There is nothing more earnest and sincere than a Bible college student trying to figure out how to maintain their virginity. It is serious, serious business. Forget the Theology and Bible comprehensive exam. Keeping your virginity intact when you are away from your parents for the first time in your life, and you have met the person you intend to marry, the person you have been dating for three years and the one you see all day every day..that battle is the greater concern. There is no greater test to how seriously you take the Bible's commands to remain pure than that season of your life. You draw lines in the sand and walk up to them, but you do not cross that one BIG line because you are totally committed to obeying God's word and you are pretty sure if you do cross that one BIG line, you can't be a pastor or pastor's wife or effectively lead a youth group,or look your future kid in the eyes. You pray the rapture doesn't take place before your wedding night. Forget the debate of predestination versus free will. The biggest debate in your mind is how far is too far?
I draw your attention to those years not to bring up shame or guilt, (maybe a bit of mortifying amusement?) but rather as a colorful analogy to a question I raised last week.
I asked the question "Does the Bible really, clearly teach that women cannot be pastors?" My friend from college, Amy, gave a thoughtful reply in the comments. She and her husband serve a traditional church where she described a typical situation for them where her husband stayed at home and cared for their children while she went out to handle a counseling situation. Amy is a trained counselor and a wise and thoughtful person whom I was drawn to in our college years because she was then and still is thoroughly committed to living according to what the Bible teaches. She admits that she has the right skill-set to pastor but believes the view of women not being permitted to pastor as it has been traditionally taught in our circles.
The next morning, I had this thought: "Amy can do pastoral types of work as long as she isn't called a pastor and isn't paid to pastor?"
In my experiences, these lines are drawn in many different places. Some women can speak (or preach) but many will only speak to a group of women. Some churches will hire a woman to be on staff as a counselor but they don't call her a pastor of counseling. A church will hire a woman to fill a position but they are forced by their own standards to re-brand the position commonly called "Education Pastor" to "Education Co-ordinator." In all of these cases, women are pastoring. But because of the baggage of two passages of scripture, they either aren't called that or they are limited professionally because of them.
If God is really so opposed to women being pastors, then they shouldn't do any of the work of pastors. If the line really is that women can't be pastors, simply denying them the title (and the paycheck) doesn't fulfill His supposed standard. Much like my little analogy, somehow we have drawn little lines in the sand and jumped over and back of those lines, as long as we don't cross the big line of calling her a pastor and paying her to pastor.*
It's tempting, as I read and study on this, to post a Bible study of the various passages used to "prove" my point. Instead, I think it's better for me to simply point to the the fruit of this interpretation. We are told over and over again that the fruit of something is the way to tell what it is. I simply want to point out that this fruit has some wormy holes that really bother me.
* note: Wanted to make clear that the whole virginity thing is simply an analogy and I'm not saying that sex outside of marriage is ok according to the Bible. Just an analogy. Don't get excited.