Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Prophecy and Biblical Authority"

While glancing through some articles online from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I stumbled upon an article called “Anne Graham Lotz and Women in Church Leadership” by Brent Nelson. The article, dated October 21, 2008, discussed how Anne Graham Lotz felt when pastors walked out on her in a seminary chapel service. Anne Graham Lotz told Brent Nelson at Washington Post that she was discouraged until she began to pray and the Lord revealed to her a passage of comfort—John 20, where Mary Magdalene was sent by the Lord to the disciples to tell them that He had risen. She also thought about Acts 2:17 where the prophet Joel is quoted and the reference from Joel 2:28 is brought to the surface—“ ‘And in the last days it shall be,’ God declares, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY…”

I was reading this portion of Anne Graham Lotz’s response to rejection by Brent Nelson, so I didn’t get all the details about her interview. Nevertheless, Nelson’s response to Lotz (on the CBMW site) is worth showing:
“Imprecision is the handmaid of confusion, and confusion the prelude to bondage (John 8:32). We would do well to make a distinction between women in ministry (which the Bible affirms) and women in the pastorate (which the Bible forbids - 1 Timothy 2:12). Mary seeing Jesus and being commissioned to tell the disciples of his rising is indeed an honor, but certainly does not qualify her to take the role of an Elder or Pastor to men. Lotz is right to notice how the Spirit empowers both men and women to prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5), but prophesying is not a biblically authoritative act. Children, servants, even unbelievers can prophesy, therefore it must be tested against Scripture (1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).”

Did you notice something interesting about that quote? “Lotz is right to notice how the Spirit empowers both men and women to prophesy, but prophesying is NOT a BIBLICALLY-AUTHORITATIVE ACT.” What this says is that, while women can certainly prophesy in the church, they do not have any biblical authority because the gift of prophecy does not carry any spiritual authority with it.

Let’s look back at 1 Corinthians 11, the passage that Nelson references in his response to Anne Graham Lotz. 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 concerns men and women prophesying. Now verse 5, pertaining to women, states, “but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven” (ESV). The English Standard Version translates “gunaikos” as “wife” because of later context (vv.7,8). Therefore, women should wear a head covering: “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” A wife should have authority on her head (according to the text). But why? The text tells us that “woman is the glory of the man.” But there is another reason as well—and the rest of chapter 11 gives it away. The context of the remainder of chapter 11 concerns the Lord’s Supper, which is done in a public setting—“When you come together…” (v.20). So women are not praying and prophesying in private, or in secret, or to the side, but publicly in the congregation! This, then, is why they must wear a head covering.
But, according to Nelson, prophecy does not carry any biblical authority. However, this isn’t true, and 1 Corinthians 11 contradicts what Nelson believes. Why else would these prophetesses be ordered to wear head coverings in public if they weren’t assuming an authoritative position in the assembly when they prophesied? It is precisely because they are assuming an authoritative stance that they are ordered to wear head coverings by the congregation. The purpose for creating this rule was so that women could show submission to their husbands (a first-century concern and a present one) as well as exercise their God-given spiritual authority. However, the early church didn’t have the problem that some churches have today—prohibiting women from exercising spiritual authority in the assembly.

The idea of not wearing a head covering appeared to the church to be a sign of headship, of assuming headship in the household and in the marriage. Paul’s words, then, concern women recognizing their place in the home, and their place before their husbands. Even at the conclusion, however, Paul does not make this idea a rule: “if anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16). Notice also that Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:29, “let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.” Only prophets are able to judge prophecies, which means that prophets have a certain amount of biblical and spiritual authority (this is in addition to standing and speaking before the public assembly). Women, then, serving as prophetesses (1 Cor. 11:5), clearly had biblical and spiritual authority in the public assembly.

For those who wanna access the article, you can access it via the following website address:

From there, you can access the Washington Post article.

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