egalitarianism

Wrestling with the Buts: Women in Leadership and the Bible

Lady in the MarketThese days it seems like everywhere I turn, I’m getting pulled into discussions about what the Bible does or does not allow women to do. Can they be pastors? Can they preach? What about other teaching and leading ministries? How about leadership in the home? Articles such as this one by Matt Walsh, and this one from Got Questions, have been sent to me with requests for my perspective.

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have extensively thought about, prayed through, and researched these issues. I grew up in a complementarian church, and have written previously about how I changed my mind about women in leadership. This article, though, isn’t about my personal process. It’s dealing with the popular objections Christians have about women in leadership. In short, we’re wrestling with the buts. Instead of reinventing the wheel with my own written responses to the arguments, I’m including a series of articles that respond in a much better way than I can. Here we go…

…BUT Adam was created before Eve (Genesis 1-2; 1 Tim. 2:9-15)

A scholarly take on the ‘creation order’ argument – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/genesis-equality-part-1

Word study on helpmeet (Heb. Ezer kenegdo) – https://godswordtowomen.org/ezerkenegdo.htm

…BUT no women are found teaching men in the Old Testament

An examination of women and their ministry throughout the OT & NT – https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/mutuality-women-leaders

…BUT Jesus was a man

This article deals with this objection, as well as the larger context of God and gender – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/does-god-have-gender

…BUT the 12 apostles were all men

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian’s article deals with this objection beautifully – http://godswordtowomen.org/Apostles.htm

…BUT Paul says women can’t be church leaders or teach / have authority over men (aka the 1 Timothy 2 argument)

The short answer – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/other/short-answers-challenging-texts-1-timothy-211-15

The long answer – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/1-timothy-28%E2%80%9315-and-gender-wars-ephesus

The meaning of ‘authority’ in 1 Timothy 2:12 – http://juniaproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/THE-MEANING-OF-%CE%B1%E1%BD%90%CE%B8%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%84%E1%BD%B3%CF%89-IN-1-TIMOTHY-2.12.pdf

…BUT the man is the head of the home (Eph. 5:21-33)

On the Significance of Kephalē (“Head”) – http://juniaproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Cervin-Sig-of-Kephale.pdf

Q&A: Does the Bible Allow Women to Have Authority Over Men? –  http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/mutuality/qa-does-bible-allow-women-have-authority-over-men

There are probably many other ‘buts’. To be honest, even with everything I have read on these topics, I still don’t have all the answers. However, what I do know leads me to believe that the Bible’s answer to the question of women in leadership is a resounding YES. Leadership, just like any other ministry in the church, depends on one’s gifts, calling, passions, and interests. It does not depend on gender.

All in all, everyone is entitled to their viewpoint, and we do need to learn to disagree agreeably. People are supposed to know we are Christians by our love (Jn. 13:35). But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m tired of defending my ability to exercise my gifts, so I’m just gonna be over here getting shit done for Jesus.

Further Resources

For an overall scholarly treatment of the biblical basis for women’s ministry in the church, NT Wright’s video and article are excellent.

Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy – Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (eds.). Available from Amazon.

For Individual or Group Bible Study – In the Image of God: Exploring what the Bible says about men and women. Available as a PDF from Proost.*

*I have gone through this study myself and with a group, and found it a non-threatening way to examine and think through key aspects of this topic.

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