Report of the Committee on Women in the Military and in Combat

Presented to the Sixty-eighth (2001) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

General Assembly reports are thoughtful and weighty treatises on important matters but they are not constitutional documents. Only the Confession of Faith and Catechisms, the Form of Government, the Book of Discipline, and the Directory for the Public Worship of God of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church express the church’s official understanding of what the Word of God teaches.



The 65th General Assembly, "in response to the request of the PRJC (Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel), erect[ed] a committee of three, including one active military chaplain, to study and report back to the 66th General Assembly biblical guidance on the subjects of women in the military and in combat, limiting its inquiry to the biblical and moral issues that are properly the concern of the church." The Moderator appointed Messrs. Gibbs (who resigned because of other duties and was replaced by the Moderator with Needham), Knight and Wisdom (who later resigned because of other duties and in view of time constraints was not replaced). The remaining members of the Committee (Messrs. Knight and Needham) presented a report to the 66th GA. The 66th General Assembly returned the report and pending motions to the committee for further study and reflection, and added two new members, Messrs. Jack J. Peterson and A. Craig Troxel. Messrs. Knight and Troxel were elected as chairman and secretary respectively. The 67th General Assembly determined to postpone consideration of this report to the 68th General Assembly [Minutes, 67th GA, §144], and requested the Stated Clerk to propose a docket to the 68th General Assembly which provided for this committee's report to become the order of the day nor later than 11:00 a.m. on Monday, June 4 [Minutes, 67th GA, §219]. Since the 67th General Assembly the committee has met two times.

We believe it is important for the commissioners to know that our discussions have been frank, thorough and cordial, dealing with presuppositional issues, as well as specific textual, hermeneutical and applicatory issues. We further believe we have made a genuine effort to find significant common ground for drafting our report, but have not been able to present a single report to the General Assembly.

At the heart of our problem is a significant difference in the hermeneutical positions of the committee members, well-illustrated by the fact that two committee members hold that the statement of the Confession of Faith on "general equity" is sufficiently undergirded by the (mostly) Old Testament texts and the New Testament texts to justify its proper application to the issue of women serving as combatants today. Whereas two of us, not agreeing with that conclusion, believe that because of our Confession's concept of "general equity," this matter should not be considered by the Assembly.

Consequently we very respectfully submit two reports to the Assembly, the first which reflects an enlarged focus over last year's report, and the second which reflects the alternate view mentioned above.

Our prayer is that the Lord will employ both reports to stimulate your thinking and better prepare you for Assembly decision.

Your servants in Christ,
George W. Knight III
Robert B. Needham
Jack J. Peterson
A. Craig Troxel

Report I

After further study and reflection, continuing committee members Knight and Needham present the following revised and enlarged study (responding as well to certain questions raised) as their report.

I. Moral Basis

The undersigned have sought to be guided by the Scriptures in formulating its views. They have heeded the instruction of our Confession of Faith that "the whole counsel of God ... is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture ..." (WCF I.vi). They have also taken heed to the truth that "the moral law doth for ever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof ..." (WCF XIX.v). They have also taken seriously both halves of the statement about the "judicial laws" which the Confession states "expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require" (WCF XIX.iv). We therefore realize that our task requires us to set forth from the moral law expressly, or by good and necessary consequence, the teaching that we will present, or to evidence that an Old Testament judicial law obliges observance because the general equity may so require (cf., e.g., 1 Cor. 9:8-10; 1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Cor. 10:1-13; also Rom. 15:4).

When the Westminster Confession of Faith uses the term "general equity," it was using a term understood in its day and especially by theologians. The term "equity," by itself, is used by the divines in their exposition of the Fourth Commandment in answer 120 of the Larger Catechism. There we read that "the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself in these words, Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work." Here the divines are appealing to the sense of equity (or justness) in God's demand and doing so by appealing to that which rises above the Jewish character of the form in which the command is given. They do this by speaking of "God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs" and by contrasting that with the fact of his "reserving but one for himself." But in the latter statement they do not speak of the one day as the "seventh day" but of "but one for himself" so that this section can also apply to our "six and one" week division where the one is now the first day and not the seventh. This they had already made clear in their answer Number 116 where they speak of the change of that "one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world...."

We also can understand the intended meaning of "general equity" as we observe expositors of the Westminster standards relating the sense of that term. Each of the expositors that will be quoted forthwith affirm the first half of the confessional statement which declares that the judicial laws have expired together with the state of that people. At the same time they also acknowledge that the statement does not end with these words but with the words "further than the general equity thereof may require." We also affirm both sides of this statement, the first as well as the second and the second as well as the first. James Fisher in his Exposition of the Shorter Catechism [3rd Phila. ed., 1831, originally published in the 18th century] demonstrates this understanding, and also does so by giving an explanation of how "general equity" is manifested in the Judicial Law, in his answer to his own Question 96 by which he concludes his exposition of Question and Answer 40 of the Catechism. He asks the question, "Is this law [the Judicial Law] abrogated, or is it still of binding force?" He answers as follows: "So far as it respects the peculiar constitution of the Jewish nation, it is entirely abrogated; but in so far as it contains any statute, founded in the law of nature, common to all nations, it is still of binding force." Robert Shaw in his Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, first published in 1845, says that "this law [the judicial law], as far as the Jewish polity was peculiar, has also been entirely abolished; but as far as it contains any statute founded in the law of nature common to all nations, it is still obligatory"(page 245 of the Christian Heritage reprint). Shaw maintains that "it" "is still obligatory" "as far as it contains any statute founded in the law of nature common to all nations" (as did James Fisher). Similarly, Thomas Ridgeley in his Commentary on the Larger Catechism in 1855 said that certain laws continued which were founded on and agreeable to the "law of nature and nations" (pages 307-308 in the Still Waters photocopy reprint). A. A. Hodge in his Commentary on The Confession of Faith in 1869, along similar lines as the previous writers, stated: "a careful examination of the reason of the law will afford us good ground as to its perpetuity. If the original reason for its enactment is universal and permanent, and the law has never been explicitly repealed, then the law abides in force. If the reason of the law is transient, its binding force is transient also" (page 345). Taking the four expositors together as appropriately expressing the intent of the Confession's statement, we may summarize that "general equity" is an expression of the "law of nature, common to all nations" and that it is "universal and permanent."

How that "general equity" may be stated and applied from the Scripture in the Confession, or by ourselves, depends upon the particular statement of it being examined, and will vary from case to case. In the case of certain matters, the "general equity" will be stated in other terms than that found in the OT. But in other cases the statutes will themselves, per force, need to be stated in terms of the law itself to capture the "general equity" that is inextricably tied up with the law as stated. A particular case in point is that of the "general equity" of the judicial case laws which forbids marriage within certain "degrees of consanguinity and affinity" and which is referred to in Chapter XXIV section iv of the Confession of Faith. The first Scripture cited as proof is Leviticus 18:6-17, 24-30. When the inquiring individual asks what degrees of blood relationship or marriage relationship are forbidden by the confession because of the Scriptural teaching, the only answer that one can give is to work through each of the verses one after another. Here the general equity in its details (the degrees) and its statement in the Scriptures are virtually one and the same. Thus it is not in violation of the first half of the confessional statement about general equity to state the question in terms of its statement in the Scriptures. In fact, notice that the three confessional expositors do that themselves. Take Shaw for an example. He says that "any statute founded in the law of nature ..., it is still obligatory" (compare also Fisher who uses almost the same words).

Furthermore, the Apostolic use of Scripture and Paul's statement of principle have been germane for our task. In particular, Paul states that the Scriptures "were written for our instruction" (Rom. 15:4 NASB; cf. Rom. 4:23, 24; 1 Cor. 9:8-10; 10:6 and 11; cf. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:3-13 for an exposition of this principle). This statement of his hermeneutical principle is given in settings where he cites episodes in Scripture from which he says we should learn (Rom. 15:4, a Psalm obeyed by the Lord as an example for us; Rom. 4:23, 24, the words spoken by God to Abraham stated by Paul as God's principle for his dealing with all men; 1 Cor. 9:8-10, theocratic case law for an animal cited as instructive for human beings by analogy; 1 Cor. 10:6 and 11, the negative example of OT Israelites cited to teach the church). These cited passages are very relevant to our study because they are non-didactic passages (except perhaps in one case where there is a judicial law command) which Paul asserts "were written for our instruction," that is, for Christians "upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor. 10:11). The Apostle says this not only about these particular passages but states his principle as a general principle in Rom. 15:4 when he says that "whatever [Greek osa, everything that] was written in earlier times was written for our instruction." Paul is stating here that which he will state later when he writes "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for ... instruction" (2 Tim. 3:16). Both the "all" before "Scripture" and the "whatever" are affirming that the Bible in its entirety and particularity are profitable to instruct us because they were written for our instruction. So it is that the undersigned will herein cite God's words of instruction to OT Israel requiring only men (twenty years old or more) to be numbered as soldiers with the understanding that that which he requires of them (with no necessary overtones of theocratic adjudication) is as a general rule of equity what he requires of us now. We do this because this matter is seen to be "general equity" by "the law of nature, common to all nations," in that the nations have (until the recent influence of feminism) utilized and drafted for combat only men of approximately the same age as God instructs in the Scriptures.

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Chapter XXXI "Of Synods and Councils" states that "it belongeth to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience" and it states that those "decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission" (Section ii). The Confession goes on to say in Section iii that "all synods or councils, since the Apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both." This section of the Confession of Faith gives warrant to the church to address this case of conscience and to adopt conclusions "consonant to the Word of God," but at the same time reminds us of two important truths in connection with that result. Namely, that the conclusions, if found to be consonant to the Word of God, "are to be received with reverence and submission" yet not as "the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both." Thus the OPC, in fidelity to this section of its Confession, has never made any General Assembly decision any part of its constitution ("the rule of faith, or practice"). In its Form of Government (XV.8) it restates this teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith in the following words: "The general assembly is not invested with power, by virtue of its own authority, to make pronouncements which bind the conscience of the members of the church. Yet the deliverances of the general assembly, if declarative of the Word of God, are to be received with deference and submission not only because of their fidelity to the Word of God but also because of the nature of the general assembly as the supreme judicatory of the church."

II. Warrant for General Assembly Pronouncement

It might seem from first glance that a statement in our Westminster Standards might preclude the Assembly from dealing with our subject ("Synods and councils ... are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth ..." [XXXI.iv]). But this statement (which shall be dealt with at the conclusion of this section) did not preclude the Westminster divines themselves from dealing with a number of matters relating to the state about which the Scriptures speak. The most significant one is that they gave an entire chapter (XXIII) to the Civil Magistrate, but they also speak in the Larger Catechism of "public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence" (Answer 136).

The question must be asked forthrightly: What is the warrant for an assembly of a church to be making a pronouncement on this matter relating to the civil authority? A similar question was posed by the General Assembly to the Committee on Ecumenicity in the late 1940's. The committee, chaired by Dr. Ned B. Stonehouse, and consisting of Messrs. Bordeaux, Clelland, C. B. Ferguson, Galbraith, Moses, and Murray reported in 1950 to the 17th General Assembly (Minutes, pp. 60-62) on the church's relation to the state in a document which we now know was drafted by Prof. John Murray. We quote sections directly relevant to our question from the draft as it has been reproduced in Murray's Collected Writings, Volume 1, pages 253-259. We are citing this lengthy quotation because it so clearly and compellingly provides the answer given by that committee to the question which must be raised.

To the church is committed the task of proclaiming the whole counsel of God and, therefore, the counsel of God as it bears upon the responsibility of all persons and institutions. While the church is not to discharge the functions of other institutions such as the state and the family, nevertheless it is charged to define what the functions of these institutions are, and the lines of demarcation by which they are distinguished. It is also charged to declare and inculcate the duties which devolve upon them. Consequently when the civil magistrate trespasses the limits of his authority, it is incumbent upon the church to expose and condemn such a violation of his authority. When laws are proposed or enacted which are contrary to the law of God, it is the duty of the church to oppose them and expose their iniquity. When the civil magistrate fails to exercise his God-given authority in the protection and promotion of the obligations, rights, and liberties of the citizens, the church has the right and duty to condemn such inaction, and by its proclamation of the counsel of God to confront the civil magistrate with his responsibility and promote the correction of such neglect. The functions of the civil magistrate, therefore, come within the scope of the church's proclamation in every respect in which the Word of God bears upon the proper or improper discharge of these functions, and is is only misconception of what is involved in the proclamation of the whole counsel of God that leads to the notion that the church has no concern with the political sphere.
When it is maintained that the church is concerned with civic affairs, is under obligation to examine political measures in the light of the Word of God, and is required to declare its judgments accordingly, the distinction between this activity on the part of the church and political activity must be recognized. To put the matter bluntly, the church is not to engage in politics. Its members must do so, but only in their capacity as citizens of the state, not as members of the church....
It might appear that this position regarding the duty of the church is inconsistent with the statement of the Westminster Confession, namely: "Synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical: are not to intermeddle with civil affairs, which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate" (Chapter XXXI, Section v). It may be that the conception of the right and duty of the church in reference to the functions of the civil magistrate and his discharge of, or failure to discharge, these functions, set forth in this report goes beyond that envisaged by the framers of the Confession. If so, the Confessional statement does not make it necessary for us to resile [to withdraw] from this conception. The Confession is not to be our supreme standard. But it is not apparent that there is an inconsistency.
Two observations need to be made. First, it should be remembered that the Confession defines the sphere of the magistrate's jurisdiction and it incorporates such a definition in what was intended to be the confession of the church (cf. especially Chapter XXIII). The framers, therefore, considered it proper for the church to declare what the prerogatives of the civil magistrate are and what limitations circumscribe the sphere of his jurisdiction. It is surely implied that it is the right and duty of the church to declare from time to time what the applications and implications of such a definition of authority are. History has demonstrated how ready churches adopting the Confession were to resist arrogations and intrusions on the part of the state.
Second, the Confession says that "synods and councils are to handle or conclude nothing but that which is ecclesiastical." But to declare the whole counsel of God in reference to political matters, as well as other atters, is definitely an ecclesiastical function and was surely considered to be such by the framers of the Confession. Furthermore, the terms used by the Confession to designate the type of activity denied to synods and councils, namely, handling, or concluding, or intermeddling with "civil affairs which concern the commonwealth," indicate that what is regarded as beyond the province of synods and councils is something quite different from proclamation of the whole counsel of God as it bears upon the conduct of civil affairs. The intermeddling prohibited can well be regarded as the kind of political activity which is not by any means accorded to the church in the thesis propounded in this report. The church is certainly not to be regarded as handling or concluding political affairs when it declares the religious and moral implications of political measures; it does not determine civil affairs, it simply propounds and defends the requirements of God's revealed will in reference to civil affairs. Finally, the Confession grants to synods and councils the right of "humble petition in cases extraordinary" and of "advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate." This provision contemplates direct appeal to the civil magistrate in reference to what is specifically commonwealth business, and goes further than the proclamation, in reference to political affairs, which the church in the discharge of its function may at all times perform.
The question remains: how is the church to proclaim the counsel of God as it bears upon civil affairs? It is obvious that there are two means, in particular, of proclaiming the Word of God, namely, the pulpit and the press.... If it is to be faithful to its commission it must make its voice heard and felt in reference to public questions. The church may not supinely stand aside and ignore political corruption. For example, on the the ground that to pronounce judgment on such issues is to intermeddle in politics....
It will happen, of course, in the imperfection which characterizes the church that there will be dissident voices. The judgments of men will differ. But this does not affect the principle that the official representatives of the church are under obligation to proclaim in Christ's name the judgment of his Word on all questions to which that Word is relevant, and such spokes men ought to strive for unity of thought and expression in accordance with the Word of Christ....
This proclamation may also take the form of corporate pronouncement. That is to say, the church may in its corporate capacity through its assemblies, whether provincial, national or international, make official pronouncement regarding the religious and moral implications of political measures or movements. In certain situations it is under obligation to do this for the instruction and warning of its own members nd adherents as well as for the instruction of others, including those in whom is vested civil authority. Such pronouncements are for the purpose of proclaiming the Word of God and of vindicating God's authority in the issues involved. To deny such a prerogative belongs to the church is to compromise on the universal relevance of the Word of God and on the testimony which the church must bear to the world.
It is necessary to be reminded that great caution and reserve must be exercised by the church in making pronouncements regarding political affairs. This caution is particularly necessary in connection with the pronouncements and resolutions of assemblies of the church. Hasty analyses and proclamations must be avoided, and great care must be exercised to ensure that pronouncement are in accord with and necessitated by the requirements of the Word of God. Too frequently the church has brought reproach upon the name of Christ, and has seriously curtailed its influence for good, by making pronouncements which are not supported by the requisite evidence or which are beyond the prerogative of the church.... But abuse, and the liability to abuse, do not rule out the obligation and the necessity of bringing the proclamation of God's Word to bear upon every department of life and, specifically, upon that department of life concerned with civil government.

The undersigned believe that this statement articulates the scriptural and confessional warrant for the church to so act in its assembly. Furthermore, as will be unfolded in what follows, they also think that there is adequate evidence to make the declaration proposed herein. In so acting they are following not only the Biblical truth articulated above, but also that which has been evidenced by this denomination in its actions on abortion and homosexuality. It was the ongoing discussion of abortion in the public arena that played a role in the church's proclaiming to the watching world and to our own members the terrible sinfulness of taking the life of unborn children made in God's image (see Minutes of the 38th General Assembly, 1971, pp. 1-22, esp. pp. 21-22, and Minutes of the 39th General Assembly, 1972, pp. 17-18 and 149). That action, like the one proposed herein, was based on good and necessary consequence which was argued primarily from the Old Testament. This report follows in the footsteps of the abortion report and decision. (A noteworthy footnote to that proper concern for the preservation of the lives of unborn children bears directly on the subject of this report, namely, the preservation of the lives of unborn children—non-combatants—in the wombs of those women who might be actually engaged in combat).

But it has been argued by others that Chapter XXXI Section iv of our Confession precludes our speaking on this matter because it says that "Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereto required by the civil magistrate." Their opposing argument thus runs as follows: this matter is not ecclesiastical (but see below the confession's sense of that word), and we are not to intermeddle with civil affairs, "unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary;" or by way of advice if required by the civil magistrate. We acknowledge that we are not petitioning the civil magistrate, and certainly we are not being required by the civil magistrate to speak on this matter, and therefore our opponents say that we should not be speaking about it.

Two responses may properly be given to this argument from the section of our Confession quoted above. The first is that the application of the statement is drawn more tightly by the opponents of this report than the divines themselves drew it. Those divines, acting as a quasi-synod or council, wrote in these confessional documents all sorts of things about the civil magistrate without specifically being required to do so. They wrote an entire chapter on the Civil Magistrate (XXIII); they wrote about "public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense" in the Larger Catechism (Answer 136), among other "civil matters." They considered these things ecclesiastical because they were the revelation of God to his church which the church was to believe and to communicate (the answer to our opponents view of what is or is not ecclesiastical, as given above). Certainly if that same Word speaks about our subject, we can for the same reason communicate it without violating the standards or those who wrote them. Furthermore, we have been requested by the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel to address this question for them, and we were mandated by the 65th General Assembly to address ." . . the biblical and moral issues that are properly the concern of the church." We are answering these legitimate requests and the above cited statement of the Confession does not deny our doing so. But by interpreting this statement in such a way as to disallow what the confessional documents themselves do elsewhere permit is to deny what our confessional standards in themselves permit. And further, this opposing interpretation thereby precludes communicating to the church the clear and consistent teaching of the Scripture and the confessional standards on this matter. Compare again the remarks of John Murray given above in the extended quotation, who came to the same conclusion as Report I is communicating.

III. Foundational Principles of Sexual Distinctions

Dealing with this issue which is premised by definition on gender distinction, one must turn to God's creation and instruction of men and women in Genesis, Chapters 1 through 3. As we are instructed by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3 ff., we understand that God's creation activity, making woman from man, and the language that God uses to describe the relationship that she would have with man, i. e., as a "helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:18), indicate that man stands in a headship or leadership role to woman (cf. esp. 1 Cor. 11:8-9, and also verses 11 and 12; cf. also 1 Cor. 14:34ff., "as the Law says"; and 1 Tim. 2:11-14). The Apostle Paul utilizes God's creation activity with man and woman as the absolutely foundational account and basis for all that he teaches about how men and women shall relate to one another in their important role relationship. Therefore we acknowledge that the Genesis account is foundational for that which follows in the Scriptures when the distinguishable roles of men and women are in view. All that is entailed in the differences of their roles is not yet fully set forth but will come forth in the remaining pages of Scripture. Nevertheless, one more facet of that distinction is seen very shortly in the way in which God presents the curse on the woman and on the man in Genesis 3. He says that the curse affects them (woman and man) in ways that are unique to them as woman and as man. The curse on the woman impacts her childbearing and her relationship to her husband (Gen. 3:16). The curse on the man affects man's role as the primary bread winner and his life of toil (Gen. 3:17-19). Both God's creation and his curses on the man and woman demonstrate his distinction between man and woman just as they also indicate they are both image bearers and sinners. This creation and curse activity of God with reference to men and women is certainly foundational, although not yet explicit, in its bearing on our subject.

The Lord God not only created man and woman with distinguishable roles (also indicated in the curse pronouncements), he also determined that they would relate sexually and become one flesh (Gen. 2:24) to meet one another's needs and to be fruitful. He determined that their one-fleshness would take place only in the marriage relationship (again Gen. 2:24) and so God made one woman for the one man and brought her to him (cf. also the words of Jesus in Mt. 19:4-6; both the Genesis and the Matthew account state that the man is to "be united to his wife"). God protects the sanctity of marriage by making one of the Ten Commandments a prohibition against the violation of marriage: "you shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). This commandment is applied throughout the Bible in various ways to prohibit that violation. The Westminster Larger Catechism draws various strands together in its answers to the questions about what the commandment about adultery requires and forbids. Among other things it says that the commandment requires "the preservation of it [chastity] in ourselves and others" and "shunning all occasions of uncleanness" (Answer 138), and also that it forbids "adultery, fornication, rape" and "all other provocations to ... uncleanness" (Answer 139). We believe that this commandment and its entailments require that in training and housing its personnel both in camps and on the field our nation should so segregate the sexes that circumstances which foster violations of this commandment and all temptations to this act are removed. This would also mean that no military orders or governmental regulations of our nation should place women in situations where they have a high probability of being captured and thereby being placed in danger of rape.

IV. God's Command as Our Example

The most specific application of Scriptural teaching to our assignment is the enrollment of men for combat duty on the part of God himself. We read of this happening in Numbers, Chapter 1. The LORD speaks to Moses ("The LORD spoke to Moses," verse 1) and gives to Moses the following command: "Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army" (Numbers 1:2-3; cf. also Numbers 26 and Numbers 32:25-27; the Hebrew word used for "man" in verse 2 of the NIV is zakar, which is rendered more precisely in the NASB by the English "male," a term used in the OT "for the male sex when sexual distinctions are in view," Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, I:243, cf., e. g., Gen. 1:27, 5:2; Lev. 12:7). The explicit reason for the census or mustering is for these males to be prepared "to go out to war" (Num. 1:3 NASB rendering of the NIV "to serve in the army," the phrase in the Hebrew is yose' saba', with saba' meaning to fight or to war). This explicit requirement of God to muster the males to fight became the norm or standard from this time onwards in the Old Testament, even when God is not directly speaking or ordering the mustering to be done (cf., e. g., Numbers 31:3-4; Joshua 1:14; 6:3; 8:3; Judges 7:1-8; 20:8-11; 1 Samuel 8:11-12 [contrast verse 13]; 11:8; 13:2; 14:52; 24:2; 2 Samuel 24:2; 1 Chronicles 21:5; 27:1-15, 23-24; 2 Chronicles 17:12-19; 25:5-6; 26:11-14; 2 Kings 24:14-16; Nehemiah 4:14 ["fight for ... your wives and your homes"]). Similarly in Deuteronomy 20, a chapter devoted to matters concerning war, exceptions to combat are given for various reasons. In every case the one excepted is clearly evidenced to be a man (cf., e. g., verses 7 and 8, "Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.... Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too").

Nowhere in the Bible does God call for women to be mustered for combat duty in the army. The command of God for men to be mustered and the fact that women are never so mustered must indeed make its impact upon us as it has on others. However we may think that the larger pericope is to be related to the New Testament, the question that this information must raise for us is this: Is this merely theocratic judicial case law which does not oblige any other now, or is it reflecting a general equity which God would have us acknowledge and conduct our affairs by? Since the distinctions between men and women are rooted in God's creation activity before the theocracy ever existed, it would seem appropriate to think that this activity of God (and of the Old Testament consistently) displayed God's intention rather than reflecting God's conformity to an ancient (and now to be disregarded) cultural perspective. This response is strengthened by the following.

V. Learning from Judges 4 and 5, and Drawing Conclusions

The episode relating to Deborah (and in a lesser way to Jael) in the Book of Judges (Chapters 4 and 5) is also to be taken into account. Deborah, a prophetess, was leading Israel (Judges 4:4). She related to Barak that "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men [the Hebrew word is 'ish, "most commonly it denotes any individual male," Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, I:38] ... and lead the way to Mount Tabor' " (Judges 4:6). It is clear that even though God was utilizing Deborah as a leader in Israel that he specifically commanded through her that Barak should lead the army and fight the battle with men. And so she communicated God's command to Barak. Barak responds less than obediently to the Lord's command. "Barak said to her, 'If you go with me, I will go, But if you don't go with me, I won't go' " (Judges 4:8). To such a response Deborah replies: "'Very well', says Deborah, 'I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman' " (Judges 4:9). The account ends with Sisera going to the tent of Jael, falling asleep, and being killed by her (Judges 4:17-22). Notice that this account has repeated the command of God, that we have already noticed, for a man to do the fighting—not the woman who even then is leading the people. And Deborah has faithfully passed that command on and yielded to a man to do the job (even when he was unwilling to do the job by himself, as he ought to have done, and thus brought dishonor and shame on himself, cf. again Judges 4:9).

This passage is most helpful for our understanding of the large number of passages that we have already referred to where God himself commands that men be enrolled as his soldiers. Here that which is implicit begins to become more explicit. Notice the scenario. The leader is a woman, but the one asked to lead in the warfare is a man. God does not use the woman Deborah but commands Barak through her to lead men to fight the battle. Here we see the interplay of God not using a woman (or women) but commanding a man, and men, to do what God has asked men to do throughout the OT. Here we have for the first time in this command of God about warfare an explicit contrast between women and men. And this contrast is underlined even further when Barak hesitates to obey God's command and Deborah pronounces the outcome which God brought about, namely, that Sisera would be killed by a woman. The reason for her pronouncement is because of the way that the man Barak was responding. "But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman" (Judges 4:9, emphasis added). Where in the OT do we see God establishing different roles for men and women? The answer is in his creation of them and his cursing of them (Genesis 2:21-24 and 3:16-20). Thus we see that God's requiring a man Barak to lead men to fight is because he does not want a woman to lead the fight. And when he commands Barak the man to lead the fight, not the woman, he commands him to lead men to fight, not women (Judges 4:6). This episode has provided the very aspect missing in all the earlier episodes about God commanding men to be his warriors, namely, the fact that God does not want nor does he permit women to be the warriors. But otherwise the command God gives is exactly the same.

Therefore this passage has in effect provided the rationale explicitly missing in the earlier ones. And in so doing it shows that the question of warfare is predicated on God's creation mandate regarding men and women. Hence, a matter based on God's creation mandate carries with it by definition the general equity that makes it mandatory for us in the NT age.

What we learn from this passage we see stated in other passages in the OT in which God himself indicates that he has not made women to be warriors by his repeated condemnatory statements that armies have become, are becoming, or are like "women" to indicate that he did not fit women for battle (Isaiah 19:16; Jeremiah 50:37; 51:30; Nahum 3:13). God declares through Isaiah that they "will be like women" and "will shudder with fear at the uplifted hand that the LORD Almighty raises against them" (Isaiah 19:16). God declares through Jeremiah that the Babylonians in their response to what God will do "will become women," which he expands upon later by saying that "Babylon's warriors have stopped fighting, they remain in their strongholds. Their strength is exhausted; they have become like women" (Jeremiah 50:37; 51:30). Against Nineveh God pronounces woes in Nahum 3:13 "Look at your troops—they are all women!" Why does God call troops of his foes "women" as an indication of their weakness and inability to withstand God? Because God has not made women to be the warriors and thus any army that is weak he designates in this way. The language used in 1 Peter 3:7 would point in the same direction. In the NT passage Peter exhorts husbands to "treat them [their wives] with respect as the weaker partner...." The "weaker partner" most likely means the one who is weaker "in muscular strength" (Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter). That is, on average, a man has more brute strength than a woman and is usually taller and heavier than his wife is (the average husband outweighs his wife by twenty to fifty or more pounds) and has more upper body strength. These givens have, until recently, meant that armed forces have not put women up against men in hand to hand combat, or put them where they would have to attempt to drag a wounded colleague off the field of battle. The disadvantage of the differences in brute strength make that judgment a wise one to follow, lest women be slaughtered, or the wounded be left without reasonable potential for rescue from the combat area by female combatants.

Distinctions between men and women are raised elsewhere in the OT and are cited as proof texts by the Westminster Confession as still governing us today. One example is the teaching that a father or a husband can nullify a vow that his daughter or wife takes if he thinks that she cannot or should not fulfill it for one reason or another. These verses, and these only (from Numbers 30 only the verses that express the headship of the father or husband over the daughter or wife, i.e., verses 5, 8, 12 and 13), are cited as relevant proof texts for the NT age to demonstrate the general principle articulated in the last two statements of Westminster Confession XXII.7 when it states that "No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God." The citing of these verses shows that the framers thought that the particular statements found within them were still relevant to all who live in the NT age.

So we see that our confessional forefathers recognize the binding quality of the general equity found in the OT. They acknowledge its teaching both on the headship of men playing a role in women's vows, as we have just observed, and also on capital punishment and on a lawful war (as shall be demonstrated below), to mention but a few. More importantly, the Apostle Paul states as a principle that the OT Scriptures "were written for our instruction" and deduces from non-didactic passages things we should be taught by and learn from them. Furthermore, the Apostle draws from the fact that women were created from and for men, and not vice versa, the various truths which still govern our life in marriage, the family and the church (see 1 Corinthians 11:8-9; cf. also the entirety of the passage and especially the balance to man's [and woman's] pride that Paul gives in verses 11-12). God's command that men only be drafted for battle, underscored by the teaching given through Deborah that men, and not women, were to fight (reflecting the Biblical view of headship), God's condemnation of the armies of his foes that they are "like women," and God's placing men in headship roles over their daughters and wives with reference to vows (also reflecting the OT teaching on men's headship), should bring us to ask ourselves pertinent questions. Does God's creation order and his teaching on men and women impact other OT matters (as referenced) but not that of who should fight? Does not the interaction between male and female in God's instruction to Barak through Deborah indicate that this teaching on the role relationship of men and women is in view in the question of warfare? And therefore should not that teaching be recognized as our divine guide about the matter of women in combat? The undersigned believe that it does and that it should be.

At the same time the passages dealing with Deborah and Barak and Jael (Judges, Chapters 4 and 5) provide ancillary teaching through the response and action of Deborah by accompanying Barak (4:9, 10), her prophecy about Jael that God would hand Sisera over to her (4:9) and Jael's own action in killing him (4:17-22, esp. verses 21-22). This teaching is that, although women are not to lead the fighting nor to be involved in the fighting (4:6, 7), they may indeed, if necessary, go with the men (e.g., Deborah, 4:9-10) and do whatever is necessary as those not on the battleline but still willing to support their own army (e.g., Jael, 4:17-22). The song of Judges 5, sung by Deborah and Barak, well illustrates the fact that even though Deborah (and Jael in a different way) did not serve in a combatant capacity within the army, but rather in what could be called, in modern terminology, a "support role," that they are nevertheless appropriately praised for their support role in this military victory. The general equity of this ancillary teaching is that women may enlist in the various non-combatant military services as well as in the medical corps.

VI. Following the OT Foundational Teachings in the New Testament

The moral teaching of the Old Testament and the general equity of the judicial laws continue in their relevance to us who live in the New Testament age. A clear example of an Old Testament moral teaching not explicitly found in the Ten Commandments nor repeated in the New Testament is God's demand for capital punishment for those who willfully take the lives of others (Gen. 9:5, 6). This teaching is recognized in our Westminster Larger Catechism's statement that "the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of publick justice ..." (Answer 136). The answer recognizes that not only Christians but also the "publick" must adhere to this teaching of God. For direct teaching on our subject the New Testament is virtually silent, except that it presents the prevailing view at that time through the several examples of male soldiers given in the New Testament (cf., e. g., Mt. 8:9; par. Lk. 7:8; Acts 10:1; 23:23; cf. also Romans 13:4). This may be an example of those who do not have the law, doing "by nature things required by the law" (Rom. 2:14; cf. also 1 Cor. 5:1 and 1 Tim. 5: 8), or to put it in the words of Robert Shaw, expressing "the law of nature common to all nations." That practice has characterized the vast majority of nations until this age of "political correctness" and its express desire to put women into combat. The modern nation of Israel placed women in combat and since have relented from that practice as being detrimental to winning battles and skirmishes.

Since, however, the New Testament clearly reiterates God's distinction between men and women established in the Old Testament, as we saw in the beginning of our study, in 1 Corinthians 11 and elsewhere, one can deduce by good and necessary consequence that the application of that principle to males as warriors would also be implied in the apostolic age. The matter before us may be summed up in the words Charles Hodge uses on the subject of the lawfulness of defensive war in his Systematic Theology, Vol. III, p. 366: "This very silence of the New Testament leaves the Old Testament rule of duty on this subject still in force." The Larger Catechism had already stated a similar perspective when the framers of the Westminster standards thought it sufficient to cite only Jeremiah 48:10 and Chapter 20 of Deuteronomy [a chapter which J. A. Thompson characterizes as "Regulations for the Holy War" in his Tyndale commentary] to substantiate the "lawful war" aspect of its Answer 136 that "The sins forbidden are, all taking away of the life of ourselves, or others, except in case of publick justice, lawful war, or necessary defense...." In other words, if the OT gives rules for engaging in war [even if it is a Holy War] then also those who live in the NT age should recognize that the rules of general equity from that passage indicate that a "lawful war" is permissible in the New Testament age. Similarly if the OT gives God's command to engage only men for warfare, and as in Deborah and Barak's case rules out a woman and women as combatants, then the believer in the NT should perceive this perspective to be general equity for him or her as well.

Some have argued that the distinction between combatant and non-combatants, and combatant units and non-combatant units, is no longer valid. Some do this because they want to afford female service members the same opportunity as males for promotion, which is greatly enhanced by combat duty. Others may do so for other reasons, but may nevertheless, without intending to, lend support to the reason just given. We think that the distinction, if it is desired to be observed, can be maintained.

VII. Conclusions

Because of our awareness of God's distinction between the sexes and the expression of that distinction in the general equity of his declarations about mustering the men to fight, it must be concluded that the evidence of the Bible is to exempt women from being drafted into the military and from military combat, and to charge men with the responsibility of combat. The Old Testament passages dealing with various aspects of God's revealed will on the subject of personnel in combat, the NT teachings on the general equity validity of OT passages for instruction and application in the NT age, and the specific hermeneutical use of the OT by the framers of the Westminster standards rovide a sufficient basis for the professional protection of Orthodox Presbyterian Church Military Chaplains (when required, in connection with their military duties, to indicate their denomination's position on this matter), as well as for guidance for Orthodox Presbyterian Church Pastors, Elders, Chaplains, and other communicant members considering, or seeking to enter into, one of the military services of the United States.

1. That the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is opposed to any possible future drafting of women into combat service, in time of war or peace, under any and all circumstances, for the reason that such governmental actions would be contrary to the Word of God.

2. That the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is opposed to the inclusion of women in combatant military units, or in units which during wartime, have a high degree of potential involvement in combat and possible capture and potential risk of rape, even if their command is not designated a combat element, and that such inclusion is contrary to the Word of God. (This does not rule out, however, female personnel, serving in non-combatant assignments, such as field medical units or on hospital ships, which can come under hostile fire.)

3. That no Orthodox Presbyterian Church Chaplain who is endorsed for military service by his presbytery through the instrumentality of the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains shall be required to advocate, support, or agree with any philosophy and effort to include women in military combatant units, nor can he be required by any superior line or staff officer to teach or advocate such a philosophy and effort, nor shall he be forbidden to provide the biblical counsel contained in this report.

VIII. Recommendations

1. That the 68th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church concur with report I and adopt its conclusions.

2. That the 68th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church forward this report to the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJC):

a. as the response of the 68th General Assembly (2001) to the 1998 PRJC request for guidance on the subject of women in the military and in combat, and

b. that the conclusions and recommendations of this report be included in the PRJC written instructions and guidelines as a supplement specifically for Orthodox Presbyterian Church Chaplains endorsed by the PRJC.

George W. Knight III, Chairman
Robert B. Needham

Report II


As to its subject, this committee's mandate has in view "women in the military and in combat." As to its scope, this committee's inquiry of the subject is limited "to the biblical and moral issues that are properly the concern of the church." Consequently, the burden of this committee is twofold. This committee is to report on "the biblical and moral issues," but only inasmuch as they are "properly before the church." Just as the committee must report on what the Word of God declares on these issues, it must also prove whether or not, and if so how, these issues are rightly the concern of the church. In other words, the committee must ascertain the subject matter's disposition both theologically and ecclesiologically. For this reason, this report is organized under three headings:

  1. What Are the Biblical and Moral issues?
  2. What Issues Are Properly the Concern of the Church?
  3. What Biblical Guidance Can Be Given to the Church?

The signatories of this report will argue that whether they are seen for their merit or propriety, these issues are not sufficiently set forth in God's biblical revelation (either "expressly" or deduced by "good and necessary consequence"), that the church of Jesus Christ may declare His will to His church on the matter with the confidence which is necessary to announce it from our pulpits with, "thus saith the Lord."

I. What Are the Biblical and Moral Issues?

A. The Interpretation of Scripture: The Hermeneutical Question

To conclude that the inclusion of women in combatant or wartime units is contrary to the Word of God one must employ a hermeneutic of the civil law's general equity which, in our opinion, is contrary to what Scripture and the subordinate standards teach.

"Report I" does this on the basis first of its study of the passages of the Old Testament that deal with God's commands for Israel's armies in the conquest of Canaan. The exegesis of these passages in the Report does not do sufficient justice to the unique role of Israel's warfare in the unfolding of God's plan of redemption. The passages cited in the report from the Pentateuchal conquest narratives take place in the context of cherem warfare.

Cherem warfare was an outpouring of God's judgment against the Canaanites in the total devotion of their property and their lives to the LORD in destruction. This was an interruption of the common grace order established by God in the covenant with Noah. The Conquest of Canaan then, was an intrusion and anticipation of the final judgment to come.

1. Pre-Battle Preparation

Cherem warfare was not conventional warfare as we practice it in this era of common grace. Many of the acts that preceded war in the Old Testament combat narratives underlined the specifically theocratic intent of the conquest or conflict. These acts included sacrifice to God, in which Israel is devoted to destruction in the representative, substitutionary sacrifice of bulls, and goats, sheep and lambs, so that they do not come under the wrath of God for their sins (cf. the Passover). They are ceremonially put to death in the bloody sign of circumcision (as at Gilgal in the book of Joshua), so that they do not perish as the uncircumcised Canaanites will (and as God threatened Moses in Ex. 4:24-26). This act points ahead to the circumcision of Christ upon the cross in his substitutionary death, taking upon himself our sins, and setting aside the written code that was against us and stood opposed to us (Col. 2:11-15). They take vows to God, inquire of God's oracles and ceremonially cleanse themselves and their camp in the presence of their God who dwells in their midst to deliver them.

2. Combatants and Battle Tactics

For these and other reasons, the use of these narratives in "Report I" proves too much. For a handling of these passages must do fuller justice to all that is included as well as what is excluded in cherem warfare.

For it is not simply the case that the Israelite women are excluded from combat in cherem warfare. Mercy and safety are also denied to the wives, children and other Canaanite "non-combatants" and to their property, whose sin condemns them as unworthy to dwell in God's kingdom. They and their property are devoted to the Lord in death, confiscation or destruction in a way that would be totally unacceptable to the conduct of war according to the "general equity of the civil law" under the New Covenant.

A more consistently post-resurrection hermeneutical perspective leads to different conclusions regarding the proper use of the passages.

When viewed in its cherem context, the exclusion of women from combat is seen as typological. It points back to the promise that the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent is a male (in Gen. 3:15 the pronominal suffix on the verb "shall crush" is masculine in the Hebrew). The law prohibiting the woman from dressing herself in the "clothing of a warrior" (cli gabar in Hebrew) points ahead to the LORD as the Heavenly Warrior who alone puts on the armor of God when no man was found to deliver God's people (Is. 59:15-20, cf. Eph. 6:10ff). He, of course, is the commander of the armies of the Lord of hosts, who appeared to Joshua, the pre-incarnate Son of God.

And under the New Covenant, those devoted to destruction in Holy War are the nations, not in the taking of their physical lives in death, but by grace through faith in their being identified with Christ in baptism in his death and resurrection.

Thus, the armies of Israel find their counterpart under the New Covenant not in any national Army, be it ever so Christian, but in the Church Militant. In this church, both men and women put on the whole armor of God, that they may stand in the evil day, and having done all to stand (Eph. 6). "For though we walk after the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. For our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down every vain imagination that exalts itself against God, and bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

In this holy nation, the church, it is not merely the men who as priests go forth into battle with the armies of God's people as in Israel. Instead, both men and women are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that they may declare the excellencies of Him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:8-10). "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

God makes no promises to America (or Scotland) regarding the future; he makes his promises to his church.

3. Warfare and military

God as the warrior puts the focus in the conquest narratives where it belongs. It is God who wages war, not man. The war is actively offensive and hegemonic, not preventive and strategic, as in American modern warfare.

God promises to Abraham a land for his possession. "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it" (Gen. 15:7). When Abram asks, "How can I know?" (verse 8), the Lord, in that awesome theophany of the smoking firepot with a blazing torch in the midst of thick and dreadful darkness, passes through the split animals of sacrifice and takes on himself the oath of dismemberment if he does not fulfill his promise—a shadow of Calvary and the Son of God undergoing the curse of that oath in the gross darkness of hell—the Lord reaffirms the promise of the land, saying, "know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own [Egypt], and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation [the plagues of judgment and redemption] they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.... In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sins of the Amorites has not yet reached full measure" (verses 13, 14 and 16). And his final word: "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites" (verses 18b-21).

The promise of the land will be fulfilled, but only after a long period of time. That is God's promise, confirmed by the oath. During that period of waiting his descendants would suffer under the enemy of God, Egypt and her gods. They would also see their warrior God defeat the gods of Egypt in the plagues inflicted in judgment on their and his enemies, culminating in the deliverance of the people of God through the parted waters of the sea, their baptism, and the judgment of the Lord on Egypt as the Lord destroys them in those same waters. Moses and Miriam sing the Hallelujah chorus in Exodus 15: "I will sing unto the Lord for he is highly exalted, the horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation (verses 1 and 2) ... he is my warrior; the Lord is his name (verse 3), in the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger (verse 7).... In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble, anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away (verses 13-14); ... You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance (v. 17)."

The long period is a time of waiting "... for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached full measure" (Gen. 15:16). That long list of the nations inhabiting the land of promise underlines that. At the time of Abram they were not yet ripe for judgment. At the time of the Exodus they were. Their sins had piled up, and God was ready to judge, using his people, the people he had redeemed as the warrior, as the instruments of judgment.

The command is found, for example, in Deuteronomy 7. "When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perezites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you—and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally" (verses 1 and 2). Why? Because "... you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession" (verse 6).

The Lord brought his people into the land promised to Abraham by opening the Jordan River and leading them into the land, sitting on his throne, the mercy seat, the throne of grace, the ark of the covenant. Just before the battle of Jericho, the invincible, Joshua, the general of the armies, looking over the battle plan and the city to be destroyed, meets the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus, who declares to general Joshua, "... as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come" (Josh. 5:14).

As covenant history unfolds, God is always the warrior of his people. He sets his king on mount Zion, his son/Son, in response to the rebellion of the nations (Ps. 2), through Joshua, the Judges (called "Saviors"), through the kings, especially David, notably begun in the slaughter of Goliath who is not merely the enemy of Israel, but primarily, the enemy of God.

The Warrior God, becomes flesh, and dwells (pitches his tent/tabernacle) among us, and continues the warfare with the enemies of God. To become the ultimate victor, he undergoes the curses of the covenant, the curse of self-malediction of Genesis 15, so that "... in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins ..." (Eph. 1:7). He commissions his church, the people of God, to "disciple the nations ... baptizing them ... teaching them" (Matt. 28:18-20). The cherem warfare continues, but now with the "sword of the Spirit." Defeat the enemies of God proclaiming the gospel of grace, to call them out of darkness into his marvelous light. To have them undergo the ordeal of baptism like the people of God of old at the Red Sea and at the River Jordan, but now transformed by the circumcision and baptism of Jesus (Col. 2:11-12).

All the people of God are soldiers of the cross to carry the cherem warfare to ultimate victory, being led in triumph by the Warrior God himself (2 Cor. 2:14-17).

4. Headship: A Redemptive Historical Understanding of Gender

The committee "Report I" appeals to Genesis 2, but does not do sufficient justice to the precise language of Genesis 1, regarding the language of gender. God says, "Let us make man in our image and after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." Both men and women are the image of God, even in the post-fall, post-resurrection situation (James 3:9). Both men and women share in extending God's dominion over creation.

There is a role for single women in creation that is neither spousal nor maternal. Single women are also eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God (Matthew 19) and priests to God (2 Pet. 2:5-10; Rev. 1:6), and with male members of the church are under the divinely constituted authority of bishops and deacons (Php. 1:1). Here there is no Jew nor Greek, barbarian, scythian, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3, Col. 3). Especially in times of present distress, such as war or persecution, both men or women may refrain from marrying in order to serve the Lord without distraction. (2 Cor. 7).[1]

There is also the consideration of the expanding place of women in the post-resurrection people of God. The exclusive priesthood of the old is replaced by the universal priesthood of all believers. The sign of the covenant in the old, exclusively applied to males, is fulfilled in and replaced by baptism of both male and female through the circumcision and baptism of Christ (Col. 2:11-12).

Signalized by Paul in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ." This expanded place of women in the post-resurrection people of God is so pervasive that Paul specifically delimits her place in the prohibition to the female from occupying the office of teaching and ruling in the church.

B. The Interpretation of the Subordinate Standards

1. Introduction

To them also, as a body politick, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.—Conf. 19.4

This paragraph from the Confession teaches that the civil law has "expired" with the theocratic state of Israel and that it does not oblige any other political body. In other words, the church's first disposition toward the Sinaitic Covenant as a civil code is that it is inapplicable and does not have any force for any other political entity. The exception to this rule is when its "equity" can be demonstrated to be required—but then only in its equity, and not as a statute—and then, only its "general equity," and not the statute's specific application. This is how the church must consider her place with respect to that element of God's covenant with Moses.

This means that those who argue for the prohibition of women in combat from the Old Covenant's civil code must in some way demonstrate that the "general equity" of any particular theocratic statute is required of our and all civil governments. Thus, it is our contention that the burden of proof is upon them. This gets to the heart of the discussion and disagreement. The key difference between disagreeing parties centers upon how we understand and apply the phrase "general equity" in Conf. 19.4.

2. The History and Idea of "Equity"

As a term, "equity" is used primarily in the fields of ethics and law, where it connotes or invokes the ideals of justice, fairness, equality, mercy, and evenhanded dealing, and the idea of "judgment according to the spirit, rather than the letter of the law."[2] Thus, equity denotes justice which is administered according to what is right and fair as opposed to what is strictly right and demanded by the rules of common law.[3]

The heritage of this idea can be traced back to Greek and Roman roots, where it was articulated by Plato in his Statesman, developed by Aristotle in his Ethics (the locus classicus for the notion of equity), and upheld by Cicero in De legibus.[4] It can then be traced up through the Anglo-Norman and Anglo-American legal systems where the idea has been more clearly formulated, by, for example, the English barrister Christopher St. Germain (1460-1540).[5] This is the backdrop to the English, and hence Irish and American systems of jurisprudence of equity which are collateral to "common law" and seek to administer more complete or adequate justice in instances or circumstances where statutory law is unwieldy or needs correction.[6]

The distinction between "law" and "equity" is the distinction between a set of regulations and the higher sense of justice which either directs or restrains those regulations. It is the distinction between a text and its interpretation or commentary. Whereas law is the written text (statute), equity consists in the application of justice to situations that those laws were not designed to handle (interpretation). Thus, "implicit in the idea of equity is the recognition that the creation of a series of laws does not in and of itself guarantee that justice will be appropriately administered. It involves the recognition that laws must be applied existentially, since the application of the 'the letter of the law' may in fact distort the real purpose of the law and ignore the individuality and particularity of circumstances."[7]

This legal idea of equity has influenced theological thought as well. To wit, in William Perkins' work on Christian equity, EPIEKEIA, he expresses his concern that the extremity of the law be mitigated by equity.[8] John Winthrop, the New England Puritan and Governor of the "Massachusetts Bay Company," distinguished between the formulation of the law and its equity.[9] Calvin himself distinguished between the constitution or form of a law, and the equity (aequitatem) on which its constitution is based.[10] Underlying their thought was the assumption that for the law to be administered fairly there must be a deeper commitment to justice, because justice must always transcend the law.[11]

An assumption which has been mutually fundamental to theological and legal minds alike is that equity is actually based upon God's natural revelation. Calvin, like Augustine, viewed equity as "natural law."[12] Similarly, Thomas Ridgeley maintained that the judicial laws which promoted Israel's civil welfare expired when her polity became extinct, except for those laws which were founded in and agreeable to the "law of nature and nations."[13] Francis Turretin argued that Jewish polity and law have been abolished, except for their "general determinations, founded upon the moral law."[14] A.A. Hodge reasoned in the same manner, stating that one must make a "careful examination of the reason of the law" to determine whether it is of a transient or binding nature.[15] In his ethical treatise on the commonwealth and the church, Leviathan (1651), Thomas Hobbes states that the "law of nations" is one and the same as the "law of nature" which translates into the idea of equity.[16] Judges who determine equity discern "the interpretation of the law of nature" and uphold the "eternal law of God" and "the reason of his Sovereign."[17] Sir William Blackstone (1723-80), who published the first systematic exposition of English law in 1765 (Commentaries on the laws of England), adopted models from continental legal scholarship and arranged the institutions of English law around a basic scheme of natural rights.[18]

3. "General equity" in Conf. 19.4

This is the sense of "equity" which pervaded the thought of the Reformers and would have been the prevalent ethos as the Westminster Assembly convened.[19] It is reasonable to assume then that the expression general equity, as it appears in Conf. 19.4, is a terminus technicus consistent with the concept in English and American jurisprudence described above.[20] Thus, to argue for the "equity" in any particular statute of Israel's civil code, one must demonstrate that there is a general moral principle which stands behind it. This is why the Confession states that the civil code ought not to be applied at face value. Its statutory laws were uniquely for Israel and have expired. Their only relevancy to any other commonwealth is the equity that can be shown to be required—assuming that equity lies behind or under the present statute.

In other words, the Westminster divines were arguing that the law was judicially outdated. Just as a person would appeal to a court of equity if he believed that the common law was not designed for his particular situation, so also the Westminster divines appealed to general equity because they did not believe that the "common law" of Moses was designed for 17th century England. They presumed that one should not appeal to the civil law of Moses to establish a certain practice for today; unless one could demonstrate that the equity in, under or behind that particular law is an abiding principle for all societies and cultures based upon God's moral law. To put it another way, the judges of Britain, who would be expected to follow the Confession of the Churches of England and Scotland, were not expected to view the Mosaic law as the common law of the land. Rather, they were to use the Mosaic law as a guideline to train their consciences in principles of justice and equity. As Francis Turretin has put it, "Although the best and wisest laws (as far as the state of that people was concerned); were sanctioned by God, it does not follow that on this account they ought to be perpetual. God, from positive and free right, could give them for a certain time and for certain reasons, to some one nation, which would not have force with respect to others. What is good for one is not immediately so for another."[21] We contend that the issue of women in combat is precisely the type of scenario that falls under the concerns of Conf. 19.4. "Report I" makes its case for male-only combatants primarily from the Old Testament, and to be more precise, from theocratic statutory law (Num. 1, Deut. 20), and narrative (Jdg. 4 [Deborah]). But the Confession of Faith teaches that we approach these passages predisposed with the assumption that these judicial laws have "expired together with the state of that people." We maintain that if one wishes to cite these passages in order to deduce that their equity prescibes that only men should fight in the military, then it is also clear that more than females are prohibited from military service.

These Scripture texts assert that only those "twenty years old or more" may serve (Num. 1:3), and that those who have recently "built a new house and not dedicated it" or have "planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it" are exempt from military service (Deut. 20:5, 6). Furthermore, anyone who has "become pledged to a woman and not married her" should "go home" (Deut. 20:7), and anyone who is "afraid or fainthearted" ought to "go home," lest his brothers "become disheartened" (Deut. 20:8). When the battle was engaged they were to "put to the sword all the men" and everything else was "plunder" (Deut. 20:13). What is the "equity" of these male-oriented statutes? Could not similar questions be raised about other theocratic prescriptive laws which are built upon gender distinctions? What would we consider to be the "equity" of: a woman's redemption if she is not pleasing to her husband (Ex. 21:8); a man who refuses to marry his brother's widow (Deut. 25:5-10); a newly married woman found not to be a virgin (Deut. 22:13-21); the dedication of the first-born male (Ex. 13:2,12; Num. 3:13; 8:17)? If the scarcity of female precedence is an operative hermeneutical principle for prohibiting women in combat, then does not the same principle also apply to women potentially serving in places of civic leadership? Does this mean that women may not serve as mayors, legislators, senators, representatives, governors, cabinet advisors, government executives and officials, public defenders or prosecutors? Does this jeopardize a women's voting rights? Are Christian women also to avoid other vocational areas where physical force is used to restrain criminal activity like the police force?

These questions are relevant because of the way in which "Report I" treats this subject in light of the Gospel age. When the report turns its attention to the New Covenant it finds, not surprisingly, that the "New Testament is virtually silent,"[22] nevertheless it is argued that this silence implies the theocratic prescription of male warriors is still in effect. The report argues that this is evident due to the parallel case one can make for the "lawfulness of defensive war." It is asserted, via the words of Charles Hodge, that the New Testament's silence "leaves the Old Testament rule of duty on this subject still in force." But if this is true for women in combat, then what about those other roles named above which are withheld from women in the Old Testament, since the New Testament is silent regarding them? Is the Old Testament "rule of duty" in these areas still in force? Would not this sort of argument necessitate women being denied positions of political office or leadership? There are numerous privileges which were withheld from women in the Theocracy which were built upon "God's distinction between male and female" but are not addressed directly in the New Testament. How one deals with these instances depends upon one's understanding of "general equity."

II. What Issues Are Properly the Concern of the Church?

A. The Issues Surrounding Women in Combat

In light of her responsibility to exercise the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 16:19; cf., 18:18-20), the church does not consider just any issue, idea or theory, but only matters of faith (Conf. 31.4). The church does not adjudicate just any moral, social, or cultural matter but matters of faith and conscience which are properly before her (Conf. 31.2). The church does not even determine all matters of faith, conscience or individual practice but only those which are properly before the corporate church, because some matters of faith are determined by the individual's liberty of conscience (Rom. 14; cf. Col. 2:16-23). So the church qua [as] church is always concerned with those issues of doctrine and life which are properly before her. The issue of women in combat is no exception. Is it a moral issue? Obviously. Is it an issue which impinges upon the faith and practice of Christians? Yes. But these questions are inadequate to merit the OPC or any church of Christ considering the issue of women in combat. The question before the church is whether "the inclusion of women in combatant units" is clearly "contrary to the Word of God" and is an issue which the church in her corporate expression must adjudicate because it encumbers her corporate vocation.

B. The Vocation of the Church

Conf. 31.4: Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.

1. The Corporate Nature of Church Power

Just as there are duties given to the church at large which may not be taken up by individual Christians (e.g., administering Sacraments), there are certain liberties afforded the individual Christian which are not at the disposal of the church in her corporate expression (e.g., liberty of conscience issues). The church does not adjudicate matters of faith as an eclectic group of individuals (1 Cor. 5:4), but it exercises the keys through its presbyters on behalf of the Head of the church and only in conformity to His inscripturated will. In this regard the subordinate standards teach that the church does not "intermeddle with civil affairs," because she handles and concludes "nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical" (Conf. 31.4). The Confession assumes that the church and the state do not normally converse with each other and that their interaction is extremely rare. However, those rare occasions do arise and there are exceptions to the church's ordinary modus operandi.

The one scenario the standards envision is when the state requests the church's advice in a matter of conscience. This is not the nature of the case on the subject before us. The other exception occurs when the church humbly petitions the state in "cases extraordinary." Undoubtedly many presbyters probably understand this latter exception to be the appropriate angle on the issue of women in combat, and consequently it places this issue properly before the church. If that is the case, then the crucial question is: "What do the subordinate standards mean by 'cases extraordinary'?"

The standards do not expound what is meant by the phrase "cases extraordinary." Some might assume that this phrase refers to cases of extraordinary moral heinousness, and this is certainly plausible. But in light of the phrase's context this conclusion might be less warranted than another option.

This phrase is clearly within a passage which explains how the church normally conducts her vocation in light of the presence of and occasional interaction with the state. What is more likely meant by the Confession are those cases of extraordinary church procedure. An example, if not the example, of what is foreseen is addressed in the only other section of the subordinate standards which refers to the relationship between the church and the state in Ch. 23.3. There it is asserted that the state must not "interfere with" or "hinder" the church in her ministry, nor molest and disturb her assemblies. The state must not impede upon church procedure. Thus the meaning of Conf. 31.4 would be that in those circumstances—and only those extraordinary—where the state impedes the church in her work qua church, the church may humbly petition the civil government. So this action is reserved for those occasions where the church judges that the state has so impinged upon the church's ability to exercise the keys of the kingdom that she must petition the political government of the land.

So, the key question before the church is not only whether the issue of women in combat is an issue of faith, but also whether it is an ecclesiological issue. That is, if the church seeks to address the civil magistrate, she must demonstrate that such an action is warranted by the fact that the state has egregiously hindered her work in its corporate expression.

This is precisely where the issue of women in combat units is not sufficiently compelling. It is disturbing to hear of the moral complications that have arisen because enlisted men and women share quarters. It is distressing to witness the steady growth of egalitarianism in the West (which has been at work in American culture long before the feminist movement ever arrived). It is also disconcerting to consider how other numerous sins, ideas and policies incubate in the warm and hospitable environment of American culture without threat. But as egregious as these or any other issues might be they must be properly before the church to demand her corporate voice.

In His earthly ministry, the Lord was confronted with the morally reprehensible deed of Pilate's mixing the blood of some Galileans with their sacrifices (Lk. 13:1-5). Although such a horrible incident surely provoked the Lord's infinitely holy sensitivities, He bypassed the issue altogether and called for the repentance of His listeners. Similarly, when faced with the opportunity to decide an apparent injustice over a disputed inheritance, He questioned why the disagreement even merited His arbitration (Lk. 12.13,4). In both cases, the Lord would not be distracted from His primary calling and task. The church ought to consider afresh His example in this regard.

2. The Spiritual Nature of Church Power

Matt. 28:18-20: Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Jn. 18:36: Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
FG 3.4: All church power is wholly moral or spiritual. No church officers or judicatories possess any civil jurisdiction; they may not inflict any civil penalties nor may they seek the aid of the civil power in the exercise of their jurisdiction further than may be necessary for civil protection and security.

The kingdom of God, as it is embodied in the church of Jesus Christ, finds its reference point in its Head and His commission (Mt. 28.18-20). Accordingly, the church has been given spiritual means to match her spiritual ends. The church's vocation is confined to considering those matters which pertain to her doctrine, worship and government (Conf. 31.3). Therefore, her weapons with which she fights are not of this world, because her principal warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against the prince of darkness, and his evil domain and hosts (2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:12). Why would the master address the nature of His kingdom (Jn. 18:36), unless perhaps it would strike at the heart of our proclivity to the contrary? The church must not be distracted from faithfully executing her chief and magisterial duty of discipling the nations. To the contrary, she must be jealous for this calling. So when J. Gresham Machen addressed the question of what the church ought to do in his day, he responded by saying,

The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life—nay, all the length of human history—is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious holy living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whosoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth—nay, all the wonders of the starry heavens—are as the dust of the street.[23]

The reason why past presbyterians like Machen upheld the spirituality of the church was not to undercut the Christian's influence upon society, nor to cast off their responsibilities of charity, nor to separate religion from public life. But rather it was to sanctify the courts and assemblies of the church to her spiritual ends and maintain focus upon her task as a missionary society.[24] The church has been entrusted with special revelation to proclaim the mystery now revealed in the Gospel, and she must be careful not to spend her energy in other matters. In this vein J. Gresham Machen stated that there were certain areas "the Church should avoid," and one of them was political and social pronouncements:

In the second place, you cannot expect from a true Christian church any official pronouncements upon the political and social questions of the day, and you cannot expect cooperation with the state in anything involving the use of force. Important are the functions of the police, and members of the church, either individually or in such special associations as they may choose to form, should aid the police in every lawful way in the exercise of those functions. But the function of the church in its corporate capacity is of an entirely different kind. Its weapons against evil are spiritual, not carnal; and by becoming a political lobby, through the advocacy of political measures whether good or bad, the church is turning from its proper mission, which is to bring to bear upon human hearts the solemn and imperious, yet also sweet and gracious, appeal of the gospel of Christ.[25]

One problem that the signatories of this report have with the OPC "formally" going "on record" in opposition to women in combat is the precedent it may establish for the OPC to address many other moral issues of the day which may arise. But the greater problem we have is that such actions will take the church adrift from her primary vocation which is to proclaim God's desire to recreate the hearts of men, not reform the societies of men.

3. The Ministerial Nature of Church Power

FOG 3.3: All church power is only ministerial and declarative, for the Holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. No church judicatory may presume to bind the conscience by making laws on the basis of its own authority; all its decisions should be founded upon the Word of God. "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship"(Conf. XX.2).

Since the rule of church power is the Word of God, the church declares and ministers the inscripturated will of Christ as it is found in Scripture. "Report I" concludes that the inclusion of women in combat is "contrary to the Word of God," and recommends, inter alia, that the 67th General Assembly adopt that conclusion. Naturally, to adopt such a conclusion is to declare what the Word of God teaches. The Form of Government (citing the Conf., 31.2) says:

FOG 3.5: Therefore the decisions of church officers when properly rendered and if in accord with the Word of God "are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in his Word."

Therefore, adopting such a conclusion and recommendation, if it is agreeable to the teaching of the Word of God, would bind the conscience of all members in the OPC who ought to receive such a conclusion "with reverence and submission." It must follow that those who teach or practice contrary to such a proclamation would and ought to receive potential disciplinary action. How can those who teach and practice "contrary to the Word of God" not expect to receive anything else? Furthermore, if such a conclusion were adopted, would the OPC also be prepared to counsel her brothers and sisters in Eritrea and Ethiopia of their responsibilities to conform to such a conclusion? Is the OPC prepared not only to address who should not go to war but also when they may go to war? That is, is the OPC prepared to adjudicate cases of conscience for those individuals who might raise scruples about whether or not our government has entered into a "just war"? Such far-reaching implications ought to be considered.

If the Word of God is not clear on this issue then the church must be careful not to overstep its mandate of fidelity to God's Word, whether by adding or by taking away (Rev. 22:18,19). If the Word of God does not teach a clear doctrine on women in combat, then the church ought not to go "on record" formally. That is, the OPC must avoid overstating what it concludes. If the church believes that the Word of God teaches a doctrinal position on this issue then it must declare the Word of God. But if the church declares as doctrine what amounts to pious advice or pastoral counsel it will exceed its ministerial authority. The church is called to declare, not to opine. As the Southern Presbyterian James Henley Thornwell said, the church "has a creed, but no opinions."[26]

III. What Biblical Guidance Can Be Given to the Church?

A. Adjudicating the Military Issue

If the OPC wishes to pronounce a position on this issue for the sake of its chaplains perhaps it ought to consider the perspective and opinion of its chaplains. According to a communication distributed to this committee by the Chair of the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel, the majority of the chaplains oppose any statement and revision to the manual. Apparently, the prevailing attitude among them is that any "'public' announcement sends a 'pre-arrival reputation' that can be an obstacle for a reporting chaplain. They would rather deal with it in person."[27] Furthermore, if the church is interested in protecting the chaplain's ability to object to any policy, one of our chaplain's (citing the pertinent U.S. military regulations which govern conscientious objector status), states that, while denominational documents can and may be consulted, subscription to a denomination's position is not necessary for granting conscientious objection. These observations raise questions about how wise it is for the church to declare a position when our chaplains may oppose the idea of stating a position.

Furthermore, "Report I" recommends that the OPC ought to oppose the drafting or inclusion of women in "combat service" or "combatant units," but not the inclusion of women in "non-combatant positions." According to one of our Chaplains who is an U.S. Army Infantry School instructor, this distinction is actually a misnomer and is based upon older World War II military doctrine. In modern military doctrine there is no distinction between combatant and non-combatant units. It is true that some units are in more direct combatant positions. But in modern warfare it is the support units and the sustainment forces which are attacked early due to the fact that they are high pay-off targets. Is this a more suitable place for women? Surely, it would be more consistent simply to oppose women being in the military at all. This observation raises questions about the church's competence to deal with such issues practically. That is to say, it illustrates the realistic nature of the spirituality of the church.

B. Discerning the Spiritual Issue

The signatories of this report have argued that Israel's theocratic civil code, which confined military duty to men, has "expired together with the state of that people" and is "not obliging any other now." It has also been maintained that when these judicial precepts are considered through the revelation of the New Testament, they do not require a "general equity." The biblical record is not sufficiently perspicuous on this issue to warrant declaring doctrine or prescribing practice.

But the Word of God is manifestly clear at one point. And it is that the spiritual, moral, ministerial and declarative vocation of the church is to preach the Gospel. It has been her history to take every opportunity to proclaim the Good News that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world. When the Apostles Paul and Peter had an audience before their respective authorities, they defended the Gospel, they explained the Gospel, they preached the Gospel. This is the calling of the church in all ages. This is our Reformed heritage. This is the battle that our forefathers faithfully carried on against our spiritual enemy, and from this battle we must not waver. In the words of Martin Luther:

For the Word created heaven and earth and all things (Ps 33:6); the Word must do this thing, and not we poor sinners.... I simply taught, preached, and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept (cf. Mark 4:26-29), or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. Had I desired to foment trouble, I could have brought great bloodshed upon Germany, indeed, I could have started such a game that even the emperor would not be safe. But what would it have been? Mere fool's play. I did nothing; I let the Word do its work. What do you suppose is Satan's thought when one tries to do the thing by kicking up a row? He sits back in hell and thinks: Oh, what a fine game the poor fools are up to now! But when we spread the Word alone and let it alone do the work, that distresses him. For it is almighty and takes captive the hearts, and when the hearts are captured the work will fall by itself.[28]


The OPC ought not to speak qua church to the issue of women in combat. It is inadmissible given the Confession's teaching on the expired civil law, and it is inappropriate given the church's spiritual nature and ministerial task. The responsibility of the church in our age, as in every age, is "to testify that this world is lost in sin" and "that there is a mysterious holy living God" who has offered "communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord."[29]


1. That the 68th General Assembly encourage all sessions to remind church members of their covenantal obligations (e.g., marital, parental, and ecclesiastical) when considering joining, enlisting, or re-enlisting in military service.

2. That the 68th General Assembly forward to the PRJC both reports of the Committee on Women in the Military and in Combat as the Assembly's response to the PRJC's request for Biblical guidance on this matter (cf. Minutes, 65th GA [1998], p. 306).

Respectfully submitted,
J. J. Peterson
A. C. Troxel

Actions of the Sixty-eighth General Assembly concerning the Report

144. ACTION ON RECOMMENDATIONS. Recommendation 1 of Report I of the Committee on Women in the Military and in Combat was moved in the following amended form:

1. That the 68th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church concur with Report I and adopt in the following form its conclusions:


Because of our awareness of God's distinction between the sexes and the expression of that distinction in the general equity of his declarations about mustering the men to fight, it must be concluded that the evidence of the Bible is to exempt women from being drafted into the military and from military combat, and to charge men with the responsibility of combat. The Old Testament passages dealing with various aspects of God's revealed will on the subject of personnel in combat, the NT teachings on the general equity validity of OT passages for instruction and application in the NT age, and the specific hermeneutical use of the OT by the framers of the Westminster standards provide a sufficient basis for the professional protection of Orthodox Presbyterian Church Military Chaplains (when required, in connection with their military duties, to indicate their denomination's position on this matter), as well as for guidance for Orthodox Presbyterian Church Pastors, Elders, Chaplains, and other communicant members considering, or seeking to enter into, one of the military services of the United States.

1. We, the 68th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, are opposed to any possible future drafting of women into combat service, in time of war or peace, under any and all circumstances, for the reason that such governmental actions would be contrary to the Word of God.

2. We, the 68th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, are opposed to the inclusion of women in combatant military units, or in units which during wartime, have a high degree of potential involvement in combat and possible capture and potential risk of rape, even if their command is not designated a combat element, and that such inclusion is contrary to the Word of God. (This does not rule out, however, female personnel, serving in non-combatant assignments, such as field medical units or on hospital ships, which can come under hostile fire.)

3. We, the 68th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, hold that no Orthodox Presbyterian Church Chaplain who is endorsed for military service by his Presbytery through the instrumentality of the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains may be required to advocate, support, or agree with any philosophy and effort to include women in military combatant units, nor can he be required by any superior line or staff officer to teach or advocate such a philosophy and effort, nor may he be forbidden to provide the biblical counsel contained in this report.

At their request the affirmative votes of the following commissioners was recorded on a failed motion that would have substituted Recommendation 2 of Report II for the pending question: Copeland, Cottenden, Deliyannides, Doe, Duff, Eckardt, Felch, Foh, Hardesty, Hilbelink, Irons, Jarvis, Klein, Laurie, Lotzer, Mahaffy, Miller, Olinger, Orteza, Peterson, Phillips, Roberts, Van Meerbeke, and J. Wilson.

The following, substituted for the pending question, was adopted, together with its grounds:

That the 68th GA declare that the use of women in military combat is both contrary to nature and inconsistent with the Word of God.


(1) This is a ministerial declaration of what is revealed in Holy Scripture, cf. 1 Corinthians. 11:14; Report I, Sections III-VI (see pp. 265-269).

(2) This provides the Biblical counsel requested by the PRJC without making any further pronouncement that would, presumably, cause the church to "intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth" in a matter that some would say is not yet an extraordinary case, cf. Westminster Confession of Faith 31.4.

At their request the affirmative votes of the following were recorded on a failed motion that would have amended Ground 1 by removing the reference to Sections IV-VI of Report I: Messrs. Bergquist, Copeland, Duff, Hardesty, Irons, Klein, Laurie, Lotzer, Mahaffy, R. Miller, Muether, Olinger, Orteza, Van Kooten, and L. Wilson. At their request the affirmative votes of the following were recorded on a failed motion that would have deleted the words "both contrary to nature and" from the pending motion: Messrs. Felch, Laurie, Mahaffy, and R. Miller. At their request the negative votes of the following were recorded on the motion to adopt the declaration: Messrs. Bergquist, Brown, Copeland, Cottenden, Deliyannides, Doe, DuCheny, Duff, Eckardt, Estelle, Felch, Fesko, Foh, Gaffin, Hardesty, Hilbelink, Irons, Jarvis, Klein, Kramer, Laurie, Lotzer, Mahaffy, Mason, R. Miller, Olinger, Orteza, Peterson, Phillips, Roberts, Snyder, Troxel, Tyson, Van Kooten, Van Meerbeke, J. Wilson, and L. Wilson.

The moderator ruled that the passage of the substitute disposed of any remaining matters related to the work of the Committee on Women in the Military and in Combat, and that the Committee was dissolved.

177. PROTEST. Mr. Troxel read the following protest:

A Protest

I. The undersigned do hereby protest the declaration of the 68th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that, “the use of women in military combat is both contrary to nature and inconsistent with the Word of God” upon the grounds that, “This is a ministerial declaration of what is revealed in Holy Scripture, cf. 1 Cor. 11: 14 ...” Such a position has not been adequately demonstrated from Scripture and therefore cannot be declared as the teaching of God’s Word.

II. The undersigned believe that it is highly dubious to declare a position as “revealed in Holy Scripture” when it cites a report that argues largely from Old Testament narrative and civil law and admits that the New Testament is “virtually silent” on this subject. Such argumentation is contrary to and inconsistent with what the Confession of Faith teaches: “To them also, as a body politick, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people, not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.” (Conf. 19:4)

III. Furthermore, it is injurious to the peace of the church for an Assembly to provide “biblical counsel” for such a declaration from only one report, when in fact pleas were made, including that of the Advisory Committee of the 67th General Assembly, to send the biblical counsel of both, and not just one report on this issue, to the PRJC (Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel).

Respectfully submitted,

A. Craig Troxel, Randall A. Bergquist, Paul N. Browne, Russell Copeland, George R. Cottenden, John S. Deliyannides, Stephen D. Doe, Philip J. DuCheny, Donald J. Duff, Robert Y. Eckardt, Bryan D. Estelle, Douglas A. Felch, John V. Fesko, Thomas A. Foh, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Edward P. Hardesty, John R. Hilbelink, Stephen W. Igo, C. Lee Irons, Bruce P. Jarvis, William Johansen, Rollin P. Keller, David J. Klein, John Kramer, A. M. Laurie, Robert A. Lotzer, John W. Mahaffy, Richard D. Mason, Larry F. Mehne, Stephen Migotsky, John P. K. Miller, Richard A. Miller, Mark C. Mueller, Danny G. Olinger, Luis A. Orteza, Jack J. Peterson, Stephen L. Phillips, Michael C. Roberts, Douglas W. Snyder, Robert C. Van Kooten, John Van Meerbeke, Jeffery B. Wilson, and Larry E. Wilson.

On motion Messrs. Cummings, Knight, and Needham were appointed to propose an answer the protest. (see §204)

204. RESPONSE TO PROTEST. Mr. Knight reported for the Committee to Propose a Response to the Protest (§177) as and presented the following response which was adopted as amended as the Assembly’s answer to the protest:

Answer to The Protest of General Assembly’s Decision on Women in Military and Combat

The General Assembly gives as its answer to the three points of the Protest the following three points:

I. While we do respect the prerogative of the signers of the protest to believe that the position approved by the 68th GA ”has not been adequately demonstrated from the Scriptures,” the majority of the Assembly did believe that the position had been “adequately demonstrated” from the Scriptures cited in Sections III–VI of Report I to support the General Assembly’s ministerial declaration that “the use of women in military combat is both contrary to nature and inconsistent with the Word of God.”

II. The report cited by the General Assembly’s declaration does not state that “the New Testament is ‘virtually silent’ on the subject” of the use of women in combat, but that the “direct teaching of the New Testament is virtually silent except … through the several examples of male soldiers given in the New Testament.” The report cited by the Assembly’s declaration is not claiming the general silence of the New Testament on the use of women in combat, but that the New Testament references (I Peter 3:7; I Corinthians 11:3,8–11; 14:34–40; I Timothy 2:11–14, etc...) affirm the general continuing moral principles and God-created sexual distinctiveness which stand behind the Old Testament’s “direct teaching” which require the use of men in combat. It is still true that women are to be treated with understanding as “weaker vessels” who are to be protected by men (I Peter 3:7), and that there is no Scripture which commands that women should be used in military combat (see Report I, Sections 111–VI).

Furthermore, the Assembly does not believe “that it is highly dubious to declare a position as ‘recorded in Holy Scripture’ when it cites a report that argues largely from Old Testament narrative and civil law” since our confessional documents have done this on several occasions. An example of this is the treatment of WLC 136 with regard to the items of “public justice, lawful war, or necessary defense”, where all the proof texts are only Old Testament passages. Similarly, the statement about “the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word” (WCF XXIV.4) gives the entire chapter of Leviticus 18 as its first citation followed by I Corinthians 5:l and Amos 2:7. The degrees of consanguinity and affinity can only be determined by examining the Old Testament passage, Leviticus 18. If our confessional standards can do these things, it is surely not a dubious matter for the General Assembly to do the same.

III. The Assembly, as it had a right to do, chose to send the report that it thought best expressed biblical counsel, and it also sought to preserve the peace and not to injure it, because it allowed those who dissented to record their signatures in dissent, and to produce, and also place in the records of the General Assembly, their protest.


  1. "Report I" draws attention to Numb. 30:16 (cited by Conf. 22.7), which provided for an Israelite husband or father to nullify the vow of his wife or daughter. Although this passage does embody the equity of headship, it clearly limits that headship with respect to the daughter only while she is "still living in his house."
  2. J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, "Equity" in the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., vol. V, "dvanda-follis," (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 358. Milton R. Konvitz, "Equity in Law and Ethics," in Philip P. Wiener, ed., Dictionary of the History of Ideas, Volume II, "Despotism to Law, Common" (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973), 148. Dan B. Dobbs, Handbook on the Law of Remedies: Damages, Equity, Restitution (St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1973), 24.
  3. Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, "Equity" (St. Paul, MN: West Pub. Co., 1979), 484.
  4. Wiener, 148-150. Sinclair B. Ferguson, "An Assembly of Theonomists? The Teaching of the Westminster Divines on the Law of God," in William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, editors, Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1990), 330.
  5. St. Germain, who heavily influenced legal thought into the 16th and 17th centuries, contended that because it is impossible to make general rules which cover the varying circumstances of human life, some form of equity is necessary if injustice is to be prevented. Theodore F. T. Plucknett, A Concise History of the Common Law (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1956), 279.
  6. Black, 484. The English royal courts organized by King William in the 12th century sought to administer justice according to "common law" and with considerable discretion. But within two centuries "the Chancery" was established in order to hear the grievances which the royal courts administering common law would not hear. This formally recognized equity as an entire branch of law. Wiener, 152. Oxford Dictionary, "equity," 358. Dobbs, 24.
  7. Ferguson, 330.
  8. Perkins takes up a phrase common in Cicero's time, summum jus, summa injuria (i.e., the extremity of the law, is extreme injury.) William Perkins, "EPIEKEIA, or a Treatise of Christian Equity and Moderation," in Edmund S. Morgan, ed., Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1794 (New York: Bobbs-Merrrill Co., 1965), 61.
  9. John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity," in Edmund S. Morgan, ed., Puritan Political Ideas, 1558-1794 (New York: Bobbs-Merrrill Co., 1965), 124.
  10. Guenther H. Haas, The Concept of Equity in Calvin's Ethics (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), 30, 109. Calvin said, "Equity, as it is natural, cannot be the same in all, and therefore ought to be proposed by all laws, according to the nature of the thing enacted. As constitutions have some circumstances on which they partly depend, there is nothing to prevent their diversity, provided they all alike aim at equity as their end," Institutes, IV.20.16. This assumption led Calvin to believe that the Sinaitic judicial laws were not the norm for the nations.
  11. Winthrop, 151. This is not dissimilar from the Scripture affirming that God rules and judges the world "with equity" (Ps. 9:8; 75:2; 96:10).
  12. Haas, 30.
  13. Thomas Ridgeley, Commentary on the Larger Catechism (Edmonton, AB: Still Waters Revival Books, photocopy reprint of 1855 edition), 307-308.
  14. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. II (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1994), 167.
  15. A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1983; reprint, 1869), 254-256.
  16. Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965, rpt., 1651), p. 273.
  17. Hobbes, 209, 213, 222. cf., Vergilius Ferm, ed., Encyclopedia of Morals (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), "Thomas Hobbes," p. 224.
  18. Nicholas Bunnin and E.P. Tsui-James, The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1996), 401. Blackstone, like John Locke (1632-1704), treated English law as the enforcement of people's natural rights.
  19. Ferguson, 330. Haas, 30.
  20. Ferguson, 330.
  21. Turretin, 167.
  22. We are given instances of soldiers in the New Testament (Mt. 8.9; Lk. 7.8; Ac. 10.1; 23.23), and told that they are male as this "presents the prevailing view at that time," and that this "may be an example of those who do not have the law, doing 'by nature things required by the law.' " What should also be noted is that these soldiers are Roman centurions. Is the "good and necessary consequence" also that only Italians should be enlisted for war? Incidentally, all the lawyers in the New Testament are men. What should we discern from this?
  23. J. Gresham Machen, "The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age," The Presbyterian Guardian 36:1 (January, 1967), 13.
  24. John-Lloyd Vance, "The Ecclesiology of James Henley Thornwell: An Old South Presbyterian Theologian" (Ph.D. diss., Drew University, 1990), 370-372.
  25. Machen, 12-13, emphasis ours.
  26. James Henley Thornwell, The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), IV:384.
  27. Memo (February 11, 2000) from James C. Pakala to the PCA Study Committee on Women in Combat. The memo was distributed to members of the OPC study committee, along with an electronic mail communication (January 31, 2000) sent to Mr. Pakala by one of the two Associate Directors of the Commission, Mr. Stan Beach.
  28. John W. Doberstein, ed. and transl., Sermons I, vol. 51, in Luther's Works, Helmut T. Lehmann, gen. ed. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1959), 77-78.
  29. Machen, "Responsibility of the Church," 13.


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