In the context of Sarah Palin’s nomination to be McCain’s Veep, one objection I’ve run across in some conservative circles is that a woman shouldn’t be a civil magistrate. While the dominant culture would decry this objection as unbearably sexist, it raises a valid question which Bible-believing Christians must address.
1.One objection I’ve seen is that a female magistrate runs counter to the creation-order in 1 Cor 11 and 1 Tim 2. There are, however, some complications with that appeal:
i) The Greek words aner/gyne can either mean “man/woman” or “husband/wife.” Which sense is appropriate must be determined by context.
For example, one standard monograph on the subject argues that the social context has reference to wives (or widows) in particular rather than women in general. Cf. B. Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows (Eerdmans 2003).
ii) Since Adam and Eve are the prototypal husband and wife as well as the prototypal man and woman, appeal to the creation order doesn’t settle the question of whether the referent is generic or marital.
iii) Beyond the semantic question, taking the usage generically would mean that every woman is under the authority of every man (1 Cor 11:3). But that would undercut the authority of a husband in relation to his wife.
iv) Because the US doesn’t have a monarchy or aristocracy, it’s easy for us to forget that, in the ancient world, authority was a question of social class rather than gender. Queens, queen-mothers, and noblewomen had authority over men lower down the social scale.
v) To some extent, this was bound up with their relation to the role of a man. If you were the wife or mother or daughter of a king, then you had a derivative, but genuine, authority. This is true in any hierarchical system. Except at the uppermost and lowermost ends of the scale, authority and subordination are not antithetical principles. A hierarchy both empowers and subordinates its members.
2.Another objection I’ve run across is that it would be inconsistent for a woman to wield authority outside the home, but be in submission in relation to her husband.
One can think of situations where these might be in tension. However, it’s quite common for people to have authority in one sphere, but not another. A four-star admiral has a lot of authority within the naval chain-of-command, but that isn’t transferable to the army, air force or Marines—much less the civilian sector.
3.In our system of gov’t, elected official have authority over the electorate, but in another respect the electorate has authority over its elected officials—since it confers authority on them by electing them, reelecting them, not electing them, not reelecting them, recalling them, or impeaching them, as the case may be. So the authority is bilateral, but ultimately vested in the electorate.