Of Queens, Vessels and Alaska

John McCain has selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. In case you missed it, she’s a she. Bible believing Christians are faced with a question that seems archaic to others: Is it right for a women to lead a nation? Of course that has happened but the question is the appropriateness of it. Can we American, Bible believing Christians vote for a ticket that has a woman in the second highest office? One Reformed Baptist pastor has weighed in on the negative. I disagree [with some of his exegesis]. Here’s my review:

1. “The Bible views it as a judgment and calamity upon a nation for it to be ruled by women.” I do not agree with this. Chanski cites Isa 3:12 but uses just half the verse. The passage is written in the form of Hebrew poetry and a major component of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. The parallel in the Isaiah passage is children oppressing them and women ruling over them. These are saying the same thing in different ways. What I think Isaiah is saying is that the weak are going to be able to dominate the nation. Children and women are not strong compared to men.

The judgment is not that women might lead; there is no Biblical condemnation of the role of queen. Rather the judgment is that the nation will become so weak they will be that easy to conquer and dominate.

Chanski mentions an “inherent constitutional weakness in womanhood” citing 1Pt 3 and 1Ti 2. I don’t believe that either passage is intending to teach that women are weaker (beyond the physical) than men.

The major point of 1Ti 2 is not that women are weak but that men must fulfill their duty to lead. That is why Paul points out that Adam was created first in verse 13. Adam had the law of the garden and was to faithfully transmit it to Eve. When Eve was deceived and in danger of violating it, he should have stepped in and lead. He didn’t. If Paul is intending to teach the inherent weakness of women, the fact that he mentions the order of creation makes no sense to me. The context from 1Ti 2:8 through the end of the chapter 3 is men doing what is right, not that women are weak. That seems to make the most sense of what Paul is saying there.

The 1Pt 3 reference is to women as the “weaker vessel”. Typically, the Bible uses vessel as a metaphor for the body (see 1Sa 21:5 for example). Women are (typically) bodily weaker than men (though some of the stuff I saw in the Olympics made me wonder) and so Peter is saying to live with them in an understanding manner, don’t dominate them or expect them to do the same things you do.

3. Chanski brings up Deborah, a judge of Israel as “an indictment against shameful male dereliction” but that isn’t how Deborah is introduced. She is introduced in verse 4 of chapter 4 as a prophetess and a judge. There is no indictment in her judging the nation. There is no mention or hint of male dereliction of duty at that point in the story. The only “male dereliction” in that episode comes in verse 8 with Barak’s (oh, the irony of that name!) refusal to lead the army in battle.

The cycle of the judges goes from okay to horrible, ending with Samson who couldn’t be worse. It sets us up for David who will be a man after God’s heart. Deborah comes in near the beginning of the Judges cycle so she isn’t that bad. God raised up all of the judges, even the bad ones. Deborah is nowhere put forth at an indictment against the male leaders of Israel, God could have raised up a stinker like Sampson at that point.

5. Here/ Chanski is back on track. This is an important question; can Palin fulfill her duties to her family and be Vice President at the same time? She has five children including one with Down’s Syndrome. Women have a Biblical duty to be “workers in the home” (Titus 2:5) and with a handicapped child in the home the work is greater. But before we count her out on this we need to consider a few things. First, this is a decision that her husband must make, not other Christians. Her husband is responsible for her and we have to honor his decision unless it is clearly sinful. Second, Trig is only six months old the burden of caring for him will most likely not be more of a burden than any other six month old at this point. It is when Trig is older that the burden will grow. Third, being a worker in the home is not exclusive of doing other things. The idea woman of Proverbs 31 worked outside the home selling her wares in the market (Prov 31:18, 24).

In the end, we need to evaluate Palin based not on the appropriateness of a woman in the White House, but on her qualifications and ability to lead. Women may not lead in the home or the church but the nation is an entirely different matter. We need to be as Biblically faithful as we can in this and remember that God raises up and takes down the leaders of nations. Even in democracies.

Added 9/2/08: Thanks to Bob Gonzales for pointing out my misrepresentation of Pastor Chanski’s post. See the comments for his correction. I have modified this post to hopefully better reflect the original author’s intent.

Added  9/8/08: Another blogger takes on the same questions and appeals to Proverbs 31 as well. A well written post, I recommend reading it.

Added 9/12/08: Doug Wilson adds a little bit more of a bump to my point about Deborah.

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  • Tim,

    You offer some helpful suggestions on how the passages cited by Pastor Chanski might yield other conclusions. You begin your post, however, by apparently ignoring his own conclusion. He queries, “Setting aside for the moment specific personalities and liberal vs. conservative ideology, would this be a good thing in general, for a woman to become our President?” Although he does not believe it’s God’s general norm for women to serve as political sovereigns, he concludes, “Though I would never vote for a woman as my pastor, I could, under the right circumstances, be persuaded to vote for a woman as my president.” Similarly, you ask, “Can we American, Bible believing Christians vote for a ticket that has a woman in the second highest office?” Then you assert, “One Reformed Baptist pastor has weighted [sic] in on the negative. I disagree.” Finally, you conclude, “Women may not lead in the home or the church but the nation is an entirely different matter.” It seems that you differ with some of the conclusions Chanski draws from various texts. There may also be a difference in emphasis. But to assert that Pastor Chanski has “weighed in on the negative” despite the fact that he concludes his article with the statement, “I could, under the right circumstances, be persuaded to vote for a woman as my president,” does not appear, at least to me, entirely accurate.

    Bob Gonzales, Dean
    Reformed Baptist Seminary

  • Thank you Bob. I stand corrected. I didn’t mean to misrepresent Chanski’s position and will modify this post to correct the error. I also thank you for catching my spelling error. :) Spell checkers will always let you down.

  • Tim,

    No problem. I’ve made the same mistakes before. And I can’t seem to avoid typos no matter how hard I try. I do want to express my appreciation for your critical assessment and think some of your exegetical observations are worthy of serious reflection. I also have appreciated navigating through your blog. It seems that we share an appreciation for many of the same authors and theological websites/weblogs. May the Lord bless your ministry.

    Your servant,
    Bob Gonzales

  • “Third, being a worker in the home is not exclusive of doing other things.”

    Tim, I totally agree with this statement. But seriously, how could anyone truly even begin to obey Titus 2 in Palin’s situation while fulfilling the office of vice-president, given the time & travel requirements? If you are married and have children you understand what is involved in caring & training for children.

    You are correct in that other Christians are not to make that decision for her, but she certainly has to make that decision herself in light of the commands of Scripture.

    And we (as Christians) have a decision to make as to whether she is truly able to fulfill the extent of the office based on her family obligations. Certainly there has to be some objective consideration given to that.

    I guess that begs the question- are we willing to vote for her (& McCain) even if she is abdicating her primary responsibility?

    Admittedly, these are tough issues.


  • There ya go Jeremiah! Those are the kinds of questions we need to be asking, not whether it is okay for a woman to VP.

    I think the question we need to ask about Gov. Palin is whether our voting her and McCain in to office if we are helping or hampering her ability to do what she should be doing as a mother. I mean, if we were in the same church with her and we called her to serve in the nursery and to lead the hospitality committee and to direct the new interior decor of the building and to head up the prayer chain and … all those other “traditional” roles for women and she was clearly overloaded and not caring for her children, we as a church would be at fault. Even if she pursued those positions, we would not let her get in that deep.

    If we vote for her, are we doing that outside the church? That’s a tough question.

    Thanks for your very helpful comments by the way.

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