Some Baptist folks who emphasize "Jesus as the criterion" of Bible interpretation have become some of the leading proponents of ordaining women to the gospel ministry. Now any church is free to act in this manner as they so choose, but Baptists have traditionally held themselves free to follow what the Bible teaches. Those who believe "Jesus is the criterion" for ordaining women might consider the following.
That Jesus chose 12 ALL MALE apostles is a fact (unless some of you by your textual criticism have determined the Bible or parts of it to be a myth). This fact should not be taken lightly and should be given proper consideration. Did Jesus find it important that all the "chosen" representatives be of the male gender? If so, why? Were there no qualified women available? Was He not the visionary "social revolutionary" who bucked the status quo, but rather one who conformed to the social standards of the day? Was there some other reason that He chose ONLY apostles of the MALE gender??
Many who say they use "Jesus as the criterion" for Bible interpretation say that women should be pastors. Nevertheless, Jesus DID NOT allow women equal access to the apostleship. But some feel that He, by treating women equally, established a precedent for treating women equally as pastors. How do you deal with the whole facts of Jesus' ministry, especially relating to the case of the 12 ALL MALE APOSTLES?
Possible explanations of why Jesus chose apostles only from the male gender:
1. Only men were allowed to hold the position.
2. Jesus was not ready to confront the social mores of the His day.
3. Jesus made a practical decision based on the times in which He lived.
4. Jesus chose the twelve as individuals (and, therefore, their gender is not relevant).
5. Jesus choosing all male apostles is completely irrelevant.
The application of these (above, by number) might be:
1. No females in leadership roles.
2. No females in leadership roles if it is socially unacceptable.
3. Females in leadership roles as practicality allows.
4. Females in leadership roles with no exclusions nor exceptions.
Do the five explanations fairly represent positions held by some who call themselves Baptists? Are the five applications consistent with the five explanations?
I interpret the New Testament commands in light of practice of the New Testament church as guided by the inspired apostles. I do not suggest others do not, but not generally to the extent that I do. So while many fundamentalists and conservatives see an example as 'one way' to do it, I often see an example as 'the way' to do it. I believe mine is a more consistent approach than that of some. For example, a number of fundamentalists will agree that preachers ought to be men because Jesus chose only men, but will not agree that the church ought to be THE teaching institution for Christian doctrine and practice because Jesus instituted only the church and commissioned her to teach.
If Jesus was "nothing short of revolutionary", why would He stick with the old staid system of all male leadership? To realize that Jesus was not afraid to tackle the out-of-the-ordinary and yet see He chose only male apostles should be at least reason to proceed with caution. I see no reason for not accepting the following conclusion: Since Jesus is God, He had no reason to fear challenging the social customs of the day. It can be demonstrated that He did so on certain occasions. Since He is God, did not fear society and challenged it when necessary, the fact that He chose 12 apostles who were all male cannot be satisfactorily explained as an accomodation to society, custom, or practicality. More likely it is one more piece of evidence demonstrating that it is in the purpose of God for church leadership, under Christ, to be in the hands of men rather than women.
Like Jesus, that Paul stayed within the social guidelines is not a constant. With the matter of the slavery recorded in Philemon, he made no attempt to change the social order. But in the matter of the circumcision of Titus, for example, he did not follow the "guidelines" (Gal. 2:1-5). One might see the matter as a difference between social guidelines and religious issues (when social it didn't matter, but when religious it did), or as a difference between legal matters (slavery) or social custom (circumcision). This might be worth spinning off into a whole new topic - when and why did Jesus and the apostles follow the established order and when did they challenge it (e.g., Jesus constantly challenged the established rule of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but seems to have not often challenged Roman governmental authority)? Nevertheless, it is clear that our criterion, our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, set the example when He chose to put all male leadership in His church in Jerusalem.