Women Preachers

Women Preachers
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?”

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Women Preachers — 6 Comments

  1. I am very concerned about the spiritual health of the Restoration Movement. It seems to me that many have no problem compromising the clear biblical teaching of male headship – so long as Jesus Christ continues to be proclaimed as Savior and Lord. Following the 2015 NACC display of an egalitarian approach to the Bible, I contacted two Cincinnati Christian University alums – Rick Shonkwiler – White Oak Christian and David Stone – Southeast Christian, via email and kindly asked them to explain how/why they supported the female preacher, Jodi Hickerson, who was the main speaker on Wednesday evening. That was over two weeks ago. I have not heard back from either of them. I believe Dave Stone has a brother who preaches at the Church where Dr. Cottrell is a member. Perhaps he can get a response? What IS the position of Cincinnati Christian University as of TODAY? What I dislike, more than anything, is the don’t ask; don’t disclose; don’t tell approach to how our movement is poorly handling this issue.

    who are on the planning team to ask them about this Rick Shonkwiler and Dave Stone are both CCU graduates.

    • I too am much concerned with so many that are adopting a view that they WANT to be true, but which has no real Biblical foundation. We all constantly have to struggle to keep the will from dominating the intellect. As to CCU, I don’t know that we have an official view on this. I wish we did.

  2. I don’t know where my first comments were located, but does your understanding of the limitations of women preaching apply to parachurch venues/situations: conferences-camps, bible college instruction etc.

    • Some such questions are easier to answer than others. Though the general principles are quite clear in Scripture, how to apply them to certain situations is often a gray area. I take the principle to be that women may not teach Christian doctrine to Christian men. This would obviously apply within the context of the local church, where the teaching is (should be) ultimately approved by the elders and submitted to by those who hear. A key idea here is that each member of the congregation is under submission to the eldership. Once you move outside the context of the congregation, you do not have that same authority/submission relationship. Some may think this makes a difference. My own view is that the principle should be applied wherever the audience is mainly Christian. So I believe it should be applied in the parachurch contexts that you mention. This would include the NACC and Bible colleges/seminaries.

  3. What is your understanding about Team Teaching (Husband and Wife) and whether or not Team Teaching is scriptural? Can the husband and wife team teach children at any age, elementary school children, middle and high school children, college students, singles and so on? Are there any limitations to the age? Can a husband and wife team teach an adult Bible class and/or deliver a sermon to a local church? How can we establish whether or not something is Biblical by a scriptural hermeneutic and not what I think or he or she thinks? These questions are asked as many want to hear a variety of perspectives and decide for themselves and as leaders of local churches. Thank you.

    • In my judgment, we cannot treat “team-teaching” any differently from how we treat a woman or a man teaching individually. If it is wrong for a woman to teach Christian doctrine to Christian men (1 Tim. 2:12), then it is wrong when she does it singly or as part of a husband-wife team. Having “elders’ permission” or “being under the authority of her husband” does not affect anything. What Paul says is wrong by apostolic authority cannot be set aside by the lesser authority of elders or husbands. The age at which boys must begin to begin to be treated as “men” is a gray area; local leaders must decide. My judgment is that the boy becomes a man for this purpose once graduated from high school.

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