Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

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Question:

Can women preach at the pulpit. (Lady pastors).

Noel from the Philippines

ANSWER:

Noel, 

You ask another question that is very contentious in the church. Wow! I encourage you to search the Scripture, and decide for yourself whether women can be preachers. Here I will give you an overview of the issues involved. Let me start again with this introduction.

If a woman wants to be a pastor/preacher, make sure you preach the Christ of the Bible, and teach the Bible. 

Let Love Reign

Hostility is something we don’t need in the Christian church. We must stand firm on the fundamentals of the Christian Faith; yet, show grace and tolerance to those of our fellow Christians who disagree on lesser issues. And, whether or not women should be preachers is not of the same importance as, say, the Deity of Jesus Christ.

It is good to head for common ground rather than fighting ground – and show love, respect and honor in all things. Compassion, cooperation, and kindness should rule, not conflict, chaos and confusion. Sometimes we need to agree to disagree on some matters, and this is one of them. 

Noel, this website is educational. As such, I am not dogmatic on issues that divide the Christian world; yet, I must fairly give both sides to controversial issues. However, on those doctrines that are essential to the Christian Faith, I certainly will be dogmatic.

Now, back to women preachers. The first area to consider is to point out the difference between those of the radical feminist movement, and those who are Bible believing Christians. 

Radical Feminists

In the case of the more radical feminists, they simply do not believe the Bible relates to today. Generally, their belief system is grounded in Marxism theory, or new age philosophy - not the Bible. The Marxists believe that men have oppressed women, and for the sake of full equality, the heavy yoke of men should be thrown off in every area of life. Consequently, women should be able to do anything men can do – including preaching. Since this group disregards the Bible, then the debate shifts to what source of authority should be used: Marx, new age, or the Bible. Of course, I take the Bible.

Evangelical Background

That brings me to good Evangelical Christians who believe the Bible relates to today. There are two views. Some believe women can be pastors/preachers. Some do not. Before I summarize the views, let me make a few observations.

It is important to note that with rare exceptions, male leadership among God’s people has been consistent from Genesis through Revelation. The same can be said through Church history up until recent times. All the Apostles were men, as was Jesus Christ – the ultimate head of the Church. The Jewish priesthood, which included teaching, was exclusively male. All the writers of the Bible were men.

It is also true that very gifted and talented women have not been allowed to fully express their God given abilities in the life of the Church.

The Bible teaches that women were created equal with men in the image of God, have equal value before God, and equal access to God and all His blessings. However, the Bible also teaches that there are different roles between man and woman (Genesis 2:1-23).

Position for Women Preachers

Generally the position of those who believe women can be preachers are as follows.

1. Christian ministry should be based on the spiritual gifts God has distributed, not gender differences. Since some women are better public preachers than men, then they should fill the pulpit. 

2. Some say that if a woman genuinely feels that God has called her to preach, the church should not deny that calling. However, this elevates a person’s subjective feelings to the level of the Bible teachings.

3. Some believe that Christian relationships and organization are based on servant hood; consequently, hierarchical authority should not be considered.

4. Some believe that the church has been ignorant throughout history. And, now that it is realized that slavery is wrong, for example, the church needs to repent for wrongly not letting women be pastors.

5. Some point out that Priscilla and Aquila corrected Apollos in his theology (Acts 18:26). However, this is in personal Bible study, not in the role of pastor or preacher.

6. Many believe those Scriptures that seem to forbid women to be preaching and holding authority over men in the church are confined to isolated local problems relevant only to that cultural setting of New Testament times.

7. Many hold up some biblical examples of women as leaders among God’s people. For example, Athaliah was a monarch in 2 Kings 11:1-20, Deborah was a judge (Judges chapters 4, 5), and Deborah and Huldah as prophetesses (Judges chapters 4, 5; 2 Kings 22:14-20). However, it is pointed out that Deborah and Huldah prophesized privately, not publically.

8. Many use the Scripture, “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” (Galatians 3:28). This is thought to mean that genders are equal in all matters, especially regarding functional roles in the church. The problem here is that the context is teaching equal access (and equal value as a human being) to salvation through Christ – not holding a position or role of preacher from the pulpit. 

9. Many maintain that Paul was a male sexist, and was imposing his own problems and bias on the churches. He was an oppressor of women, they say. Another kinder variation is that he was just teaching the cultural values of the day, which do not apply to us today in our culture. However, one must remember that Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he wrote those passages.

Arguments of those opposing women as preachers

So, what about the other side? What do they say? Aside from the example of biblical and church history, the apostles, the biblical writers, and the Jewish priesthood being male, there are other points they consider. The most important issue is this, “What does the Bible teach”? Let’s see what they say, Noel.

1. In the creation order, women were created to be helpers to men (Genesis 2:18). This is also reflected in the biblical teaching that the husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). That is, women derive their grounding or being in men – or the male. 

Paul also writes, “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ…for man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels (1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-10). 

There are two important things to notice here. First, Paul emphasizes hierarchy and authority. He does not stress equality. The latter is the view of Karl Marx. Hierarchy is not bad, because Paul ranks God the Father above Christ. Hierarchy in creation and nature is the norm in stark opposition to absolute equality. 

Second, Paul appeals to the fact of a hierarchal arrangement in church out of respect to the angels who were present in the churches. He was not appealing to a local cultural problem, norm, or tradition pinpointed to that time or place in history. 

2. There is the direct statement by Paul, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (1Timothy 1:12-14; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36). 

Paul was not being sexist, and not appealing to a local cultural situation. His basic appeal was threefold: to Adam and Eve, creation order, and (Paul says) a woman’s vulnerability to Satanic deception in the area of theology.

Paul’s view can be observed throughout history and culture (and even nature). The universal norm in human societies is male dominance with few exceptions. For example, how many female country leaders can you name? Just a handful can be named. How many tribal leaders are female? Very few. Look at a group of wild horses. Who is the leader? A wild, dominant stallion. 

3. The Bible assumed that the preachers of local churches were male, “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife” (1Timothy 3:1, 2; cf. Titus 1:5, 6). 

4. The Roman Catholic Church reasons that the ordination of women is impossible. They teach that only a baptized man can receive sacred ordination. This is based on the fact that Christ chose men to form the college of twelve apostles, and they in turn did the same to those who followed in their footsteps. It is noted that also in the Eastern Church only men are ordained as priests. 

5. Those Evangelical on this side of the argument make a distinction between a person’s worth and value as a human being as opposed to people’s prescribed organizational roles in the church. They are two different things, they say. For example, in your workplace you have a boss. In the eyes of God you have the same worth and value as does your boss. But, what would happen if you went into their office and told them to move over, because you have equal authority with them? They would inform you otherwise!

It is the same in the organizational church; God has assigned certain organizational roles and authority to different people. In the case of preaching, teaching and exercising authority, it is based (among other criteria) on gender. In other words, God rules His creation through means. Those means involves the transfer, or delegation, of responsibility, duties, functions, roles, statuses, and authority to those of His choosing.

6. However, according to this viewpoint. Women are to minister in the body of Christ according to their gifts and opportunities (e.g. Philippians 4:2, 3; Romans 16:1-4). Actually, this ministry even involves women teaching women (Titus 2:3-5).

This viewpoint acknowledges and celebrates the contribution of women in the life of the church. Hundred of single women serve as missionaries, and in various church orders. Mother Teresa, for example, accomplished great things in the power of God. 

Conclusions

Noel, having placed before you a short summary of some information to whet your appetite, let me make some qualifications. Don’t take this information and use it as a weapon to win an argument or pick a fight somewhere. In the final analysis, it is not within our jurisdiction to demand that a woman become or does not become a preacher in the pulpit. They are responsible to God, not to us. We are not their judge. We can hold our beliefs, teach, and influence others. However, we cannot control others, and it is not to our advantage to insist that everyone believes just as we do. Heaping our expectations upon others, and demanding obedience does harm.

However, if it is in your jurisdiction, such as you being on a pastoral search committee, it is within your jurisdiction to state your view and vote according to your conscience and understanding of Scripture. 

One group (or side) should not look down on the other in contempt, nor treat another as second class Christians because they do not share the same doctrine. Love needs to prevail. If any sin is involved it is demanding that others should believe just like we do, and if they don’t, we should run them out of the church.

In all things, we should strive for unity in the body of Christ. We have many enemies in this world who would seek the destruction of our Lord Jesus Christ, His people, and His work. We need love, unity and cooperation (and truth) in fulfilling the Great Commission. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and our neighbor as our self. We need to expend our energy and resources in service to God, not making sure that all Christians believe just as we want them to in all matters. The Great Commission is our goal, not fighting with other Christians.

I think Paul sums it up the best when he writes, “However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originated from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God” (1 Corinthians 11:11, 12). 

Finally, probably the most comprehensive work done in this field is by Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth (Sisters Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2004.). Another fine smaller book is by H. Wayne House, The Role of Women in Ministry Today (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995). 

Noel, for a concise biblical statement for ordaining women to the ministry, consult the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel’s website. Specifically, you can google WOMEN IN ORDAINED LEADERSHIP MINISTRY A Position Statement for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. This church is a fine, God fearing, Bible believing group of great Christians.

All the best,

Dr. Newman

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