Flotsam and Jastram

Yes, I know it’s flotsam and jetsam which properly speaking is “wreckage of a ship or its cargo floating on the water or washed ashore.”  It also means “worthless or miscellaneous things.”  I’m thinking of the later definition.  I haven’t misspelled jetsam but properly spelled Jastram as in the Rev. Dr. Nathan R. Jastram Professor of Theology at Concordia University, Mequon, WI.  While Jastram personally isn’t jetsam, his 2004 article in the January 2004 Concordia Theological Quarterly is the wreckage of a once coherent theology floating on the seas of feminism. And this theology is what led to the sea change at the 2004 synodical convention.  That there was a turning of the tide see the Rev. Dr. Ken Schurb’s article “The Service of Women in Congregational Offices, 1969 to 2007” in the Fall 2009 CHIQ.

The article “Man as Male and Female: Created in the Image of God” has many things to commend it, but it trips, it founders and flounders precisely where we need the most courage and clarity.  Jastram confesses the truth that men and women have distinct roles in the family and in the church.  The company of witnesses whom most certainly surround us cheer wildly.  Then Jastram falters.  We read on pages 75 and 76 the following. My comments are in brackets and in bold.

“It is not clear whether it is necessary to preserve distinctions between the sexes in exercising authority over society at large.” [If he is right, then Isaiah’s statement in 3:12 that his people are being judged in having women ruling over them only applied to that day and time.  Then I Cor. 11:3 only means that the head of the woman is the man in the home and church but not the state.]  “Since there are no biblical statements that directly teach that women should not rule in society, it is best to speak with some caution.”  [This is the CTCR much repeated refrain:  Since we don’t have an explicit thus says the Lord we can’t say.  As Dr. Preus says several times in The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism, legitimate deductions from Scripture have the same force as explicit words.  This new position by the CTCR is the same old position of the so called old ALC (American Lutheran Church.)  The Central Regional Conference of the Northern Illinois District (LCMS) submitted a doctrinal resolution to the 1944 Synodical convention quoting a 1942 American Lutheran article: “‘When the Lutheran Church, which adheres to the sola Scriptura principle, uses the word doctrine with reference to its own teachings, it can mean only a restatement of what is clearly (or expressly) taught in the Scriptures, a teaching for whose every part there is a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’…granting doctrinal status only to restatements of what is expressly taught in the Bible’” (Doctrinal Resolutions of the LCMS 1929-2004, p. 69). ]

Jastram continues, “Luther’s categorical rejection of female rulers in society was undoubtedly influenced by socia1 conditions of his day, and it would be hard to prove his assertion, without explicit confirmation from God, that ‘never has there been divine permission for a woman to rule.’ One wonders how Luther would have spoken if he had lived in a country ruled by a queen.” [Had he read my book Why is Feminism so Hard to Resist? he would note the quote from a secular, non-Christian who says patriarchy is so universal that nowhere is a woman selected to rule if there is an equivalent male available.]

More from the article, “In spite of the reservations that one may have about Luther’s assertions, he makes a serious effort to apply biblical teachings, historical lessons, and what appears to him to be common sense, to this question: ‘As a creature of God, a woman is to be looked upon with reverence. For she was created to be around the man, to care for children and to bring them up in an honest and godly way, and to be subject to the man. Men, on the other hand, are commanded to govern and have the rule over women and the rest of the household. But if a woman forsakes her office and assumes authority over her husband, she is no longer doing her own work, for which she was created, but a work that comes from her own fault and from evil. For God did not create this sex for ruling, and therefore they never rule successfully.'”  [Please note that Luther doesn’t live with a threshold argument.  She doesn’t rule in the home, so how can she rule outside of it?]

Jastram continues to quote Luther: “’In opposition to this one could cite the histories about the Amazons, celebrated by Greek writers.  [See my book where I show that the Greeks told these stories precisely because they knew them to be farfetched.  C. S. Lewis’ “Men without chests” still hope they might be true.]  They are said to have exercised authority and to have waged war. For my part, however, I believe that what is said of them is a fable. The Ethiopians select women as both kings and princes, as is their custom; thus Candace, the queen of Ethiopia, is mentioned in the Book of Acts (Acts 8:27). But this is a foolish thing to do, as foolish princes are often put in charge of a kingdom. Never has there been divine permission for a woman to rule. Of course, it can happen that she is put into the place of the king and of the kingdom; but then she always has a senate of leading men, by whose counsel everything should be administered. Therefore even though a woman may occupy the king’s place, this does not confirm the right of women to rule. For the text is clear (Gen. 3:16): “You shall be under the power of your husband, and he shall rule over you.” The woman was created for her special purpose, namely, to use prudence and reason in the rearing of children. For everyone functions most efficiently in that for which he was created. A woman can handle a child better with her little finger than a man can with both fists. Therefore let everyone remain in that work to which he has been called and ordained by God.‘”

Now back to Jastram’s words: “The major theological question raised by Luther’s treatment is whether it is legitimate to use biblical teachings about wives being under the authority of their husbands to prove that women should never rule in society at large. [Isn’t this disingenuous?  There is no question in Luther’s mind only a questioning by Jastram of Luther’s right mind.] Changing social conditions have made it necessary for theologians to reexamine these teachings, and it is no longer as clear as it once seemed that such an application is proper. [Jastram is a child of the spirit of this age. Changing social conditions drive his theology by his own admission.  This is the argument the homosexual movement uses to defend gay marriage, pastors, and parenting.  Changing social conditions call for us to reexamine our teaching on living together, divorce, civil prayer services, etc, etc, etc.]  Luther’s conclusions on this matter have not been formally adopted as the public doctrine of the Lutheran church.” [Prior to 1969 they were certainly accepted by us.]

In the flotsam of Jastram, the God-given distinctiveness between male and female applies in the home, in the church, but not in the world.  Once you cross the threshold of the church or your home then women can have authority over men, defend men, protect men, be men.   Even Jastram trips on his own jetsam.  On page 93 in arguing against “The Response to the Dissenting Opinion of The Service of Women in Congregational and Synodical Offices” (1995 Convention Workbook), Jastram says, “Indeed, the reason given for the basic principle about authority in 1 Timothy 2 is that Adam was formed first, and then Eve.  Surely the authority that Adam had over Eve was not exclusively or even primarily pastoral, but marital” (emphasis original). I agree, and it was also societal.  Adam and Eve didn’t just happen upon patriarchy.  Jastram knows this too, but if you confess that patriarchy is God-given then the tsunami of feminism will break upon your shores and you will end up as only so much flotsam and jetsam.

The other side knows this too, and for this reason they goad Jastram.  He may not be willing or able to follow his fine Scriptural conclusions out of the church and home and into society but they sure can.  Jastram “asks” by means of quoting a CTCR response, “’Do the signers of the minority report believe that this passage prohibits women from exercising any and all authority over men? If so, what implications does this have, e.g., for questions such as woman suffrage (not only in the church, but also in society)? The questions raised in this section of the minority report have profound implications for the position on the role of women in the church which the Synod has taken since 1969.’”

The above comment is found on page 92 of Jastram’s article but it comes from page 315 of the 1995 Convention Workbook.  It is part of the “Response to Dissent.”  The spirit of the age roars in it, and our position becomes only so much flotsam and jetsam. Who dare gainsay woman’s suffrage in the church let alone society?  Who dare say a woman can’t be anything she wants to be: policeman, fireman, fighter pilot, combat solider? Yes, and who dare say a woman can’t kill the child growing in her body or that her body is meant for joining only to a man’s body?

There are definitely two sides here.  The conservative Jastram and the liberal “Response” side which carried the day in the 2004 convention where it was decided that women may rule men even in the church as long as it’s not in the pastoral office.  The two sides agree though; the order of creation applies absolutely inside the home and not at all in the world.  Jastram tries to argue that the order of creation applies in the church to more than just the pastoral office, but that’s a hard case to make once you’ve admitted that it doesn’t apply in the world.  And he can’t take that back without being against women voting, running companies, protecting men, and going to war.

The funny thing is the only ones he will offend if he takes that position are feminists and effeminate men.  But rather than do that Jastram clings to the flotsam and jetsam that is left of the good ship Order of Creation once sailed on by the likes of Luther and the pre-1960’s LCMS. Bon voyage!  You won’t keep your head above the seas of feminism for long.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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