Revisiting the whole women in leadership positions

Obviously the whole big blow back of John MacArthur and Beth Moore was interesting to say the least. Most of the commentary from my Christian friends on facebook indicated that they were in favor of Beth Moore rather than against it. It’s not surprising given the culture though.

MacArthur goes into it more detail here (h/t info).

In any case, MacArthur talks about specific wording such as shamefulness and its applicability throughout the Scriptures. He doesn’t get into some of the finer details on the differences between words like teach, which I’ll summarize again.

I had a post a few years ago about this about women teaching women in Church and why women are prohibited from certain positions in the Church. I’ve done some further study on this, which is why I want to go deeper into detail about it.

1 Timothy 2:9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, 10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. 11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

1 Corinthians 14:34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?

These are very specific things that the Scripture is prohibiting which are essentially:

  1. Teaching men (Greek: didasko)
  2. Exercising authority over men
  3. Disruption of Church order

The main point of contention is the word didasko. This Greek work is often used in the New Testament, but the primary example is in Matthew 5 with the Beatitudes. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus “teaches” (didasko) the multitude and what is meant by teaching is going over the Scriptures and interpreting them. The common pattern Jesus uses to do this is: “It was said in times of old” in reference to the Old Testament commands… and then He followed it up with re-interpretation “but I tell you…” which clarifies His position on how we should live.

Thus, we understand that Biblical teaching is probably best defined as “authoritative interpretation of the Scriptures on how to live.”. Preaching the gospel (Greek: logos, euangelion) is different than this. Women do this all throughout the Scripture, including the ones who went to the tomb.

1 Timothy 5:15 provides some context for this:

1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching (logos) and teaching (didasko).

I’ve gone over this extensively in what does it mean to teach?

Most of the counterpoints of this verse go into all the various examples of women in the early Church and in the OT but are actually off topic.

  • “But Deborah was a prophetess judging Israel”… yet she told Barak that God told him to lead Israel. In Hebrews 11, it lists Barak as the leader of Israel and an example of faith (however poor) not Deborah. Women in the NT aren’t forbidden from being prophetesses either.
  • “But the women were the first preachers”… the Bible nowhere says that women are forbidden from preaching the gospel (logos, euangelion). They are forbidden from teaching (Greek: didasko) men.
  • “But Philip had 4 daughters who were prophetesses” and “Acts 2 quotes the prophet Joel 2 that God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh and sons and daughters will prophesy”… The early Church did not forbid women from prophesying as there are multiple examples. Prophesying is not the same as leadership positions in the Church either. You can also argue that Joel 2 is speaking about close to the day of judgement and Jesus’ return from the imagery later in the passage.
  • “But Priscilla and Aquilla taught Apollos in Acts 18″… Debatable at best because (1) grounding Apollos in the way of God (e.g. gospel or preaching) is not the same as teaching (didasko), and (2) it was a husband and wife team. It was not solely Priscilla taking him aside and supposedly doing it. Also (3) debatable if this would count as leadership position in the Church too as it’s private.
  • “But Junia was an apostle”… a critical word study at the Greek episemos from that passage means noteworthy or well know among the apostles, not that she was an apostle. Most scholars think she’s a woman now, but a minority think she’s a man. Who knows. Whatever the case, it’s not convincing.
  • “But Titus 2…”

Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good (kalodidasko), 4 so that they may encourage (sophronizo) the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

It’s pretty clear that this passage is directed at older women teaching younger women (not men and/or mixed congregations) and it is directed at a specific list of good things which is what follows. I’ve covered why that is in women teaching women. You can’t reinterpret loving husband and children or being sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, or subject to husbands. It’s straight forward: no interpretation needed.

Lest we also know that Titus 1 goes over the qualifications of elders (leadership) in the Church again like 1 Timothy 3 with the qualification of “the husband of one wife.”

  • “But Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another in the fear of Christ”… no, that’s for the general congregation of believers, not the elders/leadership positions. In other passages, it says to submit to any leadership, including the Church. It also says to submit to husbands too, which unifies with 1 Corinthians 11 and 14.
  • “But Galatians 5 we’re all one in Christ and there’s no male or female”… no, that is talking specifically about salvation. It’s not talking about different roles or parts of the body of Christ, some of which appear to be prohibited from women.
  • The only example that is somewhat controversial it seems is Phoebe as a deacon (Greek diakonos). Though the word is contested as it also means “servant” (just a gune also mean woman/wife and aner means man/husband). If you unify it with 1 Timothy 3 covers qualifications for elders and deacons, which contain the phrasing “husband of 1 wife” and “managing their households well.” It’s likely she was serving and noteworthy in some capacity, but probably not in a leadership position.

A few things that I’ve never seen the opposition counter:

  1. The pattern of husband as the head of the wife is present before the fall, after the fall, in the Law of Moses, and in the New Covenant. God wants men to lead families. If this is the case for families, why would it not be for the Church?
  2. The pattern in the the gathering of the peoples starting with Abraham, Moses, and so on down the line of kings. Jesus Himself could’ve broken the mold and chosen women as disciples but did not. It seems Jesus wants men to lead the Church.
  3. As I mentioned in Lessons from Ephesus, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Revelations all have some commentary to Ephesus. Both Ephesians and 1 and 3 Timothy espouse male headship in the home, and same with 1 and 3 Tim. Revelations commends the Ephesians for holding fast and rooting out bad apostles (and their bad teachings).
  4. The early Church could have included women in leadership but never did either. Not the Church before the Great Schism. Not the Church after the Reformation. Only in the last 50ish years. Orthodoxy and Catholicism still don’t.

Overall, I really don’t see it when one looks at the particular nuances of the Scriptures. Especially in conjunction with the rest of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Lots of Christians like to make up stories about how 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 were “just that Church” (even though it says later that this is “for all the Churches”) or that it was just in those Churches but doesn’t apply today. It’s the old fallacy of cultural relevance.

Changing the course of the day 1 to 2000 year interpretation of the Scriptures from the early Church until now to fit a similar cultural narrative is quite the stretch. Christians are supposed to be set apart from the world, not agree with it.

This is not to say that going to a Church with women pastors/teachers is a bad thing. There have been some cases that I’ve known that men have influenced the Church leadership and board to remove women from these positions over time with godly doctrine and counsel. God can have you at a particular in a season to be a good influence on those who may be in doctrinal error. This is something that needs to be considered prayerfully and aligned in the specific season that you’re in.

This is the same with any other doctrinal errors that may be present such as complementarianism. If you only went to Churches that taught everything right, you probably wouldn’t be gathering with believers much. We must always remember that the work of the Spirit is inside-out transformation. He can use us to influence others toward Truth.

On the other hand, it would probably be unwise to go to Churches with actual heretical beliefs such as those that deny tenets of the Nicene Creed.

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13 Responses to Revisiting the whole women in leadership positions

  1. Michael says:

    Thanks DS for a great post on this. One thing I also like to emphasize on this is that church leadership must practice both teaching and exhortation (1 Tim 4:13). As a general rule, the first precedes and leads to the second. Starting with teaching and ending with exhortation is a pattern throughout the NT, with the top example probably being Romans 12-14 and Hebrews 12-13 (chapters of exhortation which take all the doctrine which was just taught and say “therefore” live this way). It makes sense too – we should live a certain way because, and only because, we follow Christ.
    The point I am making is that some people try to separate teaching from authority, like when it is a woman teaching under the elder’s authority and with their permission. That point of view ignores the fact that teaching should lead to exhortation. If the exhortation is not heeded, then exhortation should be followed by gentle rebuke and correction. This is just to say that i think there are no special circumstances in which a woman should be teaching in church, because no one can separate teaching from authority, however they may try to do it.

  2. Michael says:

    Also a question I wanted to ask to anyone who has studied this passage:
    In 1 Corinthians 11:10, do you think “angels” refers to whoever is speaking in church that day, in a sense as God’s messenger? The whole passage makes the most sense that way, I think, but I’m honestly not certain. If so, it seems to say that head coverings were worn in church as a sign to everyone that this woman is not to submit directly to the one speaking in church, but instead submits to her husband by asking him at home about the biblical accuracy of the sermon.

  3. Sharkly says:

    This is not to say that going to a Church with women pastors/teachers is a bad thing.

    I fully disagree. Going to a Church with women pastors/teachers is a blasphemous thing. I won’t do it, and neither should anyone else.
    Church is for fellowship with other followers of Christ, not to humor those in outright rebellion to God as they spew false doctrines.

  4. Elspeth says:

    Thanks for posting the sermon. I hadn’t heard it.

  5. @ Sharkly

    I fully disagree. Going to a Church with women pastors/teachers is a blasphemous thing. I won’t do it, and neither should anyone else.

    Church is for fellowship with other followers of Christ, not to humor those in outright rebellion to God as they spew false doctrines.

    A shortsighted view in my opinion, and I said why in the post.

    One of the guys I know that did help the leadership remove a woman from the pulpit… your advice would have seen him run from the Church and they would still be in error.

    If you have the capacity and influence to help them see the error of their ways and repent, it would be a travesty not to at least try to help them. Our job as Christians is not to run from heresy but to help others in heresy repent and be reconciled to God.

    This situation is probably not for immature believers though as they may get caught up in it more than influence the others to change.

  6. @ Michael

    In 1 Corinthians 11:10, do you think “angels” refers to whoever is speaking in church that day, in a sense as God’s messenger? The whole passage makes the most sense that way, I think, but I’m honestly not certain. If so, it seems to say that head coverings were worn in church as a sign to everyone that this woman is not to submit directly to the one speaking in church, but instead submits to her husband by asking him at home about the biblical accuracy of the sermon.

    Hard verse cause it almost comes supposedly without context. I think the previous context in the same letter is possibly applicable: 1 Cor 6 – believers will judge angels. In this sense, Paul is affirming the same dignity of men and women, even though they have different roles, authority and dress.

    The passage as a whole is about authority and not disgracing your sex (whether male or female) via different ways (lack or too much hair, lack of or having a head covering).

    This leads other commentaries to go to some more traditional Jewish/early Christian thought of the day was that angels were mixed into the midst (good or evil), and it was by being properly decent that you could discern whether good or bad. Maybe. Maybe not.

  7. Joe2 says:

    One of the guys I know that did help the leadership remove a woman from the pulpit… your advice would have seen him run from the Church and they would still be in error.

    The action undertaken by the guy you know requires a great deal of prayer for wisdom beforehand because he could have failed. If that happened, what should he do? Wait for better opportunities and keep trying or simply apply Mathew 10:14? I’ve been in situations (home bible studies) where there were differences (speaking in tongues) and each side believed they had the capacity and influence to help the other side see the error of their ways. In fact, both side were very knowledgeable and as a result a lot of tension was created and nothing was resolved. I think the same tension can develop in a church which is not healthy.

  8. @ Joe2

    Definitely. That’s why I had the caveat in there about that.

    There also needs to be wisdom in that if nothing can be done in a certain manner, it may not be the time or season or it may never be. You just never know what type of soil the seeds are going to fall in.

  9. aptak says:

    Roman Catholic here, the Pope has commissioned a study for the feasibility of women Deacons. He is very big on promoting women into places of leadership. I will never sit under the authority of or listen to a teaching from a woman in church. If they allow women to become Deacons and allow them to preach, my large family and I are out of there.

  10. info says:

    The example of Deborah is better described as being a messenger of God. In the same way prophetesses were messengers of God. Yet leadership of the Army and even Nation can still be in the hands of the man.

  11. info says:

    The Delphic Oracles are a good example of a Patriarchal society with women fulfilling prophetic roles in a non-Christian context.

  12. info says:

    Apparently there is evidence that the NIV 2011 translation was done with a egalitarian feminist agenda:
    http://www.bible-researcher.com/niv.2011.html

    Please share this if you find it informative. But there is clearly deliberate subversion going on to deceive the elect and to invert morality.

  13. Jacob says:

    This is not to say that going to a Church with women pastors/teachers is a bad thing.

    I’d bridge what Sharkly and DS have written with the following reasoning. If by “bad” you mean sinful, then the sinner needs correction and Christians in church ought to do whatever they can to help them back to the right path. An otherwise faithful woman who wants to teach a mixed congregation is still a member of Christ and should be loved accordingly. There are lots of faithful Christians in church holding lots of misguided views about this and that. Church is there to help break down false beliefs and steer the elect along the narrow path. That can only happen if church is true to Scripture. It’s doctrines must be clearly and unambiguously Bible-based.

    However, if you mean heretical, then heresy should not be permitted from the pulpit. A church that permits women to teach mixed congregations or allows only women to teach women’s groups is going directly against Scripture and therefore openly heretical. It’s almost certainly erring in other ways. It’s encouraging rights-based thinking for a start. Jesus never spoke in terms of rights but in terms of personhood and love. He gave up his rights even to life for our sake. Women preaching is rights-based thinking and is missing the message of the cross entirely. Christians are well advised to stay away from any church that has submitted itself to rights-based thinking.

    The pulpit is a sacred place. It’s not a sacred object in itself but a sanctified position in the church which those who have been called by the Holy Spirit to teach are given the privilege of doing so. Anyone can teach from the Bible but from the pulpit it must be within the narrow parameters laid out in Scripture. It doesn’t matter whether we understand the reasons for this or not, we must still follow Scripture or risk serious consequences. The pulpit is not something to be toyed with. Unsound or disputed doctrines such as women preaching are for discussion and correction away from the pulpit.

    In summary, I wouldn’t flee from a church just because women defy Scripture by teaching in church, but I would if it became acceptable for them to do so.

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