by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 1:20pm
A RECENT REQUEST: “I have a question about women preaching. I have always been taught that this is the man’s job. I guess what I do not understand is how some people feel so strongly one way about this issue, and others feel so strongly another way, but both feel that they are doing God’s will? Where do you draw the line?”
MY REPLY: I draw the line where Paul draws it in 1 Timothy 2:12 – “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” This is the only verse in the Bible that actually does draw a line between what a woman can and cannot do in the church today. The two things she cannot do are: (1) teach Bible doctrine to Christian men, and (2) exercise authority over Christian men. The former rules out women as preachers, and as teachers of adult Bible classes where men are present; the latter also rules out women as elders. Any other tasks that actually involve either of these two things would also be ruled out. I discuss this passage in some detail in my book, “The Faith Once for All,” pp. 431-440.
With the line drawn at this point, there are obviously relatively few things that a woman is prohibited from doing in the church; dozens of functions and tasks fall on the unprohibited side of the line.
The above is the more or less traditional view of the subject of gender roles. Those who feel strongly that this view should be maintained usually do so because of a strong commitment to the authority of the Word of God. Those who take the opposite view (defending women preachers, teachers, and elders) may indeed accept the Bible’s authority, but they have also been strongly influenced by the feminist or egalitarian elements in modern culture, which elevate what they call “women’s experience” to a level of authority higher than Scripture itself. (See my out-of-print book, “Feminism and the Bible,” for an explanation of this point.)
This commitment to the authority of “women’s experience,” which is basically the FEELING that women should be able to do whatever men can do, has generated a decades-long effort to REINTERPRET all the Bible texts about gender roles, including 1 Tim. 2:12. In my judgment these attempts at reinterpretation have abandoned the normal rules of hermeneutics and have produced blatantly false interpretations of the relevant Bible texts. See my two major books that examine and expose this faulty feminist hermeneutic: “Gender Roles and the Bible: Creation, the Fall, and Redemption” (College Press, 319pp.); and “Headship, Submission, and the Bible: Gender Roles in the Home” (College Press, 334pp.).
I consider this crusade to reinterpret these gender texts to be a good example of the false use of scholarship that Soren Kierkegaard was addressing in the quote from him that appeared in one of my recent notes entitled, “Is God Really Our Lord?”