Puritan Gems

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Egalitarianism: An Examination of the Alleged Supporting Scriptures

“For those things which I have already mentioned might easily be performed by many even of those who are under authority, women as well as men; but when one is required to preside over the Church, and to be entrusted with the care of so many souls, the whole female sex must retire before the magnitude of the task, and the majority of men also… The divine law indeed has excluded women from the ministry, but they endeavor to thrust themselves into it; and since they can effect nothing of themselves, they do all through the agency of others; and they have become invested with so much power that they can appoint or eject priests at their will; things in fact are turned upside down, and the proverbial saying may be seen realized —“The ruled lead the rulers:” and would that it were men who do this instead of women, who have not received a commission to teach. Why do I say teach? For the blessed Paul did not suffer them even to speak in the Church.” (Chrysostom - The Priesthood 2:2 , 3:9).

“In the New Testament the Holy Spirit, speaking through St Paul, ordained that women should be silent in the churches and assemblies (1 Cor. 14:34), and said that this is the Lord's commandment? In the congregations or churches where there is a ministry women are to be silent and not preach (1 Timothy 2:12).” (Martin Luther - Infiltrating and Clandestine Preachers, Works 40:390-91).

In light of the recent close vote (446 to 427) in the PCA concerning the ordination of “deaconesses”, as well as the increasing number of female pastors in many denominations, I thought it would be profitable to examine some of the Scriptures that are commonly used in support of women in ordained ministry, despite the very clear commandment of 1 Timothy 2:12. The following arguments appear in a publication by a well known Pentecostal denomination which practices the ordination of women ministers.

1.) “Junia was a female apostle” (Romans 16:7).

Romans 16:7 does not state the Junia was an apostle, or any type of church leader. Some translations say that she was “of note among the apostles” (ASV. KVJ, etc.) The meaning is clarified by the ESV, that she was “well known to the apostles”. For that matter, it’s not even clear that Junia was a woman, since the Greek “Iounian” could also be translated “Junias” (a male name), as some early transcripts read.

In any case, there were only 14 Apostles (the original 12, plus Mattias and Paul). The term “Apostle” here referring to the church office, not the generic term that many try to cause confusion with.

2.) “in Christ, there is neither male or female” (Galatians 3:28).

Clearly a misused text (See Most Misused Bible Passages Poll). Taken to its logical extreme, this sort of exegesis could be used to support gay marriage (Don’t laugh, this is being done). The passage is clearly used to emphasize the fact that salvation is not dependent on social standing. The passage is not meant to blur the clear distinction between men and women, and thus their qualification for church office or teaching in public ministry.

3.) “Paul also allowed women to “teach” in (Romans 16:1-6; Philippians 4:2-3). Thus he presumably addressed 1Timothy to the specific situation in a specific community.”

The cited passages do not suggest that women are allowed to teach (not to mention that those who use this argument never manage to explain what the “specific situation” in 1 Timothy was). There are many ways that a woman can (and should) be “workers in Christ Jesus” without holding an ordained office or teaching in public worship. That same is true with Philippians 4, and there are many ways to “labor…in the gospel” without holding an ordained office or teaching in public worship.

The clearest passage regarding women teaching is 1 Timothy 2:12, and Paul really leaves no ambiguity in his statement. To suggest that Paul was addressing a “specific situation in a specific community.” is presumptuous indeed. Especially when Paul was clearly addressing Timothy in regards to “all people” (without distinction) (v. 1, 4, 6). Paul goes on to suggest that “in every place the men should pray” (v.8). Does that apply only to the specific situation in Timothy, or to men in every place? On what basis, then, would anyone suggest that Paul suddenly shift gears and applies vs. 12 to “a specific situation”? Certainly not sound biblical exegesis.

4.) “Joel explicitly emphasized that when God poured out His Spirit, women as well as men would prophesy (Joel 2:28-29).”

This is the most common argument, with another misused passage, though not quite as clear, since preaching is a form of prophesying. When Peter was citing this passage, he was applying it to what had just happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). There were 3,000 people with him, and yet he was the only one “preaching”. No one else was preaching, and no women had been ordained to church office. It’s best to let the Bible apply its own meaning to a passage rather than try to make it say something that it doesn’t.

5.) “Slaves can be saved and also receive gifts for ministry equally, so can Gentiles, so can women.”

Gifts for ministry do not necessarily entail preaching or ordination for church office. Over and over again, those offices are strictly limited to men. In 1 Timothy 2:12, God left no wiggle room for interpretation, nor did He contradict Himself on the other passages that we just dealt with.
I would ask those who voted “yes” in the GA, as I have often asked in regards to 1 Timothy 2:12: Let’s suppose, just for a second, the Paul had actually meant that he does “not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man”, and that “she is to remain quiet” in church. How else could he have expressed that sentiment any clearer than he did here? Versa ipsa loquitur.

6.) “Women ministers have led many to Christ”.

True or not, this is a common argument adopting a pragmatic worldview, that the end justifies the means. It is used to support everything from altar calls, church clowns and jugglers, Rock and Roll “Worship” services, and false TBN preachers. I would ask those who use this argument to consider if what Judas Iscariot did should be justified on the basis that it has saved so many people. Truth should never be expendable for perceived successful results. The ends never justify the means, especially when those means are unbiblical.

If it make anyone feel better, there are very few men that are qualified for ordained office as well, but those who do qualify are exclusively men. This last vote was a bit too close for my comfort.

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