Welcome to Covenant Reformed Prebyterian Church

american presbytery position papers



Women in the Military

On March 22, 2000, the Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church (CRPC) adopted the following motion: 

Resolved that the CRPC recognizes the Biblical prohibitions concerning any drafting of the female into the armed services of this or any nation, since such a command represents a direct rejection of the Laws of our Lord and would be sinful for any nation to adopt or woman to obey.

Therefore the churches reject the drafting of women as contrary to Christian faith and practice.


The following position paper was then adopted at the June 26-28, 2000 presbytery as the Scriptural basis for the above motion.

Position Paper Concerning Women in the Military and Combat
of the Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church

June 28, 2000

I. Political Background: The problem considered

The prospect of a “gender-neutral” draft into the military has become a real possibility in this country. Such a draft raises the question of women being drafted into the role of combatants.

This issue has come up in the past administrations (Republican and Democrat), showing bipartisan support, so it is feared that the prospect has potential, especially after the November, 2000, Presidential elections.  The reason for such “potential” lies in the well-publicized fact that the Armed Forces of the United States are “down” in military manpower from their needed levels of preparedness.  In other words, all the efforts to recruit the necessary numbers of individuals into the Armed Services have not met the demands of the military.  Therefore, draft proposals have been initiated by the Pentagon with pressure being exerted by feminist pressure groups.

Recent administrations have all demonstrated a strong proclivity toward drafting women into the military, including combat roles.  President Carter himself advocated registration of women for the draft and his appointees pushed hard for the repeal of the combat exclusion.  When Congress turned down the Carter Administration's recommendation for women registration, the Supreme Court upheld Congressional authority to do so but did not expand the decision in order to negate the constitutionality of the issue itself.  Unfortunately, the Reagan rhetoric notwithstanding, that administration supported the goals of the ERA and placed ERA supporter Sandra O'Conner as a Supreme Court Justice.  As a member of the government-sponsored civilian (feminist) organization, Defense Advisory Commission on Women in the Service (DACOWITS) since 1951, Judge O'Conner initiated and sponsored the effort to repeal the laws that exempt women from military combat.  With Justice Byron White's retirement from the Court, the Clinton Administration has furthered “stacked the Court” toward female registration and combat roles with the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

It must be understood that individuals in the Armed Services are very much encouraged to pursue opportunities in the service but all is subservient to the needs and good of the services. Though civil society protects individual rights, the military is governed by different rules.  For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensures equal treatment by law.  In contrast, no less than seven major Supreme Court decisions are distilled in these words from Goldman v. Weinberger:

The military is, by necessity, a specialized society separate from civilian society ... The military must insist upon a respect for duty and a discipline without counterpart in civilian life in order to prepare for and perform its vital role ... The essence of the military service is the subordination of the desires and interests of the individual to the needs of the service.

Any position which naively argues the possibility of a female draft into non-combatant status is to be faulted.  Once drafted, the woman can be compelled into whatever role (combat or non-combat) the military commands for her, irrespective of her desires in the matter.  In contrast, volunteer status allows a recruit a much wider range of contractual opportunities and choices.  Not so the DRAFT.  She would be ordered as to how and where she must serve.


      II.  The Question Before the Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church:
 Military and Combat Roles for Women?

The question which is before the CRPC asks whether Scripture speaks to the issue of a female draft and, if so, does it prohibit such a calling of a woman into the role of combatant?  In addition, is there witness in the Confession and its attendant Catechisms which speak to this issue?  If Scripture condemns such a practice then the CRPC must adopt a position of “conscientious-objection” for all women concerning a draft into the military.


      III. The Covenantal Basis for Consideration of This or Any Issue: Hermeneutical Foundation

It is obvious that the New Testament does not directly address the issue before us.  However, the New Testament never assumes it will specifically address each issue of life.  However, the New Testament does claim that its content is grounded doctrinally and ethically in the Old Testament.  St. Paul writes:

For whatsoever things are written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. (Rom. 15:4.)

The ethical and doctrinal foundations of the Church were first rooted in the Law of God ... The skeleton being the Decalogue and the Pentateuch its systemic framework.  Any ethical issue, in order to be more fully studied, must begin in the Pentateuch to find its covenantal definitions.  No doubt the Confession guides us in so far as our standard of interpretation is concerned:

the whole counsel of God . . . is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture ... (WCF 1:6.).

However, the Bible does not leave us to guess as to the principles which are used to interpret the standard.

        1.  God spoke to the fathers of the Church by the agency of the prophets (Heb. 1:1-2).  God has chosen to speak to His people but only through the Word given by His prophets and later, His apostles.

        2.  Repeatedly, the prophets enjoined Israel as to their breach of the Law of God (Psa. 89:30-32; Isa. 1:10-17; 8:20; Neh. 1:4-9), called a “covenant” at Sinai (Deu. 5:1).  So much was this the case that Israel learned to look to the Ark of the Covenant which housed the Law of God (Jer. 3:16).  In other words, the prophets pointed to the Law (housed in the Ark) as the standard thus breached by Israel.

        3.  Now, we have the promise of a New Covenant (Jer. 31:31; Heb.8:6-13).  Yet, we have explicit instruction that such a new covenant consists of “writing the Law upon the heart” which means the Holy Spirit will move the heart of the Christian to a fruitful and discerned application of the Law in its ethical applications and its doctrines (Pro. 1:1-9: “wisdom”, “instruction”, “understanding”, “equity”, “knowledge”, “justice”, “judgment”, “interpretation”, “discretion”, “learning”, “wise counsels”, “law” are referenced as “ornaments” of God's grace which, creedally, is only applied by the operation of the Holy Spirit”).

        4. Thus, we begin by recognizing that the judicial administration of Israel has “expired together with the state of that people not obliging any other now further than the general equity thereof may require” (WCF 19:4.)

        5. The equity of any precept makes application of its essence.  For instance, St. Paul uses a law concerning oxen as equity in arguing the necessity of paying the ministry of the church (1Co. 9:9-10).  Our Lord references the necessity of using the judicial laws of the Old Covenant in Mark 7 (Mat 15:1-20; Mar 7:1-23) to chastise the authorities who negated the Law concerning the sanctioning of rebellious children.  Thus, our Lord upheld the judicial function, arguing the judicial function of the Law as binding upon the conscience.

        6.  St. Paul instructs us that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for ... instruction” (2Ti. 3:16).  The “all” of 2 Timothy 3:16 and the “whatever” of Romans 15:4 affirm that the Word of God in its entirety and in its particularity are profitable for our instruction.

        7. Covenantal governance of a precept must be placed within the “jurisdictional boundaries” to which God ascribes it. An obvious example to consider would be the command to “love thy neighbor”.  This has varying applicable precepts governing its use depending upon whether one is addressing one's wife as “neighbor” or one's parents as “neighbor” or one's next door neighbor as neighbor.  The commands concerning sexual relations pertain to wife and become a violation of the Seventh commandment if practiced elsewhere.  A precept of God's Law must be used only within the proper covenantal jurisdiction(s) (family, marriage, civil government, church, business, etc.) to which it was intended by God.  Given the confusion of roles of the male and female as espoused even in the churches, this point is particularly important concerning the alleged “calling” of a woman into the military by her civil rulers.

        8. To find the “starting point”, presuppositional (God-given “worldview” assumptions derived exclusively from Scripture) use of precept must be recognized.  For instance, gender distinction is first differentiated as a function of creation.  Creation defines the purpose and meaning of everything God has created.  In other words, creation instructs us that God invests “meaning and purpose” to everything and it is for man to use every fact as God intends it ... but not to pervert it by using it in ways which defy God's intent.

        9. Such “intent” is specified in the Law of God as framed in the Pentateuch in such varied relations to other aspects of society.  No law stands by itself.  One of the problems with “women in combat” is that the subject matter involves varied relations to other aspects of society ... marriage, pregnancy, children, society, civil duty, war, etc.


 IV. Presuppositional Development and Gender Distinctions: Worldview Considerations


God made man in His image.  That image was designed both to know and to represent God correctly, i.e., according to His revealed Word.  God instructed Adam that he was to till and guard the Garden.  It was Adam's responsibility to do both of those duties.  God made woman as an “helpmeet” (“an helper suitable for him” — Gen. 2:18).  This clearly indicates that man stands in a headship or position of rule over the woman.  As husband and wife, they relate sexually to each other and become “one — (judicially, a union and covenantal government before God, Mat. 19:4-6).  Thus, such a union becomes the basic governing unit of society with society’s very stability dependent upon the sanctity of marriage and the family.  In such a relationship, husband and wife are called to represent Christ and His Bride (Eph. 5), meet one another's needs (Prov.5), and become fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).

The wife's role as childbearer and nurturer is further expounded in Scripture.  St. Paul speaks of the wife as one who is  specifically used of God for birthing and rearing of children (1Ti. 2:15; 5:14).  But is that “exclusive” of participation in the military?  In other words, could a woman be drafted despite the necessity to birth/nurture a family, even as her husband can be called up into battle despite the need of the family for its covenant head?  Please note that Paul is here giving a summary statement concerning what is taught in the Law of God.  Notice should be given to his comments in Romans 13 which say:

...and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Rom. 13:9.)

Other such commandments do exist and Paul, as all Jews, knew that the Pentateuch contains many laws which filled in the needed details concerning the “covenant” given at Sinai.  Paul knew that there are many issues in society which relate to the ongoing functions of the household.  His summary statements concerning the role of a wife ought not to be in any way qualified with respect to any alleged military “calling” or order of government.  The reason for such is found in Deuteronomy 20.  We read as follows:

And it shall be when ye are come nigh unto battle ... the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it?  Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it? ... And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife and hath not taken her?  Let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her? (Deu 20:5, 7.)

The basic argument of this passage shows that men are exclusively addressed as to a return to their homes and wives from their units in the military.  In fact, the very next section sends men home from their units if they are faint-hearted, a point God instructed Gideon to obey.  However, this passage is far stronger in its position concerning women and the military.  Any address involving an order to the people has its foundation in a LAW issued by the civilian authorities, (e.g., the king).  No such law addresses the female in the military here though the order addresses “the people .“  It should be noted that the people are addressed as a whole by the authorities, yet never is there the slightest intimation of female involvement returning for any reason — including that of being faint-hearted.  Later, in Judges, Barak is reproved for his shame in this regard because he, as a warrior, was afraid.  He was reproved by a woman, Deborah, who shamed him because it was a man’s responsibility to fight the wars of the Lord and it was a shame for men to be afraid before the enemy.  Women have no such responsibilities as soldiers which is the reason Deborah is the one to so shame Barak. (Judges 4 & 5.)

Later in Israel's history, the judge Samuel reproves Israel for the fact that the king, which they shall choose, will act as an heathen ("as the nations") and draft women into the military, interestingly though, only in a non-combatant status.  Saul was that king and the Lord would cite him for the “witchcraft" (1Sa. 15) of disobeying the Law of the Lord.  It should be noted that this passage concerning the linking of disobedience to the Law of the Lord as witchcraft, though often applied by churches to disobedience in general, is actually first applied to the civil magistrate, which drew God’s wrath for violating the Law of God (Saul specifically violated Deu. 25:17-19 concerning the destruction of the Amalekites).  Thus, the point to be noticed is the fact that the civil magistrate acted as an heathen in conscripting women into the military ( v. 13 of this chapter makes reference to women serving the king as “perfumers, cooks and bakers” and does not specify “military service”) and, violating the Law is to act as an heathen, drawing God's wrath for its occultic propensities (1Sa. 15).

In addition, the Law forbids the violation of marriage by any party whatsoever.  “What God hath joined together let not man put asunder” is the warning of our Lord. (Mat 19:6; Mar 10:9.)  That warning is applicable to the state as well as any other party.  Indeed, the kings and rulers of the earth are warned that they are “to kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little." (Psa 2:12.)  Thus, the civil “heads” of society have but derived authority only and are called to represent God's administration of justice as His “ministers” and “servants” (Rom 13).  As a result, St. Paul cites the use of the second table of the Decalogue in the same chapter (Rom 13).  The second table concerns our duties to our neighbor.  The Westminster Larger Catechism states:

The sum of the six commandments which contain our duty to man, is, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to do to others what we would have them to do to us. (WLC #122.)

The point of St. Paul's use of the second table of the Law is designed to remind all parties addressed in the chapter (both ruler and ruled, Christian and non-Christian) of the duties man has toward his fellow man.  Neither the state nor any other authority may transgress the laws of God.

In considering such a prohibition, the Law is quite specific when it says “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  The Westminster Larger Catechism comments concerning the meaning of this Commandment when it teaches (for our Scriptural consideration) an interpretation which requires “the preservation of it (chastity) in ourselves and others” and “shunning all occasions of uncleanness” (WLC #138).  It also forbids “adultery, fornication, rape” and “all other provocations to ... uncleanness” (WLC #139).  This would have implications for the proper segregation of women and men in training situations which necessitate physical contact as well as living conditions in ships, camps, barracks and on the field so as to avoid uncleanness among troops.  This would also forbid our nation or any authority from orders or governmental regulations which would “place women in situations where they may be captured and in danger therefore of rape.”

Finally, God's Law is specific in the enumerating of males (Heb.”zakar”) for the military (Num. 1).  This term, “zakar”, is used in the Old Testament “for the male sex when sexual distinctions are in view.” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).  These males are to be prepared “to go out to war” (Num. 1:3), meaning “to serve in the army”.  The males are explicitly in view when the army is called up for duty or cited for its responsibilities (Num. 31:3-4; Jos 1:14; 6:3; 8:3; Jdg. 7:1-8; 20:8-11; 1Sa 8:11-12, contrast verse 13).


      Other Scriptures suggested:

Deuteronomy 22:5; 24:5; 1 Samuel 10:9-12; Isaiah 3; Amos 2:16; 1 Corinthians 16:13.


For a downloadable version of this and the other position papers of the CRPC, click here.

Return to CRPC Position Papers Index Page.