Yesterday on the Gender Blog for the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary responded to a USA Today op-ed column by Mary Zeiss Stange, professor of Women’s Studies and Religion at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The topic: of course, women’s role in church ministry. Considering her credentials, it’s easy to see that Stange is going to be an advocate of egalitarianism (look it up) between the sexes when it comes to church leadership. Dr. Mohler attempts to bring Stange’s, and the modern culture’s, basic worldview into focus, and he contrasts it with some basic comments regarding the biblical, complementarian (look it up), worldview of the roles of men and women in church life.
I realize that the world isn’t consciously fettered to the clear teaching of Scripture, and it should be no surprise that the world would attempt to budge the church from faithfulness thereto. The world does a very good job of it, across the board, when it has to try at all, and doesn’t find a church eager to join the world’s parade regardless of which direction it’s going. But I thought in the light of the present discussion on those other sites, I’d post Paul’s controversial restriction on women in church leadership from 1 Timothy 2. And I mean the whole, short chapter. As you read the chapter, notice first of all the redemptive basis of his restriction, then notice the Old Testament or creational basis of his restriction:
2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
The redemptive basis of Paul’s restrictions on women in church leadership is found in verses five and six. Men and women share the same mediator. Elsewhere, in the context of roles in marriage, Peter instructs husbands to keep in mind that their wives are “heirs with [them] of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). The same is true in this context. Christ died, not only for “kings, and all who are in high positions,” or just for Jews and men (meaning males), but he died for all kinds of people. He died for the powerful and the powerless; for the Jew and for the Gentile; and the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and humans of both sexes. It is instructive to note that the word “man” in verse five translates the same Greek word that is translated people in verses one and four. Christ didn’t just die for males, he died for males and females. It is first in the light of this fact, men’s and women’s equality in redemption, that Paul gives any instruction at all to anyone. For here is the source of life: the message of redemption in Christ. No other message will grant to men or women the grace to serve God according to his will. And any differentiation of roles between the sexes would certainly not last, if not for loving gratitude to the Lord for what he has done for men and women.
Secondly, notice Paul’s Old Testament, or creational, basis for his restriction on women in the church leadership role. This is found in verses thirteen and fourteen. Refer to the passage above for a refresher. Paul states two simple reasons. I might add that they are reasons that were “breathed-out,” or spoken, by God himself. Reason one: Women should not “teach” or “excercise authority over a man,” but are to “remain quiet” because of creational chronology. Adam was created first, and Eve was created second. The simple fact is that the biblical revelation of the creation of men and women included from the very beginning inherent complementarian roles. Moses clearly writes that the woman was created to be “a helper fit (or corresponding) to him” (Genesis 2:18). Paul does not elaborate on this chronology as an excuse to institute complementarian roles in the church, just states it as the reason.
The challenge of competent biblical interpretation is to avoid going beyond what Scripture teaches. Yes, this includes the implicit teaching as well as the explicit, but not all inferences drawn from the text are equally valid or necessary. One must tread with caution when it comes to that. When the interpreter is not cautious in drawing inferences, misinterpretation results, and this misinterpretation will contradict the totality of biblical revelation. So it is in this case. The reason people get offended so easily by this passage is that when they hear that men were created before women, they don’t hear a chronological list, they instinctively hear a qualitative list, for want of a better word (if you’ve got one, submit it in your comment). In other words, they hear something like, men were created first, and therefore they are better than women. This is what I call an invalid, and unnecessary inference drawn from the text. This is not what Paul is saying. It is important to not “go beyond what is written” (compare 1 Corinthians 4:6-7).
Paul’s second Old Testament basis is the fact that Eve became a transgressor by being deceived in the fall, and Paul clarifies that Adam was not deceived. Here again, it is important to reign in our instinctive inferences based on sexual rivalry. Many hear this passage as implying that women should not teach men in church, or serve in the pastoral office, because they are somehow by nature more prone to deception, and that, in order to preserve the truth of Scripture, women should be restricted from the teaching ministry of the church. This, again, is an invalid inference. If this passage does anything, it points out the greater responsibility Adam had in the fall, as compared with Eve. Put simply, the devil tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit; Adam ate it, as they say, “of his own free will.” So here again, Eve is subordinate in role (not in inherent worth) not only in her creation, but also in her fall from original righteousness, into original sin. Thus Paul’s second facet of the creational basis of complementarianism in roles in the church.
So Adam and Eve were created and fell with reference to superordinate and subordinate roles. So, where do we find the inherent equality in worth? Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make man (generic for both sexes) in our image, after our likeness.” Both men and women reflect God in righteousness, knowledge and holiness (compare Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Men and women were created equally righteous, but fell from this; they were equally rational–both have the capacity for reason which distinguishes them from the animal kingdom, and so reflect God. Men and women were also created equally “holy” or set apart by God to perform God-given roles. Although these roles differ, the fact that they are set apart for specific roles is equal.
So, in creation and redemption, men and women are equal. In role, men and women complement each other. When tempted to defer to the pressure of the world to conform to its egalitarian expectations, it’s important to recall that Paul quoted Old Testament Scripture as his sole reason for having men and women serve differing roles out of loving gratitude for the mediatorial life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The roles were not culturally contrived, and therefore dated and obsolete. The roles were built in at creation and are expected in the light of the cross. Paul stood on God’s Word, and so should the 21st century Christian.