A Warrior Priesthood Is Essential: Really? - Part 1 | CBE International

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A Warrior Priesthood Is Essential: Really? - Part 1

Awesome Sword
On October 08, 2014

A recent blog post by Alastair Roberts, “Why a Masculine Priesthood is Essential,” has recently stirred up fresh controversy and heated debate among egalitarians and hierarchical complementarians regarding the nature of Christian ministry and leadership, due to the promotion of his unique model of “masculine priesthood” which goes beyond the usual concept of a “male priesthood” to that of a warrior priesthood.  Such is the confidence of Mr. Roberts in the arguments of his presentation that he asserts: “I believe that opposition to women in priesthood should not merely arise from the interpretation of a few isolated verses, but that it springs up from the very core of biblical anthropology, something that is reaffirmed throughout the biblical narrative.  Genesis 1 and 2 are far more central texts for opposition to women in priesthood than 1 Timothy 2 could ever be…I believe male dominance in power and authority in society isn’t just something biblically authorized or mandated—it isn’t just that women lack permission—but is an inescapable fact that God has established through his creation.”  And so on the basis of this supposedly superior model of Christian leadership, he seeks to give the impression that he, more than other complementarians, has taken the higher ground in this debate.

In response to this assertion, two things need to be said.  First of all, while progressive revelation of any theme in Scripture involves an ongoing process of greater elaboration and clarification of that theme as it is found in some original and seminal text, later progressive revelation never contradicts the clear and fundamental teaching of the original text out which it flows.  Therefore, Roberts’ model of Christian leadership as a warrior priesthood  must first be demonstrated as the teaching of Genesis 1 and 2; then it must be demonstrated as being central to the teaching of the Law and the Prophets regarding the primary nature and function of the Levitcal Priesthood.  Secondly, this model of warrior priesthood must also be demonstrated as being central to the teaching of both Jesus and his Apostles regarding the nature and function of Christian leadership.  Unless Mr. Roberts can demonstrate his model on this basis, all that he has built is a house of cards that cannot stand up under close scrutiny.  And that is the main purpose of this series:  A critique that highlights key aspects of his paradigm and supporting argumentation as being without any biblical warrant, and hence a theological construct built on presuppositions foreign to Scripture itself.    

Robert’s Assertion: Non-Biblical and Fallacious

Now while it is Roberts own unique understanding of male priesthood as a warrior priesthood that has stirred up the waters of controversy, since it appears to be a concept of religious leadership more compatible with Islam than it is with Christianity, there are problems with his supporting argumentation as well.  And though we will lay the ax to the supposed roots of his position in Genesis 1 and 2, here we will saw off some of this bad tree’s main branches by showing how several of them are not only non-biblical but also logically fallacious.

Roberts begins with the tactic of definitive stipulation, where he defines all other paradigms of Christian leadership as foreign to “the priestly leadership” paradigm of Scripture.  Of course, this argument is in violation of the law of affirming the consequent, since it assumes as its conclusion the very premise Roberts is trying to prove:  That warrior priesthood, as taught in the OT, is the only true paradigm of Christian leadership warranted by Scripture as a whole.  The main problem with this argument is that even though it were true that this paradigm of religious leadership was taught and approved by the OT, Roberts does not demonstrate that it is indeed the paradigm of leadership Christ himself taught and modeled in his own life and ministry, and which he expected to be characteristic of all who would be leaders in the new community he was founding.           

Then, in a brief reference to Judges 4-5, in which he seems to equivocate the nature and function of the leadership the Levitical Priests with that of the Judges, he then goes on to argue that since this type of leadership involved the strength of will, courage, and ability to wield the sword and execute enemies of Israel—an aspect of leadership for which women have neither the physical strength nor the psychological fortitude—this automatically denies women from priestly leadership today, since it too, is combative in nature.  Here we have the logical fallacy of begging the question, for Roberts does not demonstrate that leadership of the Priests and the Judges was the same in every way, nor does he demonstrate that warfare was essential to both forms of leadership.  Moreover, even if it were true there were combative and confrontational elements in the leadership of Israel by either the Levitical Priests or Judges that involved the wielding of a sword and the actual slaying of enemies, Roberts fails to prove that this is true of Christian leadership.  After all, did Jesus himself not tell Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.  But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36, NIV)?

In addition, he ignores the fact that as pictured in the NT, the warfare that Christians now engage in, whether or not they are leaders, is spiritual warfare, not physical warfare.  As Paul so clearly says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5, NIV).   And then in his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul clearly teaches that those whom are called and gifted by Christ to be leaders are responsible for training and equipping God’s people, both men and women for works of service—which also includes training and equipping them for spiritual warfare (cf. Eph. 4:7-10 with 6:10-18).  The bottom line, then, is that whether one is a leader or not, if they are true followers of Christ and are involved in any ministry that advances God’s kingdom, spiritual conflict and battle with the Enemy is inevitable.

Lastly to buttress these arguments, Roberts uses three old, but invalid arguments that have been addressed and refuted in other contexts:  1) The “creation order” of Genesis 1 and 2 supports “male dominance” in both Society and Church; 2) that the facts of both Western civilization and Church history support the naturalness and recurrence” of male dominance; and 3) that the principle of “one’s biology determines one’s destiny” also confirms male dominance, with weaker women being dependent on the stronger male’s support and protection.  And once he completes these arguments, he rests case his case for masculine priesthood as being a warrior priesthood from which women are forever barred.  Nevertheless, I do not believe he has made any case at all.  For all the assertions he has made, Roberts has failed to truly and honestly answer these two questions:  Is male dominance in power and authority truly taught in Genesis 1 and 2?  And is it really true that male dominance is constantly reaffirmed throughout the Scriptures?   In this section, we have answered the second question by showing both that Scripture does not, as a whole, support this model of warrior priesthood: and that a number of key arguments for this model, in addition to being without biblical support, are logically fallacious as well. Next week, we will venture into Genesis 1 and 2 in greater detail.


Thanks Francis, for your excellent article. One could almost write an entire book on everything that was wrong with Roberts's article.

One brief comment on Roberts' claim that a "warrior priesthood" is necessary - it's interesting to note that David (who was undeniably a warrior) is prevented from establishing the temple because of all the blood he's shed. Although he wasn't a priest, his occupation as a warrior - and surprisingly, not his sins - is the defining strike against his ability to have the glory of constructing the temple where the priests would stand as intermediaries between God and His people.

I may be wrong, but I can't actually think of an instance when a priest was also a warrior.

He ignores, of course, the priesthood of all believers in the New Covenant. "All believers" simply must include women. I don't know his denominational background, but it's obviously one which uses the title of "priest" for its ordained pastoral leaders. Jesus is usually held up as the model of priesthood and the argument is made that because Jesus was a man, women can't 'image' Christ in the manner necessary for the priesthood (whilst conveniently forgetting minor details, such as the fact that modern priests are not first century Jewish carpenters born of a virgin). Roberts appears to conveniently forget that Jesus was never a warrior.

I first became aware of this article by Alstair Roberts through an on-line exchange between long-time friends and CBE acquaintances Alan Myatt, Maria Boccia, and Mimi Haddad. When I pulled it up and read it, I found some of his statements appalling, as well as unbiblical and illogical. But in this response I've tried to be as biblically and logically sound as I could be.

As regards David's disqualification to directly build the temple due to his being a "warrior" king who had shed innocent blood, you are on target in your comments--and why Roberts doesn't address this obstacle to his model is not made clear. But as for the Levitical Priests being "warriors"--I can't fathom where he conjured up such an idea. The Torah talks about them being responsible for teaching the God's Word to the people; of interceding for them through prayer and the offering sacrifices for sin; and also about their serving as judges to review and settle difficult legal cases, but nothing about them as being warriors who kill the enemies of God and his people.

Now there is the story of Phineas in Numbers 25 who, after Israel had been led into sexual immorality and idolatry, killed a Simeonite leader and his Midianite mistress and stopped the plague brought against Israel by God for their willful waywardness. But this story is hardly the justification for a doctrine of a "warrior priesthood." So as I said, for all his assertions, Roberts has failed to make his case for his model of Christian leadership.

Having begun in the Spirit are we now made perfect in the flesh? What religion is this man talking about? What Jesus?

If the whole world is dominated by bully men, that does not make it an example for Christians to follow. Paganism is not Christianity even if Christians imitate their behaviour by practising patriarchy.


Without Christ we can do nothing,...and that means that no matter how muscular or tall or athletic you are, you have no strength against Satan without Christ, AND FURTHERMORE Christ's strength is made perfect in WEAKNESS!

Women are encouraged all the way, to 'fight' the fight of faith by teachings such as these and history showed that when the call for missions went out 2/3 of all the courageous Christian "soldiers" that went to the far flung corners of the earth in the 19th century were not only women, but often SINGLE women...on their own in strange lands.

General MacArthur called WACs, "my best soldiers, adding that "they worked harder, complained less, and were better disciplined than men..."

During 1882 alone 662 Salvation Army soldiers were assaulted: 251 of them were women and 23 of them were under fifteen years of age. In fact William Booth said "my best men are women"

The Old testament shows that women have always had great courage and we remember Jael, the "certain women" and the "wise woman" of Judges, Rahab and others...have always 'let courage rise with danger'....men have nothing on women when it comes to courage....just consider all the women who have withstood years of abuse in marriages with violent offenders and survived this assault on wedding vows, not only from the men but from their churches who insisted on them staying in such marriages...this takes more courage than most men could muster and shows an inner steel that some men can only dream of. There is no courage like a mother of young children in such homes (see sermonaudio.com "domestic violence and abuse" for amazing series of 19 sermons on this topic.

Now recalling the sword that Peter used to cut of the ear of the servant of the high priest...now what did Jesus say to Peter about that? Oh, yest: "Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." Perhaps that is something our man, Roberts, needs to consider!

What you say about the courage of single women down the years in fulfilling the Great Commission is so true, what more could anyone say? And then of course you have couples such as Andronicus and Junia, Aquila and Priscilla in the Early Church who were church-planting missionaries, who trained and developed men and women as leaders and ministers in those house churches they founded, following the model of their friend and coworker, Paul.

And when you think about the Great Commission, which is restated in 5 different ways in the NT, it contains nothing about gender being a requisite for being an ambassador for Christ; it always has to do with the call of the Lord Jesus and the gifting of the Holy Spirit, in agreement with God's desire for the redemption and reconciliation of creation and humanity.

Part of Roberts problem is that he misinterprets what the OT says about priesthood and leadership, then seeks to impose this misinterpretation on what the NT says about priesthood and leadership. But what he would say about Jesus rebuking for taking up the sword, I don't know.

Roberts says: Genesis 1 and 2 are far more central texts for opposition to women in priesthood than 1 Timothy 2 could ever be…I believe male dominance in power and authority in society isn’t just something biblically authorized or mandated—it isn’t just that women lack permission—but is an inescapable fact that God has established through his creation.”

When? Where? Please explain, because the 'INESCAPABLE FACT' is clear ONLY TO YOU, Mr. Roberts!

Or is Mr. Roberts talking about the set up where Adam showed his dominance and leadership by taking the initiative and eating FIRST of the fruit of the forbidden tree...or...no...I guess he didn't...or...wasn't it that he stepped up and took the lead when Eve said they mustn't even touch the fruit and he immediately corrected her..no, I guess he didn't...or when he told the serpent to leave his wife alone...no I guess not.....or was it when he, like a man, stood up to God and confessed his sin and repented of it instead of blaming Eve and God...no...I guess this 'obvious leader' didn't do any of the above...he let Eve take the lead, didn't help her in dealing with Satan, and then followed her and blamed her and God for his sin...What kind of leadership did this establish from the beginning? In practice, female leadership, it seems, n'est ce pas? Furthermore, she was the only one who 'manned up' and confessed her sin to God right away accepting the blame for being deceived by the Serpent.

Genesis 1 and 2 have not one jot or tittle that infer male dominance ...especially when God calls the man and woman ONE FLESH and then to top it off says the husband is to LEAVE his family and CLEAVE to his wife. Last time I looked at a synonym dictionary, cleave meant to cling on, or to 'follow hard after her' or to "BE DEPENDENT ON" her...if anything, God is commanding female dominance, or at least His preference for it....

... I praise God for the stable, healthy men who are strong enough to see women as equals and as soul mates'.

Why is equality such a bad word to so many men? Do these men really fear women that much that they simply must step on their necks rather than commune with them? What is the mentality behind this insistence on control of women? The longer I live the more it seems utterly, dare I say childish? You know the old teacher's mantra: " doesn't play well with others"... Isn't it time to become the partners that Genesis 1 and 2 really call us to be?

I will be addressing Roberts' misinterpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 more fully in "Warrior Priesthood, P2," which will posted tomorrow. I will only say this: These chapters teach what Carolyn Custis James designates as "the Blessed Alliance" that is to exist between men and women under God, where as equal partners, they use their complementary talents, gifts, and abilities to accomplish God's purposes of redemption and reconciliation. But any idea of men dominating women (or of women dominating women, for that matter) is foreign to these texts and is usually smuggled in from some other source in most complementarian exposition.

H. L. Ellison, commenting some 23 years earlier on Gen. 1:26-27, made this assessment, which I would say still stands firm today, even though he uses "man" in its outdated generic sense:

The new element in the creation of man was that he was to be “in the image and
after the likeness of God,” which would show itself above all in his dominion over
the animal creation (26). In the immediate context it showed itself in his ability to
have communion with God; ultimately, and perhaps most important of all, it made
the incarnation of the Word of God possible. Other implications became clear in the
course of continuing revelation.
There is a widespread tendency to regard the male as being in some way
intrinsically superior to the female. For the effects of the Fall on the relationship of
the sexes see note on 3:16. In God’s purpose, however, the male and the female are
part of the image of God in man. The resultant partnership, equality, and voluntary
subordination are in some measure a revelation of the Triune God’s nature (cf. "Genesis 1-11,"
The International Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1986), pp. 115-116.

Even 26 years ago, Ellison recognized that (to some degree) the unity, equality, and diversity of man and woman reflected the unity, equality, and diversity of the Three Persons of the Triune. So is it any wonder that some hierarchical complementarians have, as it were, "reinvented" the doctrine of the Trinity to bolster their doctrine of male superiority? Though, to his credit, Roberts himself refuses to take that route.

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