WOMEN SERVING AS PASTORS

STEPPING OUT OF DIVINE ORDER

By: Victor T. Stephens

"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."

~ George R.R. Martin

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Opposing Arguments

 

In spite of the positive and clear cut precepts that support male pastoral leadership and the lack of biblical precedent for ordaining women, there is still much repugnance to this point of observation; particularly by enraged feminists who view 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians as impediments to women in authoritative positions in the church. In a bid to maintain their views, they have raised a number of counter arguments in an attempt to evade, discredit, or reinterpret Paul's teachings in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-37. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, let's take a look at what Peter has to say about those who take issue with Paul:

"... as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15-16)

 

Take note that Peter says of Paul, "these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." Peter’s statement is clearly accurate as it relates to pro-women ordainers who attempt to discredit Paul's teachings on the restriction of women pastors in the church. These individuals are "untaught" and "unstable" in their ways.

 

With that said, let's now address some of the currently circulated and twisted arguments in support of women pastors.

1. Deborah the Judge

 

The Claim: There are those who believe that it is permissible for women to hold authoritative positions within the church based primarily on the account of Deborah the judge (Judges 4:4-5). But does Deborah in the book of Judges truly provide us with a concrete model about the office of authoritative leadership within the church? I believe that it does not for the following reason:

 

Rebuttal: Deborah was a judge and prophetess. Other women who were prophetesses include: Miriam (Ex. 15:20, 21), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Anna (Luke 2:36).

 

There is no question that Deborah and these other women were great and godly individuals who had significant influence. Their positions, however, are not comparable to that of a pastoral role. While God richly blesses women with spiritual gifts, nowhere in the Bible do we read that these women, or any other women, were ordained by God to teach and take authority in a church meeting. During the time of Deborah, the Levitical Priests were the teachers and worship leaders; and they were all men. Thus, to employ the account of Deborah in the book of Judges as a basis for women leaders within the church is an inappropriate use of scriptural text.

2. Women lacked education

 

The Claim: Feminists allege that in reference to 1 Timothy 2:11-14, Paul disapproved women in public ministry or to exercise authority over men on account women were generally untaught during ancient biblical times. Therefore, on the grounds that women today are significantly more educated, Paul's command is not universally binding in our current church age.

 

Rebuttal: Firstly, God chose female prophets who were intellectually capable to fulfill some significant roles in His Kingdom. Secondly, many women followed Jesus and learned from Him. Thirdly, nowhere does Paul infer educational status as a criterion for ministry. He (Paul) specifically mentions the reason for his directive for the prohibition of women pastors; and it is the creation order of man and woman by God. Apparently, many secular feminists have disregarded Paul's reason and substituted it with a speculative viewpoint.

 

Let's assume for a moment that Paul's prohibition was due to lack of education. Then why would he interdict uneducated women from teaching and not also uneducated men?

3. Restricted to Ephesian women

 

The Claim: Pro-women ordainers assert that in reference to 1 Timothy 2:11-14, Paul only restricted the women in Ephesus from teaching. They claim that women were teaching false doctrines due to the influence of worship at the Temple of Artemis. Artemis was a Greek pagan goddess, aka Diana, (Acts 19:23-41) that was worshipped by women in authority. Thus, in effect, it is suggested that Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 was to invalidate the doctrine of Artemis and create a platform of equality between men and women. However, on account that women in Ephesus had been misled, Paul restricts women from teaching. At that period, they were to resign themselves to learning The Word of God in silence. Therefore today, as long as a woman does not adopt a feminist supremacy mindset, this does not restrict her from acquiring a pastoral role within the church.

 

Rebuttal: Any suggestion that Paul is confronting an issue of gender equality is faulty speculation; reading into the text what is not there. If we read the entire chapter of 1 Timothy 2, it will become evident that Artemis worship does not fit the contextual pattern of this chapter. Although Paul addressed errant teachers who were advocating unbiblical roles for women as well as stating that false teachers were plaguing the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:29-30), nowhere does he infer the worship of Artemis as a grounds for his restrictions of women pastors. Again, he indicatively appeals to the order of creation to illustrate that the pastoral role should be occupied by a man.

 

From God's perspective, gender functions are not related to gender equality. In the body of Christ, the Lord has assigned specific roles for men and women while affirming equality of person-hood. Likened to Artemis worshippers, there are many today who are attempting to pervert God's design roles for men and women. And this is attributed to what occurred after the fall into sin as stated in Genesis 3:16.

4. Restricted to husbands and wives

 

The Claim:  Advocates of women pastors declare that 1 Timothy 2:11-14 pertains only to husbands and wives, not women teaching in the church. They say that the Greek words for man (aner) and woman (gune), when used together, are indicative to wives and husbands, not men and women in general. Thus, what Paul is really saying is, "But I do not allow a wife to teach or exercise authority over a husband, but to remain quiet." (1 Tim. 2:12).

 

Rebuttal: The Greek words "aner" and "gune" in this passage could allude to "man" or "husband" and either "woman" or "wife" respectively. However, according to the context of this passage, the Greek words are in reference to men and women. The same Greek words are used in the preceding verses: "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (1 Tim. 2:8-10).

 

If we accept the interpretation that verses 11-14 are referring solely to husbands and wives, then we must ask; "Are only husbands to pray everywhere?" “Are only wives to dress in modest apparel?" The answer to those questions should be obvious. Thus, the decisive clues from verses 8-10 should bring contextual balance in this entire passage ... proving that the Greek words are in reference to men and women, not husbands and wives.

But let's momentarily accept the pro-women ordainer's point of view. Suppose a wife were a pastor and her husband were in the assembly, then would she not be teaching her husband? As we can see, this question provides additional evidence of the flawed notion that Paul is referring to husbands and wives.

 

Finally, if it was Paul's intent to restrict a wife from taking authority over her husband in 1 Timothy 2:12, then it would seem feasible that he would have made this clear. For example, in Ephesians 5:22, Paul says, "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord." Again, in Colossians 3:18 Paul says, "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." These two Scripture references clearly indicate how Paul directly verbalized married men ("Husbands") and married women ("Wives"). But, in 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul use of "Husbands and Wives" is absent from the text. Thus, Paul was referring to men and women in the church, not exclusively husbands and wives as he does in Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18.

5. A temporary command

 

The Claim: Proponents of women's ordination argue that Paul knew that there was an abolishment of all gender-based roles, but neglected to fully address biblical equality on account that he feared to break with his culture. Such a radical move could potentially hinder the gospel. Thus, Paul's command in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 is culturally conditioned to the male chauvinist attitude of the church during his time period. This, coupled with the fact that Paul uses a present tense verb ("I do not permit") illustrates that his command was a temporary cultural arrangement rather than universal truth for all cultures. Today's culture is supposedly more knowledgeable about the equality of men and women. Thus, Paul's teachings on women’s submission to male leadership in the church and the home are no longer applicable.

 

Rebuttal: This type of argument is simply ludicrous speculation. There are no indications in scripture that Paul's command was grounded in cultural conformity. It bears repeating. Paul's prohibition for women exercising the role of authoritative teaching is grounded in the creation order. This dispels any notion that his command was temporary or culturally conditioned.

 

Furthermore, to contend that Paul's use of the present tense verb can be interpreted as a temporary command overlooks the fact that he also used present indicatives to give acceptable and authoritative instruction in Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Timothy 2:1, 8 just to mention a few.

 

Let's also consider that Jesus chose twelve men to be his apostles. Some advocates of women's ordination find it easier to resort to faulty conjecture rather than accept the explicit reason for Paul's interdiction of women pastors. In this example, as well as others, pro-women ordainers attempt to twist and nullify the authority of Scripture in an endeavor to occupy leadership positions in the church.

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