terms of the communicative nature of forms, am I getting off track to ponder whether it is basically the authority a man conveys by virtue of his sex in the act of preaching that God has in mind when he prescribes specifically men to serve in the office of elder/pastor/preacher?
I assume that many who are conditioned by modern egalitarian sensibilities regarding the inherent nature of males versus that of females would challenge this whole line of reasoning. But consider another medium and its use of male and female images: television commercials. I’m convinced that it is safe to say that the vast majority of commercials advertizing, say, board games, portray the female winning a game played against a male. This image is just one of many ways the classic motif of David vs. Goliath plays out in probably all art, literature, television and movies. The “little guy” wins out over “the big guy.” I submit that the drama inherent in this simple motif is there because, among other reasons, males inherently represent authority or superordinate roles, whereas females inherently represent subordinate roles.
Although matriarchal cultures do exist, they are the exception, rather than the rule, and I think if the anthropologist were to examine such cultures to their foundations, he would find a point in their histories at which the matriarch replaced the patriarch as the head of those cultures. This is the case of at least one native American tribe in the Southwest. My family toured a village populated by this tribe (whose name eludes me), and the tour guide explained that this tribe was matriarchal, and that it wasn’t always so, but became so due to a lack of provision on the part of the males in that tribe. This also reminds me of the origin of the Full Gospel denomination, but that is a subject better taken up by Robert Godfrey of Westminster Seminary California.
Perhaps it’s going “beyond what is written” to ponder such things, but considering the reasons stated above, I hope you understand where I’m coming from.
A great, great book. I am glad you are resonating with it too! How is Joe Troutman? We miss seeing you around, but trust you are doing well.
I knew this was the book for me the first time I heard the author interviewed on Christ the Center (or was it White Horse Inn?). I have no idea why it took me this long to get around to ordering a copy, but it is worth the wait.
Joe’s doing well as far as I know, considering his in-laws are in town 😉
Happy new year, Kyle. Looking forward to the conference in February.