The topic of female-pastors has been flowing through my local church recently. I covered it in a Wednesday night class not too long ago, and since we recently started a sermon series on 1 Timothy, the topic was addressed from the pulpit as well. I decided then to respond to some common Egalitarian arguments through this new blog series.
To define the term above, the debate over women being pastors boils down to two opposing positions: Complementarianism and Egalitarianism.
Complementarians affirm that women and men are equal in terms of intrinsic value and dignity, but they are made distinctly different to compliment one another. This means that their roles in life are different, even though they are both equally created in God’s image.
Complementarians believe the Bible to be very clear that within the family and the church, men and women serve different functions. One of those differences, the one most pertinent to this discussion is the role of the pastor (otherwise known as Elder).
Egalitarians would disagree. They see that because men and women are equal, they must therefore be equal in role opportunities as well. Thus, any thing God calls men to do and be, He also calls women to do and be.
I, along with the Church historic, am a Complementarian. These next three blogs will be dedicated to making a cursory defense of the position.
While many hundreds of pages are written on this subject, it would not be prudent to proceed with refuting the counter-claims without the positive presentation which they are seeking to undermine.
Here is a very brief presentation of the Complementarian reading of Scripture:
God intended, from creation, to make men and women unique in their roles. They are both equal in dignity and value, as both are made in God’s very image (Genesis 1:27). Although men and women are equal, they are very different in many ways, and this is seen in the created order, and in the post-fall world prescribed and described by the Apostles.
In creation, Adam, before the fall of man, is given an authority over Eve. Adam was created first (something Paul tells us is a sign of authority), and Adam names Eve. To name someone is a sign of authority; God named Adam (Genesis 2: 7), and Adam named the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). Even in our culture, as well as throughout the biblical cultures, parents name their children. It has always been the case that to name someone is to signify a sign of authority.
This is why God often renamed people throughout Scripture; He has authority to do so. And, in the creation account, Adam named Eve rather than God (Genesis 2:23). This is a God-given sign of authority.
With that, not only was Adam created first, but God is differentiated in why and how each was created. Eve was created in a unique way:
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”… So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2: 18, 21-23
Adam and Eve are very different. Eve was created after Adam, Eve w
as created from Adam, and Eve was created for Adam. All of these suggest, not only complementary differences, but difference in authority as well.
Even after the Fall, the curses given to men and women were unique to their genders!
New Testament Testimony
For those who would like to attempt to disagree with my interpretation, make it known that Paul is actually the one who interprets these things for us. And he believes these creation details directly affect the role of men in women in the family and in the church.
Paul certainly believed that husbands have an authoritative role within the family government:
1 Corinthians 11:3,
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
Ephesians 5: 22-24,
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
And the Apostle Peter is lock-step with his fellow Apostle on this issue as well:
1 Peter 3: 1-5,
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands,
However, this authoritative role does not end with the family, it extends into the Church of God as well. There are leadership positions in both the home and in the church that are not available to women, and Paul grounds it in the creation order:
1 Timothy 1: 11-14,
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
It is made clear then by Paul that God’s created order, prior to the fall, was that men would hold a unique position of authority among the family and the church. God was certainly capable of creatingAdam and Eve the same way, at the same time, and naming them both. But Paul teaches us that God purposefully created them in such unique ways for a reason.
Two additional points need to be made on this:
1. Role divisions are not insulting or offensive.
In what is known as the “economy of salvation”, the members of the Trinity occupy different roles in accomplishing salvation. Ephesians 1: 3-14 demonstrates that the Father predestined His people and adopted them (3-6), the Son died on a cross to purchase and redeem them (7), and the Spirit applies and seals that redemption (13-14). The Trinity has differentiated roles among the divine Members.
Along with these roles come different levels of authority. Jesus states that He came not to do His will, but the Father’s (John 6: 38), and that the Father is greater than Him (John 14:28). Along those lines, the Spirit is under also under submission to the Father’s authority as well (John 14:26). He is even given a similar name as Eve was given for Adam!
The point here is that one cannot claim that distinguishing roles between the sexes is somehow degrading or offensive. If that were the case, the Trinity would come undone. To be angered by a “both are equal, yet they are distinct in roles and authority” is to be angered about the very Triune God Himself.
If anything, to deny these things is what is truly offensive. And we are seeing that in its extreme form in 21st century America. When men can become women, and win “women of the year” awards, we see the offense of pretending like men and women are not distinct and complementary.
It means something to be a man, and it means something to be a woman, and to blend the two is offensive to both.
“To me, a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous and fluff-brained, but she is gentle, she is gracious, she is godly and she is giving. You and I have the gift of femininity… the more womanly we are, the more manly men will be and the more God is glorified. Be women, be only women, be real women in obedience to God.” -Elisabeth Elliot
2. Women are only excluded from the very specific office of Elder in a local christian church, not from ministry roles altogether within or outside of the local church.
This is very important to the blogs which follow from here in this series. The most common refutation of the Complementarian position is bringing up all of the texts in Scripture where women are doing wonderful things and holding high positions. Women throughout Scripture are prophets, judges, and with some debate, deacons.
Women preach the Gospel, women help communicate the truth to men, women aid the church greatly, and women teach their children. None of these things are denied by our position. We maintain that, given what Paul says in 1 Timothy 2: 11-14 and 1 Corinthians 11: 33-25, the office of the Elder within a gathered local church, and the teaching responsibilities given to him, are exclusively given to qualified men. Any other service or office still abiding today can be held by women. Women were never apostles, and never will be elders. However, all the other offices and roles they have in the Old and New Testaments are gladly affirmed and celebrated by all Complementarians.
I will be responding to two of the more influential personas from the Egalitarian side. Greg Boyd is an open-theist, which sadly means he is a heretic. However, his resource ministry ReKnew has influenced many people. And one of the articles he wrote there which I will be responding to is titled The Case for Women in Ministry.
The article is a very clear presentation of the common rebuttals against the historical position. The article is old, published in 2007. However, it has not been retracted from the website, so it is clearly Boyd’s maintained position. On top of that, he has recently taught the same message from his pulpit in years as recently as 2011 and in 2014. I will be responding to his article.
Along with that, I will also be responding to Rachel Held-Evans (RHE). RHE is likely far more influential on this topic. RHE is a progressive, feminist Christian who promotes egalitarianism often. She not only defended the position on Unbelievable, she also wrote a blog post which can be found on her website in regards to 1 Timothy 2 that I will incorporate in my rebuttal of Boyd’s egalitarianism.
I hope you look forward to my thoughts on whether or not women are allowed by God to serve as Elders in God’s church.
May the Word of God sanctify us all.