“Untold harm has been done in the name of Christianity by people who have absolutized their relative interpretations of life or of Scripture. Presumptuous prophets who claimed to speak God’s word to people, without divine authorization, in the OT administration were subject to the most severe penalties. May God deliver evangelicals today from prophetic ministries not validly drawn from divine revelation. This case for revealed absolutes must not be taken to justify absolutizing merely human ideas, however good…We can be assured of our view of the major doctrines of Christianity and the realities to which they refer WHEN OUR INTERPRETATIONS ARE BASED ON NUMEROUS RELEVANT AND EXTENSIVE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE, supported by interpreters throughout the history of the church, and attested to us personally by the internal witness of the Holy Spirit to the teaching of the Word. Then we can confidently relate to the realities designated and preach the great doctrines of the faith with joy” (Walter Elwell, editor, “Relativism,” in “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition.” Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001, page 1005).
I like Walter Elwell’s quote above. Elwell shows us the danger of placing our own views onto Scripture.
I was reading from Elwell’s dictionary because of my theology class. It’s amazing how reading for theology could bring me back to a subject I haven’t studied for some time!!!
Notice that I capitalized a phrase of Elwell’s quote above. The phrase I capitalized is the phrase that concerns the discussion of this post: how can a person tell when their interpretation of a passage is correct?
Here at the blog for the last nine months, I have tried to show that the complementarian view of women in ministry is one that is based on a presuppositional bias, NOT the Word of God. Scripture does not subordinate all women to all men, nor does it tell all women to submit themselves to all men! Instead, Scripture tells WIVES to submit to their HUSBANDS (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1). And when Scripture tells wives to submit, it states that they are to do so “to THEIR husbands,” not to EVERY husband.
But this is where Elwell’s statement comes in: if God forbade women in positions of church leadership, such as the pastorate, eldership, deacon, teacher, preacher, and so forth, then why is it that NO EXPLICIT passages mention this? Have you ever wondered why there is no undisputed passage in Scripture that forbids women from having leadership offices in the church?
Well it is here that someone may object: “Well, Deidre, what about 1 Timothy 2?” In response I would say, “Yes, let’s consider this wonderful passage indeed. Notice that the ONLY letter that gives this prohibition is 1 Timothy 2. And why is that?" Having studied hermeneutics the last three years, I’ve learned that when something is mentioned in several places throughout Scripture, it is a universal statement—binding for all times in all places through all situations. However, when something is mentioned once (and only once), it is not a universal statement, but a LOCAL one—which means that the comment or statement applied only to a specific time period or situation. 1 Timothy 2 would fit under this umbrella. Paul’s prohibition is found nowhere else in the New Testament EXCEPT in the letter of 1 Timothy. In fact, as I’ve written about in a few posts here at the blog on “Junia or Junias?”, Paul even mentions a female apostle, Junia, in Romans 16, not to mention “Syntyche and Euodia” in Philippians 4 as “fellow workers” of his. These two women “contended” for the gospel alongside of Paul, and he credits them as his equals in the Gospel work!!
Let me play the role of “Devil’s advocate” for a moment: IF the Lord could be so explicit about wives submitting to their husbands, why couldn’t He be AS EXPLICIT about women not working in positions of leadership in the church? It seems that whenever the Lord wanted to be clear about something, the language of Scripture is precise and to the point. But when it comes to this so-called “universal” prohibition (as complementarians believe), we don’t find such a bold prohibition, but instead, many pieces of evidence that lead to the other conclusion. Why is this so? How can this be?
I think that you and I know the answers to these questions. We find the opposite because we all know that the opposite is true—that the Lord doesn’t forbid women to exercise their gifts for His glory.
Some people don’t consider the issue of women in ministry to be a “doctrine” of the church; but I think it is—for, think of all the Christians that are indoctrinated against women in ministry from the time they are old enough to know how to behave in church. It is a doctrine when believers are being taught that women are subordinate by nature and were never meant to assume leadership in the churches. It is a doctrine when little girls are being taught that all they can do is sew and knit and keep house and have children and work in the nursery, sing in the choir, and play an instrument at church. It is a doctrine when men are being taught that, by virtue of their GENDER, they are MORE FIT for leadership in the churches than women are. It is a doctrine, whether most conservatives like to think of it as such or not. I think it’s time the church call it what it is (a doctrine) and place it with the other doctrines as teaching that should be subject to examination.
Place the doctrine of “women’s subordination” on the table; follow the Elwell pattern and “Show Me the Evidence,” show me the passages that confirm the traditional view of women in leadership. Show me why Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah were all “out of place” and why 1 Timothy 2 was written. I’ll even allow the complementarian to take time explaining to me his “biological” argument for the domination of men in the home and the church. However, while the complementarian is doing this, I ask one thing of him: show me other passages that have the SAME prohibition as 1 Timothy 2. In other words, if Paul prohibits women to “teach” and “have authority,” as most conservatives believe, then show me the other passages that explicitly mention “teach” and “have authority” as prohibitions for women.
Complementarians can search for such passages—but they will search in vain. 1 Timothy 2 is the ONLY passage that gives such a prohibition. This “once-mentioned” prohibition, then, cannot be given the same weight as “wife submission” in Paul’s letters, for he mentions this three times to three different congregations!
Instead, 1 Timothy 2 is a particular letter written to address a specific situation in the church at Ephesus. But for those who still believe in the power of 1 Tim. 2, explain to me then why 1 Timothy 5 mentions women being “rulers of the home” (“manage the home,” the Greek word “oikodespotein”)…