Wednesday, March 25, 2009

WOMEN AND CHURCH LEADERSHIP

This is parts I and II of a Seven Part Series. I hope at lest some will reconsider how they approach the word of God.

I. Introduction and Purpose

The sufficiency, clarity, and authority of God’s word, since the time of creation have been under attack. In more recent times, there has been a greater acceptance of a postmodern philosophy – meaning that which rejects “objective truth” and seeks a corporate understanding of truth that is relative to the community in which one participates.[1] In other words, what’s true today may not be tomorrow. The modern debate over women in leadership roles within the church provides a telling glimpse into the various approaches that seek a “proper” understanding of the scriptures. If the Biblical texts alone are not sufficient to define church order, then the community will. If the community no longer acknowledges the Bible as the word of God, then there is no longer any divine standard for the church to obey.[2] Unknowingly, the church may find its doctrines and church order being defined by a community of so called “believers” rather than by God’s word. It is argued that if the writers of scripture were influenced by their culture and perhaps rabbinic teachings, one must recognize such tendencies and interpret the texts accordingly. It is here the apostle Paul is often seen as the great women’s liberator in scripture (Galatians 3:28), and at the same time still fighting off his “male chauvinistic” Jewish rabbinical teachings as displayed in 1 Timothy 2: 12. These offensive “chauvinistic” passages must either be explained away or outright rejected as having any current relevance to the individual Christian or church today. The universality of at least “some” of the texts must thereby be rejected; times have changed and our world is not the same as it was when Paul recorded his letters.

The purpose of this paper will examine several biblical passages and specifically 1 Timothy 2:11- “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (v. 11)[3] as it relates to female church leadership. The research will show that this verse is not addressing a temporary cultural circumstance, but is revealing a timeless truth that has implications that reach far beyond church leadership; God has established roles for men and women and exercising “freedom” from these roles is utter rebellion. Feminist ideology will be shown to be driven by the same humanistic and historical assumptions that place human desire over God’s word. It is precisely God’s perspective as divinely revealed in His word, regarding the roles of men and women that are to be abandoned by those adherents of such an ideology. If the church continues to ignore this fact, or misunderstand the far reaching implications, then it will not glorify God and becomes a potential tool in the hands of Satan. Paul’s purpose in his writing was made clear – so that we may “know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). These words are not man breathed, and neither is the authority and timelessness in which they have been given.

II. Relevant Biblical Texts

At this point it would be beneficial to spell out several of the Pauline texts that will be at issue here. All texts are from the NASB translation and will pertain to both the role of women in the church and in the family.

Ephesians 5:22-27 - 22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Galatians 3:28 - There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 2:11-14 - 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.

In addition to the aforementioned texts, the creation and fall accounts will provide a crucial background to understanding Paul’s letters. It is argued that Paul’s reference to these texts either established a timeless and universal application, or Paul’s writings were subject to his own preconceived notions about the proper roles for men and women.

[1]Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 214.
[2]Vern Sheridan Poythress, “The Church as Family: Why Male leadership in the Family Requires Male Leadership in the Church.” in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 242.
[3]All Scripture from this point forward is taken from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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